Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in USSR (1970-1986)

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By the mid-1970s the Chronicle regularly published a section reporting on “The persecution of [religious] believers”. Often it was further subdivided between Adventists, Pentecostalists and Baptists, joined from time to time by Orthodox Christians and Catholics in Moldova. References to the harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses are far less frequent, as the following examples show. There is a continuation from 1979 to 1986, in Russian, in USSR News Update («Вести из СССР».)

As of 30 October 2019, Memorial’s list of prisoners of conscience (List 2) in the Russian Federation included 252 individuals, many since 2017 being Jehovah’s Witnesses.


Both these bouts of persecution have an earlier precedent, in the very last years of Stalin’s rule.

On 3 March 1951, the USSR Council of Ministers issued a resolution calling for the “Deportation of members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect from the western areas of the Ukrainian and Belorussian SSRs, as well as from the Soviet Socialist Republics of Moldavia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia”.

n March and April that year, 9,825 Jehovah’s Witnesses were deported to the Irkutsk and Omsk Regions in Siberia.


Women’s Political Camp ZhKh 385/3,
CCE 15.8 (31 August 1970)

[19 named prisoners, among whom were]

11. Kislyachuk, Evgenia Fominichna

Aged about 65. Sentenced for a second time to ten years for belonging to the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” sect. Sentence expires in 1972.

12. Bozhar, Vera lovna

Aged 46. Sentenced for belonging to the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” sect to seven years plus five years’ exile. Sentence expires in December 1970.


Persecution of religious believers,
CCE 37.8 (30 September 1975)

Ukraine — In September 1974 the Kirovograd Regional Court sentenced Maryan Tsobulsky to 5 years in strict-regime camps, under Article 209 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code (“Infringement of the person and rights of citizens under the pretext of performing religious rites”).

Tsobulsky is a graduate of a higher-education institute, has taught Ukrainian language and literature, and at one time was a headmaster. He is about fifty years old. After the war he served 10 years under Article 58 of the old criminal code and then 4 more years at the beginning of the 1960s. He is a Jehovah’s Witness.


Ukraine — In the village of Stavchany in Khotin district, Chernovitsky Region, during the funeral of Trofim Chaglei, the local leader of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of the speakers was arrested. His name is not known to the Chronicle.


News in Brief,
CCE 40.15 (20 May 1976)

Ukraine — In January 1976 a member of the ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ sect was tried in the town of Zhdanov for refusing to serve in the Soviet army. The details are unknown to the Chronicle.


List of Political Prisoners,
CCE 46.23 (15 August 1977)

(a) in Mordovia Camp 19; (c) Jehovah’s Witness;

(a) in exile; (c) Jehovah’s Witness


Miscellaneous Reports,
CCE 48.21 (14 March 1978)

Novosibirsk — In December 1977 leaflets of a religious content, signed ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’, were scattered over Novosibirsk from a small AN-2 aircraft. The leaflets had been hectographed on sheets of squared paper.


Persecution of Believers,
CCE 54.19 (15 November 1979)

Jehovah’s Witnesses

West Ukraine — Four Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sentenced to three years in ordinary-regime camps for refusing to take the military oath.

They are Alexei Polishchuk (whose sentence runs from 11 January 1979), Dmitry Prokop (29 May 1978), Mikhail Marich (22 September 1978) and Pyotr Bondar (7 August 1978).

Polishchuk and Prokop are serving their sentences in: US-319/56, Perekrestovka village, Romny district, Sumy Region.