The status of religious minorities in the Russian state changed in 1905 with the issuance of the decree on religious tolerance. This softening in the state’s religious tolerance policy toward followers of protestant confessions opened new opportunities for the latter to spread the Gospel. There were region-specific peculiarities to Protestantism in different regions of Russia in each historical stage of its development. In the Tula Governorate of the beginning of the 20th century Protestant believers were represented by the Pashkovites, the Stundists, the Baptists and the evangelical Christians. The Decree on Religious Tolerance permitted an official change of confession as well as provided a considerably larger freedom in preaching the doctrine of such. Nonetheless every instance of apostasy by an Orthodox Church believer to any of the protestant confessions was recorded by the missionary department and accompanied with remonstrations from a priest or a diocesan missionary. During the period from 1905 through 1917 the Pashkovites were the most numerous community in the Tula Governorate. Although having material, social and spiritual support of Countess Gagarina they could not utilize their resources and opportunities to a full extent. Lack of clear development prospects as well as a loss of financial support after the Soviet regime came to power, terminated the Pashkovite activity. The evangelical Christians proved to be a more enduring denomination under different political regimes, as well as more financially independent and having a development strategy. Evangelical Christian communities painlessly absorbed the Pashkovites, the Stundists, and the Baptists as neither had significant doctrinal discrepancies. Growth of the evangelical Christian religious communities demonstrated propriety of the adopted action strategy for the given historical period and could be viewed as a lesson for the contemporary protestant believers.
Keywords: Russian Orthodox Church, diocesan missionary, Countess Gagarin, sectarianism, Protestants, Pashkovites, Stundists, Evangelical Christians, opportunities, Decree on Tolerance
About the author
Vyacheslav V. Bartov – Master of Theology, Senior Researcher at the Department of Theology and Christian History,