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Accepted Paper:

The marginalization of Soviet Evangelical Christians and aftermath  
Igor Mikeshin (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The paper deals with oppression and marginalization of Soviet Evangelical Christians that further shaped their unique dogmatics and ideology. I focus on the Soviet anti-religious policy towards Evangelicals, especially during Khrushchev's reign, and reflect on its aftermath.

Paper long abstract:

My paper focuses on Russian Evangelical Christians (mostly Baptists, Pentecostals, and Seventh-Day Adventists) during the Soviet rule and the impact the Soviet anti-religious politics has on their dogmatics and ideology nowadays. First Russian-speaking Evangelical communities appeared in the end of the 19th century and were at first persecuted for converting the Orthodox population. After the liberalization of religion act of 1905 and until the end of Lenin's reign, Evangelicals enjoyed a relative freedom, and even were shortly considered allies of the communists. Stalin's rule is associated with the harshest repressions towards all kinds of free-thinkers, thus a big number of Evangelical shared a common fate with their fellow citizens. However, during the last two years of the War, Stalin significantly liberated his policy towards religions.

Although Stalin's government exterminated much more believers in numerical terms, it was Khrushchev and his anti-religious campaign that directly aimed towards certain groups, mostly outlawed congregations, refusing to register. His efforts caused a split in the Baptist and Pentecostal communities, still effective. Despite the general political trends of Thaw and Stagnation, oppression and marginalization of Evangelicals never decreased, up until the liberalization of Perestroika.

In the conclusion, I will reflect on the impact that oppression and marginalization has on the present-day Russian-speaking Evangelicals. Drawing from my ethnographic fieldwork in the Baptist rehabilitation ministry, I argue that decades of isolation and permanent legal and moral pressure forced the development of Evangelical dogma and ideology in a very specific theological, political and, especially, linguistic way.

Panel P128
Alternative religiosities in the communist East-Central Europe and Russia: formations, resistances and manifestations
  Session 1