The Christmas spirit in Soviet Russia is the spirit of her Union of the militant Godless who celebrate Christmas every year by tearing down one or two large churches, converting many small churches into storehouses, schools, restaurants and whatnot. Generally the Godless confine their energies to Orthodox churches. Last week they did some Christmas smashing early in Russia's Lutheran provinces adjoining Finland. Soon wrathful Finns read in their newspapers smuggled accounts of the "Outrage at Kolpana."
Once the present Republic of Finland was the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland and its beloved "National Shrine" was the high-spired, ancient Lutheran Church at Kolpana which is now in Russia. Spurred by Christmas a pack of zealous Godless comrades, protected by Red Soldiers, rushed upon Finland's Shrine. They called its slender pinnacle "dangerous to Soviet military aviation," ordered appropriate action.
While the Godless cheered, Red Soldiers shinnied up the steeple, tied ropes to it. A snorting tractorsymbol of the Five-Year Planwas hitched to the ropes, snorted, backfired, got under way and pulled down not only Kolpana's spire but half the ancient church with it. Rushing into the ruins, Godless comrades seized and carried off the church's simple brass & copper fixtures, "needed to make Soviet airplanes."
According to messages which Finns in
Russia smuggled across to Finns in Finland last week, the Christmas campaign in Ingria began by seizing a total of nine Lutheran churches and arresting the Lutheran clergy. At Ranpyva the former Lutheran church had become a State cowbarn last week. At Retykyla enthusiastic Godless comrades organized a Godless Seminary, drummed up Finnish peasants who glumly took their places as students, will emerge after a course in Godlessness as "Godless Apostles."
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh last week the Rev. William Fetler, energetic founder of the Russian Missionary Society of Los Angeles, wound up a lecture tour, prepared to sail for Europe.
"We are smuggling thousands of Bibles across the Russian border by night!" cried Mr. Fetler. "The Russian people are adopting religion more rapidly than in any other country in the world!"
Few missionaries to Soviet Russia have been so rash in speaking out. But much Protestant mission work does quietly go on, the Baptists being especially quiet, especially successful.
Officially the Soviet State tolerates all religions, including the Mohammedan and Buddhist, and permits religious worship. Unofficially Soviet leaders from Stalin down support the Union of the Godless, encourage what they call its "educational activities" in Russia proper.
In remote parts of the Soviet Union local peoples and tribes are not greatly molested by the Union of the Militant Godless, lest they rebel. Thus letters reaching Moscow last week from Erivan, capital of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia, announced that on Nov. 13 the Congress of the Armenian Gregorian Church met at Echmiadzin, with British, French and U. S. delegates present and elected a new Gregorian supreme head, the former Archbishop Horan Murad-pekian of Erivan who at once assumed the title of His Holiness the Catholicos.