In former times, Christianity was a strong part of the identity and culture of Russia, which saw itself as a bulwark against the Muslim Tatars and other Muslims of Central Asia. The Soviets who seized power in 1917 were strongly atheist and aimed to destroy religion completely. An estimated 200,000 Christian leaders were martyred during the decades of communist rule (1917-1990) and a further 500,000 were imprisoned.
The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a massive increase in churches, churchgoing and Christian activities. But in recent years hostility towards Christians in the Russian Federation has spread. In the media, Christians are sometimes portrayed in such a way as to rouse suspicion about their activities, In spite of this, local Christian leaders say that the number of Christians has grown significantly in the last 10-15 years.
Though Christians are generally free to operate under the law, growing Russian nationalism and the revival of Soviet era practices are causing problems for some of them. Believers can face administrative opposition from local authorities and harassment from the police, and churches have to register to be able to legally carry out certain activities, such as officially owning property.
In areas where there is a strong Muslim presence, especially in the north Caucasus region, converting to Christianity from Islam can be dangerous and there is an ongoing fear about the impact of Islamic extremists with links to Islamic State.
Lift up in prayer Christians across Russia, whose freedoms are subject to the country’s political tides. Ask the Lord to grant believers great wisdom to know how best to live out their faith. Pray that the Lord will be sovereign over the decisions and actions of government and police authorities.