«Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations:
ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee» (Deut. 32:7).
These are one of the last words that Moses said to the people Israel before his ascension on mountain Nebo. But they have not lost their value until now. We will look for the history of the Russian Reformation, Protestantism and Adventism in ancient times belonging to Kiev Russia, then the Moscow Russia, then to the USSR and during the present time belonging to the countries, formed as a result of disintegration of the USSR.
Before speaking about the appearance and development of the Russian Reformation, it is necessary to touch on the origin of Christianity in Russia.
The history of Russia prior to Christianity is poorly studied, because the first historians wrote no earlier than in 11th centuries. And about events in the 9th and 10th centuries, except for few written Greek rolls, the only sources are oral national legends of dubious reliability since they were exposed to fiction and changes. Thus only with the arrival of Christianity did the Russian people receive strong bases for creation of the state and civil life.
The history testifies that Christianity arrived on the territory of Russia in 1st century at the time of the apostles. The first mention of it is found in Paul’s message to Colossians: “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:11). Listing those who are renewed in knowledge of the Christ, Apostle Paul mentions also Scythians, eastern Slavs who were living on the Northern Black Sea Coast, along the banks of the Dnieper River. Perhaps, it could mean that among Scythians of that time there were converts. Paul knew about Scythians as about a people, but was the Gospel known to Scythians? It is possible, since they conducted extensive trade with Greece and other countries. Most likely they had not accepted it, preferring the pagan religion, and, probably for this reason this huge ancient state and its people suddenly disappeared. The Goths, in the 3rd century crushed Scythia, and for a few centuries in these territories lived isolated Slavic, Turkic and other tribes which were united into Kiev Russ later.
The religion of Slavs consisted in adoration of nature, in worship of the sun, water, the sky, the earth, wind, trees and birds. Their religious notions were partly expressed in the form of idols. They did not have temples and priests; therefore their religion was not ubiquitous. Also Slavs did not have ideas about existence of life after death and trusted in magic.
Orthodox theologians claim Russian Christianity as a phenomenon more ancient, than it actually was. They relate to 1 century AD and connect with missionary activity in the Eastern Europe apostle Andrey Pervozvanny [the First called]. In Old Russian annals it is mentioned that apostle Andrey, the pupil of the Christ, travelling across the Dnieper in the middle of the 1st century, preached the Gospel to Scythians. He founded the first Christian communities on coast of Black sea and among northern Slavs along Dnieper.
However, concerning this testimony the opinions of church historians differ. Н. M. Karamzin, quoted in «Russian State Stories» concerning this story, observed: “However, knowing people doubt the truthfulness of this Andrey’s travel”.
The first list «The story of temporary years», the so-called Most ancient document of 1039, and also the Initial document of 1095 and «Reading about Boris and Gleb” by Nestor the Chronicler directly declare that apostles “did not go” to Russia and that in our lands they “did not visit”. But since 1116 Vladimir Monomah, the son of Vsevolod Jaroslavich, ordered to Sylvester, the abbot of the Vydubitsky monastery, to include «The story of temporary years» Russian variant of a legend about apostolic mission of Andrey Pervozvanny [the First called]. Since then stories about visits by the apostle of the land Russia were included in all subsequent annalistic copies.
This way a story about the travels of apostle Andrey from Crimea to Rome through Ladoga appeared. According to this version, having stopped on a lodging for the night on hills on which Kiev subsequently has been built, the apostle, according to the statement of the Chronicler, climbed the mountains, blest them and set up a cross there. Various medieval sources speak of sacred Andrey’s further travel to Novgorod where he erected the cross near the present village Gruzino on the bank of Volkhov River, to Ladoga Lake and to island Valaam where he supposedly established a stone cross and destroyed temples of the pagan gods Veles and Perun.
The truthfulness of apostle Andrey working in the territory of the future Russia was put under doubt even by some Orthodox Church historians. According to professor A.V.Kartashev by means spreading the legend about Andrey the Byzantine church was solving two problems:
1. To protect their independence from claims of Rome and to prove the equivalence to Rome (Andrey was the older brother of Apostle Peter);
2. To provide to itself whenever possible domination over all churches of the East. “Byzantium willingly supported legends about Apostle Andrey’s preaching in those countries where they existed (Armenia, Georgia) and even tried to impart similar legends in the northern countries (Moravia, Russia) on which its influence was spread”
Further in Russia Christian traditions began to develop. To Christianity the princely authority figures come also. The appearance of the first Christians among the higher feudal nobility and merchant class seems logical because of the following reasons:
1. In carrying out foreign policy feudal sovereigns usually entered into treaties with kings and princes of the nearby countries. When they were making treaties the big role was played by inter-dynastic marriages. Russian pagan princes and their sons had been stopped from marrying the princesses from the European houses, which accepted Christianity. During the 9th and 10th centuries there was a process of gradual Christianization in the countries the Central Europe, and Southern and Western Europe were Christian even earlier. So in the 10th century Russia was somewhat isolated from a number of the states of Europe.
2. Paganism complicated trade relations with the Christian countries. The Christian clergy related irreconcilably to the pagans. Russian feudal lords were interested in commercial relations with Christian states, in particular, with Byzantium, it was easier for Christian merchants to carry out commercial transactions with the partners from the Christian countries, than with pagan merchants. So the first Russian Christians were merchants.
Christianity even before being accepted officially deeply took root in Russia. For a long time paganism resisted Christianity, but gradually gave way.
For many of years the country was ruled by Princess Olga who has accepted Christianity. In annals of the beginning of 12th century “The story of temporary years”, it is said that in the summer of 959 Princess Olga visited Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium named by Russ as Tzargrad. There she accepted the Christian faith and was baptized. Having come back home, she wished to christen her son Svjatoslav, but he did not want to accept the “new” faith, being afraid to be mocked by his people. Vladimir, the grandson of Princess Olga, seeing the inability of pagan beliefs to unite isolated Slavic tribes and princedoms, decided to accept one of the primitive monotheistic religions.