THE EXCHANGE RATE OF RUBLES FOR DOLLARS has skyrocketed from 30 rubles to the dollar at the time of the August 1991 coup to now over 500! An inflation rate of 2% a day has made it difficult for the average worker to buy enough bread, milk and meat to feed his family. The dollar, too, is losing value, but at a much lower rate. It is still possible for the Russian entrepreneur, if he has access to hard currency, to make profitable deals during the “lag time” just after the official exchange rates are raised and before the inflation rate has a chance to catch up to the raised value of the dollar.
Many people in the West are understandably concerned about making an investment in business or supporting a ministry in the former Soviet Union. Are the communist hardliners going to reassert themselves? Will the iron curtain be raised once again? When is Russia going to close up again? – These are some of the questions people ask.
The consensus of the young people in the former communist bloc say: “There is no way; the changes are irreversible. Communism is too unpopular, and the Democrats have too much support from the people to go back now.” Taken that these are the future leaders of this society, we can say that the long term changes are irreversible. In addition to this piece of evidence that communism is out for good, there have been several symbolic gestures on the parts former Soviet governments:
The endorsement on the ruble only one year ago proclaimed: “Legal Tender of the USSR.” Today the ruble reads: “Bank of Russia.” Even the ever-present bust portrait of Lenin has been removed from new 5000 ruble note.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine have declared complete independence from Moscow. Ukraine realigned their time zone to be one hour later than that of Moscow even though part of the country is on the same line of longitude. Ukraine, the Baltics and Belarus are now in the same time zone as the countries of eastern Europe. In essence, this gesture suggests that these nations consider themselves to be part of Europe and not of the Soviet bloc.
These nations display their own flag colors, have their own national anthems and have printed their own currency, (although inflation in the Ukraine has surpassed that of Russia).
Despite the symbolic gestures of freedom, life from a practical standpoint is getting worse for the common citizen. The average worker still makes between $20 – $30 a month. As government subsidies are lifted, the prices for commodities will inevitably come on line with prices in the West.
The time for Westerners take advantage of this situation is now. God himself has sovereignly created this setting so that Western Christians would be able to finance the evangelization of almost 300 million people.
The time of spiritual openness in the former Soviet Union is also short. While compared to the West there is a great hunger for Christian literature, in two or three years it will become more difficult to distribute a Christian publication among unconverted people. Two or three years ago, a Christian publication such as Predvestnik would have been a best-seller, but in a few years the novelty factor will will have all but disappeared.
The goal of a newly established Christian publishing house in Ukraine is to print and distribute at least 250,000 copies of Predvestnik in the next two years; and to translate and print 10 short paperback books (100-200 pages). In doing so, a network will be developed among Russian speaking people who will read Christian literature for many years to come. These people may be able to support the work of publishing in their own country if their economy improves. Then they will be able to support missionary efforts to surrounding nations such as the Muslim and Asian bloc.
The people in the former Soviet Union are still among the most spiritually open people in the world – especially the youth – but the time is short, we need to act in a more progressive manner to evangelize and disciple the people of the former Soviet Union through the printed word.
You may support the Russian language Forerunner and publishing books in the former Soviet Union by sending a tax-deductible donation to: The Forerunner, P.O. Box 1799, Gainesville, FL 32602