Russia, Jehovah's Witnesses, Persecution and Religious Freedom

By John Scott

The History of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia can be traced to 1891 or even as far back as 1887, when some literature of what was then known as the Bible Students found its way into Russia. In 1891, a former Russian seminarian had become a Bible Student, by the name of Semyon Kozlitsky. Mr. Kozlitsky preached boldly and without a trial Kozlitsky was arrested and exiled to Siberia. He continued preaching in Siberia until his death in 1935. Even from 1892 Jehovah's Witnesses commented on the oppressive attitude towards religion in Russia. This is a pattern continued until glasnost, and the religious freedom that emerged in Russia of the late 1980s and 1990s. Again, in 2009, Jehovah's Witnesses are struggling for freedom of worship in Russia. A look at the history of religion in Russia is therefore of interest to many, not only to Jehovah's Witnesses, but to politicians, members of other minority religious, and to social commentators.

In 1911, a couple from Germany, the Herkendells, who had become Bible Students, spent their honeymoon preaching throughout Russia to German speaking people, and they received a positive reception. A Polish Bible Student by the name of Dojczman was sent out to Russia shortly before World War I and spent months preaching there.

In 1917, the reign of the Russian czars ended after 370 years, and the new nation known as the USSR emerged. Interestingly, Vladimir Lenin, the first leader of the new republic stated concerning freedom of worship in Russia, "Everybody must be perfectly free, not only to profess whatever religion he pleases, but also to spread or change his religion. No official should have the right even to ask anyone about his religion: that is a matter for each person's conscience and no one has any right to interfere."

The new republic of the USSR was, however, an atheistic country, referring to religion as "the opium of the people." After Lenin died in 1924 the government intensified its attacks against religion. In 1926, the League of the Militant Godless was formed in the USSR, the goal of which was clearly indicated in the name, producing and distributing atheistic literature in that time period. Jehovah's Witnesses continued to grow from the 1920's until the 1940's. The Russian Orthodox Church formed an alliance with then leader Stalin, and it opened the way for more freedom for the Orthodox Church. Jehovah's Witnesses in the years of 1940-1945, from Ukraine, Moldova, and the Baltic republics were exiled to labor camps during WWII in the USSR, because they would not bear arms, while German Bible Students on the other side of the battle lines were in concentration camps, alongside the Jews. Thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses would spend years exiled in Siberia or in labor camps, where many died from overwork or starvation, until the 1980s when religious freedom began to take shape.

One Jehovah's Witnesses woman commented that their husbands "were spending most of their lives in prisons and camps. We women had to endure much: Every one of us was experiencing sleepless nights, surveillance and psychological pressure from the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB), loss of employment, and other trials. The authorities tried various means to make us deviate from the way of the truth. We had no doubt that Satan was using the situation to try to stop the Kingdom-preaching work. But Jehovah did not abandon his people."

Jehovah's Witnesses became a legal entity in Russia in 1992. 150,000 Jehovah's Witnesses are today active in Russia. What the future will hold for the present and future Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia is yet to be seen with efforts to again ban Jehovah's Witnesses there. Jehovah's Witnesses however, have demonstrated perseverance and resilience, and whether or not their work is legal in Russia, they will no doubt continue in, what they believe to be is, their God-assigned work, or preaching the message that Jesus started some 2,000 years ago. - 29931

About the Author:

Slovakia an Awesome Holiday Destination

By Isabella Olsen

Are you planning a trip to Europe? If so, here are five reasons why you should visit Slovakia before heading on to more popular destinations like France, Italy or Germany.


Most of those who visit Slovakia find themselves in the beautiful capital city of Bratislava, which alone has many attractions to offer for tourists. The most popular one is the imposing Bratislava Castle which dates back to the first century and offers breathtaking views of the city, particularly the Old Town, where you can also find the remarkable Gothic St. Martin's Cathedral, Mirbach Palace, the pink Primate's Palace, St. Michael's Tower and various other monuments. The city also has many green spaces and nearby forests that provide a sanctuary for relaxation, as well as excellent museums like the Slovak National Museum and National Gallery.

Aside from Bratislava, make sure you visit Banska Bystrica, too, which is just as beautiful, and other interesting cities like Kosice, Levoca, Trencin and Nitra, which have their own jewels for you to discover.

Tatra National Park

The Vysoke Tatry or High Tatras mountains are another of Slovakia's main attractions. Although this mountain range is divided between Slovakia and its neighbor, Poland, the highest peaks and best slopes can be found in Slovakia, which is why it is a popular recreation area. In summer, there are many trails for hiking and cycling, as well as opportunities for wildlife watching, while in winter, there are many great places for skiing, like Strbske pleso, Stary Smokovec and Tatranska Lomnica. Krivan is considered the most beautiful peak, offering amazing views, while lakes and waterfalls abound.

World Heritage Caves

Out of Slovakia's roughly 4,000 caves, only 14 may be open to the public, but each one is definitely worth visiting. Some of them have even been included in the list of World Heritage Sites, like the Ochtinska Cave, the largest aragonite cave in the world, the Dobsinska Ice Cave, the Domica Cave, the Gombasecka Cave and the Jasovska Cave, all of which have many chambers and halls full of remarkable rock formations. The Demanovska Liberty Cave, is the most popular, though, because of its colorful stalactites - in shades of red, orange, yellow and black - and stunning lakes.


Aside from natural wonders, Slovakia also boasts of man-made marvels, best exemplified in its romantic castles. The most popular castle in the country is the World Heritage Spis Castle, one of the largest castles in Central Europe and a favorite location for films with a fantasy or medieval setting, although the castles at Lupca, Trencin, Nitra, Cerveny Kamen, Orava and Bojnice are just as impressive. Some castles, like Hradok Castle, offer accommodations, too.

In contrast, you will also find many humble wooden churches when you visit Slovakia, particularly in the Svidnik province, which are just as worth seeing. One of the largest wooden structures in Central Europe can be found in the country, too - the Wooden Lutheran Church - while Podbiel has a collection of more than 70 well-preserved rustic houses. Although not entirely wooden, St. Jacob's Church in Levoca has the highest wooden altar in the world.

Arts and Crafts

The Slovaks are known for their creativity, which is evident in their folk handicrafts that make great souvenirs when you visit Slovakia. Consider buying a crpak (ornamented cup), fujara (folk woodwind instrument), valaska (a folk hatchet), kraslice (painted eggs), ceramics from Modra, or dolls in national costumes. Souvenir sets are also available. - 29931

About the Author:

Reveal The Beauty Of Unknown Part Of Slovakia - Region Spis And Town Levoca

By Jack Barber

It's not surprising that there has been a growing interest in the countries east of the European Union. Slovakia has really become a tourist destination, and there are a number of cities to visit. One of the most popular cities right now however is the town of Levoca.

Levoca has a relatively small population in that it is below 15,000. It is a historical area, and is almost like something you would see in a picture. It is 350 kilometers from Bratislava, and is the main part of so called the Gothic Route. There are also some national parks nearby, such as Slovak Paradise and High Tatras, which are great for tourists regardless of the time of year.

The town of Levoca itself has only been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June, 2009 - but visitors soon appreciate that this recognition was well deserved. Secure within the well-preserved town walls - 6 watch towers still remain as well as 3 of the ancient gateways - most of the buildings in the centre of the town still have their original walls dating back to the Middle Ages.

The town's major portal, the Kosice Gate, is directly behind both an ornate Baroque church and an eighteenth century monastery. The town square itself, which is a photographer's dream location, houses the--th century church of St Jakob, a Town Hall dating back in parts to the 15th century, several other impressively grand buildings and the symbolic and strange 'Cage of Shame'.

The Church of St Jakob is notable especially for its magnificent example of a Gothic wooden carved altar. Made by famous local craftsman Master Paul, this is the largest example of its kind in the world and, together with 10 other winged Gothic and Renaissance altars inside the church, makes an astonishing interior.

Another great site to see is the Cage of Shame. It is something that you will not soon forget, and it is a relic from the past-an unpleasant past as it may have been. It is a relic from the times when common criminals were subject to public humiliation.

Wherever you wander in this peaceful jewel of a town, you'll be walking through time, and you will soon come to understand why Levoca is such an important spiritual and social part of Slovakian heritage. It was here, after all, that the Slovakian National Anthem was first sung in the'th century.

There is a great hotel to stay at in the town, which is known as the Hotel U Leva. It is located in the town square, and is nearly impossible to miss. It is a beautiful sign of the classic era with all the modern amenities inside. In addition to that, there is also a great restaurant within.

Levoca is not a tourist 'hot spot' - indeed, for many people that will be part of its undoubted charm. What is certainly is, though, is a delightful treasure trove of Slovakian history, full of genuinely welcoming people. Go there yourself and discover Levoca, the hidden gem of Slovakia. - 29931

About the Author:

Sign Up for our Free Newsletter

Enter email address here