Prokhanov, Ivan Stepanovich

Prokhanov, Ivan Stepanovich
( 1869-1935)
   Russian and Soviet Evangelical leader
   Ivan Stepanovich Prokhanov was born in the Caucasus into a Molokan family. The Molokans were a Russian Free Church with many similarities to the Baptists, but without the practice of baptism. He left the Molokans and was baptized in 1887. In 1893, he graduated from the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering.
   As a student, he came into contact with the small circle of Free Church believers in the city, who traced their origins to the Christian BRETHREN. He started an underground publication, Besseda (Symposium), a Christian periodical designed to encourage Russian Free Church believers. In 1895, he went into exile to avoid arrest and studied theology in several locations in Europe, including Bristol College, a Baptist school in England. Returning to Russia in 1898, he was arrested and imprisoned on several occasions. However, he managed to get approval in 1901 to print an edition of an Evangelical hymnal.
   In 1903, many among the believers in St. Petersburg decided to join with the Baptists in founding the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Prokhanov opposed the decision; in contrast to Baptists, he rejected formal ordination of ministers, favored open communion, and criticized what he saw as Baptist sectarianism. Prokhanov instead organized the All-Russian Union of Evangelical Christians, which greatly expanded after religious toleration was declared in
   1905. In 1914, he established a Bible school in St. Petersburg to train leaders.
   The All-Russian Union grew steadily, numbering some 8,500 members in 1914 and 30,000 by 1923. However, toward the end of the decade, with the rise of Joseph Stalin, the limited freedom of the Free Churches came to an end. After legal status was withdrawn from the churches in 1928, Prokhanov left Russia, never to return. He settled in the United States, appointing Peter Deyenka (1898-1987) representative of the All-Russian Union for the United States and Canada. Deyenka later became head of the Slavic Gospel Association; Prokhanov died in exile in 1935. The union survived, though battered by the government, and in 1944 merged into the Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, which survived through the remaining Soviet years and into postSoviet Russia. In 1989, the council set up a Bible Institute of Evangelism and Mission, inspired and modeled on Prokhanov's original school in St. Petersbury.
   See also Russia.
   Further reading:
   ■ Steve Durasoff, The Russian Protestants: Evangelicals in the Soviet Union, 1944-1964 (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1969)
   ■ Ivan S. Prokhanov, In the Cauldron of Russia (New York: All-Russian Evangelical Christian Union, 1933)
   ■ Albert W Wardin, ed. Baptists Around the World (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman, 1995).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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