The Kremlin tête-à-tête and the iconoclastic revival of the Russian Orthodox Church that followed have long intrigued those writing about ideological change in the USSR under Stalin. Many believe that the concessions to the church were an exigency of war designed to increase the party’s ability to rally support from among even the most reluctant members of Soviet society. Others consider the revival of the church to have been part of a more thoroughgoing Russiªcation of the USSR in the mid- to late 1930s that rehabilitated aspects of the Russian national past for mobilizational purposes well before 1941. In Stalin’s Holy War, Steven Merritt Miner proposes to reªne such broad explanations through an analysis of the timing and nature of the church’s wartime resurgence. Noting that the church’s institutional resurrection occurred only in 1943 and that the vast majority of church reopenings occurred in formerly occupied territories in Ukraine and Belorussia, Miner argues that Russian Orthodoxy played a role that was more imperial and diplomatic than Russian per se. The church, as in tsarist times, served as an instrument of central control, helping the USSR consolidate gains made against the Germans after the victory at Stalingrad. As the Red Army reclaimed territory, Ukrainian and Belorussian parishes that had been reopened under the Nazis were turned over to the Moscow patriarchate in order to rein in communities that had been wrenched from the Soviet orbit in 1941.

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Copyright © 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. This article first appeared in Journal of Cold War Studies 7:3 (2005), 196-197.

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