Peace to you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Last week we travelled to the village of Beryozovka, in which ethnic Estonians live.
The first group of Estonian peasants arrived here in 1803, they were sent “to the eternal settlement in Siberia” for participating in protests against the authorities. In 1803 and 1804, the first houses of the village of Kasekula (from Estonian: “Birch”, in Russian it is: “Beryoza”) were built.
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, many voluntary settlers arrived in Siberia from the north-western parts of the Russian Empire. The government supported people to move to Siberia to colonize it. Peasants could get free land.
From 1906 to 1914, more than 9,000 Estonians moved to Siberia, creating new villages. To Beryozovka peasants came from the Viljandimaa district of the Tartu province.
Life was difficult, and especially — later during the Josef Stalin time, when almost 15% of the inhabitants of Estonian villages in Siberia were persecuted and most men of 20-40 years old were shot as “enemies of the state.”
At the beginning of the 20th century there were many Lutherans among those who moved, thanks to them our faith spread in Siberia. Often the “new Siberians” settled into such hard-to-reach places, so the pastors had to spend weeks to get to their parishioners. After a hundred years, there are still challenging roads in Siberia, and it is still not easy to travel. But we are accustomed to overcome long distances and deep snow.
The locals, mainly babushkas and middle-aged women, came to the meeting with Pastor Daniel Burlakov and Deacon Oleg Epp (they were also accompanied by the organizer of the trip Mr. Igor Makarenko).
About 300 people live in Beryozovka, of which 70 speak Estonian. Some of them still read old prayer books with gothic type. They asked a lot of questions, mostly practical, related to the Christian life and death. They talked about Christmas, prayers, icons, funerals.
Our clergymen brought “Luther’s Small Catechisms” and Christian books for the local library. And they agreed on the next visit in December.
At the end of the 19th century in the Tomsk province (to which then, besides Tomsk and the area, the settlements of the future Novosibirsk and Kemerovo regions belonged) most of the Lutherans were of Estonian origin. Our duty is to remember those who came to Siberia and brought here the Lutheran faith.
We are Christians because of efforts of those who brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ into our cold land.
Please pray for the Lutherans with Estonian background in Siberia and for the travels of the priests to be fruitful and safe.
“Faith and hope”