By Editorial Staff
Published June 2, 1989
NEW YORK CITY, NY (FR) – An intriguing report in the Wall Street Journal (April 28, 1989) has raised serious questions about the religious beliefs of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and has top-level government leaders throughout the world wondering if the Communist Party chief is actually a Christian.
“The Russian Reformation,” an article by Mark Helprin, states that President Reagan’s press secretary, Larry Speakes, recorded in his memoirs that Mr. Gorbachev confided in Reagan while they talked at the Geneva Summit in 1985 – saying that he was a Christian. Helprin says that evidence has now accumulated to verify this claim.
Reagan’s pre-summit intelligence research indicated that Gorbachev was indeed a baptized Christian, and that his mother Maria goes to church. “Maria Panteleyvna does not merely attend services,” the article stated. “She is devout. Her son, baptized during Stalin’s terror, worshiped at a time when doing so was an elemental commitment and an act of courage. In what may have been a prophetic metaphor, his paternal grandparents hid religious icons behind portraits of Lenin and Stalin. Today, when President Gorbachev visits his mother each year on his birthday, she serves an Easter cake decorated with the initials for ‘Christ Is Risen.’ “
Because the Communist Party in the USSR has a long record of disinformation tactics, and with regard for Mr. Gorbachev’s political survival, President Reagan did not report his findings to the American people.
Although Gorbachev could never have advanced in the Communist Party leadership without taking some direct actions against the church and religious practices, Helprin noted that the Soviet leader has made numerous positive references to Christianity in recent years. He told Time magazine in 1985, “Surely, God on high has not refused to give us enough wisdom to find ways to bring us an improvement in our relations.” He also stated to Newsweek, “Jesus Christ alone knew answers to all questions and knew how to feed twenty thousand Jews with five loaves of bread” – and added that things may work out politically “if the Politburo and God are well disposed toward me.”
After remarks commencing his first American visit, he turned to Secretary of State George Schultz and said, “The visit has begun. So let us hope. May God help us.”
After the devastating earthquake which rocked Soviet Armenia in the fall of 1988, Gorbachev shocked onlookers as he made a forthright statement about his political opponents: “They’re striving for power. They should be stopped, by using all the power at our command – political and administrative. Let God judge them. It’s not for them to decide the destiny of this land.”
Is all this talk of God just a public relations measure rigged by the Kremlin? Helprin proposes that it is not. “Were this language merely for export it might unambiguously be a ruse,” the article stated, “but (Gorbachev) also speaks it at home. Alert Muscovites have commented that he frequently invokes the name of God, he has recommended that Soviet youth go ‘back to church,’ and the men of the cloth whom he brought on his first visit to the U.S. may have been more than just hostages, for religion in the USSR appears truly to be benefiting from glasnost.” At the Jubilee Mass in Kiev last June, as thousands of Russians crowded the streets to celebrate the Millennium of Christianity in their country, the message was shouted out, “God has given us Gorbachev, but Satan wants to kill him.”
Helprin says that if Gorbachev truly is a believing Christian, “the implications are stunning. … For if he believes in an omnipotent presence above all, he is probably not as enthusiastic as his predecessors about the ‘perfectibility of man,’ social engineering, or the precedence of governments over the rights of the individual.”
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