East Russian Union Mission (ERUM) Headquarters 

Photo courtesy of East Russian Union Mission.

East Russian Union Mission

By Alexey A. Novoselov, Daniel Heinz, and Iurii Zakhvataev

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Alexey A. Novoselov

Daniel Heinz, Ph.D., is director of the Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe located at Friedensau Adventist University, Germany. He did his ministerial studies at Bogenhofen Seminary and further studies at the Protestant Theological Faculty of the University in Vienna. His Ph.D. is in modern church history and Adventist studies from Andrews University. Some of his publications include Church, State, and Religious Dissent: A History of Seventh-day Adventists in Austria, 1890–1975 (Frankfurt am Main, 1993) and So komm noch diese Stunde. Luthers Reformation aus Sicht der Siebenten-Tags-Adventisten (Lüneburg, 2016).

Iurii Zakhvataev

First Published: April 12, 2022

East Russian Union Mission is part of the Euro-Asia Division of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. East Russian Union Mission was organized in 1994. Its headquarters is in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Territory and Statistics

Territory: Portions of the Russian Federation east of the Ural Mountains, from Tyumen Region to Zabaykalsky Territory; comprising the Central Siberian, East Siberian, and West Siberian Missions.

Statistics (June 30, 2021): churches, 80; membership, 4,815; population, 23,205,089.
Address: Lesnaya Polyana Street, 46; 630534 Novosibirsk; Russian Federation.

Significant Dates

1901-1906–The territory of Ural inhabited by German colonists was included into the Southern Russian Conference of German Union.

1907-1908–The East Russian Mission comprising the Volga region, Ural, Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Central Asia, was organized.

1909-1910–Organization and activities of Siberian Mission.

1911-1913–Reorganization and activities of Siberian Union Mission.

1914-1917–Organization and activities of West Siberian, East Siberian, and Amur Missions, directly attached to the European Division, in the territory of Ural, Siberia, and the Russian Far East.

1917-1920–Organization and activities of Siberian Union Mission.

1920-1928–Organization and activities of Siberian Union.

1928-1934–Organization and activities of All-Siberian Regional Union.

1959-1970s–Organization and activities of Siberian Union.

1970s-1988-Organization and activities of West Siberian Conference, East Siberian Conference, and Far Eastern Field (Siberia, and the Russian Far East).

1989-1992–Organization and activities of Trans-Siberian Conference (Siberia, and the Russian Far East).

1992-1993–Organization and activities of West Siberian Conference (Siberia).

1994-2002–Organization and activities of East Russian Union Mission with headquarters in city Irkutsk (comprising West Siberian Conference, East Siberian Conference, and Far Eastern Conference).

2002-2005–Reorganization and activities of East Russian Union Mission with headquarters in city Novosibirsk (comprising West Siberian Mission, Central Siberian Mission, Yenisei Mission, and Baikal Mission, with Far Eastern Conference excluded from the union).

2005-Present–Reorganization and activities of East Russian Union Mission with headquarters in city Novosibirsk (comprising West Siberian Mission, Central Siberian Mission, and East Siberian Mission, with the churches of Yakutia attached to Far Eastern Mission).

Organizational History, 1906-1941

The Adventist message was brought to Siberia after the Russian Revolution of 1905 and passage of the law on religious freedom. Until then Adventist preachers, mainly ethnic Germans, proclaimed the gospel to German settlers in the Volga region, Southern Russia, Bessarabia, Caucasus, and Urals. The events of 1905 opened the door for an Adventist presence in other regions of the Russian Empire, thus allowing the church to serve the Russian-speaking population, in particular in Siberia.

It should be noted that since 1901 the territory of Ural was part of the Southern Russian Conference of the German Union. In the city of Orenburg, there was a sufficiently large community of Germans, among whom Adventist missionaries could carry out their work.

In 1906 the Southern Russian Conference was renamed East Russian Conference.

However, according to Heinrich Löbsack (1907), “given the rapid growth of God’s work, we discerned that the newly organized East Russian Conference and the Transcaucasia-Asia Mission cannot meet the goals to be sought.”1 As a result, it was decided to organize the Caucasus Conference, comprising North Caucasus and Transcaucasia and the East Russian Mission comprising the Volga region, Orenburg Governorate, Siberia, and Central Asia.

Among other churches, the church planted in the city Omsk in 1907 was merged into the East Russian Mission.

In 1908 the Adventist churches in the Russian Empire were included into a structurally independent denominational entity named the Russian Union Conference (RUC).

On January 1, 1909, the Siberian Mission, comprising the territories of Siberia and Ural, belonged to the East Russian Mission, was organized. In those days there were only 44 church members in this large area. The Siberian Mission was headed by Pastor Karl A. Reifschneider, who moved to the city of Omsk from Hungary. The church activity in Siberia was jointly guided by J. T. Böttcher (RUC president), K. A. Reifschneider, and G. Tittle. In 1909 an Adventist Church was planted in the city of Irkutsk.

K. A. Reifschneider served in Omsk for a short period of time. It did not take long before he was transferred to Caucasus to take over the leadership of the Caucasus Conference while Heinrich Löbsack, who had planted an Adventist Church in Omsk a couple of years before, took charge of the Siberian Mission.

In the fall of 1910 RUC President J. T. Böttcher made a visit to the Siberian Mission. Jointly with Heinrich Löbsack, he conducted a number of meetings in churches of the cities of Omsk, Tomsk, and Kondratovka (the latter now situated in Kazakhstan).

In late 1910, the European Division Committee arrived at a decision to merge Siberian Mission, Central Asia Mission, and East Russian Mission into Siberian Union Mission effective January 1, 1911. This newly organized union was headed by Gerhard P. Perk. Other responsible union officers were J. F. Ginter, Heinrich Löbsack, J. Ebel, and Epifan Gnedin. The Siberian Union Mission included, first of all, West Siberian Mission, headquartered in Irkutsk, and East Siberian Mission, headquartered in Harbin.

The West Siberian Mission comprised the Uralsk, Turgai, Akmolinsk, Semipalatinsk, and Semirechensk Regions and Tomsk and Tobolsk Governorates. The East Siberian Mission comprised Yenisei and Irkutsk Governorates and territories of Yakutsk, Transbaikalia, and Amur catchment area, as well as the Russian Far East.

In addition to the above local missions, Siberian Union Mission also comprised Volga Field, Ural Field, and Turkestan Field. Orenburg, Samara, Kazan, Vyatka, and Perm Governorates and the city of Ufa were assigned to the Ural Mission.

The East Siberian Mission was headed by Epifan Gnedin, with the support of brethren A. Lyusenko and Aleksei Sitnikov. Heinrich Löbsack, supported by J. Jurikson, J. Sergeev, and K. K. Dyuk, was in charge of the West Siberian Mission. The Ural Mission was directed by J. F. Ginter, with the assistance of Jakob Wuckert, G. K. Lehmann, and Heinrich Göbel.

At the beginning of the year 1911, the vast territory of the Siberian Union Mission was served by “12 preachers, including 7 elected preachers, 1 traveling preacher, and 4 Bible workers.”2 As of April 1, 1911, there were 38 churches and companies with 837 members in the Siberian Union Mission. In 1911 the Turkestan Field was detached from the Siberian Union Mission and became a separate church administrative unit.

However, the Siberian Union Mission was reorganized once again in late 1913. The existing denominational structure was found, according to Heinrich Löbsack, “unpractical.”3 Therefore, from January 1, 1914, West Siberian Mission, East Siberian Mission, and a newly organized Amur Mission were regarded as separate mission fields directed by the Committee of European Division. At the local level the responsible officers were Heinrich Göbel (Amur Mission), Epifan Gnedin (East Siberian Mission), and Heinrich Löbsack (West Siberian Mission).

By the time of reorganization, there were 69 churches with 1,226 members in the East Siberian Mission. In 1913 alone 208 persons were baptized in Siberia.

The Russian Union Conference, established in 1908, was also reorganized from January 1, 1914, by dividing into the East Russian Union Conference (headed by О. Е. Reinke) and the West Russian Union Conference (headed by J. T. Böttcher). The latter was also a member of the European Division Committee, which took charge of denominational work in local missions of Siberia and the Russian Far East.

In August 1917 the churches in Siberia and the Russian Far East were again united into the Siberian Union Mission that was comprised of Amur, East Siberian, and West Siberian Missions. The Siberian Union Mission was headed by О. Е. Reinke.

Following the difficult period of the First World War, the October Revolution (1917), and the Civil War, the Adventist Church had to restore its organizational structure. In May 1920 the church representatives, who assembled in Moscow, voted for reorganization of the Adventist Church in the territory of Soviet Russia. Siberia and the Russian Far East were united into the Siberian Union headed by J. J. Wilson.

In late 1922 until early 1923, the secret police of the USSR (GPU) took large-scale reprisals in some governorates aimed at the liquidation of evangelistic churches. In Siberia this led to suppression of any activities of all evangelistic denominations.

Pursuant to the Order #00447 of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs of the USSR (NKVD) as of July 30, 1937, “sectarians, who were among the main instigators of all sorts of anti-Soviet and sabotage operations, shall be wiped out.” This order marked the beginning of the most massive so called “anti-Kulak” operation for “eradication of the last non-Socialist elements and potential rebel groups in the event of the war.” Reprisals were also spearheaded against “the most active sectarians and clergymen” who had been already held in prisons, concentration camps, and labor colonies. According to the NKVD statistics report for 1937 to1938, a total of 50,769 (37,331 in 1937 and, respectively, 13,438 in 1938) “clergymen and sectarians” across the USSR were subject to repression in line with the Order #00447.4

In 1923 J. J. Wilson, the head of the Siberian Union, was arrested, and Pastor Gustav Zierath became his successor.

On August 16 to 23, 1924, the 5th All-Union Session of Seventh-day Adventists was held in Moscow. The delegates to that session made a resolution on renaming the All-Union Council of Seventh-day Adventists (ACSDA) as the All-Union Federation of Seventh-day Adventists. Extra to that, the existing unions were renamed as Regional Unions. It was also decided to make a territorial adjustment of the Siberian (Regional) Union, which would include not only territory of Siberia, but also northern Kyrgyzstan, Transbaikalia, and Yakutia.5 The office of the president of the Siberian Regional Union was held by B. H. Schmidt.

The 6th All-Union Session of Seventh-day Adventists (1928) voted for dividing the ACSDA into four regional entities: North-Eastern Regional Union, All-Siberian Regional Union, South-Eastern Regional Union, and All-Ukrainian Union. All-Siberian Regional Union was headquartered in Novosibirsk and chaired by B. H. Schmidt.6 The churches in the Far East and Transbaikalia were cared for by G. A. Raus.

The All-Siberian Regional Union was comprised of the West Siberian Conference, Central Siberian Conference, Irtysh Conference, Omsk Mission Field, North Siberian Mission Field, and East Siberian Mission Field.7

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 Adventist Church in the USSR, was dissolved.

“In 1930, after re-registration of Adventist congregations in the USSR, there were only 203 local churches vs. more than six hundred some years ago. The wave of mass arrests of church leaders and lay members was initiated by Soviet authorities. By the late 1930s, virtually all participants in the plenary meeting of the ACSDA, held in Moscow in 1931, were arrested.”8

From September 1, 1934, G. A. Raus discharged a function of the ACSDA Commissioner for the Far East and Primorsky Region.9

During the 1930s great many Seventh-day Adventists faced reprisals. In most of the churches, their members were executed or sent to concentration camps. Some churches ceased to exist or lost a lot of members and were forced to conduct worship services illegally.

Organizational History, 1945-1980

After the Second World War, the head of the Adventist Church in the USSR, G. A. Grigoriev, endeavored best efforts to restore church activities. Beyond that he had to register existing Adventist churches, as required by law. The unregistered churches were faced with many difficulties and problems. For example, they could not be visited by ministers who were officially registered with the USSR Council on Religious Affairs.

Pastor Yu. A. Danielson served in a wide geographic area of Siberia and the Far East up to 1959, when he became 73 years of age. Ethnic Germans were served by Brother Venslav. Besides, the territory of Siberia was served by Pastors S. Ya. Orel, P. G. Silman (who had worked there from the 1930s), and P. Sudarev (East Siberia). The largest Adventist congregation, with 34 members, was located 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.

From 1959 to 1961 the church organization in Siberia was guided by P. A. Matsanov. Due to his initiative and as requested by Yu. A. Danielson, Pastors M. S. Zozulin, N. M. Ignatov, and V. I. Kucheryavenko were invited to serve in Siberia. Initially, P. A. Matsanov served in Novosibirsk and then, under the pressure of authorities, had to leave for Tomsk and, finally, in 1961, moved to Belgorod.

From 1959 to 1964, M. S. Zozulin served in Kemerovo and Novosibirsk, and between 1965 and 1981 he was in charge of the denominational work in the entire territory of Siberia. Afterwards he described the beginning of his ministry as follows: “In 1959 a group of five Adventist ministers from Caucasus were called by Yu. A. Danielson (who guided the missionary work in Siberia at that time), in consultation with the ACSDA chair S. P. Kulyzhskiy, to serve in Siberia and the Far East. Primarily, their work was concentrated in Omsk (G. D. Vorokhov), Novosibirsk (P. A. Matsanov), Kemerovo (M. S. and A. I. Zozulins), Khabarovsk (N. M. Ignatov), and Vladivostok (V. I. Kucheryavenko). In large cities of Siberia and the Far East they could find some isolated Adventist members and companies...who were known exclusively to the only one active Adventist minister, 73-year-old Pastor Yu. A. Danielson, who was always invited to different places for encouragement of members and officiating at baptisms, communion services, and other ceremonies.”10

V. I. Kucheryavenko served in the Far East between 1959 and 1969. From 1959 to 1973, N. M. Ignatov served in Khabarovsk and Irkutsk as the head of the East Siberian Field.11

In these and the following years, the pastoral service in Siberia was also performed by S. S. Dubniak, L. V. Zaitsev, K. А. Grenz, Е. А. Kozyarevskiy, F. F. Trikur, V. А. Krasilnikov, Yu. V. Moritz, N. G. Larchenkov, S.Ya. Orel, М. М. Murga, V. D. Grenz (in 1981-1984 he was responsible for the work in Western Siberia), L. D. Reband (in 1973-1976 he took care of the work in the Southern Siberian Field, and headed the Far Eastern Conference in 1976-1984), P. P. Shakhmatov (senior pastor for the Far East in 1969-1974, and the head of the Adventist Church in Western Siberia in 1974-1978), and N. S. Shirokov (the head of the East Siberian Field in 1978-1983, and senior pastor for Eastern Siberia and the Far East in 1983-1990).

Along with the brethren, our sisters served the church in Siberia in these tough times. They also had to experience all the difficulties of outreach ministry. Arta Danielson served in Krasnoyarsk, Tamara Smirnova in Abakan, Olga Smirnova in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Raisa Prilutskaya and Olga Zhukova (Murga) in Novosibirsk and Berdsk.

In 1963 the leaders and members of Adventist congregations in Irkutsk, Brothers A. V. Ptitsyn, M. V. Belyakov, V. L. Zakharyants, and A. P. Nizovtsev faced criminal prosecution. These brethren were accused of “being members and participating in activities of an illegal sect of Seventh-day Adventists in the city of Irkutsk over a number of years.”12 Each of them was sentenced to five years of hard labor for printing and distribution of religious literature, propaganda of Sabbath keeping among workers, and conducting of meetings in the presence of children.

Organizational History, 1981-2021

In 1981 the Western Siberian District, headquartered in Novosibirsk, as well as Eastern Siberian and Far Eastern Districts, headquartered in Irkutsk, were organized in the territory of Siberia and the Far East. Pastor D. A. Grenz was appointed as a senior pastor for Western Siberia, where there were at that time 12 Adventist churches with 890 members. A senior pastor for Eastern Siberia and the Far East where there were at that time 18 Adventist churches with 690 members, was N. S. Shirokov.

In 1988 the delegates of the constituency meeting in Khabarovsk voted for organizing the Trans-Siberian Conference comprising all church organizations and congregations in Siberia and the Far East. The officers of the Trans-Siberian Conference were elected as N. N. Kislyi (president), Ya. P. Kulakov (secretary), and I. F. Tomaily (treasurer).

In 1989 it was decided to move the headquarters of the Eastern Siberian and Far Eastern Districts from Irkutsk to Ussuriysk. By that time there were 17 Adventist churches with 766 members inside those districts. The Western Siberian District united 12 Adventist churches with 874 members.

In 1990 all Adventist churches in the USSR were included in the Euro-Asia Division. Adventists living in Siberia and the Far East were united in the Trans-Siberian Conference that was a part of the Russian Union Conference. Meanwhile, the church organization in the territory of the Trans-Siberian Conference was made up of 39 churches with 3,703 members.

From 1992 to 1993 churches in Siberia were subordinated to the West Siberian Conference and Far Eastern Conference. The East Russian Union Mission (ERUM) was organized in 1994.

A decade later the ERUM membership increased from 4,000 to 16,000. The rapid growth of church organization necessitated employment of more pastors, and the acquisition of new chapels became a strategic task for new congregations. By the year 2020 most churches possessed their own chapels. That time was especially successful for the evangelistic ministry.

The subsequent years saw the efforts to secure stable development of church entities and local churches. As a result of several reorganizations, the churches of the Russian Far East were included in a newly organized Far Eastern Union of Churches.

As of the beginning of 2021, there were 82 local churches with 5,008 members in ERUM.

Executive Officers in Siberia and the Far East Before Organization of ERUM

1908 to 1909–K. A. Reifschneider, chair of the Siberian Mission

1909 to 1910–L. R. Conradi, chair of the Siberian Mission

1911-1913–Gerhard P. Perk, chair of the Siberian Union Mission

1914-1917–the denominational work in Siberia and the Russian Far East was guided by the European Division Committee.

Local leaders:

1914-1917–Heinrich Göbel, Amur Mission

1914-1917–Epifan Gnedin, East Siberian Mission

1914-1917–Heinrich Löbsack, West Siberian Mission

1918-1920–О. Е. Reinke, chair of Siberian Union Mission

1920-1923–J. J. Wilson, chair of Siberian Union Mission

1923 to1924–Gustav Zierath, head of Siberian Union Mission after the arrest of J. J. Wilson

1925-1928–B. H. Schmidt, head of the Siberian Regional Union, and later head of the All-Siberian

Regional Union

1928-1934–G. A. Raus, chair of the Far Eastern Union

1934-1959–Yu. A. Danielson, S. Ya. Orel, P. G. Silman, and Brother Venslav unofficially served the territory of Siberia

1959-1961–P. A. Matsanov, leader of Adventist work in Siberia

1965-1981–M. S. Zozulin, leader of Adventist work in Siberia

1981-1988–V. D. Grenz, senior pastor for Western Siberia

1981-1988–N. S. Shirokov, senior pastor for Eastern Siberia and the Far East

ERUM Presidents

I. A. Gumenyuk (1994-1996); I. F. Khiminets (1996-2002); V. A. Kozakov (2002-2012); B. G. Protasevich (2012 to 2013); Zh. P. Taranyuk (2013-2021); M. I. Ostrovsky (2021-resent).

Sources

Bondar, S. D. “Adventizm Sed’mogo Dnia.” Azbuka Very Web Portal. Accessed May 23, 2021. https://azbyka.ru/otechnik/sekty/adventizm-7-go-dnja/.

Junge, M., Buchnevich, B. Stalinizm v sovetskoy provintsii. Moscow: Russian Political Encyclopedia, 2009.

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

Maslina (December 1907): 7-12.

“Russian Union Conference (1907-1922).” Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. Accessed May 23, 2021. http://adventiststatistics.org/view_Summary.asp?FieldInstID=7966&HistoricalSubs=1.

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

Teppone, V. V. Iz istorii Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii. Kaliningrad: Yantarnyy Skaz, 1993.

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

Zaitsev, E. V. Istoriya Tserkvi ASD. Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2008.

Notes

  1. Heinrich Löbsack, Velikoye Adventistskoye dvizheniye i Adventisty Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (Rostov-na-Donu: Altair, 2006), 240.

  2. S.D. Bondar’, “Adventizm Sed’mogo Dnia,” Azbuka Very Web Portal, p. 34, accessed May 23, 2021, https://azbyka.ru/otechnik/sekty/adventizm-7-go-dnja/.

  3. Heinrich Löbsack, Velikoye Adventistskoye dvizheniye i Adventisty Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (Rostov-na-Donu: Altair, 2006), 283.

  4. M. Junge, B. Buchnevich, Stalinizm v sovetskoy provintsii (Moscow: Russian Political Encyclopedia, 2009), 309-312.

  5. D. O. Yunak, Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (1886-2000) (v dvukh tomakh) (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2002), vol. 1, 194.

  6. V. V. Teppone, Iz istorii Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (Kaliningrad: Yantarnyy Skaz, 1993), 97.

  7. D. O. Yunak, Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (1886-2000) (v dvukh tomakh) (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2002), vol. 1, 210.

  8. E. V. Zaitsev, Istoriya Tserkvi ASD (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2008), 433-436.

  9. V.V. Teppone, Iz istorii Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (Kaliningrad: Yantarnyy Skaz, 1993), 110.

  10. D. O. Yunak, Istoriya Tserkvi Adventistov Sed’mogo Dnia v Rossii (1886-2000) (v dvukh tomakh) (Zaokskiy: Istochnik Zhizni, 2002), vol. 1, 396.

  11. Ibid., 384.

  12. Ibid., 413.

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Novoselov, Alexey A., Daniel Heinz, Iurii Zakhvataev. "East Russian Union Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 12, 2022. Accessed May 25, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GD8W.

Novoselov, Alexey A., Daniel Heinz, Iurii Zakhvataev. "East Russian Union Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 12, 2022. Date of access May 25, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GD8W.

Novoselov, Alexey A., Daniel Heinz, Iurii Zakhvataev (2022, April 12). East Russian Union Mission. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 25, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GD8W.