All but banned for 70 years, Scriptures find an open and insatiable market in the Soviet Union.

Not too long ago, “Bibles for the Soviet Union” meant a few dozen Scriptures stuffed into the hidden compartments of a Volkswagen Beetle, secreted across the border by “God’s smugglers.” But today, in the brave new age of glasnost, Bibles arrive in the USSR by the truckload, measured by the ton, and with virtually no government restriction on their importation. In this era of openness, the only limitation on the availability of Bibles in the Soviet Union now appears to be the ability of Christians in the West and East to secure the paper, the press time, and the dollars needed to meet the incredible demand.

Just how great is the need for Bibles in the Soviet Union? According to Walter Sawatsky, author of Soviet Evangelicals Since World War II, the total number of Bibles, New Testaments, and Gospels made available to the Soviet population of 266 million people (including an estimated 50 to 60 million Christians) from 1917 to 1986 was only about 4.1 million copies. Of that number, only 450,000 pieces were provided through legal means; nearly 90 percent were brought in without government permission.

A turning point came in 1987–88, however, when the policies of Mikhail Gorbachev combined with the celebration of the 1,000-year anniversary of Christianity in the Soviet Union to thaw the government’s attitude toward religion. In honor of that event, Brother Andrew of Open Doors International, famous for his Bible-smuggling ministry, offered a gift of 1 million New Testaments to the Russian Orthodox Church. The gift was allowed by government officials.

Open Doors

Other offers followed, and soon Western ...

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