Year 1900: The YMCA of Russia was founded in St. Petersburg. Under the auspices of the Empress Alexandra, Mr James Stocks of the USA was able to unite all those who were seriously interested in the growth of YMCA in Russia. Under this project, which was called The Light House, a number of programs were developed. The goals were: Profound respect of the Russian culture and traditions of the Orthodox church – development of the spirit, mind and body.
General Secretary of the International Committee of Canada and the USA, Dr John R. Mott, helped to organize the Russian Christian Student Movement in the universities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In 1905, Mr A. Gaylord, the first secretary of the YMCA in Russia, formed an organisation: St. Petersburg Society of Young People. Here young people were able to strengthen their moral and physical development. This society grew very fast and in a very short time had more than 2000 members. YMCAs emerged in the cities of Krasnoyarsk, Vladivostok and Riga.
The October Revolution of 1917 put an end to the development of the YMCA in Russia. The Bolsheviks shut down the headquarters of the YMCA in Moscow in 1919. In 1989 and 1991 two delegations from the YMCA of the USA and the World Alliance of YMCA visited the USSR. These visits marked the revival of the YMCA in Russia. The YMCA of the USA received a grant from World Learning. This grant, and Perestroika, allowed local YMCA organisations to spring up in different regions of Russia.
The first conference, held in 1992 in Moscow, brought together the YMCA leaders of Russia, the newly Independent States, Europe and USA. That conference, and many that followed, bonded the partnership ties of the Russian local YMCAs with their American and European partners. The provisional board of the Russian YMCA was formed in 1996. Nikolai Kurochkin was its first chairman. Also during that time the Field Group 9 (FG9) was formed under the auspices of the the European Alliance of YMCAs (EAY). The EAY and the YMCA of the USA delegated their best professionals and volunteers to FG 9 as members. FG9 is now known as Field Group Russia.
In 1998 the Russian YMCA movement secured official status as the Inter-Regional Association of the YMCAs of Russia. Sixteen local organisations in different regions of Russia offer programs to different population groups including children, the socially excluded, seniors, orphans and the disabled. Their programmes continue to preserve and respect the Russian traditions. Based on Christian values, all programmes are targeted at the young and old of all social groups. People of different faiths are welcomed to the YMCAs of Russia.
The Program Festival in Suzdal in 1999 proved that the Russian YMCA is on the right track. The strong support and collaboration of the partners in the USA, Europe and FG 9 has helped to gain international recognition for the Russian YMCAS. With enthusiasm and pride we learnt that the Inter-regional Association was accepted as a full member of the EAY in May 2000. We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who has helped us in our development. Without that help we would not have been able to achieve what we have accomplished. The YMCAs of Russia will continue to play an important role in the lives of local communities.