Michail Ryklin

Communism as Religion - The Intellectuals and the October Revolution

(German title: Kommunismus als Religion)
ca. 192 pages
Michail Ryklin
Foto: Michail Ryklin
© Jürgen Bauer

Michail Ryklin was born in Leningrad in 1948 and now lives in Berlin and Moscow. He is the most prominent contemporary thinker in Russia, and the only intellectual with an equally intense first-hand knowledge of life in Western culture and in the Russian context.
A former assistant to Jacques Derrida in Paris, he is now a professor at the Institute of Philosophy at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Michael Ryklin is awarded the Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding 2007.



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The Bolsheviks were inspired by the faith – a kind of secular religion – in the possibility of radically changing their backward feudal society. From the outset, they declared an inexorable war on Orthodoxy, installed a system of communist rites, and produced effective propaganda for the achievements of the new regime. The Lenin Mausoleum became the centre of the Soviet Cult, and still harbours the embalmed corpse of the dead Party Chairman.

In the 1930s, Lenin was deified, the »presumption of guilt« was incorporated in the legal system, and art was obliged to accept a uniform style (that of Socialist Realism) and Soviet patriotism. When it comes to the power of attraction exercised on intellectuals, no other secular religion of the 20th century can compare with Communism (which Raymond Aron called the »opium of the intellectuals«). The most important task this book sets itself is to elucidate the reasons for this enchantment. What was it about the original revolutionary faith and its culture that seemed extraordinarily valuable, and even unique, to Walter Benjamin, André Gide, Lion Feuchtwanger, Bertolt Brecht and many others?

Mikhail Ryklin outlines the contours of the Communist faith, the mode of function of Communism as religion

Other publications

Räume des Jubels/Spaces for Celebration (2003)

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