Thankyou for this little titbit - I honestly had no idea whatsoever about treatment of JWs in the USSR, and was uncertain that there would have been any, as it is a sect of 19th century American origin which I wouldn't have immediately expected to have reached Russia before the revolution (after which religious proselytising there became extremely dangerous). There were some pretty bizarre home-grown Orthodox sects in the old Russian empire, such as the Scoptzi
(who practised extreme genital mutilation and castration), which were certainly enthusiastically persecuted by the Bolsheviks. Noticeable religious zeal, particularly when pertaining to sects and religions of foreign origin and organisation, was regarded with considerable suspicion.
joel pacheco wrote:second, someone asked how stalin dealth with the jehovah witnesses. well, in a rough manner. the JW's were outlawed and like in hitler times, the JW need only sign a paper stating that they no longer belive to be released form either gulags or siberian exile. the JW's were depicted in soviet films as brainwashed mental defectives. often depicted as physically deformed! there are accounts by JW's of being herded onto cattle train cars(with even wives and children), like the jews under the nazis, and driven out to siberia. people would die in the cars sometimes, and though the conditions were not so bad like the jews had, the train rides were still difficult.
The train rides were also much longer (assuming a starting point in European Russia), and the climatic conditions often terrible.
at railroad stops the JW's would call to other train cattle cars and asked if any JW's were on board, if someone responded yes, the JW's would sing christian songs together. there is yet another video documentery, featuring many interviews with russian/ukraine/etc (soviet) JW's. "faithful under trial", produced in 2001, by the JW church. it even includes interviews with ex KGB agents sent to infiltrate the JW's to destroy the net works of believers, only to end up as a JW convert himself. the suffering was terrible under the soviets, and today some living russian JW's tell of spending over 23 years in gulags for their faith.
Grim indeed. I should very much like to see some more objective non-JW-church-produced sources on this too - can you recommend anything? Incidentally all the personal accounts I've ever seen of the GULAG have many references to the 'convicted Christians' amongst them and their place in the social life of the zeks
. To persist with religious observances in these places was a good way to get an increased sentence, but often a real comfort to other inmates. For example from Nikolai Getman's fifty secret paintings of his life in the GULAG system:
one interesting note, today JW's who served long sentences in soviet gulags for religious reasons are treated as war veterens and receive pensions, priveleges, and medical care, as any other war veteren.
The rehabilitation of GULAG survivors in general is a complex subject, with some still waiting for this sort of recognition and some not as I understand it. From the site I quoted above, a little about Getman's own experience:
"The man depicted is holding his rehabilitation papers, documents in which the Russian state declares him a free man with a restored name. Freedom after the Gulag, however, was often a mixed experience. Many former inmates remained under travel restrictions and could live only in certain areas. The stigma of having been a prisoner in the Gulag also made it difficult to advance professionally. The artist himself was denied promotion in his artist’s union years after he had been released and Stalin’s cult denounced. Many former prisoners internalized the stigma. They felt somehow different, even guilty, notwithstanding the fact that they knew they had done nothing wrong. In 1991, President Boris Yeltsin of Russia issued a decree that would provide monetary compensation for survivors of the Gulag. The former prisoners would be paid a sum prorated for the amount of time served. The lump sum which Getman received was small, approximately the same as his pension of $50 per month. When he received his rehabilitation papers, Getman personalized the original of this painting by affixing his rehabilitation documents to the man's hands."