Expanding Evangelistic Culture in Post Perestroika Russia
Attempts to establish even the simplest protestant foothold in Russia in the years leading up to the 1917 revolution failed time and again, at least in the eyes of many who’d witnessed Salvation Army advances in other lands. And, the Russian advances received little mention in the annals where Swedish Salvation Army missionary aspirations are included. A three-volume release, Korsets Färger Bära, details the contributions made by The Salvation Army in Sweden. The book offers detailed accounts of 7 geographical mission fields where almost three hundred officers served including a list of more than a score of missionary martyrs. Whether by oversight or intent the absence of Russia from the list of missionary fields, and the many Swedish martyrs left behind, should be of concern to all seeking historic accuracy.
“No movement can know and fulfill its mission unless it has a clear understanding of its history. What convictions sparked its beginning? What were the fires in which its traditions were forged? What commitments kindled its passion and progress? That prophet of old challenges us with his dictum from the Lord:
Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to
the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn.
The Army’s Russian legacy, no matter how brief its presence, is very complex when one places it in context with the country’s own turbulent, volatile and unclear history during that period. The Russian mission field circumstances were unique to any conditions unfolding and experienced in other Salvation Army missionary expansion lands.
Documents summarizing Russian history are heavily guarded and secured in a fortress like storage facility on Moscow’s Bolshaya Pirogovskaya. They reveal that Russia began rewriting its history, its version of the past, forged by the new ideology brought about by the 1905 and 1917 revolutions right through the present.
Count Alexander Benckendorff wrote in the 1830s, on how Russia's history should be viewed and written: “Russia’s past was admirable, its present is more than magnificent and as for its future—it is beyond anything that the boldest mind can imagine.”