Russian History that Americans Must Learn

Mound covering one of the mass graves at Butovo.
Mound covering one of the mass graves at Butovo.

Marxism is anti-Christian at its very core.  Following the failure of Marxism to sweep Europe after World War I and the Russian Revolution, Marxist leadership concluded that Marxism could never dominate and flourish where Christian churches were strong.  Hence they have doubled down on undermining, uprooting, and destroying Christianity. The trend toward social Marxism versus the older more purely economic Marxism was thus born. In its strategic path to power, social Marxism undermines every aspect of a target culture, usually leading with control of the media and education establishments, and then government, but ultimately targeting all free speech and even free thought. The ultimate Marxist enemy is truth and especially the spiritual truth of Christianity and divine universal reality.

Marxists believe power is the only truth. Thus the Marxist party line is truth, because it is based on power.  There is thus no Marxist morality except power.  Marxist power and ideology are the only tests of right, wrong, or truth.  Although Marxists disdain truth and morality, they have a strange faith in historical progress.  Their strategy is to destroy societies and rebuild them on progressive Marxist foundations, only there are no foundations except power and control.  Their two most common tactics to create chaos and destruction are exploiting racial or ethnic competition and undermining a society’s sexual norms and morality, especially Christian based norms and reality. Recent American Marxist social justice is a severe distortion of Biblical social justice.

Sometime in 1984, when I was a member of the Raleigh Rotary Club that met in the Raleigh Women’s Club, we had a guest speaker, who was a local television reporter. I cannot remember her name, but she spoke on her recent trip to the Soviet Union. This was during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan and just before Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in the USSR.

American and Soviet relations had just begun to thaw in January 1984, and Reagan was later able to meet personally several times with Gorbachev on nuclear arms and missile control from 1985 to 1987. Gorbachev actually came to Washington in 1987. By 1990, Gorbachev had begun to lean toward democratic reforms, which was strongly opposed by Marxist-Leninist hard-line Communists, who tried to overthrow him in August 1991. The coup failed, and caused the Soviet Union to breakup. Democratic and free-enterprise oriented reformer Boris Yeltsin quickly emerged as Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet and was elected President of the Russian Federation in late 1991, serving until the end of 1999. He was succeeded by Vladimir Putin, who advocated the same reforms. Putin, running as an independent, received 76 percent of the vote in his 2018 re-election.  According to the Russian polling and analysis company Levada, Putin still had a 65 percent approval rating in April 2021, despite many Western journalists accusing him of trying to murder his political rival, Alexei Navalny, who has only a 19 percent approval rating and is not trusted by Russian voters. 

Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia
Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia

The young television reporter gave our Rotary Club some interesting insights into Soviet life and some remarkable unexpected insight into the state of Christianity in the Soviet Union in 1984.  Apparently, one of her English-speaking Russian guides recognized our young television reporter was a Christian and also recognized that she could be trusted.  She was taken on a secret side-trip to a Russian Bible study.  Arriving at a multi-story building, she was admitted after some security precautions to a room and introduced. Not many had bibles. Most carried with them small scraps of paper with hand-written Bible verses or chapters.  Owning a Bible or meeting at a Bible study could have serious economic, social, or legal consequences. Yet they were happy to share their faith and hospitality to a Christian vouched for by her known Christian guide.  I remember that Rotary talk better than the hundreds I have attended at four Rotary Clubs I have belonged to.  It also inspired me to pray for the Russian people and especially Russian Christians and the spiritual health of the Church in Russia.

Christianity was severely repressed in Russia from the time of Lenin beginning in 1917 to the death of Stalin in 1953, but the Communist Party was founded on strongly anti-Christian ideology and continued strong persecution of Christianity until the rise of Gorbachev, who began to show a softer attitude toward it at the same time his more liberal views of democratic and economic reforms emerged and outraged the hard-line Marxists. With the Communists out of power, Christianity began to bloom during the Yeltsin and Putin years. Putin has taken a benign interest in the Russian Orthodox Church, which had been persecuted with bloody determination under Stalin.

Most Americans are only beginning to realize the virulent antipathy of the American Left toward any form of orthodox or Biblical Christianity.  They are just beginning to see people lose jobs and businesses for expressing or practicing their Christian beliefs. Political Correctness was one of the obsessions of Lenin, but it began to blossom in the U.S. by 1990. Now cultural Marxism and its distorted unbiblical version of “social justice” have taken over much of our government, many large corporations, most of television media, and most of our educational institutions.  Stirring up racial and ethnic suspicions and hatred and advancing anti-Christian sexual liberation and perversities are standard Marxist strategies to create disorder. Their objective is to tear down society and build it back into a highly directed and tightly controlled society managed by social Marxist elites.

Church of the Resurrection
Church of the Resurrection

I believe it is important for Americans to know the extent to which Marxist inspired dictators have gone to persecute or eliminate Christianity. Americans may soon be facing greater and greater degrees of the same types of persecution.

In Rod Dreher’s 2020 book, Live Not by Lies, he relates the story of Alexander Ogorodnikov, a Russian Christian, who spent nine years in Soviet prisons and ministered to other prisoners there. He was finally released by Gorbachev at the request of Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

According to Dreher’s interview with Ogorodnikov, a guilt-ridden older prison guard had once come to him and expressed a desire to confess something that had haunted him for many years.

“When I was a young guard in a different prison, they would gather twenty or thirty priests who had been behind bars and took them outside. They rigged them up to a sled, so that they were pulling the sled. They had them pull the sled out into the forest. They made them run all day, until they brought them to a swamp. And then they put them into two rows, one behind the other. I was one of the guards who stood in the perimeter around the prisoners.”

“One of the KGB guys walked up to the first priest. He asked him very calmly and quietly, ‘Is there a God?’ The priest said yes. They shot him in the forehead in such a way that his brains covered the priest standing behind him. He calmly loaded his pistol, went to the next priest, and asked, Does God exist?” ‘Yes, he exists,’ said the second priest. “The KGB man shot the priest in the same way. We didn’t blind fold them. They saw everything that was about to happen.”

Fighting back his tears, Ogorodnikov told Dreher the end of the old guard’s story: 

“Not one of those priests denied Christ.”

In the far southern reaches of Moscow, there is a field called the Butovo Firing Range, which the NKVD (Secret Police) used for target practice during the Stalin regime. For 14 months during the height of Stalinist terror in 1937 and 1938, the MKVD executed 20,761 political dissidents there. Over one thousand of them were Russian Orthodox priests and bishops. Most of them were shot in the back of the head, a favorite Communist method of quick execution.

The Russian Orthodox Church was given charge over the field in 1995, and a small wooden chapel, a large stone church, and the whole Butovo Firing Range now commemorate the martyrs of Stalinist tyranny. There is a monument to the dead there, and on a long granite wall are written all their names and dates of death.  All Russia observes an annual national Day of Remembrance on October 30. At the Butovo Firing Range, on that day, the names of all the nearly 21,000 martyrs are read aloud. The Russian people want to remember them and with that remembrance also remember who the Russian people are and what they have been through.

According to a Pew Research Survey in 2017, 73 percent of Russian Federation adults now declare themselves to be Christian. The vast majority of these are Russian Orthodox. About 15 percent of Russians proclaim atheism or no religion. Another 10 percent are Muslim. Baptists and other evangelical churches have only about 2 percent but are very active in both Gospel outreach and social relief activities. According to a 2019 Pew Survey, American Christianity continues to decline, with only 65 percent now claiming to be Christian.

America is only one U.S. Senate vote from legislation that would end fair elections and establish a long nightmare of Christian persecution and totalitarian social Marxist folly and misrule.  

“My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge…”—Hosea 4:6

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