East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 9, No. 3, Summer 2001, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Russia and Lithuania on the Mend

Mark Elliott

Contrary to Jeffrey Tayler's recent doomsday account of post-Soviet demise ("Russia Is Finished," Atlantic Monthly 287 [May 2001], 35-52), and Murray Feshbach's equally bleak article in this issue, Russia today actually shows encouraging signs of hope and renewal--for those willing to search. Without denying the accuracy of Tayler's and Feshbach's evidence for Russia's current "Time of Troubles," at least Christians in the former Soviet Union still have cause for hope, and work and pray with conviction for their country's economic and moral renewal.

Two Christian liberal arts programs, one in Moscow, Russia, and one in Klaipeda, Lithuania, underscore what can be done with faith and determination to take concrete steps toward moral transformation in post-Soviet times. Against formidable political, economic, and bureaucratic odds, both the Russian-American Christian University and Lithuanian Christian College have quickly proven their value by graduating students who can help transform their nations. Hard working, morally and spiritually grounded, and competent in computer skills and English, these graduates exude confidence and belie prophets of doom by insisting that their homelands are not finished. Snapshot portraits of two 2001 graduates of the Russian-American Christian University illustrate the case.

Anna Yakunina is the daughter of Fr. Gleb Yakunin, a well-known Soviet dissident who spent eight of Anna's childhood years in prison. An Orthodox priest, he was jailed for fighting for religious rights in Soviet Russia. Like her father, Anna recognizes the social ills that still bind her people--homelessness, drug addition, abuse, and orphaned children. She sees herself making a difference with Russian orphans. With her degree in social work, her goal is to help Russia develop successful adoption programs that will place more Russian children in responsible, loving homes.

Vladimir Sokolov is a 27-year-old business and economics graduate who has made extreme sacrifices to build a better life for himself and his family. The son of a military officer and a Russian Navy veteran, he has worked as a fitter for elevators, a Protestant pastor, and a Moscow street vendor just to feed his family. For years he dreamed of studying business at a university, but never imagined he would have such a chance. Then Vladimir learned of the Russian-American Christian University. Confident that this was his calling, but unable to make ends meet for his family and go to school, Vladimir's wife and daughter temporarily left Moscow to live with family while he completed his education. Now a RACU graduate, Vladimir is reunited with his family and works as an accountant for Sovintel, a Russian-American telecommunications company. He hopes someday to run his own business.

Mark Elliott, "Russia and Lithuania on the Mend," East-West Church & Ministry Report 9 (Summer 2001), 12.

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© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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