In 1903 Elder Francis M. Lyman had prayed for the gospel to be preached in the Russian language. Though there was no mission established in Russia, some Russian Latter-day Saints in other countries began translating Church literature into Russian. Joseph C. Littke, a German-Russian émigré who joined the Church in 1918, settled in Utah after serving a mission. In 1932 Elder Joseph Fielding Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asked Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon into Russian. Though his Book of Mormon translation was never published, Littke’s translation of the missionary tract Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story became the first Church publication in Russian in 1936.
Meanwhile, another young émigré, Andre K. Anastasion, had begun his own translation of the Book of Mormon. Andre, a native of Odesa in Ukraine, joined the Church in 1918 in England. In 1925 Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then presiding over the British Mission, suggested that he translate the Book of Mormon into Russian. Within 18 months, “with much prayer and contemplation,” Andre completed a manuscript translation. He then bought a typewriter with a Russian keyboard and produced a typescript, but the translation sat unused for several years.
After World War II, during which Andre served as acting mission president in the United Kingdom, he and his family moved to Utah. There he renewed his translation work. He reviewed and revised his translation several times and consulted with other Russian speakers. Then in 1960, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Assistant to the Twelve, requested that Andre submit his translation to the Church.
Andre felt the need to improve the quality of his work again and undertook another revision. While working on it in 1963, he felt impressed to travel to San Francisco to find someone who could help him. He followed the prompting and, while visiting a store, met a man familiar with Russian religious terminology. His new acquaintance expressed a willingness to help. With his input, Andre finished his work by 1970 and moved on to other translation projects.
After additional reviews, the Church published the Book of Mormon in Russian in 1980, the year of Andre’s death. For the next three decades, until the Church released a new translation in 2012, Andre’s work was read by Russian speakers in many countries. Thousands of converts came to receive a spiritual witness of the restored gospel thanks to his and others’ efforts to make it available in their own language.