Euro-Asia Division (ESD)

By Mikhail F. Kaminskiy

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Mikhail Kaminskiy, D.Min. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan) has been serving the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pastor and administrator for 37 years. Mikhail Kaminsky served as ESD executive secretary (1995-2010), ESD Ministerial Association secretary (2010-2015), and currently is the president of the Euro-Asia Division. He also teaches in the Department of Theology at Zaoksky Adventist University. He is the author of a book and many articles.

First Published: January 29, 2020 | Last Updated: April 18, 2022

The Euro-Asia Division (ESD) includes the countries of Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Its constituents are the West Russian union conference; the Caucasus, East Russian, and Southern Union Missions; the Belarus, and Moldova Union of Churches Conferences; the Far Eastern Union of Churches Mission; the Crimea Mission; and the Armenian and Georgian Fields.1

Statistics (June 30, 2021): Churches, 1,738; membership, 102,829; population, 333,147,000.2 

Address (ESD branch): Krasnoyarskaya Street 3, 107589 Moscow, Russian Federation.

Organizational History

In 1985, the Soviet Union proclaimed a course toward perestroika and glasnost, which was followed by numerous reforms in the country that had impact on church-state relations as well. The changes that occurred over the next five years were striking in their magnitude. The number of registered religious associations grew and, in 1990, a new religious freedom law created new opportunities for the Seventh-day Adventist Church to participate in society.

On June 19, 1985, the first inter-republic meeting was held in Tula, with the emphasis on the coordination of “fraternal relations” between republican Seventh-day Adventist organizations. Since it was still impossible at that time to talk about a normal election procedure in the creation of a full-fledged church organization, it was suggested that an Inter-Republic Coordination Council, headed by Mikhail Kulakov, be created as a transitional option. Nikolay Zhukalyuk became an assistant to Mikhail Kulakov. The Council included twelve responsible preachers who represented the SDA Church in the Soviet Union republics.3

After the dissolution of the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists (ACSDA) in December 1960, there was no centralized church organization in the Soviet Union, and the work was separately coordinated in every represented country of the former ACSDA. The organization of the Inter-Republic Coordination Council was one of the first steps toward the creation of a new church structure.

In November 1986, the first official congress of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Russian Federation took place in Tula, during which the Russian Union organized. In August 1988, the Ukrainian Union was organized, and a year later, three more unions appeared in the territory of the USSR–the Southern Union, which united the church entities in Central Asia and the Caucasus; the Baltic-Belarusian Union; and the Moldavian Union.

Thus, all the preliminary conditions for organizing a new division of the Adventist Church were fulfilled. The final decision rested with the General Conference, which announced its intentions to do so on April 20, 1989 following the annual spring meeting. In July 1990, at the session of the General Conference, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Division was formally organized; however, this name was temporary. As political boundaries changed in the splintering Soviet Union, it became necessary to rename the new division, making it more descriptive of the geographical region. Mikhail Kulakov was elected the first president of the division, Viktor Krushenitskiy became the division secretary, and Alexander Pankov the division treasurer. In 1990, the region had about 34,000 members. In October of the same year, the first radio program was aired in Tula.4 As Mikhail P. Kulakov reported,

For the previous 70 years, Christians could not even dream of hearing or seeing the gospel on radio and television. In 1991 two stations agreed to accept the Voice of Hope broadcasts. Now it can be heard on all wave lengths. Beginning November 1 there will be five-minute programs on the national radio network so it is possible for the gospel to reach every home.5

In September 1991, at the meeting of the division board in Zaoksky, where the division headquarters was initially located, it was decided to rename the USSR Division as the Euro-Asia Division (ESD). At the same meeting, the desire of church members in the Baltic republics to be transferred from the Euro-Asia Division to the Trans-European Division was expressed.6 Such a proposal had political reasons. By that time, the Baltic republics had already declared their independence from Moscow and were headed for European integration. This was a prerequisite for the future changes in the division’s territorial boundaries.

On June 30, 1991, there were 546 churches with 37,455 members in the Euro-Asia Division.7

Formation and Development of the Euro-Asia Division (1991-1996)

The collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991 created legal complications for the Adventist Church. Instead of one state’s laws, the Church organization now had to comply with fifteen independent states, each with its own laws regarding religious freedom. Fortunately, at that time, broad rights and freedoms that allowed preaching almost without restrictions were common among the newly independent nations. It was in the first 5-6 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union that the largest increase in church membership occurred. Numerous evangelistic programs that attracted many people were conducted in the ESD territory. In March 1992, Mark Finley conducted the “The Biblical Path to a New Life” evangelistic program in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. That same year, John Carter preached in Nizhny Novgorod. His program ended with the baptism of some 2,500 people. In the summer of 1993, Mark Finley again preached in Moscow, at the Olimpiysky Sports Complex, and after this program about two thousand people were baptized. Dozens of programs in different cities attracted huge audiences, and the number of baptized people exceeded hundreds.

"Between 1992 and 1993, the Euro-Asia Division had the highest percentage of church membership growth in the world - 39.7%."8 As of June 30, 1992, there were already 669 churches with 59,000 members in the ESD, in 1993 there were 723 churches with 77,462 members, in 1994 there were 803 churches with 93,740 members, in 1995 there were 931 churches with 102,890 members, and by 1996 there were 1,076 churches and 112,102 members.

With the growth of membership and the number of churches, the need for new ministers became more acute. Consequently, the Zaoksky Theological Seminary was expanded, and two new institutions were founded, the Russian Sahmyook University in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 19929 and the Ukrainian Institute of Arts and Sciences (Ukrainsky gumanitarny institut) in Bucha in 199910. This made the training of qualified pastors and music directors possible.

The establishment of the Source of Life Publishing House (SOLPH) in 1992 provided the organization and development of a literature ministry with momentum. Since its founding, SOLPH has produced more than 20 million copies of various books and magazines. The ESD its own news magazine, the Adventistskiy Vestnik, in 1994.

In 1989, the Inter-Republic Coordination Council decided to launch the “Voice of Hope” Adventist radio broadcasting and, in 1990, the first programs were broadcast on the radio in Tula and Kaluga. In 1991, the “Voice of Hope” programs were broadcast to the entire Soviet Union– at first, on Radio 1, and then on Radio Rossiya. As Zaitsev recounts, “From 1991 to 1993, the radio studio was receiving from 300 to 500 letters daily. In this regard, it was decided to organize a Bible correspondence school, which trained over 100,000 radio listeners for the first five years of its work.”11

In 1993, the first Adventist programs of the new Three Angels television company were broadcast in Nizhny Novgorod. The rapid growth of church membership led to the organization of new congregations, which often suffered from the lack of church buildings. Members gathered for worship in two or even three shifts, and congregations rented premises in libraries, theaters, or schools. The lack of qualified ministers and spiritual literature resulted in a situation where many new converts who had become Adventists in the emotion of the moment, left the Church just as quickly. The problems of caring for church members and organizing new churches, as well as structural problems and other issues in the ESD, remained to be solved by a new president. In 1992, Ted Wilson took this position and served as division president until 1996.

In 1993, the headquarters of the Euro-Asia Division was transferred from Zaoksky to Moscow, first to a rented building, and in November 1995, to its own building.

Meanwhile, the division territory had already changed. In 1994 churches in the three Baltic states were transferred from the Euro-Asian Division to the Trans-European Division, and over the next 19 years the ESD comprised twelve countries. The introduction of national currencies in post-Soviet countries also required the development and optimization of certain mechanisms in the Church’s operations.

In the early 1990s, a part of the division territory, mainly Siberia and Central Asia, became part of the 10/40 Window Global Mission project. In subsequent years, the Adventist Church continued to strengthen denominational infrastructure with an emphasis on educating Adventist ministers.

Finding Other Ways of Evangelization (1996-2007)

Before 2000, large-scale public evangelistic programs were the main instrument of preaching the gospel in the Euro-Asia Division. At that time, a generation of pastors appeared who did not know other methods of evangelistic ministry. Everyone believed that this was the only method to be followed until the end of time. In the beginning, the programs were conducted by foreign preachers, but soon, when an artificially raised wave of discontent with the activity of Western preachers began to grow in the division’s territories, visiting preachers were replaced by local ministers. During this time, the membership in the division actively grew.

In 1997, the division had 1,319 churches with 120,667 members, in 1998 there were 1,472 churches with 129,382 members, in 1999 there were 1,568 churches with 133,297 members, and, finally, in 2000 there were 1,734 churches with 138,417 members.

The first cause for concern for all religious organizations in Russian Federation occurred in 1997 when the new Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations was adopted. Though this law did not provide any restrictive measures, it required that all existing religious organizations pass re-registration. The Russian authorities thought it necessary to hold control over any new religious organizations that might differ from the established churches that had existed in the territory of the Soviet Union and were well known to those in power. As a matter of fact, quite a few “dubious” organizations, which called themselves religious, had penetrated into Russia by that time. In view of the adopted law, it became clear that the favorable time of evangelism during the 1990s was coming to an end. However, the Adventist Church did not fully use all the opportunities of that period, which lasted until 2002-2003, when authorities required that religious organizations be re-registered once again.

In 2000, Artur A. Stele was elected president of the Euro-Asia Division. During his leadership, the division administration endeavored to stress that public evangelism was a very temporary phenomenon for the ESD, even though public evangelistic programs were still being conducted. Over the course of six or seven years, the program of small groups led by Galina Stele was presented and very successfully developed. But, unfortunately, this approach did not become the main evangelistic tool at that time.

At the time, both public evangelistic events and large satellite evangelistic programs were conducted in equal measure, and they were very interesting and popular with church members and non-Adventists. It is highly possible that for this reason small groups could not reach their full potential. Yet the “300-300-300” Project in the Euro-Asia Division began to reap some results. The mission project was an initiative of the division to have members pray every day for fifteen minutes at 12:45 regardless of what they were doing. The last Wednesday of each month was set aside as a day of prayer and fasting throughout the division. When the project was completed, 1,478 small groups were organized with 3,854 ongoing Bible studies and over 2,000 members were baptized as a result of this project. Meanwhile, about 200 church buildings were purchased.12

Soon after 2003, membership growth slowed down and began to decline. In 2001, there were 1,792 churches with 142,572 members, in 2002 there were 1,856 churches with 145,591 members, in 2003 there were 1,916 churches with 146,116 members, and in 2004 there were 1,970 churches with 144,209 members.

Between 2007 and 2008 it became clear that opportunities for evangelistic ministry in the ESD were limited, and immigration, death, or apostasy remained at a very high level. All of this resulted in a decrease in church membership.

In 2005, the division had 1,972 churches with 143,459 members, in 2006 there were 1,985 churches with 138,745 members, and in 2007 there were 1,993 churches with 138,617 members.

In 2007, another re-registration of religious organizations was initiated in Russia under completely new conditions, proposed by the Ministry of Justice. With every passing year the church situation was getting worse. In those years, socially-oriented ministries, such as medical ministry and health resort treatment, gained ground in the ESD. One could certainly not speak of direct evangelistic efforts in medical institutions, but there was an opportunity to develop health resort projects and public health medicine. The healthy lifestyle message was clear and understandable for contemporary people. Dozens of dental rooms and many health resorts were opened in the division territory. The emphasis was also placed upon the personal ministry of each church member.

In 2008, the division had 1,978 churches with 136,900 members, in 2009 there were 1,966 churches with 138,827 members, in 2010 there were 1,980 churches with 139,730 members, and in 2011 there were 1,961 churches with 137,532 members.

Challenges of the Modern World (2007- )

Legislation in the division’s constituent countries became tougher and increasingly restricted the opportunities for public evangelism, thus, shifting emphasis to personal and social ministries.

By 2019, there were over one hundred different institutions in the division, including health rooms, health food shops, and health centers.

In the fall of 2016, the churches in the ESD joined the global evangelistic program Europe and Asia for Christ. During the year and a half of the program implementation, 4,150 people were baptized.

In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to Children’s (Adventurer and Pathfinder clubs) and Youth Ministries as important steps in training future church members. Despite numerous restrictions, the number of Christian schools has significantly increased, from six or seven in 2010 to more than 50 by the end of 2018. There is a clear understanding that these are new prospects for educational institutions where primary school teachers should be trained, and these are new opportunities for the Church in accommodating charitable organizations in the school buildings, as it was the case during the Great Religious Awakening. As of 2019, there are 61 Christian schools in the ESD (as compared with 16 schools in 2012).

In 2012, there were 1,925 churches with 120,351 members in the Euro-Asia Division. That same year, the ESD faced another challenge in the accession of Afghanistan, a country that had suffered so much from military conflict for many years and where welfare ministry through ADRA provided a method of outreach. Schools were also built there to provide children with education.

In 2013, the ESD had 1,889 churches with 117,088 members, in 2014 there were 1,870 churches with 115,249 members, in 2015 there were 1,847 churches with 113,989 members, and in 2016 there were 1,814 churches with 112,053 members. In spite of the decline in membership, the Adventist Church in the Euro-Asia Division managed, in the year 2018, to reverse the years-long trend when the number of dropouts exceeded the number of baptisms.

Given a rapidly changing world, the region’s complexity, and geopolitical challenges that led to territorial changes in April 2022, the Church in the Euro-Asia Division continues to search for optimal ways to proclaim the gospel, and all areas of denominational work are breaking new ground. 

Executive Officers Chronology

Presidents: Mikhail P. Kulakov (1990-1992), Ted Wilson (1992-1995), Lee Huff (1995-2000), Artur A. Stele (2000-2010), Guillermo Biaggi, (2010-2015), Mikhail F. Kaminskiy (2015-).

Secretaries: Viktor P. Krushenitskiy (1990-1995), Mikhail F. Kaminskiy (1995-2010), Vladimir A. Krupskiy (2010-2015), Viktor V. Alekseyenko (2015-).

Treasurers: Aleksandr A. Pankov (1990-1993), Juan Prestol (1993-1995), Sergey Ferrer (1995-1997), Robert L. Robinson (1997-2000), Guillermo Biaggi (2000-2010), Brent Burdick (2010-2016), Vladimir I. Tkachuk (2017-).

Sources

“Euro-Asia Division.” Accessed May 31, 2019. https://esd.adventist.org/.

“Euro-Asia Division.” Accessed May 31, 2019. https://www.adventist.org/en/world-church/euro-asia/.

General Conference. "Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church votes to attach Ukrainian administrative office to the General Conference." ANN and Adventist Review, adventist.news, April 12, 2022. Accessed April 18, 2022.  https://adventist.news/news/executive-committee-of-the-seventh-day-adventist-church-votes-to-temporarily-attach-ukrainian-administrative-office-to-the.

General Conference Committee, General Conference Archives. Accessed May 30, 2019. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/.

Zaitsev, Eugene V. Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii. Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2008.

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

Notes

  1. “Euro-Asia Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (2022), https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=10042. The information about the division's territory has been updated as per the Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's vote of April 12, 2022 to attach Ukrainian administrative office to the General Conference. Read more here: https://adventist.news/news/executive-committee-of-the-seventh-day-adventist-church-votes-to-temporarily-attach-ukrainian-administrative-office-to-the

  2. “Euro-Asia Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (2022), https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=10042&highlight=Euro|Asia.

  3. Eugene V. Zaitsev, Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2008), 514.

  4. General Conference Committee, October 8, 1992, 92, General Conference Archives, accessed May 30, 2019, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1992-10a.pdf.

  5. Ibid.

  6. General Conference Committee, October 8, 1993, 93, General Conference Archives, accessed May 30, 2019, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1993-10a.pdf.

  7. See “Euro-Asia Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1992), 105.

  8. Zaitsev, Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii, 529. See also General Conference Committee, October 6, 1993, 93, General Conference Archives, accessed May 30, 2019, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1993-10a.pdf.

  9. “Russian Sahmyook University,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing, 2006), 476.

  10. “Ukrainian Institute of Arts and Sciences,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing, 2006), 484.

  11. Zaitsev, 523.

  12. General Conference Committee, October 8, 2002, 197, General Conference Archives, accessed May 30, 2019, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC2002-10AC.pdf; General Conference Committee, October 8, 2003, 143-147, General Conference Archives, accessed May 30, 2019, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC2003-10AC.pdf.

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Kaminskiy, Mikhail F. "Euro-Asia Division (ESD)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 18, 2022. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BD91.

Kaminskiy, Mikhail F. "Euro-Asia Division (ESD)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 18, 2022. Date of access May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BD91.

Kaminskiy, Mikhail F. (2022, April 18). Euro-Asia Division (ESD). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BD91.