Relations Between the Soviet Union and the Vatican, According to Soviet Documents

9 April 2024

Author Dorin-Demostene Iancu, Chair, The Archives of the Romanian Patriarchate, Romania

If Stalin’s religious policy underwent radical changes after 1943, when the Moscow Patriarchate was re-established, in the context of post- war international relations and the configuration of spheres of influence, Nikita Khrushchev returns to the attitude of persecuting the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union since year 1958, the reasons being completely different from those of Stalin. But, towards the middle of the 1960s, a change in the anti-religious attitude took shape in Khrushchevs case as well. An example in this sense are two documents from the Soviet archives, which show Khrushchevs position towards the establishment of relations between the Vatican and the Soviet Union, reflected in the instructions sent by the Soviet leader to the USSR ambassador in Cuba and the meeting with the American journalist Norman Cousins, on which occasion he the issue of the release of the Greek-Catholic archbishop Slipyi was addressed in particular.

Vatican, Moscow, John XXIII, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, diplomatic relations

[1] Adriano Roccucci, “Moscow and the Vatican's Ostpolitik in the 1960s and 1970s: Dialogue and Antagonism”, in András Fejérdy, ed., The Vatican «Ostpolitik» 1958-1978. Responsibility and Witness during John XXIII and Paul VI (Rome: Viella, 2015), 63.

[2] He was ambassador to Switzerland from 1960 to 1963. V. I. Ivkin, ed.,  Государственная власть СССР. Высшие органы власти и управления и их руководители. 1923—1991 гг. Историко-биографический справочник [State power of the USSR. The highest organs of power and administration and their leaders. 1923-1991. Historical and biographical guide] (Моskva: 1999), 375-376.

[3] A. A. Fursenko, ed., Президиум ЦК КПСС. 1954–1964. Черновые протокольныезаписи заседаний: Стенограммы. Постановления: В 3 т. Т. 3: Постановления. 1959–1964 [Presidium of the CPSU Central Committee. 1954-1964. Draft protocol records of meetings: Transcripts. Resolutions: In 3 vol. Т. 3: Resolutions. 1959-1964], (Moskva: ROSSPEN, 2008), 437.

[4] Ibid., 440.

[5] He was ambassador to Cuba in the period 1962-1969. Ibid., 1071.

[6]Президиум ЦК КПСС. 1954–1964...., 443.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 443-444.

[10] Ibid., 444.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., 445.

[17] Ibid.

[18] A. N. Artizov et al., eds., Никита Хрущев. 1964. Стенограммы пленумов ЦК КПСС и другие документы (Moskva: Fundation for Democracy, 2007), 203.

[19] John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, JFKNSF-191-031, 6.

[20] Ibid., 8

[21] Ibid., 12.

[22] Ibid., 11.

[23] The Archbishop of Chalcedon, Angelo Dell’Acqua.

[24] Igino Eugenio Cardinale, at the time the Vatican's head of protocol.

[25] Президиум ЦК КПСС. 1954–1964..., 502.

[26] Iosif Slipîi (also spelled Slepoi) was a major archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine.

[27] Президиум ЦК КПСС. 1954–1964..., 502.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid., p. 503.

[30] Cardinal Amleto Giovanni Cicognani.

[31] Президиум ЦК КПСС. 1954–1964..., 503.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid., 504.

[34] Ibid.

[35] A.I. Adjubey (1924–1993) was a journalist and son-in-law of Nikita S. Khrushchev. In the period 1951-1959 he was editor and then editor-in-chief of Komsomolskaia Pravda, between 1969-1964 editor-in-chief of Izvestia newspaper, then secretary of the “Union of Journalists of the USSR” (Ibid., 1070).

[36] Ibid., 504.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid., 505.

[39] Ibid.

[40]Encyclical “Pacem in terris” of April 11, 1963, accessed September 12, 2023,

[41] Президиум ЦК КПСС. 1954–1964..., 505.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid., 505-506.

[47] Ibid., 506.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid., 506-507.

[53] Ibid., 507.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid., 507.