20 Years

How long is 20 years? Long, if you’re talking about the age of your child, short if you are talking about the age of your country.

What about the time needed to turn an entire country around? Impossible?

Obviously not. Russia suffered under Communism for 70 years, from 1922 to December of 1981. You may or may not know that there were more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined. Of the approximately 70 million martyrs in history, 65% were in the 20th century. Russia contributed the majority of those. During those 70 years generations were born and died having never heard of the Orthodox faith. They were indoctrinated with atheism as the state religion. The population of priests fell to 200. Yes, 200 priests for all of Russia. 96,000 priests had been martyred, 600 bishops martyred. The list goes on and on.

What would that have been like? What would the typical 30 year old today feel about the Church? Until the age of 10 the Communists were in power. This person may or may not have been baptized, and if so, secretly (Putin was baptized secretly as a baby). This person’s parents would not remember the church unless it were passed down quietly from their parents who would scarcely remember it themselves or not at all. Generations lost. You would think that Russia would be a lost cause when no one alive could remember the Orthodox church before it came under persecution.

But what did Christ say? “The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.” God never loses. Christians have died by the millions for the glory of God, but evil will never triumph. The prayers of those tens of millions of Russian martyrs sustained the Church. The priests who celebrated baptisms and Liturgies secretly sustained the Church. Saintly grandmothers whispering stories from the lives of the saints, stories from the bible to their wide-eyed grandchildren sustained the Church.

Look at these statistics:

Number of open churches:
pre-Communism:  55,173 churches and 29,593 chapels
Communism:  <500 churches
current: 30,142 churches
Number of open monasteries:
pre-Communism: 1,025
Communism:  18
current: 788
Number of priests:
pre-Communism: 112,629 priests and deacons
Communism: 200 priests
current: 32,059 priests and deacons

 No, twenty years is not long. But amazing things have happened. Is everything perfect? Well, of course not – we have to wait for Heaven for perfection. But the Orthodox Church in Russia is alive and well despite unbelievable efforts to exterminate it. May it continue to grow.

Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia pray for us!!

2 thoughts on “20 Years

  1. Isn't that amazing! Thanks for posting those statistics. Today I was in a Serbian Orthodox church, and the priest commented that all of Russia was originally converted in one year (Serbia took about 200 years, as they're rather stubborn.) What a people are the Russian people, and what fierce lovers of God.

    If you haven't yet read it, Fr. Arseny's story is truly a revelation of God, and more than any other biography of a modern saint, it pops into my mind almost daily. He was, of course, one of the Orthodox priests imprisoned by the Soviets. Highly recommended.

    I was just recently thinking about how many Americans are aware of the Holocaust and its concentration camps, but are not equally aware of the gulags full of Orthodox clergy. What terrible things Europe saw in the 20th century. May the 21st century be less brutal.


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