This was a really tough read, but as my colleague put it: “If you can read an entire book in a language you don’t know, you can finish this one.”
The Religion of the Russian People, from what I can tell, is a translation of a collection of works by Pierre Pascal, a Frenchman who liked Russia. The first 1/3 of the book is a flowery, overly praising, never-condemning, almost exalting description of the religion of the Russian people. It describes how much better they are than Westerners, and explains that their idolatry and use of icons is just a way to be religious, that they don’t worship objects, but rather they worship through objects.
Pascal is a very flowery writer who assumes that if you’ve picked up this obscure book, then you must already know something about Russia, Russian language, Russian poetry, and the general sociopolitical climate of the 1930s USSR. I assure you, I do not.
This made the first part of the book very hard to read.
Part 2/3 was a translation from Russian to French to English of the Pilgrimage of the Mother of God, wherein Mary, who is better than Jesus, goes to Hell to visit the sinners, even though Jesus didn’t. She sees all the people on fire in Hell because of the sins they committed, like not going to church or feeding on human flesh. At the end, she prays for mercy on the sinners and God answers saying, “They wouldn’t repent, so there’s no mercy.” She insists, and God says, “Look, I told you. They don’t even want to repent. I can’t make them repent, so there’s no mercy.”
But Mary gets her way, because she’s more persuasive than God. The sinners get a break from torture every Easter.
Part 3/3 was an actual history of the relationship between the decidedly anti-religious Marxist USSR and the churchgoers trying to carry on their lifestyle in the midst of the 5-year plan. It was very informative, and I had no idea of the amount of religious persecution that the Russian people have endured over the past century. One particular instance was a law passed that protected anti-religious propaganda and prohibited religious professions.
I would only give a star for the last 1/3 of the book, and that roughly equals 2/5 stars.