Excerpts from

I Found God in Soviet Russia

Introduction, Map and Chapter 1

By John Noble

Published by St. Martin's Press, New York, 1959

Table of Contents


At the bottom of this page is a map showing the arctic region where John and other Soviet prisoners saw God's goodness in the midst of unthinkable deprivations.

Chapter 1: A Mission to Fulfill

During the decade I spent in communist prisons and labor camps I saw many terrible things. I also saw some glorious ones, things more heartening than any other news I bring out of the Soviet Union.... I found God for myself through personal conversion and, even more significantly for the world at large, I met many others who had had a similar experience. I discovered that the Christian religion is surviving communist persecution in East Germany and in Soviet Russia itself.

I found that secret worship services were held and converts won for Christ even in Vorkuta itself, one of the slave-labor camps in the Soviet Arctic.

Having learned to speak and understand Russian, I found myself in close contact with Russian engineers and workers, and realized that there is deep interest in the Christian religion among both groups. In spite of their forty-year exposure to official atheism, or perhaps because of it, they hunger for the spiritual values they have been denied. This evidence I am able to bring back to the free world, and through it the glorious tidings of a faith that cannot be killed.

I have seen Christianity under the most terrible persecution it has suffered since the days of Nero, and I have seen abundant proof that faith in Christ, the Saviour, is still alive in Russia today in the very places where the Communists have tried hardest to stamp it out, the concentration camps. It is triumphant testimony I have to give concerning the Church behind Barbed Wire, and I am convinced it was Gods will that I be a member of that persecuted Church for several years in order to testify that God is with it and is sustaining it.

The fact that I survived all I had been exposed to, and was enabled to return to America in good health, before the drastic sentence imposed by a Moscow court had run its full course, is proof to me that God was with me, that there was a purpose in my survival which, as I look back upon the successive phases of my prison experiences, seems nothing less than miraculous. I thank God from the bottom of my heart for His mercy.

I wish that this mission to testify had been given to someone more eloquent than Ior rather that I, to whom it has been given, were more eloquent. But I was there in Russia and am now here in America; the story is mine.

As I try to convey it to the free world, I think of the words of Job. Many times during my long imprisonment -- when I was tempted to lose faith and to cry out against the injustice and hardships inflicted upon me, I thought of Job. He, too, endured much for reasons that he could not understand but nothing could shake him from his faith. In his famous pledge, he declared,

'All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. (Job 27-34).

Jobs pledge is my pledge, also. So long as breath is in me, I will not speak falsehood. So long as the spirit of God is with me, I cannot utter deceit. Out of a sense of solemn obligation to God I will speak the truth to the free world about the wonders I have seen.

Notes: Twenty-one-year-old John Noble and his father Charles were arrested at the end of World War II (1945), when the occupying Soviet armies took control of Dresden, ravaged the city (especially its women), and confiscated the Noble's camera factory. (The reasons will be explained in next week's excerpts from Chapter 2. You will also see some shocking illustrations of man's utter depravity apart from God.)

Though neither father nor son were charged with any crime, they would spend year after year in various Soviet prisons. But in the midst of horrendous deprivation that claimed the lives of prisoners all around them, God would repeatedly demonstrate His strength and comfort!

Eventually, the father was released while John was transported to Vorkuta, one of Stalin's most dreaded slave camp. There "political" prisoners like John (who apparently knew too much about the Soviet system to be released) would endure excruciating labor in icy coal mines as winter temperatures fell to minus 90F.

It's not surprising that most prisoners died of the torturous work, unthinkable climate, communist cruelties or the standard malnutrition. Human life was worthless apart from the coal each skimpily clothed body could extract from the icy caverns.

As an American citizen, John had many opportunities to share his faith, pray with others, and join in hidden worship. While Bibles were banned, imprisoned pastors from numerous countries had memorized whole chapters of the Bible. They would teach the precious Word in secret parts of the coal mines -- not unlike the early Christians hiding in the Roman catacombs.

The map below shows the location of this infamous work camp. Follow the curve of the Arctic Circle from the Norwegian Sea on the upper left corner to the lower right corner in arctic Russia. About 1/5 of an inch above that lower right corner you can see the word Vorkuta.

See pictures: http://www.videofact.com/english/gulags_pictures3.htm

Vorkuta: "In 1934, Stalin's NKVD (the precursor to the KGB) established the concentration camp called Vorkulag (formed from the words Vorkuta and lager, which means camp), and opened the first [coal] shaft. For the next twenty years, the mining community along the shores of the Vorkuta river would form the northernmost tip of the notorious prison camp system which Alexander Solzhenitsyn entitled, the Gulag Archipelago.

"Political prisoners, mostly intellectuals, old Bolsheviks, and later criminals, were brought primarily from Leningrad to work the coal mines. (They marched a good part of the way until 1941, when the railroad finally reached the basin.) In 1941 the city was officially established with NKVD overseers making up the main body of the inhabitants. During World War II, when Nazi troops over-ran the Donbas region, Vorkulag became the primary coal producer for Stalin's war effort.

"It would be pointless to try to calculate the number of people who perished in Vorkulag, as it would be to count the number of victims who died throughout the USSR during Stalin's reign. ...the locals say that when Spring melting carries away layers of top soil, fields of human bones sprout up out of the ground around the city.

"After Stalin's death in 1953, Soviet officials amnestied scores of political and criminal prisoners. With cruel irony, the authorities often made the release date coincide with Stalin's birthday in order to commemorate the memory of the 'Father of the Peoples.' Camp survivors were forbidden to return home, and forced to remain in Vorkuta to continue the development of the city. Like Australia, the city of Vorkuta became a society of ex convicts and exiles..." http://www.wav3.com/WAV3Pages/Vorkuta.html

See also Brainwashing and Education "Reform"