AMSTERDAM, Holland (NNI) – Since Christianity was first introduced to the Ukrainian people one thousand years ago, never have so many Bibles and New Testaments entered the Soviet Union as a whole as they have in 1988. Although the Bible is still not freely available in Soviet bookstores, there has been a marked change in attitudes toward Bible distribution both within the communist leadership and the Russian Orthodox hierarchy.
According to estimates by Soviet scholars the changes in import and postal regulations passed in 1988, which have allowed for the import of mail, could realistically bring an end to the severe Bible shortages reported by Baptists and Evangelical Christians.
If both these groups continue to receive Bibles and New Testaments at the 1988 rate of several hundred thousand copies per year, it is estimated that within five years every adult Baptist and Evangelical Christian believer could feasibly have his or her own copy of the Bible.
No less meaningful is the historical aspect of the Russian Orthodox Church’s millenial year. Not only did Russian Orthodox believers celebrate one thousand years of Christianity in 1988, but in this year the church printed or imported more Bibles than it has in any other twelve-month period. Government authorities granted permission to print 100,000 Bibles, import 150,000 copies of the Lopukhin Bible from Scandinavian donors, and to import a gift of one million New Testaments from a group of Western Christians headed up by Brother Andrew, president of the Dutch ministry Open Doors.
Another important development in 1988 was the significant drop in the number of known Christian prisoners, from 166 at the end of 1987 to 70 in December of 1988. Even more outstanding was the fact that the Union of Unregistered Baptists, for years the target of harsh religious persecution, reported that in December 1988 only eight members still remained in prison – down from 55 in 1987.