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Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom

Father Georgi Edelstein

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation awarded its highest honor, the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, to Father Georgi Edelstein, a Russian Orthodox priest and dissident for his lifelong commitment to freedom and democracy as well as his opposition to communism and tyranny.

Born in 1932 to a Jewish-Christian family in what is now Ukraine, Father Edelstein’s journey to becoming a priest was riddled with difficulties, as his ethnic origins and history as a free-thinking academic made him unappealing to a church permeated with Soviet bureaucracy. After his ordination in 1979, Father Edelstein was suspended from his position for being a “politically motivated dissident,” yet he continued to fight for religious freedom in the Soviet Union. Despite harassment from Soviet officials and bishops, Father Edelstein consistently denounced interference from the Kremlin into the Russian Orthodox Church, especially the intrusion of KGB practices into the priesthood.

In February of 2022, as Moscow marched on Ukraine with the support of leadership from the Russian Orthodox Church, Father Edelstein refused to follow the church’s capitulation to Putin’s demands, instead charging the Russian people to stand with Ukraine and speak out against the Kremlin’s atrocities.

Father Georgi Edelstein was awarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom, on July 19 at the 2023 Captive Nations Summit. VOC holds the Captive Nations Summit every year during the third week of July to mark National Captive Nations Week, in fulfillment of the 1959 congressional resolution adopted during the Eisenhower administration to show American solidarity with nations subjugated by communism. This year’s Captive Nations Summit brought together senior leaders, international experts, and human rights activists to discuss the deadly, and sadly, enduring legacy of communism, as well as memory politics, and the lessons learned for current and future generations of freedom fighters.

Father Edelstein’s acceptance speech was presented by his long-time biographer George Roller. Read his full remarks here or watch the speech below.