Written by Vladimir Moss



     Why did the Church not intervene in this great crisis that followed on the abdication of the Tsar, as she had intervened on similar occasions in Russian history? After all, on the eve of the revolution, she had canonized St. Hermogen, Patriarch of Moscow in the Time of Troubles, as if to emphasize that, just as St. Hermogen had refused to recognize the false Demetrius as a legitimate political authority, so the time was coming when it would again be necessary to distinguish between true and false political authorities. So surely the Church would stand up against Bolshevism and in defence of the monarchy as St. Hermogen did then?


     However, at this critical moment the Synod showed itself to be at a loss. At its session of February 26, it refused the request of the assistant over-procurator, Prince N.D. Zhevakhov, to threaten the creators of disturbances with ecclesiastical punishments.[1] Then, on February 27, it refused the request of the over-procurator himself, N.P. Rayev, that it publicly support the monarchy.[2] It was ironic that that much-criticised creation of Peter the Great, the office of Over-Procurator of the Holy Synod, proved more faithful to the Anointed of God at this critical moment than the “Holy Governing [Pravitel’stvennij] Synod” itself…


     “On March 2,” writes Michael Babkin, “the Synodal hierarchs gathered in the residence of the Metropolitan of Moscow. They listened to a report given by Metropolitan Pitirim of St. Petersburg asking that he be retired (this request was agreed to on March 6 – M.B.). The administration of the capital’s diocese was temporarily laid upon Bishop Benjamin of Gdov. But then the members of the Synod recognized that it was necessary immediately to enter into relations with the Executive committee of the State Duma. On the basis of which we can assert that the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church recognized the Provisional Government even before the abdication of Nicholas II from the throne. (The next meeting of the members of the Synod took place on March 3 in the residence of the Metropolitan of Kiev. On that same day the new government was told of the resolutions of the Synod.)


     “The first triumphantly official session of the Holy Synod after the coup d’état took place on March 4. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev presided and the new Synodal over-procurator, V.N. Lvov[3], who had been appointed by the Provisional government the previous day, was present. Metropolitan Vladimir and the members of the Synod (with the exception of Metropolitan Pitirim, who was absent – M.B.) expressed their sincere joy at the coming of a new era in the life of the Orthodox Church. And then at the initiative of the over-procurator the royal chair… was removed into the archives… One of the Church hierarchs helped him. It was decided to put the chair into a museum.


     “The next day, March 5, the Synod ordered that in all the churches of the Petrograd diocese the Many Years to the Royal House ‘should no longer be proclaimed’. In our opinion, these actions of the Synod had a symbolical character and witnessed to the desire of its members ‘to put into a museum’ not only the chair of the Tsar, but also ‘to despatch to the archives’ of history royal power itself.


     “The Synod reacted neutrally to the ‘Act on the abdication of Nicholas II from the Throne of the State of Russia for himself and his son in favour of Great Prince Michael Alexandrovich’ of March 2, 1917 and to the ‘Act on the refusal of Great Prince Michael Alexandrovich to accept supreme power’ of March 3. On March 6 it decreed that the words ‘by order of His Imperial Majesty’ should be removed from all synodal documents, and that in all the churches of the empire molebens should be served with a Many Years ‘to the God-preserved Russian Realm and the Right-believing Provisional Government’.”[4]


     But was the new government, whose leading members were Masons[5], really “right-believing”? Even leaving aside the fact of their membership of Masonic lodges, which is strictly forbidden by the Church, the answer to this question has to be: no. When the Tsar opened the First State Duma in 1906 with a moleben, the Masonic deputies sniggered and turned away, openly showing their disrespect both for him and for the Church. And now the new government openly declared that it derived its legitimacy, not from God, but from the revolution. But the revolution cannot be lawful, being the incarnation of lawlessness.


     On March 7, with the support of Archbishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) of Finland, Lvov transferred the Synod’s official organ, Tserkovno-Obschestvennij Vestnik (Church and Society Messenger), into the hands of the “All-Russian Union of Democratic Orthodox Clergy and Laity”, a left-wing grouping founded in Petrograd on the same day and led by Titlinov, a professor at the Petrograd Academy of which Sergius was the rector.[6] Archbishop (later Patriarch) Tikhon protested against this transfer, and the small number of signatures for the transfer made it illegal. However, in his zeal to hand this important Church organ into the hands of the liberals, Lvov completely ignored the illegality of the act and handed the press over to Titlinov, who promptly began to use it to preach his Gospel of “Socialist Christianity”, declaring that “Christianity is on the side of labour, not on the side of violence and exploitation”.[7]


     Also on March 7, the Synod passed a resolution “On the Correction of Service Ranks in view of the Change in State Administration”. In accordance with this, a commission headed by Archbishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) was formed that removed all references to the Tsar in the Divine services. This involved changes to, for example, the troparion for the Church New Year, where the word “Emperor” was replaced by “people”, and a similar change to the troparion for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Again, on March 7-8 the Synod passed a resolution, “On Changes in Divine Services in Connection with the Cessation of the Commemoration of the Former Ruling House”. The phrase “formerly ruling” (tsarstvovavshego) implied that there was no hope of a restoration of any Romanov to the throne.


     Then, on March 9, the Synod addressed all the children of the Church: “The will of God has been accomplished. Russia has entered on the path of a new State life. May God bless our great Homeland with happiness and glory on its new path… For the sake of the many sacrifices offered to win civil freedom, for the sake of the salvation of your own families, for the sake of the happiness of the Homeland, abandon at this great historical moment all quarrels and disagreements. Unite in brotherly love for the good of Russia. Trust the Provisional Government. All together and everyone individually, apply all your efforts to this end that by your labours, exploits, prayer and obedience you may help it in its great work of introducing new principles of State life…”


     But was it true that “the will of God has been accomplished”? Was it not rather that God had allowed the will of Satan to be accomplished, as a punishment for the sins of the Russian people? And if so, how could the path be called a “great work”? As for the “new principles of State life”, everyone knew that these were revolutionary in essence…


     Indeed, it could be argued that, instead of blessing the Masonic Provisional Government in its epistle of March 9, the Synod should have applied to it the curse pronounced in 1613 against those who would not obey the Romanov dynasty: “It is hereby decreed and commanded that God's Chosen One, Tsar Michael Feodorovich Romanov, be the progenitor of the Rulers of Rus' from generation to generation, being answerable in his actions before the Tsar of Heaven alone; and should any dare to go against this decree of the Sobor - whether it be Tsar, or Patriarch, or any other man, - may he be damned in this age and in the age to come, having been sundered from the Holy Trinity...”


     Babkin writes that the epistle of March 9 “was characterised by B.V. Titlinov, professor of the Petrograd Theological Academy, as ‘an epistle blessing a new and free Russia’, and by General A.I. Denikin as ‘sanctioning the coup d’état that has taken place’. To the epistle were affixed the signatures of the bishops of the ‘tsarist’ composition of the Synod, even those who had the reputation of being monarchists and ‘black hundredists’, for example, Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow. This witnessed to the ‘loyal’ feelings of the Synodal hierarchs…”[8]


     Why did the hierarchs sanction the coup so quickly? Probably in the hope of receiving internal freedom for the Church. This is hinted at in a declaration of six archbishops to the Holy Synod and Lvov on March 8: “The Provisional Government in the person of its over-procurator V.N. Lvov, on March 4 in the triumphant opening session of the Holy Synod, told us that it was offering to the Holy Orthodox Russian Church full freedom in Her administration, while preserving for itself only the right to halt any decisions of the Holy Synod that did not agree with the law and were undesirable from a political point of view. The Holy Synod did everything to meet these promises, issued a pacific epistle to the Orthodox people and carried out other acts that were necessary, in the opinion of the Government, to calm people’s minds…”[9]


     Lvov broke his promises and proceeded to act like a tyrant, which included expelling Metropolitans Pitirim of Petrograd and Macarius of Moscow from their sees as being supposedly the appointees of Rasputin. It was then that Metropolitan Macarius repented of having signed the March 9 epistle. And later, after the fall of the Provisional Government, he said: “They [the Provisional Government] corrupted the army with their speeches. They opened the prisons. They released onto the peaceful population convicts, thieves and robbers. They abolished the police and administration, placing the life and property of citizens at the disposal of every armed rogue… They destroyed trade and industry, imposing taxes that swallowed up the profits of enterprises… They squandered the resources of the exchequer in a crazy manner. They radically undermined all the sources of life in the country. They established elections to the Constituent Assembly on bases that were incomprehensible to Russia. They defiled the Russian language, distorting it for the amusement of half-illiterates and sluggards. They did not even guard their own honour, violating the promise they had given to the abdicated Tsar to allow him and his family free departure, by which they prepared for him inevitable death…


     “Who started the persecution on the Orthodox Church and handed her head over to crucifixion? Who demanded the execution of the Patriarch? Was it those whom the Duma decried as ‘servants of the dark forces’, labelled as enemies of the freedom of the Church?... No, it was not those, but he whom the Duma opposed to them as a true defender of the Church, whom it intended for, and promoted to the rank of, over-procurator of the Most Holy Synod – the member of the Provisional Government, now servant of the Sovnarkom – Vladimir Lvov.”[10]


     Lvov was indeed thoroughly unsuited for the post of over-procurator – he ended up as a renovationist and enemy of Orthodoxy. In appointing him the Provisional Government showed its true, hostile attitude towards the Church. It also showed its inconsistency: having overthrown the Autocracy and proclaimed freedom for all people and all religions, it should have abolished the office of over-procurator as being an outdated relic of the State’s dominion over the Church.


     But it wanted to make the Church tow the new State’s line, and Lvov was to be its instrument in doing this. Hence his removal of all the older, more traditional hierarchs, his introduction of three protopriests of a Lutheran orientation into the Synod and his proclamation of the convening of an All-Russian Church Council – a measure which he hoped would seal the Church’s descent into Protestant-style renovationism, but which in fact, through God’s Providence, turned out to be the beginning of the Church’s true regeneration and fight back against the revolution…


     Meanwhile, the Council of the Petrograd Religio-Philosophical Society went still further, denying the very concept of Sacred Monarchy. Thus on March 11 and 12, it resolved that the Synod’s acceptance of the Tsar’s abdication “does not correspond to the enormous religious importance of the act, by which the Church recognized the Tsar in the rite of the coronation of the anointed of God. It is necessary, for the liberation of the people’s conscience and to avoid the possibility of a restoration, that a corresponding act be issued in the name of the Church hierarchy abolishing the power of the Sacrament of Royal Anointing, by analogy with the church acts abolishing the power of the Sacraments of Marriage and the Priesthood.”[11]


     Fortunately, the Church hierarchy rejected this demand. For not only can the Sacrament of Anointing not be abolished, since it is of God: even the last Tsar still remained the anointed Tsar after his abdication. As Shakespeare put it in Richard II, whose plot is closely reminiscent of the tragedy of the Tsar’s abdication:


Not all the water in the rough rude sea

Can wash the balm off from an anointed king;

The breath of worldly men cannot depose

The deputy elected by the Lord.


     For since the power of the anointed autocrat comes from God, not the people, it cannot be removed by the people. The converse of this fact is that if the people attempt to remove the autocrat for any other reason than his renunciation of Orthodoxy, then they themselves sin against God and deprive themselves of His Grace. That is why St. John of Kronstadt had said that if Russia were to be deprived of her tsar, she would become a “stinking corpse”. And so it turned out: as a strictly logical and moral consequence, “from the day of his abdication,” as St. John Maximovich wrote, “everything began to collapse. It could not have been otherwise. The one who united everything, who stood guard for the truth, was overthrown…”[12] For, as St. John said in another place: “The Tsar was the embodiment of the Russian people’s… readiness to submit the life of the state to the righteousness of God: therefore do the people submit themselves to the Tsar, because he submits to God. Vladyka Anthony [Khrapovitsky] loved to recall the Tsar’s prostration before God and the Church which he makes during the coronation, while the entire Church, all its members, stand. And then, in response to his submission to Christ, all in the Church make a full prostration to him.”[13]


     For “faithfulness to the monarchy is a condition of soul and form of action in which a man unites his will with the will of his Sovereign, his dignity with his dignity, his destiny with his destiny… The fall of the monarchy was the fall of Russia herself. A thousand-year state form fell, but no ‘Russian republic’ was put in its place, as the revolutionary semi-intelligentsia of the leftist parties dreamed, but the pan-Russian disgrace foretold by Dostoyevsky was unfurled, and a failure of spirit. And on this failure of spirit, on this dishonour and disintegration there grew the state Anchar of Bolshevism, prophetically foreseen by Pushkin – a sick and unnatural tree of evil that spread its poison on the wind to the destruction of the whole world. In 1917 the Russian people fell into the condition of the mob, while the history of mankind shows that the mob is always muzzled by despots and tyrants…


     “The Russian people unwound, dissolved and ceased to serve the great national work – and woke up under the dominion of internationalists. History has as it were proclaimed a certain law: Either one-man rule or chaos is possible in Russia; Russia is not capable of a republican order. Or more exactly: the existence of Russia demands one-man rule – either a religiously and nationally strengthened one-man rule of honour, fidelity and service, that is, a monarchy, or one-man rule that is atheist, conscienceless and dishonourable, and moreover anti-national and international, that is, a tyranny.[14]


     However, the democratic wave continued, and the Church was carried along by it. The hierarchy made some protests, but these did not amount to a real “counter-revolution”. Thus on April 14, a stormy meeting took place between Lvov and the Synod during which Lvov’s actions were recognised to be “uncanonical and illegal”. At this session Archbishop Sergius apparently changed course and agreed with the other bishops in condemning the unlawful transfer of Tserkovno-Obshchestvennij Vestnik. However, Lvov understood that this was only a tactical protest. So he did not include Sergius among the bishops whom he planned to purge from the Synod; he thought – rightly - that Sergius would continue to be his tool in the revolution that he was introducing in the Church. The next day Lvov marched into the Synod at the head of a detachment of soldiers and read an order for the cessation of the winter session of the Synod and the retirement of all its members with the single exception of Archbishop Sergius (Stragorodsky) of Finland.[15]


     Thus in little more than a month since the coup, the Church had been effectively placed in the hands of a lay dictator, who had single-handedly dismissed her most senior bishops in the name of the “freedom of the Church”…


     Here we see a striking difference in the way in which the Provisional Government treated secular or political society, on the one hand, and the Church, on the other. While Prince G.E. Lvov, the head of the government, refused to impose his authority on anyone, whether rioting peasants or rampaging soldiers, granting “freedom” – that is, more or less complete licence – to any self-called political or social “authority”, Prince V.E. Lvov, the over-procurator, granted quite another kind of “freedom” to the Church – complete subjection to lay control…




     Meanwhile, the turmoil in both Church and State in Russia gave the opportunity to the Georgian Church to reassert its autocephalous status, which it had voluntarily given up over a century before. On March 12, without the agreement of the Holy Synod of the Russian Church, and in spite of the protests of the exarch of Georgia, Archbishop Platon, a group of Georgian bishops proclaimed the autocephaly of their Church and appointed Bishop Leonid (Okropiridze) of Mingrelia as locum tenens of the Catholicos with a Temporary Administration composed of clergy and laity.[16] The Russian Synod sent Bishop Theophylact to look after the non-Georgian parishes in Georgia. But he was removed from Georgia, and the new exarch, Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov), was not allowed into the capital. The result was a break in communion between the two Churches. 

     In the same month of March the Russian government ceased subsidising the American diocese. The ruling Archbishop Eudocimus (Mescheriakov) went to the All-Russian Council in August, leaving his vicar, Bishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) of Canada, as his deputy. But then Protopriest John Kedrovsky with a group of renovationist priests tried to remove Bishop Alexander and take power into their own hands “without submitting to imperial power or hierarchical decrees”.[17]


     On April 29, the new Synod headed by Archbishop Sergius proclaimed the principle of the election of the episcopate, the preparation for a Council and the establishment of a Preconciliar Council. This Address triggered a revolution in the Church. The revolution consisted in the fact that all over the country the elective principle with the participation of laymen replaced the system of “episcopal autocracy” which had prevailed thereto. In almost all dioceses Diocesan Congresses elected special “diocesan councils” or committees composed of clergy and laity that restricted the power of the bishops. The application of the elective principle to almost all ecclesiastical posts, from parish offices to episcopal sees, resulted in the removal of several bishops from their sees and the election of new ones in their stead. Thus Archbishops Basil (Bogoyavlensky) of Chernigov, Tikhon (Nikanorov) of Kaluga and Anthony (Khrapovitsky) of Kharkov were removed. Archbishop Joachim (Levitsky) of Nizhni-Novgorod was even arrested and imprisoned for a time before being shot. The retirement of Archbishop Alexis (Dorodnitsyn) of Vladimir was justified by his earlier closeness to Rasputin. The others were accused of being devoted to the Autocracy.[18]


     Although the spirit behind this revolutionary wave was undoubtedly anti-ecclesiastical in essence, by the Providence of God it resulted in some changes that were beneficial for the Church. Thus the staunchly monarchist Archbishop Anthony, after being forced to retire, was later reinstated at the demand of the people. Again, Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin) of Lithuania was elected metropolitan of Moscow (the lawful occupant of that see, Metropolitan Macarius, was later reconciled with him), and Archbishop Benjamin (Kazansky) was made metropolitan of Petrograd. However, there were also harmful changes, such as the election of Sergius Stragorodsky as Archbishop of Vladimir.


     In the countryside, meanwhile, “there was a strong anti-clerical movement: village communities took away the church lands, removed priests from the parishes and refused to pay for religious services. Many of the local priests managed to escape this fate by throwing in their lot with the revolution.”[19] However, several priests were savagely killed – the martyrdom of the Church began, not with the Bolshevik coup, but with the liberal democratic revolution. 

     From June 1 to 10 the All-Russian Congress of clergy and laity took place in Moscow with 800 delegates from all the dioceses. As Shkarovskii writes, it “welcomed the revolution, but expressed the wish that the Church continue to receive the legal and material support of the state, that divinity continue to be an obligatory subject in school, and that the Orthodox Church retain its schools. Consequently, a conflict soon broke out with the government. The Synod protested against the law of 20 June which transferred the [37,000] parish church schools to the Ministry of Education. A similar clash occurred over the intention to exclude divinity from the list of compulsory subjects.”[20]


     The transfer of the church schools to the state system was disastrous for the Church because the state’s schools were infected with atheism. It would be one of the first decrees that the coming Council of the Russian Orthodox Church would seek (unsuccessfully) to have repealed…


     In general, the June Congress carried forward the renovationist wave; and although the June 14 decree “On Freedom of Conscience” was welcome, the government still retained de jure control over the Church. Even when the government allowed the Church to convene its own All-Russian Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in August, it retained the right of veto over any new form of self-administration that Council might come up with. Moreover, the Preconciliar Council convened to prepare for the forthcoming Council was to be chaired by the Church’s leading liberal, Archbishop Sergius…


     With the Tsar gone, and the Church led by liberals and treated with contempt by the State, it is not surprising that the conservative peasant masses were confused. Thus a telegram sent to the Holy Synod on July 24, 1917 concerned the oath of loyalty that the Provisional Government was trying to impose on them: “We Orthodox Christians ardently beseech you to explain to us in the newspaper Russkoye Slovo what constitutes before the Lord God the oath given by us to be faithful to the Tsar, Nicholas Alexandrovich. People are saying amongst us that if this oath is worth nothing, then the new oath to the new Tsar is also worth nothing.


     “Is that so, and how are we to understand all this? Following the advice of someone we know, we want this question decided, not by ourselves, but by the Governing Synod, so that everyone should understand this in the necessary way, without differences of opinion. The zhids [Jews] say that the oath is nonsense and a deception, and that one can do without an oath. The popes [priests] are silent. Each layman expresses his own opinion. But this is no good. Again they have begun to say that God does not exist at all, and that the churches will soon be closed because they are not necessary. But we on our part think: why close them? – it’s better to live by the church. Now that the Tsar has been overthrown things have got bad, and if they close the churches it’ll get worse, but we need things to get better. You, our most holy Fathers, must try to explain to all of us simultaneously: what should we do about the old oath, and with the one they are trying to force us to take now? Which oath must be dearer to God. The first or the second? Because the Tsar is not dead, but is alive in prison. And is it right that all the churches should be closed? Where then can we pray to the Lord God? Surely we should not go in one band to the zhids and pray with them? Because now all power is with them, and they’re bragging about it…”[21]


     The hierarchy had no answers to these questions…




      What could it have done? It could and should have rallied round the sacred principle of the Orthodox Autocracy and used its still considerable influence among the people to restore monarchical rule. As Bishop Diomedes writes: “It was necessary in the name of the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church to persuade the Ruling House not to leave the Russian State to be destroyed by rebels, and to call all the rebels to repentance by anathematizing them with the 11th anathema of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.”[22]A clear precedent existed: in the recently canonized Patriarch Hermogen’s call to liberate Russia from foreign Catholic rule and restore a lawful monarchy in 1612. Like Hermogen, the Holy Synod in 1917 could have called the Russian people to arms against those who had in effect forced the abdication of both the Tsar and Great Prince Michael, and who were therefore, in effect, rebels against lawful authority and subject to anathema. It could have approached any member of the Romanov dynasty – with the exception of Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, who had already declared his allegiance to the revolution - with an invitation that he ascend the throne.


     But the opportunity was lost. The years of anti-monarchist propaganda had done their work: some hierarchs supported the revolution, others rejected it, but the Synod as a whole sided with its supporters. It was simply not prepared to lead the people in such a way as to oppose the rebels and protect the monarchical principle.


     Of course, following the example of St. Hermogen in this way would have been very difficult, requiring great courage. And blessing a civil war in the midst of a world war would of course have been extremely bold… But it was not impossible…


     There was another alternative, less radical than the one just mentioned, but honourable and more in accordance with the manifestos of the two last Tsars. As Babkin writes, this alternative “was laid out in the actions and sermons of Bishop Andronicus (Nikolsky) of Perm and Kungur. On March 4 he addressed an archpastoral epistle ‘to all Russian Orthodox Christians’ in which, having expounded the essence of the ‘Acts’ of March 2 and 3, he characterized the situation in Russia as an ‘interregnum’. Calling on everyone to obey the Provisional Government in every way, he said: ‘We shall beseech the all-Merciful One [God – M.B.] to establish authority and peace on the earth, that He not leave us long without a Tsar, like children without a mother… May He help us, as three hundred years ago He helped our forefathers, to receive a native Tsar from Him, the All-Good Provider, in a unanimous and inspired manner.’ Analogous theses were contained in the sermon that the Perm archpastor gave in his cathedral church on March 5.


     “On March 19 Bishop Andronicus and the Perm clergy in his cathedral church and in all the city churches swore an oath of allegiance and service to the Russian state themselves and brought the people to swear it in accordance with the order established by the Provisional Government. But while swearing allegiance to the Provisional Government as a law-abiding citizen, Vladyka Andronicus actively conducted monarchical agitation, pinning his hopes of a ‘regeneration’ of the only temporarily ‘removed’ from power tsarist administration on the Constituent Assembly.


     “The ‘dangerous activity’ of the Perm archpastor (this is precisely how it was evaluaged by the local secular authorities and in the office of the Synod) drew the attention of the Committee of social security and the Soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies of the city of Perm, from whom on March 21 a telegram was sent to the over-procurator of the Holy Synod complaining that ‘Bishop Andronicus in a sermon compared Nicholas II to Christ in His Passion, and called on the flock to have pity on him.’ In reply, on March 23, the over-procurator demanded of the rebellious bishop that he give an explanation and account of his activity, which was directed to the defence of the old order and ‘to re-establishing the clergy against the new order’.

     “The correspondence elicited between the Bishop of Perm and the over-procurator by his ‘counter-revolutionary’ activity was completed on April 16 when Bishop Androniucs said in a detailed letter of explanation: ‘Michael Alexandrovich’s act of abdication that legalized the Provisional Government declared that after the Constituent Assembly we can have a tsarist administration, like any other, depending on what the Constituent Assembly says about it... I have submitted to the Constituent Assembly, and I will submit to a republic, if that is what the Constituent Assembly declares. But until then not one citizen is deprived of the freedom to express himself on any form of government for Russia; otherwise even the Constituent Assembly would be superfluous if someone has already irreversibly decided the question on Russia’s form of government. As I have already said many times, I have submitted to the Provisional Government, I submit now and and I call on everyone to submit… I am perplexed on what basis you find it necessary… to accuse me ‘of stirring up the people not only against the Provisional Government, but also against the spiritual authorities in general’.”


     Babkin cites many examples of priests and parishes praying simultaneously for the Tsar and the Provisional Government until the end of April. All these instances were based on the theoretical possibility, pointed out by Bishop Andronicus, that the Constituent Assembly could vote for a restoration of the monarchy. And so, he concludes, since, in March, 1917 “the monarchy in Russia, in accordance with the act of Great Prince Michael Alexandrovich, continued to exist as an institution”, the Synod should have acted as if there was an “interregnum” in the country.[23]


     The weakness of the Church at this critical moment was the result of a long historical process. Having been deprived of its administrative independence by Peter the Great, the Church hierarchy was not ready to stand alone against the new regime and in defence of the monarchical principle in March, 1917. Instead, in the early days of March, it hoped that, in exchange for recognizing it and calling on the people to recognize it, it would receive full administrative freedom… But it was deceived: when Lvov came to power, he began to act like a tyrant worse than the old tsarist over-procurators. And then a wave of democratization began at the diocesan and parish levels… Thus was the prophecy of St. Ignaty (Brianchaninov) fulfilled: “Judging from the spirit of the times and the intellectual ferment, we must suppose that the building of the Church, which has already been wavering for a long time, will collapse quickly and terribly. There will be nobody to stop this and withstand it. The measures undertaken to support [the Church] are borrowed from the elements of the world hostile to the Church, and will rather hasten her fall than stop it…”[24]


     And so we must conclude that in March, 1917 the Church – de facto, if not de jure - renounced Tsarism, one of the pillars of Russian identity for nearly 1000 years. With the exception of a very few bishops, such as Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow and Archbishop Andronicus of Perm, the hierarchy hastened to support the new democratic order. As Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) writes: “There were few who understood at that moment that, in accepting this coup, the Russian people had committed the sin of oath-breaking, had rejected the Tsar, the Anointed of God, and had gone along the path of the prodigal son of the Gospel parable, subjecting themselves to the same destructive consequences as he experienced on abandoning his father.”[25]


     However, the fact that Tsarism was renounced only de facto and not de jure means that Bishop Diomedes’ thesis that the whole Church lost grace in 1917 is false. The pusillanimity of individual hierarchs, however senior or numerous, does not amount to heresy. Nevertheless, that a very serious sin – the sin of treason, of oath-breaking – had been committed in the name of the Church cannot be denied…The only question remaining was: could the Church cleanse herself of this sin at the Council which, thanks to the Provisional Government, it convened in August, and, thus cleansed and strengthened by the Grace of God, lead the people out of the abyss of the revolution?


     St. Anatoly of Optina said: “The destiny of the Tsar is the destiny of Russia. If the Tsar will rejoice, Russia also will rejoice. If the Tsar will weep, Russia also will weep… Just as a man with his head cut off is no longer a man, but a stinking corpse, so Russia without the Tsar will be a stinking corpse…”


     It remained only to witness the fulfilment of the prophecy…


     The abdication of Tsar Nicholas II marked the end of the Christian era of political history initiated by the coming to power of St. Constantine the Great in 306. The enormous change – and enormous loss – was felt immediately by those who lived through it. As the novelist I.A. Bunin wrote: “Our children and grandchildren will not be able even to imagine that Russia in which we once (that is, yesterday) lived, which we did not value and did not understand – all that might, complexity, wealth and happiness…”  


     Thus did the Russian people fall under the anathema they laid upon themselves in 1613 if they should ever betray their allegiance to Michael Romanov and the Romanov dynasty… The abdication, and consequently the murder of the Tsar and his family, were not the responsibility of the Masons and the Bolsheviks only, but of all those who, directly or indirectly, connived at it or later approved of it. As St. John Maximovich explained: “The sin against him and against Russia was perpetrated by all who in one way or another acted against him, who did not oppose, or who merely by sympathizing participated in those events which took place forty years ago. That sin lies upon everyone until it is washed away by sincere repentance…”[26] 

     “He who restrains” the coming of the Antichrist, the Orthodox Autocracy, had been removed with the massive cooperation of the Orthodox people themselves; and now, with all restraint removed, the world entered the era of the collective Antichrist...

November 3/16, 2019


[1] A.D. Stepanov, “Mezhdu mirom i monastyrem” (“Between the World and the Monastery”), in Tajna Bezzakonia (The Mystery of Iniquity), St. Petersburg, 2002, p. 491.

[2] “On February 27, when the armies of the capital’s garrison began to go over to the side of the rebels, Over-Procurator N.P. Raev suggested to the Holy Synod that it condemn the revolutionary movement. He drew the attention of the members of the Highest Church Hierarchy to the fact that the leaders of this movement ‘consist of traitors, beginning with the members of the State Duma and ending with the workers’. The Synod declined his suggestion, replying to the over-procurator that it was still not known where the treachery came from – from above or below.” (M.A. Babkin, Dukhovenstvo Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi i Sverzhenie Monarkhii (Nachalo XX v. – Konets 1917 g.) (The Clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Overthrow of the Monarchy (Beginning of the 20th century – the End of 1917)), Moscow, 2007.



[3] Lvov was, in the words of Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), “a not completely normal fantasist” ((Russkaia Tserkov’ pered litsom gospodstvuiushchego zla (The Russian Church in the Face of Dominant Evil), Jordanville, 1991, p. 4). Grabbe’s estimate of Lvov is supported by Oliver Figes, who writes: “a nobleman of no particular talent or profession, he was convinced of his calling to greatness, yet ended up in the 1920s as a pauper and a madman living on the streets of Paris” (A People’s Tragedy, London: Pimlico, 1997, p. 449). (V.M.)

[4] Babkin, “Sviatejshij Sinod Pravoslavnoj Rossijskoj Tserkvi i Revoliutsionnie Sobytia Fevralia-Marta 1917 g.” (“The Most Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Revolutionary Events of February-March, 1917”),, pp. 2, 3. Archbishop Nathanael of Vienna (+1985), the son of over-procurator Vladimir Lvov, said that his family used to laugh at the incongruity of wishing “Many Years” to a merely “Provisional” Government (“Neobychnij Ierarkh” (An Unusual Hierarch), Nasha Strana, N 2909, February 5, 2011, p. 3).

[5] This is also now generally accepted even by western historians. Thus Tsuyoshi Hasegawa writes: “Five members, Kerensky, N.V. Nekrasov, A.I. Konovalov, M.I. Tereshchenko and I.N. Efremov are known to have belonged to the secret political Masonic organization” (“The February Revolution”, in Edward Acton, Vladimir Cherniaev, William Rosenberg (eds.), Critical Companion to the Russian Revolution 1914-1921, Bloomington and Indianopolis: Indiana University Press, 1997, p. 59).

[6] As Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) testified, “already in 1917 he [Sergius] was dreaming of combining Orthodox Church life with the subjection of the Russian land to Soviet power…” (“Preemstvennost’ Grekha” (The Heritage of Sin), Tsaritsyn, p. 7).

[7] See Mikhail V. Shkarovskii, “The Russian Orthodox Church”, in Acton, Cherniaev and Rosenberg, op. cit., p. 417; “K 80-letiu Izbrania Sv. Patriarkha Tikhona na Sviashchennom Sobore Rossijskoj Tserkvi 1917-18gg.” (Towards the Election of his Holiness Patriarch Tikhon at the Sacred Council of the Russian Church, 1917-18), Suzdal’skie Eparkhial’nie Vedomosti (Suzdal Diocesan News), N 2, November, 1997, p. 19.

[8] Babkin, op. cit., pp. 3-4.

[9] Babkin, Dukhovenstvo, pp. 195-198.

[10] Metropolitan Macarius, in Tatyana Groyan,Tsariu Nebesnomu i Zemnomu Vernij (Faithful to the Heavenly and Earthly King), Moscow, 1996, pp. 183-184.

[11] Groyan, op. cit., p. 142. Italics mine (V.M.).

[12] St. John Maximovich, “Homily before a Memorial Service for the Tsar-Martyr”, in Man of God, p. 133. Cf. Archbishop Seraphim (Sobolev): "There is no need to say how terrible a 'touching' of the Anointed of God is the overthrow of the tsar by his subjects. Here the transgression of the given command of God reaches the highest degree of criminality, which is why it drags after it the destruction of the state itself" (Russkaia Ideologia (The Russian Ideology), St. Petersburg, 1992, pp. 50-51). And so, insofar as it was the disobedience of the people that compelled the Tsar to abdicate, leading inexorably to his death, "we all," in the words of Archbishop Averky, "Orthodox Russian people, in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree, are guilty of allowing this terrible evil to be committed on our Russian land" (Istinnoe Pravoslavie i Sovremennij Mir (True Orthodoxy and the Contemporary World), Jordanville, N.Y.: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1971, p. 166).

[13] St. John Maximovich, “The Nineteenth Anniversary of the Repose of His Beatitude Metropolitan Anthony”, Pravoslavnaia Rus’, N 19, 1955, pp. 3-4.

[14] I.A. Ilyin, Sobranie Sochinenij (Collected Works), Moscow, 1994, volume 4, p. 7; in Valentina D. Sologub, Kto Gospoden’ – Ko Mne! (He who is the Lord’s – to me!), Moscow, 2007, p. 53.

[15] According to I.M. Andreyev, “the whole of the Synod had decided to go into retirement. Archbishop Sergius had taken part in this resolution. But when all the members of the Synod, together with Archbishop Sergius, actually came to give in their retirement, the Over-Procurator, who had set about organizing a new Synod, drew Archbishop Sergius to this. And he took an active part in the new Synod” (Kratkij Obzor Istorii Russkoj Tserkvi ot revoliutsii do nashikh dnej (A Short Review of the History of the Russian Church from the Revolution to our Days), Jordanville, 1952, p. 74. Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) wrote: “I can remember the opinions of those who knew him and who considered him to be a careerist and the complaints of hierarchs that he promised to retire with other members of the Synod in protest against Lvov, then he changed his mind and became head of the Synod” (Letter of April 23 / May 6, 1992 to Nicholas Churilov, Church News, April, 2003, p. 9).

[16] V. Egorov, K istorii provozglashenia gruzinami avtokefalii svoej Tserkvi v 1917 godu (Towards a History of the Proclamation by the Georgians of the Autocephaly of their Church in 1917), Moscow, 1917, p. 9; in Monk Benjamin (Gomareteli), Letopis’ tserkovnykh sobytij Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi nachinaia s 1917 goda (Chronicle of Church Events, beginning from 1917),, p. 6.

[17] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 7.

[18] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 8.

[19] Figes, op. cit., p. 350.

[20] Shkarovskii, op. cit., p. 418.

[21] Groyan, op. cit., pp. CXXII-CXXIII.

[22] Bishop Diomedes, Address of November 21 / December 4, 2008,

[23] Babkin, Dukhoventstvo, p. 210.

[24] Sokolov, L.A. Episkop Ignatij Brianchaninov (Bishop Ignaty Brianchaninov), Kiev, 1915, vol. 2, p. 250.

[25] Grabbe, op. cit., p. 4.

[26] St. John, “Homily before a Memorial Service for the Tsar-Martyr”, in Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Richfield Springs, N.Y, 1994, p. 133. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse continues the theme: “It is small consolation for us that the Royal Family was killed directly by non-Russian hands, non-Orthodox hands and non-Russian people. Although that is so, the whole Russian people is guilty of this terrible, unprecedented evil deed, insofar as it did not resist or stand against it, but behaved itself in such a way that the evil deed appeared as the natural expression of that mood which by that time had matured in the minds and hearts of the undoubted majority of the unfortunate misguided Russian people, beginning with the ‘lowers’ and ending with the very ‘tops’, the upper aristocracy” (Religiozno-misticheskij smysl ubienia Tsarkoj Sem’i” (The Religious-Mystical Meaning of the Killing of the Royal Family),

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