Revival and Resilience: Christian Music in Post-Communist Ukraine

By Max Ivanov

It was the mid 90’s. Just some 5-10 years ago, it was impossible for many to imagine that Christianity, which the communists tried to eradicate in our country, would be “in fashion” again. However, God opened the doors for the Gospel in Ukraine and I was one of those who accepted Christ into my life thanks to the Christian TV ministry. Two years later I came to church.

In 1995, I was a sixteen-year-old teenager who lived in Kharkiv, Ukraine and loved Jesus. But I also really loved Friday evenings when my church had youth services. We gathered in the old building of the Palace of Culture, which, ironically, upon completion of construction in the 30s, was named in honor of Joseph Stalin, and then renamed the Palace of Culture of the Railwaymen. Our youth pastor, who by a happy coincidence had the same name as me, Maxim, was the one who instilled in us a taste for Christian music. A TV and a VCR were brought into the hall and we watched with admiration music videos by Carman, DC Talk, Petra, etc.

For a contrasting comparison, I will say that at that time terrible Russian pop music and more tolerable Russian rock, as well as European techno, were widely popular among the people, but among my friends, everyone was a long-haired metalhead and listened to bands like Metallica and Guns `n` Roses. They were indifferent to Christianity, but sometimes I introduced them to Christian music, finding common ground.

In those years, missionary teams from the United States came to us every summer. The summer of ’96 was special. A team of youth, our peers, arrived and they taught us several theatrical pantomimes with deep spiritual meaning. We held evangelistic outreaches together in city parks and, after showing these pantomimes, preached the Gospel to people. I’ll never forget how we put the tape recorder on the curb, turned on the tape and danced with the team to DC Talk’s “Jesus Is Just Alright” to get people’s attention.

One evening at a youth service we were shown the movie Beyond Belief, which starred the band Petra, and this film shook me and fired me up even more for God. He also influenced my perception of music and Petra forever became my favorite rock band.

Many years later, when Instagram appeared, I had the idea to unite fans of the legendary rock band Petra in one account and I created the account @petra.band. It was very interesting when people from all over the world started joining, thanking for this, and inspiring new content. Then communication began directly with some members of the Petra band, as well as with managers of other Christian group accounts. Today, 6 years later, it has received official status and has over 13,000 followers, continuing to grow and participate in the promotion of Petra on their 50th anniversary tour.

However, in addition to this wonderful story, I would like to say that the last two years have been overshadowed by the war that the Russian invaders brought to Ukraine. It is no secret that today the Russian authoritarian government is trying to restore the past, which it seemed we had long gotten rid of. For two years they have been bombing Ukrainian cities, seizing territories, killing people, including Christians. They are destroying churches, turning the premises of Protestant churches into clubs, as the communists once did. They arrest pastors and put some in prison; those who do not support the war and support the values of Western civilization are declared foreign agents. They erect monuments throughout the country to the dictator Stalin, under whose rule believers were exiled to Siberian camps, from where most did not return alive. They want this to be the case in all the territories they seek to conquer. It is obvious and familiar to all believers in Eastern European countries from recent history that if they are allowed to do this, they will not stop at Ukraine — this is a threat to the entire Western Christian world.

Once upon a time in the twentieth century, musicians actively spoke out against dictators, wars and social injustice. Thousands of young people have used their creativity to draw attention to pressing issues. Can modern Christian performers influence socio-political processes in the country and the world? I’m not talking about worship music. What is contemporary Christian music capable of other than sappy religious songs? The question remains open.

Max Ivanov

Contributor Bio

Max Ivanov lives in Kyiv (Ukraine). He is an aspiring writer with a couple of published works. For many years he was involved in Bible study and serving on the church worship team. He is also a graduate of the prophetic school Christian International Ukraine. He has several hobbies: reading books, watching science fiction films, and listening to Christian rock music.

The post Revival and Resilience: Christian Music in Post-Communist Ukraine appeared first on CCM Magazine.

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