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Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia

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Title: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia  
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Subject: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zambia, Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein
Collection: Christianity in Azerbaijan, Christianity in Belarus, Christianity in Georgia (Country), Christianity in Kazakhstan, Christianity in Kyrgyzstan, Christianity in Tajikistan, Christianity in Turkmenistan, Christianity in Ukraine, Christianity in Uzbekistan, Evangelical Denominations, History of Christianity in Russia, Lutheran World Federation Members, Lutheranism in Asia, Lutheranism in Europe, Protestantism in Russia, Protestantism in Ukraine
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Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia
Logo of the ELCROS
Classification Protestant
Orientation Lutheran
Leader The Most Rev August Genrikhovich Kruse
Associations LWF, CCE
Region Former Soviet Union
Origin 1999
St. Petersburg
Branched from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and the Other States
Congregations 400
Members 70,000
Official website

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan as well as individual congregations in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.[2] Established in its current form in 1999, ELCROS currently has about 70,000 members[3] in more than 400 congregations[4] within its jurisdiction.

The archbishop of ELCROS is the Most Rev. August Genrikhovich Kruse.[5]


  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • Official establishment 1.2
    • The First World War and the early Soviet era 1.3
    • Second World War and the post war period 1.4
    • Late Soviet and immediate post-Soviet era 1.5
    • Contemporary developments 1.6
  • Structure 2
    • Regional churches and congregations 2.1
    • Bishops and archbishops of ELCROS 2.2
  • Affiliations 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Lutheranism had established itself in the Teutonic states of the Baltics and Ingria in the early years of the Reformation.[1] Ivan the Terrible invited German artisans and professionals to help modernize Russian institutions, bringing Lutherans into Russia proper.

Early history

The first church consecrated for Lutheran use in Moscow, St. Michael's Church, was completed in 1576.[6] By the end of the 17th century, German Lutherans were spread throughout Russia, primarily among the military garrisons.[6][7]

As a result of the Great Northern War, the former Swedish provinces of Livonia and Estonia, with their large Lutheran populations, were ceded to Russia. To gain the support of the Baltic nobility, the Lutheran churches were granted freedom of dogma, liturgy and administration by Peter the Great.[6] Catherine the Great's policy of populating frontier areas of the Russian Empire with immigrants further increased the number of German Lutherans in Russia.[6][7]

Despite the de facto recognition of Lutheranism in Russia, it was still considered a foreign faith, with restrictions on proseltytization placed to limit the expansion of the faith to non-Russian nationalities only[7] and secular oversight being placed under the Main Administration for Ecclesiastical Affairs of Foreign Faiths.[6]

Official establishment

In 1832, de jure recognition was granted to the Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia (ELCR) (German: Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche in Russland) was established uniting Lutheran and Reformed congregations[8] in three administrative regions; Russia proper, Grand Duchy of Finland and the Kingdom of Poland[6] with the Czar as the Supreme Bishop.[1] The ELCR was granted the status of a State Church for minorities whose properties and leadership would be funded and salaried by the state.[6]

In 1905, full religious freedom was granted with an Edict of toleration and Lutheran churches were finally allowed to conduct services and their liturgy in the Russian language. By 1914, the Lutheran church in Russia proper itself had grown to include 1,828 congregations comprising 3,660,000 members of various nationalities.[9]

The First World War and the early Soviet era

With Russia's joining of the First World War on the side of Triple Entente against the German Empire, a policy of mass deportation of the German minorities in Russia was implemented. As a significant number of Russia's Lutherans were German or German-speaking, this severely affected the Lutheran church.[6]

The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the end of the First World War in 1918 also brought tremendous changes to the Lutheran church. The former Russian territories of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, with large Lutheran populations, gained independence.[7] In December 1917, schools and seminaries were nationalized; by 1918, this extended to all properties of the church, including church buildings. By 1921, religious instruction to persons under the age of 18 was banned.[9]

The deportation policies of the Tsarist era was continued in some areas, bolstered by the participation of whole German-speaking communities on the side of the White Russians against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War.[6]

In 1924, the remaining clergy of the ELCR met in a General Synod in Moscow to re-organise the church. The reorganised ELCR was put under the supervision of two elected bishops, Artur Malmgren of Leningrad and Theophil Meyer of Moscow. Despite approval of a new constitution for the Lutheran church in 1924 by the new Bolshevik government, the collectivization policies of Joseph Stalin in 1928 scattered the population, and official anti-religion campaigns intensified in the 1930s under the authority of the 1929 Law on Religion resulting in the incarceration of pastors in deportation camps and, in some cases, their executions.[7][9]

In 1936, Bishop Malmgren left Russia for Germany; by 1937, the ELCR had ceased to exist as an organized body.[6]

Second World War and the post war period

The Second World War brought another upheaval to the Lutheran communities. Mass deportations of Germans from European Russia to Soviet Asia and Siberia occurring prior to the German invasion of Russia had the net result of decimating religious life among the German-speaking Lutherans, as no religious services were allowed in the deportation regions.[9] The only exception was a Lutheran church in Tselinograd that was established by Eugen Bachmann in 1957 and granted registration the same year.[10]

The remaining Lutherans survived the collapse of the ELCR by joining existing Brethren communities (German: Bruedergemeinden), in which leadership and pastoral care was given by laypeople. Such Brethren communities, heavily influenced by Pietism, had been in existence since the 19th century but had managed to survive the persecutions of the Soviet state due to their fluid structure. In 1955, three ELCR pastors who had survived the concentration camps and deportations visited the underground Brethren congregations in the deportation regions in attempts to regularize the administration of the churches, but they were in most cases unsuccessful[9]

The Soviet annexation of the Baltic states in 1944 also brought back a significant Lutheran population and the various Lutheran Churches that were established in these territories were allowed to function with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia registered in 1940 and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1949, although they, too, were targets of repression and controls.[1]

It was only in the post-Stalin era in the 1960s that Lutheran congregations in the deportation areas were finally allowed to register, with the first two being registered in Siberia in 1965.[7] The Rev. Harald Kalnins from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Riga), sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, was granted permission to visit them periodically from 1969.[9][11]

Late Soviet and immediate post-Soviet era

A plaque marking Lutheran church property at Rīgas Doms (Riga Lutheran cathedral), Herdera laukums 6.

In 1980, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia appointed Kalnins as superintendent of the German Lutherans in Russia[1][11] and, with the advent of

  • Official Website of ELCROS
  • Official Website of lutherans in North Caucasus, Russia

External links

  1. ^ a b c d e Gerd, Stricker (2004). "Lutheranism in Russia and the Soviet Union: another response to Filatov and Stepina". Religion, State and Society 32 (3): 247–260.  
  2. ^ a b c "ELCROS: Structure of ELCROS". Member Churches. Communication Committee of Lutheran Minority Churches in Europe. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  3. ^ The Lutheran World Federation – 2013 Membership Figures Lutheran World
  4. ^ "ELCA Companions in Russia and Other States". Global Mission. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  5. ^ Архиепископ ЕЛЦ с 2009 года Август Крузе (in Russian). Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Drefs, R. Rueben. "The Lutheran Church in Russia, with special emphasis on Ukraine: Intertwined with the history of Russia". Heritage Review. Germans from Russia Heritage Society. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Sorokina, Valeria (2003). "Lutherans in Russia". East-West Church & Ministry Report 11 (2). Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  8. ^ a b c "Die Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Russland, der Ukraine, in Kasachstan und Mittelasien: Kurzgeschichte" (in German). Communication Committee of Lutheran Minority Churches in Europe. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Gerd, Stricker (2001). "The Problems of Theological Education: The Experience of Lutheran Institutions in the CIS." (PDF). Religion in Eastern Europe 21: 1–19. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  10. ^ Kathleen, Matchett (1973). "German Lutherans in the Soviet Union" (PDF). Religion in Communist Lands 1 (6): 13–16. Retrieved 2011-12-17. 
  11. ^ a b c Епископ Йозеф Барон (March 18, 2008). Кризис и возрождение лютеранства. Некоторые замечания из новейшей истории нашего вероисповедания: феномен "Единой евангелическо-лютеранской церкви России". (in Russian). Retrieved December 26, 2011. 


See also

The church participates actively in ecumenical work through its affiliation with the Lutheran World Federation and the Conference of European Churches.


Most Rev August Genrikhovich Kruse
  • 2009–present
Most Rev Dr Edmund Ratz
  • 2005-2009
Most Rev Dr Georg Kretschmar
Title changed to Archbishop in 1999
  • 1994-2004
Rt Rev Harald Kalnins
  • 1988-1994

Bishops and archbishops of ELCROS

Congregation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Dushanbe
Congregations in Azerbaijan
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Azerbaijan
Congregations in Belarus
  • Union of Evangelical-Lutheran Church Congregations in Belorussia
Congregations in Georgia
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Georgia
Congregations in Uzbekistan
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Uzbekistan
Congregations in Kyrgyzstan
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church in the Kyrgyz Republic
Congregations in Kazakhstan
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Kazakhstan
Congregations in Ukraine
  • German Evangelical-Lutheran Church in the Ukraine
Congregations in Asian Russia
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia and the Far East
Congregations in European Russia
  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church in European Russia

Regional churches and congregations

The church is further divided into seven regional Lutheran denominations in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan, Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, as well as individual congregations in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.[2]

The main governing body of ELCROS is the General Synod, which meets every five years, while executive authority is vested with the Church Synod. The Church Synod is chaired by the General Consistory, headed by the Archbishop, and the Synod further comprises two members from the Episcopal Council and the Presidium of the General Synod.

Ecclesiastical authority is vested in the office of the Archbishop in the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, St. Petersburg. The Archbishop and the bishops of the regional Lutheran denominations within ELCROS form an Episcopal Council.


With the passing of Russia's 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, the Church was again re-registered in 1999 as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia.[8] Despite the German origin of the Lutheran church in Russia, the demographics had shifted to include an increasing number of other nationalities, with reports of up to 30% of the members in Central Asia being Russians.[7] A new seminary was also established in 1997 in Novosaratovka near St. Petersburg.

Contemporary developments

[8] With the

This allowed the reorganising of congregations and formal seminary training. [11] with the blessings of the Lutheran Archbishop of Riga.[9]

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