Communist aggression and the  Christian response 

Communist aggression and the  Christian response

Paul H. Popov



I would like to thank the History Department of NBU and the Evangeli- cal Theological Institute for this invitation to speak here today. It is such an  honour.

This is a special day in my life. It was on March 8, 1949, 70 years ago  today, that the Bulgarian communist government sentenced my dad, Dr.  Haralan Popov (1907–1988), to 15 years imprisonment. He was not alone
– 14 other Christian Protestant Pastors were also condemned with him as  spies and traitors.1

Why did the communist authorities persecute the Christian community? Here briefly, we will look at events and prominent individuals that

shaped the history of socialist ideology and see how militant communism  came to dominate half of the world’s population.

What methods did Western Christians use to help persecuted believers  living behind the Iron Curtain?

The Western Christian’s response to communist aggression has not  been academically documented and not widely studied; therefore, I think  it is prudent for me to also share some of my first-hand knowledge from  experiences in my life.



1 It took eight months of torture to bring Pastor Haralan I. Popov to confess that he was a  traitor and spy. After father’s prison sentence, my mother, the wife of a „spy“, was not permit- ted to work and therefore had tremendous difficulty to feed and provide for her two young  children. (Rhoda and me) Although my mother, Ruth, was a Swedish citizen, she was not  allowed to leave Bulgaria until December 1951.




A Brief Background of Historic Events Leading up  
to Militant Communism

Christian Revival in Europe 

During this time, as the European society experienced new secular

worldviews, Western industrial nations experienced many Christian reviv- als as several prominent evangelical preachers emerged: In England, John  Wesley (1703–1791) and Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892); in Russia, Vasili  Pashkov (1813–1902); in Sweden, Lars Levi Laestadius (1800–1861).2

These revivals began the much needed improvement of life among  the socially and economically disadvantaged people in European society.  Many at that time felt that the official Orthodox and Catholic Churches  were closely aligned and part of the privileged ruling class that oppressed  the poor.3

Christian Socialism

The first person to create the concept of „Christian socialism“, was the

German catholic theologian Franz von Baader (1765–1841). When Baader  was in Scotland and England he was deeply moved by what he called the  property-less, wage earners of the industrial proletariat.4

In early 1800, Wilhelm Weitling, a German Christian, published three  books. One best seller was the „Poor Sinner’s Gospel“, which portrayed Jesus  Christ as a revolutionary.5

The head of the Socialist Movement in Germany was Ferdinand Las- salle (1825–1864). Although Lassalle, himself, was not a religious socialist,  he promoted tolerance and respect for religious freedom. Under Lassalle’s  leadership, there was none of the bitter hostility toward Christianity that  later marked the Socialist Movement.

Lassalle had the intellectual capacity that matched the more radical  communist leaning individuals, but he died young only 39 years old. Had he

2 Many do not realize that in the year 1800, Sweden was the poorest country in Europe. It is a  common believe that the Christian revivals were a major contributor to the fact that Sweden  had the highest standard of living of all countries in Europe in the 1950s.

3 Lester DeCoster. Communism & Christian Faith, W. E. Erdmans Publ., Grand Rapids, MI.,  USA, 1956, pp. 54–55.

4 John C. Cort. Christian Socialism. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, USA, American Federation of  Labour, p. 184.

5 Ibid, p. 179, 190, 201.




lived another 20–30 years, we can only speculate what would have happened  to tolerance and religious freedom in the Socialist Movement.6

Another Christian socialist, Leonhard Ragaz (1868–1945), a Swiss  preacher, was the first to organize a religious socialist party, which disagreed  with the call for violence and revolution.7

Karl Marx (1818–1883)

Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany, where he grew up in a Jewish

home. When Karl was six years old, his parents became Christian and chose  to be baptized. During his teenage years, Karl was a confessing Christian.

Marx’s high school graduation certificate states:

„His knowledge of Christian faith and morals is fairly clear and 

well grounded. He knows also to some extent the history of the Christian  Church.”8

However, at the age of 18, Marx became bitter and passionately antire-


„I want to avenge myself against the One who rules above.”9
In his poem, Invocation of One in Despair, Marx wrote:

So a god has snatched from me my all

In the curse and rack of destiny.

All his worlds are gone beyond recall!

Nothing but revenge is left to me!

Marx wrote about ruining the world and spoke of humankind as „human  trash“. In another poem, he wrote:

Then I will be able to walk triumphantly, LIKE A GOD,
through the ruins of their kingdom.

Every word of mine is fire and action.

My breast is equal to that of the Creator.10

Why did Marx want the power to destroy „their Kingdom?”

6 Ibid, p. 190.
7 Ibid, p. 201.
8 Richard Wurmbrand. Marx and Satan. Crossway Books, Westchester, IL, USA, 1986, p. 11.

9 Ibid, p. 12.
10 Ibid, p. 13.



Maybe we can find an explanation in the drama, Oulanem, which Marx  wrote during his student years.

The title, Oulanem, that Marx chose is an inversion of a holy name; it is  an anagram of Emanuel, the Biblical name of Jesus in Hebrew, „God with us.”

Here Marx is referring to the Bible, which he knew well.

„The devil will be bound by an angel and cast into the bottomless pit.“

(Abyssos in Greek; Rev. 20:3)

In his dark drama, Oulanem, Marx reveals that his desire aligns with that

which the devil desires, to consign the entire human race to damnation. All  of Marx’s aspirations became Satanic, corrupt and doomed.11

As a student, his friends called him „The Destroyer.”

In a letter to his father in 1837, Marx wrote:

„My holy of holies was rent asunder and new gods had to be installed.“ 

To which his father replied:

„Only if your heart remains pure and beats humanly, and if no demons 

are able to alienate your heart…only then will I be happy.”

There was a reason why his father expressed the fear of demonic in-

fluence upon his son. Many of Karl Marx’s friends were active in satanic  circles. How deeply he was involved in occult practices is not revealed in the  documents so far; many documents have still not been made public from the  archives at the Marx Engels Institute in Moscow.

We do, however, know many of his anti-God slogans:

„I hate all gods.“ „Communism starts…where atheism begins.“ etc.

Here, we may find an explanation of why socialism took a radical, sharp

turn from a gradual, peaceful movement to violent socialism of a different  kind – militant socialism.

Marx’s view of dictatorship-violence

In his book, Dictatorship of the Proletariat (1852), Marx wrote:

„The working class will through revolt become the suffering saviour.“ 
„All action that propels the socialistic society foreword towards imple-

menting the classless society is ethical and moral.“ 

Marx believed that the goal of a future classless paradise was so impor-

tant that violence and dictatorship, however distasteful, is better than the  capitalist oppressive alternative.

11 Ibid, pp. 18–19.




Communist League

The militant socialists met secretly and in 1947 formed the first Com-

munist Party.

Marx, with his financial supporter, Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) drew

up, „The Communist Manifesto“ in 1948.

Maybe the reason why the militant version of socialism won over Chris-

tian socialism can be best understood in a quote by Bakunin, one of Marx’s  most intimate colleagues:

„One has to worship Marx in order to be loved by him. One has to at least  fear him in order to be tolerated by him. Marx is extremely proud, up to  dirt and madness.”12

Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924)

Upon entering Kazan University in August 1887, he joined Nikolai Fe-

doseev’s revolutionary circle, through which he discovered in Karl Marx’s  1867 book Capital (Das Kapital). This sparked his interest in Marxism, a  socio-political theory that argued that society developed in stages, that this  development resulted from class struggle, class struggle, and that capitalist  society would ultimately give way to a socialist society and then a communist  society – the „earthly paradise“.

Lenin took Marx theories and put them into practice. Lenin said that  religion is „a bourgeoisie phenomenon. Communism will not be victorious  until the myth about God has been erased from people’s mind.”

Persecution of Evangelical Believers in the East

When Lenin took power in 1917, many welcomed the new law on the

separation of the church and state, especially the Protestants who took ad- vantage of this time of religious freedom. Many missionaries from Europe  and USA began ministry work in the Soviet Union. Bibles and Christian  literature were printed and Bible schools were established which provided  much needed theological and leadership training.13

Joseph Stalin (1878–1953)

Religious freedom, however, lasted only until 1929 when Stalin began

a militant campaign against all churches; Orthodox, Old Believers, Stundist,  Baptist, Adventists, Mennonite, and Pentecostals.

12 Ibid, p. 13.




In a letter to Stalin, Maxim Gorky writes:

You won’t achieve much with the weapons of Marx and materialism…  Materialism and religion are two different planes and they don’t coincide.  If a fool speaks from the heavens and the sage from a factory–they won’t  understand one another. The sage needs to hit the fool with his stick, with  his weapon. For this reason, there should be courses set up at the Com- munist Academy, which would not only treat the history of religion, and  mainly the history of the Christian church, i.e., the study of church history  as politics. We need to know the “fathers of the church,” the apologists of  Christianity… 

Every quotation by a believer is easily countered with dozens of theological  quotations, which contradict it. We cannot do without an edition of the  “Bible” with critical commentaries from the Tubingen school and books  on criticism of biblical texts, which could bring a very useful “confusion  into the minds” of believers.14

To which Stalin responds (January 17, 1930):

You are quite right in saying that here, in our press, great confusion prevails  on the subject of anti-religious propaganda. Extraordinary stupidities are  sometimes committed, which bring grist to the mill of our enemies. There  is a great deal of work before us in this field.15 

Stalin realized that without force, communism could not be a reality. The  living, vibrant church must be eliminated, as it was one of the main obstacles  to the Marxist ideology.16

One of the more prominent Christians that Stalin killed was Ivan  Yefimovitch Voronaev (1885–1937. Voronaev established more than 350  congregations in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Bulgaria. He was arrested  and sentenced to death and executed by NKVD (People’s Commissariat for  Internal Affairs).17

This horrible time of communist aggression against the Church lasted  until 1940 when Stalin needed the support of all Christians to volunteer in  the war effort.



16 William Taubman. Lecture at Wellesley College Russian Department, April 5, 2017.




After the war, Stalin devised a different method to eliminate religion  from Soviet society. Instead of systematic killings, he planned to destroy the  church from within.  Stalin’s new plan in 1944 was to permit the Orthodox  and Evangelicals to form organizations with Church leaders handpicked by  KGB at the top.18 

It is in this light we have to see Stalins „show trials“ in the newly occu- pied Eastern European countries against church leaders who were, or could  be, an obstacle for implementing the effort to destroy the church. My father,  Pastor Haralan Popov, was arrested and tortured in Sofia, Bulgaria, from July  1948 until September 1961. Despite the brutality my father endured in 16  different prisons and the notorious Belene concentration camp, he did not  become a collaborator with the communist regime, nor were they able to  erase his faith in Christ.

Pravda wrote, „The scientific dialectical materialism cannot be neutral  toward religion because it is not based on science.“ (Pravda, 11 Nov. 1954)

Stalin’s new subversive method was not successful; Church membership  in the USSR grew in numbers until the end of the 1950s. Statistics provided  by the leaders of the registered All Union Council of Evangelical Christian  Baptists (AUCECB) suggest that 250 000 baptized members in 1946 rose  to 540 000 by 1958.

Maybe because of this revival, the persecution of Christians continued.  Many leaders and ordinary believers, men and women of different Protestant  communities fell victims to the persecution by the Soviet communist regime,  including „treatment“ in psychiatric hospitals, and imprisonment.19

Gennadi Konstantinovich Kryuchkov (1926–2007), the leader of The  Council of Churches of Evangelical Christian’s and Baptists (CCECB), the  also called unregistered church, along with Georgi Vins, the secretary, met  with Anastas Mikoyan at the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union in Moscow  in 1961. After this meeting, they were imprisoned for a few years. When re- leased, Kryuchkov spent 19 years in hiding, where he continued organizing  and leading the work of the unregistered Baptists. He reappeared in public at  their Council’s Annual Congress at Rostov-on-Don in July 1989, in the wake  of Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika reforms. After speaking, he  quickly made his escape before the waiting KGB could arrest him.20

18 Walter Sawatsky. Soviet Evangelicals. Herald Press, Kitchener, ON, Canada, 1981, pp. 59–64.  19 Christian Prisoners in the USSR. (Keston College), published by Door of Hope Int’l Press,  Glendale, CA, USA, 1983, p. 13. Ibid, p. 22; Ibid, pp. 18–19, picture p. 32.





Another Christian who suffered greatly was Vladimir Shelkov (1895– 1980), the leader of the True and Free Seventh-day Adventist Movement in  the Soviet Union. He spent almost his entire life after 1931 in prison. His  last confinement began in 1949 when he was sentenced in Tashkent (then a  delicate eighty-three-year-old-man) to five years of hard labour camps. He  died in Tabaga labour camp in Yakutia, Siberia.

The leading dissident, Dr. Andrei Sakharov, estimated that at the begin- ning of the 1980s there were an estimated 10 000 prisoners of conscience,  of whole 2000 were religious prisoners in the Siberian camps.21

After 50 years of government support and effort, atheism had failed. The  Communist Party knew that something had to be done to combat religion in  order for their „paradise on earth“ to become a reality.

In 1959, Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971), decided to once again in- tensify the effort to extinguish the Church. Khrushchev created the faculty  of atheism at the Moscow University and built the first ‘House of Atheism’.

In 1967, according to a Norwegian visitor to this ‘House of Atheism,’  Mr. Romanov, the Vice President, stated proudly that in the Moscow region  alone, there are „500 offices and 15 000 employed propagandists for „sci- entific atheism“.22

Khrushchev’s anti-religious atheistic campaign resulted in mass closures  of churches, reducing the numbers from 22 000 in 1959 to 7500 by 1966.23  Many of these beautiful churches became storage facilities, warehouses,  industrial factories, movie theaters, or were demolished.

Lack of Academic Research in the West.

There are very few academic sources of information about how the

Church in the West responded to communist aggression. Most information  about the Western Christian response originates from memoirs of individual  authors such as my father’s books, I was a Communist Prisoner24, or Tor- tured for His Faith25. Very few academic studies exist. This is most likely due  to the lack of scholarly interest in Western academic circles. It seems to come

21 Christian Prisoners in the USSR…, p. 22.

22 Billed-bladet Gulbrand Överbye, NÅ Nr. 15, Oslo, Norway, 1968.

23 Walter Sawatsky 1981, Soviet Evangelicals, Herald Press, Kitchener, ON, Canada, p. 137.

24 Dr. Haralan Popov. Bulgarska Golgotha. EV press Sofia Bulgaria.

25 Харалан Попов, Изтезаван заради вярата си. София: Фондация „Врата на надежда“,  2013; Tortured For His Faith, Dr. Haralan Popov, Door of Hope Int’l Press Glendale, CA USA.




down to an implicit dismissal, or the lack of knowledge of the important roll  Christian missionary organizations and churches in the East played in the  effort to bring an end to the Cold War and bring down the Soviet Union and  their inhuman aggressive militant socialist totalitarian agenda.

The atheistic communist system was so against human nature, it  was doomed to fail already at the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolu- tion in 1917.

Western Christians Response 

Before and immediately after the Second World War, most Western

churches, including the World Council of Churches (WCC), were united  in their critical stance towards the communist regime in the Soviet Union.

My mother, Ruth Popov, was given the opportunity to address more than  10,000 participants at the international gathering of the World Pentecostal  Conferences in London, 1952, as well as in Stockholm, 1955. As a young boy,  missing my father very much, I stood on the platform by my mother’s side  and could do nothing but cry.

Mom was permitted to share with the large international audience about  her husband and the other imprisoned pastors in Bulgaria and pleaded for  prayers and support. But in later years at international gatherings, where  “official“church leaders from the East attended, the conference leadership  no longer permitted her to do this. The reason was, they said, that this  was a political anti-communist act. 

Western Churches Divided

In the early 1960s, the unity that once existed in Western churches in

confronting the communist aggression ended. The denominational leaders  became divided as they were bombarded and influenced by the emerging  Soviet propaganda. The Baptist World Alliance, Mennonite, Lutheran and  churches that belonged to the WCC, now promoted closer ties with Soviet  and Eastern European communist appointed church leaders. Others like the  Catholic Church and the more conservative Evangelical Churches were op- posed to having any ties with church officials appointed by the Communist  Party. They understood that the communist’s agenda and the ultimate goal  was to destroy the Church. They openly criticized the communist interfer- ence in church matters and pointed out the lack of religious liberties behind  the Iron and Bamboo Curtains.




This division not only weakened the missionary effort but also gave  power to the worldwide communist propaganda efforts.

Communist Propaganda Worked 

In the 1960s, WCC was fully infiltrated by KGB and DS agents and the

leadership gradually became duped by the communist Orthodox Church of- ficials to no longer speak out about persecution in communist countries.26

At the 1968 WCC meeting in Uppsala, Sweden, my father and I pleaded  with the organizing committee to bring the plight of the persecuted church  on the agenda. The organizers of the WCC insisted that quiet diplomacy was  the best way to tackle this issue. They feared that Rev. Michael Orlov, head of  the International Department of the AUCECB, the “registered, official“church  in the Soviet Union would leave the conference should this issue be placed  on the agenda.

The frequent visits by religious officials from the Orthodox and the  AUCECB to Peace Conferences and Denominational Conferences in the West  had considerable impact.

Unlike the message received from the “underground“ church leaders,  who were not permitted to travel abroad, these “registered“ church leaders  spoke about the religious freedoms they had and that Bibles were available  to those who needed them. Bible smuggling, they argued, was not only not  necessary but also “unchristian“ and therefore, immoral.

These ambassadors for the communist propaganda also argued that  criticizing communist governments and spreading negative information  about the situation of the churches in their countries would only increase  difficulties for the believers living there.

Many in the Western media, as well as some conservative evangelicals,  chose to be silent. They even criticized mission organizations like ours,for  publishing the content of the clandestinely printed Samizdat (Self Publica- tions) that the Council of Baptist Prisoners’ Relatives, (CPR) asked our  couriers to smuggle out to the West. These Samizdat documents, compiled  by a group of very brave women (wives and relatives of detained prisoners)  contained details of who/where/why the Christian believers were impris- oned, as well as their families’ desperate situations.27


26 Momchil Metodiev. Between Faith and Compromise. Sofia: Ciela Publishers, 2010.

27 Christian Prisoners in the USSR, 1983 (Keston College), published by Door of Hope Int’l  Press, Glendale, CA, USA, pp. 18–19, picture p. 32.





Smuggling Samizdat Documents “Bulletins“ to the West

Western couriers like myself „smuggled“ out Samizdat Bulletins, pictures

and Super-8 films from underground church meetings in an effort to docu- ment the real conditions of Christians living under communist oppression.  This task was more dangerous than smuggling Bibles into countries behind  the Iron Curtain. When these documents reached the West this material was  shared with various research organizations such as Keston College, Amnesty  International, Helsinki Monitoring Group and the United Nation’s Human  Rights office in Geneva.

Mobilizing Christians Around the World to Pray

Exposing communist aggression and violations of Human Rights and

Religious Freedom in communist countries was important for the many  missionary organizations.

Prominent Christian speakers such as Richard Wurmbrand, Brother  Andrew, and my father, Haralan Popov, spoke in churches around the world  and iinformed government officials about the situation in the East. They  mobilized Christians to pray, to petition their government officials, and to  raise their voices through peaceful demonstrations against the atrocities be- ing committed behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains…the so-called „closed  countries for the Gospel.“ In Brother Andrew’s book, „God’s Smuggler“, he  argued that there are no closed doors for God.

Book Publishing

Although there are many, many times more books published about the

Nazi holocaust than books about the „communist holocaust“, Alexander  Solzhenitsyn, Richard Wurmbrand, Brother Andrew, and Haralan Popov  were popular authors with millions of copies of their books, distributed in  many languages, exposing the falsehood of communist propaganda.

Documentary films

Despite the enormous cost, organizations made documentary films

exposing the atrocities committed. Door of Hope International (DOHI)



produced Operation Jericho (1974) and Let My People Go (1977). Films  such as these were shown in churches and on TV. Because the media had  accepted the communist propaganda they didn’t accept these documentary  films as news and accused the mission organizations of being anti-communist,  right-wing organizations, therefore, the organizations had to „buy“ time to  show these films over the TV network.

Bible smuggling: by cars, RV’s, dump-trucks, buses, trains, boats,  barges, bicycles

One of the instruments of ideological repression utilized by the com- munist authorities was to limit the production and the availability of printed  materials, especially Bibles. Thus, smuggling Bibles into communist coun- tries became a necessary and widespread activity that involved especially  evangelical organizations. DOHI used an innovative technique of mailing  unbound New Testaments, 36 pages at a time, mailed to addresses collected  from telephone books. More than one million New Testaments were delivered  into the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe using this method.28

Supporting National Pastors

Registered Pastors, loyal to the communist government, were gener-

ously compensated, directly or indirectly. However, unregistered pastors  ministering to, underground churches needed financial and other support. It  was imperative to train, educate and provide them with tools for evangelism  necessary for effective ministry.

Emigration Movement 

Arkady Polishchuk, a journalist in the Soviet Union, was a former com-

munist party member who realized that communism was false and joined  the Jewish Dissident Movement of Vladimir Buchovsky, Natan Sharansky, and  Tatyana Velikanova. Polishchuk was exiled to the West where he worked hard  for the rights of the 40,000 Pentecostals who refused their Soviet citizenship

28 DOHI began a Bible Courier program through which thousands of Bibles, New Testaments  and Christian literature were „smuggled“ behind communist borders in specially prepared  vehicles. For the 1980 Moscow Olympics, DOHI printed and secretly delivered 500 000  Russian New Testaments with the non-descript title of, Свет Миру (Light to the World),  disguised by a cover depicting the Olympic Torch. Through a unique New Testament Letter  Ministry, more than one million New Testaments were distributed into Bulgaria, Romania,  Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. –,,




and asked to be allowed to leave for Israel or the West. Arkady Polishchuk  has recently published his autobiography, Dancing on Thin Ice.

The Most Prominent Western Christian Organizations  

(of more than 700 that existed in 1990) that Focused Primarily 

on the Soviet Union, China and Eastern Europe

Slavic Mission Nils Fredrik Höijer (1857–1925) now called Ljus i


Established in 1903 in Stockholm, Sweden, Slavic Mission is one of the  oldest evangelical missions to Russia. It still exists today under the name  Light in the East. Licht im Osten is the sister mission in Germany.

These missions sent between 1917 and 1929 many missionaries to all  corners of Russia. The well-known missionary Johannes Svensson helped  bring large quantities of Bibles and literature into the country. An unprec- edented revival swept the USSR.29

From 1930 to the mid 1950s, Slavic Mission, under the great, but humble,  leadership of Director Elis Düring, Slavic Mission provided humanitarian aid  to thousands imprisoned Russian soldiers and war refugees in North and  Central Europe.

In 1963, a few months after my father arrived in Sweden, Elis Düring  hired dad to be in charge of the Slavic Mission’s Russian Bible correspondence  course, Bible printing projects and Radio Ministry in the Bulgarian language.  After Elis Düring’s death, Ingemar Martinson became the new Director. Mar- tinson encouraged dad to write his autobiography. In 1963, father was the  first to broadcast Gospel sermons over the radio into communist Bulgaria. It  is at this time that the DS Bulgarian secret police made the documentary film  „For a Silver Coin“ depicting the two brothers, Haralan and Ladin, as traitors  undermining the Bulgarian society with anti-communist slander. This film  was shown on Bulgarian TV and at the Berlin film festival in the early 1970s.

Earl S. Poysti (1920–2010), was a much-appreciated Russian radio  broadcaster, supported by the Slavic Mission. Poysti was born in Siberia,  Russia, to Finnish missionary parents ministering in Russia just after the  Bolshevik Revolution. Like so many other missionaries, they had to leave  Russia but continued their ministry to Russian refugees living in Harbin,  Northern China.



29 Elis Düring. Ryska Röster (Russian Voices). Slaviska Missionens Förlags AB, Stockholm,  Sweden, Med Flera 1953, p. 17.



Russian and Eastern European Mission (REEM) – Paul B. Peterson,  (later called Eastern European Mission) (EEM), Chicago, USA.

Gustav Herbert Schmidt, an ethnic German, born in Russia, asked the  Assemblies of God-USA for permission and support to start a Russian lan- guage Bible School to serve the rapidly growing Pentecostal church in Russia,  Ukraine, the Baltic and Eastern Europe. Assemblies of God declined support  for this project, so Schmidt, together with Peterson, opened the independent  Mission REEM in the early 1920s.

Danzig Bible Institute

On March 2, 1930, the Danzig Bible Institute opened the first Russian

language Pentecostal Bible Institute in Eastern Europe in the free state of  Danzig, (today Gdansk Poland). Young Christian leaders like my father, Hara- lan, uncle Ladin and many others, received their theological pastor’s training  at this institute. EEM supported many pastors all over Eastern Europe. In  the1930s a Christian woman in New York sponsored my father. Some of Dad’s  reports to EEM are published in the magazine „Gospel Call“, now archived at  the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, MO, USA.30

Russian Gospel AssociationPeter Deyneka Sr. (1914–1987), Chi- cago, USA, (now called Slavic Gospel Association) (SGA).

Rev. Peter Deyneka Sr., founded the Russian Gospel Association, in 1934,  migrated to America in 1914 from Belarus. Deyneka travelled extensively  to his homeland. While there, he established a relationship with the faithful  churches of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (AUECB), the official  registered church.

SGA produced and broadcasted radio programs in the Russian language,  distributed Bibles and Christian literature into the Soviet Union. They also  ministered to Slavic Christians who had emigrated to the West from com- munist countries.

Underground Evangelism, (UE) – L. Joe Bass (1920–) Glendale, CA,  USA, (now called Mission without Borders).

Founded in 1960 by L. Joe Bass the organization provided support  to the unregistered underground church in the Soviet Union and Eastern  European communist countries through Bible printing/distributing, pastor  support and financial aid. They published monthly magazines providing

30,  p.17.



information about the on-going persecution of Christians. For a short time,  they employed speakers such as Richard Wurmbrand (Romania), Haralan  Popov (Bulgaria), Sergei Kurdakov (USSR), and Stefan Bankov (Bulgaria).  UE sponsored short-wave Christian radio broadcasts into Bulgaria and  other communist countries.

Jesus to Communist World, (JTCW) Richard Wurmbrand (19092001), Glendale, CA, USA, (now called Voice of the Martyrs – (VOM).

Founded in the United States in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand,  who was imprisoned in 1948 and tortured by communist authorities in his  native, Romania. He was released in 1956 then rearrested in 1959–1964. They  smuggled Bibles and literature into communist countries and established  secret printing presses in at least six nations, as well as gospel broadcasts  into several closed countries. The strength of the organization under Richard  Wurmbrand and his son Mihai was in publicity activities and publishing of  anti-communist books authored by Richard, his wife Sabina and son Mihai.  Their books and newsletters were translated into 20 languages.

Evangelism to Communist Lands (ECL) – Haralan Popov (1907–1988)  & Ruth Popov (1910–1985), Glendale, CA, USA, (now called Door of Hope  International (DOHI).

In 1972, Haralan Popov founded Evangelism to Communist Lands (ECL).  He became known as  the „Voice of the Suffering Church“.


Haralan believed that the best method to combat militant communist  aggression was to implement evangelistic outreaches through positive Chris- tian proactive projects:


DOHI secretly distributed 100 000 Bibles and over one million New Tes- taments behind the Iron Curtain. In the 1980’s they translated, typeset and  printed a „first of its kind”, 2 000 page Study Bible in Russian and Romanian,  as well as a red-letter New Testament with the extensive study material in  the Bulgarian language.31

31 DOHI’S Study Bibles were known as the „Portable Bible School“ for pastors in communist  countries. In addition to these StudyBibles, DOHI produced Children’s Bibles, Christian song  books and Haley’s Handbook in Romanian (Bible dictionary). After Mao’s Cultural Revolu- tion, DOHI recorded and distributed the „Spoken Bible“.  This audio Bible capitalized on the




Harlan Popov’s favourite expression was:

„A Bible sent to communist lands… is like a bullet in the heart of 


Other Prominent European Organizations

Open Doors (OD), Andrew Van der Bijl (Brother Andrew), Holland.  „Brother Andrew“, a young Dutchman, began smuggling Bibles and Chris-

tian literature throughout Eastern Europe from 1955. He recruited people  from all over the world to pray and support persecuted believers living under  communism. After the fall of Mao and the Bamboo Curtain, he began minis- tering to China, sending a million New Testaments to their Ocean shores. He  published his very popular autobiography, God’s Smuggler in 1967.

Open Doors is best known today for their „World Watch Monitor“, a  research division that annually reports the top 100 countries of Christian  persecution in the world.

Misjon bak Jernteppet (MBJ), Else-Marie Skard and Gulbrand Øver- bye (Oslo, Norway)

MBJ paid $10 000 dollar in Ransom to the Romanian government, for  Richard Wurmbrand to be able to leave for the West.

Danish European Mission, Hans Kristian Neersko (19322017),  Copenhagen, Denmark

Known for helping establish the International Sakharov Committee in



Suomen Evankelisluterilainen Kansanlähetys (Finnish Lutheran  Mission),

Religion and Communism (now known as Keston College) Research,  Dr. Michael Bourdeaux and Sir John Lawrence. The KGB considered Keston  College as one of the most dangerous anti-Soviet organizations.   

Additional Information About the Author’s Family

My father, Haralan Popov, was born on March 7, 1907, in the small Bul-

garian village of Krasno Gradishte. Although initially an atheist, he became a

interest of the young Chinese who were eager to learn English. Each Bible verse was first  recorded in Mandarin, then in English.




Christian as a teenager in the Ruse Baptist Church. In 1929, he was ordained  as a pastor in the Ruse Pentecostal Church. Shortly after attending Russian  language Bible school in Danzig and an English language Bible School in  Hampstead, England, he married a Swedish missionary, Ruth Peterson, and  together they started their ministry work in Burgas, Bulgaria.

It took more than three years after my father was arrested that my mom,  Ruth, was finally able to return to her native Sweden with my sister Rhoda  and me. It was in Sweden that our ministry to the persecuted church began  (December 1951). Mom spoke at many churches throughout Europe asking  for prayer and support for her husband and other imprisoned pastors. She  began educating and informing the West of the conditions of Christians suf-
fering communist aggression in the East.

On New Year’s Day, 1963, my father was finally able to join us in Sweden.  He was very happy to be able to work with Elis Düring, Director of Slavic  Mission in Stockholm. who had helped our family for many years, when we  were still in Bulgaria. As father did not speak Swedish and he was traveling  extensively in the USA, he decided to move there in 1970. Dad and mom  worked for UE in their California office. Before starting ECL in 1972.

Although the communist considered father dangerous, he was allowed  to visit his beloved homeland in October 1988, but the communist did not  permit father, a month later, to be buried in Bulgaria.

It seems that the Bulgarian communist considered father more danger- ous when dead then when he was alive.

Father is buried at the Forrest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glen- dale, CA. (November 1988).

Today a street is named after him Dr. Harlan Popov street in Sofia,  Bulgaria. The first evangelical Pastor in Bulgaria being honored in this way.

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