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Christianity, not communism, now offering people hope in Moscow

 

Chris Sinclair/BP

A communist loyalist raises a communist flag at a rally, backdropped by a statue of Lenin outside the Lenin Museum in Red Square, Aug. 19. His small band of die-hards was commemorating the 15th anniversary of a failed coup designed to restore old-line communism.

MOSCOW (BP) — The sun shone bright and warm Aug. 19 as a martial anthem glorifying communism and the old Soviet Union echoed across Moscow’s Red Square.

The music, blaring from a dented, Soviet-era loudspeaker set up just outside the square, commemorated the 15th anniversary of a failed hardline coup attempt against reformist Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Tanks rolled through Moscow that August day in 1991, but hundreds of thousands of ordinary Russians flooded the streets to protest the coup. Key military units joined the people, the hardliners were arrested and the once-mighty Soviet Union, already crumbling, soon was history.

 

Christianity seeing new life

This year, a tiny group of aging communists gathered in front of the red-brick edifice of the Lenin Museum to mark the anniversary – and to bemoan the end of the Soviet empire. A few elderly true-believers held red flags bearing the communist hammer and sickle, while speakers called for the return of communism.

“Leninism! Stalinism! Death to capitalism!” they chanted at one point. Then they marched around the outside of Red Square, angrily complaining when the police refused to allow others to follow.

The event drew a few Russian TV crews and some curious onlookers, but most seemed more interested in the retro communist-era buttons and T-shirts for sale than any message the speakers shared. Mostly, onlookers ignored the small band of demonstrators.

Democracy may have a long way to go in Russia, but judging from the rally, Soviet-style communism seems as dead as Lenin, whose body still lies in a squat, black mausoleum on the square.

Chris Sinclair/BP

A Muscovite believer is baptized in the Moscow Canal. Her baptism came less than 24 hours after communist loyalists held a protest in Red Square, marking the 15th anniversary of a failed coup attempt against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Meanwhile, Christianity is seeing new life in the Russian capital, where it once was persecuted and nearly crushed.

A day after the communist rally commemorating the 15th anniversary, two women were baptized openly in the Moscow Canal – the first baptisms of a Baptist house church begun a year ago in the northern part of the city.

Worshipers gathered on the banks of the canal to watch and celebrate as the two were immersed in the chilly water. Afterward, the small congregation sang and took part in the Lord’s Supper.

One new believer, Anastasia, is 80 years old.

“I have dreamed of this day for 50 years,” she said.

She first heard the gospel in Germany when her family lived there, and she quietly sought Christ through Soviet times. Now she has found Him and is free to worship Him outwardly.

Another new believer, a woman in her 30s named Marina, emerged from the water with a luminous smile as her mother and daughter watched. She will never return to her old, hopeless way of life, she vowed.

“Two new believers in a city of more than 11 million people may seem insignificant,” commented the pastor who baptized the pair. “But Jesus Christ gave His life for these two.”