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Russian Baptists and Spiritual Revolution, 1905-1929

Heather J. Coleman

Publication Year: 2005

"... a fascinating read for everyone interested in Russia, religion, and modernity." -- Nadieszda Kizenko

In the early 20th century, Baptists were the fastest-growing non-Orthodox religious group among Russians and Ukrainians. Heather J. Coleman traces the development of Baptist evangelical communities through a period of rapid industrialization, war, and revolution, when Russians found themselves asking new questions about religion and its place in modern life. Baptists' faith helped them navigate the problems of dissent, of order and disorder, of modernization and westernization, and of national and social identity in their changing society. Making use of newly available archival material, this important book reveals the ways in which the Baptists' own experiences, and the widespread discussions that they generated, illuminate the emergence of new social and personal identities in late Imperial and early Soviet Russia, the creation of a public sphere and a civic culture, and the role of religious ideas in the modernization process.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

It is a great pleasure at last to recognize the many people who have played a part in the completion of this project. I am particularly grateful to Diane Koenker, for her sound advice and exacting standards, but also her warm friendship and sense of humor. Mark Steinberg has also been a great source of close readings, helpful suggestions, and infectious enthusiasm. Through his wonderful courses in Russian imperial...

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Introduction: Spiritual Revolutions and Soul Wars

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pp. 1-9

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a religious revival accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union. As the old socialist ideals lost their luster, Soviet citizens, young and old, flocked to churches, synagogues, and mosques in search of new ways to understand their individual journeys on this earth, but also looking for alternative models of community and identity to replace Soviet ones.

Part I: Organizing for the Russian Reformation

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1. The Damned Shtundist: The Russian Evangelical Movement to 1905

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pp. 13-26

In the final days of the reign of Alexander III, on 3 September 1894, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Petr Durnovo, wrote to Russia's provincial governors advising them that the Committee of Ministers had declared the shtundist sect to be especially harmful and that its meetings were henceforth prohibited. According to Durnovo, reports indicated that the shtundists rejected church...

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2. The Era of "Open Storm": Baptist Organization and Community after 1905

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pp. 27-46

In early 1911, the veteran missionary and pastor of the Baku congregation, Vasilii V. Ivanov, looked back on six years of rapid growth since the declaration of religious toleration. "Armed with the truth of God," he wrote in an article in the magazine Baptist, the Baptists "boldly enter into the unequal battle with errors of all sorts and expand their spiritual territory with great...

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3. A Community of Converts: Conversion Narratives and Social Experience

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pp. 47-64

As the Russian Baptist movement expanded in the early twentieth century, its members were constantly telling one another stories. Preaching by ordinary believers and witnessing to personal conversion experiences played an important part in prayer meetings. Whether in public or private settings, converts sought to interpret and share with fellow believers and with society...

Part II: The Most Dangerous Sect

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4. The Baptist Challenge

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pp. 67-91

Although the official classification of the shtundists as a "most dangerous sect" lapsed with the declaration of religious toleration of 1905, the notion of danger nevertheless continued to pervade discussions in government and church circles of the rapid rise of the Baptists. The Baptists' vibrant activity seemed to threaten not just the national identity of the Russian state but also...

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5. Russian Baptists and the "German Faith"

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pp. 92-108

"Remain Russian and Orthodox, beware the German shtunda!" With this concluding sentence, a 1912 pamphlet sought to warn readers away from converting to the Baptist faith and drive home the alien and dangerous character of evangelical Protestantism for the Russian soul.1 Such attitudes were not merely the stuff of popular pamphlets. In fact, they shaped government policy.

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6. Dashed Hopes: 1910-1917

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pp. 109-123

The intensification of government, church, and social pressure on Russian Baptists coincided with, and was fueled by, continued activism and increasing visibility of evangelical groups in the center of power in St. Petersburg. Although somewhat chastened by the 1910 regulations on congresses and prayer meetings, the Baptists' seemingly irrepressible missionary spirit...

Part III: A Spiritual Revolution

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7. The Revolution of the Spirit

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pp. 127-153

In the first weeks after the collapse of the tsarist regime in late February 1917, Moscow Baptist Evgeniia Ofrova took up her pen to describe the exciting vision of a world of engaged citizenship, of class reconciliation, and of liberty, equality, and fraternity in Christ that the revolution had unleashed: Like a crash of thunder, the nationwide news Has spread across great Rus' That powerful song of great freedom...

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8. Revolution and Opportunity

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pp. 154-179

The first decade of Soviet power has frequently been portrayed as a golden age for Russian religious dissidents, and for evangelical groups in particular.1 In his report to the Third Baptist World Congress in Stockholm in 1923 J. H. Rushbrooke, the Baptist Commissioner for Europe, rejoiced that "the most conspicuous fact of recent Baptist development in Europe is the amazing...

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9. A Mixed Blessing: Sectarian Pacifism and Political Legitimacy

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pp. 180-197

On 21 July 1923, a People's Court in Piatigorsk district in the northern Caucasus heard the appeal of a young Baptist, Iakov Loginov, for release from military service based on his Christian conviction that he could not participate in the spilling of blood. The court concluded that Loginov was sincere in his request and declared that he would be able to substitute service in a...

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10. Parallel Lives? Religious Activism and Godless Fears

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pp. 198-220

In May 1930, students from the Antireligious Division of Leningrad State University traveled to the Stalingrad area to study the variety of religious life there. One of the professors leading the group asked the young camera man, An. Terskoi, to join him at an Evangelical Christian baptism in the Volga River one evening. When Terskoi expressed surprise that the new converts were...

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pp. 221-224

The April 1929 law on religious associations sharply curtailed religious activity and began to push it underground. In the months after it was promulgated, more than one hundred local Baptist preachers and national leaders were arrested and many of them imprisoned or exiled. Congregations all over the Soviet Union lost their meeting places. For example, in Ukraine,...

Glossary and Abbreviations

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pp. 225


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pp. 227-275

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 277-294

Index [Includes About the Author, Back Cover]

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pp. 295-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111371
E-ISBN-10: 0253111374
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253345721

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies