Monday, March 11, 2019

Catacomb Church Continues to Exist in Russia and Suffer Persecution

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 10 – In Nevil Shute’s classic novel, A Town like Alice, the heroine explains that there is something worse than being a prisoner of war in a POW camp: it is being a prisoner of war but not being taken into a camp because none of the enemy wants to be responsible for housing and feeding such people.

            Something similar can be said about religious groups in the Russian Federation. It is bad enough to be a religious group other than the four “traditional” ones that operate in public but are routinely subjected to repression. It is worse to be part of one that from the outset operates underground.

            Some Christians do that because they do not want to have anything to do with official structures like the Moscow Patriarchate which they view as having been captured by the security services and other enemies of the church. Others do so because they believe that only by acting underground can they preserve the purity of their faith.

            Most people when they hear the term “catacomb church” think of Roman times when the imperial state sought to stamp out Christianity and Christians went underground, literally and figuratively to survive. Some who know Russian history know that a catacomb church came into existence with the appearance of the anti-religious Bolshevik regime.

            But few know that a catacomb church continues to exist in Russia and continues to be subject to the worst forms of persecution.  Because the church is underground, information about it is both scarce and often provided only by its opponents, including in the emigration, who have their own reasons for presenting a distorted picture.

            Consequently, the number of people involved, the structures of their community, and their beliefs remain uncertain.  Now, fortunately, more is coming to be known first and foremost about the catacomb church in Soviet times and also about its activities and persecution since the collapse of Soviet power.

            The full text of a book entitled Russia’s Catacomb Saints that was issued in the West in a small print run in 1982 and republished in 2017 is now available online ( russia’s cataacomb saints). It has now been published in Russian (

            Its appearance is likely to spark more interest in and a greater number of reports about the catacomb church not only in Soviet times but more recently (  The best source of such information is a frequently-updated Facebook page devoted to the catacomb church (

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