East Siberian Mission headquarters.

Photo courtesy of East Siberian Mission.

East Siberian Mission

By Nikolay N. Kislyi, Vladimir V. Ievenko , and Anatoly A. Frolov

×

Nikolay N. Kislyi, Ph.D. in History (State University of Kemerovo), D. Min. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan), began his pastoral service in 1973. Kislyi served as president of West Siberian Conference (1984-1988) and of Trans-Siberian Conference (1988-1994). From 1995 to 2002, he served as Education and Sabbath School/Personal Ministries director in East Russian Union Mission. Kislyi served as president of Yenisei Mission (2002-2004) and of East Siberian Mission (2004-2012). He taught SDA Church history, Russian history, and world history at Zaoksky Adventist University. He retired in 2015. 

Vladimir V. Ievenko graduated from the Moscow State University (MGU). He was called to ministry in the Euro-Asia Division (ESD) in 1999. From 1999 to the present, he has served as translator-editor in the ESD Secretariat. He is responsible for preparing and publishing in Russian the SDA Working Policy and the Church Manual. Vladimir speaks four foreign languages and is the author of more than 40 scientific works.

Anatoly A. Frolov, M.A. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan), B.Th. (Zaoksky Theological Seminary, Tula Region, Russia), began his pastoral service in the city of Uralsk, Kazakhstan, in 1991. Frolov served as treasurer of Kazakhstan Conference (1993-2000) and of Northern Kazakhstan Conference (2000-2003). In 2003 he was transferred to Siberia to serve as president of West Siberian Mission (2003-2005), and then as treasurer of East Russian Union Mission (2005-2015). Since 2015 Frolov has been serving as president of East Siberian Mission/ERUM.  

First Published: November 6, 2023

The East Siberian Mission (ESM) is part of the East Russian Union Mission in the Euro-Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists.1 Organized in 2005, it has its headquarters in Krasnoyarsk. The ESM territory encompasses the Krasnoyarsk and Trans-Baikal Territories; the Republics of Buryatia, Khakassiya, and Tuva; and Irkutsk Region.

Statistics (June 30, 2023): Churches, 29; companies, 22; membership, 1,830; population, 8,100,000.

Administration: President Anatoly A. Frolov; Secretary Aleksandr A. Legotin; Treasurer Andrei A. Sleptsov.2

The History of Adventism in East Siberia (1907-1945)

East Siberia can rightfully be called the heart of Siberia. It is a huge region with an area of seven million square kilometers, and its length from north to south is 3,000 kilometers. The size of Krasnoyarsk Territory alone is five times the size of France. At the same time, the population is extremely unevenly distributed across East Siberia: 80 percent of the inhabitants are concentrated along the Trans-Siberian Railroad.3

The main religions in East Siberia are Christianity, Buddhism, and Shamanism. For over four hundred years this vast area was a place of exile and penal servitude for unwanted or law-breaking people, but at the same time it was a territory where runaway slaves, having escaped from their masters, could hide and find freedom.

As early as the beginning of the twentieth century, the authorities began exiling Protestants, including Seventh-day Adventists, from the European part of Russia to Siberia. Against this background, large Adventist congregations sprang up in a number of places4.4 In view of the rapid advancement of God's work and the spreading of the Three Angels’ Messages, in 1907 the Russian Union Conference decided upon organizing the East Russian Mission, which embraced the entire territory of Siberia, as well as the Volga region, Orenburg Governorate, and the regions of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. The head of this mission was elected Heinrich Konrad Lӧbsack.

On January 1, 1911, the Siberian Union Mission, headed by Gerhard P. Perk, was officially organized. The church served for the large territory extending from Chelyabinsk to Tobolsk, Tyumen, Barnaul, and further east, and included the West Siberian and East Siberian Missions.5

At the end of 1913, the Siberian Union Mission was reorganized. This was due to the fact that, according to Heinrich J. Lӧbsack, the structure of the Siberian Union Mission was “impractical”6. In this connection, since January 1, 1914. the West Siberian and East Siberian Missions, together with the new Amur Mission, were reorganized into separate mission fields directly attached to the European Division. These mission fields were headed by Heinrich Göbel (Amur Mission Field), Epifan Gnedin (East Siberian Mission Field), and Heinrich Konrad Löbsack (West Siberian Mission Field). By the time of reorganization, there were 69 churches with 1,226 members in the East Siberian Mission Field.

In the 1920s, the East Siberian Mission Field, the headquarters of which was located in the city of Harbin, was headed by A. M. Andronov. This field comprised Yenisei and Irkutsk Governorates, Yakutia, Trans-Baikal, Russian Manchuria, and the Far East coast.

In 1920 the 4th All-Russian Session of Seventh-day Adventists was held in Moscow. The purpose of this session was to organize a new All-Russian church organization. This organization (All-Russian Council of Seventh-day Adventists) consisted of six entities, including the Siberian Union.

In 1924 the 5th All-Union Session of Seventh-day Adventists was held in Moscow. At this session another reorganization took place, and the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists (ACSDA) was established. The 6th session of ACSDA (1928) saw another reorganization of this church organization aiming to consolidate the unions and fields. As a result, the four regional unions were organized, including the All-Siberian Regional Union headquartered in Novosibirsk. The All-Siberian Regional Union comprised West Siberian Conference, Central Siberian Conference, Irtysh Conference, Omsk Mission Field, North Siberian Mission Field, and East Siberian Mission Field7.6

Despite the very hard years and the all-out fight against religion, the Adventist Church in Siberia continued to grow, especially in large regional cities such as Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, Irkutsk, and Chita.

In the summer of 1930, under the pressure of authorities, the ACSDA plenary meeting that was convened in Moscow had to make a resolution on the dissolution of all regional unions. Later in the same year the ACSDA, as a principal control authority of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the USSR, was also dissolved.

From September 1, 1934, pastor G. A. Raus discharged a function of the Adventist Church’s commissioner for the Far East Territory and the Primorsky Region.

During the years of Stalin's repression, many ministers were arrested and sent to work camps, and some were shot. Adventist congregations ceased to exist or sharply decreased in their number, and members were forced to conduct worship services contrary to the public law that forbade them.

New Period in the Life of the Church (1945-1980)

A new period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventists in Siberia, including East Siberia, should be considered in the early 1950s.

Until 1959, the vast territory of Siberia and the Far East were served by pastors Yu. A. Danielson, S. Ya. Orel, P. G. Silman, and P. Sudarev (the latter fulfilled his ministry in East Siberia). The largest Adventist congregation, with 34 members, existed at that time in the city of Kemerovo in which Yu. A. Danielson lived. In Novosibirsk there were six members; in Omsk,12; in Tomsk, 10; in Krasnoyarsk, 1; and in Irkutsk, 15. All told, there were some 700 church members in Siberia during these years. According to Pavel Andreevich Matsanov, “1959 can be considered the year of revival of the Adventist organization in Siberia.”8.

It should be said that with Stalin's death repressions did not stop, but their pressure was significantly reduced. Of course, in the 1960s and 1970s it was impossible to speak of the breakdown of the repressive system in the USSR, but there were changes for the better. Trials became less frequent, although pastors continued to be brought to court. However, the prison terms were not 10-25 years, but were reduced to five years. In general, it can be noted that this time was more free. As regards the ideological confrontation, the situation remained unchanged: the authorities continued “the struggle for the complete eradication of religion as an absolutely alien ideology that harmed the construction of developed socialism.” The state authorities also began to terminate the parental rights of believing parents with school-age children who did not attend school on Saturdays and remove those children from their homes by court order and send them to orphanages9.7

In 1972 in Irkutsk, during the ministry of pastor V. N. Kucherivsky, for the first time in Siberia, a document was received about the registration of the local congregation with the state authorities and, moreover, the authorities allowed the believers to buy a house of prayer and register it to the said congregation, which was a great event in the life of Adventists in Siberia. From that moment the gradual, though slow, way of recognizing the church by the state authorities began.

The Development and Growth of the Adventist Church in East Siberia

Since the late 1970s, believers almost everywhere could freely gather and conduct worship services. The most surprising thing in these years was that the government, represented by its commissioners for religious affairs, began to seek dialog and mutual understanding, and actively persuade, rather than force religious communities to obtain state registration. Many Siberians were quite wary of such an initiative of the government, as the wounds of repression were too fresh, but nevertheless, the ice had broken. It is worth noting that in 2000, in recognition of the contribution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to cooperate with the state, three Adventist ministers, including a pastor from East Siberia, N. N. Kislyi, were honored with state awards.

At the time of the collapse of the USSR, the Adventist Church had seven congregations in East Siberia with a total of 267 members10.8 Five years later, in 1996, at the peak of public evangelism, the East Siberian Mission already had 18 congregations with 1,482 members. Undoubtedly, this was influenced by the new historical situation, when the church, both in the whole of Russia and in Siberia, gained freedom of worship and the opportunity for the widest possible participation in social life11.9

The East Russian Union Mission (ERUM) was organized in 1994. It comprised the West Siberian Conference, East Siberian Conference, and Far Eastern Conference. In 2002 the East Siberian Conference was divided into Yenisei Mission and Baikal Mission, both of those missions being again merged into the East Siberian Mission (ESM) in 2005.

At that time unprecedented opportunities opened up for preaching the gospel. The East Siberian Mission took advantage of the situation by having a united, mobile, and well-organized team. In April-May 1992, the first major evangelistic program was conducted in Irkutsk, at the premises of a new musical theater, with the involvement of foreign evangelists, as well as ministers from all over Siberia. As a result of this program, about eight hundred people were baptized.

In 1998 Moses Ostrovsky conducted an evangelistic program in Krasnoyarsk that resulted in baptizing 760 new members. A subsequent program by John Carter increased the number of church members by another 740. Evangelistic programs were held in many other cities of East Siberia, such as Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Bratsk, and Kansk. Some 200 to 700 people were baptized after each program.10

The 1993-2000 period was the time of the most successful evangelism. The church organization in East Siberia grew numerically from 1,500 to 5,500 members. The number of local churches also grew rapidly.11 And this raised the question of the availability of prayer houses with a large capacity, as well as the adequate staff of ministers, especially in those places where large groups of intellectuals--teachers, doctors, technicians, army and navy officers--joined the church. In Vladivostok a rear admiral, former head of the political department of the Pacific Fleet, was baptized.

The administration of the Euro-Asia Division, as well as the teachers of Zaoksky Adventist University (ZAU), consistently provided very significant support to the church organization in Siberia, which was reflected in the establishment of a ZAU branch in this territory. The ZAU correspondence faculty in Siberia had 50 students, and after only five years 20 Bachelor of Ministry were graduated.

ADRA Euro-Asia, which has gained great respect and recognition from regional authorities and the public in Siberia, has been very successful in its ministry. This agency started practical charity work in East Siberia in 1997. Its first project was to help children from an orphanage that was damaged as a result of the crash of a Ruslan transport plane in Irkutsk on December 6, 1997.

In 1998 ADRA delivered 110 tons of food and five tons of clothes to the residents of Lensk, who suffered from severe flooding. In 2001 children undergoing treatment at the Irkutsk Regional Endocrinology Dispensary and Tuberculosis Dispensary received, as assistance, the shipment of 10,000 disposable syringes, 150 blood sugar measuring devices, and lots of vitamin preparations.

Since 2002 ADRA has been implementing in its practical charitable work joint projects, actions and programs aimed at helping gutter children. In cooperation with the Regional Social Security Office and public organizations of Irkutsk, the charity events "Week of Kindness" are held, where ADRA representatives provide cooked meals and distribute children's clothes among street children.

In 2006 ADRA launched the projects “Warm Feet,” “Warm Hands,” and “Warmth for Children” in East Siberia, resulting in delivery of more than fifteen hundred pairs of knitted socks and mittens to needy children every year. Creative teams of Adventist young people have visited children's institutions with special musical programs to give the warmth of their hearts to the waiting children, along with warm woolen products.

ADRA also managed to attract the attention of both local and foreign public organizations to addressing many issues related to the upbringing and care of HIV-infected children.

Due to the decline in interest in public evangelism over the past two decades, the church in East Siberia has begun to focus on personal evangelism. In this connection, missionary and elder’s congresses, learning workshops, and trainings have been organized to prepare ministers for this important work. Today pastors and elders of East Siberian Mission are doing splendidly with all current tasks and challenges. The work of God is expanding its geography, and the gospel message is gradually reaching the remotest corners of vast Siberia.

Presidents

Nikolay N. Kislyi, 2004-2012; Nikolay P. Grebenyuk, 2012; Andrei K. Arfanidi, 2012-2015; Anatoly A. Frolov, 2015- .

Sources

Lӧbsack, Heinrich. Velikoye Adventistskoye dvizheniye i Adventisty Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii. Rostov-na-Donu: Altair, 2006.

Matsanova, A.G., and Matsanov, P.A. Po ternistomu puti. Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2003.

Yunak, D. O.  Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (1886-2000) (v dvukh tomakh). Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2002.

Zozulin, M.S. Lichnyie vospominaniya. Manuscript, 2000.

Notes

  1. This article was translated from Russian by Vladimir Ievenko.

  2. “East Siberian Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (2023), https://adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=30375.

  3. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%B8%D0%B1%D0%B8%D1%80%D1%8C.

  4. N.M. Ignatov, Vospominaniya (Unpublished manuscript, 2002), 24.

  5. Heinrich J. Löbsack, Velikoye Adventistskoye dvizheniye i Adventisty Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (Rostov-na-Donu: Altair, 2006), 275.

  6. D.O. Yunak, Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (1886-2000) (v dvukh tomakh) (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2002), vol. 1, 229.

  7. Ibid., 292-297.

  8. Archives of the East Siberian Mission. Statistics Report (Fourth quarter, 1991).

  9. Archives of the East Siberian Mission. Statistics Report (Fourth quarter, 1996).

  10. Archives of the East Siberian Mission. Global Mission Report (1998), 5.

  11. Archives of the East Siberian Mission. Global Mission Report (2000), 2.

×

Kislyi, Nikolay N., Vladimir V. Ievenko , Anatoly A. Frolov. "East Siberian Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 06, 2023. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4JKI.

Kislyi, Nikolay N., Vladimir V. Ievenko , Anatoly A. Frolov. "East Siberian Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 06, 2023. Date of access May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4JKI.

Kislyi, Nikolay N., Vladimir V. Ievenko , Anatoly A. Frolov (2023, November 06). East Siberian Mission. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4JKI.