Thirty years ago today, the world received an immeasurably wonderful Christmas gift. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) came to an end as ignominiously as its beginning was bloody. As the hammer-and-sickle flag atop the Kremlin was lowered for the last time on Christmas Day 1991, more than 70 years of evil oppression ended, especially meaningful for Christians.
The comparison between God’s gift of Christ to an Old Testament world and the release of hundreds of millions of people from communist bondage is appropriate. Jesus bestowed freedom from sin through grace and the fall of the Kremlin’s Marxist-Leninist communism liberated the masses to live and worship as they chose.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist state, the newly found self-determination emerged in stark contrast to the conditions perpetrated by the tyrannical reign of Soviet and Warsaw Bloc communist persecutors. At a recent Heritage Foundation conference titled “Communism’s Dark Tyranny: The 30th Anniversary of the Collapse of the Soviet Union,” Alan Charles Kors, Ph.D., the Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, made this sobering statement: “The victims of communism were not the thousands of the inquisition; thousands of American lynchings; nor even by far the six million dead by Nazi extermination. The best scholarship yields numbers that the mind must struggle to comprehend.” Kors continued,
“Scores and scores and scores and scores of millions of individual bodies. Alexander Yakovlev, Gorbachev’s right-hand man in the final Politburo, examined the archives for the last soviet leader and came away a deeply changed and scarred man. He let us know that sixty million were slain in the Soviet Union alone.”
The hand of Soviet communism was particularly heavy on church members and the clergy. In his article “Why the Soviet attempt to stamp out religion failed,” written for The Guardian, Giles Fraser described the efforts to eliminate religion following the 1917 Russian revolution. Fraser explained: “In the years that followed, churches and monasteries were destroyed or turned into public toilets …Thousands of bishops, monks, and clergy were systematically murdered by security services.”
But the persecution of the church and believers was not just a phenomenon of Marxist-Leninist zealots. As Fraser wrote: “In Stalin’s purges of 1936 and 1937, tens of thousands of clergy were rounded up and shot. Under [Premier Nikita] Khrushchev, it became illegal to teach religion to your own children.” Nonetheless, the communist state’s unrelenting pressure on the religious institutions in many ways prompted the end of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, which started in the pews.
In The Guardian, Adrian Pabst chronicled the subdued uprisings that took place throughout the enchained Soviet bloc countries this way:
“Without Christianity, the cold war would not have ended peacefully. Across the East, churches and religious organizations brought together workers, students, and intellectuals. Under totalitarian rule, church services and religious festivals often provided the last bastion of freedom and resistance.”
The freedom given to the people of the USSR and its former satellite states has, in the past 30 years, turned the geopolitical world on its ear. The reunification of Germany into a single sovereign state became a reality. The Berlin Wall, a symbol of the divide between free and enslaved, was torn down. As the University of Luxembourg’s CVCE.eu research service put it, “Within three years, the Communist regimes collapsed, and individual nations gained freedom, initially in the USSR’s satellite countries and then within the Soviet Union itself.”
Is the world a perfect place since the malevolent presence of communism was purged from Russia and Eastern Europe? Arguably not. But the former Soviet satellite states are holding their own, some better than others. All those who had suffered under the yoke of tyranny can now live happier, freer, and more prosperous lives. Merry Christmas.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
~ Read more from Dave Patterson.