Free Inquiry
Appeared in Secular Humanist Bulletin, vol 21 issue 3

The Development of the Humanist Movement in Russia

Anna Kudishina

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 21, Number 3 (Fall 2005).

The question of the meaning of human life is very important for the advancement of Russian culture, especially at the end of the twentieth century. Many people try to exit from what they perceive as a vacuum through religion. Atheism has been transformed from the dominant ideology in Russia into something that’s considered indecent for intelligent people.

There are many opponents of secular humanism in Russia. Some people think that this outlook is wrong, dangerous, and anti-spiritual. They say that humanists attribute the positive and unlimited possibilities of human beings to those human beings, but those qualities should be attributed only to almighty God. They say that such hubris leads to catastrophe.

The idea that the denial of God means the denial of God’s chief creation, human beings, and the critics conclude that humanism leads to antihumanism. Despite this prevailing point of view, in 1995 the Russian Humanist Society was founded. Its leader is Professor Valerií Kuvakin from Moscow State University. Many famous Russian scientists, engineers, and teachers have become active members. They were united by the devotion to the principles of freethinking, human rights, individual freedom, and scientific inquiry. People in Russia turn to humanism when they start to understand the possibilities of freedom and democracy, when they feel that they can improve their life conditions and change society for the better.

Nowadays, the Russian Humanist Society consists of fourteen chapters, located in Kirov, Irkutsk, Kolomna, Kazan, Novocherkassk, and other parts of Russia. There are monthly seminars on such subjects as contemporary humanism in Russia, summer programs at home and abroad, and international conferences and symposiums at Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University, and the Russian Academy of Science.

The Russian Humanist Society also has many publications, including Common Sense magazine, which features the research of freethinkers worldwide, such as Paul Kurtz. It also sponsors courses like “The Basics of Contemporary Humanism,” which is being taught at Moscow State University, the Kolomna Pedagogical State Institute, the Kolomna Polytechnical Institute, and Irkutsk State University.

The Russian Ministry of Education and Science has its own courses, such as “The Basics of the Orthodox Culture.” Members of the Russian Humanist Society have examined the course’s exercise book and found it inadequate and out-of-date. Such critical investigation is another part of the Society’s activities.

The Russian Humanist Society has been acknowledged by the Russian Academy of Science. We are proud to be sponsored by the Nobel Prize winner Vitaly Ginzburg and the Center for Inquiry/
Transnational. We hope that contacts between CFI community leaders will intensify the development and advancement of humanist ideas in the world.

Anna Kudishina is the director of the Center for Inquiry/Russia.

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