The Persecution of Believers, 1978 (49.14)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

Pentecostals, Baptists, “From the pages of the Soviet Press”


In March, the Muscovite Anatoly Vlasov (CCEs 46, 47) sent a statement to the KGB attached to the Council of Ministers of the Belorussian SSR, demanding the return of his property (13 objects), confiscated from him during a search on 8 August 1977 (CCE 46). In the statement he points out that the search record mentions anti-Soviet and libellous material, but this does not apply to the tape recorder, 20 cassettes (blank or with recordings of religious services), three Bibles and a notebook, which were confiscated from him.

On 13 April officials of the Kaluga KGB, Yermachenko and Butarev, interrogated Ivan Fedotov (CCE 48) and his wife Valentina (CCE 47). The Swedes Sareld and Engstrom (CCEs 46-48) testified that Valentina Fedotova had given them a letter from her husband, who was then serving a prison term (CCEs 34, 36 and 41) while in the flat of A. Vlasov in Moscow. The letter described the administration’s treatment of prisoners. In autumn 1977 during an interrogation in Minsk (CCE 47) Valentina had already been questioned about this. This time the investigators told V. Fedotova that she had given libellous material to foreign security agents. The Fedotov couple were given a formal warning according to the Decree issued by the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet on 25 December 1972. I. Fedotov told the investigators that he had served 10 years on a charge of inciting people to sacrifice a child to God, and 3 years under Article 190-1, and he asked if the people who had fabricated these charges against him would be made to answer for them. The Fedotovs refused to sign the text of the warning.


The Kozino village soviet authorities (Rovno Region) tried to stop the religious funeral of G. N. Trotsky. People who had assembled for the funeral were driven away. The funeral was held up for four hours. The presbyter of Dubno congregation received threats that he would ‘come to a bad end’.

On 13 May in the village of Izbichnya (Komarichi district, Bryansk Region), a prayer meeting at the flat of Maria Voronina was broken up. The local authorities and vigilantes used violent measures, paying no attention to the age of believers — a number of Pentecostals were dragged out by the arms and legs into the roadside mud.


Since the beginning of 1978, the authorities of the town of Chernogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Region, have constantly been putting pressure on the Pentecostal congregation, trying to make them abandon their wish to leave the USSR, and to force them to register the congregation.

Since 22 January officials of the soviet executive committee, policemen, teachers and representatives of ’public opinion’ have been turning up at religious services. Officials call the believers’ meetings unlawful and demand that the congregation register in the near future. If this does not happen, all the members of the congregation will, in their words, be subject to criminal charges. Roman Roda, presbyter of the congregation (CCE 45), preacher Ruts and the believers Klimentenok, Luzgin and Usenko are constantly summoned for talks with deputy chairman Andryushchenko of the soviet executive committee, with Montorova, an official for religious affairs, with the procuracy and the administrative commission.

Between the end of January and the end of April presbyter Rod was fined 50 roubles four times for holding religious services; the owner of the house where the services were held, L. 1. Klimentenok, was twice fined 25 roubles; other Pentecostals — Usenko and Luzgin — who let their houses be used for meetings, were fined 50 roubles each.


Events in Rostov-on-Don (continuation of report in CCE 47).

In March, the Baptist congregation was practically deprived of the possibility of holding prayer-meetings. The believers were trying to meet on a plot of land belonging to N. Zakharova (CCE 47), where a tent demolished by the authorities used to stand. On days when meetings were held, vigilantes led by deputy chairman Arutyunov of the city soviet executive committee and police chief Likhobaboi would arrive there ahead of time.

Sentries would detain believers while they were still out on the street and push them into buses marked with signs saying ‘Welcome!’ The Baptists were then taken to the police station, where they were charged with breaking the law, for example — with making an attempt on the life of a policeman, disobedience to the authorities, and so on. This was followed by arrest for 10-15 days or fines. Those detained at the police station were put in the cooler, and some were beaten up.

In March over 70 members of the congregation were arrested for 10-15 days.


At the beginning of May the Rostov Baptist congregation notified the chairman of the city soviet executive committee about a forthcoming important prayer-meeting. On 7 May, two days before the meeting was due to take place, mass arrests of believers began in the city.

Believers were roused from their beds by people climbing through their windows and breaking down their doors. Searches were conducted involving the confiscation of religious literature and ordinary objects — without the sanction of the Procuracy. The Baptists were even pulled off suburban trains. About 2,000 people were arrested altogether. Many were sentenced to 10-15 days’ imprisonment. In the special reception centres some people had their hair cut off, others were taken to the venereal disease clinic and forced to give blood samples. Lyubov Ovchinnikova was detained in the clinic, though the doctors declared her to be healthy.

After the Baptists complained to Moscow, the local authorities began to release those imprisoned without waiting for their sentences to end.

On 13 May the Christian Committee for the Defence of Believers’ Rights in the USSR sent a letter to I. A. Bondarenko, first secretary of the Rostov regional Party committee, demanding that he end these illegalities.


On 10 March Pyotr Danilovich Peters (CCEs 47, 48) was sentenced to years’ imprisonment under Article 190-3 of the RSFSR Criminal Code (‘Organizing or actively participating in group activities which contravene public order’). Only the father of the accused was able to be present at his trial. His friends and fellow-believers who tried to get into the courtroom were pushed into buses and taken to the police station, where they were held until evening.


On 5 March traffic police detained Baptist Valentin Yerofeyevich Naprienko in the town of Chuguyevo (Kharkov Region). His Zhiguli car was searched without a warrant from the Procurator and 460 copies were confiscated of the book Homiletics, reproduced from the official edition by the ‘Christian’ publishing house of the Baptist Council of Churches; Naprienko was also deprived of his driving licence and even of his car, without being given any documents about their confiscation. Naprienko was given a certificate stating he had been detained for three days, stamped by a sobering-up station, a document which his place of work in Donetsk refused to accept. He was sacked from his job. Naprienko’s complaints have resulted in the Procuracy threatening him with criminal charges.


1,350 religious books have been confiscated from Vibe and Petker (CCE 48) who were detained in Dzhambul in December 1977. They were held for 10 days in the town department of internal affairs, then released.

Zherebnenko, Karman, Kreker and Yakimov, from Novosibirsk, who were detained in December 1977 (CCE 48), were also released. (In CCE 48, the surnames Vibe and Zherebnenko were wrongly spelt.)


On 3 February 1978, a search was carried out at the house of Zherebnenko in Novosibirsk, ‘to confiscate illegally produced religious literature and means of publication’. The search was carried out by the Novosibirsk Regional procuracy (led by senior investigator Bashutin) at the request of the republican procuracy of the Kazakh SSR.

180 large-print unbound Bibles were confiscated, as well as about 100 small-print Bibles published by the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christian Baptists in 1968; 54 copies of a German psalm-book; 216 copies of the first issue of the journal Herald of Truth, 200 copies of issues 2 and 3 of the same journal; a large number of bulletins and pamphlets typed in blue print, and some cardboard and paper. Although Zherebnenko stored all the religious literature openly, the searchers examined and sounded out not only the cupboards but all the walls, attics and cellars in the house.


On 13 February, a search was carried out at the home of Baptist V. Ya. Smirnov in the town of Dedovsk, Moscow Region. Bibles, Gospels, hymn books and money belonging both to the church and to himself were confiscated. Later his own money and some copies of the Bible were returned to Smirnov.

On the same day, searches were also carried out at the flats of other believers belonging to the Moscow Baptist congregation. Religious literature was confiscated.

In 1977 the Moscow congregation received a document allowing it to purchase a house for prayer meetings. Smirnov had been entrusted with the safe keeping of donations for the building of the prayer-house. About 9.000 roubles of church money were confiscated from him.


The Baptist I. Ya. Pauls returned to the town of Kokchetav after serving a term of imprisonment (2 years, 6 months under Article 130, part 2, of the Kazakh SSR Criminal Code [ = Article 142 of the RSFSR Code], ‘for religious propaganda and teaching minors religion’). The verdict provided for an additional punitive measure: deprivation of the right to work as a doctor (Pauls is an oral surgeon).

After Pauls complained the Kokchetav Regional court cancelled this clause. Although there is a shortage of oral surgeons in the town, Pauls could not find work in his field. At the same time, he started to receive visits from police officials, who threatened to bring criminal charges against him for parasitism. Finally, Pauls managed to get work as a stevedore. Because of the heavy work, he developed a lung abscess and was sent to hospital. The doctor treating him had to give an explanation to representatives of the district Party committee (they doubted if Pauls had been so ill that he had to be sent to hospital).


The Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives has composed an open letter addressed to heads of state, the U N and all the world’s Christians. The letter is dated 19 March. It states that since the new Constitution was adopted, the persecution of believers in the USSR has increased.

It describes the violent dispersal of prayer-meetings and the many fines imposed in Omsk, the recent arrests and searches of Baptists in Central Asia (CCE 48), the sentencing of the Kingisepp printers (CCE 48), the events in Rostov-on-Don (CCEs 47, 48 and this issue), the Naprienko case (see above), the prosecution for parasitism of members and clergy of the Council of Churches who are found living on the charity of their fellow-believers (CCEs 47, 48), and the position of Kryuchkov, Chairman of the Council of Churches, who has been forced to hide from the authorities for many years.

The members of the Council of Prisoners’ Relatives write:

“You received hundreds of letters from believers during the time when the draft Constitution was being discussed, asking that the law of the land be concretely defined to ensure that religious believers find it truly possible to consider themselves equal citizens of this country … Has the time not come, at last, to normalize relations with the believers of this country? God is waiting, He is not slow, but he is patient.”

The authors of the letter insist that the following demands must be satisfied at once:

  • the legislation on religion, alien and unacceptable to believers, must be abolished, and prosecution of believers for non-acceptance of this legislation must stop;
  • all Christian prisoners must be released immediately;
  • the constant interference in the internal affairs of the Church must cease;
  • believers should not be prevented from maintaining clergymen through their own resources;
  • Kryuchkov, head of the Council of Churches, must be guaranteed his freedom and given the opportunity of freely conducting services in church;
  • immediate steps should be taken against the Council for Religious Affairs for its failure to carry out its primary task: the provision of buildings for use as prayer-houses by religious congregations;
  • the confiscation of buildings assigned to believers for prayer-meetings should be forbidden and all fines imposed in this connection should be paid back;
  • the money confiscated during searches in Dzhambul and Dedovsk must be returned to the churches immediately;
  • all the religious literature confiscated during the searches in Kazakhstan in December 1977 (CCE 48) should be returned;
  • the bugging of believers’ homes must be stopped;
  • those who want to emigrate because of persecution for their faith should be given the opportunity to do so.


From the Pages of the Soviet Press

On 16 March, the newspaper Industrial Karaganda [Kazakh SSR] published an article, “The Law applies to Everyone”, by E. Shirokoborodov. According to the author, the workers at the ‘Maikudun’ mine had written to the paper about the fact that not very long ago in their district

“a so-called ‘Sunday school’ for minors was functioning. About 100 children were studying at the school. The spiritual teachers were B. V. Enns, E. G. Frize, F. K. Frize and Z. P. Gertsen. They taught the children religious songs and poems and acquainted them with various chapters of the Old and New Testaments, organizing examinations with the help of special question-papers.”

After explaining that ‘in our country religious instruction is only possible in the family, conducted by parents’, Shirokoborodov writes:

“… religious extremists indulge in gross violation of Soviet laws. For example, a few years ago an attempt was made to establish a ’Bible school’ for children in Temirtau. Of course, the school very soon ceased to exist. And now forbidden activities have again appeared, this time in Karaganda.”

The author quotes a letter from ‘extremist supporters of the so-called Council of Evangelical Christian and Baptist Churches (CECBC), which has ‘taken it on itself to collect hundreds of signatures from religious citizens living in Karaganda, Temirtau, Tokarevka, Kievka and even in Dzhezkazgan’:

“We, Baptists of the Karaganda fellowship, having received news from our sister in the Lord, Nina Zakharova, who lives in the town of Rostov-on-Don at Barkovskogo St. 14, are greatly alarmed by the evil deeds of the local authorities …”

The believers’ letter reports that the Pervomaisky district soviet executive committee (under the Rostov city soviet) has deprived N. P. Zakharova of her rights as guardian over her sister Lena {CCE 47); Lena is going to be put in a children’s home; and Nina and Lena are forced to wander from one place to another, as their house has been confiscated. Shirokoborodov writes:

“… there have been no evil deeds in Rostov, no trace of them. These provocative rumours have been spread by members of extremist groups of Baptist schismatics, including N. P. Zakharova herself. And now, as a result, the Party and soviet authorities, even people abroad, have been inundated with letters and telegrams …”

Shirokoborodov asserts that ’Baptists from registered congregations have no connection with the letter’. Basing himself on the newspaper Evening Rostov of 13 October 1977, Shirokoborodov informs us that ‘no one has confiscated the Zakharovs’ house’ and that ‘no one has ever established guardianship of Lena’.

Shirokoborodov writes of CECBC supporters as follows:

“The unlicensed activity of the leaders of this movement is so inhuman that they do not even have the support of the World Baptist Alliance… However, White emigre reactionaries and foreign anti- Soviet and religious centres are in touch with the ‘schismatics’…. Freedom of conscience is interpreted by them as unlimited freedom of religious propaganda …

“Individual leaders of these congregations have been brought to book more than once by the administrative authorities. Other measures have also been taken with regard to them. For example, because of the efforts of the October district soviet and public opinion among the district teachers, the ‘Sunday school’ mentioned by the miners… was successfully closed. But the extremists don’t give up. In the private flats of believers, preaching activities among young people still go on …

“In the Kirov and Sovetsky districts a group of Baptist schismatics led by D. Lavrov is functioning. In Tokarevka a similar group is headed by hospital-worker P. Varkentin, I. Dik (caretaker at an official building) and L. Tsempel (an official of the district Voluntary Society for Assisting the Army, Air Force and Navy). Their preaching is permeated with the idea of necessary suffering for Christ, and of readiness to make sacrifices in the name of God. Lavrov, for example, a man sentenced for criminal activities, now touches up his past, representing it as suffering for a religious ideal…

“What is the aim of supporters of the Baptist Council of Churches? Chiefly, unlimited religious propaganda … freedom to teach children religion.”

Shirokoborodov writes of the Temirtau congregation of believers:

“This is a registered congregation, but from the very beginning of its existence a group appeared which essentially supported the position taken by the ‘schismatics’. They mask their true feelings in various ways, but their actions speak for themselves.

“The leaders of the congregation (Pauls, the head of the church council, preacher Pankrats and others) summon members’ meetings and arrange prayer-meetings for minors without the necessary permission of the executive committee of the town soviet. A group of CECBC supporters, headed by Yantsen, who have infiltrated the ranks of the congregation, work among the believers to support illegal, anti-social activities. In particular, they organized the collection of believers’ signatures on a ‘protest’ against the alleged violation of the civil rights of the Rostov Baptists.”

Shirokoborodov writes:

“The voluntary commissions of the Lenin, October and Kirov district soviet executive committees have grown slack in their work. Only this can explain the activity of the Baptist schismatics, the fact that illegal assemblies of religious young people are taking place in private flats …

“It would seem the time has come… to remove Pauls and certain other members from their executive positions in the church and deprive them of registration.”

Shirokoborodov describes the work done by the atheists of Temirtau: when atheists ‘mobilized all their forces and means for the battle against religion’, ‘active atheist public opinion’ forced the Baptists to ‘transfer their activities to another district’. But even there they were not left unnoticed:

“As a result of efforts made in schools, labour collectives and social organizations, the role of sectarian families as sources for spreading religiosity is constantly discussed. Nevertheless, of course, complete victory over the sectarians is still far off.”


The newspaper Voroshilovgrad Pravda [Ukraine SSR] of 19 March 1978 published an article “Caught Stealing” by G. Dubrovin in its court reports section.

The article describes the trial (on charges of ’embezzling and stealing state property’ — Article 91, pt. 1, of the Ukrainian SSR Criminal Code) of Vasily Andreyevich Golub, presbyter of the Baptist congregation, who was working as a gas-fitter at the Voroshilovgrad Vtorchermet production works. Dubrovin reports that:

“during the investigation, some rumours were spread that V. A, Golub was ‘suffering’ not so much for stealing, but ‘for the faith’…”

Golub was accused of having deceived the drivers E. P. Bobryshev and N. 1. Daryushin (by saying he had permission from the management) and having taken 5.2 tons of metal scrap out of the factory. Golub ‘committed such a grievous sin’, because he wanted to help the family of Alexei Timofeyevich Kozorezov (in 1971-76 A. T. Kozorezov served a 5-year sentence under Articles 142, part 2, 190-1 and 227, part 1, of the RSFSR Criminal Code — see also CCE 38; his wife is mentioned in CCEs 38 and 41), by building them a cellar, as the Kozorezovs could not find the material to line it.

“The defendant… himself admitted he was a thief… He came to trial in no way because he was a believer or was being persecuted in some way for this.”

The article states that ‘Soviet laws on religion are not to the taste of the Baptists and they often deliberately break them’.

“They try to avoid registering their congregations and hold prayer- meetings in defiance of the law. One such congregation in the regional centre is headed by Golub, Kozorezov, Butkov, Balatsky and others…

“What do they really want? They want to preach sermons wherever they like, engage in charitable activities, convert children and young people to ‘the faith’, and so on.”

Dubrovin states that Golub had served 4 years’ imprisonment in 1966-1970 and 3 years in 1972-1975 ‘for violating the Soviet laws on religious cults’.

“For the same crimes A. T. Kozorezov was twice sentenced and served long terms of punishment; earlier he had lived with his family in the town of Omsk and was famed there as a violator of Soviet laws. They present themselves as ‘martyrs for the faith’, supporting each other, hiding their true aims and deeds from the believers, and slandering Soviet law. They are hostile to the Soviet way of life and turn people away from active participation in social life.”

N. G. Stetsenko, the head of a workshop, who appeared at the trial in the role of public prosecutor, ‘tore the mask of holiness off’ Golub’s face and revealed his ‘real personality’:

“… the court, taking into account the sincere repentance of the defendant, as well as his large family, gave V. A. Golub a suspended sentence of 3 years’ imprisonment. The defendant has made good the material damage he caused to the factory.”


The newspaper Bryansk Worker [Central Russia] published an article on 24 March by A. Makarov, the CRA Commissioner for Bryansk Region. It is called “The Law and Freedom of Conscience”. Makarov writes:

“… in the Bryansk, Suzemka, Komarichi, Trubchevsk, Pochep and a few other districts, sectarian associations which avoid registration are not being brought to book …,

“This allows the supporters of the so-called Council of Baptist Churches… to organize mass assemblies illegally and to demand completely unlimited religious propaganda …

“Individual extremist members of the Baptist community carry on religious rites outside the premises of prayer-houses and try to force their views on their neighbours. For example, uninvited visitors were haunting the thresholds of the villagers’ houses in Vygonichi, disseminating typed material of a religious nature, until they were stopped by the authorities. On the same day, a second group chartered a bus — supposedly for a ‘wedding’ — from the transport services centre and drove off to the village of Baklan in Pochep district, where they carried out similar illegal activities. Some time later, this group was detained as far away as the Seredina-Buda district in the Sumy Region of the Ukraine.

“Naturally, the authorities… cannot and should not put up with such escapades. It can only be regretted that in Pochep district they are being sluggish about putting an end to them …”

The article says that the Baptists of Bezhitsky [a district in Bryansk city] try to provoke conflicts with the authorities, so that they can keep their flock in ‘a state of constant tension’ and ‘propagate the

idea that they need some kind of special rights, such as the right to conduct unlimited religious propaganda’. In conclusion, Makarov draws the attention of the authorities to the possibility of dissolving agreements granting believers the use of a prayer-house:

“These clauses of our law should be brought to the attention of the authorities, particularly in those districts where illegal activities on the part of fanatically inclined believers are most common.”

However, Makarov admits that:

“There have been cases where believers were refused registration of their religious community or repairs to their prayer-building without any cause, while students have had their religious affiliation mentioned in their reports.”