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Vins (Wiens), Georgi (1928–1998)

Proper Title

Georgi Vins (Wiens) collection

Dates of Creation

1979, 1984–1986, 1989, 1998

Physical Description

3 cm of textual records

Biographical Sketch

Georgi Vins was born in 1928 to Peter Wiens (1898–1936) and Lydia Zharikova (b. 1907) in Blagoveschensk, a town on the Russian border with Manchuria. Peter Wiens was the son of Mennonite Brethren leader Jacob J. Wiens (1874–1944) and Elizabeth Baerg (1878–1967). Jacob ministered for a time at the MB church in Borden, Saskatchewan, after immigrating from Russia to the United States in 1911. The Wiens family returned to the U.S. in 1917 and Jacob continued his evangelistic ministry in the U.S., eventually returning to minister in the Soviet Union (Vladivostok) and then back to North America, taking several pastorates in Canada--again at the MB church in Borden, SK, and then at German Baptist congregations in B.C. and Alberta (see Albert W. Wardin, Jr., "Jacob J. Wiens: Mission Champion in Freedom and Repression," Journal of Church and State [Autumn, 1986]: 495–514).

Peter Wiens attended seminary in the United States and upon graduation became involved in a church with Russian immigrants in Pittsburgh. He felt called to preach the Christian gospel in Russia. So, in 1926, he left his home bound for Siberia. In 1927, he married Georgi’s mother to-be, Lydia Zharikova. Georgi Vins was born August 4, 1928. In Siberia, the Soviet authorities revoked Peter's U.S. citizenship and arrested him in the crack down on people of religious faith, including Christianity. He was arrested again in 1935, and was executed in 1936. For many years, the family believed he had passed away in a labour camp in 1943, as they had been told by authorities. In 1995, when KGB files became accessible in the post-Soviet period, Georgi went to Moscow and read his father's file. There he learned that his father had been executed with a bullet in August 1936 at the age of 39 (see special 1998 edition of The Russian Gospel Messenger in file list below).

Lydia took her son Georgi to Kyiv, Ukraine, where he finished his schooling and graduated as an electrical engineer. On January 27, 1952, Georgi married Nadia Lazariuk and five children were born in this marriage. Georgi was required by law to have a non-religious job. In 1962, he was ordained as a Baptist evangelist. The laws regarding religious services and activities were repressive in Russia. Vins saw them as hindering the church and so he defied them. The KGB soon saw this and Vins became a concern to them. In 1966, he was arrested in Moscow. He spent three years in prison camps in the Ural Mountains. Once released he continued his ministry, but underground. In 1974, the authorities caught up with him and arrested him. He was sentenced to ten years. On April 27, 1979, five years into his prison sentence, he was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and exiled to the United States in a prisoner exchange negotiated by the Jimmy Carter administration. Later his family was allowed to join him.

Once in the U.S., he began to speak out against the persecution the Soviets were inflicting upon the church. Vins founded a Christian ministry called International Representation, an organization with the goal of representing, defending, and aiding the persecuted church in the Soviet Union. He spoke and preached across North America, South America, Europe, and Australia until the last prisoner was released in 1988. He then renamed his ministry to Russian Gospel Ministries (RGM) and focused on aiding local churches in their efforts to evangelize their neighbors. The organization began to translate and print books, and Bibles for people in Russia.

In 1990, Vins’ exile was lifted by Mikhail Gorbachev. In the following years, Georgi made numerous trips to Russia where he preached in churches, prisons, and schools. In the fall of 1997, a brain tumor was discovered and treatment began. He died on January 11, 1998, in Elkhart, Indiana.

Custodial History

The history of the material in this collection is unclear. It appears that the material has been gathered from various sources and put together in this collection.

Scope and Content

The material in this collection consists of some of the publications by the organization that Vins founded. Other material was gathered after his death and put together for this collection.  In 1982, Mennonite Brethren leader, Ewald Unruh, coordinated a speaking tour across Canada for Vins.  The materials in the second file come from Unruh (more accruals expected).


  • Volume 1092.
  • Title based on contents of the fonds.
  • Described by Conrad Stoesz, September 24, 1999.  Updated by Conrad Stoesz July 25, 2013, January 11, 2016. Updated by Jon Isaak, October 2016.
  • Accession nos. 2016-001 (file 2)
  • Related material: See
  •      Georgi Vins, Testament From Prison, translated by Jane Ellis (Weston, Ontario: David C. Cook Publishing Co.) 1975.
  •      Georgi Vins, compiler, Let the Water Roar: Evangelists in the Gulag (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House) 1989.
  •      Georgi Vins, The Gospel in Bonds (Elkhart IN: Russian Gospel Ministries) 1995.

File List

Volume 1092

File 1

  1. Draft of article published in the Mennonite Historian, March 1998 entitled "Georgi Vins, Jacob J. Wiens and Saskatchewan Brethren Connections," by Abe Dueck. -- 1998.
  2. Email letter by Walter Sawatzky, forwarded by Alf Redekopp to Abe Dueck January 14, 1998, regarding the death of Georgi Vins. -- 1998.
  3. Wardin, Albert W., “Jacob J. Wiens: Mission Champion in Freedom and Repression,” Journal of Church and State (Autumn, 1986): 495–514. -- photocopied [1998?].
  4. Vins, G.P., Testimony, G.P. Vins to the Commission on Security and Co-operation in Europe, June 7, 1979, Köln, Germany: Missionswerk Friedensstimme. -- 1979.
  5. International Representation for the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches of the Soviet Union, Inc., May 1984. -- 1984.
  6. International Representation for the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches of the Soviet Union, Inc., November 1984. -- 1984.
  7. Gefangenliste, Der Evangeliumschristen-Baptisten in der UdSSR, 1985, = prison directory of Christians in the USSR. -- 1985.
  8. And Ye Visited Me: A Prison Directory of the Evangelical Christian Baptists in the Soviet Union, Elkhart, Indiana: International Representation for the Council of Evangelical Baptist Churches of the Soviet Union, Inc., 1984. -- 1984.
  9. The Russian Gospel Messenger, special edition: "Georgi Vins: Promoted to Glory," August 4, 1928 – January 11, 1998. Elkhart, Indiana: Russian Gospel Ministries international, 1998. -- 1998.

File 2

  1. The testimony of Georgi Vins: Given to the US commission responsible for monitoring Soviet fidelity..." and other materials. -- 1979–1983.
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