Russia is a massive country spanning from the western part of Europe to the eastern part of Asia. Not only is it geographically the world’s largest nation, it is nearly twice the size of the next largest country, Canada. Parts of Russia border Scandinavia, the Middle East, China, and the Arctic and Pacific oceans. Russia’s coastline is nearly 38,000 km (24,000 miles) long.
Russia evolved from the Principality of Muscovy during the twelfth century. Over the next 500 years Muscovy systematically amalgamated surrounding territories. By the early seventeenth century the Romanov Dynasty had extended Russia’s domain to much of what it is today. Peter the Great westernized Russia during the early 1700s and turned the country into a major European empire.
As Russia expanded it got into a cycle of warfare in which it not only conquered new territory, but had to constantly defend its current territory. To accomplish this, Russian leaders quashed anyone who disagreed with them. Unlike in Western Europe, where new ideas flourished, free thinkers in Russia were considered contentious and were often imprisoned. Perhaps this, along with the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church, part of Eastern Christianity, was so integrated into the state, is why there was never a widespread Protestant reformation in Russia. However, there are reports of Sabbathkeeping groups of Christians living in Russia during the fourteenth century.
Adventists in Russia
In the late 1870s a group of German-speaking colonists moved from Russia to the United States, where they discovered Adventism. They sent Adventist books and magazines printed in German to family and friends who lived in the Crimea and Caucasus regions of Russia. At first most new Adventists in Russia were German immigrants. Russians were often hesitant to join because they were afraid of persecution. Eventually this changed and Russians started to join the Adventist Church. By 1907 there were some 2,600 Adventists in Russia, worshipping in more than 40 congregations. The church expanded from western Russia all the way to the central Asian city of Tashkent, in what is now Uzbekistan.
Russian Orthodox 15-20%; Muslim 10-15%; other Christian 2%; and none 65-75%
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
CHURCH GROWTH IN THE LAST YEAR
* General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 145th Annual Statistical Report
In 1917 the Romanov Dynasty was overthrown. Vladimir Lenin and the Communist party came to power and formed the Soviet Union. New laws were enacted to limit the influence of the powerful, formerly state-run Russian Orthodox Church. This gave newfound religious freedom to Protestants, and as a result the Adventist Church grew rapidly. When Lenin died in 1924, Joseph Stalin took control and strengthened Communist rule. During the late 1920s the Soviet regime started to limit religious freedom. It became a crime to teach religion to anyone under 18 years of age. By 1929 most contact between the Adventist Church in the Soviet Union and the rest of the world was cut off. In the 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). As part of this new openness the Adventist Church was officially able to reorganize in 1990. Gorbachev’s efforts led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, splintering the nation into Russia and 14 independent republics.
The Adventist Church in Russia has emerged from years of strict Communist rule. Beyond church membership growth, the Adventist Church has been able to establish schools, a publishing house, and a media center. Please pray for the Adventist Church in Russia.