Camp prisoner talks of ‘glasnost’ in USSR

By Michelle Landrum

A Soviet Christian who was imprisoned for eight years in a Siberian labor camp will speak in the Holmes Student Center’s Sandburg Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Georgi Vins, author of three books on Christian persecution in the Soviet Union, will present a lecture entitled “Persecution and Glasnost in the Soviet Union.”

Vins, the son of an American-born missionary who gave up his citizenship to preach in Soviet Russia, was born in Siberia in 1928. Georgi’s father, Peter, was arrested three times for his ministry and sent to a labor camp, where he eventually died in 1943, when Georgi was seven years old.

Georgi was 18 when he began preaching. In addition to his ministry, Vins supported his family by working as an electrical engineer after he graduated from the Kiev Polytechnical Institute.

Vins was ordained as an evangelist of the Baptist church in Kiev in 1962. Four years later, Vins faced his first arrest and was sentenced to three years in prison and labor camps for his religious beliefs.

After another arrest in 1974, Vins was sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, after five years in a Siberian prison, Vins was transferred to a Moscow prison and eventually stripped of his Soviet citizenship and exiled to the United States. Vins and four other prisoners were exchanged for two captured Soviet spies on April 27, 1979.

Before his exile, Vins was General Secretary of the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches, an organization which represents 2,000 persecuted congregations in the Soviet Union.

Vins’ family was permitted to join him in the U.S. several weeks later after negotiations involving Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev.

Vins now lives in Elkhart, Ind., where he operates an office devoted to helping persecuted Christians in the Soviet Union. He is editor of a quarterly publication titled The Prisoner Bulletin.

Vins “monitors the condition of believers over there (in the U.S.S.R.) so our government can exert pressure,” said Drew Parlee, organizer of the lecture.

The lecture is sponsored by the Navigators, a non-denominational campus religious organization, and funded by the Campus Activities Board.