Andrey Arfanidi, Stewardship Director, Euro-Asia Division

Summary: Stewardship director talks about how the church started in Russia.

Many of you may not know much about the Seventh-day Adventists in Russia, and I am delighted to have this opportunity and this reserved spot to tell you a little about us. Russia is a part of the Euro-Asia Division where we have 1,978 churches with a membership of 136,900 people. The total population in the territory is 278,885,000 people.

The first seeds of Adventist teachings penetrated into Russia in the second half of the 19th century through printed literature that was sent from the United States to Mennonite immigrants and their relatives living on the border regions of Russia on the banks of the Dnieper and the Crimea, the Volga and the Caucasus. The first Adventist congregation was founded by Louis Conradi in 1886 in the town of Berdebulat in the Crimea. It consisted mainly of German colonists.

The first Russian community of Seventh-day Adventists was established in 1890 in Stavropol by the active involvement of a former deacon of the Orthodox Church, Theophilus Babienko. Babienko was exiled to the Caucasus from the Kiev because he created the "society of admirers of the Bible." The activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church during the early period was accompanied by certain difficulties associated with the then current legislation on non-Orthodox denominations. However, with the proclamation of Religious Freedom on April 17, 1905, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Russia was recognized by the tsarist government as legitimate and official.

After 1917, the activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Russia increased noticeably through publications such as Evangelism and the Voice of Truth magazines. In 1926 and 1927, Adventists and the Baptist Church together with the state publishing houses in Leningrad and Kiev published the Bible. Adventists organized agricultural communes, opened a clinic near Saratov, and were active in many missionary activities. However, repression in the thirties did not spare the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Almost all the ministers of the church were repressed as the restructuring charges were hung labeling them "agents of Germany and the United States." The situation changed very little in the '50s and '60s when many houses of worship were closed. In 1960 church services were disbanded after the war, creating the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists.

Thanks to the democratic transformation of society and the attainment of freedom of religious believers, restoration of the church organization and the normalization of the church became possible after 80 years of struggle.