About DTS

Tasha Kharitonova

Tasha KharitonovaAs the granddaughter of a member of the Communist party and the daughter of a scientist, Tasha Kharitonova's childhood in Russia was devoid of any spiritual understanding.

"I was raised to believe that there is a scientific reason for everything, and that there is no such thing as a spirit or soul," she said.

Tasha was also a member of Young Pioneers, a kind of communist party for children, to indoctrinate them into the belief system. She likened it to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, but government controlled (just like everything else).

While this system of thought made sense to her, she was an unhappy child and said she always had a sense that something was missing. One thing that she never understood was why people experienced love or an admiration for beauty and poetry.

"I couldn't put it together—if everything I experience is the reaction of my receptors, how is it exciting? What does beautiful mean? Why should I have any kind of emotional reaction?"

When Tasha was in high school, communism collapsed. In spite of her indoctrination, she and others around her were excited because they wanted to see some positive changes for their economy, politics, and the ability to express themselves.

"We didn't have very good lives and we had seen the negative sides of Communism. When I was growing up, it was falling apart."

In 1990, Tasha had the opportunity to come to the States for a month on a school trip. It was the first of its kind for Russian students, and the reception was extraordinary—Billy Joel even sang to them in concert. The group of 10 students went to Washington D.C. and to Detroit, Michigan.

"We were amazed by everyone's friendliness. I think people felt like they were having some part in making peace between the countries by welcoming these kids."

The family that hosted her in Detroit shared the gospel with her and gave her a Russian Bible. Her English was not good at the time, so she didn't really know what they were saying, but when she got home she picked up the Bible and began reading in Genesis. She said she didn't make it very far.

Not long after, her parents had her baptized in a Russian Orthodox church. They were not believers, but they figured it couldn't hurt, in case there is a heaven. She said she tried going to church for a while after that because she wanted to understand Christianity, but nothing was ever really explained—it was all about preserving the rituals and traditions.

"It was a very confusing time for the Orthodox church, trying to preserve their identity in the time of major change."

She went to college at St. Petersburg State University and took philosophy courses. She became very skeptical about everything, and had no real hope for humanity. And a book she read by Friedrich Neitzsche, called Antichrist confirmed her dark feelings about life. One of the premises of the book is that since there is no God, there is also no love, no morality, no beauty, and no harmony.

"Everyone else you read who say they are atheists still have a belief in morality or justice or social law—that harmony is possible. But Neitzsche says that it is not. I realized that I couldn't live in a world like that—and if it was true, all I wanted was to commit suicide."

The world Neitzsche portrayed was so ugly that it caused in her the opposite reaction—she realized that since "life is for living, there must be a God." She became what she calls a "theist," waiting for some sort of understanding of God.

One of Tasha's classmates invited some missionaries from the U.S. to come to her English class. She wasn't able to understand most of what they said because they spoke in English, but she did catch that they had some sort of club called New Life that met and sang and spoke in English. So, she decided to go.

"They were very nice, genuine people and it reminded me of the acceptance I felt in the U.S. I wondered if there might be something behind all the kindness that I saw."

She continued to attend the fellowship and got involved in a Bible study and at a local Christian church. She didn't really have what she would call a "conversion experience," but over time, she found that the doctrines of the gospel "became dear" to her and her worldview began to shift.

After she finished 4 years at St. Petersburg, she came to the U.S. to go to St. John's College in Maryland for a master's degree in liberal arts, specifically philosophy. The program was not in a lecture format—the students would read and discuss works by such writers as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Shakespeare.

"It was what I needed … I was forced to think as a Christian, to measure what I believed against what these philosophers were arguing."

The program was two years long, and one of the conditions for the scholarship money she received was that she return to Russia when she finished. She also felt that she needed to go back because she was getting spoiled by the American lifestyle.

So, she moved back to St. Petersburg and began teaching philosophy and humanities to 500 students at a community college. She taught for one year, while she continued to get more involved at her church and with an organization called Buckner International, which worked in orphanages.

Realizing that she needed some biblical training to balance her philosophical education, Tasha began to investigate seminaries and eventually decided on DTS. She is currently working toward a Th.M. in Systematic Theology and would like to one day teach in a Christian or secular university in Russia.

Tasha continually strives to integrate her philosophy and literary background into her theological understanding. In the spring, she was given the opportunity to present an essay at the ETS-SW Regional Meeting at the Criswell College. Click on the link to read her essay. Three Little Pigs in the Age of Dynamite: the Role of Imagery in the Journey Beyond Foundationalism