Sotsialisticheskii zemledel’cheskii kalendar’ na 1919 g [Socialist Agricultural Calendar for 1919]
Sotsialisticheskii zemledel’cheskii kalendar’ na 1919 g [Socialist Agricultural Calendar for 1919]
Moscow: Izdanie Narodnogo kommissariata zemledeliia, 1919. Samuel N. Harper Political Pamphlets
Early Bolshevik calendars reveal a regime attempting to establish the legitimacy of a new era in literal terms. The 1920 Soviet Calendar features monthly illustrations showing a progression from primitive Homo sapiens (January) to industrialization and the bright future (December), and in the 1927 calendar a section titled “Our Epoch” describes a radical leap forward. But at the same time, these calendars concede to continued observance of rites of the past. Each refers to three cycles of time—the revolutionary, the Christian, and the agrarian, and in the anniversary year of 1927 there are still surprising accommodations to the latter two. Christian holidays are scrutinized from an anthropological point of view, connecting them to practices in other belief systems (including pagan ones)—but they are nonetheless described in detail.

Calendars were printed in many different forms, but many of them were like almanacs, providing an opportunity to incorporate new ideas and practices into the rhythm of daily life. They were particularly useful in promoting literacy in the functional, cultural and political senses of the term. This was of special importance in the village, where greater resistance to Soviet ways was found, and where the calendar could play a unique role. As noted in the 1919 Socialist Agricultural Calendar:  “The village has long been accustomed to the calendar. One could find a calendar in places where no newspapers were read, where nothing was known of journals and there were no libraries.”

Pre-Revolutionary calendars, however, had cultivated Christian traditions. In a section called “The Priests’ Calendar and the Soviet Calendar,” the 1919 edition addresses this confrontation, which had been made explicit in the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, adopted by the Bolshevik government in 1918.  The calendar moved forward 13 days, shifting anniversary celebrations of the October revolution to November, and the traditional Orthodox day of Christmas into January. For those concerned about shifting the celebration of holy days, the editors offered advice that would become typical of the atheist propaganda of the regime: “It is very simple: it is best not to celebrate the church holidays.” The same solution was recommended for the marking of name days, which linked birthday celebrations to the feast days of Orthodox saints. The Russian Orthodox Church refused to accept this reform, and to this day celebrates religious holidays according to the old calendar.