Evangelism, the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is precisely that religious activity which the Soviet state is pledged to eradicate. The authorities realize that religion is very difficult to destroy among the old and “superstitious”; what worries them is that a young person should emerge from years of atheist state education as a Christian. Freedom of worship (within limitations) is therefore allowed, but not freedom of evangelism; Christianity must not spill out beyond church walls.

Such strict limitations on evangelism were imposed on the All Union Council of Evangelical Christians and Baptists (AUCEB) in 1960 that there was a schism, and the new, unregistered, and therefore illegal Evangelical Baptist Church (ECB) came into being. The ECB probably exceeds the official body in numbers and has borne the brunt of the persecutions, though all have suffered.

All the media are state-controlled; there is freedom of anti-religious propaganda, but no religious propaganda is permitted. The printing of Bibles is so restricted that a whole congregation might have only one or two. In contrast, in 1971, in the Uzbeck Soviet Socialist Republic, sixty-two anti-religious programs in three languages, and 300 reports on anti-religious activities, were broadcast, and unlimited printing resources were available for pamphlets.

Believers are not able to make any public defense against crude slander and ruthless misrepresentation in the press, nor even in court when they are arrested, and on these occasions the courts are closed to the public. The average Soviet citizen hears of religion only as a dubious activity indulged in by the weak-minded and unbalanced, or by fanatics determined to get children into their clutches. According to ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.