3. Rusian History

Rissia – Magog

This is intended to be as complete a timeline on Russia as can possibly be done. Russia was in the beginning a place for the Vikings to stop for the winter before heading back to their home. They were trading with the Byzantine Romans in Constantinople. The native people of Russia were then known as the Rus.

860: Novgorod the first Russian city is founded.

Late 930’s: A Rus “prince” Oleg captures the city of Tmutorokan, which is then being held by a rival tribe known as the Khazar. The Governor of Khazar learns of this and captures several Byzantine cities on the Crimea killing many Rus. Oleg comes out to do battle and is defeated and forced to surrender. This is a major victory over the Rus.

965: Khazar is defeated by the Kiev tribe.

988: Orthodox Christianity is brought to Russia by St. Vladimir when he marries a Byzantine Princess.

1147: Prince Yuri Dolgoruky founds Moscow. He is a ruler of the Rus tribe in the northeast. He builds the Kremlin, which stands for fortress along the Moscow River.

1169: The City of Kiev is sacked and burned.

1223: The First Mongol Invasion led by Genghis Khan fails.

1237-1242: Batu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, invaded Russia

1240: Alexander Nevsky, a Novgorod prince, defeats the Swedes. Two years later he will defeat the German Teutonic Knights who are trying to invade Russia.

1326: The capital is moved from Vladimir to Moscow.

1362: Kiev is taken by the kings of Lithuania.

1439: The Council of Florence reunites the Eastern and Western Christian Church. Russia denies that this has happened and in 1448 declares themselves the final church.

1478: Ivan III makes Novgorod part of Russia.

1480: The Mongols cease to rule Russia as Ivan III takes over and is proclaimed The Great.

1493: A major fire destroys the capital of Moscow. Ivan III proclaims that no more buildings will be built of wood.

1497: Ivan III passes Russia’s first law code: The Sudebnik.

1510: The area of Pskov is made part of Russia

1517-1519: First books printed in Russian.

1533: Ivan IV succeeds to the throne at the age of three. Until 1547 he rules under the regency of his mother and nobles. During this time his best friend Maliuta Skuratov starts the Streltsy and Oprichniki, which are respectfully Russia’s first army and secret police.

Jan 16, 1547: Ivan IV has himself crowned Russian Czar in Moscow. This is the first time the title is used.

1553: Russia is “opened” to trade with London.

1565-1572: Ivan IV fights a long campaign against the city of Novgorod killing many people in a series of pogroms.

1571: Moscow is burned by the Crimean Tartars.

1581: Poland invades Russia and Russia invades Siberia.

1582: In a fit of rage Ivan IV kills his son.

Aug 10, 1582: Russia and Poland end their war. In the treaty Russia loses access to the Baltic and gives Livonia and Estonia to Poland.

1584: Ivan IV dies and is succeed by his weak-minded son, Fyodor I. Fyodor’s brother in law, Boris Godunov, keeps control of the army.

1585: The city of Archangelsk is founded.

Feb 17, 1598: Godunov is elected Czar in place of Fyodor. This starts the so-called “Time of Troubles” in which nobles fought a civil war for the throne.

1610-1612: Moscow is occupied by the Poles.

1611-1617: Novgorod is occupied by the Swedes.

Feb 22, 1613: A Russian Nobleman named Mikhail Romanov is elected Czar over Russia, which ends the Time of Troubles. The Romanov’s will rule Russia until 1917.

1617: Russia makes peace with the Swedes and loses all access to the Baltic.

1645: Mikhail Romanov dies and is replaced by his son, Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov.

1649: The practice of serfdom is started in Russia. Also Alexei passes his code of law: Ulozhenie

1654: the Ukraine becomes part of Russia.

1667: Kiev, White Russia, and Smolensk become part of Russia.

1676: Alexei dies and passes the throne to his son, Fedor III.

1682: After the death of Fedor with no heirs there is a power struggle. Emerging is the boyar Sophia who takes over as Regent with Ivan V and Peter I next in line.

1684: Sophia starts persecution of Jews and Pagans.

1689: Peter I takes over as Czar.

1695: The Russian navy is formed.

July 18, 1696: Peter I takes the fortress of Azov from the Turks allowing Russia access to the Black Sea.

1697: Kamchatka is made part of Russia.

1697-1698: Peter I visits France. During his absence a boyar named Streltsy tries to take over but is crushed.

1700: The Great Northern War with Sweden begins.

1703: St. Petersburg is founded. Russia’s first newspaper starts printing.

1713: the capital is moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

1718: Russia starts a poll tax and a university system.

1721: Russia and Sweden sign the treaty of Nystad by which Russia gets Livonia, Estonia, Karelia, and Ingria. The first postal service is established.

1724: Peter makes a Table of Ranks for the nobility.

1725: Peter I dies and is succeeded by his second wife Catherine I.

1725-1729: Russia sends out an Arctic expedition.

1727: Peter II, Peter I grandson, takes the throne.

1730: Anna Ivanova, daughter of Peter I co-ruler Ivan V becomes czar.

1734: the Russians take Danzig in Poland.

1740: At the death of Anna her niece’s son, Ivan VI becomes Czar at the age of 1 year. He was overthrown in 1741 and exiled to Siberia where he would be murdered in 1764.

1741: The Russian second Arctic expedition discovers Alaska. Elizabeth Romanov, the daughter of Peter I, takes the throne in a bloodless coup.

1744: Russia abolishes capital punishment

1745: England, Austria, Saxony, and the Netherlands declare war on Russia. Russia destroys the Prussian Army and in 1760 joins forces with Austria to invade Berlin.

1746: Purchase of serfs by non-nobles is abolished.

1761: Elizabeth dies and is replaced by Anna’s son Peter III.

1762: Peter III of Russia is murdered by his wife Catherine II who takes over.

1764: All lands owned by the Church not having churches on them are taken.

1770: The Russian Navy destroys the Ottoman Navy at the battle of Chesme.

1772: Poland is divided between Russia and Prussia.

1773: Russia sign’s a treaty with the Ottoman’s, which brings them land on the Mediterranean and official protective status of the Orthodox Church.

1773-1775: A Cossack named Pugachev claiming to be Peter III leads a revolt against Catherine II. He is eventually arrested and beheaded and the Cossacks are scattered.

1781-1786: The Ukraine is made part of Russia.

1783: The Crimea is taken by the Russians.

1784: Russia establishes their first colony in Alaska.

1787-1792: The Ottoman Empire again declares war against Russia. After losing an invasion bid they quickly make peace.

1792: Russia invades Poland. A treaty gives most of Poland to Russia.

1794: Russia signs an alliance pact with the British and Austrians against Revolutionary France.

1796: Catherine II dies and is succeeded by her son Paul I.

1799: The Russians put colonies into California.

1801: Paul I is murdered and succeeded by his son Alexander I. Sale of Serfs without land is permitted. The eastern part of Georgia becomes part of Russia.

1805: Russia joins a new alliance against France. The same year she is defeated in battle by Napoleon.

1806: Russia defeats French forces at the battle of Pultusk.

1809: Finland breaks free of Sweden and becomes part of Russia.

1812: Napoleon I invades Russia. The Victorious Napoleon enters Moscow in September only to find it set on fire around him by the retreating army. He spends a month there before leaving for France in October.

1813: Alexander I chases Napoleon back to Paris entering Warsaw, Berlin, and finally Paris in 1814.

1815: Russia is recognized as a world power at the Treaty of Venus and joins the Holy Allegiance.

1816-1819: Serfdom is abolished in the Baltic provinces.

1824: Russia signs a treaty with Britain giving the English all her North American colonies except Alaska.

1825: Alexander I dies and is succeeded by his youngest brother Nicholas I.

1830-1831: A polish revolution breaks out. It ends in a stalemate.

1833: A new Code of Laws is made.

1838: Russia gets its first railroad. It goes from St. Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo.

May 14, 1851: Russia opens a second railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow.

1854-1856: The Crimea War in which Russia tried to take more of the Crimea. It ends with Russia losing.

1855: Nicholas I kills himself and is succeeded by his son Alexander II.

1858-1860: Russia acquires from China the provinces of Amur and Maritime. They also add the Caucuses to Russia.

February 19, 1861: Alexander II frees all the serfs in Russia.

1863-1865: Alexander II starts reforms in the law and education systems.

1864-1885: Russia starts a conquest of Central Asia.

March 30, 1867: Russia sells Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million.

1873: The terrorist organization To the People is formed.

1877-1878: The Russian-Ottoman war breaks out. This war would end with a victory for Russia giving Russia influence over: Serbia, Romania, Bosnia, Bulgaria.

1881: Czar Alexander II is assassinated by a bomb thrown by To the People. His son Alexander III takes over.

1884: The University system is put under a strong reactionary reform due to the assassination of Alexander II.

1891: The Trans-Siberian railroad is started.

1893: Russia and France become allies.

1894: the last Czar Nicholas II takes over for his father upon the latter’s death.

1895: Russia, France, and Germany force Japan to return Liao-dong peninsula to China. That same year Mormon missionaries come to Russia.

1896: Czar Nicholas II makes a state visit to France and lays down a cornerstone to the first Russian battleship called Alexander III.

1900: Russia invades Manchuria during the Boxer Rebellion.

1901: Japan asks Russia to leave China.

1902: U.S. Secretary of State John Hay protests Russia for being in China. Along with France, Russia acknowledges the protest but does nothing.

1903: Czar Nicholas II declares freedom of Religion in Russia. That same year V. I. Lenin’s party splits into two parts with the Bolsheviks following him and the Mensheviks arguing for a less stringent view of Marx. Also that year a Russian monk named Rasputin comes to St. Petersburg claiming to have seen the Virgin Mary who gave him his powers. The Zionist movement also starts in Russia that year.

1904-1905: The Russo-Japanese War.

Jan 9, 1905: On what is to become known as Bloody Sunday, Russian Orthodox Father George Gapon leads some 20,000 troops into St. Petersburg. They march on the Winter Palace to present their grievances to Nicholas II. Russian troops panic and fire into the crowd killing hundreds. This leads to the Revolution of 1905 in which government officials were attacked, peasants seized private estates, and workers strikes paralyze the country. Finally Nicholas II agrees to the demand of adopting a constitution and allowing a parliament called the Duma which meets for the first time in 1906.

1906: Peter Stoylpin is elected first prime minister of the Russian Duma a post he would hold until he was executed in 1911.

1907: There are only 15,000 Jews left in the country after a series of pogroms. Also that year Nicholas II dissolves the Duma. The Duma ignores him and continues to meet. The Triple Entente of Russia, France, and England is formed.

1911: Stoylpin resigns as Prime Minister. A few months later he is assassinated at the Kiev opera house in front of Nicholas II. He dies four days later.

1911-1913: the Balkan Wars.

1914: In March Russia raised its army from 460,000 to 1,700,000. That July Russia states that it would support and protect Serbia against Austria. In August, Germany and Austria-Hungry declare war on Russia. A few days later Russia wins a small battle against Germany at Gumbinnen. Then in November, the Germans tried to invade Russia getting as far as Warsaw, Poland before calling it off. The Russians have lost 90,000 to the Germans 35,000. Also that year Russia declared war on Turkey.

1915: This year sees bad losses for the Russians as the Germans march ever closer to Russia proper. By the end of the year Russia has lost 190,000. Nicholas II takes personal command at the front.

December 16, 1916: The Russian “monk” Rasputin who has become close to the Czar’s family due to his ability to heal the heir to the throne is murdered by Russian nobles. He is poisoned by cyanide, stabbed, shot, beaten, thrown out of a second story window, beaten once more, shot once more, and thrown into the Neva River where instead of drowning at first he bashes his head on the ice in his struggle to escape death then finally drowns. Later his body will be dug up and set on fire to ensure that he is truly dead.

March 8, 1917: Russia’s “February Revolution”(based on the Old Style Calendar) begins with Russian troops refusing to fight.

March 16, 1917: Czar Nicholas II abdicates the throne. He refuses to let his son Alexis rule since he is sickly. The family is taken prisoner to Petrograd before being moved later in the year to Siberia.

March 22, 1917: Alexander Kerensky forms a republic and takes office as Prime Minister. He is recognized by the United States.

April 16, 1917: After years in exile, Lenin returns to Russia to begin the Bolshevik Revolution.

June 17, 1917: Russia attacks Germany again after months of ceasefire.

July 20, 1917: Alexander Kerensky becomes primer of Russia. Russia is declared a republic.

November 6, 1917: The “October Revolution” led by Lenin and Trotsky takes power in Petrograd.

November 7, 1917: The Government of Kerensky falls. Kerensky flees to France and then the United States where he dies sometime in the 1970’s. Lenin takes over as premier.

December of 1917: The Cheka is formed and Germany and Russia sign a new ceasefire

Feb 5, 1918: the Russians declare the separation of church and stateMarch 3, 1918: The Russians sign the peace treaty of Brest-Litovisk with Germany and Austria which ends their participation in the war. They have lost 1,7000,000 men

March 5, 1918: The capital of Russia is moved to Moscow. British troops land at Murmansk

April 1918: Japanese troops land at Vladivostok.

June 1918: The committee of the village poor and the nationalization of industry begins.

July 16, 1918: Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandria, their 5 children, and 4 servants are shot to death under orders from Lenin.

August 2, 1918: American troops land at Vladivostok and Archangelsk.

November 11, 1918: World War I ends. The Soviets declare that the treaty of Brest-Litovisk is null and void.

Late November 1918: French troops land at Odessa and British troops land at Batum.

Jan 24, 1919: All remaining family members of the Romanov’s are murdered if they have not yet escaped.

October 1919: Allied troops leave Russia.

January 1920: The Allied blockade is lifted.

November 1920: The Russian Civil War ends.

January 1921: New Economic Policy begins. This policy had the State keep all heavy industry, banking, and transportation but gave private shops, restaurants, and small scale manufacturing to individuals with the provision that only family members could work there. A system of graduated taxes was established and the state owned all the land. Education was free at all levels but it was mixed book and physical education. Censorship of books and newspapers was established. All churches were destroyed and the nuns and priests were sent to labor camps. The Jewish population was allowed to keep speaking Yiddish but they had no synagogues and had to live in Jewish areas as farmers.

April 1922: Cheka was replaced by the OGPU. Lenin has a stroke due to an assassination attempt. He will have another stroke in 1923.

Dec 30, 1922: Lenin declares that Russia is now known as The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR. Germany is the first to recognize her. In 1924 Great Britain, Italy, and France recognize the country.

Jan 21, 1924: Lenin dies from complications of an assassination attempt a few years before. His death opens a power struggle between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Stalin is on a committee with Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, and Bukharin called the Politburo. . By 1928, Stalin will have assumed complete power. Lenin’s body would be mummified and laid in a marble tomb in Red Square where it still lies today.

Jan 24, 1924: The City of St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad in honor of Lenin. It would change its name back to St. Petersburg in 1991.

1925: Russia takes over Outer Mongolia and also establishes the official news agency of Russia called TASS.

1926: Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev are expelled from the Politburo.

Nov 12, 1927: Trotsky and his followers are expelled from the Communist Party as Stalin seizes control of the country.

1928: The first five year plan: Soviet Steel production is set for 10 million tons, blast furnaces were to be constructed or modernized, and factories were to be built.

1929: Trotsky is deported out of the country and Bukharin is kicked out of the Politburo. Also collectivization and industrialization is begun.

1931: The Bible is declared illegal to own or publish.

1932: The Soviets sign non-aggression pacts with Finland and France.

1933: The United States recognizes the Soviet Union. In a weird twist of fate, Harpo Marx becomes the first entertainer allowed in.

1934: The League of Nations allows the USSR a seat, the Second Five Year Plan: steel is to be raised to 17 million tons a year and cement, coal, and oil were to be produced, and all Jews are moved to Birobidzhan. Also the first purge begins.

1935: Collective farming is started.

1936: Russia signs a treaty with China against Japan. On December 5, a constitution is issued in the USSR even though Stalin still holds all the power.

April 18, 1937: Leon Trotsky safe in Mexico City calls for Stalin to be removed from power. This sets Stalin off and he starts the first massive purge. The purge kills army officers, empties all prison camps, sends more people to the camps, and orders killed all official census counters when they reveal that the population of the USSR is decreasing. All in all 14,000,000 were killed in the purges which would last two years. Many Americans who are visiting the country are killed also. Trotsky would be murdered in 1940 by order of Stalin.

1938-1941: the third five-year plan

1939: Collective farms are ordered to work so many days.

Aug 23, 1939: Germany and Russia sign the Moltov-Ribbentrop Pact, which allows Germany to invade Poland and the USSR to invade Finland. They also agree to let the USSR divide Poland and have influence over Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Bessarabia.

September 17, 1939: The Soviet Union invades Poland more then two weeks after Germany. Within a week they have occupied eastern Poland and have lost 737 dead.

September 27, 1939: Germany occupies Warsaw, Poland and the war seems to be at an end. The same day Russia and Germany sign a new pact, which allows Germany to have more of Poland in exchange to Russia being allowed to put troops in Estonia and Latvia.

November 10, 1939-March 13, 1940: The Soviet Union invades and defeats Finland In return they are dropped from the League of Nations.

May 6, 1941: Stalin declares himself Primer of Russia and replaces his foreign secretary Vyacheslav M. Molotov.

June 22, 1941: Germany invades Russia in violation of their pact. It is the largest invasion in the history of the World.

June 24, 1941: US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt promises aid to the USSR. Finland declares war on the USSR.

July 13, 1941: Britain and the USSR become official allies. Germany has reached the Dniper River and taken 410,000 POW’s.

August 21-September 26, 1941: Kiev falls to the German Army and the German Army takes over 665,000 POW’s. This will cut off the Crimea Peninsula from the rest of the country. During this time Britain and the USSR enter Iran and open up a supply route.

September 4, 1941- January 1942: The Siege of Leningrad. The Soviet Union will lose at least a million civilians from starvation and disease.

October 2, 1941: Germany starts a drive on Moscow.

December 2, 1941: Only 25 miles away from Moscow, Germany is forced to stop due to temperatures of 40 below zero.

April 8, 1942: The Russians manage to open a railroad to Leningrad.

May 12, 1942: In its first major offensive, the Soviet Army manages to free Kharkov in the Ukraine from Germany only to lose it and 250,000 men a few days later.

June 11, 1942: The United States and the USSR sign an agreement to aid the Soviet Army.

June 28, 1942: The German army starts an offensive to take the oil fields in the Caucuses and the city of Stalingrad.

August 23, 1942: Germany surrounds Stalingrad and sets up a siege.

November 22, 1942: The Soviet Army surrounds the German Army around Stalingrad.

Jan 11, 1943: The USSR demands the German Army surrender in Stalingrad only to be refused. The USSR lifts the siege of Leningrad.

Jan 31, 1943: The German Sixth Army surrenders to the Soviet’s.

November 28, 1943: The Allies meet in Tehran, Iran to map out strategy for the war.

Jan 4, 1944: The Soviet Army crosses the former Poland border and starts their drive to Germany. Finland refuses to consider an armistice.

October 18, 1944: The Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia.

January 17, 1945: The Soviet Army liberates Warsaw, Poland. Two days later they free Lodz, Krakow, and Tarnow.

January 27, 1945: The Soviets stumble upon Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

February 4-12, 1945: The Allies meet at Yalta in the Ukraine.

March 30, 1945: The Soviet’s invade Austria.

April 11, 1945: The Soviet Army reaches the outskirts of Berlin and loses 3,000 men in a bloody attack.

April 23, 1945: The Soviet Army fights it’s way into Berlin.

May 2, 1945: The Soviet’s announce the fall of Berlin after 12 days of house-to-house fighting.

August 2, 1945: The Allies meet one last time at Potsdam to discuss postwar Europe.

August 8, 1945: The USSR declares war against Japan and 14 days later invades Japan held China.

September 8, 1945: Korea is divided between the United States and USSR.

1946-1951: Fourth five year plan

January 23, 1948: The Soviets refuse the UN entrance into North Korea to supervise elections.

June 7, 1948: Czechoslovakia falls to Soviet puppet dictatorship.

June 24, 1948: The Berlin Blockade begins when the Soviets cut off all access to East Germany. The United States starts to drop supplies into Berlin.

July 2, 1948: Molotov renounces all aid from the Marshal Plan for the USSR and Soviet Puppet States. The USSR would start Comecon or the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. It does not have the same success as the Marshall Plan. Yugoslavia refuses to sign up for Comecon.

November 30, 1948: Official production of weapons grade plutonium begins in the Urals.

May 12, 1949: the Soviet Blockade of Berlin ends.

September 22, 1949: The Soviet Union explodes its first Atomic Bomb.

February 15, 1950: Stalin recognizes Communist China and signs a mutual pact defense treaty with Mao.

February 12, 1953: The Soviet Union breaks off relations with Israel.

March 5, 1953: Stalin dies in his sleep. Malenkov and Khrushchev hold dual power.

August 12, 1953: The Soviets test a Hydrogen Bomb.

December 31, 1953: In a bloodless coup, Khrushchev takes over power sending the four members of the Politburo to the Gulag in Siberia.

1954: The Russians expose ground troops to a nuclear test and the KGB is born.

May 14, 1955: The Soviet Union and seven other Communist bloc countries sign the Warsaw Pact as an answer to NATO.

June 29, 1955: The Soviet Army sends tanks into Poland to put down anti-communist demonstrations.

July 21, 1955: Khrushchev and Eisenhower meet in Geneva, Switzerland.

February 25, 1956: At the 20th Communist Party Congress, Khrushchev denounces Stalin.

1956: Russia crushes uprisings in Poland and Hungary.

August 26, 1957: The Soviet Union tests an intercontinental ballistic missile.

October 4, 1957: The Space Age begins when the Soviet Union launches Sputnik the first man made satellite.

November 3, 1957: The Soviet Union sends Sputnik 2 into orbit. On board her is a dog named Lakia.

January 6, 1958: The Soviet Union cuts back its armed forces by 300,000 due to budget problems.

March 31, 1958: The Soviet Union calls for an end to all atomic tests.

May 15, 1958: Sputnik III, the first space laboratory is launched into space.

1959-1965: The Seven-Year Plan

July 24, 1959: Vice President Richard Nixon visits Moscow and engages in a kitchen debate with Khrushchev.

September 12-14, 1959: The Soviets launch a man made probe to the moon.

September 15-28, 1959: Khrushchev visits the United States. There he sees Los Angels where he is denied entry to Disneyland, New York where he bangs his shoe on the desk at the United Nations, and Camp David where he and Eisenhower hold talks.

May 16, 1960: The Soviet Union walks out of a Big Four meeting in Paris due to Francis Gary Powers being shot down in his U-2 over Russia.

July 8, 1960: Francis Gary Powers is charged with Espionage. He would be found guilty on August 17 and sentenced to prison.

April 12, 1961: Yuri Gagrin becomes the first man into space.

April 14, 1961: The Soviet Union makes its first television broadcast

August 13-14, 1961: Because of the many escapes that have been made from East Germany to West Germany, the Berlin Wall is built.

Oct 30, 1961: The Soviet Union tests a hydrogen bomb estimated at 58 megatons. That same day Stalin’s body is removed from Lenin’s tomb and reburied in the wall of the Kremlin.

Nov 30, 1961: The Soviets veto a UN seat for Kuwait, which pleases Iraq.

February 10, 1962: The Soviet Union exchanges Frances Gary Powers.

March 17, 1962: Moscow asks the United States to pull out of South Vietnam.

August 5, 1962: The Soviet Union sets off a 40-megaton nuclear bomb.

October 16-29, 1962: The Cuban Missile Crises. The United States discovered that the Cubans had put nuclear missiles in Cuba. Kennedy orders a group called EXCOMM to form ideas what to do. When confronted about it the Soviets lie to Kennedy. Kennedy then decided to blockade the island until the Soviets pulled the missiles out and announced this to the nation on October 22. The Soviets pulled the ships carrying nuclear materials to Cuba back to the USSR and then asks Kennedy to pull the United States missiles out of Turkey in return for them pulling them out of Cuba. The world narrowly avoids World War III.

June 16-19, 1963: Russia sends the first women into space.

June 20, 1963: The Soviet Union and The United States agree to set up a hotline so that events like the Cuban Missile Crises cannot happen again. It goes into operation on August 30, 1963.

July 25-August 5, 1963: The United States and the USSR sign a treaty banning nuclear tests.

October 12, 1964: The first three-man crew is launched into space by Russia.

October 15, 1964: Khrushchev is removed from office and replaced by Brezhnev.

March 18, 1965: Russia performs the first space walk.

1966-1970: Eighth Five-Year Plan

March 29, 1966: Brezhnev condemns the US policy in Vietnam.

January 27, 1967: 60 nation including Russia and the United States sign a treaty prohibiting the orbiting of nuclear missiles in space. This comes after Russia had managed to send a probe to the moon, Venus, and around the moon.

1968: New York to Moscow flights are started.

August 20, 1968: The Soviet Union sends tanks into Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” movement of a more liberal government.

1969: China and Russia begin fighting on their border.

April 19, 1971: Russia launched its first space station.

September 11, 1971: Khrushchev dies.

1971-1975: Ninth five-year plan.

1972: Jews are restricted from leaving USSR.

February 1972: Nixon tours China giving collective heart attacks to the Soviet leadership.

April 10, 1972: Along with 70 other nations, the USA and USSR sign a treaty prohibiting biological weapons of mass destruction.

May 27, 1972: Nixon and Brezhnev sign SALT I, which reduces their nuclear arsenals. A year later the USSR will start production at 47 sights for biological weapons.

1974: Pepsi “invades” the Soviet Union.

July 15-19, 1975: The Apollo-Soyuz space mission takes place.

1976-1981: Tenth five-year plan

January 15, 1979: For a second time Russia uses its veto power in the United Nations when the UN asks Vietnam to leave Cambodia.

June 18, 1979: President Carter and Brezhnev sign SALT II which sets a limit on long-range bombers and missiles.

December 27, 1979: The Soviets invade Afghanistan and put a new puppet dictator in power with Soviet troops to back him up. Soviet losses are reported to be 15,000.

January 14, 1980: The UN votes 104-18 against the Soviets use of force in Afghanistan.

February 22, 1980: For the second time in history the United States beats Russia in a Gold medal Olympic hockey game.

June 22, 1980: The USSR announces that it will soon withdraw from Afghanistan. They fail to do so.

July 19-August 3, 1980: The Summer Olympics in Moscow. Many nations including the United States boycott due to Afghanistan.

1981-1985: eleventh five-year plan.

January 22, 1982: President Reagan refuses to meet with Soviet leaders about Arms control due to the Soviet Policy in Poland.

November 10, 1982: Brezhnev dies and the power passes to Yuri Andropov.

1983: A Korean airliner is shot down by Soviets and Reagan calls the USSR an “evil empire”

February 13, 1984: Yuri Andropov dies and is replaced by Konstantin Chernenko.

May 8, 1984: The USSR announces it will not participate in the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

March 10, 1985: Chernenko dies and is replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev. He starts an anti-alcohol program and calls for economic reforms called Perestroika.

November 19, 1985: President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meet at Geneva.

February 19, 1986: The Mir Space Station is launched.

April 1986: The Chernobyl power plant accident.

October 11-12, 1986: President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev meet at Reykjavik, Iceland but fail to come to any agreements.

1986: Gorbachev cracks down on corruption.

May 28, 1987: A West German pilot named Mathias Rust evades Soviet Air control and lands his plane in Red Square. He will later be charged with espionage and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

November 24, 1987: The USSR and USA sign a treaty destroying short and medium range nuclear missiles.

December 7-10, 1987: Gorbachev comes to the United States to discuss Cold War matters.

1987: The USSR sends an embassy to Israel.

January 6, 1988: After 9 years of war, the USSR announced it would pull out its troops from Afghanistan. They had lost around 50,000 men.

May 29-June 1, 1988: President Reagan goes to Moscow for the first time to discuss destroying nuclear missiles.

September 30, 1988: Gorbachev fires all hard liners from his Politburo.

October 27, 1988: The Soviets admit to the world that they are $58,000,000,000 in debt.

December 6, 1988: Gorbachev comes to the United States for his second time to discuss matter with President-elect Bush.

January 1989: After a speech by Gorbachev promising independence to the Eastern bloc countries, Hungary allows freedom of assembly and association including to establishment of political parties and free elections. Moscow does not intervene.

February 1-4, 1989: The Soviets and Chinese meet to discuss matter after more then 30 years of hostility.

March 26, 1989: the first free elections are held for the new Congress of People’s Deputy’s. Boris Yeltsin along with 1,500 others is elected leaving the Communist party only 500 seats.

April 2, 1989: Gorbachev goes to Cuba to meet Castro for the first time.

April 6, 1989: On his way back fro Cuba, Gorbachev visits Britain and hold talks with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

May 1989: Hungary pulls down its barbed wire fence with Austria. Thousands of East Germans pour into the country. Poland opens talks with Solidarity, which have been banned since 1980.

June 1989: Poland holds free elections.

September 10, 1989: Austria lets the East Germans in. In three days 13,000 have crossed.

October 1989: East Germany closes its border with Czechoslovakia, which is on the way to Hungary.

November 1989: 50,000 more East Germans have fled the country and thousands more protest on the city streets. On November 9th East Germany announces that it will give visas for visits to West Germany. When thousands show up the East German guards open the Wall and the people swarm through. Within hours the Wall is dismantled.

November 20,1989: thousands protest in Czechoslovakia demanding free election. In December free elections are allowed.

December 1, 1989: On his way to meet with President Bush, Gorbachev stops in Rome and meets Pope John Paul II paving the way for religious reform in Russia.

December 20, 1989: Romanian president Ceauscu is murdered after he orders his guards to open fire on a protest.

January 31, 1990: McDonalds “invades” Russia.

February 4, 1990: A protest in Moscow is not broken up for the first time in decades.

May 14, 1990: President Gorbachev denies that the Republics of Estonia and Latvia could breakaway from the USSR.

June 1990: The Soviet government ends censorship of the press.

June 12, 1991: Boris Yeltsin is elected president of the Russian parliament. Gorbachev remains head of the Communist party.

August 18, 1991: While on vacation in the Crimea, Gorbachev is put under house arrest by a gang of eight hardliners who have started a coup. They state that they want Gorbachev to sign over his powers so that reform could begin in the country and leave with the nuclear codes. When Yeltsin hears of this he barricades himself in the Parliament Building. The Gang announces that Gorbachev is ill and has given power to them.

August 19, 1991: The gang of eight has failed to cut any telephone lines in the city or arrested anyone in the opposition. Yeltsin goes out and makes a speech on a tank calling for mass demonstrations. Over a million Soviet citizens respond.

August 20, 1991: The Gang of eight tries to impose a curfew in Moscow, which fails. Crowds raise the Old Russian flag in Red Square. The coup leaders then send in tanks, which kill three people before retreating.

August 21, 1991: The Coup leaders try to flee but are arrested. Gorbachev is freed and flown to Moscow. Yeltsin declares that the Communist party is ended and suspends all party structure and seizes the party papers.

December 21, 1991: The USSR ceases to exist.

December 25, 1991: Gorbachev resigns as President of the country. Yeltsin takes over as President of Russia.

January 2, 1992: Yeltsin frees prices. The Ruble plummets and prices sky rocket.

March 31, 1992: The Russian Federation Treaty is signed by all former Soviet republics except Chechnya and Tarastan.

April 1, 1992: The West sends $42 billion to Russia in aid.

March 23, 1993: The Prime Minister calls for Yeltsin’s impeachment.

September 21, 1993: President Yeltsin dissolves the Parliament and calls for new elections.

October 2-4, 1993: The house of Parliament is stormed by supporters of the prime minister. The Army saves the day when it comes down on the side of Yeltsin.

December 12, 1993: New Elections are held for the parliament.

January 11, 1994: The new government takes effect.

October 11, 1994: The Ruble crashes once again.

December 12, 1994: Russia invades Chechnya

June 16, 1996: Yeltsin and the leader of the communist party, Zyuganov, tie for president.

July 3, 1996: Yeltsin wins a second term.

December 1, 1996: Russian troops leave Chechnya

May 27, 1998: A massive sell off of Russian bonds, securities, and rubles begins.

August 1998: The Russian Financial Crises: The ruble is devalued, market is paralyzed by liquidity shortages, share prices plunge, and Russia defaults on her foreign loans.

May 13, 1999: Yeltsin has impeachment hearings due to firing several different advisers. Two days later the vote fails.

March 26, 2000: Putin becomes new president of the Russian Federation.

2001 Russia test-fires nuclear capable strategic missiles amid tension over US missile defense system plans

February 19, 2004 Russia is developing a new generation of warheads that can elude any kind of missile defense, though a Russian general stressed Thursday that the technology was not aimed at thwarting U.S. deployment of a new missile defense system. (Chicago Tribune)

January 25, 2005 A group of nationalist Russian lawmakers called Monday for a sweeping investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations and punishing officials who support them, accusing Jews of fomenting ethnic hatred and saying they provoke anti-Semitism.

January 13, 2007 About 20 members of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, asked Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate their claims and to launch proceedings “on the prohibition in our country of all religious and ethnic Jewish organizations as extremist.”

January 16, 2007 Russia sells anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Israel warns Moscow that this could have “serious security implications” that would get back to Russia.

July 10, 2007 In Russia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks on military cooperation and arms sales, as well as oil and gas production technologies, while his visit with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad focused on Iran’s need for gasoline, according to BBC News…Chavez also is courting China. (International Digest)

July 25, 2007 President Vladimir V. Putin said Wednesday that he intended to strengthen Russia’s military capacity and to step up spying abroad in response to plans by the United States to build missile defense sites and deploy troops in Central Europe.



by Dr. Steve Elwart

Putin declaring Christian faith

Previously, Russian President Vladimir Putin and ex-KGB head raised eyebrows across the globe by declaring his Christian faith.

In remarks made at the Valdai Forum in September 2013, in front of representatives from most European countries, he said:

Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.

Russian Orthodox Church Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin chimed in. “The separation of the secular and the religious is a fatal mistake by the West. It is a monstrous phenomenon that has occurred only in Western civilization and will kill the West, both politically and morally.”

Putin went on to say:

We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their historic roots, including the Christian values that constitute the very basis of Western civilization.

The excesses of political correctness have reached the point where people are seriously talking about registering political parties whose aim is to promote pedophilia.

People in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation.

And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world.

Today almost all developed nations are no longer able to reproduce themselves, even with the help of unlawful migration.

Without the values embedded in Christianity, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity.

The Russian President’s comments seemed to echo what many Christians in the West have been saying for a number of years.

Continuing in his remarks, Putin stated that he has championed Russian laws that:

  • Essentially outlawed abortion in Russia (no abortions after the 12th week, and before that time in limited cases, and also the end of financial support for abortions, reversing a previous Soviet policy);
  • Strongly support traditional marriage, especially religious marriage, with financial aid to married couples having more than two children;
  • Established compulsory religious instruction in all Russian schools;
  • Made religious holidays now official Russian state holidays;
  • Instituted a nationwide program of rebuilding churches that were destroyed by the Communists, the most notable being the historic Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

Whether Putin’s faith is sincere or a point of political theater is a matter of debate. What his remarks did do was tap into a vein of Russian culture that is centuries deep.

In 1988 Russia celebrated the thousand-year anniversary of Christianity in that country. Although 988 was indeed a pivotal year for Russian Christians, it isn’t quite accurate to describe it as the birth year of Christianity there.

Christianity had, in fact, penetrated “Russia” by the early 900s, when at least one church had been built in the ancient city of Kiev. In the 950s, Olga, the grandmother of Vladimir, seen still by many Russians as the founder of Russian Christianity was baptized. She asked German King Otto I to send missionaries to her country, but apparently they met little success.

Introduction of Christianity to Russia

The 9th and 10th centuries were important for the development of Russian Christianity.

Russia was peopled by northern tribes from Scandinavia who moved down the Dnieper and Volga rivers to the surroundings of the Black Sea and the Caspian. Two Greek missionaries, Constantine (826–69), later named Cyril, and Methodios (c. 815–85), were asked to respond to a request from Ratislav, prince of Moravia, for teachers.

Constantine believed on principle that the Slav peoples should have the Bible in their own languages rather than in Latin. He translated the Gospels, daily services and the liturgy of John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), one of the great figures of the Eastern Church known as ‘golden tongue’ (Greek: chrysostomos) for his eloquent preaching, for the use of the Slavs. Constantine had even composed a special script, Glagolitic. (Cyrillic script, named after him may not have been his creation, though contemporary with him). He and Methodios completed the Slav Bible in 881.

In about 900 Kiev became the cradle of Russian Christianity. Queen Olga was baptized at Constantinople in 957. Her grandson, Vladimir was baptized after marriage to a Christian princess, Anne, sister of the emperor, around 988.

The Russian church identified with Constantinople and its tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy. It was to survive Mongol invasions and Muslim pressures from the Turks as an enduring Christian tradition of worship, monastic life and peasant piety, giving also national coherence and unity.

The Baptism of Russia

The historical event known as the “baptism of Rus’” occurred around 988, when Vladimir I (ruled 980–1015), grand prince of Kiev, ordered the conversion of all Russians to Byzantine Christianity, beginning in Kiev. All this occurred around the time of his marriage to Anne.

Literacy came to Russia with baptism. This conjunction eventually led to an interesting claim by the 19th-century Russian Slavophiles, such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–81) and Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900). They claimed that Russia was the most Christian of nations, since it had had no pagan civilization in its background; its birth sprang directly from the baptismal font.

For Vladimir, the change of religion became more than an act of political calculation. According to the chronicle of Nestor, a monk of Kiev (11th–12th cent.), Vladimir’s lifestyle changed after his baptism. He adopted a church statute that gave the church broad judicial powers in matters of family law and morals, assigned 10 percent of state income for the church, built churches, and established a welfare system of sorts by ordering horse carts loaded with food and clothes to circulate in urban areas to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. He invited the poor and the hungry to share banquet tables with him.

Anton Kartashev, a leading Russian church historian, has argued that the defect of the Russian baptismal process was that the nation was introduced to the church by emphasizing rites and rituals, rather than the teaching of Christ.

The conversion of the country to Greek Orthodoxy, instead of to the Roman Catholic Church, had at least two advantages for the Russian people. First, Byzantium at the time was the most civilized country in Europe and a very useful trading partner for Russia. Second, Eastern Christians prayed in the vernacular or, in the case of Slavs, in a language based on a Slavic dialect turned into a literary language by Cyril and Methodius. At the time all Slavs could understand this language. Thus, for example, an average parishioner was able to become familiar with the Bible. In fact, the relationship among church, clergy, and laity became much more intimate than in the Western churches, where only the clergy and a tiny minority of the educated upper class knew what was going on.

A disadvantage of the use of the vernacular, however, was that lacking a widespread language like Latin or Greek, the literate Russian had no direct access to material in classical languages, and translations took time. This factor helps explain the slowness of Russia’s overall cultural progress.

Domination by Byzantium

By the time of the conversion of Russia, the Western Roman Empire had been replaced by a Carolingian empire that was essentially hostile to Greek Orthodox (Byzantine) Christianity. The Great Schism of 1054, represented a break of communion between what is now the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

Russian princes chose to stay with the Byzantine Empire and its church, rather to follow Rome. With the political power represented by the princes, the Byzantine church remained the highest spiritual and theological authority for all Eastern Orthodoxy. In the early centuries bishops and metropolitans, consecrated for Russia in Constantinople by its patriarch and approved by the emperor, commanded a much higher status than the local barbarian princes.

In 1589, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople granted the Russian church the status of patriarchate equal to that of the Eastern patriarchs. In practice, this decision did not add power to the church, since the head of the Russian church was merely a subject of the czar.

The Time of Troubles, during which Poland and Sweden invaded Russia, was the first massive encounter of Russians with what they considered to be Western Europe. The result of the encounter was a split in society: some wanted to turn their back on Europe, accepting only Western know-how; others wanted to completely imitate Europe and to reject all Russian traditions. The latter were the early Russian Westernizers.

The Church under the Romanovs

The first of the Romanov dynasty, Peter the Great’s childhood and adolescence progressed under the shadows of power intrigues carried on by his half-sister Sophia and also of rebellions of the old court guard. The young Peter was fascinated with the technical knowledge of Western Europe, and he saw Old Russia as an enemy of progress. Patriarch Adrian (1627–1700), who had crowned Peter, was an extreme conservative and opposed Westernization.

Peter the Great was finally able to take full control of the reins of government and with that control came a time of secularization in the country while he was pushing to Westernize the nation.

When Adrian died, Peter decided against electing a new patriarch. Instead, under threat of torture, Peter forced the Orthodox clergy, to pledge loyalty to the czar as the earthly head of the church and the bishops’ ultimate judge. They were also required to abide by the new regulations, which replaced the patriarchate with a Holy Synod officially presided over by the most senior bishop, who was controlled by an emperor-appointed lay chief procurator. The church became merely a government “department of Orthodox confession,” deprived of the right to speak with its own voice, let alone pass judgment on state policies.

The superficially Westernized and poorly educated first generation of Russian gentry under Peter the Great saw the Orthodox Church as irrelevant to the age of reason until the Age collapsed in the carnage of the French Revolution in France and in the Pugachov Rebellion (1773–74) in Russia.

By the end of the 18th century the mood among the gentry changed from self-confident rationalism to pessimism. A thirst for religion again began to appear in the upper classes. However, the gentry was too rationalistic to be comfortable with a church dominated by the lower classes; instead, a mystical Germanic version of Freemasonry became the new religion of the upper classes.

Essentially, the church survived in villages and on the periphery of the empire.

During the 18th century Catherine II (1762–96) continued the secularization of the country with the confiscation of land owned by monasteries. The secularist worldview continued to pervade Russia for almost 200 years until Nicholas II came to power.

Nicholas II and Cries for Reform

While secular in nature, Russia still allowed the Orthodox faith, but only by native Russians. Before 1906 Protestants in Russia could be only Germans, Estonians, Latvians, or other nationalities that had a historic Protestant identity. Roman Catholicism was legally identified only with Polish, Lithuanian, and other nationalities recognized as historically Roman Catholic.

Children born into families where either parent was Orthodox had to be baptized Orthodox, and the parents were required to marry into the Orthodox faith. Much more complicated was the status of Russian converts to such denominations as Baptists or Pentecostals.

As a result of public discontent and the pressure of the first Russian revolution of 1905–6, Nicholas II (1894–1917) was forced to issue his Edict of Religious Tolerance, on October 17, 1906. As early as 1904 the church leadership had pointed out to the czar that granting religious freedom to independent faiths while keeping the Orthodox Church on the government’s leash, would make the Orthodox Church the only shackled church in the empire.

The first “wake-up call” to the Russian elite was the 1905–6 revolution. Then, in 1907, came the book “Landmarks”. The book argued that the Russian constitution of 1906 had opened the way to gradual political and institutional reforms. The message, however, was not heeded at the time, and that would come back to haunt the Romanovs.

Restoration of the Patriarchate

Since Czar Nicholas II was formally the earthly head of the Russian Orthodox Church, his abdication during the second Russian Revolution in March 1917 “decapitated” the church. According to a 1995 Russian presidential committee report, Soviet authorities executed some 200,000 clergy and believers from 1917 to 1937. Thousands of churches were destroyed, and those that survived were turned into warehouses, garages or museums.

Nevertheless, the collapse of the monarchy caused a general euphoria. The Provisional Government declared religious freedom, recognized the Orthodox Church as first among equals, and enabled it to receive subsidies from the state.

The 564 All-Russian Ecclesiastical Council, consisting of bishops, monastics, parish clergy, and laity convened in August 1917 in Moscow. That May, however, the synod, now consisting of liberal bishops and priests, permitted local diocesan assemblies of priests and laity to depose or reelect bishops. This action led to the forced retirement of bishops who had colluded with the infamous Rasputin (1872–1916), including the metropolitans of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Politically, the patriarch and the council tried to maintain neutrality during the revolution. Patriarch Tikhon and his council repeatedly appealed to both sides in the fighting to stop the bloodshed and to be merciful to prisoners of war. Finally, as news about the Bolshevik mass murders of clergy and laity multiplied, the patriarch issued his famous anathema of February 1, 1918, to be read in every church condemning the entire Bolshevik Party, though he did not mention the party by name.

The letter read, in part:

By the authority invested in me by God, we forbid you [the Bolsheviks] to approach the Mysteries of Christ (the liturgy and sacraments); we declare you anathema, if you still bear the name of Christians, even if merely on account of your baptism you still belong to the Orthodox Church.

Communism in Russia

The first bishop to be killed by the Bolsheviks was Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, on January 26, 1918. This was followed ultimately by the execution or death in concentration camps of several hundred bishops, well over 50,000 priests, close to 100,000 monks and nuns, and unaccounted millions of other active servants of the church.

The All-Russian Council was closed by the Bolsheviks in September 1918, when they confiscated the building in which it had been meeting. In October 1919, as the anti-Bolshevik White Russian army was approaching Moscow from the south, Patriarch Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia, issued an encyclical that forbade his clergy to take sides in the civil war or to publicly greet the Whites. At the same time the patriarch declared his own and the church’s civic recognition of, and loyalty to, the Soviet regime, adding that “nobody and nothing can deliver Russia from disorder … until the Russian has purified and reborn himself spiritually into a new person.”

Lenin and the Church

According to Karl Marx (1818–83), religion is a superstructure built on a material base; once this base is removed, religion will disappear. Lenin’s decree of February 2, 1918 (January 20, old style), removed the physical base of the church. The government confiscated all church properties, including its places of worship, seminaries, schools, and bank accounts, and deprived the church of any legal status. Overnight the Church as an institution ceased to exist. The Soviet state recognized only groups of lay believers (no fewer than 20 persons), who could negotiate with local governments to lease a building for worship. Since the church and believers were the last of society’s priorities, they would get the church only if it was not needed for some secular use.

It is said that the Church flourishes in times of persecution and the same held true for the Russian Orthodox Church. After Lenin’s decree, the Soviet press had to admit that the church was showing signs of growth. Having seen the inaccuracy of Marx’s predictions, Lenin turned to a policy of “divide and conquer”: tolerance of Protestant sects, but persecution of the Orthodox Church for being a part of the Old Regime. In 1920, Protestant sects and other minority religions began to be favored by the Soviet leadership. They were treated as victims of czarist persecutions and as socialists at heart. Baptists, Pentecostals, and other sects were allowed to form Christian agricultural communes. Aiming at diplomatic recognition by Western powers, the Soviets claimed in their press that the Orthodox Church was being repressed not as a church but as a former czarist partner in the suppression of the sectarians.

In March 1922, the Politburo (the executive committee of the Bolsheviks) accepted a plan of Leon Trotsky (1879–1940) to take advantage of the division in the Orthodox Church between the so-called Renovationists and those loyal to the patriarch. The Renovationists were a collection of radical leftist groups of clergy that appeared with the fall of the monarchy. Known also as the “Living Church” movement, they declared themselves socialists, praised Lenin, and attempted to jump on the Soviet bandwagon.

Stalin and Khrushchev

After the (suspicious) death of Patriarch Tikhon, widespread persecution of the church prevented the election of a successor. The patriarchal Orthodox Church continued to be refused any form of legal status until 1927. The Soviets refused to grant any legal recognition to the Church’s named replacement Patriarch Sergius; not until after four imprisonments, when he finally agreed to all Soviet demands and issued a self-serving declaration of loyalty in which he denied that the church was being persecuted and even thanked the Soviet government for “its care and concern for the needs of the church.” At that very time thousands of bishops, priests, monks, and nuns were lingering away in the Arctic Solovetski Islands concentration camp. (Between 1917 and 1935, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested. Of these, 95,000 were put to death. Many thousands of victims of persecution became recognized in a special canon of saints known as the “new martyrs and confessors of Russia”.)

It was World War II that saved the Russian Orthodox Church. The German attack on the USSR occurred on Sunday, June 22, 1941. Although Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) waited ten days before addressing the nation, and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (1890–1986) waited 20 hours to announce the beginning of the war, the patriarchal administrator, Metropolitan Sergius, announced the war to his parishioners that morning during the liturgy, delivering a fiery patriotic sermon calling the nation to its patriotic duty and hinting that the coming trials might blow away “poisonous fumes.” The Church started a massive campaign of collecting donations for war needs, with Sergius informing Stalin of all these church activities. Stalin responded with a telegram of thanks but took no further action with the church for the next two years.

Finally, in 1943, Stalin realized that the church could be of use to him. In September he met with three of the four surviving metropolitans. The result of the talks was a hurried semblance of a local Church Council at which the seventy-year-old Metropolitan Sergius was unanimously elected patriarch. The church was allowed to reopen eight seminaries and two theological academies and to reopen fewer than 2,000 churches, a sharp contrast with the 7,000 churches opened in the German-controlled territories of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).

This turnaround in Stalin’s religious policies was motivated by several factors. First, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill told Stalin that the Western public would be much better disposed toward helping the USSR if it had been assured of religious freedom there. Second, the Church of England petitioned the Soviet government to permit it to visit the USSR to familiarize itself with the religious situation there. Third, with all the Orthodox churches that had been reopened in territories occupied by the Germans, Stalin needed to somewhat match that gesture when the territories would fall to the Soviets in order to placate the population in those areas. Additionally, the Teheran Conference was scheduled shortly after Stalin’s encounter with the bishops, and Stalin wanted to appear there as a supporter of democracy.

Although Stalin’s religious policies became somewhat tougher after the end of the war, on the whole he held to the 1943 agreement with the church; accordingly, the church had to repay Stalin by praising him in speeches by its hierarchs at all international peace congresses. The Russian bishops were forced to condemn “capitalist imperialism” and to present the Soviet Union as a supremely peace-loving state, publicly denying that the church encountered any problems in the USSR. In 1961, under Nikita Khrushchev (1953–64), the church was allowed to join the World Council of Churches.

Although after the end of World War II some churches and monasteries began to be closed, real persecutions with the obvious aim of total annihilation of the church began under Khrushchev. He closed five of the eight seminaries that had been reopened under Stalin. At the 1961 Communist Party Congress he promised to liquidate all traces of religion by 1980, when Communism was to be fully achieved, which, according to Karl Marx, could happen only after all religious belief had withered away. Of the almost 14,000 Orthodox churches surviving at the time of Khrushchev’s ascent to power, fewer than 7,000 remained open by the 1980s. A similar fate befell all other religious confessions.

An End of Repression

The 21 years between Khrushchev’s forced retirement in October 1964 (the first bloodless coup in Soviet history) and the ascendancy in 1985 of Mikhail Gorbachev are known as the era of stagnation and gerontology-in-power. Khrushchev’s antireligious assault continued but at a much slower pace.

Things began to change radically in favor of the church in 1987–88 with the approach of the millennium of Russia’s conversion to Christianity. The church was allowed to hold international conferences on the history, culture, and theology of Orthodox Christianity.

For the first time since the 1920s, Russian scholars in secular fields were allowed to participate, including Boris Rauschenbach (1915–2001), a leader of the Soviet space program, who was not only a believer but a theologian of note.

The turning point in church-state relations came in April 1990, at a reception by Gorbachev of the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. The latter requested civil rights for all religious believers equal to those of the atheists and the right to open as many churches and theological schools as the church needed. All requests were granted, and later that year a new law declared the Soviet Union a secular state, with equal rights for believers and atheists.

On August 19, 1991, a group of Communist die-hards attempted a coup against Gorbachev but failed. The anti-Communist forces headed by Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Republic, prevailed when the special paramilitary forces went over to his side. When Gorbachev returned to Moscow from an enforced rest in Crimea, power was already in Yeltsin’s hands. Shortly thereafter, on December 26, the Soviet Union officially dissolved.

Post-Soviet Russia

In contrast to Gorbachev, Yeltsin openly sided with the Orthodox Church and attended services on main feast days.

As Russia opened its borders in the early 1990s, thousands of evangelists flocked to Russia, mostly from North America. The Russian Orthodox Church began to pressure President Yeltsin to rewrite the religious law in favor of the Orthodox Church. The new law, passed in 1997, which Yeltsin signed reluctantly under the pressure of Orthodox Patriarch Alexis and the Russian Parliament, gave full rights to only four so-called historical religions, namely, Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. Of these four, Orthodoxy alone is described as “having played a special role in the history of Russia, in the assertion and development of her spirituality and culture.” The other three religions are mentioned as “respected by the State as an inseparable part of the Russian historical legacy.” All other religions would have to prove their existence in Russia for 15 years as private organizations before they could apply for state recognition.

The Bishops’ Council of 2000, dedicated to the second millennium of Christianity, adopted the first-ever “Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church”. A notable point of document is an affirmation of the right and Christian duty to resist evil and to disregard the state’s orders if they contradict Christ’s teaching. The document is also realistic in admitting that believing Christians are a minority in Russia.

The post-Soviet Russian government recognizes its responsibility for the previous destruction of churches and other church-owned buildings. By now most of the church buildings have been returned to the church, and local governments, as well as some wealthy individuals, have been donating generous subsidies for the construction and renovation of churches and monasteries. But most of the secular buildings that used to belong to the church have not been returned—this process is much slower and rather erratic.

Since the collapse of Communism numerous public opinion polls have been taken concerning the beliefs of contemporary Russians. According to the polls, among ethnic Russians, about 70 percent describe themselves as religious believers, over 80 percent describe themselves as Orthodox Christians, but only 2–3 percent regularly attend church services. In an interesting note, in some surveys the percentage of people calling themselves Orthodox Christians exceeds those who believe in God.

The Russian Church Today

Today the Russian Orthodox Church is, by far, the most conservative, traditional and anti-Communist religious body in the world. It has gone so far as to canonize dozens of martyrs killed by the Communists and celebrate the Romanov tsar and his family who were brutally murdered by the Reds in 1918.

Significantly, since 1991 over 26,000 new Christian churches have opened in Russia, and the fact that Christianity is being reborn in Russia has not gone unnoticed among some Christian writers in the America and Europe, although generally ignored by the secular press.

If Russia can salvage their society from the atheist philosophy of Communism, surely the West can do the same. To salvage their culture and their individual salvation, those countries that practice and export all that God deplores need to heed the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14:

… when my people humble themselves—the ones who are called by my name—and pray, seek me, and turn away from their evil practices, I myself will listen from heaven, I will pardon their sins, and I will restore their land. (ISV)

One can only pray that it is not too late.

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