Central Siberian Mission (CSM) Headquarters 

Photo courtesy of Central Siberian Mission.

Central Siberian Mission

By Armen S. Matevosyan

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Armen S. Matevosyan

First Published: April 12, 2022

Central Siberian Mission is part of the Euro-Asia Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The Central Siberian Mission (formerly West Siberian Conference) was organized in 2002. Its headquarters are in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Territory and Statistics

Territory: Altay Territory, Novosibirsk Region, Tomsk Region, Kemerovo Region, and the Republic of Altay.

Statistics (June 30, 2020): Churches, 29; membership, 1,789; population, 10,491,065

Address: Tselinnaya Street, 1; 630020 Novosibirsk; Russian Federation

Significant Dates

2002–Reorganization of West Siberian Conference into Central Siberian Mission

2003–Present–Activities of Central Siberian Mission

Organizational History

In Siberia, Adventism began to spread in the early 20th century. An advantageous situation had developed in this region for the ministry of Adventist missionaries, having their headquarters in Tomsk. According to another historical record, the first Seventh-day Adventists, who moved from other parts of Russia, appeared in the Krasnoyarsk Territory as far back as 1891-1893.

Given the rapid advancement of God’s cause (many Adventist communities were organized in 14 years, from 1893 to 1907) and the Three Angels' Messages in Russia in the early 20th century, the East Russian Missionary Field, which comprised Adventist churches in the Volga Region, Orenburg Governorate, Siberia, Far East, and Central Asia, was organized and directly attached to the Russian Union Conference. The decision concerning the organization of this missionary field, headed by Heinrich Löbsack, was taken by the Board of the Russian Union Conference on January 28, 1907. Heinrich Löbsack served this vast territory and spent a lot of time in visiting remotely located churches.

On January 1, 1911, the Siberian Union Mission, guided by Pastor Gerhard P. Perk, was organized. Adventist pastors, accompanied by their families, performed their ministry throughout Siberia, from Chelyabinsk to Tobolsk, Tyumen, Barnaul, and further eastward. In the same year the East Siberian Missionary Field was organized. In the 1920s this church organization was headed by A. M. Andronov.

From 1925 to 1928 the territory of Western Siberia was divided into the West Siberian Conference, the Irtysh Conference, the Omsk Missionary Field, and the North Siberian Missionary Field. In 1928 the territory of Western Siberia was again reorganized into a single conference headed by A. G. Grigoriev, who lived in Biysk and then moved to Novosibirsk.

During the 1920s, a group of people who called themselves reformists separated from the mainline Seventh-day Adventist Church and went underground. Such a split was caused by their discontent over the Soviet regime. The split appreciably intensified in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1940s, the number and activities of Seventh-day Adventists noticeably increased in Western Siberia due to arrival of special settlers from among the Germans, as well as repatriates from China. In Altai, Adventists could be found in Barnaul and Biysk, and in some other districts; and in the Kemerovo Region – in Kemerovo, Stalinsk (now, Novokuznetsk), Anzhero-Sudzhensk, Prokopyevsk, and Yurga. Church members performed their ministry in Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Omsk, and other cities, as well as in many rural settlements of Western Siberia. Prayer meetings were held in the homes of believers, often jointly with representatives of other Protestant denominations, including some Evangelical Christians and Pentecostals who observed Sabbath. Similar cases were observed in towns of Tatarsk and Suzunin in the Novosibirsk Region. In Stalinsk, two Adventist congregations were registered with the authorities in Abashevo and Starokuznetsk. Since 1926 the Abashevo congregation was headed by A. Trokhimenko. In 1947 both small congregations were united and headed by a repatriate from China, S. F. Orel. After a while, the number of Adventists in Stalinsk reached 60, and the local church was guided by S. Ya. Orel and V. P. Falaleev.

The Adventist message united people from different ethnic groups: Germans, Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, and others. In the Volchikhinsky and Blagoveshchensky districts of the Altai Region, as well as in the village of Bolshoi Atmas (Cherlak District of the Omsk Region), the Adventist congregations consisted exclusively of Germans.

During World War II, the Soviet Government moderated a policy toward religious associations. In May 1944 the Council for Religious Affairs (CRA), under the government of the USSR, chaired by I. V. Polyansky, was established. From 1945 to 1947 religious associations were registered in different regions of the Soviet Union, with prayer houses being returned to believers. However, this liberalization touched on but a few Protestant denominations, mainly Evangelical Christians–Baptists.

Throughout the second half of the 1940s individual Adventist congregations, following the lead of Evangelical-Baptist groups, began to apply for registration with local authorities. The Adventist communities in Biysk, Barnaul, as well as in some cities of Kuzbass, were especially active. For instance, Adventists in Biysk, headed by L. Pepelyaev, felt inspired by attending their services by CRA representative A. Selivanov in October 1945 and applied, without delay, for registration to the Altai Regional Executive Committee. A year later the regional authorities officially recognized the Adventist Church in Biysk, however, restricting its size to 70 members. More often than not, Adventist communities were refused registration as was the case in Novosibirsk, Omsk, Kemerovo, Stalinsk, and other cities. Such decisions were generally based on alleged violations of the law. Adventists were charged with refusal to work on Saturdays and carry a weapon or take the oath in the army.

Since the mid-1950s the Siberian regions saw an increase in the activity and the number of religious associations, including Adventists. This became possible due to the 1953 large-scale amnesty when loads of prisoners were released and to the lifting of legal restrictions for special settlers, first of all, for ethnic Germans.

The arrival of P. G. Silman and P. A. Matsanov (the former head of the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists disbanded by authorities in 1960) to Novosibirsk and Tomsk in the early 1960s inspired local church members. At that time a lot of Protestants, including Adventists, were exiled to Siberia. Among the exiled Adventists, who lived in the Tomsk Region, were pastors Yu. A. Danielson, Yu. V. Morits, and S. S. Dubnyak. Those pastors maintained active contacts with fellow believers and organized new congregations in places of their exile.

Generally, Adventist communities in Siberia were small. In some cities there were only from 10 to 70 Adventists. In smaller towns and villages there were no more than ten church members. Nevertheless, throughout the entire Soviet period, Adventist organizations in Western Siberia were distinguished by stability and steadiness. The believers were consolidated and supported each other in difficult times.

Adventists were actively involved in missionary work among unbelievers in different localities. The church leaders were well prepared, knew the Bible and Adventist doctrines, and were able to convince people. But the evangelical work faced active opposition from the authorities. For instance, from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, elder S. F. Orel repeatedly traveled to Tashtagol, where he held prayer meetings in the house of one of the church members. Unexpectedly, the police raided the place and confiscated two Bibles and two copies of the Psalms of Zion hymns. As a consequence, S. F. Oryol received an official warning from the Kemerovo Region Government on the impermissibility of leaving the place of his residence (city Stalinsk).

Among members of the Adventist community in Novokuznetsk (in 1961 city Stalinsk was renamed Novokuznetsk), there were medical workers–paramedics, midwives, and nurses who shared the secrets of a healthy lifestyle among sick people.

In the Novosibirsk Region, Adventist communities from different localities often conducted joint prayer meetings. In May 1965 such an event was organized by Adventists from Novosibirsk and adjacent towns Berdsk and Iskitim. During the 1960s, several sessions of Adventists of Western Siberia were secretly held in Novosibirsk.

Adventist communities in Western Siberia constantly interacted with each other, with small communities always joining the larger ones. A general leader, an elder, was assigned to the believers in every region and in every large city of Western Siberia.

Sabbath keeping was a real challenge for Adventists. Until 1967, the USSR had a six-day work week. But Adventists who were employed in factories and institutions did not go to work on Saturdays, thus violating labor laws. As a result, the heads of enterprises applied sanctions against such persons, up to and including termination of employment. For example, in Stalinsk (Novokuznetsk), a church member, R. I. Link, was fired for this reason, and in Kemerovo M. S. Zozulin, a doctor by profession, could not find a job for a long time, since his work record book said that he was a sectarian. It was only the intervention of the local CRA commissioner G. M. Yarovoy that helped change the situation for the better.

Although a five-day work week was established in the late 1960s, Adventists still had a lot of troubles. The authorities tried to fix in the minds of ordinary people the image of Adventists as “loafers” or “parasites.” Since Adventist children did not attend school on Saturdays, their parents could be deprived of parental rights. In 1965, in Berdsk, by decision of the local city court, the mother of a pupil, Nina Morozova, was subjected to this kind of punishment. The authorities tried to control every step of believers.

In the 1940s to1960s the Adventist baptismal ceremonies were organized in open reservoirs in the summer time, often in public view. For example, Adventists in cities Berdsk and Iskitim received baptism in the Berdsk Bay near the Novosibirsk storage lake and in Tomsk and Kemerovo in the Tom’ River. The authorities learned time after time about conducting those ceremonies from local residents. Specially equipped baptisteries were set up in prayer houses only from the 1970s to 1980s.

In 1961 Pastor P. A. Matsanov moved from Tomsk to Novosibirsk and got hired as a house painter. In Novosibirsk he could not find a job because of false stories about Adventists published in a regional newspaper. Upon reaching a pensionable age (60 years), he retired and then left Tomsk. In the 1960s, in connection with antireligious campaigns in the Soviet Union, the split between “moderate” and “radical” Adventists became aggravated. Fortunately, the church was not divided into two fractions like it was with Baptists. The differences were mostly of theological nature. The “moderate” Adventists considered the Soviet power to be, like any other earthly power, established by God, with its laws and representatives demanding respect and submission (except for prohibition against worship services). In the opinion of “radical” Adventists, the Soviet power was godless and established by Satan. In Western Siberia the first approach was followed by N. P. Alyokhin and older members while P. A. Matsanov and younger members (especially in the Novosibirsk Region and the Altay Territory) squinted towards radical views. By the mid-1960s, the Soviet authorities lost interest in antireligious campaigns and more often than not tried to compound with churches and religious groups. The religious persecutions gradually faded away.

Since the late 1960s, Adventists repeatedly discussed registration issues with local authorities. Meanwhile, most of the church members continued their missionary work, faithfully paid tithes and gave offerings, instructed their children in the faith, and often did not express willingness to compromise with atheistic authorities.

In the early 1970s, the authorities continued, pure mechanically, bringing administrative and/or criminal actions against Adventist leaders. It was only in the latter half of the 1970s that Adventist communities in large cities of Western Siberia (Biysk, Novosibirsk, Berdsk, and Tomsk) were officially registered.

In 1965 it was decided to organize the Siberian Union Missionary Field that was guided by M. S. Zozulin until 1981. He was then superseded by I. A. Gumenyuk and I. F. Khiminets for the territory of Eastern Siberia and the Far East, and by V. A. Grenz, N. N. Kislyi, and Yu. T. Shcheglov for the territory of Western Siberia.

The Adventist Church has been and remains one of the traditional religious associations in the Russian Federation. After the beginning of perestroika, prominent preachers came to Western Siberia to conduct large-scale evangelistic programs in Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, and other major cities. Up to the 2000s Calvin Rock, John Carter, and others visited the Adventist congregations and motivated the church to conduct evangelistic work among local people. New, large Adventist congregations were organized.

Central and Western Siberia, with its cities and settlements, has permanently played an important role in proclaiming the Three Angels' Messages, and represented a kind of bridge for uniting churches, pastors, and lay members throughout Central Russia, Ural, Siberia, and the Far East.

Under the frame of reorganization of the East Russian Union Mission (ERUM), it was decided in 2002 to organize the Central Siberian Mission (CSM) as a constituent member of ERUM.

As of the first quarter of 2021, the Central Siberian Mission united 29 churches and 3 companies, with 1,717 members.

Present-day Developments

Over the past ten years, God has abundantly blessed the church in Central Siberia. In the Youth Ministries, the work was organized to prepare youth leaders through participation in social events, camp meetings, Pathfinder clubs, evangelistic youth programs, and “Jeremiah” and “Abraham” projects. In the Evangelistic Ministry, the focus was placed on conducting community evangelistic programs, as well as Internet programs supported by the Adventist World Radio.

In the field of Education, the four projects of preschool centers and two secondary schools were launched, under the guidance of the Tula Adventist Gymnasium;

  • Premises for the CSM headquarters and Adventist Book Center were acquired;

  • Projects of Adventist Mission and Centers of Influence are being developed;

  • All local churches have their own prayer houses.

As of today, the territory of the Central Siberian Mission is served by 15 pastors and 2 missionaries, who are devoted to the cause of God. They patronize local churches and preach Christ through public evangelistic programs, small interest groups, and social projects aimed at rendering aid to the poor and to the children with special needs.

The Central Siberian Mission makes every effort to strengthen the atmosphere of tolerance in society and is involved in meeting the people’s urgent needs. In recent years, pastors and local churches have also helped the population of their cities through participation in the social projects of the Red Cross and the All-Russian Popular Front. A number of pastors and church members have received certificates of volunteers, diplomas, medals and other awards, including the ones from the president of the Russian Federation. CSM continues to seek participation in the joint projects with government and public organizations.

Presidents

Roman G. Ershov (2003 to 2004); Yakov P. Kulakov (2004-2006); Zhan P. Taranyuk (2006-2010); Andrey A. Novoseltsev (2010-2018); Eduard V. Bulavchik (2018-Present).

Sources

Gorbatov, A.V. Gosudarstvo i religioznye organizatsii Sibiri v 1940-1960 gg. Tomsk: Tomsk State Pedagogical University Publishing House, 2008.

Konev, E.V. Adventisty sed’mogo dnia Zapadnoy Sibiri v 40-60-e gg. XX veka. Accessed August 4, 2021. https://gramota.net/materials/9/2020/6/3.html.

Soskovets, L.I. Religioznye konfessii Zapadnoy Sibiri v 40-60-e gg. XX veka. Tomsk: Tomsk State University Publishing House, 2003.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

State Archives of the Kemerovo Region. Fund П-75, File 8.

State Archives of the Novosibirsk Region. Fund П-1418, File 1.

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

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Matevosyan, Armen S. "Central Siberian Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 12, 2022. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6D8M.

Matevosyan, Armen S. "Central Siberian Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 12, 2022. Date of access May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6D8M.

Matevosyan, Armen S. (2022, April 12). Central Siberian Mission. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6D8M.