FROM EDITORSHIP OF RUSSIAN
COMMUNIST YOUTH JOURNAL TO THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
Sokolov was born in 1947 in the city of Kalinin, some 165 miles northwest of
Moscow. His father was a factory worker born in 1916, just one year before the
revolution. His mother was born in 1924.
father was not a believer, but was tolerant of those who were. His mother, a
product of the anti-religious Communist youth organization Komsomol, was
attended primary, middle and high school in the Soviet Union, and also became a
member of Komsomol. (Higher education in the USSR is closed to all who do not
join this state youth movement.) After high school, he served the compulsory
three years in the Soviet army.
his discharge Victor did various kinds of work before deciding to enter the
Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. (In the USSR an institute is a school of
university level which specializes in one particular field of studies.) After
three years at the Maxim Gorky Institute, Victor graduated as an official
"worker in literature."
became a literary critic and journalist, and edited the Komsomol publication
YOUNG GUARD. This periodical sought to instill and strengthen in its young
readers the atheistic and materialistic philosophy of the Communist Party.
before he began working for Young Guard Victor had started to question some of
the teaching and activities of the Communist Party. Nevertheless he joined it
and worked at its youth periodical thinking that he could reform the system
from within and help to make it more human. He soon found this to be
impossible, and became increasingly disgusted at being a part of the state
the things which contributed to his growing disillusionment with the system was
the lack of absolute moral standards in the Party's teaching. Something was
"true" if it served the Party's interests. If circumstances changed
and it was no longer useful to the party, it ceased to be "true."
youngster Victor had occasionally attended Easter services in the Russian
Orthodox Church. This is a tradition for millions of people in the Soviet Union
who have no contact at all with organized religion at any other time of the
year. Victor had understood little of the few services which he had attended.
As his disillusionment with the Communist system grew he determined to obtain a
are in very short supply in the Soviet Union, but Victor was able to buy a
small Bible on the black market in Moscow for one hundred rubles - a whole
month's salary. Its title page indicated that it had been printed in London by
the Bible Society.
began to read the Bible, and at first it made little sense to him. It was full
of strange names, places and concepts which he had never heard of before at
home, or at school or at the institute. The Old Testament he found particularly
difficult to understand because he had no Bible background or Bible study books
to guide him. Nevertheless, the clear ethical message of the Scriptures made a
great appeal to him. "I found out that good is good - it is not just what
is good for the state," recalls Fr. Sokolov.
understanding of the Scriptures increased, Victor decided to identify himself
with the Christian cause. In May 1975 he was baptized by Fr. Dmitri Dudko, a
Russian Orthodox priest well known for his stand for religious and human rights
in the Soviet Union. (Fr. Dudko was later sent to prison camp for his bold
witness which was influencing many people, and on his release was sent to serve
in a remote parish.)
some time before his baptism, Victor had become involved in the Dissident
Movement in the USSR, and had worked with Anatoly Sharansky and Andrei Sakharov
and many others in the cause of human rights. Increasingly he came under KGB
also met and fallen in love with Barbara, a young American lady who worked for
a couple connected with the U.S. embassy in Moscow. With no guarantee that he
would be able to leave with her for the United States, Victor and Barbara were
married in Russia in 1975.
the wedding, Victor applied for an exit visa. "I didn't know whether the
authorities would send me east to Siberia or west to be with my wife. I guess
they decided it would be less trouble to let me join her in the USA because in
the unusually short time of four months after I applied for a exit visa they
allowed me to leave the USSR. The recently signed Helsinki Accords may also
left my little Bible Society Bible behind for someone else to use when I departed
from the Soviet Union. The Scriptures are so hard to get there that I didn't
like to take it out with me."
November 1975 Victor arrived in the USA and began teaching in the Russian
studies department of the University of California at Santa Cruz and at the
language institute of the US Department of Defence's Monterey Institute of
International Studies. During this time Victor became increasingly involved in
the life of a Russian Orthodox Church at Santa Cruz.
some years the Sokolovs moved to New York where Victor became Deputy Chief
Editor of the largest Russian language newspaper outside the USSR the New
months after taking up this appointment Victor felt called to the priesthood.
He gave up his newspaper position and entered St. Vladimir's Orthodox
Theological Seminary in New York. Here he studied for three years and graduated
with a Master of Divinity degree. While at seminary he worked in a senior
citizen's home on Staten Island and taught in the Russian school of Norwich
University in Vermont.
Fr. Sokolov was ordained to the priesthood of the Orthodox Church in America.
The Komsomol training that his mother had received was seen in the letter which
she wrote to her son just before his ordination in which she asked that he not
send her any photographs of himself in his church vestments. In the same year
Fr. Sokolov became Rector of Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church in
Vancouver, British Columbia.
supporter of the Bible Society, Fr. Victor Sokolov is a member of the British
Columbia Board of the Canadian Society. Remembering the profound effect that a
copy of the Scriptures produced by the Bible Society had had on him, he loves
to expound the Scriptures and to testify to the life-changing power of the
written Word of God.
also his struggles at first to understand the Bible without any Scripture
guides in Russia, Fr. Sokolov plans to translate into Russian a number of well
known books in English which explain the Scriptures and give the background to
Sokolovs have two sons, Christopher and Philip, and one daughter, Tamara.
Rev╣d Robert Grey