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A Sacred Space Is Never EmptyA History of Soviet Atheism$
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Victoria Smolkin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174273

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174273.001.0001

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Cosmic Enlightenment

Cosmic Enlightenment

Soviet Atheism as Science

(p.84) Chapter Three Cosmic Enlightenment
A Sacred Space Is Never Empty

Victoria Smolkin

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how science, and more specifically the real and symbolic force of Soviet space programs, was harnessed as a weapon in Soviet atheist work. In the 1960s, as cosmonauts and astronauts raced to space, the USSR sought to channel cosmic enthusiasm into atheist work, believing that science could deal the final blow to religion. The chapter first considers the explosion of cosmic enthusiasm after successful Soviet space missions before discussing the use of the Moscow Planetarium as a base for natural scientific and scientific atheist propaganda. It also explores state efforts to spread scientific atheism and shows that the Soviets capitalized on Soviet space firsts to proclaim the truth of scientific materialism. However, scientific miracles and cosmic conquests failed to convert the masses to atheism and exposed the ideological blind spots of Marxism–Leninism.

Keywords:   Soviet atheism, cosmonauts, religion, Soviet space programs, Moscow Planetarium, atheist propaganda, scientific atheism, scientific materialism, Marxism-Leninism

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