Saturday, September 3, 2022

Tortured for His Faith by Haralan Popov

Tortured for His Faith
Haralan Popov
Published 1970

The more I read about communism, the more I believe it to be the religion of Satan. Why? Because communists hate Christianity. While these regimes cannot compete with any religion because they aim to be the only religion of the state, there is plenty of first hand evidence to support that communists particularly seek to eliminate or control Christian churches, the Bible, Christian history, and Christians in general. 

In Tortured for His Faith, Pastor Harlan Popov noted that the communists preferred to change the mind of Christians rather than have them die martyrs. It was a victory to force Christians to leave the faith and "conform to...the new society [communists] were building." Satan rather win one over to his side, especially a Christian. Popov described communism as the "cleverness and evil of Satan himself."

Yet, the obstacle that communists did not understand was that once a man gave his life to Christ, he was His forever, and no one could snatch him out of His hands. 


Popov was an important Christian pastor in Bulgaria at the time of the Russian take over of Eastern European nations in 1944, also known as the Iron Curtain. Popov anticipated persecution, though there were three years of religious freedom. Then in 1948, he was arrested (or kidnapped, he says) and taken in for a "little questioning." 

A little questioning turned into thirteen years of mental, emotional, and physical torture, hard labor, beatings, starvation, and imprisonment. He survived only by the grace of God.  He knew he was in that position for Jesus, and he called it the Great Persecution for Christ. 

Popov learned suffering for Christ was "more precious than gold," and he embraced it; however, he also knew he faced death, which brought peace because he knew he would instantly be with the Lord. Whatever God's will was for him, he accepted it. 

Communist parties out of power purposely seem reasonable and kind, but let them come to power and their true nature will be revealed.

Starvation was used to "break the will" as opposed to brainwashing. Breaking the will "require[d] only brutal, unrelenting beatings, starvation and torture building up to a rising peak and crescendo of horror where a person no longer ha[d] a will of his own." Breaking the will was temporary, but brainwashing was permanent, convincing people that communism was good. Popov said they could never brainwash him. To them, he was worse than a triple murderer. 

This was their tactic: "they began it with a fury and  brutality." In addition, he suffered sleeplessness and standing for weeks on end. This should have transformed any rational human being into an animal. 

And yet, in the end, it was the guard/interrogator who became animalistic. 

When the Secret Police gave him instruction to write down information about himself, his connections, and work, he decided to use the opportunity to share his testimony and the Word of God. All of this was in preparation for his unjust trial that was stacked against him, regardless of the truth.  


Popov described communist teaching as "the end justifying the means." They justify using lies, deception, murder, and every measure to reach their goal. Their objective was to make a case against pastors -- to destroy the evangelical churches. The goal was to remove faithful pastors and replace them with puppet pastors who were easily programed for state propaganda. In truth, Christ and His Word were on trial. This was how Satan used false witnesses and accusations to erase Christ. But:

A lie is always a lie. Neither Marxists nor Leninists will ever succeed in building an earthly paradise upon a lie. 

During the thirteen years, Popov saw his wife and two young children one time. This was the most difficult aspect and worst torture: not knowing the whereabouts, safety, or well being of one's family. 


Propov shared a quote by Maxim Gorki, a communist writer, that was posted at the labor camp. It was translated: 

'Man is something to be proud of,' 

and yet, here thousands of men were treated like animals. Propov reasoned within himself: "God's Word teaches that man is the crown of creation. There is nothing on the face of the earth greater than man. It is strange that men who refuse to receive the Creator and who don't consider a human being to be of any value had written those words on the wall." 

Furthermore, a second Gorki quote: 

'If the enemy doesn't surrender, he must be annihilated.' 

Again, Propov "thought about the contradiction in the two phrases, reflecting the division in the mind of the writer. By this, one can understand the chasm between communism in theory and communism in practice. The first quotation showed communist theory in its effort to create an earthly paradise. The second phrase showed the harsh reality. On the one hand, man is something to be proud of; on the other, he is an enemy who must be annihilated!" 

In essence, the prisoners were enemies of the state because they would not permit the ideals of communism to triumph over their minds and hearts. Communism demanded total compliance and submissiveness. And yet, these prisoners had rejected the forces of the vilest enemy. 


Propov said this experience taught him 

how low man can sink without God.

A man in prison is at the end of himself, and it is a good place for him to think about God. In prison, Propov built a prison ministry. Having secret access to a Bible, he was able to memorize 47 chapters. Once the Bible was confiscated, they could not take away what was already hidden away in his heart. He developed a way to share the gospel by doing a kind of morse code with prisoners in other cells. 

Another way he shared the truth was by pretending to teach English to prisoners. He spoke the gospel in English, while the guards did not understand it. 

For thirteen years, in every prison, cell, and work camp, Propov shared the gospel and left behind communities of Bible studies. He believed his years of torture, beatings, starvation, suffering, and separation were worth it. He kept his dignity because he never compromised his beliefs nor gave in to the scheme for early release, to spy on other pastors and help destroy Christianity in Bulgaria. 

When he was officially released from prison, in 1961, his faith was "intact and stronger than ever." 


But his greatest work was about to begin. The churches behind the Iron Curtain were struggling, and believers were being tortured in silence. Pastor Propov learned from the Early Churches of Rome and helped to set up secret underground churches. There was a desperate need to get Bibles into Bulgaria immediately. For a time, people made their own copies of God's Word. As expected, persecution proved to be a positive work for the Church. 

Through God's Hand, Propov obtained a passport to go outside the Iron Curtain and tell the free nations about the persecuted churches and their need for Bibles. 

Finally, Propov left this message:

Christianity - true Bible-centered, evangelical Christianity - can never coexist with communism. 

(Look at the evidence!)

Then pray. Then Come. Join us in this mighty work God has raised up in answer to the Macedonian call and to the cry from the Suffering Church.  

Pastor Harlan Popov 1907 - 1988


  1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment on The Sunday Salon post at Impressions in Ink. I read this book, Tortured for His Faith several years ago. I kept the copy. This is the first review I've read
    on it. Great job. Hope Sunday is wonderful!

    1. Thanks. I picked up my copy at a used book store, but I had never heard about it before, nor have I since I've read it. It's an obscure little story, but powerful and shocking. I'll never forget it.


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