On November 30 and December 1, 2018, Zaoksky Adventist University (ZAU) celebrated its three decades of prompting students to “Learn, Serve, Inspire,” as the school motto says.
On December 2, 1988, the dream of having a Seventh-day Adventist college in Russia became a reality through what church leaders consider "the power of God’s providence." For 30 years the school located in Zaoksky, Tula Oblast, has been a symbol of Adventist education in post-Soviet Russia. Many church workers currently serving across Russia and in other former Soviet nations can trace their educational roots to that institution.
A Story of Courage and Vision
In January 1987, after numerous petitions and letters to Soviet authorities, the Adventist Church was given permission to open a three-year correspondence course for the training of ministers. That same month, the church also received a plot of land in Zaoksky. When Zaoksky opened in December 1988, it was the first Protestant seminary in Russian history, school sources said.
The first program was a degree in religion to prepare ministers for pastoral work. A School of Agriculture soon followed. In 1990, the Soviet Union’s Committee of Religious Affairs gave Zaoksky official registration as a full-time institution of higher education.
Later, the school added more degrees, including a master’s in music (2000), a bachelor’s in economics (2003), and a master’s degree in public health (2005), among others. Graduates of government-accredited programs in the university receive a government diploma in addition to their church diplomas, something that helps them to find a job outside the Adventist Church organization.
Zaoksky’s 30th-anniversary celebrations included guests from the Adventist Church headquarters and the Russian Federation government. Among them were a representative of the Department for Religious Associations of the Office of the President of the Russian Federation on Domestic Policy; members of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation; and a representative of the Office for Relations with Religious Organizations of the Department of National Policy and Interregional Relations of the city of Moscow.
Guest speakers who addressed church leaders, faculty, staff, and students highlighted the importance of Zaoksky for the region and the country. "It’s an original educational institution which is highly valued by society," they said. "We wish the school further success and prosperity."
Each guest was presented with a copy of a modern Russian Bible translation, edited by M. P. Kulakov, and Tula pryanik, an imprinted gingerbread from the region, which, in this case, showed an image of Zaoksky Adventist University on the bread.
Leaders expressed their thanks to everyone who made the special weekend possible. “Thank you for taking part in this celebration!” they said.