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“The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture” is a collection of scholarly articles on exactly that subject, edited by Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal (an expert on Nietzsche's influence on Russia and the Soviet Union). Like most scholarly tomes, it's a hard and somewhat boring read. The quality of the contributions vary. I read a few of them and skimmed the rest. But yes, if you are seriously interested in this rather obscure subject – at least for us outside Russia! – this volume is probably a must. If you're a more general reader, I would rather recommend Andrei Znamenski's “Red Shambhala”, which concentrates on the exciting stuff.
Occultism was popular, to the point of faddish, during Russia's so-called Silver Age, a period in Russian literature and culture which began around 1890 and ended shortly after the Bolshevik revolution. Theosophy, Anthroposophy and Freemasonry were all known in Russia. The Symbolist movement in poetry and theatre was influenced by occultism, including Satanism. Even the Futurists drew from occult sources – apparently, their obsession with cubes comes from Ouspensky! The bizarre ideas of Nikolai Fedorov (also spelled Fyodorov), a kind of messianic-salvific evolutionary materialism, inspired the Cosmists, a group of “materialists” really indebted to esoteric sources such as Theosophy. The Bolsheviks weren't unaffected. The “Nietzschean Marxist” Lunacharsky was prominent within a Bolshevik faction known as God-Builders, which also regrouped the famous writer Gorky, who wanted to abolish death and matter in favour of a purely spiritual-energetic existence.
Some aspects of the occult heritage were suppressed after the October revolution. Many Russian Anthroposophists supported (sic) the Bolshevik revolution, and even worked with Proletkult. Despite this, Anthroposophy was declared illegal. The Communist International condemned Freemasonry, Theosophical works became inaccesible and many esotericists languished in the Gulag. Others were expelled from the country by the Bolsheviks (Berdyaev and Bulgakov comes to mind). Daniel Andreev's “The Rose of the World”, a best-selling occult work during the 1990's, was originally written during the 1950's when the author was in prison for his religious views.
However, other aspects of occultism survived, often in quite subtle ways. For instance, the ideas of Gorky and others about mental telepathy and its power to cause mass hysteria or subliminally influence individuals have certain similarties to the philosophy behind Social Realism, developed by none other than Gorky himself. Soviet adulation of technology as a means to create a paradise on earth, including an obsession with space travel and the abolition of death, has obvious affinities to Federov and the Cosmists. The Lenin cult, including the bizarre mausoleum, are clearly quasi-religious. The cubic shape of the mausoleum is reminescent of Ouspensky's ideas about the Fourth Dimension, the idea of embalming a dead leader evokes ancient Egypt (the source of occult knowledge according to many such groups), and Fedorov makes another guest appearence with his ideas about science literally resurrecting the dead. Several contributors to this volume speculate about similarities between Symbolist view of language and the newspeak of the Soviet era, or between Symbolist theatre and the Moscow show trials! Note also the Stalinist paranoia about “wreckers” and “foreign agents”, and the pop superstition about our orderly existence being threatened by demons, witches and other malevolent forces (often unseen).
It's somewhere here that the analysis gets somewhat problematic. Yes, one can indeed see parallels between occultism and certain aspects of Soviet ideology and propaganda, but one may likewise point to similarities to Christianity. At bottom, Federov's “philosophy of the common task” is a quasi-Christianity shorn of its supernatural elements, even including a physical resurrection made possible through advanced technology. The idea of “deification” prominent in the Orthodox Church can be distorted by materialists claiming that *they* can deify man and make him a “god” on earth. There are propaganda paintings of Stalin where he is surrounded by a golden aura, almost like an Orthodox saint, and his portrait was born in procession, like the icons of the Orthodox Church.
But even Christianity isn't the end of it. One aspect down-played by the contributors to this volume is the similarity between Soviet worship of technology and *Western* ditto. The notion of Progress (with a capital P) has become the quasi-religion of the entire modern world. What's so special about Soviet dreams to abolish mortality, conquer space and turn men into virtual gods? Indeed, one of the contributors mentions August Comte, the founder of positivism, who also created his own humanistic religion! Comte, of course, was a French 19th century philosopher, not a Soviet propagandist... Finally, I think Arthur Versluis' work “The New Inquisitions” might be of interest to students of this material. Versluis points out that Communism and fascism have similarities to the medieval inquisitions, and that the “ideocratic meme” might be near-perennial. If so, one doesn't need to postulate a subliminal occult influence on, say, the Moscow show trials. They simply enact the same meme, which is independent from both Symbolism and Stalinism.
That being said, I nevertheless believe that “The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture” is a fine study for advanced students of The Other Russia, and therefore recommend it to the more scholarly part of your private library...