The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. (Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
God survived in Russia. Communism did not.
Communist governments don’t like religion. They are not even too fond of their own people. Death comes easily and frequently to their citizens.
The global communist body count is estimated to be over 149,469,000 citizens killed or starved to death by their own governments since 1918. That tally does not even include victims of war.
On paper, communism is supposed to be a utopia. An equal share and equal opportunity for everyone! The caveat is that the state has to be in control. People can’t be trusted and neither can God. Especially God. It’s a given that the Church will be persecuted under communism.
James McCachren, an English Instructor at Halifax Community College in North Carolina contacted me after reading my blog about Fatima as an antidote to relativism, which evolved from communism. He recommended a book with a chapter on miracle stories that occurred during the communist oppression in the Soviet Union (also known as Russia), which existed from 1922 to 1991 until it broke into a Commonwealth of Independent States.
The stories were included in the book Soviet Anti-Religious Campaigns and Persecutions by Dimitry Pospielovsky. With the increase in Christian persecution throughout the world, we can use a few inspirational stories that show who is really in charge.
Pospielovsky explains that one of the first efforts of the Soviet communist government was a decree to destroy shrines and public displays of relics. The media propaganda presented shrines as fraudulent, claiming the relics were nothing more than cotton, wool, hair, rotten bones, and dust. At the shrine of the relics of St. Sergius of Radonezh of the14th century, the monks of St. Sergius-Trinity Monastery documented that when the relics were exposed, there was a perfectly preserved body under decaying vestments.
An angry mob of believers outside the church pulled down a police commander from his horse along with another soldier who had lied to the crowd saying the relics had rotted away. There were other stories similar to this.
At some shrines, however, the bodies actually had decomposed. The Church was charged with duping people. At the trial of Bishop Alexi, the future patriarch of Russia, he stated that the Church did not teach that saints must be immune from decay. It simply happens at times.
Like a Fire
Reported manifestations of the supernatural had occurred in some families hostile to the Church where some members remained faithful. “The most common reports of miracles at that time concerned the sudden renovation of a family icon; an old darkened icon with a hardly discernible image, would suddenly, before the very eyes of the communist, begin to shine with fresh colors as if it had just been painted.” Conversions often resulted.
Leontii, a Kieve monk who later became a bishop during World War II, reported one of the most amazing stories that was witnessed by thousands. The Sretenskaia church at the Sennoi Marketplace had two gold-plated domes that had become tarnished and looked grey. One autumn evening, someone saw a burning brightness as if the church was on fire. A fire brigade was called in. It was no fire, however. Instead there was a sudden brightening of the domes.
The monk explained: “The light shone and moved in patches from place to place on the domes as if tongues of fire. By next morning, there was already a huge crowd in front of the church. The police were helpless. The news reached me by noon. I hopped on a tramway, but a long distance before the church, the tram had to stop because of the crowds.” He went the rest of the way on foot and watched the miracle for several hours. “The progression of the renovation of the gold plate continued for three days…. There arose a mood of unusual general religious euphoria in the city. It was a great moral boost for the believers and a catastrophe for the anti-religious propaganda.”
The government had members of the Academy of Sciences claim it was caused by a rare airwave containing a peculiar electric discharge. Yet, witness testimony noted that the gold-plated market billboards were not affected by any such airwave. Several months later the Soviets dynamited the church.
Blood Ran for Days
Bishop Leontii reported another widely known event in the village of Kalinov. A detachment of mounted police had been unable to disperse a large crowd outside a church. Frustrated, one of the retreating officers turned and shot at a nearby large crucifix made of metal. The bullet hit the collarbone and blood gushed forth. The crowd fell to their knees and began praying. The police officers took off.
In the following days, officers came twice to remove the crucifix but they said an inexplicable force would not let them get close. Articles in propaganda newspapers said it was just rusty water that had seeped out of the metal. But the blood ran from the crucifix for several days. People came in processions day and night.
At the very first opportunity, the Soviets destroyed the bleeding crucifix and all the adjacent crosses. Their account was that the priests duped the poor peasants. A government commission produced a report claiming the dark fluid coming out of the bullet hole was not blood.
The newspapers depicted pilgrims as drunkards and illiterate fools. One article claimed: “Allegedly the cross simply disappeared after the churchmen and other interested elements had made enough money from the pilgrims. The mass kissing of the crucifix was said to result in several thousand outbreaks of syphilis and mass robberies.”
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been an upsurge in affiliation with Orthodox Christianity in Russia. Between 1991 and 2008, the share of Russian adults identifying as Orthodox Christian rose from 31% to 72%, according to Pew Research Center.
God survived there. Communism did not.