History of the Russia Novosibirsk Mission

U.S.S.R.: From 1917 to 1991

Associated Press


Revolution begins in February. Czar Nicholas abdicates in March. Bolsheviks take control in October.


Lenin establishes Soviet Republic of Russia and moves capital to Moscow from Petrograd (St. Petersburg). Nicholas and family executed.


Ukrainian and Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republics are established. Komintern, the Communist International, is created.


Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan proclaimed Soviet Socialist Republics.


1Oth Communist Party Congress creates one-party system. Georgia is forcibly absorbed into Soviet Union.


Joseph Stalin elected general secretary of Communist Party's central committee.


Lenin dies. Troika comprised of Stalin, and two others takes over, but Stalin manages to outmaneuver the others. The Uzbek, Turkmen and Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republics are formed.


Stalin orders collectivization of farmlands.


The Tadzhik republic admitted to the Soviet Union.


Stalin begins bloody purges to consolidate his power. Kirghizia admitted to Soviet Union as constituent republic.


Soviets invade Finland. Nazi Germany and Soviet Union sign non-aggression pact.


Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are annexed to Soviet Union as a result of a Soviet-German agreement.


Germany invades Soviet Union. Soviets switch to Allied side. About 27 million Soviets die in war.


World War Il ends. Soviets assert control over Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany.


Soviet Union is first foreign nation to recognize People's Republic of China led by Mao Tse-tung.


Stalin dies. Nikita Krushchev comes to power.


Khrushchev denounces Stalin; Chinese Communists accuse Soviets of Revisionism. Soviet tanks end uprising in Hungary.


Kremlin withdraws all 1,300 Soviet technicians assigned to China, heralding a split.


Khrushchev backs away from brink of war with the United States over arming Cuba with Soviet missiles.


Khrushchev is deposed and replaced by Leonid I. Brezhnev.


Soviets crush 'Prague Spring' uprising in Czechoslovakia.


Soviets invade Afghanistan to prop up Marxist government


Brezhnev dies, replaced by Yuri Andropov, former head of the KGB.


Andropov dies, replaced by Konstantin Chernenko.


Chernenko dies, Mikhail S. Gorbachev is elected general-secretary of Communist Party, which adopts his platform of "perestroika," or restructuring of the Soviet system.


Communist governments in eastern Europe fall after Gorbachev says he won't use force to save them. Soviet troops complete pullout from Afghanistan.


Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia declare independence. Boris Yeltsin is elected president of Russian Republic, which declares sovereignty. By year's end, all 15 Soviet republics declare some form of sovereignty and Gorbachev proposes a Union Treaty to retain a form of central control. Yeltsin and other radicals quit Party. Gorbachev purges several hard-line party members from Politburo.


Jan. 13. - Fourteen people are killed when Soviet tanks attack main television tower in Vilnius, Lithuania.

March 17. - Union Treaty is approved in nationwide referendum.

April 2. - Consumer goods prices increase, some by as much as 1,000 percent.

June 27. - Ukraine lawmakers reject Union Treaty.

July 26 .- Communist leaders overwhelmingly approve Gorbachev's new party platform, abandoning of Marxist dogma.

Aug. 18. - One day before Gorbachev plans to sign Union Treaty, hard-line Communist group tries to overthrow him.

Aug. 21. - Coup fails, Gorbachev returns to Moscow.

Aug. 22. - Lithuania outlaws Communist Party.

Aug. 24. - Gorbachev resigns as head of Communist Party and urges it be disbanded; Ukraine becomes seventh of 15 Soviet republics to declare itself independent.

Aug. 27. - Gorbachev appeals to 15 Soviet republics to preserve military and economic union; European Community recognizes independence of Baltic republics.

Aug. 29. - Soviet lawmakers suspend Communist Party activities nation-wide and freeze its bank accounts because of party's role in failed coup attempt; Russia and Ukraine bypass Kremlin to form military and economic ties.

Aug. 30. - Azerbaijan declares independence and begins to form its own army.

Aug. 31. - Uzbekistan and Kirgizia become ninth and 10th republics to declare independence.

Sept. 2. - Congress of People's Deputies approves plan to reduce Kremlin authority in the Soviet Union but retain a loose federation of states; United States formally recognizes Baltic republics.

Sept. 5. - Soviet lawmakers approve creation of interim government to usher in new confederation of sovereign states.

Sept. 6. - Soviet Union recognizes independence of Baltic states.

Oct. 1. - Twelve Soviet republics agree to new economic union to coordinate everything from communications to defense.

Oct. 18. - Gorbachev and presidents of eight Soviet republics sign a treaty to create economic union.

Nov. 16. - Yeltsin issues 10 decrees declaring Russian federation's control over Soviet money supply and trade in oil, gold, diamonds and foreign currency.

Nov. 22. - World's richest democracies defer $ 3.6 billion in debt payments, and eight of the 12 republics agree to repay entire Soviet debt, estimated at more than $100 billion.

Nov. 25. - Seven republics to endorse Union Treaty but promise to send it to their individual legislatures for consideration.

Dec. 3. - Gorbachev issues appeal to save Soviet Union, warning of 'possible warfare and catastrophe for all mankind.'

Dec. 4. - Supreme Soviet endorses Union Treaty; seven republics say they will sign.

Dec. 8. - Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia form a 'commonwealth' and declare Gorbachev's government and the Soviet Union dead.

Dec. 17. - Yeltsin and Gorbachev agree to dissolve Soviet Union and proclaim new commonwealth by new year.

Dec. 21. - Leaders of 11 sovereign republics meet in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, to sign commonwealth agreement. Georgia is only republic not to join the commonwealth.

Dec. 22. - European Community agrees to recognize the Russian republic as the successor to the Soviet Union.

Dec. 25. - Gorbachev formally resigns as president of the Soviet Union. U.S. extends recognition to Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, and Kirghizia.

Much, much more could be added to describe the events which lead up to the point that our missionaries were to be allowed to enter the former Soviet Union to proclaim the Gospel. Many people do not know, however, that we had been here before.

As early as 1843, Russia was considered a prospective mission field of the Church. Orson Hyde and George J. Adams were called to missions to St. Petersburg by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Church was barely a decade old at that time. Their mission was cut short by the Prophet's death a year later. Had they arrived in Russia, it would have become one of the very early foreign nations to be visited by missionaries of the Church.

In 1895, August Joel Hoglund, a native Swede, was sent to St. Petersburg, where he taught and baptized Johan M. Lindelof and his wife, Alma, in the River Neva. They were visited periodically by Church members.

In 1903, Elder Francis M. Lyman, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles - and at that time - President of the European Mission - came to St. Petersburg to dedicate the country to the preaching of the Gospel. A proclamation of the Czar establishing religious freedom throughout the region was the precipitating factor which made this dedication possible. Three days later, Elder Lyman visited Moscow and repeated the prayer that missionary work in Russia would soon begin.

Andre Anastasion joined the Church in 1917 and became instrumental in translating the Book of Mormon into the Russian language. In 1915, the first baptism was performed in Siberia in a lake near Vladivostok. There were two congregations which are now part of Russia - Königsberg and Kaliningrad. They had 438 members. And Tilsit, now Sovetsk, had 93 members by 1938.

After World War II, in 1959, the first visit from a Church representative took place. Elder Ezra Taft Benson, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, visited the Central Baptist Church in Moscow and delivered a message of peace and hope to a full congregation. In Osaka, Japan, Elder Hugh B. Brown, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles said, "Someday we will teach the Gospel to the Russians in their country. Some of you may be called to go to Russia on Missions."

The following article explains further the events leading up to the Church's presence in Russia:

BY KAHLILE MEHR - Ensign Magazine - December, 1995

SUMMER 1989.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's political doctrine of Glastnost, or 'openness,' is beginning to stir long-held hopes for change among the citizens of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Among these changes is the easing of restrictions against foreign travel.

Those changes combine to bring Valteri Rotsa from Tallinn in his native Estonia to visit relatives in Finland. While there, he encounters missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is baptized. Before Valteri returns home, President Steven Mecham of the Finland Helsinki Mission assures him that in due course he will visit Valteri in Estonia. Anticipating that day, Valteri wastes no time telling his friends and relatives of his new faith. At about the same time, Yuri, Liudmila, and Anna Terebenin, are baptized in Budapest, Hungary, while on vacation there. Upon their return home to St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad), they, too, tell their friends of the restored gospel.

Meanwhile, in Italy, eighteen-year-old Olga Smolyanova, from Moscow, is visiting friends. One of them is a Church member who introduces her to the missionaries. Soon after her baptism she returns home. As she crosses the border, she cries, anticipating an uncertain future in a land where the Church has no official presence. Yet she resolves that no matter what obstacle she encounters, she will not renounce her testimony."

From such small seeds, the gospel has taken root in Soviet soil. What follows is a chronology of the gospel's growth during its first year in the USSR.

August 1989.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and European Area President, Hans B. Rinnger, meet with the chairman of the Soviet Council on Religious Affairs to discuss the possibility of official recognition for the Church. They are told that recognition is possible if a minimum of twenty Soviet citizens living in the same political district petition for it. The challenge is to convert twenty people where it is not yet possible to preach.

September 1989.

Interested individuals begin to cross the border into Finland to join the Church. Some have heard of the gospel from friends, others from Church members in the Soviet Union on Church business.

This same month, President Dennis B. Neuenschwander, of the Austria Vienna East Mission, enters the Soviet Union on a fact-finding mission. President Neuenschwander speaks Russian. In St. Petersburg, he finds the Terebenin family firm in the gospel, with a growing circle of interested friends. He also visits Olga Smolyanova and members of the Church serving in the United States Embassy in Moscow. One of the embassy members is Dohn Thornton, and President Neuenschwandel counsels the group to begin holding meetings in Dohn's apartment so the Russians can worship with them. Olga is no longer alone.

Otober 1989.

The European mission presidents meet in Budapest, the first time in fifty-seven years that such a meeting can be held in eastern Europe. Elder Nelson and Elder Ringger tell presidents Neuenschwander and Mecham that it is time to move the work forward in the Soviet Union. They promise that this decision will be accompanied by unmistakable physical manifestations. The next month, the Berlin Wall comes down.

December 1989.

President Mecham appoints Jussi Kemppainen, a counselor in the mission presidency, to help Finnish members visiting the Soviet Union to share the gospel with groups waiting in Tallinn, St. Petersburg, and Vyborg. The first week of December, President Mecham himself visits St. Petersburg with his wife, Donna. In his hotel room, he convenes the first officially sanctioned sacrament meeting in Russia.

On December 8, Elder David Reagan and Elder Kevin Dexter become the first full-time proselyting missionaries to enter the Soviet Union. With them are President Kemppainen and President and Sister Mecham. They arrive in Tallinn, Estonia, fulfilling President Mecham's promise to Valteri Rotsa. They stay for the weekend, teach, and hold sabbath meetings.

On December 16, Elder Reagan and native Finnish missionary, Harri Aho, come to Tallinn. The next day they baptize four young Estonians in a hotel sauna. These four (Alari Allik, Jana Lass, Kristi Lass, and Eva Riesalu) become the first converts to be baptized in the republic of Estonia-and thus inside the Soviet Union.

January 1990.

On January 5, Elders Dexter and Aho baptize Jaanus Silla and Urmas Raavik. A year and a month later, Jaanus wlll be called to serve in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission. He will be the first missionary to leave the Soviet Union for service abroad.

In January, LDS missionaries enter the republic of Russia for the first time. They hold several large group discussions during the weekend. At the end of January, Elders Reagan and Dexter return to proselyte for two weeks.

February 1990.

Anton Skripko is baptized on February 3. He is the first to receive the ordinance in Russia since before the Revolution of 1917. At the end of February, missionaries hold a meeting for about thirty interested people in the local library at Vyborg. More missionaries return the next month and begin to assist in building the Vyborg Branch.

On the first Sunday in February, President Neuenschwander visits the branch in Moscow. It is the first service at which Russians outnumber the Americans. At the fast and testimony meeting, Galina Goncharova, not a Latter-day Saint, tells how her life has changed since hearing of the Church. She will later become the first to accept baptpsm in Moscow.

April 1990.

Elder Russell M. Nelson visits Estonia and Russia to assist in obtaining legal recognition for the Church. The groundwork has been laid by Presidents Mecham and Kemppainen, who have developed a friendship with the Estonian Minister of Religion, Ants Limmets. Mr. Limmets has promised to walk the needed papers through the government bureaucracy.

While in the U.S.S.R, Elder Nelson dedicates Estonia and Russia for missionary work. Estonia is dedicated at Laululava, a natural amphitheater that is the site of a national folk song festival held every five years. Some Estonians say the soul of their country resides there.

At St. Petersburg, Elder Nelson chooses to dedicate Russia at the Summer Garden, the site of a previous dedicatory prayer offered in 1903 by Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve. The garden is closed to them until the Spirit intervenes and a guard allows them in. That same day, Elder Nelson and President Mecham submit papers requesting official recognition for the Church in St. Petersburg. Soon after his visit, Estonia grants official recognition to the Church.

July 1990.

The Finland Helsinki East Mission is created. Gary L. Browning, a professor of Russian at Brigham Young University, is called as president. The mission consists of more than a hundred members in branches at Tallinn, Vyborg, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and a few other scattered locations.

September 1990.

Effective September 13, Russia extends official recognition to the St. Petersburg Branch.

October 1990.

On October 1, the Soviet parliament officially ends state persecution of organized religion by approving a law guaranteeing freedom of worship throughout the nation. During October, President Browning sends missionaries to labor in Moscow and Kiev, broadly extending the work throughout the Soviet Union. Only a year has passed since the European mission presidents' conference. The curtain is finally open for passage of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

The following information is taken from the Russia Novosibirsk Mission history:

October 1993.

In October of 1993, eight elders from the Russia Moscow Mission arrived in two Siberian cities to begin the work in that part of the CIS - Russia. Four missionaries, Elders Scott Stewart, Garth Quigley, Scott Dyer, & Michael Filmore went to Ekaterinburg, a city on the eastern side of the Ural mountains, which divide European and Asian Russia.

Elders Nathan Ringger, Nigel P. Miller, Adrian Anderson, & James Nichols arrived in Novosibirsk the following day. These elders knew nobody in these cities, which lie several hours by plane from Moscow. Theirs was the responsibility to locate places to live, meet the city authorities, find a place to meet for church, and to begin the great work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first person to join the Church in this part of the world was Larisa Khvorova, in Novosibirsk. She and her young son, Alexander, were baptized Christmas day, 1993. The work moved forward but slower than they had hoped. Ekaterinburg experienced its first baptism after the new year was ushered in.

On July 4, 1994, President Jerald C. and Sister Mona Sherwood arrived in Novosibirsk to Preside over the newly created Russia Novosibirsk Mission after having served one year as president of the Spain Bilbao Mission. They took up residence in the Hotel Sibir. There was no mission home to move into at that point. Both the mission home and the mission office were in various stages of 'remont' (remodeling) and were not ready for occupancy.

After lengthy slowdowns and delays, we were able to move into our office suite on or about July 20th. It was not until August 26th that the misison home became available.

Efforts to organize our religious associtations in Novosibirsk and Ekaterinburg were wrought with much frustration and delay. It was not until November of 1994 that we were granted such recognition in both cities. This was an important event since it allowed us to invite missionaries to both cities. It also allowed us the liberty to transfer missionaries between cities.

With the recognition of the religious associations, missionaries could begin to arrive in larger numbers. And did they ever! We soon had a mission where some 75% of the missionaries had been in Russia for six months or less. This occasioned some very interesting companionships. It was frequently the case that we had to assign missionaries to be trainers after only two months in Russia! However, despite the missionaries' lack of experience (or - perhaps because of it) our membership began to increase. Both cities saw much growth. Missionaries were arriving in such numbers that we had to form new units in both cities. It was too distracting to have too many missionaries in the groups. Forming new units also allowed new members to shoulder the responsibility of staffing the units. With those responsibilities, members grew in testimony and experience.

In July of 1995, the mission was divided with the formation of the Russia Ekaterinburg Mission. The new president was Viasheslav Ivanovich Efimov, a native of St. Petersburg. He had been baptized only six years before! There were others of similar stature already in the Church.

With the loss of Ekaterinburg new cities were opened to the work. Again, there was the dilemma of sending missionaries to places where there were no religious associations to invite them, officially, to the cities.

Omsk, a city that was once closed to outsiders because of its industrial potential to the Soviet Union, was chosen to be opened in May of 1995, just before the Ekaterinburg Mission was formed. Elders Kevin Wetzel and Kenneth Kilpatrick opened the missionary work in Omsk, a city of about 1,400,000 people. It is located 10 hours by overnight train west of Novosibirsk. It is a lovely place. The work there was slow at first. People were suspicious. But there are a number of wonderful stories about people who seemed to have been prepared and were waiting for the missionaries.

There were some tragic events which seemed designed by Satan himself to destroy the work. The efforts to stop the growth of the Church in Omsk are evidence that great things will happen in that city.

Krasnoyarsk, a city of about the same size and about 12 hours east of Novosibirsk by train, was our next goal. In July of 1995, Elder David Russell, the grandson of a Russian who once lived and worked in that city, and Elder Gregg Don Nelson, a brand new elder, opened the work there. As with Omsk, Krasnoyarsk was once a closed city. Again, people were suspicious. However, the work is moving forward there, as well.

Before long, there were eight groups of the Church in Novosibirsk, four of which were presided over by wonderful Russian men. There were also three groups each in Omsk and Krasnoyarsk.

On January 9, 1996, Presidents Dennis Neuenschwander and Charles Didier of the Europe East Area Presidency drove to the city of Barnaul with President Sherwood to assess the possibilities of opening that city to the teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The city made a very favorable impression on the party. Recommendation was made to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that the city be opened. Permission to do so was granted on February 9th. On March 7th, Elders B. Todd Simmons, Derek Hansen, Jarad Van Waggoner, and Brian R. Seader were driven to Barnaul to begin working there. Initially, they experienced great success. However, there were many problems with housing and registration with the police. On April 4, 1996, Elders Jonathan King and Michael Rimer joined the first four elders in Barnaul. On April 11th, these two were arrested by the police and ordered out of the city. The following day, Elders King and Rimer returned to Novosibirsk. They were followed a few days later by the first four. By April 18th, all six had been transferred to the Ekaterinburg Mission because of visa problems in Novosibirsk. It was a sad time in our mission. It was a great loss to us and a blessing to the Ekaterinburg Mission. This is an example of the pressure the FSB (formerly the KGB) can exert to get people removed from the city.

The work moved forward in spite of the difficulties presented by the Russian and local governments. We were forced to reduce the numbers of our missionaries. An agreement was struck with the Novosibirsk officials to reduce our number to 26 by August of 1996. This was made possible by those who were released as their misisons were completed. Very few were transferred to outer cities because there were not yet religious associations in Omsk and Krasnoyarsk. We wanted no further problems with the governments in those two cities.

At the beginning of July, excitement in the mission rose as the preparations were made for the arrival of President John Galbraith, his wife, Sister Carol Galbraith, and two of their ten children, Suzanne and Christopher. This was to be a difficult time for some members and missionaries. For the sweet Russian members, it was difficult because they had never seen the 'changing of the guard' in the Church. Some were very distressed and voiced this. This had been witnessed in Ekaterinburg with the formation of the Ekaterinurg Mission and the arrival of President and Sister Efimov. For President and Sister Sherwood, it was a difficult time. They had been witness to the formation of a mission and the baptisms of wonderful Russian people as the missionaries had worked so hard to spread the Word of the Lord in a place where few dared to believe it would ever be possible. JCS

Evidence of the progress of the Church can be seen by visiting other mission web sites of current missions in Russia, the Ukraine, and the Baltics. Click here to visit those sites. >