In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Russkii protestantizm i gosudarstvennaia vlast' v 1905-1991 godakh (Russian Protestantism and State Power, 1905-91), and: Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism
  • Miriam Dobson
Tat'iana Nikol'skaia , Russkii protestantizm i gosudarstvennaia vlast' v 1905-1991 godakh (Russian Protestantism and State Power, 1905-91). 356 pp. St. Petersburg: European University in St. Petersburg Press, 2009. ISBN-13 978-5943800818.
Catherine Wanner , Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism. 305 pp. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007. ISBN-13 978-0801474026. $25.95.

When the communist system ended, many in the Soviet Union discovered, or rediscovered, religion. The incredible revival of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) that appeared in the post-Soviet era has provoked significant interest in the West, but the story of evangelical Christianity is a less well-documented one, even though many Americans and Europeans were involved.1 Indeed, in part the rapid growth of various Protestant denominations can be attributed to the work of Western preachers who advanced on the former "enemy empire" in their plane loads: of her trips to Ukraine, Catherine Wanner writes that often she was "the only person on the whole jumbo jet who was not 'on mission' " (6). But to explain the phenomenon entirely in terms of a new form of colonial conversion would be a serious misreading. As both Wanner and Tat'iana Nikol'skaia make abundantly clear, the evangelical renaissance in Russia and Ukraine not only had deep roots in both prerevolutionary and Soviet history but also reflected the spiritual and moral needs of significant segments of socialist and postsocialist societies. In rather different ways, then, these works set out to explain the growth of Protestantism: in Russkii protestantizm i gosudarstvennaia vlast' v 1905-1991 godakh Nikol'skaia draws on an impressive, and until now little explored, body of archival material to [End Page 902] trace the development of Baptist, Evangelical Christian, Pentecostalist, and Seventh-Day Adventist communities, examining how they responded to the restrictions placed on them by both tsarist and Soviet authorities; Wanner, an anthropologist by training, focuses more closely on the experiences of believers in Ukraine and examines how an engagement with evangelism has enabled some people to negotiate a period of extraordinary change.

Both works begin by offering an overview of how Protestantism first developed within the Russian Empire. Although the Reformation, which transformed the religious landscape through much of early modern Europe, did not come to Russia directly, the 18th century did see the emergence of various small groups (including the Khlysty, Skoptsy, Dukhobors, and Molokans) who questioned whether religious rites were necessary for spiritual fulfillment and, in the case of the Molokans, encouraged individual reading of the Bible (Russkii protestantizm, 21-22).2 By the middle of the 19th century a religious revival among German settlers began to draw interest from the local population, and their followers came to be known as "Shtundists," from the German Bibelstunde, meaning the hour dedicated to Bible study (Communities, 23). Shtundists and Molokans, in particular, proved receptive to the ideas of the Baptist faith brought from Western Europe either directly by foreign missionaries or indirectly via converted German settlers. According to evangelical mythology, the first Russian Baptist, a former Molokan, N. I. Voronin, was secretly baptized in the Kura River in Tbilisi, Georgia, by a German missionary from Lithuania in 1867. Six more Molokans followed Voronin to create the first Russian Baptist church. In Ukraine, the first Baptist community was created two years later, soon establishing a congregation of 70 baptized Shtundists. The growing appeal of Protestantism in the closing decades of the 19th century is often attributed to a spiritual crisis that revitalized religious life, as well as challenging the traditional religious order, as Russia rushed headlong into industrialization and modernization.3 This crisis also touched aristocratic circles in St. Petersburg that came under the influence of an Englishman, Granville Waldegrave (Lord Radstock) after his visit of 1874. By the end of the 19th century, then, communities identifying themselves [End Page 903] as Baptist had already put down strong roots in rural areas in the south of the empire, while in the capital various groups of Evangelical Christians flourished.

The tsarist...