For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of the Communist Party if you do works for the communist party lest any man should boast.
Stalingrad: The City That Defeated the Third Reich, by Jochen Hellbeck.
Before continuing with other aspects of this battle I will take a diversion: a look at the language of salvation through the Communist Party; salvation that differed totally from that offered by the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Revolution was a catastrophic event for the Church. I only offer superficial (i.e. Wikipedia) background. The final decades of tsarist rule saw an upswing in those who sought a return to the Church and the Christian faith, as well as an increase in mysticism and visions of catastrophe and redemption.
In 1914 in Russia, there were 55,173 Russian Orthodox churches and 29,593 chapels, 112,629 priests and deacons, 550 monasteries and 475 convents with a total of 95,259 monks and nuns.
The year 1917 was a major turning point for the history of Russia, and also the Russian Orthodox Church.
That’s an understatement. The Bolsheviks seized Church lands; during the war, the Church sided with the White Russians. Wrong side. Then again, the Church didn’t have a “right side” it could choose.
But from these roots – roots traced back to Greek missionaries from Byzantium to Kievan Rus in the ninth century – within a few decades, any such feeling was lost. The language remained the same; but the prayers were to a different god.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
From Junior Sergeant Alexander Semyanovich Duka:
Before we went I applied for party membership….The one thing I wanted was to know that if I died, I’d die a Bolshevik.
Redemption by Blood
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us.
Redemption for sins against the communist state was possible. Soldiers deported to penal colonies for abandoning a position in the front…
…were to be given an “opportunity to redeem their crimes against the motherland with blood.”
The soldiers were reminded of Ilya Ehrenburg’s dictum:
“The blood spilled in battle is sacred. Each drop of it is a precious sacrifice on the altar of the motherland. If a man has guilt before the people, he removes it with blood in combat. I said that they were to wash away the guilt with blood.”
The Final Confession
Luke 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
For the communist:
Several political officers reported that seriously injured soldiers asked to enter the party so they could die as communists.
To Die in Glory
Acts 7:55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Party functionaries tried to persuade soldiers to submit their applications before combat. This way they could be certain of finding a place in the communist pantheon if they were killed.
“How can you go fight? If you’re killed, you’ll die without being politically conscious. But if you die as a member of the Komsomol, you will die in glory.”
Panikhida (Prayers for the Dead)
Not very easily found in the Bible, but Orthodox Christians are not bound by the doctrine of Sola Scriptura; they accept a progression of teaching from the saints. For the Russian Orthodox:
You ask in what sense do we pray for the souls of the departed. Why, in the same sense that we pray for the souls of those with us because Christ is Risen, trampling down death by death. The barrier between living and dead has been eliminated due to the Resurrection of Christ.
For the Russian Communist:
“Now we’re working on the issue of posthumously removing the convictions of those who were killed because they fought and died heroically.”
Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.