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Communities of the Converted

Ukrainians and Global Evangelism

Catherine Wanner

Publication Year: 2007

After decades of official atheism, a religious renaissance swept through much of the former Soviet Union beginning in the late 1980s. The Calvinist-like austerity and fundamentalist ethos that had evolved among sequestered and frequently persecuted Soviet evangelicals gave way to a charismatic embrace of ecstatic experience, replete with a belief in faith healing. Catherine Wanner's historically informed ethnography, the first book on evangelism in the former Soviet Union, shows how once-marginal Ukrainian evangelical communities are now thriving and growing in social and political prominence. Many Soviet evangelicals relocated to the United States after the fall of the Soviet Union, expanding the spectrum of evangelicalism in the United States and altering religious life in Ukraine. Migration has created new transnational evangelical communities that are now asserting a new public role for religion in the resolution of numerous social problems.

Hundreds of American evangelical missionaries have engaged in "church planting" in Ukraine, which is today home to some of the most active and robust evangelical communities in all of Europe. Thanks to massive assistance from the West, Ukraine has become a hub for clerical and missionary training in Eurasia. Many Ukrainians travel as missionaries to Russia and throughout the former Soviet Union. In revealing the phenomenal transformation of religious life in a land once thought to be militantly godless, Wanner shows how formerly socialist countries experience evangelical revival. Communities of the Converted engages issues of migration, morality, secularization, and global evangelism, while highlighting how they have been shaped by socialism.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. v-8

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pp. vii-viii

I have conducted research in Ukraine since 1990, and these early experiences inform my choice of topic. Most of the research for this book, however, was conducted from 1998 to 2005 and was generously underwritten by a grant from the National Council for Eastern European and Eurasian Research...

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Note on Transliteration

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pp. ix-14

I use the Library of Congress system of transliteration from Ukrainian and Russian when rendering quotations, except when another spelling has become accepted usage in English (“Chernobyl” rather than Chornobyl, “Gorky” rather than Gorkii). I have indicated whether the translation of...

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pp. 1-17

Ukraine was called the Bible Belt of the Soviet Union.1 It was home to over half of the 1.5 million registered Baptists in the USSR, making Soviet Ukrainians the largest Baptist community in Europe, and one of the largest in the world outside of the United States. As early as 1954, however, Soviet...


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pp. 19-34

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Chapter One. Spiritual Seekers in a Secularizing State, 1905–1941

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pp. 21-54

On Easter Sunday, 17 April 1905, Tsar Nicholas II signed the Edict of Religious Toleration. This edict expanded religious pluralism in the vast multinational empire by affirming the right to be and to become a member of a minority faith. Remarkably, the decree allowed for the free practice of...

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Chapter Two. Enlightening the Faithful, 1941–1988

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pp. 55-94

Two factors played a key role in sustaining evangelical communities until the Soviet system collapsed in 1991. First, wartime conditions prompted a policy shift away from a broad assault on organized religion to an attempt to coopt the power it held and the allegiance it could inspire by reinstitutionalizing...


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pp. 95-110

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Chapter Three. The Rewards of Suffering: The Last Soviet Refugees

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pp. 97-129

As the Soviet Union prepared for the millennial commemoration of Christianity in Kyivan Rus′, Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 took the bold step of announcing that all victims of religious persecution could apply to emigrate as part of his greater campaign of glasnost. Soon thereafter, the U.S....

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Chapter Four. Missionizing, Converting, and Remaking the Moral Self

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pp. 130-169

At exactly the same time that U.S. immigration policies changed to allow the recognition of persecuted evangelical believers as refugees, prompting the mass exodus of longstanding believers and their relatives, very significant changes concerning religious policy also occurred in the Soviet...


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pp. 171-186

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Chapter Five. God Is Love: New Bonds, New Communities

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pp. 173-209

There is a wide spectrum of potential religious communities to join in Ukraine today, and it continues to expand. Here I illustrate aspects of that spectrum by profiling two pairs of partnered congregations, two Baptist and two Pentecostal. All are located in Kharkiv. In both cases, the Soviet-era...

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Chapter Six. Ambassadors of God

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pp. 210-248

The largest evangelical church in Europe today started in Kyiv. In many ways it illustrates a number of growing trends in global Christianity and emerging religious sensibilities in post-Soviet society. Known as the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for all Nations, or “Embassy of God”...

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Epilogue. Religion as Portal to the World

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pp. 249-256

In considering the encounter between Western and Soviet believers at the close of the twentieth century, I am reminded of Marshall Sahlins’s critique of the anthropological propensity to see the arrival of Western capitalism with its accompanying moralities and mentalities as the beginning...


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pp. 257-281


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pp. 283-295


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pp. 297-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780801461903
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801445927

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1