Written by Vladimir Moss



     The Russian Empire in the middle of the nineteenth century was an extraordinary phenomenon, viewed with astonishment by friends and foes alike. On the one hand, it was the greatest Christian empire in the whole of the “Constantinian” phase of Church history (312-1917), with the largest land-mass, the largest population and the largest armies, whose influence extended still further beyond its boundaries not only through its flourishing Church missions but also through the protection it afforded the Orthodox Christians of the Balkans and the Middle East who were living under the infidel Turkish yoke. On the other hand, it was viewed with fear and loathing by most of Catholic and Protestant Europe, who saw in it the incarnation of backwardness, tyranny and oppression. Tsar Alexander I (1801-25) had defeated Napoleon, and his brother Nicholas I (1825-55) had driven the Turks out of most of Greece, subdued the Poles and suppressed the Hungarian revolutionaries in 1848. The crowned heads of Western and Central Europe – the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Austria-Hungary - should have been grateful to the Tsar for keeping them on their thrones. But they were not. They viewed his role of protector of the Orthodox Christians and Christian Holy Places of the Ottoman Empire with suspicion, and challenged it by aiding and abetting the invasion of Crimea by Britain, France and Turkey in 1854. As far as the West was concerned, they preferred “the sick man of Europe”, the Turkish Sultan, though he was an infidel and a persecutor of Christians, to “the gendarme of Europe”, the Russian tsar, though he was the most Christian emperor who stood virtually alone between Europe and the horrors of the proletarian revolution…

Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationhood

     The Tsar had enemies at home as well as abroad. He should naturally have relied on the aristocratic class, whose wealth and position depended entirely on him. But the officers’ Decembrist rebellion in 1825 had shown that this class was riddled with liberalism. A more reliable support wasthe Orthodox Church; saints such as Seraphim of Sarov and Theophilus of the Kiev Caves testified that his work was pleasing to God and that all Russian Christians should obey him.

     The Autocracy was especially well defended by Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov), a great theologian and defender of the Church who had ruled the see of Moscow for nearly half a century. During the Decembrist rebellion his wise refusal to reveal the contents of Tsar Alexander\\\'s will immediately helped to guarantee the transfer of power to his brother, Tsar Nicholas I. Therefore his views on the Autocracy, and on the relationship between the Church and the State, were particularly important. Indeed, according to Robert Nicols, it is perhaps Philaret, who “should be credited with the first efforts [in the Russian Church] to work out a theory of church-state relations that insisted on the legitimacy of divinely instituted royal authority without endorsing the seemingly unlimited claims of the modern state to administer all aspects of the lives of its citizens.”[1]

     Tsar Nicholas had never been swayed by liberal ideas. Having tasted something of the flavour of democratic life in France during the reign of his father, he said to Golenischev-Kutuzov: “If, to our misfortune, this evil genius transferred all these clubs and meetings, which create more noise than substance, to us, then I would beseech God to repeat the miracle of the confusion of the tongues or, even better, deprive those who use their tongues in this way of the gift of speech.”[2] A man of strict life and strict opinions, his rule was made still stricter by the fact that he came to the throne in the midst of the Decembrist rebellion and had to punish the rebels as his first task.

      Some have portrayed the Tsar as having been unreasonably strict and censorious. However, he wanted to abolish serfdom, and took important preparatory measures towards that great act carried out by his son. Moreover, he had the ability to convert, and not simply crush, his opponents. Thus it was after a long, sincere conversation with Pushkin that he was able to say: “Gentlemen, I present to you a new Pushkin!” “And it was truly thus,” writes Lebedev. “Not out of fear before the authorities, not hypocritically, but sincerely and truly, Pushkin, the friend of the ‘Decembrists’, the worldly skiver, in life as in poetry, after 1826 renounced his free-thinking and Masonry and created his best and greatest works!”[3]

     “Having rejected a rotten support, the nobility,” writes Archpriest Lev Lebedev, Tsar Nicholas “made his supports the Orthodox Church, the system of state institutions (in which the class of bureaucrats, of officials, acquired great significance) and the Russian people which he loved! Having grasped this main direction of the Tsar’s politics, Count S. Uvarov, the minister of enlightenment expressed it [on March 21, 1833] in the remarkable formula: Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationhood….”[4]

     “This schema,” writes Sergius Firsov, “can be called a political reincarnation of the Byzantine theory of ‘the symphony of powers’ in the changed conditions of State realities in Russia.”[5] The three elements of the formula were closely linked, and there was a definite order in them. First came Orthodoxy (as opposed to Catholicism and Protestantism), then Autocracy (as opposed to Absolutism and Democracy), and then Nationhood (as opposed to Internationalism and Nationalism). The supreme value was Orthodoxy, whose first line of defence was the Autocracy, and second - national feeling. Any attempt to invert this order – as, for example, to make Orthodoxy merely a support for Autocracy, or both as supports of Nationhood, would be equivalent to idolatry and lead to the downfall of Russia.

     Some, such as D.S. Khomiakov, thought that an inversion of this order, placing Autocracy as the supreme value, did indeed take place.[6] However, this is not the view of Lebedev, who writes: “Beginning already with Paul I, the rapprochement of imperial power with the Church continued under Nicholas I, being raised to a qualitatively higher level. The All-Russian Autocrat from now on did not oppose himself to the Church and did not even consider himself ‘self-sufficient’ or ‘independent’ of her. On the contrary, he saw himself as a faithful son of the Orthodox Church, completely sharing the faith of his people and bound in all his politics to be guided by the commandments of God, proceeding precisely from the Orthodox world-view (and not from the demands of a certain non-existent ‘religion of nature’, as under Catherine II). This was a good, grace-filled radical change. It made itself immediately felt also in the relations of the two powers – the tsar’s and the Church’s. From now on the over-procurators of the Synod were people who enjoyed the respect and trust of the Russian hierarchs and considered themselves faithful children of the Church. Such were Admiral Shishkov and Count Protasov. There was not always unanimity between them and the members of the Synod. Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov), for example, more than once ‘warred’ with Protasov. But these were quarrels about separate matters, where both sides were governed by the single desire to benefit Holy Orthodoxy (even if they understood this differently).”[7]

     This beneficial change in Church-State relations was reflected in the voluntary reunion of the uniates in the western territories with the Orthodox Church. Favourable conditions for this change had been created by the fall of Poland in 1815, the expulsion of the Jesuits from Russia in 1820 and the suppression of the Polish rebellion in 1830-1831. Then, in 1835, a secret committee on the uniate question was formed in St. Petersburg consisting of the uniate bishop Joseph Semashko, the real soul of the movement, Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, the over-procurator of the Holy Synod and the minister of the interior. By 1839 1,600,000 had converted to Orthodoxy.[8]

     In spite of these positive changes, the Tsar’s relationship to the Church continued to fall short of true “symphony”. In fact, formally speaking, the power of the Tsar over the Church was increased. Thus in 1832 a new collection of the Fundamental Laws was published that said: “The Emperor as the Christian sovereign is the supreme defender and preserver of the dogmas of the dominant faith and the supervisor of right faith and every good order in the Holy Church”. In the administration of the Church, intoned articles 42 and 43, “the autocratic power acts by means of the Holy Governing Synod, which was founded by it.”[9]

     In these formulae, writes Fr. Georges Florovsky, “there is clearly and faithfully conveyed the State’s consciousness of itself and self-definition: in them there is taken to its logical conclusion the thought of Peter, who considered himself to be ‘the supreme judge’ of the Spiritual College, and who openly derived its privileges from his own autocratic power – ‘when it was established by the Monarch and under his rule’”.[10]

     Such an overbearing attitude of the State towards the Church was bound to lead to friction. And yet when there were clashes between the Tsar and the hierarchs on matters of conscience, the Tsar showed himself ready to give way, which gives strength to Lebedev’s claim that a qualitatively higher level of Church-State relations had indeed been attained.

     Thus once Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow refused to bless a triumphal monument because it had some pagan hieroglyphs and representations of pagan gods. The Emperor, showing a good grasp of church history, said: “I understand, but tell him [Philaret] that I am not Peter the Great and he is not St. Metrophanes.” Still, he allowed Philaret not to take part in the ceremony.[11]According to another account, on hearing of Philaret’s disinclination to serve, the Emperor said: “Prepare the horses; I’m leaving today”, so that the ceremony took place without either Tsar or metropolitan.[12] Afterwards, on returning to the Trinity Lavra, Philaret said to his spiritual father, Archimandrite Anthony: “Did I act well? I annoyed the Tsar. I don’t have the merits of the hierarch Metrophanes.” “Don’t take them upon yourself,” replied Fr. Anthony, “but remember that you are a Christian bishop, a pastor of the Church of Christ, to whom only one thing is terrible: to depart from the will of Jesus Christ.” Then the hierarch revealed that the previous night St. Sergius had entered his locked room, come up to his bed, and said: “Don’t be disturbed, it will all pass…”[13]

     Again, in 1835 the Emperor wanted his son and heir, the Tsarevich Alexander Nikolaevich, to become a member of the Holy Synod. But Metropolitan Philaret, together with the other hierarchs, was against the idea, and on meeting the tsarevich, asked him when he had received clerical ordination. Shamed, the tsarevich henceforth refrained from attending sessions of the Holy Synod.[14]

     Although the relationship between Church and State in Russia was far from ideal, particularly in the over-powerful role of the over-procurator, its faults can be exaggerated. When the Englishman William Palmer criticized the dominance of the State over the Church in Russia, Alexis Khomiakov replied: “That the Church is not quite independent of the state, I allow; but let us consider candidly and impartially how far that dependence affects, and whether it does indeed affect, the character of the Church. The question is so important, that it has been debated during this very year [1852] by serious men in Russia, and has been brought, I hope, to a satisfactory conclusion. A society may be dependent in fact and free in principle, or vice-versa. The first case is a mere historical accident; the second is the destruction of freedom, and has no other issue but rebellion and anarchy. The first is the weakness of man; the second the depravity of law. The first is certainly the case in Russia, but the principles have by no means been damaged. Whether freedom of opinion in civil and political questions is, or is not, too much restrained, is no business of ours as members of the Church (though I, for my part, know that I am almost reduced to complete silence); but the state never interferes directly in the censorship of works written about religious questions. In this respect, I will confess again that the censorship is, in my opinion, most oppressive; but that does not depend upon the state, and is simply the fault of the over-cautious and timid prudence of the higher clergy. I am very far from approving of it, and I know that very useful thoughts and books are lost in the world, or at least to the present generation.

     “But this error, which my reason condemns, has nothing to do with ecclesiastical liberty; and though very good tracts and explanations of the Word of God are oftentimes suppressed on the false supposition of their perusal being dangerous to unenlightened minds, I think that those who suppress the Word of God itself should be the last to condemn the excessive prudence of our ecclesiastical censors. Such a condemnation coming from the Latins would be absurdity itself. But is the action of the Church quite free in Russia? Certainly not; but this depends wholly on the weakness of her higher representatives, and upon their desire to get the protection of the state, not for themselves, generally speaking, but for the Church. There is certainly a moral error in that want of reliance upon God Himself; but it is an accidental error of persons, and not of the Church, and has nothing to do with our religious convictions. It would be a different case, if there was the smallest instance of a dogmatic error, or something near to it, admitted or suffered without protestation out of weakness; but I defy anybody to find anything like that…”[15]

Tsar Nicholas and the Polish Revolution

     It was Tsar Nicholas\\\' destiny and task to suppress the revolution not only at home, but also abroad. But he decided not to intervene in the revolutions in France and Belgium in 1830. Encouraged by this, the Poles rose against Tsarist authority in November, 1830. This time, however, the Tsar decided to act. As he wrote to his brother, who ruled the Polish Kingdom: “It is our duty to think of our security. When I say ours, I mean the tranquillity of Europe.”[16] And so the rebellion was crushed. Europe was saved again – and was again uncomprehending and ungrateful.

     Now the whole of Poland had been divided up between Austria, Prussia and Russia at the partitions of 1772, 1793 and 1795. There were two major consequences of the partitions: one very good and one very bad from an Orthodox point of view.

     The good consequence was the liberation of millions of Orthodox peasants from their Polish and Jewish persecutors, under whom they had suffered already for centuries, and the return of millions of uniates, i.e. those Orthodox who had been beguiled into Catholicism after the Unia of Brest-Litovsk, to their original faith and Church. As A.P. Dobroklonsky writes: “With the union of Belorussia and the south-western regions to Russia there finally came to an end the age-old sufferings of the Orthodox there. At the same time there came the right opportunity for the uniates to throw off the fetters of the unia that had been forcibly imposed upon them. The Belorussian Archbishop George Konissky received many declarations from uniate parishes wishing to return to Orthodoxy. Although the Russian government did not allow him to do anything about these declarations without special permission, and itself did not give permission for about 8 years, the striving of the uniates for Orthodoxy did not wane. When, finally, permission was given, up to 130,000 uniates went over to Orthodoxy. In the south-western region an energetic assistant of George Konissky in the work of uniting the uniates was Victor Sadkovsky, who had been released from prison and raised to the see of Minsk (1793). With the permission of the government, he published an appeal to the uniates of his diocese urging them to return to Orthodoxy. Soon, on the orders of the government, the same was done in the Belorussian region. Moreover, the government told local authorities to remove all obstacles that might appear in the unification of the uniates on the part of the Roman Catholic clergy and landowners, and threatened the guilty with responsibility before the law, while at the same time forbidding their forcible union. The appeals had an extraordinary success. In less than a year (from the middle of 1794 to the beginning of 1795), more than one-and-a-half million uniates had joined the Orthodox Church; the numbers of those united by the end of the reign of Catherine II came to no less than two million.”[17]

     This was a true triumph of Orthodoxy; for a law to liberate a subjugated and Orthodox population can be justified – so long as it does not go too far. The question was: did the liberation of the Orthodox justify the elimination of Poland from the map? Could liberation have been achieved at a lower cost? For the bitter fact was that the cost to Russia of the annexation of Poland (with help from Prussia in the west and Austria in the south) was very high – not only in terms of the thousands of people killed on both sides in the eighteenth century, but in another very important respect. For it meant the inclusion into the Russian empire of many millions of Poles and Jews who were bitterly hostile both to Russia and to the Orthodox faith, and who were to cause continual civil strife in the western territories right up to the First World War. As Lebedev writes, “from the point of view of the interests of Great Russia, it was necessary to pacify Poland, but not seize the age-old Polish and purely Lithuanian lands. This wrong attitude of Russia to the neighbouring peoples then became a ‘mine’ which later more than once exploded with bad consequences for Russia…”[18]

     Moreover: “The revolutions of 1830 in France and Belgium gave an impulse to the Masonic movement in Poland. It had two basic tendencies – an extreme republican one (headed by the historian Lelevel) and a more moderate aristocratic one (headed by A. Chartoysky). At the end of 1830 there began a rebellion in Warsaw. Great Prince Constantine Pavlovich with a detachment of Russian soldiers was forced to abandon Poland. In 1831 there came there the armies of General Dibich, which had no significant success, in particular by reason of a very strong outbreak of cholera, from which both Dibich and Great Prince Constantine died. Meanwhile the revolutionaries in Warsaw created first a ‘Provisional government’ with a ‘dictator’ at its head, and then convened the Sejm. The rebels demanded first the complete independence of Poland with the addition to it of Lithuania and western Rus’, and then declared the ‘deposition’ of the Romanov dynasty from the throne of the Kingdom of Poland. Count Paskevich of Erevan was sent to Poland. He took Warsaw by storm and completely destroyed the Masonic revolutionary armies, forcing their remnants abroad [where they played a significant role in the revolutionary movement in Western Europe]. Poland was divided into provinces and completely included into the composition of the Russian Empire. The language of business was declared to be Russian. Russian landowners received land in Poland. A Deputy was now placed at the head of the Kingdom of Poland. He became Paskevich with the new title of Prince of Warsaw. In connection with all this it became clear that the Polish magnates and landowners who had kept their land-holdings in Belorussia and Ukraine had already for some time been persecuting the Orthodox Russians and Little Russians and also the uniates, and had been occupied in polonizing education in general the whole cultural life in these lands. Tsar Nicholas I was forced to take severe measures to restore Russian enlightenment and education in the West Russian and Ukrainian land. In particular, a Russian university was opened in Kiev. The part of the Belorussian and Ukrainian population headed by Bishop Joseph Semashko which had been in a forcible unia with the Catholic Church since the end of the 16th century desired reunion with Orthodoxy. Nicholas I decided to satisfy this desire and in 1839 all the uniates (besides the inhabitants of Kholm diocese) were united to ‘to the ancestral Orthodox All-Russian Church’, as they put it. This was a great feast of Orthodoxy! Masses of uniates were united voluntarily, without any compulsion. All this showed that Russia had subdued and humbled Poland not because she wished to lord it over her, and resist her independence, but only because Poland wanted to lord it (both politically and spiritually) over the ages-old Russian population, depriving it of its own life and ‘ancestral’ faith! With such a Poland as she was then striving to be, there was nothing to be done but completely subdue her and force her to respect the rights of other peoples! But to the Polish Catholics Russia provided, as usual, every opportunity of living in accordance with their faith and customs.”[19]

     Unfortunately, the Poles and the West did not see it like that. Thus the composer Frederick Chopin wrote: “The suburbs [of Warsaw] are destroyed, burned… Moscow rules the world! O God, do You exist? You’re there and You don’t avenge it. How many more Russian crimes do You want – or – are You a Russian too!!?”[20]

     Another artist who gave expression to the new Polish faith was the poet Mickiewicz. “Poland will arise,” he wrote, “and free nations of Europe from bondage. Ibi patria, ubi male; wherever in Europe liberty is suppressed and is fought for, there is the battle for your country.”[21]

     Adam Zamoyski writes that Mickiewicz turned “the spiritual fantasies of a handful of soldiers and intellectuals into the articles of faith that built a modern nation.

     “Mickiewicz had established his reputation as Poland’s foremost lyric poet in the 1820s, and enhanced his political credentials by his exile in Russia, where he met several prominent Decembrists and grew close to Pushkin [who, however, did not sympathize with his views on Poland]. In 1829 Mickiewicz received permission to go to Germany to take the waters. He met Mendelssohn and Hegel in Berlin, Metternich in Marienbad, and August Schlegel in Bonn, and attended Goethe’s eightieth birthday party in Weimar. Goethe kissed him on the forehead, gave him the quill with which he had worked on Faust, and commissioned a portrait of him for his collection. Mickiewicz then went to Italy where, apart from a de rigueur trip to Switzerland (Chillon and Altdorf, with Byron and Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell in his hand), he spent the next year-and-half. It was in Rome that news of the November Rising [in Warsaw] reached him. He set off for Poland, but his attempts to cross the border were foiled by Cossack patrols, and he was obliged to watch the debacle from Dresden.

     “In this tranquil Saxon city he was gripped by inspiration and wrote frantically in fits lasting up to three days, without pausing to eat or sleep. The fruit was the third part of a long poetic drama entitled Forefathers’ Eve, which can only be described as a national passion play. Mickiewicz had also seen the significance of the holy night [of November 29, 1830], and he likened all monarchs, and Nicholas in particular, to Herod – their sense of guilty foreboding led them to massacre the youth of nations. The drama describes the transformation through suffering of the young poet and lover, Konrad, into a warrior-poet. He is a parable for Poland as a whole, but he is also something more. ‘My soul has now entered the motherland, and with my body I have taken her soul: I and the motherland are one,’ he declares after having endured torture. ‘My name is Million, because I love and suffer for millions… I feel the sufferings of the whole nation as a mother feels the pain of the fruit within her womb.’

     “In Paris in 1832 Mickiewicz published a short work entitled Books of the Polish Nation and of the Pilgrimage of Poland. It was quickly translated into several languages and caused a sensation. It is a bizarre work, couched in biblical prose, giving a moral account of Polish history. After an Edenic period, lovingly described, comes the eighteenth century, a time when ‘nations were spoiled, so much so that among them there was left only one man, both citizen and soldier’ – a reference to Lafayette. The ‘Satanic Trinity’ of Catherine of Russia, Frederick of Prussia and Maria Theresa of Austria decided to murder Poland, because Poland was Liberty. They crucified the innocent nation while degenerate France played the role of Pilate.[22] But that was not to be the end of it. ‘For the Polish nation did not die; its body lies in the tomb, while its soul has left the earth, that is public life, and visited the abyss, that is the private life of peoples suffering slavery at home and in exile, in order to witness their suffering. And on the third day the soul will re-enter the body, and the nation will rise from the dead and will liberate all the peoples of Europe from slavery.’[23] In a paraphrase of the Christian Creed, Liberty will then ascend the throne in the capital of the world, and judge the nations, ushering in the age of peace.

     “So the Polish nation was now in Limbo, and all it had to do in order to bring about its own resurrection and that of all grieving peoples was to cleanse and redeem itself through a process of expiation which Mickiewicz saw as its ‘pilgrimage’. This was to be a kind of forty days in the wilderness. The pilgrims must fast and pray on the anniversaries of the battles of Wawer and Grochow, reciting litanies to the 30,000 dead of the Confederation of Bar and the 20,000 martyrs of Praga; they must observe their ancient customs and wear national dress. One is reminded of Rousseau’s admonitions in his Considérations sur le Gouvernement de Pologne.

     “Rousseau would have been proud of this generation. As one freedom fighter writes in his memoirs: ‘Only he loves Poland with his heart and his soul, only he is a true son of his Motherland who has cast aside all lures and desires, all bad habits, prejudice and passions, and been reborn in the pure faith, he who, having recognized the reasons for our defeats and failures through his own judgement and conviction, brings his whole love, his whole – not just partial, but whole – conviction, his courage and his endurance, and lays them on the altar of the purely national future.’ He had taken part in the November Rising and a conspiratorial fiasco in 1833, for which he was rewarded with fifteen years in the Spielberg and Küfstein prisons. Yet decades later he still believed that the November Rising had ‘called Poland to a new life’ and brought her ‘salvation’ closer by a hundred years. Such feelings were shared by tens of thousands, given expression by countless poets and artists, and understood by all the literate classes.

     “Most of Mickiewicz’s countrymen read his works and wept over them. They identified with them and learned them by heart. They did not follow the precepts laid down in them, nor did they really believe in this gospel in any literal sense. These works were a let-out, an excuse even, rather than a guiding rule. But they did provide an underlying ethical explanation of a state of affairs that was otherwise intolerable to the defeated patriots. It was an explanation that made moral sense and was accepted at the subconscious level. It was a spiritual and psychological lifeline that kept them from sinking into a Slough of Despond. It made misfortune not only bearable, but desirable…”[24]

     55,000 Polish troops and 6,000 civilians who made a great exodus to the West and Paris kept this cult alive, not in Polish hearts only, but throughout Europe. Only the Russians were not seduced by its masochistic charm… Nevertheless, when Alexander II became Tsar and was crowned King of Poland, he granted a general amnesty to Polish prisoners in Russia, and about 9000 exiles returned to their homes from Siberia between 1857 and 1860. However, they brought back with them the virus of nationalism. Thus on the day after the Tsar’s brother, Grand Duke Constantine, was made viceroy of Poland, he was shot in the shoulder. Nor did a programme of “re-Polonization” – more liberal state administration and local government regulations governing the use of the Polish language, and Polish educational institutions – appease the nationalists. Even when all the other nations of Europe had settled down after the abortive revolutions of 1848, the Poles rose again. “In January 1863,” writes John van de Kiste, “they slaughtered Russian soldiers asleep in their Warsaw barracks, and national resistance turned to general uprising. This spread through the kingdom into the nine formerly Polish provinces known as Russia’s Western region, where powerful landlords and Catholic clergy were ready to give vent to their hatred of Russian domination. For a while it looked as if England, France and Austria might join in on the side of Warsaw after giving their tacit blessing to the rebels, but Russia put down the unrest at no little cost to the Poles…. While the Poles butchered scores of Russian peasants including women and children, the Russians erected gibbets in the streets where rebels and civilians were hanged in their hundreds, with thousands more sent to Siberia. The insurrection was finally quelled in May 1864, when the more conservative Count Theodore Berg was sent to replace Constantine as viceroy.”[25]

Tsar Nicholas and the Jews

     If the Polish problem was difficult to solve, the Jewish problem was even more intractable. The two nations had much in common: both were nations without states, distrustful of each other but united in their craving for national autonomy, both fiercely anti-Orthodox and both subjects of the same people, the Russians, whom they had both exploited in the not-so-distant past. The future of Europe, and Christian civilization in general, would to a large extent depend on how well Orthodox Russia would succeed in assimilating and neutralizing this breeding-ground of the Revolution…

     In order to understand the Jewish problem, we need to go back in time… Throughout the medieval and early modern periods, the Jews had been forbidden to settle in Russia. From the beginning of the Muscovite kingdom, however, Jews had begun to infiltrate into Russia from Poland-Lithuania, where the Polish landowners had given them considerable privileges, employing them to collect very heavy taxes, fees, tolls and produce from the Russian serfs. In some cases the Poles even handed over churches and monasteries to the Jews, who would extort fees for the celebration of sacraments.[26]

     “In the 16th century,” writes Solzhenitsyn, quoting Yury Hessen, “’the spiritual leadership of the Jewish world came to be concentrated in German-Polish Jewry… So as to prevent the possibility of the Jewish people being dissolved amidst the surrounding population, the spiritual leaders had from ages past introduced stipulations whose purpose was to isolate the people from close contact with their neighbours. Using the authority of the Talmud,… the Rabbis wrapped round the public and private life of the Jew with a complex web of prescriptions of a religio-social nature, which… prevented them getting close to people of other faiths.’ Real and spiritual needs ‘were brought in sacrifice to outdated forms of popular life’, ‘blind fulfilment of ritual was transformed for the people into the goal, as it were, of the existence of Jewry… Rabbinism, ossified in lifeless forms, continued to keep both the mind and the will of the people in fetters.’”[27]

     In 1648, the Ukrainian Cossacks and peasants rose up against the Poles and Jews and appealed to the Tsar for help. The Tsarist armies triumphed, and by the treaty of Andrusovo in 1667 Eastern Ukraine was ceded – together with its Jewish population – to Russia.[28] For the next hundred years, writes Janet Hartley, these Jews of the Russian empire “lived mostly in the Ukraine although a small Jewish community became established in Moscow. The government legislated to contain and control the Jewish population within the empire’s borders. Both Catherine I (1725-27) and Elizabeth (1741-62) attempted to ban Jews from Russia; one estimate is that 35,000 Jews were banished in 1741.”[29]

     From the second half of the eighteenth century, however, the universalism and cosmopolitanism of the Enlightenment, together with the principles of human and national rights of the French revolution, led to the emancipation of the Jews, first in France, and then in most of the countries of Europe. This process was slow and accompanied by many reverses and difficulties, but inexorable. The only great power which firmly resisted it was Russia….

     Contrary to popular myth, the myth of its being “the prison of the peoples”, the record of the Russian empire in its treatment of various subject populations was in general good. We only have to look at the large number of Baltic German names among the senior officials of the empire, the very large measure of autonomy given to the Finns (and to the Poles before they rebelled), and the way in which Tatar khans and Georgian princes were fully assimilated (or rather: assimilated to the degree that they wanted). In fact, Russia was probably more liberal, and certainly less racist, in its treatment of its subject peoples than its contemporary rival, the supposedly “liberal” empire of Great Britain.

     But the Jews presented certain intractable problems not found in the other peoples of the empire. The first problem was the sheer number of Jews who suddenly found themselves within its boundaries. Thus Hartley writes: “The empire acquired a further c. 250,000 Jews after the establishment of the Congress Kingdom of Poland in 1815. There was a substantial Jewish population in Bessarabia (11.3 per cent in 1863). In 1854, the Jewish population of the whole empire was estimated as 1,062,132.”[30] These numbers grew rapidly in the second half of the nineteenth century. And by the beginning of the twentieth century, according to Lebedev, about half the number of the Jews in the whole world were to be found in the Russian empire.

     More fundamental, however, than the administrative problem presented by these large numbers was the fact that, as David Vital writes, “there were differences… between Russia and the other European states… in respect of the place of religion generally and what were taken to be the teachings of religion on what were unquestionably the state’s affairs. It was not merely that in principle Russia continued to be held by its Autocrat and its minions to be a Christian state with a particular duty to uphold its own Orthodox Church. It was that, far from the matter of the state’s specifically Christian duty slowly wasting away, as in the west, it continued actively to exercise the mnds of Russia’s rulers as one of the central criteria by which questions of public policy were to be judged and decided. The continuous search for an effective definition of the role, quality, and ultimate purposes of the Autocracy itself was an enterprise which, considering the energy and seriousness with which it was pursued, sufficed in itself to distinguish Russia from its contemporaries. The programmes to which the state was committed and all its structures were under obligation to promote varied somewhat over time. But in no instance was there serious deviation from the rule that Russian Orthodoxy was and needed to remain a central and indispensable component of the ruling ethos. Nineteenth-century imperial Russia was therefore an ideological state in a manner and to a degree that had become so rare as to be virtually unknown in Europe and would not be familiar again for at least a century…”[31]

     Moreover, if Russia was the last ideological state in Europe, the large numbers of Ashkenazi Jews that came within the Russian empire between 1772 and 1815 constituted an ideological “state within the state” whose anti-christian books and kahal institutions made them bitterly hostile to everything that Russia stood for. To put it bluntly: if the Russians worshipped Christ, the Jews hated Him. And no amount of state intervention, whether in a liberal or illiberal direction, could resolve this basic contradiction or defuse the hostile sentiments it aroused on both sides. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike the Orthodox Christians, who are taught to recognise and obey secular authorities even if they are not Orthodox, and not only out of fear but for conscience’s sake (Romans 13.1-4), the Jews ultimately recognised no authorities beside their own, rabbinical ones. And if they did obey the Gentile powers, it was only because they had been taught that resistance was counter-productive, not because these powers had any moral authority over them. 

     This led the Jew, writes Vital, “to be deeply sceptical of civil authority of all kinds… The lasting effect of such scepticism was to leave him peculiarly independent in mind and social outlook. “Having no earthly masters to whom he thought he owed unquestioning political obedience (the special case of the Hasidic rebbe or zaddik and his devotees aside), ‘[the European Jew’s] was… a spirit that, for his times, was remarkably free. Permitted no land, he had no territorial lord. Admitted to no guild, he was free of the authority of established master-craftsmen. Not being a Christian, he had neither bishop nor priest to direct him. And while he could be charged or punished for insubordination to state or sovereign, he could not properly be charged with disloyalty. Betrayal only entered into the life of the Jews in regard to their own community or, more broadly, to Jewry as a whole. It was to their own nation alone that they accepted that they owed undeviating loyalty.”[32]

     The internal Jewish authority of the kahal was considered to be important and harmful by the Jews themselves – notably, the Polish Jew Hourwitz. The Tsars were soon to make this discovery for themselves. Tsar Paul I appointed the poet Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin to investigate why Belorussia had been afflicted by such a severe famine. After visiting Belorussia twice in 1799 and 1800, Derzhavin came to the conclusion that the main cause of the famine was the desperate poverty into which the Jewish tavern-keepers and money-lenders, in connivance with the Polish landowners, had reduced the Belorussian peasants.

     But more importantly, writes Oleg Platonov, Derzhavin “noted the ominous role of the kahals – the organs of Jewish self-rule on the basis of the bigoted laws of the Talmud, which ‘a well-constructed political body must not tolerate’, as being a state within the state. Derzhavin discovered that the Jews, who considered themselves oppressed, established in the Pale of Settlement a secret Israelite kingdom divided into kahal districts with kahal administrations endowed with despotic power over the Jews which inhumanly exploited the Christians and their property on the basis of the Talmud. …[33]

     “Derzhavin also uncovered the concept of ‘herem’ – a curse which the kahal issued against all those who did not submit to the laws of the Talmud. This, according to the just evaluation of the Russian poet, was ‘an impenetrable sacrilegious cover for the most terrible crimes’.

     “In his note Derzhavin ‘was the first to delineate a harmonious, integral programme for the resolution of the Jewish question in the spirit of Russian statehood, having in mind the unification of all Russian subjects on common ground’.

     “Paul I, after reading the note, agreed with many of its positions and decorated the author. However, the tragic death of the Tsar as the result of an international Masonic conspiracy destroyed the possibility of resolving the Jewish question in a spirit favourable for the Russian people. The new Emperor, Alexander I, being under the influence of a Masonic environment, adopted a liberal position. In 1802 he created a special Committee for the improvement of the Jews, whose soul was the Mason Speransky, who was closely linked with the Jewish world through the well-known tax-farmer Perets, whom he considered his friend and with whom he lived.

     “Another member of the committee was G.R. Derzhavin. As general-governor, he prepared a note ‘On the removal of the deficit of bread in Belorussia, the collaring of the avaricious plans of the Jews, on their transformation, and other things’. Derzhavin’s new note, in the opinion of specialists, was ‘in the highest degree a remarkable document, not only as the work of an honourable, penetrating statesman, but also as a faithful exposition of all the essential sides of Jewish life, which hinder the merging of this race with the rest of the population.’

     “In the report of the official commission on the Jewish question which worked in the 1870s in the Ministry of the Interior, it was noted that at the beginning of the reign of Alexander I the government ‘stood already on the ground of the detailed study of Jewry and the preparation that had begun had already at that time exposed such sides of the public institutions of this nationality which would hardly be tolerable in any state structure. But however often reforms were undertaken in the higher administrative spheres, every time some magical brake held up the completion of the matter.’ This magical brake stopped Derzhavin’s proposed reform of Jewry, which suggested the annihilation of the kahals in all the provinces populated by Jews, the removal of all kahal collections and the limitation of the influx of Jews to a certain percentage in relation to the Christian population, while the remaining masses were to be given lands in Astrakhan and New Russia provinces, assigning the poorest to re-settlement. Finally, he proposed allowing the Jews who did not want to submit to these restrictions freedom to go abroad. However, these measures were not confirmed by the government.

     “Derzhavin’s note and the formation of the committee elicited great fear in the Jewish world. From the published kahal documents of the Minsk Jewish society it becomes clear that the kahals and the ‘leaders of the cities’ gathered in an extraordinary meeting three days later and decided to sent a deputation to St. Petersburg with the aim of petitioning Alexander I to make no innovations in Jewish everyday life. But since this matter ‘required great resources’, a very significant sum was laid upon the whole Jewish population as a tax, refusal from which brought with it ‘excommunication from the people’ (herem). From a private note given to Derzhavin by one Belorussian landowner, it became known that the Jews imposed their herem also on the general procurator, uniting with it a curse through all the kahals ‘as on a persecutor’. Besides, they collected ‘as gifts’ for this matter, the huge sum for that time of a million rubles and sent it to Petersburg, asking that ‘efforts be made to remove him, Derzhavin, from his post, and if that was not possible, at any rate to make an attempt on his life’.”[34]

     Not surprisingly, Tsar Alexander’s Statute for the Jews of December 9, 1804 turned out to be fairly liberal – much more liberal than the laws of Frederick Augustus in Napoleon’s Duchy of Warsaw. Its strictest provisions related to a ban on Jews’ participation in the distilling and retailing of spirits. Also, “there was to be no relaxation of the ancient rule that Jews (negligible exceptions apart[35]) were to be prevented from penetrating into ‘inner Russia’. Provision was made for an eventual, but determined, attack on the rabbinate’s ancient – but in the government’s view presumptuous and unacceptable – practice of adjudicating cases that went beyond the strict limits of the religious (as opposed to the civil and criminal domain), but also on rabbinical independence and authority generally...[36]

     “But the Jews themselves could take some comfort in it being expressly stated that there was to be no question of forcible conversion to Christianity; that they were not to be oppressed or harassed in the observance of their faith and in their general social activities; that the private property of the Jews remained inviolable; and that Jews were not to be exploited or enserfed. They were, on the contrary, to enjoy the same, presumably full protection of the law that was accorded other subjects of the realm. They were not to be subject to the legal jurisdiction of the landowners on whose estates they might happen to be resident. And they were encouraged in every way the Committee could imagine – by fiscal and other economic incentives, for example, by the grant of land and loans to develop it, by permission to move to the New Russian Territories in the south – to undergo decisive and (so it was presumed) irreversible change in the two central respects which both Friezel and Derzhavin had indeed, and perfectly reasonably, regarded as vital: education and employment. In this they were to be encouraged very strongly; but they were not to be forced…”[37]

     However, the liberal Statute of 1804 was never fully implemented, and was succeeded by stricter measures towards the end of Alexander’s reign and in the reign of his successor, Nicholas I. There were many reasons for this. Among them, of course, was Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, which, if it had been successful, would have united the Western Sephardic Jews with the Eastern Ashkenazi Jews in a single State, free, emancipated, and under their own legally convened Sanhedrin. But not only did Napoleon not succeed: the invasion of Russia was the graveyard of his empire. In 1813, and again in 1815, the Russian armies entered Paris. Nor did the Jews receive emancipation from the great powers at the Congress of Vienna, which was dominated by the Tsar, although their situation had made it onto the agenda. [38]  From now on, the chief target of the Jews’ hatred in both East and West would be the Russian Empire…

     But the main reason for the tightening of Russian policy was “the Jews’ abhorrence of Christianity, the intensely negative light in which non-Jewish society had always been regarded, and the deeply ingrained suspicion and fear in which all forms of non-Jewish authority were commonly held.”[39] As a result, in the whole of the 19th century only 69,400 Jews converted to Orthodoxy. [40] The Russian Tsars could not ignore this hatred eating away at the empire’s innards…

     The Tsars’ gradual tightening of policy had little or no effect on the basic problem of religious and social antagonism. As Platonov writes: “The statute of the Jews worked out in 1804, which took practically no account of Derzhavin’s suggestion, continued to develop the isolation of the Jewish communities on Russian soil, that is, it strengthened the kahals together with their fiscal, judicial, police and educational independence. However, the thought of re-settling the Jews out of the western region continued to occupy the government after the issuing of the statute in 1804. A consequence of this was the building in the New Russian area (from 1808) of Jewish colonies in which the government vainly hoped to ‘re-educate’ the Jews, and, having taught them to carry out productive agricultural labour, to change in this way the whole structure of their life. Nevertheless, even in these model colonies the kahal-rabbinic administration retained its former significance and new settlements isolated themselves from the Christian communities; they did not intend to merge with them either in a national or in a cultural sense. The government not only did not resist the isolation of the Jews, but even founded for them the so-called Israelite Christians (that is, Talmudists who had converted to Orthodoxy). A special committee existed from 1817 to 1833.”[41]

     Tsar Alexander’s project of settling the Jews as farmers on the new territories of Southern Russia had proved to be a failure, in spite of very generous terms offered to them – terms that were not offered to Russian peasants.

     In spite of this failure, writes Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his Statute of 1835, which replaced Alexander’s of 1804, Nicholas I “not only did not abandon Jewish agriculture, but even broadened it, placing in the first place in the building of Jewish life ‘the setting up of the Jews on the basis of rules that would open to them a free path to the acquisition of a prosperous existence by the practice of agriculture and industry and to the gradual education of their youth, while at the same time cutting off for them excuses for idleness and unlawful trades’. If before a preliminary contribution of 400 roubles was required for each family [settling in the new territories] from the Jewish community, now without any condition ‘every Jew is allowed “at any time” to pass over to agriculture’, and all his unpaid taxes would immediately be remitted to him and to the community; he would be allowed to receive not only State lands for an unlimited period, but also, within the bounds of the Pale of Settlement, to buy, sell and lease lands. Those passing over to agriculture were freed from poll-tax for 25 years, from land tax for 10, and from liability to military service – for 50. Nor could any Jew ‘be forced to pass over to agriculture’. Moreover, ‘trades and crafts practised in their village life’ were legalised.

     “(150 years passed. And because these distant events had been forgotten, an enlightened and learned physicist formulated Jewish life at that time as ‘the Pale of Settlement in conjunction with a ban [!] on peasant activity’. But the historian-publicist M.O. Gershenzon has a broader judgement: ‘Agriculture is forbidden to the Jew by his national spirit, for, on becoming involved with the land, a man can more easily become rooted to the place’.)”[42]

     In general, the Statute of 1835 “’did not lay any new restrictions on the Jews’, as the Jewish encyclopaedia puts it in a restrained way. And if we look into the details, then according to the new Statute ‘the Jews had the right to acquire any kind of real estate, including populated estates, and carry out any kind of trade on the basis of rights identical with those granted Russian subjects’, although only within the bounds of the Pale of Settlement. The Statute of 1835 defended all the rights of the Jewish religion, and introduced awards for rabbis and the rights of the merchants of the first guild. A rational age for marriage (18 and 16 years) was established [contrary to the rabbis, who married off young Jews at much younger ages]. Measures were undertaken that Jewish dress should not be so different, separating Jews from the surrounding population. Jews were directed to productive means of employment (forbidding the sale of wine on credit and on the security of household effects), all kinds of manufacturing activity (including the farming of wine distilleries). Keeping Christians in servitude was forbidden only for constant service, but it was allowed ‘for short jobs’ without indication of exactly how long, and also ‘for assisting in arable farming, gardening and work in kitchen gardens’, which was a mockery of the very idea of ‘Jewish agriculture’. The Statute of 1835 called on Jewish youth to get educated [up to then the rabbis had forbidden even the learning of Russian. No restrictions were placed on the entry of Jewish to secondary and higher educational institutions. Jews who had received the degree of doctor in any branch of science… were given the right to enter government service. (Jewish doctors had that right even earlier.) As regards local self-government, the Statute removed the Jews’ previous restrictions: now they could occupy posts in dumas, magistracies and town councils ‘on the same basis as people of other confessions are elected to them’. (True, some local authorities, especially in Lithuania, objected to this: the head of the town on some days had to lead the residents into the church, and how could this be a Jew? Or how could a Jew be a judge, since the oath had to be sworn on the cross? The opposition proved to be strong, and by a decree of 1836 it was established for the western provinces that Jews could occupy only a third of the posts in magistracies and town councils.) Finally, with regard to the economically urgent question linked with cross-frontier smuggling, which was undermining State interests, the Statute left the Jews living on the frontiers where they were, but forbad any new settlements.

     “For a State that held millions of its population in serfdom, all this cannot be characterised as a cruel system…”[43]

     This is an important point in view of the persistent western and Jewish propaganda that Nicholas was a persecutor of the Jews. And in this light even the most notorious restriction on the Jews – that they had to live in the Pale of Settlement – looks generous. For while a peasant had to live in his village, the Jews could wander throughout the vast territory of the Pale, an area the size of France and Germany combined; while for those who were willing to practise agriculture, or had acquired education, they could go even further afield, to the great cities, where the Jews in time took one-third of Russia’s trade into their hands.

     Of particular importance were the Tsar’s measures encouraging Jewish education, by which he hoped to remove the barriers built up around the Jews by the rabbis. “Already in 1831 he told the ‘directing’ committee that ‘among the measures that could improve the situation of the Jews, it was necessary to pay attention to their correction by teaching… by the building of factories, by the banning of early marriage, by a better management of the kahals,… by a change of dress’. And in 1840, on the founding the ‘Committee for the Defining of Measures for the Radical Transformation of the Jews in Russia’, one of its first aims was seen to be: ‘Acting on the moral formation of the new generation of Jews by the establishment of Jewish schools in a spirit opposed to the present Talmudic teaching’…”[44]

     “The masses, fearing coercive measures in the sphere of religion, did not go.

     “However, the school reform took its course in… 1844, in spite of the extreme resistance of the ruling circles among the kahals. (Although ‘the establishment of Jewish schools by no means envisaged a diminution in the numbers of Jews in the general school institutions; on the contrary, it was often pointed out that the general schools had to be, as before, open for Jews’.) Two forms of State Jewish schools [‘on the model of the Austrian elementary schools for Jews’] were established: two-year schools, corresponding to Russian parish schools, and four-year schools, corresponding to uyezd schools. In them only Jewish subjects were taught by Jewish teachers. (As one inveterate revolutionary, Lev Deutsch, evaluated it: ‘The crown-bearing monster ordered them [the Jews] to be taught Russian letters’.) For many years Christians were placed at the head of these schools; only much later were Jews also admitted.

     “’The majority of the Jewish population, faithful to traditional Jewry, on learning or guessing the secret aim of Uvarov [the minister of enlightenment], looked on the educational measures of the government as one form of persecution. (But Uvarov, in seeking possible ways of bringing the Jews and the Christian population closer together through the eradication ‘of prejudices instilled by the teaching of the Talmud’, wanted to exclude it completely from the educational curriculum, considering it to be an antichristian codex.) In their unchanging distrust of the Russian authorities, the Jewish population continued for quite a few years to keep away from these schools, experiencing ‘school-phobia’: ‘Just as the population kept away from military service, so it was saved from the schools, fearing to give their children to these seed-beds of “free thought”’. Prosperous Jewish families in part sent other, poor people’s children to the State schools instead of their own… And if by 1855 70 thousand Jewish children were studying in the ‘registered’ heders [rabbinic schools], in the State schools of both types there were 3,200.”[45]

     This issue of education was to prove to be crucial. For when, in the next reign, the Jews did overcome their “school-phobia”, and send their children to the State schools, these had indeed become seed-beds of “free-thinking” and revolution. It is ironic and tragic that it was the Jews’ education in Russian schools that taught them how to overthrow the Russian Orthodox Autocracy…

Tsar Nicholas and the Crimean War

     However legitimate the Tsar might consider most European governments (except Napoleon III's), this was not how they looked at him. The 1848 revolution, while in general unsuccessful, had changed the balance of forces in Europe. Gratitude to Russia for keeping the peace by defeating the Hungarian revolutionaries, never strong, had completely disappeared with the rise of a new generation of leaders. In 1851 the exiled Hungarian revolutionary Kossuth denounced Russian "despotism" in front of a cheering crowd in London. Meanwhile, the new French Emperor Napoleon III was looking to challenge the Vienna settlement of 1815 and divide Austria and Russia.[46]

    Nevertheless, it was a remarkable volte-face for these countries to ally themselves with the Ottoman empire against a Christian state, Russia, which in no way threatened them...

    One factor making for instability was the gradual weakening of the power of Turkey, \\\"the sick man of Europe", in the Tsar's phrase. Clearly, if Turkey collapsed, its subject peoples of Orthodox Christian faith would look to Russia to liberate them. But the Western Powers were determined to prevent this, which would threaten their hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean and greatly increase the power of their rival, Russia.

     There were also religious rivalries. The Tsar, as head of the Third Rome, saw himself as the natural protector of the Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman empire. But the Catholics, whose main political protector was France, were not prepared to allow him to play this role

     "The spark to the tinderbox," writes Trevor Royle, "was the key to the main door of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. By tradition, history, and a common usage which had been built up over the centuries, the great key was in the possession of the monks of the eastern, or Greek Orthodox... Church; they were the guardians of the grotto in which lay the sacred manger where Christ himself was... born. That state of affairs was contested with equal fervour by their great rivals, the monks of the Roman Catholic, or Latin, church who had been palmed off with the keys to the lesser inner doors to the narthex (the vestibule between the porch and the nave). There was also the question of whether or not a silver star adorned with the arms of France should be permitted to stand in the Sanctuary of the Nativity, but in the spring of 1852 the rivals' paramount thoughts were concentrated on the possession of the great key to the church's main west door.

     “[Alexander Kinglake wrote: ‘When the Emperor of Russia sought to keep for his Church the holy shrines of Palestine, he spoke on behalf of fifty millions of brave, pious, devoted subjects, of whom thousands for the sake of the cause would joyfully risk their lives. From the serf in his hut, even up to the great Tsar himself, the faith professed was the faith really glowing in his heart.’”[47]

     "Nicolas I had both temporal and spiritual reasons for wanting to extend his protection of the Eastern Church within the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon III's were rather different. Having dismissed the French parliament he needed all the support he could get, most especially from the Roman Catholics, before he could declare himself emperor. It suited him therefore to have France play a greater role in Palestine and 'to put an end to these deplorable and too-frequent quarrels about the possession of the Holy Places'. To that end the Marquis de Lavalette, his ambassador to the Porte - or the Sublime Porte, the court or government of the Ottoman Empire - insisted that the Turks honour the agreement made in 1740 that confirmed that France had \\\'sovereign authority' in the Holy Land. Otherwise, hinted de Lavalette, force might have to be used.

    \\\"On 9 February 1852 the Porte agreed the validity of the Latin claims but no sooner had the concession been made than the Turks were forced to bow once more, this time to Russian counter-claims. Basing his argument on an agreement, or firman, of 1757 which restored Greek rights in Palestine and on the Treaty of Kutchuk-Kainarji (1774) which gave Russia protection of the Christian religion within the Ottoman Empire, Nicholas's ambassador succeeded in getting a new firman ratifying the privileges of the Greek Church. This revoked the agreement made to the French who responded by backing up their demands with a show of force.

    "Later that summer, much to Nicholas's fury and to Britai\'s irritation, Napoleon III ordered the 90-gun steam-powered battleship Charlemagne to sail through the Dardanelles. This was a clear violation of the London Convention of 1841 which kept the Straits closed to naval vessels, but it also provided a telling demonstration of French sea power. It was nothing less than gunboat diplomacy and it seemed to work. Impressed by the speed and strength of the French warship, and persuaded by French diplomacy and money, Sultan Abd-el-Medjid listened ever more intently to the French demands. At the beginning of December he gave orders that the keys to the Church of the Nativity were to be surrendered to the Latins and that the French-backed church was to have supreme authority over the Holy Places. On 22 December a new silver star was brought from Jaffa and as Kinglake wrote, in great state 'the keys of the great door of the church, together with the keys of the sacred manger, were handed over to the Latins'.

     "Napoleon III had scored a considerable diplomatic victory. His subjects were much gratified, but in so doing he had also prepared the ground for a much greater and more dangerous confrontation. Given the strength of Russian religious convictions Tsar Nicholas was unwilling to accept the Sultan's decision - which he regarded as an affront not just to him but to the millions of Orthodox Christians under his protection - and he was determined to have it reversed, if need be by using force himself."[48]

     In October, 1852, the Tsar arrived in Kiev and confided to the metropolitan: "I do not want to shed the blood of the faithful sons of the fatherland, but our vainglorious enemies are forcing me to bare my sword. My plans are not yet made - no! But my heart feels that the time is nearing and they will soon be brought to fulfillment."

     Seeking advice, the Tsar asked if there were any holy elders in Kiev. The Metropolitan mentioned Hieroschemamonk Theophilus. They set off there immediately. On the way, they saw Blessed Theophilus lying by the side of the road in the middle of an ant-hill, not moving. His arms were folded on his chest crosswise, as in death, and his eyes were completely closed. Ants swarmed in masses all over his body and face, but he, as if feeling nothing, pretended to be dead. Puzzled, the Tsar and the Metropolitan returned to Kiev.

     Russian troops moved into the Romanian Principalities, and on July 2, 1853, the Tsar proclaimed: "By the occupation of the Principalities we desire such security as will ensure the restoration of our dues [in Palestine]. It is not conquest that we seek but satisfaction for a just right so clearly infringed." As he told the British ambassador in St. Petersburg, Seymour: "You see what my position is. I am the Head of a People of the Greek religion, our co-religionists of Turkey look up to me as their natural protector, and these are claims which it is impossible for me to disregard. I have the conviction that good right is on my side, I should therefore begin a War, such as that which now impends, without compunction and should be prepared to carry it on, as I have before remarked to you, as long as there should be a rouble in the Treasury or a man in the country."[49]

     Nevertheless, when the Powers drew up a compromise "Note", Nicholas promptly accepted it. However, the Turks rejected it, having been secretly assured of Franco-British support. On October 4, 1853 they delivered an ultimatum to the Russians to leave the Principalities within a fortnight. When the Tsar rejected the ultimatum, war broke out. On the same day A.F. Tiutcheva noted in her diary: "A terrible struggle is being ignited, gigantic opposing forces are entering into conflict with each other: the East and the West, the Slavic world and the Latin world, the Orthodox Church in her struggle not only with Islam, but also with the other Christian confessions, which, taking the side of the religion of Mohammed, are thereby betraying their own vital principle."[50]

     The British, the French and later the Sardinians joined the Turks. In March, 1854, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston in a secret memorandum prepared for the cabinet wrote of the Russian empire's "dismemberment. Finland would be restored to Sweden, the Baltic provinces would go to Prussia, and Poland would become a sizable kingdom. Austria would renounce her Italian possessions but gain the Danubian principalities and possibly even Bessarabia in return, and the Ottoman empire would regain the Crimea and Georgia."[51]

     As A.S. Khomiakov wrote: "Whatever political bases and excuses there may be for the struggle that is convulsing Europe now, it is impossible not to notice, even at the most superficial observation, that on one of the warring sides stand exclusively peoples belonging to Orthodoxy, and on the other - Romans and Protestants, gathered around Islam." And he quoted from an epistle of the Catholic Archbishop of Paris Sibur, who assured the French that the war with Russia "is not a political war, but a holy war; not a war of states or peoples, but solely a religious war". All other reasons were "in essence no more than excuses". The true reason was \\\"the necessity to drive out the error of Photius [the Filioque or “schismatic” Orthodoxy]; to subdue and crush it". "That is the recognized aim of this new crusade, and such was the hidden aim of all the previous crusades, even if those who participated in them did not admit it."[52]

     The war went badly for Russia; and on February 18, 1855, shortly after receiving the news of the defeat at Evpatoria, the Tsar, worn out and intensely grieved by the losses in the war, died. (According to one version, he was poisoned by the medic Mandt on the orders of Napoleon III.[53])

     Metropolitan Philaret of Kiev asked his valet whether he remembered the trip with the Tsar to Blessed Theophilus, and the fool-for-Christ's strange behaviour. \\\"Up to now I could not understand his strange behaviour. Now, the prophecy of the Starets is as clear as God\\\'s day. The ants were the malicious enemies of our fatherland, trying to torment the great body of Russia. The arms folded on his chest and the closed eyes of Theophilus were the sudden, untimely death of our beloved Batiushka-Tsar."[54]

November 10/23, 2015.

[1] Nicols, “Filaret of Moscow as an Ascetic” in J. Breck, J. Meyendorff and E. Silk (eds.), The Legacy of St Vladimir, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990, p. 81.

[2] V.I. Ivanov, Russkaia Intelligentsia i Masonstvo: ot Petra I do nashikh dnej (The Russian Intelligentsia and Masonry from Peter I to our days), Harbin, 1934, Moscow, 1997, pp. 316-317.

[3] Lebedev, Velikorossia (Great Russia), St. Petersburg, 1999, p. 331.

[4] Lebedev, op. cit., p. 319.

[5] Firsov, Russkaia Tserkov’ nakanune peremen (konets, 1890-x – 1918 gg.) (The Russian Church on the eve of the changes (the end of the 1890s to 1918), Moscow, 2002, p. 51.

[6] D. Khomiakov, Pravoslavie, Samoderzhavie, Narodnost’ (Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationhood), Minsk: Belaruskaia Gramata, 1997, pp. 13-15.

[7] Lebedev, op. cit., p. 321.

[8]A.P. Dobroklonsky, Rukovodstvo po istorii russkoj tserkvi (Handbook on the History of the Russian Church), Moscow, 2001, pp. 654-657.

[9] Nicholas entrusted this work to the Mason Speransky, because his expertise in the subject was unrivalled. However, above him he placed his former teacher Balugiansky, saying: “See that he (Speransky) does not get up to the same pranks as in 1810. You will answer for that to me” (in Ivanov, op. cit., p. 317).

[10] Florovsky, “Filaret, mitropolit Moskovskij” (Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow), in Vera i Kul’tura (Faith and Culture), St. Petersburg, 2002, p. 260.

[11] Metropolitan Ioann (Snychev), Zhizn’ i deiatel’nost’ mitropolita Philareta (The Life and Activity of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow),Tula, 1994, p. 238.

[12] Fr. Maximus Kozlov, introduction to Filareta mitropolita moskovskogo i kolomenskogo Tvorenia (The Works of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow and Kolomna),Moscow, 1994, pp. 14-15.

[13] Kozlov, op. cit., pp. 25-26.

[14] Sergius Fomin and Tamara Fomina, Rossia pered Vtorym Prishestviem (Russia before the Second Coming), Moscow, 1994, vol. I, p. 322.

[15] Khomiakov, “Eighth Letter to William Palmer”, in W.J. Birkbeck, Russia and the English Church: Containing a correspondence between Mr. William Palmer, Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and M. Khomiakoff, in the years 1844-1855, London, 1895, pp. 126-127; Living Orthodoxy, 142, vol. XXIV, N 4, July-August, 2004, p. 26.

[16] Tsar Nicholas, in in M.J. Cohen and John Major, History in Quotations, London: Cassel, 2004, p. 551.

[17]Dobroklonsky, op. cit., pp. 651-652.

[18]Lebedev, op. cit., p. 232.

[19] Lebedev, op. cit., p. 326.

[20] Chopin, in Cohen and Major, op. cit., p. 551.

[21] Mickiewicz, in Cohen and Major, op. cit., p. 551.

[22] Lafayette, said Chopin, “moved heaven and earth to make France go to war in support of Poland, but he could not move Louis Philippe. He formed a committee to help the Poles, with the participation of Victor Hugo and a string of artists and heroes” (Zamoyski, op. cit., p. 278).

[23] The passage continues: “And three days have already passed; the first ending with the first fall of Warsaw; the second day with the second fall of Warsaw; and the third day cometh but it shall have no end. As at the resurrection of Christ the sacrifice of blood ceased upon the earth, so at the resurrection of the Polish Nation shall war cease in Christendom.” “This,” comments Neal Ascherson, “was the extraordinary doctrine of Messianism, the identification of the Polish nation as the collective reincarnation of Christ. Messianism steadily gained strength over the next century-and-a-half. History saw to that” (Black Sea, London: Vintage, 1995, p. 160). (V. M.)

[24] Zamoyski, op. cit., pp. 284-287.

[25] Van der Kiste, The Romanovs: 1818-1959, Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999, p. 35.

[26] Hieromonk Patapios, “A Traditionalist Critique of ‘The Orthodox Church’”, Orthodox Tradition, volume XVI, N 1, 1999, pp. 44-45.

[27] A.I. Solzhenitsyn, Dvesti Let Vmeste (Two Hundred Years Together),Moscow, 2001, vol. 1, p. 34.

[28] 1667 was the very year in which Patriarch Nicon was unjustly deposed; so the first major influx of Jews into Russia coincided with the first serious undermining of Russian Church-State relations.(L.A. Tikhomirov, “Yevrei i Rossia” (“The Jews and Russia”), Kritika Demokratii (A Critique of Democracy), Moscow, 1997, p. 487).

[29] Hartley, A Social History of the Russian Empire, 1650-1825, London and New York: Longman, 1999, p. 15.

[30] Hartley, op. cit., p. 15.

[31] David Vital, A People Apart: The Jews in Europe, 1789-1939, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 86-87.

[32] Vital, op. cit., pp. 18-19.

[33] In 1800, I.G. Friesel, governor of Vilna, reported: “Having established their own administrative institution, called Synagogues, Kahals, or associations, the Jews completely separated themselves from the people and government of the land. As a result, they were exempt from the operation of the statutes which governed the peoples of the several estates, and even if special laws were enacted, these remained unenforced and valueless, because the ecclesiastical and temporal leaders of the Jews invariably resisted them and were clever enough to find means to evade them.” (Isaac Levitats, The Jewish Community in Russia, 1772-1844, New York, 1970, p. 29; quoted in Hartley, op. cit., pp. 98-99). (V.M.)

[34] Platonov, Ternovij Venets Rossii (Russia’s Crown of Thorns), Moscow, 1995, pp. 242, 243-245.

[35] In fact they were not negligible at all. The Pale of Settlement was exceedingly porous!

[36] The kahal was abolished in 1821 in Poland and in 1844 in the rest of the Russian empire.

[37] Vital, op. cit., pp. 95-96.

[38] Adam Zamoyski, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon & the Congress of Vienna, London: Harper Perennial, 2008,p. 568.

[39] Vital, op. cit., p. 105.

[40] Vladimir Gubanov (ed.), Nikolai II-ij i novie mucheniki (Nicholas II and the New Martyrs), St. Petersburg, 2000, p. 698. Gubanov took this figure from The Jewish Encyclopaedia.

[41] Platonov, op. cit., p. 245.

[42] A.I. Solzhenitsyn, Dvesti Let Vmeste (Two Hundred Years Together), Moscow, 2001, p. 114.

[43] Solzhenitsyn, op. cit., pp. 115-117.

[44] Solzhenitsyn, op. cit., p. 122.

[45] Solzhenitsyn, op. cit., pp. 123-124.

[46]Philip Mansel, Constantinople, London: Penguin, 1995, p. 268.

[47]Royle, Crimea: The Great Crimean War 1854-1856, London: Abacus, 1999, pp. 15, 17.

[48]Royle, op. cit., 19-20.

[49]Royle, op. cit., p. 52.

[50]Tiutcheva, Pri Dvore Dvukh Imperatorov (At the Court of Two Emperors), Moscow, 1990, p. 52; in N.Yu. Selischev, "K 150-letiu nachala Krymskoj vojny" (Towards the 150th Anniversary of the Crimean War), Pravoslavnaia Rus' (Orthodox Rus'), N 24 (1741), December 15/28, 2003, p. 11.

[51]Palmerston, in Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles, London: Penguin, 2002, p. 181.

[52]Khomiakov, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij (Complete Works), Moscow, 1994, vol. II, pp. 74-75; in Selischev, op. cit., pp. 10-11.

[53]Ivanov, op. cit., p. 327.

[54]Hieroschemamonk Feofil, Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1970, pp. 108, 111.

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