College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


Benjamin Esswein


evangelical, Soviet Union, Soviet, Soviet evangelicals, Soviet youth, youth religion, Soviet religion, Russian Baptist, All Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, samizdat




Despite facing severe pressure from their secular surroundings, Soviet evangelical youth displayed resilience and creativity throughout the Soviet era, becoming key figures in the preservation and growth of the Russian Baptist church. Up until now, western scholars have largely ignored this story or treated it peripherally. This research seeks to address this gap by examining the experiences and impact of Soviet evangelical youth. Throughout the Soviet period, the content of the evangelical youth experience remained essentially unchanged, focusing on fellowship, service, and Bible teaching through preaching, singing, and poetry readings. The period from 1908 – 1929 became a foundational one for future evangelical youth, establishing both the themes of evangelical youth activity and state policy towards this activity. During World War II and the post-war period, evangelical youth navigated the challenges of pacifism, legal restrictions on youth baptism, and the 1961 split of the evangelical union. Engaging in the turmoil and opportunities of this period, many young believers joined the emerging underground evangelical movement, laying the foundations for youth engagement in the movement through samizdat. From 1970 – 1991, this underground movement became a primary force in the evangelism and religious education of youth, allowing evangelical youth to engage with Soviet society on an individual, local, and regional scale. The experiences of these youth laid the foundations for the post-Soviet evangelical church, shedding important light on the opportunities and challenges facing the Russian evangelical church today.

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