MOSCOW, USSR (EP) – Representatives of 30 Christian publishing companies, all of which belong to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), reported an unprecedented hunger for Bible commentaries, doctrinal and theological books and Bible study aids at the seventh annual Moscow International Book Fair.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev gave the opening address to the participants, saying that he hoped the event would “be instrumental in the further development of international book exchange, in upholding intellectual values and asserting the ideals of truth, justice, peace, and progress.”
“The Soviet people have a great hunger for spiritual literature,” said Peter Deyneka, Jr., president of the Slavic Gospel Association. “I was deeply moved by the spiritual hunger of the people who came to the fair,” he said. Soviet people came from as far away as Eastern Siberia and Soviet Asia to obtain Bibles and Christian books.
The Slavic Gospel Association had an exhibit at the fair, where Christian books were available, such as Loving God, The Apostle, The Everlasting Man, and The Magician’s Nephew, as well as an anthology of Russian Christian poetry. All of the books, even those just for display were gone within two hours of the start of the fair.
Doug Ross, executive director of the ECPA, said that he brought 10,000 New Testaments with him as a gift for the Soviet people. He said he was surprised at how high the demand was for the Bibles.
Ross expressed surprise at the interest that the media took in the Christian publishers at the fair. “We weren’t prepared for the tremendous outpouring of interest from the Soviet press,” he said, adding that he was interviewed for Soviet television.
Ross said that this year’s Moscow Book Fair was unique among other international book fairs because of the interest in Christian literature. At other fairs, he said, it is primarily a business interaction which takes place, but in Moscow the spiritual hunger of the Soviet people is “phenomenal.”
Kent Hill, director of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy, noted that the commotion caused by the free distribution of 10,000 New Testaments was the most popular event of the fair.
“This created quite a stir very early on during the fair when the ECPA opened to hand out New Testaments, Hill said. “A long line formed and the booth was absolutely jammed with people. It was the largest group of people at any booth for any publisher.”
Ironically, a booth manned by Madalyn Murray and her son and daughter, The American Association of Atheists, attracted little interest. “None of the Soviets wanted to talk to her,” observed Hill. “They wanted to go to the ECPA booth and get a New Testament.”
At the conclusion of the fair, it was announced that ECPA will be developing a strategy for printing in the U.S.S.R. Soviet authorities said that they would not interfere with the activities of Christian publishers and an unprecedented number of contracts were negotiated for the publishing of Christian literature by Soviet publishers.
In recent months there has been a sharp increase in the ability of independent publishers developing their own presses. Foreign publishers also noted a a measurable increase in the ability of presses in the Baltic States to publish Christian literature and cited contracts made with Estonian publishers for the production of literature for children.