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Pavel Matsanov.

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Matsanov, Pavel Andreevich (1903–1989)

By Aleksey A. Oparin


Aleksey A. Oparin is head of the therapy and rheumatology department of the Kharkov Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education in Ukraine. Deeply interested in Adventist history, he is the editor of two Russian-language journals, a medical journal and a journal on world issues.

First Published: January 19, 2023

Pavel Andreevich Matsanov was an Adventist pastor, administrator, evangelist, and teacher in the former Soviet regions of Russia, Latvia, and Ukraine.1

Early Years

Pavel Andreevich Matsanov was born on March 17, 1903, in a small village near the town Rēzekne, Latvia, into a large family of a local farmer.

After his high school education in Rēzekne, Matsanov entered the Faculty of Philology of the University of Riga. During his studies, Matsanov got acquainted with the Adventist message while attending one of the evangelistic meetings conducted by pastor Jānis Bērziņš. Matsanov took so much interest in the Bible that he started to study under the guidance of pastor Bērziņš who then also prepared him for baptism. In 1924 Matsanov and some other members of his family were baptized. Thereafter he became a student of the Adventist seminary in Suži. On completing his studies, Matsanov was employed by the seminary as a Russian language teacher.

It was in Suži that Matsanov got to know his future wife, Anna Ronis, born in 1902, also a seminary student who had to do work on the side to cover tuition fees. Anna came from a family of Baltic Germans. Her father, Krišjānis Ronis, was baptized into the Adventist Church in 1910, at the time of a Bible conference held in the town Mītava. Anna herself was baptized on July 13, 1914. In October of 1930 Matsanov and Anna got married. They had two children—a son, Pavel, who died in infancy, and a daughter, Nadezhda.


Matsanov started his denominational work in 1925, initially as a colporteur and then as a seminary teacher and, from 1927 to 1933, as an evangelist. In addition to this, he entered literature evangelism. In Suži he met pastor Babienco, who had come from Harbin, China, shortly before. Babienco had a large experience in literature ministry and invited Matsanov to publish a journal. Matsanov greeted this idea with fervor and laid out a plan for a journal that should be of the same quality as the journals of the secular press while still remaining founded in religion. The publisher’s ambition was reflected by the title, Obzor mirovykh voprosov (“The Review of Global Issues”). In the magazine they sought to analyze political, religious, and economic events from the perspective of biblical history, philosophy, and prophecies. The journal remained in print from 1928 through 1937.

On July 1, 1933, Matsanov was ordained to pastoral ministry. In 1934 he began to serve as a pastor in his native town Rēzekne and in 1937 moved to Riga to lead a Russian-speaking church. At the constituency meeting of the Latvian Conference (February 14–18, 1940), Matsanov was elected conference treasurer. In 1945 he was again transferred to pastor the believers in Rēzekne.

In 1947 Pastor Grigoriy Grigoriev, the chairperson of the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists (ACSDA) came to Latvia. He invited Matsanov to move to Moscow to help with restoring the Adventist denominational structure and local churches. Matsanov responded to this call and moved, together with his family, to unfamiliar Russia. There he was elected as the ACSDA vice-chair. Besides denominational work, Matsanov also actively participated in religious conferences held at that time for the promotion of peace. For instance, he was a delegate to the International Conference of the Churches and Religious Associations (Zagorsk, Moscow Region, 1952). When Grigoriev passed away, Matsanov was unanimously elected the ACSDA chairperson. In this office he continued consolidating the church and energetically pursued active missionary efforts. Baptisms were conducted regularly, and many young people joined the church. This fact displeased the authorities who were proudly proclaiming that any religion would very shortly wither away in the USSR. They did not take kindly to Matsanov’s uncompromised stand and his reluctance to sacrifice his principles in exchange for the favor of authorities. They also could not tolerate the fact that Matsanov helped the families of imprisoned Adventist ministers. In the long haul, the authorities realized they could not get Matsanov to desist from ministry. On December 7, 1954, he was summoned to the Council for the Affairs of Religious Cults, deprived of his registration as the ACSDA chair, and ordered to leave Moscow. Being aware that any opposition to authorities would endanger the legal status of the church, the ACSDA members decided to go along. They elected S. P. Kulyzhskiy to be the new chair as a figurehead, while actually allowing Matsanov to continue leading the Adventist Church.

Some of the ministers, encouraged by authorities, made a stand against this decision. This gave rise to a church split that lasted for about thirty years. Nevertheless, the vast majority of pastoral staff and lay members continued to regard Matsanov as their leader (up to 1981). There were only a few ministers and lay members, mainly from Central Asia, who refused to recognize his leadership. They insisted that the authorities should be obeyed to ensure the legal status of the Adventist Church. They asserted that Adventist ministers had to minimize baptisms, allow church members to send their children to school on Sabbath, renounce conducting youth programs and organizing church orchestras, and notify the state bodies on what was going on in the congregations. This opposition was strongly encouraged by the state authorities. It should be noted that after 1961, the authorities officially recognized neither of both opposing parties. They only instigated, in every possible way, the opponents of Matsanov.2

A year after, in 1955, Matsanov moved to Rostov-on-Don, where he started active missionary work. Although Matsanov was no longer the official leader of the ACSDA, he continued to lead unofficially. Several pastors used to come to Rostov-on-Don to participate in unofficial meetings headed by Matsanov for addressing practical affairs of church life. S. P. Kulyzhskiy tacitly recognized the leading role of Matsanov up to 1958 when the authorities compelled him to write, on behalf of ACSDA, an official letter to Matsanov that required the latter to stop any missionary efforts. Meanwhile, Rostov-on-Don became an unofficial center of Adventism in the USSR.3 Matsanov indefatigably arranged youth meetings and other special events, organized string and wind orchestras, and facilitated the printing of denominational literature. All of this resulted in a rapid church growth. For instance, the Siberian Missionary Field had in 1959 only eight churches with 310 members, but in 1980 it had already 46 churches with 2,861 members.4 Matsanov also taught homiletics, practical youth ministries, and church governance from the Church Manual to young Adventist ministers including Mikhail Zozulin, Pyotr Titkov, Yakov Dmitrienko, Nikolay Ignatov, Timofey Gorbatyuk, Pavel Bakhmatskiy, Nikolay Lebedev, Grigoriy Vorokhov, Ivan Parashchuk, Vladimir Predolyak, Stepan Dubnyak, Veniamin Kucheryavenko, Anatoliy Noga, and Augustina Polyak (Zozulina), (a Bible worker).

In response to this activity, the Soviet authorities banished Matsanov to Siberia. He was not officially sentenced, but the authorities forbade him to reside in Rostov-on-Don, revoked his registration in that city, and ordered him to settle down only in Siberia. But even there he continued missionary work.

Under his guidance the Adventist Church in the USSR was structured according to the generally accepted denominational policies with organized church departments. Within twenty years, from 1960 to 1980, the membership grew exponentially.

While staying in Siberia, Matsanov continued to organize and administrate church work throughout the USSR. Thanks to his efforts, the unofficial meetings of Adventist pastors were regularly held in Khar’kov between 1972 and 1980.5

Matsanov also energetically worked for overcoming church dissent. At the church session in Kiev (January 20, 1965), attended by virtually all (70) ordained pastors from Ukraine, RSFSR, Moldavia, Belarus, Latvia, and Estonia, Matsanov’s policy was completely accepted. The delegates approved his actions directed against those ministers who undermined the church unity in order to please the authorities and their personal ambitions. However, the state authorities preferred to ignore this fact and continued supporting the dissenters who were in the minority. Meanwhile, the dissenters were not recognized by the state officially. In 1973 Matsanov decided to move to Khar’kov, Ukraine, to help with the church’s efforts in European Russia. He was, however, refused registration in that city. Finally, he settled down in the city of Belgorod, not far from Khar’kov. Although religious meetings were deemed illegal at that time, he nevertheless regularly organized meetings of Adventist preachers in Khar’kov to encourage them in faith and plan mission work.

Later Life

When in 1980 the unification of the Adventist Church in the USSR became the question of vital importance, Matsanov supported this idea. After 1981, because of his age, Pavel Matsanov withdrew from active denominational work. He passed away in Belgorod on November 3, 1989.


Pavel Matsanov served the Adventist Church as a teacher, evangelist, pastor, and administrator and helped the denominational organization in the USSR to survive during the difficult years of the Soviet regime. His ministry also contributed to considerable church growth occurring during the same time. “By the year 1980, under the guidance of Pavel Matsanov, a large number of new churches had arisen throughout the country—from Arkhangelsk to Caucasus, from the Far East to Kaliningrad.”6


Černevskis, E. Dvizhenie adventistov v Latvii. Riga: Patmos, 1998.

Černevskis, E. P.A. Matsanov- fenomen rukovoditelya adventistskogo dvizhenia v Sovetskom Soyuze s 1960 po 1981 gg. Riga: Patmos, 1997.

Heinz, D., A. A. Oparin, D. O. Yunak, and A. Pešelis. Fotokhronika Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v tsarskoi Rossii, SSSR i SNG. Khar’kov: Fakt, 2002.

Heinz, D., A. A. Oparin, D. O. Yunak, and A. Pešelis. Dushi pod zhertvennikom. Kniga pamyati Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia, posviashchennaya zhertvam religioznykh repressiy vo vremya tsarskoi Rossii i Sovetskogo Soyuza (1886-1986). Khar’kov: Fakt, 2010.

Oparin, A. A. Kogda plachut sosny. Khar’kov: Fakt, 2007.

Oparin, A. A. Pobedivshie vremya. Khar’kov: Fakt, 2009.

Oparin, A. A. Psalmy, napisannye krov’yu. Khar’kov: Fakt, 2007.

Oparin, A. A., and D. O. Yunak. Zheltaya reka. Khar’kov: Fakt, 2008.

Sarkisyan, A. S. Neuzheli eto bylo? Dnepropetrovsk: Lira, 2003.

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


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

  2. Edgars Černevskis, P.A. Matsanov- fenomen rukovoditelya adventistskogo dvizhenia v Sovetskom Soyuze s 1960 po 1981 gg. (Riga: Patmos, 1997), 21.

  3. Aleksey Oparin, Kogda plachut sosny (Khar’kov: Fakt, 2007), 97.

  4. Aleksey Oparin, Pobedivshie vremya (Khar’kov: Fakt, 2009), 290.

  5. Edgars Černevskis, P.A. Matsanov- fenomen rukovoditelya adventistskogo dvizhenia v Sovetskom Soyuze s 1960 po 1981 gg. (Riga: Patmos, 1997), 21.

  6. Ibid.


Oparin, Aleksey A. "Matsanov, Pavel Andreevich (1903–1989)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 19, 2023. Accessed May 24, 2024.

Oparin, Aleksey A. "Matsanov, Pavel Andreevich (1903–1989)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 19, 2023. Date of access May 24, 2024,

Oparin, Aleksey A. (2023, January 19). Matsanov, Pavel Andreevich (1903–1989). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024,