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Friedensau: Groundbreaking Research On Soviet Adventist Martyrs

More than 4,000 Adventists among the victims

Germany | APD

For many years, Dr. Daniel Heinz, head of the European Archives of Seventh-day Adventist History at Friedensau Adventist University (Germany) has been investigating, with Russian-speaking graduate students such as Yurii Zakhvataiev and André Müller, the fate and death of oppressed and persecuted Adventist church members in the former Soviet Union.

The project was initiated in the early 1990s by Professor Tatjana Pavlova, from the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN, Moscow), a committed, Orthodox historian who, as a member of her working group, established contacts with the state authorities and archives to help Daniel Heinz in his research, Andrea Cramer writes in Our Friedensau, the university's newsletter.

The Difficult Work in the Russian Archives

“The work turns out to be difficult because the Russian state archives, especially the archives of the secret security services such as the FSB, the former KGB, still pursue a restrictive policy in the release of archival sources. However, through meticulous research in archives throughout the country, the Russian human rights organization ‘Memorial’ has now succeeded in compiling electronic lists of more than four million victims of Soviet repression. The number of people who were killed in the so-called 'purges' under Stalin after 1937 is estimated at 12.5 million,” Heinz stated.

Over 4,000 Adventists Among the Victims

The research team in Friedensau is trying to identify Adventist Gulag victims by comparing early membership lists of local Soviet Adventist congregations across the country, if they are still available, with the repression lists cited by “Memorial.” More than 4,000 Adventists, including young people not yet baptized, about a third of the total number of the Adventist membership in the former Soviet Union, lost their lives to oppression and persecution.

Andrea Cramer reports that Daniel Heinz himself has visited various archives in the former isolated Gulag areas of Siberia, Northern Russia, and Central Asia in order to collect firsthand information. The aim of this long-term research project is the creation of an Adventist martyrology that lists the names of the murdered and missing Adventist members, including many of Russian-German origin, thus drawing attention to their mostly unknown fate. Their story of suffering for their religious convictions, even if it can only be reconstructed fragmentarily and selectively, should not be lost for later generations. The erection of a plaque in memory of the Adventist martyrs at a suitable location is also under consideration.

Friedensau Graduates Were Also Among the Victims

A first step towards the creation of the martyrology was achieved through the German publication of the 2007 work of Dr. Hans-Christian Diedrich, Wohin sollen wir gehen…? Der Weg der Christen durch die sowjetische Religionsverfolgung (Where Should We Go…? The Path of the Christians Through Soviet Persecution), in which Daniel Heinz submitted, for the first time, some biographical notes of Adventist martyrs. The biographies were partially enlarged in a Russian book that he co-authored 2010 with A. A. Oparin, entitled Duši pod žertvennikom—Kniga pamjati (The Souls Under the Altar—Book of Memory). Former Friedensau graduates, such as Jakob Kraus, Jakob Reimer, and Amalia Löbsack, who all held important leadership positions in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, were also among the victims.