Lecture Explores Religion and Childhood in the Soviet Union

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April 13, 2016

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Contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (April 13, 2016) – The Keston Spring Lecture "Combating God & Grandma" will be presented by Julie deGraffenried, Ph.D., associate professor of history for Baylor's history department.

The lecture will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at the Michael Bordeaux Research Center on the third floor of Carroll Library.

DeGraffenried’s presentation will examine the anti-religious campaigns of Soviet authorities through the eyes of a child and study the conflicts between state and family and between tradition and modernity, focusing on the children who were affected by the policies.

The lecture is presented by the Keston Center of the Baylor Libraries, the department of history and the McBride Center for International Business.

DeGraffenried began researching the subject of religion in the Soviet Union when the Keston Archive and Library moved from Oxford University to Baylor University in 2007.

"The Keston is a main source for the history of religion in the former USSR, holding over 4,000 underground materials circulated by Soviet believers and dissidents and the world’s largest collection of anti-religious and atheist publications published in the Soviet Union," deGraffenried said.

The center promotes the research, teaching and understanding of religion and politics in communist, post-communist and other totalitarian societies.

"I’ve always been interested in the history of children and childhood, and once the Keston materials were brought to their new home at Baylor, I had the resources available to me to start thinking about how Soviet anti-religious policies affected children and ideas about childhood in the USSR," deGraffenried said.

"The Soviet Union gives us a case study to explore in thinking about state efforts to regulate and/or eradicate religion," deGraffenried said. "In this day and age, when religious freedom (or the lack of it) has become front-page news, historical examples can provide insight into current issues."

In the current post-Soviet era, Russia is experiencing a transitional period in its relationship to religion, deGraffenried said.

"Some of the policies enacted in the Soviet era are resurfacing today, albeit in slightly modified form," she said. "It is especially important for anyone interested in missions or philanthropic work anywhere in the former Soviet Union to understand the 20th-century backstory of Soviet religious policy."

"I’m hoping to give people an idea what happened when the Soviet authorities decided to 'modernize' – and radically secularize – Soviet childhood," deGraffenried said.

This event is free and open to the public. Carroll Library is located at 1429 S. Fifth St.

by Jenna Press, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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