The Shtundists (Russian: Штундисты, Shtundisty; Ukrainian: Штундисти, Shtundysty; British: Stundists) are any of several Evangelical Protestant groups in the former Soviet Union and its successor states. More specifically, the term refers to sectarian Spiritual Christian groups that emerged among Ukrainian peasants in southern regions of the Russian Empire (present day Ukraine) in the second half of the 19th century. The Shtundists were heavily influenced by German Baptists, Pietists and Mennonites that settled in the southern parts of the Russian Empire, and somewhat by indigenous Spiritual Christians. Their origin is associated with access to Bibles from the "British and Foreign Bible Society,"
The word Shtundist is derived from the German word Stunde ("hour"), in reference to the practice of setting aside an hour for bible study. The term was originally used in a derogatory sense, but has also been adopted by many adherents to this tradition.
An article in 1896 describes their "Creed":
- Since 1864 they have published the New Testament in pocket edition, and this is found in everybody's possession.
- They refuse to take part in war, and regard the taking of interest as sin.
- They are noted for their cleanliness, honesty and temperance. ... banished ... intoxicating liquors.
- The Stundists have no common confession of faith. ... acknowledge only the Bible, ... the interpretation of which, ... they do not entirely agree.
- ... they have [volunteer lay] presbyters and elders at the head of their congregations, ... older and experienced men.
- ... no regular churches, but worship in some hall or generally in the largest room of some private house. At one end there is a table and a chair for the elder.
- When the members enter they salute each ether with the [holy] kiss of fraternal love.
- Women and men sit apart.
- ... hymn ... singing ... is especially good. Some of the hymns have been translated into English.
- After the hymn the elder reads a chapter out of the Bible and explains it, and each one present is privileged to make remarks.
- The women in compliance with St. Paul's injunction, are required to be silent auditors.
- ... pray ... always done in a kneeling posture.
- The services are closed with the Lord's Prayer.
- ... marriage. The parents of the bride and bridegroom present the couple to the elder. The bride is first asked if she wishes to enter the state of holy matrimony with this young man, and if she loves him. and if she is taking this step of her own free will and under no compulsion, not even that of her parents. When the bridegroom has answered similar questions a hymn is sung and a prayer is spoken. Then the elder tells the couple to embrace each other and to grasp the right hands. This ends the ceremony. ... this ceremony is not recognized by the law of Russia, as only the Russian Church can legally perform this ceremony.
The Russian writer-anarchist S. Sepaniak, who grew up in Ukraine, in 1905 further described their "religious doctrine":
- much akin to that of the Baptists or Anabaptists of the time of the Reformation. They baptize only grown-up people, re-baptizing those to whom this sacrament was administered in babyhood.
- Instead of the communion they have simply "the breaking of bread," accompanied with singing of hymns.
- Both communion and baptism are viewed by the Stundists, not as sacraments, but as "rites performed in commemoration of Christ, and for a closer union with Him,"
- ... the Ikons as no better than pictures, and do not keep them in their houses.
- They recognize only the Lord's Prayer. ...[also] ... prayers, ... are left to the personal inspiration of the believers
- At their meetings they sing hymns of their own composition and psalms. .
- ..it is prohibited among them to ill-use even dumb creatures.
- .... there is no conscious leaning towards collective ownership of land.... all earthly goods are ..., lent by God to men, who will be held responsible before Him for the use they have made of their worldly possessions.
- To prove faithful debtors men are bound to come to the assistance of their neighbours when they are in need, sickness, or affliction. [Also a] perfect absence of national and religious intolerance.
- ... the Stundist catechism, ... simply a translation of the catechism of the Tiflis Baptists.
In the 1890s, Pobedonostzev, supervisor of the Russian Orthodox Church, ordered all heretics and sectarians, non-Orthodox faiths of ethnic Russians (raskolniki and sectarians), to be reformed or punished. During this time many were beaten and thousands exiled to Siberia and the Caucasus.
Another self-denomination is the name Evangelical Christians (Евангельские христиане, Yevangel'skiye khristane) which first appeared in 1909 when several Shtundist groups, led by the engineer Ivan Prokhanov and mostly rooted in the Pietist tradition, formed a nationwide association in St Petersburg, the All-Russian Evangelical Christian Union. Prokhanov parents had left the Spiritual Christian Molokan faith, and many Molokane transformed to his more organized faith form. These evangelical groups came under pressure in Soviet times, with many adherents being incarcerated or deported. Conditions changed somewhat during the late 1940s, when most evangelical, Baptist and Pentecostalist groups were led—with some pressure from the Soviet state—to form the Association of Evangelical Christian Baptists (Всесоюзный совет евангельских христиан-баптистов, Vsesoyuznyy sovet yevangel'skikh khristan-baptistov abbreviated ВСЕХБ, VSYeKhB), which was later also joined by Mennonites. In Russia, the Evangelical Christian Baptists (Евангельские христиане-баптисты, Yevangel'skiye khristane-baptisty) still form the largest Protestant denomination with about 80,000 adherents.
During the late 20th century, Shtundism also extended its influence to Germany when many former Soviet citizens of German origin emigrated there and set up parishes and gospel halls, mostly referring to themselves as "Evangeliumschristen" ("Gospel Christians").
The Shtundists helped many Jews in Ukraine hide from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
- Baptists in Ukraine
- Brotherhood of Independent Baptist Churches and Ministries of Ukraine
- Evangelical Baptist Union of Ukraine
- Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Convention of Canada
- Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Russia
- Stepaniak, S. (1905). King Stork and King Log. At the Dawn of a New Reign; a Study of Modern Russia (Third Impression ed.). London: Chatto & Windus. pp. 165–183.
- "ШТУНДИСТЫ". Soviet Historical Encyclopedia.
- Professor Godet (13 November 1896). "THE STUNDISTS. Creed of a Religious Sect Founded in Russia.". Sacramento Daily Union. Public Opinion. p. 4. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
- Rauschenbusch, Professor A. (February 1875). "Recent Persecutions Against the Baptists in Russia: German Baptists in Russia.". The Baptist Missionary Magazine. Boston MA: Franklin Press: Rand, Avery, and Company (Vol. 55, No. 2): 47–49. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
From letter dated December 21, 1874, Rochester N.Y., sent to The Examiner and Chronicle.