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Author Topic: How late was there Soviet persecution of Christianity?  (Read 5660 times) Average Rating: 0
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StGeorge
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« on: July 04, 2008, 01:47:24 AM »

When did Soviet persecution of Orthodox Christianity abate some in the USSR?  I know that the Stalin years were horrible, and that for much of the remaining 20th century things were hard for the Russian Church that remained in Russia.  But, perhaps I'm wrong, I thought that beginning in the eighties the persecutions became less intense.  Any information on this? 
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« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2008, 09:29:50 AM »

I cannot offer you anything more specific than what you have generally recalled.  My general recollection, is consistent with yours.  Bishop Kallistos of Diocleia (sp) (Timothy Ware), has written about the specific turning points in his book, "The Orthodox Church."
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« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2008, 11:50:54 AM »

I don't have a history book in front of me, but, from what I recall hearing, the worst times were the late 1930's during Stalin, and then later after Khrushchev came into power.  I think Stalin loosened up a little on the churches during World War II.  Also, right before the Soviet Union fell, there was a loosening up, with permission from Moscow allowing churches to be reopened, etc.

You got to realize, however, that even during the less repressive times there were still a lot of limits on churches, and if you wanted to really advance in your career you had to be an atheist.  My priest once mentioned that during the Soviet days, the churches would have to once a year submit paperwork to the government, telling them how many people were coming to church.  Every year, the churches would put smaller numbers, regardless of how many people really were coming on Sundays.  That is what the government wanted and you didn't want some petty official closing down your church.

Of course there were ways to get around things.  At one point a large statue of "Mother Armenia" was built in the middle of the city of Yerevan in Armenia.  The designers of the statue had her holding a sword horizontally, so that the statue looks like a cross from a distance.  They say that was intentional, a way of telling the government that they could never wipe out the Armenian Church.  On one of the stained glass windows in my church, there is a picture of that statue.

Then there was the time the local Communist officials in Armenia conspired to get back a piece of Church property from the Moscow government.  I actually once met the architect who worked on restoring the property and he told me the story.  It was a building that had once been the residence of the Catholicos.  It was seized by the last tsar, and the Moscow government still had ownership of it.  It had once been a beautiful building, but had fallen into disrepair.  One day, Khrushchev came on an official visit to Armenia.  The local Armenian Communist officials got him drunk as a pig and had him sign papers turning the property back over to the Armenians.  When Khrushchev woke up the next morning and realized what had happened, he was too embarrassed to do anything about it, so the Armenians got to keep property.  It is today owned by the Church again.

I think one thing that helped the Church in Armenia is that there is a strong connection between the Church and the national identity.  There is a sort of feeling that you are not truly an Armenian if you are not in the Church.  Thus they say that even Armenian Communist officials would quietly have their children baptized.  This must have helped the Church somewhat.  I am curious to know whether that connection between Church and national identity exists for other Orthodox Churches and if that had any effect on what happened during the days of Communism.

In any event, I think one of the most damaging lasting effects of Communism is that you have so many people now who somehow identify with the Church, but know nothing about her teachings, or even about the basics of the Christian religion.  In the Soviet days, priests could keep alive if all they did was the liturgy, but didn't teach the people.  They didn't even do sermons.  The result is there are still a lot of people today who don't know even the basics and the Church is having a hard time "catching up," although things are better now than 10 years ago.

Another thing that irks me is that during the Soviet days, our saints were turned into national heroes.  That was another way of getting around communism.  You could have pictures of saints, even in public places, but they were turned into national or literary figures.  Thus pictures of St. Nareg could be displayed, but instead of a halo, there would be a poet's laural on his head, as he was the great Armenian poet, and his book of prayers was a poetry book.  St. Vartan was no longer a martyr of the Christian faith, who died fighting against Zoroastrianism, but rather a brave warrior who protected the nation against foreign domination.  What disgusts me is that this attitude is still pervasive, so much so, that many Armenians have turned to venerating the saints of other Churches.  After all, you are not going to ask a warrior or a poet for intercession, you want a holy ascetic or a martyr who died for the faith.  The Church, in my opinion, needs to do a lot more to restore the proper veneration of our Church's saints.  Again, I am wondering if this happened with other Orthodox Churches who were under Soviet control.

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« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2008, 01:05:16 PM »

I was born in Kyiv (Kiev) in December 1957, so I do have a very clear personal recollection of how things were in the late 1960-s and throughout the 70-s and 80-s.

When I was a schoolboy, several churches in Kyiv were active and open to anyone; they were doing what any Orthodox church is doing, i.e. serving the Divine Liturgy, Matins, Ortos, Hours, Vespers, Litias and all. As I recall, there were no special prosecutions or repressions against those who entered these churches. I loved the singing of the choir, so I every now and then would sneak in the St. Volodymyr Cathedral at the corner of Shevchenko Boulevard and Leontovycha Street, and stand there, and listen. I would also cross myself when others did it. Perhaps my school principal and possibly teachers knew, because there were informers everywhere; but, as long as I did not publicly declare myself a believer in God, no action was taken. If I did, however, then there would be trouble, because then I would have to be expelled from the Young Pioneer organization (the Soviet analog of Hitlerugend, the organization for children aged 9-14 under Communist slogans), and then there would be no way for me to be accepted into the Komsomol (Young Communist League for youths aged 14-28), and if you weren't a member of the Komsomol, no university would ever accept your application, so you would remain having only secondary education, no higher education.

There was no special *open* persecution of those who chose to publicly declare their Christian faith. However, there was this huge state-run propaganda against the so-called "sektanty" (sectarians, meaning openly religious Protestants). They were pictured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles as savages who deliberately keep their children in the dark, preventing them from becoming members of the modern society; in addition, there was this quiet but persistent notion that "Capitalist" countries, and especially the USA, use those ignorant savage "sectarians" as their paid agents. Of course, it was absolutely impossible for any "sectarian" to obtain higher education or to assume any position of leadership in the Soviet society.

It all ended in the late 1980-s. Beginning from ~1988-1990, the anti-religious propaganda waned, and there was no longer this requirement to be a member of KOmsomol to become a university student. When Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, it became even "fashionable" for a public figure to openly declare his or her Christian faith. Right now, the President and the Prime Minister of Ukraine are Orthodox, and one of Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko's most trusted deputees, Viktor Turchinov, is a Baptist pastor.
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« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2008, 02:09:58 PM »

http://www.deathtotheworld.com/lot/lives/martyrnestor/martyrnestor.html

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« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2008, 03:31:13 PM »

Back in the mid 1990's, I volunteered on a weekday to clean out the pews in my church.  It was not a pleasant job.  You'd be surprised how many people think it's O.K. to leave used kleenex and gum in pews.

Anyway, I was there cleaning out the pews when a man came walking into the church.  He said he had just arrived in America and had never been in a church before.  I had a brief conversation with him, during which he told me he had been a journalist in Armenia.  Now I knew that if he had been a journalist, that must mean he had been a member of the Communist party there.

I helped him get a candle and he asked me what to do with it.  I told him he should light it in front of one of the "holy pictures," which is what we call icons in Armenian.  So he went up to one of the icons, turned and asked me a question. 

This man was speaking to me in Eastern Armenian, and I speak the Western dialect, so I assumed I misunderstood his question.  I often have trouble understanding that dialect.  So I asked him to repeat his question.  He did, and I then realized that I had not misunderstood him.  He was actually asking me who the Man was in the picture.  It was an icon of Christ.  It was a very stereotypical icon of Christ.  I mean, a Buddhist living in Tibet would have known this was an icon of Christ.  Anyone with the slightest passing knowledge of Christianity would have known this was Christ.  And here this poor guy was standing there completely clueless as to who was depicted in the icon.  So I told him "It's Jesus Christ."  "Ohhhhh, that's Jesus Christ!" he responded.  He lit his candle.  I took him to the church bookstore, where I sold him a Bible and gave him a couple of icon cards of Christ and the Theotokos. 

People have no idea how much damage was done by the Soviets.  The Church is still dealing with the damage and there are still people walking around completely clueless of even the basics of our religion.  I suppose this is something we need to just pray about.   
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« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2008, 06:49:54 PM »

Quote
If I did, however, then there would be trouble, because then I would have to be expelled from the Young Pioneer organization (the Soviet analog of Hitlerugend, the organization for children aged 9-14 under Communist slogans), and then there would be no way for me to be accepted into the Komsomol (Young Communist League for youths aged 14-28), and if you weren't a member of the Komsomol, no university would ever accept your application, so you would remain having only secondary education, no higher education.

There was no special *open* persecution of those who chose to publicly declare their Christian faith. However, there was this huge state-run propaganda against the so-called "sektanty" (sectarians, meaning openly religious Protestants). They were pictured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles as savages who deliberately keep their children in the dark, preventing them from becoming members of the modern society; in addition, there was this quiet but persistent notion that "Capitalist" countries, and especially the USA, use those ignorant savage "sectarians" as their paid agents. Of course, it was absolutely impossible for any "sectarian" to obtain higher education or to assume any position of leadership in the Soviet society.

This is precisely what my Russian Baptist friends would often recount. As Believers, they were firmly opposed to allowing their children to become Young Pioneers and Komsomols; and of course forbid their children to wear the red scarves to school. The children endured a great deal of difficulties due to all of this and indeed, forfeited all chances to get a higher education. Some were crane operators, mechanics etc. It was somewhat of a shame, because many were highly  intelligent people.

I wonder: did any Orthodox folks likewise forbid their children to participate in these activities? Do you think the Baptists behaved as true Christians by refusing to engage in these activities?  Or was it all an unnecessary sacrifice?
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« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2008, 07:16:37 PM »

This is precisely what my Russian Baptist friends would often recount. As Believers, they were firmly opposed to allowing their children to become Young Pioneers and Komsomols; and of course forbid their children to wear the red scarves to school. The children endured a great deal of difficulties due to all of this and indeed, forfeited all chances to get a higher education. Some were crane operators, mechanics etc. It was somewhat of a shame, because many were highly  intelligent people.

I wonder: did any Orthodox folks likewise forbid their children to participate in these activities? Do you think the Baptists behaved as true Christians by refusing to engage in these activities?  Or was it all an unnecessary sacrifice?

The tragedy isn't so much the actions of the state as the failure of the state to protect these children. That the state is mistrustful of people who make bad decisions is certainly understandable, but if these people cannot be trusted with positions of significance and higher education should they have been trusted to raise their children? The west has made great strides in overcoming the serfdom that necessarily proceeds from the family being the fundamental unit through our advancing the great ideal of individualism, ironically this eradication of serfdom wasn't even a primary consideration in individualism which goes out of the way to protect property rights and generally inheritance. The primary purpose of communistic ideology was the overcoming of serfdom, but by failing to address the cause of this oppression and inequality, the family unit, they actually propagated the system, punishing children for the sins of their parents.
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« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2008, 10:40:32 PM »

I was born in 1970 in USSR, so I was one of those young pioneers and later a comsomol member. In 1988 I refused to be in comsomol and brought back my comsomol card-membership to the organization. As I remember back to the early 1980th there was only one open church in the city of Kalinin (now Tver, it is the capital of the Tver's region). Other churches didn't work.
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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2008, 10:47:41 PM »

Need to add, that in 1990th when was the 1000th anniversary of baptizing of Russia, people were coming back to the church by crowds, hundreds and hundreds. I was baptized in 1990 and there were a lot of people doing the same at that day.
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2008, 12:02:55 AM »

Mother Armenia
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« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2008, 04:47:37 AM »

There was definitely a relaxation of religious repression during Leonid Brezhnev's time. I have quite a few original vinyl recordings of church services from that period, which would have been widely available in the USSR at the time, as the recording company was Melodiya, the largest company of its type, and, of course, State-run. These recordings include the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the victory at Kulikovo Field (Choir of the Trinity-St Sergius Lavra, 1981), selections of 16th century chant of the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra of the Dormition (Students' Choir of the Kiev Conservatorium, 1972), Vigil of the Ascension and commemoration of the 70th birthday of Patriarch Pimen (Choirs of the Trinity-St Sergius Lavra and the Moscow Spiritual Academy and Seminary, 1980), and selected church hymns sung by the Clergy Choir of the Leningrad Metropolitanate (1978).

This relaxation continued during the time of perestroika under Mikhail Gorbachev. The 1000-year anniversary of the baptism of Russia in 1988 was a huge event.
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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2008, 10:45:49 AM »

This is precisely what my Russian Baptist friends would often recount. As Believers, they were firmly opposed to allowing their children to become Young Pioneers and Komsomols; and of course forbid their children to wear the red scarves to school. The children endured a great deal of difficulties due to all of this and indeed, forfeited all chances to get a higher education. Some were crane operators, mechanics etc. It was somewhat of a shame, because many were highly  intelligent people.

I wonder: did any Orthodox folks likewise forbid their children to participate in these activities? Do you think the Baptists behaved as true Christians by refusing to engage in these activities?  Or was it all an unnecessary sacrifice?

Interesting question, Rosehip... Honestly, I just don't know. Maybe there were some deeply believing, devout Orthodox people who instructed their children to stay away from Komsomol and other athest ideology-driven youth organizations. It's hard to say that there weren't any, simply because I personally did not know any. However, it was indeed striking that the "sektanty" were "white crows," very different from anyone around them, both in cities and in villages. When I was little, my grandparents used to buy milk from a family of "sektanty" (probably Evangelical Protestants, maybe Baptiss or Pentecostals). They were an old couple, in their late 60-s or early 70-s, amazingly clean and sober for village folks. Their neighbors shunned and despised them mostly for two reasons, one being that they have no icons at home and do not go to the village church on major Orthodox holidays, the second reason being that they never cursed and never drank (how odd...) Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2008, 02:22:39 PM »

Thanks for your answers.  There's A LOT I don't know about the USSR, Russia and communism.  I know that the best way to understand these things is to talk with people, but are there any books in English that you would recommend? 
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« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2008, 02:40:53 PM »

George, it's fascinating to hear about this from your perspective! Thanks so much for sharing! I must say, the trials the Baptists faced under communism for the most part strengthened and unified them in their faith. They had large, close family units and most of the children remained with the church. Despite their lack of worldly success due to their restrictions, they appeared to be quite happy, well-adjusted people. Although something about their church services never quite resonated with me, they were decent, sincere people in their own way.

StGeorge: " A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy" (Nathaniel Davis)

also: Dimitri Pospielovsky is a well-known specialist in this area and has written extensively on the subject, amongst his works: "The Russian Church Under the Soviet Regime, 1917-1982" (Volume 1) 

I'm sure others here can give you more titles; these are just a couple which came to mind immediately.
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« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2008, 03:15:41 PM »

Read Father Arseny.  You won't regret getting this book.

http://www.light-n-life.com/shopping/order_product.asp?ProductNum=FRAR500

The book circulated "underground" during the Soviet days and was not officially published until afterwards.  There is a debate as to whether Father Arseny was a real person. Some people think the book is a collection of real stories that came out of the gulags and the character of Fr. Arseny was invented as a way of pulling the stories together under one subject.  Regardless, it is a wonderful and very readable book.
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« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2008, 06:48:50 PM »

I was born in 1970 in USSR, so I was one of those young pioneers and later a comsomol member. In 1988 I refused to be in comsomol and brought back my comsomol card-membership to the organization. As I remember back to the early 1980th there was only one open church in the city of Kalinin (now Tver, it is the capital of the Tver's region). Other churches didn't work.

Galina, sorry if this is a bit of an offtopic from the OP, but I want to brag a little that I quit Komsomol even earlier than the Perestroika began, in late 1984! I was still 27 (technically even 26, was about to become 27 in December), so I had to stay for a whole year more. And it was still this post-Brezhnev time, Chernenko was the Secretary General, the KGB was still all-powerful... But I at one point just thought, well, I've had it. I was in Moscow, in graduate school, in years 1981 - 1984. When I returned to Kyiv in October 1984 and began to work at the O.O. Bohomoletz Institute of Physiology of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, I, in violation of all rules, did not show up to the office of the girl who was in charge of maintaining the roll of the local Komsomol members. When she came to my lab and started to talk to me, I said, "I just don't want to be on the roll. Please... can this be just between you and I?" And she, God bless her soul, said, "OK... If someone asks me, I'll say that you are already 28" Smiley Smiley Smiley

Generally the climate, the attitude to various sorts of "dissidents" in the Academy of Sciences was a lot milder than elsewhere.
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« Reply #17 on: July 05, 2008, 06:59:42 PM »

Read Father Arseny.  You won't regret getting this book.

http://www.light-n-life.com/shopping/order_product.asp?ProductNum=FRAR500

The book circulated "underground" during the Soviet days and was not officially published until afterwards.  There is a debate as to whether Father Arseny was a real person. Some people think the book is a collection of real stories that came out of the gulags and the character of Fr. Arseny was invented as a way of pulling the stories together under one subject.  Regardless, it is a wonderful and very readable book.

I've already read that book, and Cloud of Witnesses.  Both books were great! 
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« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2008, 07:01:00 PM »

Read Father Arseny.  You won't regret getting this book.

http://www.light-n-life.com/shopping/order_product.asp?ProductNum=FRAR500

The book circulated "underground" during the Soviet days and was not officially published until afterwards.  There is a debate as to whether Father Arseny was a real person. Some people think the book is a collection of real stories that came out of the gulags and the character of Fr. Arseny was invented as a way of pulling the stories together under one subject.  Regardless, it is a wonderful and very readable book.

The book Cloud of Witnesses has a photo at the front of a Fr. Arseny's tomb marker, if my memory serves me... 

I know I've heard similiar things about The Way of a Pilgrim--whether or not the pilgrim was a real person. 
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« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2008, 07:16:36 PM »

George, it's fascinating to hear about this from your perspective! Thanks so much for sharing! I must say, the trials the Baptists faced under communism for the most part strengthened and unified them in their faith. They had large, close family units and most of the children remained with the church. Despite their lack of worldly success due to their restrictions, they appeared to be quite happy, well-adjusted people. Although something about their church services never quite resonated with me, they were decent, sincere people in their own way.

StGeorge: " A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy" (Nathaniel Davis)

also: Dimitri Pospielovsky is a well-known specialist in this area and has written extensively on the subject, amongst his works: "The Russian Church Under the Soviet Regime, 1917-1982" (Volume 1) 

I'm sure others here can give you more titles; these are just a couple which came to mind immediately.


Thanks I'll check those out
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« Reply #20 on: July 05, 2008, 07:22:05 PM »

George, it's fascinating to hear about this from your perspective! Thanks so much for sharing! I must say, the trials the Baptists faced under communism for the most part strengthened and unified them in their faith. They had large, close family units and most of the children remained with the church. Despite their lack of worldly success due to their restrictions, they appeared to be quite happy, well-adjusted people. Although something about their church services never quite resonated with me, they were decent, sincere people in their own way.

StGeorge: " A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy" (Nathaniel Davis)

also: Dimitri Pospielovsky is a well-known specialist in this area and has written extensively on the subject, amongst his works: "The Russian Church Under the Soviet Regime, 1917-1982" (Volume 1) 

I'm sure others here can give you more titles; these are just a couple which came to mind immediately.


I just ordered a really cheap used copy of Nathaniel Davis' book.  I look forward to reading it. 
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« Reply #21 on: July 05, 2008, 07:42:30 PM »

I just recalled another example of a deeply religious person whom I knew as a child in the former USSR. It was my great aunt, my maternal grandmother's sister Kateryna (I called her "aunt Katya"). She was a medical doctor, a surgeon by training, and a lifelong Army officer. In the 1930-s, she married a man, called Mikhail, who was, like herself, an officer of the Army medical service, and who during the WWII became a general. After the war, they settled in Moscow (Mikhail was a Russian and a Moscow native). He suddenly died of a stroke in 1948 - quite amazing, not having even a scratch from the war, even though he was on the front line all the time. He was not yet even 50.

Aunt Katya was devastated. She never re-married, retired from the Army and lived very solitary life in her apartment in the northwestern outskirts of Moscow. All of her life became centered on two things: her sister (my grandma in Kyiv) and her sister's family, including me, and the Orthodox Church.

I did not realize it at that time (when I was little), but later I learned from my relatives that my aunt Katya actually attended a small Orthodox parish every week, often several times a week; she went to Holy Confession, partook in the Eucharist, had icons in her apartment, etc.

When she was visiting my grandma, she never talked about anything religious, but she was, indeed, VERY different from all my other relatives. She was extremely quiet and soft-natured; it was just impossible for me to even imagine how my aunt Katya could raise her voice or say anything crude, any word that could hurt people. She was also extremely, unusually modest in the way she dressed, and in her manners at the family dinner table: she ate so little, always asking to give her a smaller piece, or to cut some piece for her into two halves and give her just one half. My grandparents and my grandma's brother (aunt Katya's younger brother, also a military doctor) always laughed and poked fun at her, calling her "Katya-polovinka" ("Katya the Half"). Smiley And, most importantly, she was so amazingly kind to anyone and to me. It was always a very special time for me when aunt Katya was in Kyiv, because she would take me for long walks in the city parks, telling me most exciting stories about the war, about how Mikhail and her served in the Army from the first day of the German invasion in the USSR (June 22, 1941) till the capitulation of Germany on May 8, 1945, which they learned about when they were in Vienna.

Having had such a hard, tumultous, military, combat background, my aunt Katya, again, was an amazingly quiet, soft-natured and kind person. I believe she was a true saint. My mom still says that aunt Katya's eyes and her whole face had some kind of a very unusual, special glow, a shining.  

Again, I am sure that the Soviet authorities knew about my aunt Katya's religious life. But there was probably no reaction on their part, no persecution, even in the 1950-s and 60-s (Stalin's and Khrushchev's time), because she became a very private person, a retiree, and she kept her religious life very much to herself.  
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« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2008, 12:04:07 AM »

I just recently read that Stalin relaxed his persecution of the Church when he needed it to bless the troops to fight against the Nazis (not that is was an easy thing to be an Orthodox - or member of any other Christian body -- believer in the 40's and 50's). Then Kruschev re-instituted a very hostile position toward the Church and all Christians. Earlier,
Lenin was also horrendous and nearly as bad as Stalin - had he lived longer he probably would have been as bad or worse.

It probably didn't get moderately "safe" until later in Garbchev's reign.
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« Reply #23 on: July 06, 2008, 12:16:25 AM »

Today. Persecutions against the Catcomb Church have never ceased. Cry
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« Reply #24 on: July 06, 2008, 01:13:21 AM »

The Soviet persecution lasted until its end, although its intensity level declined. A popular priest named Alexander Men was murdered in broad day light by an ax-wielding assailant in which all fingers point to a soviet KGB hit. This was in 1990,  in the time of glasnost.
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« Reply #25 on: July 06, 2008, 01:32:37 AM »

My Russian husband, born in 1966 in the Russian Far East, told me that religious people were usually just made fun of at school and by officials etc. Sort of given the village idiot treatment/reputation. There was a time, however, in the mid-80's when my husband was working at a television station when a meeting was called. The staff had to gather to discuss the future of one of their colleagues. Someone had found out that this young woman sang in a church choir, and so many felt that she should be fired from her job (and since everyone carried around a special job record book, almost like a passport, that acted as a sort of official resume that was filled in by each employer, she would have had a hard time getting a job anywhere else after that). My husband, very young at the time (pre-Red Army deployment) and an atheist, argued in favour of keeping her, as he thought the whole thing was ridiculous. He used the "best to keep your enemies close so you can keep an eye on them." argument. She was ultimately allowed to stay.
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« Reply #26 on: July 06, 2008, 08:27:38 AM »

By Georgij:

Galina, sorry if this is a bit of an offtopic from the OP, but I want to brag a little that I quit Komsomol even earlier than the Perestroika began, in late 1984! I was still 27 (technically even 26, was about to become 27 in December), so I had to stay for a whole year more.

By Galina:
Georgich, that is good, that you did it when you were 27! I did it when I was 17 and half, almost 18 years old.  Wink
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« Reply #27 on: July 07, 2008, 12:28:17 AM »



Generally the climate, the attitude to various sorts of "dissidents" in the Academy of Sciences was a lot milder than elsewhere.

I wonder if that is because of the influence of the other great dissident (other than Solzhenitzen) - was it Sakarov?
(please pardon my spelling); he was a scientist, correct?
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« Reply #28 on: April 30, 2010, 09:21:01 PM »

I'm resurrecting this old thread because of an upcoming event on May 8, which I just learned about:

Deliverance Through Devotion: The Triumph of Orthodox Music Over Oppression,
an evening of music and lectures at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, 630 Second Avenue,
New York, NY.
The Canticum Novum under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum will
perform works by Andriasov, Pärt, Murov, Popovici and Schnittke. The evening honors
the work of artists from five different ethnic backgrounds, Armenian, Estonian, Russian,
Romanian, and Jewish, whose works were banned or controversial due to their connection
with or influence from the Orthodox Church. For more info:
www.nicholasreevesmusic.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6iR2WpZ6t4&NR=1

If I lived in New York, I'd go.  If anyone goes, please let us know how it was.
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« Reply #29 on: April 30, 2010, 09:24:19 PM »

There's a radio interview about it on Ancient Faith Radio:

http://audio.ancientfaith.com/interviews/afp_2010-04-19.mp3
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« Reply #30 on: May 01, 2010, 12:36:56 AM »

I'm resurrecting this old thread because of an upcoming event on May 8, which I just learned about:

Deliverance Through Devotion: The Triumph of Orthodox Music Over Oppression,
an evening of music and lectures at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, 630 Second Avenue,
New York, NY.
The Canticum Novum under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum will
perform works by Andriasov, Pärt, Murov, Popovici and Schnittke. The evening honors
the work of artists from five different ethnic backgrounds, Armenian, Estonian, Russian,
Romanian, and Jewish, whose works were banned or controversial due to their connection
with or influence from the Orthodox Church. For more info:
www.nicholasreevesmusic.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6iR2WpZ6t4&NR=1

If I lived in New York, I'd go.  If anyone goes, please let us know how it was.

Very cool.  Thanks. 
« Last Edit: May 01, 2010, 12:37:18 AM by StGeorge » Logged
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« Reply #31 on: May 01, 2010, 01:22:35 AM »

I don't have a history book in front of me, but, from what I recall hearing, the worst times were the late 1930's during Stalin, and then later after Khrushchev came into power.  I think Stalin loosened up a little on the churches during World War II.  Also, right before the Soviet Union fell, there was a loosening up, with permission from Moscow allowing churches to be reopened, etc.

You got to realize, however, that even during the less repressive times there were still a lot of limits on churches, and if you wanted to really advance in your career you had to be an atheist.  My priest once mentioned that during the Soviet days, the churches would have to once a year submit paperwork to the government, telling them how many people were coming to church.  Every year, the churches would put smaller numbers, regardless of how many people really were coming on Sundays.  That is what the government wanted and you didn't want some petty official closing down your church.

Of course there were ways to get around things.  At one point a large statue of "Mother Armenia" was built in the middle of the city of Yerevan in Armenia.  The designers of the statue had her holding a sword horizontally, so that the statue looks like a cross from a distance.  They say that was intentional, a way of telling the government that they could never wipe out the Armenian Church.  On one of the stained glass windows in my church, there is a picture of that statue.

Then there was the time the local Communist officials in Armenia conspired to get back a piece of Church property from the Moscow government.  I actually once met the architect who worked on restoring the property and he told me the story.  It was a building that had once been the residence of the Catholicos.  It was seized by the last tsar, and the Moscow government still had ownership of it.  It had once been a beautiful building, but had fallen into disrepair.  One day, Khrushchev came on an official visit to Armenia.  The local Armenian Communist officials got him drunk as a pig and had him sign papers turning the property back over to the Armenians.  When Khrushchev woke up the next morning and realized what had happened, he was too embarrassed to do anything about it, so the Armenians got to keep property.  It is today owned by the Church again.

I think one thing that helped the Church in Armenia is that there is a strong connection between the Church and the national identity.  There is a sort of feeling that you are not truly an Armenian if you are not in the Church.  Thus they say that even Armenian Communist officials would quietly have their children baptized.  This must have helped the Church somewhat.  I am curious to know whether that connection between Church and national identity exists for other Orthodox Churches and if that had any effect on what happened during the days of Communism.

In any event, I think one of the most damaging lasting effects of Communism is that you have so many people now who somehow identify with the Church, but know nothing about her teachings, or even about the basics of the Christian religion.  In the Soviet days, priests could keep alive if all they did was the liturgy, but didn't teach the people.  They didn't even do sermons.  The result is there are still a lot of people today who don't know even the basics and the Church is having a hard time "catching up," although things are better now than 10 years ago.

Another thing that irks me is that during the Soviet days, our saints were turned into national heroes.  That was another way of getting around communism.  You could have pictures of saints, even in public places, but they were turned into national or literary figures.  Thus pictures of St. Nareg could be displayed, but instead of a halo, there would be a poet's laural on his head, as he was the great Armenian poet, and his book of prayers was a poetry book.  St. Vartan was no longer a martyr of the Christian faith, who died fighting against Zoroastrianism, but rather a brave warrior who protected the nation against foreign domination.  What disgusts me is that this attitude is still pervasive, so much so, that many Armenians have turned to venerating the saints of other Churches.  After all, you are not going to ask a warrior or a poet for intercession, you want a holy ascetic or a martyr who died for the faith.  The Church, in my opinion, needs to do a lot more to restore the proper veneration of our Church's saints.  Again, I am wondering if this happened with other Orthodox Churches who were under Soviet control.


Who was Saint Vartan?
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« Reply #32 on: May 01, 2010, 01:35:48 AM »

In 451, the Persians tried forcing the Armenians to convert back to paganism.  The Armenians refused, and when the Persians came with their huge army, St. Vartan and his companions faced them, fought them bravely, and died as martyrs.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,22284.msg339007.html#msg339007

With him was St. Ghevont the priest, whose feast day is celebrated the same week as St. Vartan's:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,25842.0.html



Armenian history is filled with stories of various forces and empires trying to tell them what to believe or not to believe.  The Persians were the first; the Communists were the most recent.  The Armenian Church survived all of it, by the grace of God.  It's the sort of thing that shouldn't be forgotten, which is one of the reasons I'm glad the above mentioned concert is happening.  People need to remember these things.  

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« Reply #33 on: May 01, 2010, 02:33:26 AM »

A tangent about Zrvanism (a kind of Zoroastrianism) was split off and put here:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,27296.0.html
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« Reply #34 on: May 01, 2010, 08:55:01 PM »

From the OCA website:

http://www.oca.org/news/2140



News and Events

OCA composer's work to be performed in New York City

Posted 04/30

[New York, NY] -- On May 8, 2010 at 7:30pm, composer Nicholas Reeves presents Deliverance Through Devotion: The Triumph of Orthodox Music Over Oppression, an evening of music and lectures at St. Vartan Cathedral, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY. The Canticum Novum under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum will perform works by Andriasov, Pärt, Murov, Popovici, and Schnittke. The evening honors the work of artists from five different ethnic backgrounds, Armenian, Estonian, Russian, Romanian, and Jewish, whose works were banned or controversial due to their connection with or influence from the Orthodox Church.

In the shadow of oppressive atheistic ideology such sources as Matthew the Evangelist or the Armenian saint Gregory of Narek were employed by Murov and Schnittke at the price of official ridicule or censure. Other composers' careers were stifled for their overtly Christian themes (Pärt) or were forced to remove the sacred text altogether (Popovici). In one case, Andriasov's, the fame for his ethical writings among dissident circles and accolades from the Catholicos of Armenia, coupled with his audacity to refuse the Lenin prize for music composition, incensed the Soviet authorities to wreak academic sabotage on his wife and impel exile. Yet, these artists responded to the inhumanity of an impersonal regime not with anger or violence, but with beauty and truth.

A new work by Reeves honors one of the most misrepresented composers of the Soviet era, Dmitri Shostakovich. In Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich is a sacred a cappella choral piece on a composer who did not write Church music, but one in whose music Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk has said to find "his longing for the Absolute and God and his lust for the truth." In between the musical selections, noted lecturers Natalie Zelensky and Katya Ermolaev Ossorgin will reflect on the past and future of Post-Communist cultures and the challenges they provide for the Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.

Tickets are available by calling 646-450-4077 or emailing info@nicholasreevesmusic.com, $30 General Admission, $15 Students & Seniors.

Composer Nicholas Reeves brings together sacred, classical and popular influences in well-crafted music that is gaining attention in New York City and beyond. His work has been performed by The Canticum Novum Singers under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum, the Winds of Læsø Art Festival in Denmark, at Merkin Hall and the famous Riverside Church.

In February 2009, Reeves's work was featured in a four-day concert engagement, The Four Stop Tour. This versatile series of performances in Manhattan encompassed four aspects of American musical culture: film, theater, sacred hymns and concert works. Of special interest was an historic performance of selections from Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, in which the Vespers portion was sung as an actual Orthodox Service with Propers composed by Reeves. The first stop of the tour encompassed Reeves's multifaceted artistry in which the Oscar winning film No Country for Old Men, famous for having a minimal musical score, was viewed with a live orchestra performing his composition to accompany the film.

The son of an Orthodox priest, Reeves is the Director of Music at Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in East Meadow, New York, in addition to maintaining a private composition, conducting and voice studio. He has studied at the Brevard Music Center and holds degrees in composition from Westminster Choir College and Manhattan School of Music, where he is currently pursuing a DMA in classical composition as a student of Richard Danielpour. Presently, Reeves is composing his much anticipated first opera Vicious.

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« Reply #35 on: May 06, 2010, 10:51:45 PM »

I'm just bumping this, as the event is getting near.  Again, if anyone goes, please let us know what it was like.  Smiley
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