The Origins of Modern Russia


1951 was the most fearful and intense year of the Cold War. The first “hot” war of the new era was raging in Korea. Nations seriously discussed using nuclear weapons. Despite suffering more than half a million casualties since the start of the Korean War, the Communist forces of China and North Korea, supported by the recently nuclear-armed ussr, had grown to more than a million troops. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who commanded the United Nations forces, had been relieved of command. By the end of the year, both sides had fought each other to a bloody standstill in Korea.

Right then, with fears of a hot war breaking out between the two nuclear superpowers, Herbert W. Armstrong boldly proclaimed in the January 1952 issue of the Good News magazine: “Russia Will Not Attack America!”

This prophecy proved right. Four decades later, the Cold War ended—and Russia had not attacked America!

How could Mr. Armstrong accurately forecast, at the very peak of the Cold War, that Russia would not attack?

Only one source can correctly foretell major world events before they happen: the Bible. Mr. Armstrong could make such dramatic predictions because he had the key that decodes the Bible.

Specifically, that key is the biblical identity of the American and British peoples as the modern-day descendants of Israel! This key is fully explained in Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy (request this free book immediately if you have not already done so). Essential to that key is the knowledge of who the other world powers are, including Russia. Mr. Armstrong knew these prophetic identities and recognized that Russia and America were not prophesied to lock horns in a major world war!

Now, a resurgent Russia is on the scene, clawing its way toward regaining the stature it once held during the days of the Soviet Empire. Is this major trend in world affairs ignored in Bible prophecies?

Absolutely not!

The Bible mentions the people of Russia in one of its most exciting end-time prophecies.

Who Are Meshech and Tubal?

Ezekiel 38:2 reads, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshechand Tubal and prophesy against him.” Meshech and Tubal, along with their descendants, have been found together throughout history. The Bible speaks of them as allies dwelling in proximity to one another. Assyrian inscriptions speak of both peoples, and they are even found listed together in Greek histories.

Beginning with Assyrian records, Meshech appears as Musku,Muski or Mushki, and Tubal as Tabal or Tabali, according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Musku is related to the Russian spelling of Moscow, which is Moskva. Even the capital city of Russia, through which the Moskva River flows, helps identify the nation as a participant in the Ezekiel 38 prophecy.

The name Tubal is also featured in Russia, on the eastern side of the Urals, through the name of the Tobol River and the city named after it, Tobolsk. Though no longer a prominent city, Tobolsk was once the seat of Russian government over Siberia as the Russians expanded east of the Urals.

This area is now populated by the Great Russians. Who are these people? The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “[I]t is easy to detect among the Great Russians themselves two separate branches different from one another by slight divergences of language and type and deep diversities of national character …” (Volume 23, 11th Edition). The encyclopedia places one branch of the Great Russians as a compact mass in Central Russia, and the second branch around the Ural Mountains, where the Great Russians “reappear in a second compact body, and there extend through South Siberia.”

This is describing the Meshech branch, which settled around Moscow and Central Russia, and the Tubal branch, which settled around the Ural Mountains and Tobol. These two branches form the core of the Great Russians! Though this term is not in use anymore, it aptly describes what biblical prophecy said would happen.

Migration From Asia Minor

At the time Ezekiel recorded his prophecy, Meshech and Tubal lived in Asia Minor. How, then, could these people be in Russia today? The answer is they migrated out of the Middle East, just as almost every other race and people has done since the Flood.

Just think: If none of these peoples listed in the Bible, especially Genesis 10, had migrated from the area, all of the world’s population would be a compact mass of people dwelling in the Middle East. Clearly, that is not the case.

At the time of Sargon’s reign over the Assyrian Empire in the 700s b.c., Meshech and Tubal were located in southern and western Asia Minor. Inscriptions from Sargon’s reign record these two nations dwelling there. It was a time of great population displacement in the Middle East as the Assyrian Empire was peaking and many populations, such as the Israelites, were migrating to other areas.

Let’s look at the historical records to track the migration of Meshech and Tubal from Asia Minor to where they reside today.

Northbound Toward Russia

Three centuries later, in the 400s b.c., the Greeks speak of Meshech and Tubal as the Moschoi and Tibareni in northern Asia Minor, at the southeastern edge of the Black Sea.

Herodotus recorded that when Persian Emperor Xerxes i set out to conquer Greece in 480 b.c., the Moschians and Tibarenians were among the troops enlisted. Herodotus gave the description of Xerxes’s military organization, which put these two related peoples together: “The Moschian equipment was that likewise of the Tibarenians …. [T]he Moschians and Tibarenians were under the command of Ariomardus …” (vii, 78).

Once again Meshech and Tubal are found together, and this time they are located further north.

Only 80 years later, Meshech and Tubal are mentioned in a Greek history written by Xenophon, who encountered them in one of his journeys (Anabasis 7.8.25). At that time they were independent of the Persians, whose empire was the dominant power at the time, a likely outcome of their continued migration further to the north.

By the first century a.d., the descendants of Meshech and Tubal were located around the Caucasus region in modern-day Georgia. Geographer Strabo wrote of the “Moschian country” and “Moschian Mountains” in the area (11.2.17; 12.3.18). Right next to them were situated the “Tibareni,” or Tibarenians. Jewish historian Josephus called these descendants of Tubal the “Iberes,” or Iberians, which comes from dropping the “t.”

The name Iberian also has a strong connection with the descendants of the biblical figure Eber, whose name also spread to the Iberian Peninsula. However, as Josephus made clear, the people with this name in the Caucasus area at the time were the descendants of Tubal, not of Eber, whose descendants migrated through earlier and left their name in the region as well.

Roman geographer Pliny, who lived at the same time, called the area Iberia in his work Natural History and noted that “Moschi” lived next to them as well (6.4).

Thanks to ancient records and historians, Meshech and Tubal are easily tracked migrating from Asia Minor northward to the beginning of the vast Russian steppe. Once they crossed the Caucasus, they traveled further north to occupy the land that is now Russia, leaving the names of their ancestors on certain rivers and cities.

Based on geographic location, it is no coincidence that the descendants of Tubal, called Tibarenians and later Iberians, finally settled in the area called Siberia today. While the origin of the word Siberia is debated, it provides a strong connection to where the descendants of Tubal are now located. The term Siberia was first applied by the Russians in the 1500s to the much smaller area they had conquered centered around Tobolsk! Eventually Siberia became the term to describe all the land between the Urals and the Pacific.

Back to Ezekiel 38

A thorough look into Ezekiel 38 confirms that the history provided by Assyrian inscriptions, Herodotus, Strabo and Pliny is accurate. Ezekiel 38 states that the descendants of Meshech and Tubal would be in and around “the land of Magog.”

This term refers to the vast Eurasian continent starting at the Russian steppe and extending all the way to the Pacific. We have covered in a previous article that Gog and Magog primarily refers to modern-day China (December 2010).

However, the Eurasian continent is dominated by one other power, just as Ezekiel 38 said it would! Any map will show you that power is Russia. The people who dwell in this “land of Magog” are dominated by either Russia or China.

But Aren’t the Russians Slavic?

Some people will raise the fact that Russia is made up of several different races and peoples, such as Finns, Turks and Slavs, the most numerous ethnic and linguistic body of people in Europe.

The Russian people, as well as those in Ukraine and Belarus, are classified as the Eastern Slav people today. There are also Western Slavs, such as the Polish, Czechs and Slovaks, and the Southern Slavs, including the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

According to the critics, if Meshech and Tubal are indeed the Russians, these biblical patriarchs must also refer to the rest of Eastern Europe, which is settled by the same Slavic people, whose borders stretch beyond Russia and “the land of Magog.”

However, modern-day classifications of people derived by scholars who openly reject and mock the biblical account will naturally not fall in line with how the Bible classifies people.

Even within the Russian Eastern Slav grouping, there were once three main ethnic types recognized by scholars: the Great Russians (mentioned before), the Little Russians and the White Russians. These terms are obsolete now, but the Great Russians described those living in Russia proper, the White Russians those in Belarus who had far more Baltic influence, and the Little Russians those of Ukraine and Moldova.

While they may be a related people, there are clear differences in the national characteristics of all these nations that are now considered Eastern Slav.

The 12 tribes of Israel illustrate the same principle. Though they are all Israelite, they are still different nations and referred to as different peoples in the Bible. For example, the Jews are referred to as Judah, while Britain, its dominions and America are referred to as Israel. The western coastal nations of Europe are also descendants of the Israelites. The Jews are Israelite, but once the split occurred in the kingdom, the Bible never again refers to the Jews as Israel. Even today they have largely separated into their own Jewish nation, misleadingly called Israel.

The same principle should be applied to the general terms Slavic and Russian. The Great Russian type was the result of certain Slavic tribes intermarrying with the descendants of Meshech and Tubal. These descendants are most likely the people who spoke some of the Finno-Ugric languages, languages that are still spoken in many of the same areas Meshech and Tubal have been shown to have migrated to, one of which is even called Moksha.

Modern scholarship confirms this as well. For example, Russian historian Walter Moss wrote in his A History of Russia, “[T]he intermarrying of Slavs and Finns created a new ethnic type, the Russian or Great Russian” (Volume 1).

What About Rosh?

One other Russian people is mentioned in Ezekiel 38. There is a controversy over the translation of the Hebrew word rosh in verse 2. In the King James Version, this word was translated as the adjective “chief.” But the proper rendering—carried by several different translations, most notably the New King James Version, and explained as such by many Bible encyclopedias and commentaries—uses the word as a proper noun. Thus, that verse should read, “the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.”

A proper translation of Rosh clearly shows that Ezekiel 38 is referring to Russia. Rosh was the ancient name of Russia, once called Rus! Many commentaries and encyclopedias recognize this.

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary statesthe chief prince” should be translated “‘prince of Rosh,’ or ‘Rhos’ [Septuagint]. … The modern Russians may have hence assumed their name, as Moscow and Tobolsk, from Meshech and Tubal ….”

One reason Rosh is typically not translated as a proper noun is that scholars believe Rosh, unlike the other names listed in Ezekiel 38, was not a known land or a name of a person. Rosh, like Gog, isn’t listed in the great list of progenitors found in Genesis 11.

However, Rosh is used as a name in Genesis 46:21. More importantly, Rosh was a well-known place and people in Mesopotamia, in modern-day Iran. It is found in ancient Assyrian manuscripts by the name Rasu.

The Khorsabad Inscription of Sargon, dating to the 700s b.c., describes this land, “the land of Rasu of the boundary of Elam, which is beside the Tigris.”

The migration of the people of Rosh is less documented than that of Meshech and Tubal. They did leave traces behind, however, such as the Ros River in Ukraine in the area where the first state bearing their name was formed, Kievian Rus.

At this time, Rus was a kingdom of multiple ethnicities, including the Slavs, Finno-Ugrians and Balts, ruled by Scandinavians from the house of Riurik. From which people the name Rus came from is still debated. According to the Primary Chronicle of the Slavs, the name was given to its Scandinavian rulers.

Some Russian scholars, motivated by the desire to de-emphasize the Scandinavian influence in early Russian history, believe Rus came from the name of a Sarmatian tribe, called the Rhoxolani.

The Sarmatians were a group of many different tribes of people who migrated through the Russian steppe to Eastern Europe, and were later given the name Slav.

The Encyclopedia Britannica states the Sarmatians were a people of Iranian roots. Therefore, this Sarmatian Rhoxolani most likely came from the land of Rasu, a specific territory named by the Assyrians that is in modern-day Iran, the same area the Sarmatians are explained to have come from.

Interestingly, Strabo recorded the Rhoxolani people living in between the Dnieper and Don rivers further north than anyone known to the Greeks in the first century. This land, which incorporates Belarus, was the territory that formed the first Russian state described earlier.

Either way, the descendants of Rus are shown to be in the same location as those of Russian ethnicity once termed the White Russians!

Why Our Forecasts Are Accurate

The change in the translation in Ezekiel 38:2 was done in disbelief that a prophecy in Ezekiel’s time could so obviously and clearly name a nation, its people, rivers and major cities, a thousand years before it was formed! But the meaning of this prophecy and the identity of the people contained in it is not hidden to those who will believe what the Bible says.

Mr. Armstrong simply believed what was revealed in the Bible, and that is why he could so boldly predict that Russia would not attack America!

The Trumpet follows in the tradition of Mr. Armstrong. By believing what the Bible has to say, this magazine makes strong forecasts concerning the major world powers that have proven accurate and will continue to be proven true.

What does Ezekiel 38 say will happen to the Russian people? “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him” (verse 2). This prophecy for the Russians and Chinese will occur after the great and terrible events that lead to Jesus Christ’s return—events recorded in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 9:1-12 describe a European beast power, after occupying Jerusalem and enslaving the end-time nations of Israel, preemptively attacking Russia and China out of fear. Then Russia, China and other Eastern powers, collectively called “the kings of the east,” amass a 200 million-man army and counterstrike the European army. This clash kills one third of mankind!(verses 13-21).

Then what is left of these armies will gather in Armageddon to challenge and attack Christ in Jerusalem upon His return! Christ will utterly destroy these armies and begin His reign by gathering the scattered descendants of Israel around Jerusalem.

This is when the prophecy of Ezekiel finally occurs: after Christ’s return, when the descendants of Israel have been resettled. The remnants of the Russians and Chinese, evidently still too proud to be ruled by Christ, attempt to spoil the obedient and prosperous Israelites. Ezekiel 38:14-16 describe this attempt to overthrow Christ’s rule. In this attack, they are defeated in one final statement to mankind that He is the Eternal! (You can read a more detailed explanation of this prophecy and the future of Russia and its allied nations in our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.)

What is in store for Russia in the meantime? Nearly 60 years later, will Mr. Armstrong’s prediction continue to be proven true?

Today, the world is in an even worse condition than when Mr. Armstrong printed that headline. The threat of nuclear war is even higher than in the peak of the Cold War. Several rogue states have acquired or are acquiring the means to wipe whole nations off the map. America’s global dominance is again being challenged, not just by one nation but by many different major powers. Major powers all over the world such as China, the European Union and Iran are increasing their military capabilities, while a debt-burdened U.S. is shrinking its own.

Now, more than ever, it is vital to know what will happen in world affairs in the near future. Who will strike whom? You will know only if you believe your Bible!