Written by Vladimir Moss



     “By the end of 1922,” writes Niall Ferguson, “a new Russian Socialist Federal Republic extended from the Baltic to the Bering Straits. It, along with the far smaller Byelorussian, Transcaucasian and Far Eastern republics, made up the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Apart from a westward strip running from Helsinki down to Kishinev, remarkably little of the old Tsarist edifice had been lost – an astonishing outcome given the weakness of the Bolshevik position in the initial phase of the Revolution, and testament to the effectiveness of their ruthless tactics in the civil war... The 1926 census revealed that slightly less that 53 per cent of the citizens of the Soviet Union regarded themselves as of Russian nationality, though nearly 58 per cent gave Russian as the language they knew best or most often used.

     “Some cynics added that the political system had not changed much either; for what was Lenin if not a Red Tsar, wielding absolute power through the Politburo of the Russian Communist Party (which, crucially, maintained direct control over the parties in the other republics)? Yet that was to miss the vast change of ethos that separated the new empire from the old. Though there had been ‘terrible’ Tsars in Russia’s past, the empire established by Lenin and his confederates was the first to be based on terror itself since the short-lived tyranny of the Jacobins in revolutionary France. At the same time, for all the Bolsheviks’ obsession with Western revolutionary models, theirs was a revolution that looked east more than it looked west. Asked to characterize the Russian empire as it re-emerged under Lenin, most Western commentators would not have hesitated to use the word ‘Asiatic’. That was also Trotsky’s view: ‘Our Red Army,’ he argued, ‘constitutes an incomparably more powerful force in the Asiatic terrain of world politics than in European terrain.’ Significantly, ‘Asiatic’ was precisely the word Lenin had used to describe Stalin…”[1]


     By 1922, the Bolsheviks had tamed most of their opponents: the politicians had been suppressed, the philosophers – expelled. The only group that remained untamed was the Orthodox Church. She had suffered terribly, but the anti-religious organizer S. Krasikov felt that she had been let off lightly: “In October we beat up and destroyed the old state machine. We destroyed the old army, the old law-courts, the schools, the administrative and other institutions. And we created and our creating our own, new ones. This process is difficult… we are making mistakes. However, it turns out that, having overthrown all this landowners’ gendarmerie, etc., we have not destroyed the Church, which constitutes a part of this old state exploitatory machine. We have only deprived it of its state content…we have not deprived it of its state power. But still this chunk of the old state landowner-capitalist machine has been preserved, tens of thousands of priests, as well as monks, metropolitans and bishops still exist. Why has Soviet power acted with such undeserved caution to this chunk of the old machine?” [2] 


     The problem for the Bolsheviks was: the Church had grown stronger under persecution; physical force had failed. So a more subtle approach was required.


     The Bolsheviks believed that the roots of religion lay in poverty and ignorance, so that the elimination of these evils would naturally lead to the withering away of religion. This being the case, they could not believe that religious belief had any deeper roots in the nature of things. Therefore, writes Edward E. Roslof, “the party explicitly rejected ‘God-building’, an attempt by its own members to develop a ‘socialist religion of humanity’. Led by A.V. Lunacharskii, Leonid Krasin, and Bogdanov (A.A. Malinovskii), Bolshevik God-builders maintained that the proletariat would create a non-transcendent, earth-centered religion to complement its formation of the ultimate human society. Only this group within the party ‘recognized that religion’s power lay in its response to people’s psychic needs and argued that a revolutionary movement could not afford to ignore these’.”[3]


     In May, 1921 Lenin supported a resolution calling for the replacement of the religious world-view by “a harmonious communist scientific system embracing and answering the questions to which the peasants’ and workers’ masses have hitherto sought answers in religion.” At the same time he said that the Bolsheviks must “definitely avoid offending religious sensibilities”. The result was the suspension of the “dilettantist” anti-religious commissions (Lenin’s phrase) that had existed thereto, and their replacement by a Commission on the Separation of Church and State attached to the Politburo which lasted until 1929 under the Jew Emelian Yaroslavsky and whose aim was clearly the extirpation of all religion. The importance of this Commission in the Bolsheviks’ eyes was clearly indicated by the extreme secrecy in which its protocols were shrouded and by the active participation in it, at one time or another, of all the top party leaders. The strategy of the Commission was directly defined, at the beginning by Lenin, and later – by Stalin.[4]


     An important aspect of the Commission’s strategy was “divide and rule”. For while physical methods continued to be applied, the Bolsheviks recognized that the Church could not be defeated by physical assault alone. They needed subtler methods including the recruitment of agents among the clergy and the creation of schisms among them. Thus already in December, 1920, T. Samsonov, head of a secret department of the Cheka, the forerunner of the KGB, wrote to Dzerzhinsky that “communism and religion are mutually exclusive… No machinery can destroy religion except that of the [Cheka]. In its plans to demoralize the church the Cheka has recently focussed its attention on the rank and file of the priesthood. Only through them, by long, intensive, and painstaking work, shall we succeed in destroying and dismantling the church completely.”[5]


     Samsonov was supported by Lunacharsky, who since the early 1900s had been instrumental in developing a more subtle, less physically confrontational approach to the problem of eradicating religion.[6] And at the beginning of the 1920s Trotsky said: “Let those popes who are ready to cooperate with us become leaders in the Church and carry out all our instructions, calling on the believers to serve Soviet power”.[7] In a protocol of the secret section of the Cheka Trotsky discussed recruiting clergy with money to report on themselves and others in the Church and to prevent anti-Bolshevik agitation…[8]


     The Bolsheviks were counting on a modernist or “renovationist” faction in the Russian Church to provide them with their “loyal” clergy. Already in the revolutionary years of 1905 and 1917, the renovationists-to-be had reared their heads with a long list of demands for modernist reform of the Church. And in March, 1918, Professor Titlinov, who was later to become one of the main ideologists of renovationism, founded a newspaper in Petrograd which criticized the Patriarch’s anathematization of Soviet power.[9]


     Philip Walters writes: “In pre-revolutionary Russia, many groups of intellectuals, philosophers and churchmen began voicing their concern over the plight of the Orthodox Church in its enforced alliance with a reactionary State. It is possible to discover many lines of continuity between the democratic and socialist aims of these men and the aims of the men of the Living Church (also known as Renovationists). There is also a certain amount of personal continuity: for example, the so-called ‘Group of Thirty-Two’ reformist priests, who were active between 1905 and 1907, reappeared after the February Revolution of 1917 as the ‘League of Democratic Orthodox Clergy and Laymen’, a group which stood against the increasing conservatism of the Orthodox Church, and which included among its members one or two men who later became prominent in the Living Church.


     “B.V. Titlinov’s book, Novaia Tserkov’ (The New Church), written in 1922, contains an apology for Renovationist ideology. Titlinov declares that the new movement is not a revolution or a reformation, which would imply a definite break with the historical Church, but a reform which remains true to the original spirit of Orthodoxy. The basic task of the Living Church is to ‘do away with those accretions which have been introduced into Orthodox worship during the period of union between the Church and the [Tsarist] State’. Titlinov calls for ‘priestly creativity’ in the liturgy and for its celebration as in the early Church amidst the congregation. There must be ethical and moral reform in society, involving opposition to capitalism. Bishops should be elected from the lower clergy and should be allowed to marry. The Living Church, he claims, accepts the October Revolution as consonant with the aims of Christian truth.


     “There are three basic ideological strands in Renovationism: a political strand, concerned with promoting loyalty to the Soviet regime; an organizational strand, concerned with the rights of the lower clergy and with the administration of the Church; and an ethical strand, concerned with making Church services more accessible to the masses and with moral and social reform. The first strand was characteristic of the Living Church movement as a whole…When the Living Church movement split into various factions, the second ideological strand was taken up chiefly by the followers of V.D. Krasnitsky, and the third by the groups which followed Bishop Antonin Granovsky and A.I. Vvedensky.”[10]


     As the future hieromartyr and Archbishop of Riga John (Pommer) said of the Bolsheviks: “They have put Marx in the dust-jacket of the Gospel and think that the people will accept it instead of the Gospel. They have dressed commissars in sacred vestments and think the Orthodox will accept them as their pastors and follow them. They have substituted the portrait of Lenin for the icon of Christ in the icon-cases and expect the people to come up to kiss it. Ilyich is not at all like Christ. It is impossible to put Marxism in the place of Christianity, whatever vestments the preachers of Marxism put on. The blasphemous utterance of the name of Marx from the church kathedra only emphasizes more vividly the irreconcilable contradiction between Christ and Marx. Here is love incarnate, pouring out its blood for its guilty brethren. There – satanic malice pouring out the blood of brothers guilty of nothing like water.”


     All three of the major political ideologies of the inter-war years – liberalism, fascism and communism – undermined traditional Christianity in their different ways. However,  it was communism that showed the most obsessive hatred of it. Nor was this manifested only in the slaughter of millions of Orthodox Christians and the destruction of thousands of churches. The worst aspect of Soviet rule, as Archimandrite Cyril (Zaitsev) pointed out, was its creation of a Soviet church, a parody and inner corruption of “the one thing necessary” for man’s salvation…




      It was the Volga famine of 1921-22, in which about 25 million people were starving, 15 million more were under threat, but – thanks to the American Red Cross – not many more than one million actually died[11], that provided the Bolsheviks with their first opportunity to create a major schism in the Church.

     Alexander Solzhenitsyn writes: “At the end of the civil war, and as its natural consequence, an unprecedented famine developed in the Volga area… V.G. Korolenko, in his Letters to Lunacharsky explains to us Russia’s total, epidemic descent into famine and destitution. It was the result of productivity having become reduced to zero (the working hands were all carrying guns) and the result, also, of the peasants’ utter lack of trust and hope that even the smallest part of the harvest might be left to them… 

     “There was a direct, immediate chain of cause and effect. The Volga peasants had to eat their children because we were so impatient about putting up with the Constituent Assembly. 

     “But political genius lies in extracting success even from the people’s ruin. A brilliant idea was born: after all, three billiard balls can be pocketed with one shot. So now let the priests feed the Volga region! They are Christians. They are generous!

     “1. If they refuse, we will blame the whole famine on them and destroy the Church.

     “2. If they agree, we will clean out the churches.

     “In either case, we will replenish our stocks of foreign exchange and precious metals. 

     “Yes, and the action was probably inspired by the actions of the Church itself. As Patriarch Tikhon himself had testified, back in August, 1921, at the beginning of the famine, the Church had created diocesan and all-Russian committees for aid to the starving and had begun to collect funds. But to have permitted any direct help to go straight from the Church into the mouths of those who were starving would have undermined the dictatorship of the proletariat. The committees were banned, and the funds they had collected were confiscated and turned over to the state and to the treasury. The Patriarch had also appealed to the Pope in Rome and the Archbishop of Canterbury for assistance – but he was rebuked for this, too, on the grounds that only the Soviet authorities had the right to enter into discussions with foreigners. Yes, indeed. And what was there to be alarmed about? The newspapers wrote that the government itself had all the necessary means to cope with the famine.

     “Meanwhile, in the Volga region they were eating grass, the soles of shoes and gnawing at door jambs. And, finally, in December [27], 1921, Pomgol – the State Commission for Famine Relief – proposed that the churches help the starving by donating church valuables – not all, but those not required for liturgical rites. The Patriarch agreed. Pomgol issued a directive: all gifts must be strictly voluntary! On February 19, 1922, the Patriarch issued a pastoral letter permitting the parish councils to make gifts of objects that did not have liturgical and ritual significance.

     “And in this way matter could again have simply degenerated into a compromise that would have frustrated the will of the proletariat, just as it once had been by the Constituent Assembly, and still was in all the chatterbox European parliaments.

     “The thought came in a stroke of lightning! The thought came – and a decree followed! A decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on February 26: all valuables were to be requisitioned from the churches – for the starving!”[12]

     This decree annihilated the voluntary character of the offerings, and put the clergy in the position of accessories to sacrilege. And so on February 28, in order to resolve the perplexities of the faithful, the Patriarch decreed: “… In view of the exceptionally difficult circumstances, we have admitted the possibility of offering church objects that have not been consecrated and are not used in Divine services. Now again we call on the faithful children of the Church to make such offerings, desiring only that these offerings should be the response of a loving heart to the needs of his neighbour, if only they can provide some real help to our suffering brothers. But we cannot approve of the requisitioning from the churches, even as a voluntary offering, of consecrated objects, whose use for purposes other than Divine services is forbidden by the canons of the Ecumenical Church and is punished by Her as sacrilege – laymen by excommunication from Her, and clergy by defrocking (Apostolic Canon 73; Canon 10 of the First-Second Council).”[13]

     This compromise decree represented the first major concession made by the Church to Soviet power. Thus no less an authority than the holy Elder Nektary of Optina said: “You see now, the patriarch gave the order to give up all valuables from the churches, but they belonged to the Church!”[14]

     On March 13, the Politburo (Lenin, Molotov, Kamenev and Stalin) accepted Trotsky’s suggestion to form a “completely secret” commission to mastermind the requisitioning. “Moreover,” writes Gregory Ravich, “the commission was ordered ‘to act with maximal cruelty, not stopping at anything, including executions on the spot (that is, without trial and investigation), in cases of necessity summoning special (for which read: punitive) units of the Red Army, dispersing and firing on demonstrations, interrogations with the use of torture’ and so on. The commission’s members were, besides Trotsky, Sapronov, Unschlicht, Medved and Samoilov-Zemliachka. It literally rushed like a hurricane through Russia, sweeping away… everything in its path.”[15]

     Soon clashes with believers who resisted the confiscation of church valuables took place. 1414 such clashes were reported in the official press. The first took place in the town of Shuye on March 15. Five Christians were killed and fifteen wounded, as a result of which two priests and a layman were condemned and executed. In 1921-23, 2,691 married priests, 1,962 monks, 3,447 nuns and an unknown number of laymen were killed on the pretext of resistance to the seizure of church valuables in the country as a whole.[16]

     On March 19, Lenin sent a long letter to the Politburo marked “Top Secret. No Copies to be Made”: “It is precisely now and only now, when there is cannibalism in the famine-stricken areas and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are lying along the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of valuables with fanatical and merciless energy and not hesitate to suppress any form of resistance… It is precisely now and only now that the vast majority of the peasant masses will either support us or at least will be unable to give any decisive support to those… who might and would want to try to resist the Soviet decree. We must confiscate in the shortest possible time as much as possible to create for ourselves a fund of several hundred million roubles… Without this fund, government work.. and the defence of our positions in Genoa are absolutely unthinkable… Now our victory over the reactionary clergy is guaranteed… It is precisely now that we must wage a decisive and merciless war with the black-hundreds clergy and crush their opposition with such cruelty that they will not forget it for many decades… The more members of the reactionary bourgeoisie we manage to shoot the better.”[17]

     Concerning the Patriarch, however, Lenin said: “I think it is expedient for us not to touch Patriarch Tikhon himself, although he is undoubtedly heading this entire rebellion of slave-owners.” As leader of the campaign, Lenin wanted Trotsky - “but he should at no time and under no circumstances speak out [on this matter] in the press or before the public in any other manner”. This was probably, as Richard Pipes suggests, “in order not to feed rumors that the campaign was a Jewish plot against Christianity.”[18]For Trotsky was a Jew, and the high proportion of Jews in the Bolshevik party had aroused the people’s wrath against them.

     At a Politburo session the next day Trotsky himself insisted: “The agitation must not be linked with the struggle against religion and the Church, but must be wholly directed towards helping the starving” (point 5); “we must take a decisive initiative in creating a schism among the clergy”, taking the priests who speak in support of the measures undertaken by Soviet power “under the protection of state power” (point 6); “our agitation and the agitation of priests loyal to us must in no case be mixed up”, but the communists must refer to “the significant part of the clergy” which is speaking against the inhumanity and greed “of the princes of the Church” (point 7); spying is necessary “to guarantee complete knowledge of everything that is happening in various groups of clergy, believers, etc.” (point 8); the question must be formulated correctly: “it is best to begin with some church led by a loyal priest, and if such a church does not exist, then with the most significant church after careful preparation” (point 9); “representatives of the loyal clergy must be allowed to be registered in the provinces and in the centre, after the population is well informed that they will have every opportunity to check that not one article of the church heritage goes anywhere else than to help the starving” (point 13). In actual fact, according to a secret instruction all church valuables taken from “the enemies of Soviet power” were to be handed over, not to Pomgol or the starving, but to the Economic administration of the OGPU.[19]

     In addition to being the head of the requisitioning commission, Trotsky also headed the commission for their monetary realization. And in a submission to this commission he wrote on March 23: “For us it is more important to obtain 50 million in 1922-23 for a certain mass of valuables than to hope for 75 million in 1923-24. The advance of the proletarian revolution in just one of the large countries of Europe will put a stop to the market in valuables… Conclusion: we must proceed as fast as possible…”[20]

     However, the Bolsheviks failed to get the money they wanted – the sale of church valuables fetched only about $1.5 million, or between $4 and $10 million according to another estimate.[21]

    If the Bolsheviks’ primary motive in the requisitioning campaign was in fact to destroy the Church, then they failed – the Church emerged even stronger spiritually from her fiery ordeal. The blood of the martyrs was already starting to bring forth fruit as thousands of previously lukewarm Christians returned to the Church.

     The struggle between the patriarchate and the Bolsheviks over church valuables gave the renovationists their chance to seize power. It began in Petrograd, a stronghold of renovationism as it had been of Bolshevism. The initiative here came from the Petrograd party chief, Zinoviev, who suggested to Archpriest Alexander Vvedensky that his group would be the appropriate one for an eventual concordat between the State and the Church. Vvedensky then joined Archpriest Vladimir Krasnitsky and Bishop Antonin Granovsky in plotting to overthrow the Patriarch.

     The leader of the Patriarchal Church in Petrograd was Metropolitan Benjamin, who had actually come to an agreement with the local authorities concerning the voluntary handing over of church valuables. These authorities evidently did not yet understand that the real purpose of the Soviet decree was not to help the starving but to destroy the Church. Having conferred with the central authorities in Moscow, however, they reneged on their agreement. Then, on March 24, a letter signed by the future renovationist leaders Krasnitsky, Vvedensky, Belkov, Boyarsky and others, appeared in Petrogradskaia Pravda. It defended the measures undertaken by the Soviet government and distanced the authors from the rest of the clergy. The latter reacted strongly against this letter at a clergy meeting, during which Vvedensky gave a brazen and threatening speech. However, the metropolitan succeeded in calming passions sufficiently so that it was decided to enter into fresh negotiations with the authorities, the conduct of these negotiations being entrusted to Vvedensky and Boyarsky. They proceeded to win an agreement according to which other articles or money were allowed to be substituted for the church valuables…

   On March 22-23 Trotsky wrote: “The arrest of the Synod and the Patriarch is necessary, but not now, but in about 10-15 days… In the course of this week we must arrange a trial of priests for stealing church valuables (there are quite a few facts)… The press must adopt a frenzied tone, giving [evidence of] a heap of priestly attempts in Smolensk, Petrograd, etc.”[22]

     On April 1 the Patriarch was placed under house arrest. Then he was called as a witness for the defence in the trial of 54 Moscow Christians, which began on April 26. In an effort to save the accused, he took the whole responsibility upon himself. And in one of the exchanges the essence of the relationship between the Church and the State was expressed.

     The Presiding Judge: “Do you consider the state’s laws obligatory or not?”

     The Patriarch: “Yes, I recognize them, to the extent that they do not contradict the rules of piety.

     Solzhenitsyn comments: “Oh, if only everyone had answered just that way! Our whole history would have been different.”[23]

     And yet the Patriarch’s words constituted a distinct weakening of his position vis-à-vis Soviet power when compared with the absolutely irreconcilable position he and the Council had adopted in 1917-18; for they implied that Soviet power was legitimate, the power of Caesar rather than that of the Antichrist… The first instinct of the Russian Church in the face of Soviet power, as manifested in the 1917-18 Council, has never been extinguished among Russian Christians. It continued to manifest itself both at home and abroad (for example, in the First All-Emigration Council of the Russian Church Abroad in 1921), both in the early and the later decades of Soviet power (for example, among the "passportless" Christians of the Catacomb Church). However, it was very soon tempered by the realisation that such outright rejection of Soviet power on a large scale could be sustained only by war - and after the defeat of the White Armies in the Civil War there were no armies left to carry on the fight against the Bolsheviks.

     Therefore from the early 1920s a new attitude towards Soviet power began to evolve among the Tikhonite Christians: loyalty towards it as a political institution ("for all power is from God"), and acceptance of such of its laws as could be interpreted in favour of the Church (for example, the law on the separation of Church and State), combined with rejection of its atheistic world-view (large parts of which the renovationists, by contrast, accepted). In essence, this new attitude involved accepting that the Soviet State was not Antichrist, as the Local Council of 1917-18 and the Russian Church Abroad had in effect declared, but Caesar, no worse in principle than the Caesars of Ancient Rome, to whom the things belonging to Caesar were due. This attitude involved the assertion that it was possible, in the Soviet Union as in Ancient Rome, to draw a clear line between politics and religion.

     But in practice, even more than in theory, this line proved very hard to draw. For to the early Bolsheviks there was no such dividing line; for them, everything was ideological, everything had to be in accord with their ideology, there could be no room for disagreement, no private spheres into which the state did not pry. Bolshevism demanded the totality of human life; they were true totalitarians. Thus unlike most of the Roman emperors, who allowed the Christians to order their own lives so long as they showed loyalty to the state (which the Christians were eager to do), the Bolsheviks insisted in imposing their own ways upon the Christians in every sphere: in family life (civil marriage only, divorce on demand, children spying on parents), in education (compulsory Marxism), in economics (dekulakization, collectivization), in military service (the oath of allegiance to Lenin), in science (Lysenkoism), in art (socialist realism), and in religion (the requisitioning of valuables, registration, commemoration of the authorities at the Liturgy, reporting of confessions by the priests). Resistance to any one of these demands was counted as "anti-Soviet behaviour", i.e. political disloyalty. Therefore it was no use protesting one's political loyalty to the regime if one refused to accept just one of these demands. According to the Soviet interpretation of the word: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one has become guilty of all of it" (James 2.10), such a person was an enemy of the people.

     In view of this, it is not surprising that many Christians came to the conclusion that there was no gain, and from a moral point of view much to be lost, in accepting a regime that made such impossible demands, since the penalty would be the same whether one asserted one's loyalty to it or not. And if this meant living as an outlaw, so be it… Nevertheless, the path of total rejection of the Soviet state required enormous courage, strength and self-sacrifice, not only for oneself but also (which was more difficult) for one's family or flock. It is therefore not surprising that, already during the Civil War, the Church began to soften her anti-Soviet rhetoric and try once more to draw the line between politics and religion. This is what Patriarch Tikhon tried to do in the later years of his patriarchate - with, it must be said, only mixed results. Thus his decision to allow some, but not all of the Church's valuables to be requisitioned by the Bolsheviks in 1922 not only did not bring help to the starving of the Volga, as was the intention, but led to many clashes between believers and the authorities and many deaths of believers.

     The decision to negotiate and compromise with the Bolsheviks only brought confusion and division to the Church. Thus on the right wing of the Church there were those, like Archbishop Theodore of Volokolamsk, who thought that the patriarch had already gone too far; while on the left wing there were those, like Archbishop Hilarion of Verey, who wanted to go further. The basic problem was that the compromises were always one-sided; the Bolsheviks always took and never gave; their aim was not peaceful co-existence, but the complete conquest of the Church. And so, as a "Letter from Russia" put it many years later: "It's no use our manoeuvring: there's nothing for us to preserve except the things that are God's. For the things that are Caesar's (if one should really consider it to be Caesar and not Pharaoh) are always associated with the quenching of the Spirit..."[24]

     However, the Patriarchal Church remained Orthodox under Patriarch Tikhon and his successor, Metropolitan Peter, for two major reasons: first, because the leaders of the Church did not sacrifice the lives of their fellow Christians for the sake of their own security or the security of the Church organisation; and secondly, because, while the Soviet regime was recognised to be, in effect, Caesar rather than Pharaoh, no further concessions were made with regard to the communist ideology.

     Early in May, the Patriarch was placed under house arrest. According to his will, the temporary administration of the Church should now have passed to Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan. But since he was in prison, the next hierarch according to the will, Metropolitan Agathangel of Yaroslavl, should have taken over 

     On May 12, accompanied by two chekists, the renovationist priests Vvedensky, Belkov and Kalinovsky (who, as the Patriarch pointed out, had but a short time before renounced holy orders), visited the Patriarch at the Troitsky podvorye, where he was confined, and told him that they had obtained permission for the convening of a Council, but on condition that he resigned from the patriarchal throne.

     The Patriarch replied that the patriarchy weighed on him like a cross. “I would joyfully accept it if the coming Council removed the patriarchy from me, but now I am handing power to one of the oldest hierarchs and will renounce the administration of the Church.” The Patriarch rejected the candidacies of some modernist bishops and appointed Metropolitan Agathangel as his deputy.[25 

     “However,” writes Krivova, “the authorities did not allow Metropolitan Agathangel to leave for Moscow. Already on May 5, 1922 V.D. Krasnitsky had arrived at the Tolga monastery where the metropolitan was living, and demanded that he sign the appeal of the so-called ‘Initiative Group of Clergy’. The metropolitan refused to sign the appeal. Then, two days later, his signature declaring that he would not leave was taken from him, and a guard was placed outside his cell and a search was carried out.


     “After Agathangel there remained in Moscow only three of the members of the Holy Synod and HCA, but they were not empowered to take any kind of decision that would be obligatory for the whole Church. Thus the path to the seizure of Church power by the renovationists was open. Using Tikhon’s temporary concession and the impossibility of Metropolitan Agathangel’s taking the place of the Patriarch, the renovationists declared that Tikhon had been removed and in an arbitrary manner seized power. Arriving on May 15, 1922 at a reception with M.I. Kalinin, they understood that Metropolitan Agathangel’s departure to Moscow was hardly possible. The next day the renovationists sent a letter to M.I. Kalinin, in which they declared that ‘in view of Patriarch Tikhon’s removal of himself from power, a Higher Church Administration is formed, which from May 2 (15) has taken upon itself the conducting of Church affairs in Russia.”[26] 

     On May 18 the renovationists again presented the Patriarch with a written statement complaining that in consequence of the existing circumstances, Church business remained unattended to. They demanded that he entrust his chancery to them until Metropolitan Agathangel’s arrival in Moscow, in order that they might properly classify the correspondence received. The Patriarch yielded, and inscribed their petition with the following resolution: “The undersigned persons are ordered to take over and transmit to the Right Reverend Metropolitan Agathangel, upon his arrival in Moscow, all the Synodical business with the assistance of secretary Numerov.”[27] 

     The next day, the Patriarch was transferred to the Donskoj monastery, and the renovationists took over his residence in the Troitsky podvorye.

     However, the renovationists and communists still had to neutralize the threat posed by Metropolitan Agathangel. So Krasnitsky was sent to Yaroslavl and placed a number of conditions before the Patriarch’s lawful deputy that amounted to his placing himself in complete dependence on the renovationists. When the metropolitan rejected these conditions, the renovationists spread the rumour that he “was not hurrying” to fulfil the Patriarch’s command.

     On June 5/18, “Metropolitan Agathangel unexpectedly addressed the Russian Church with an appeal, which was printed by some underground printing-press and very quickly distributed in Moscow and the other cities… 

     “E.A. Tuchkov was taken completely by surprise. The HCA was also shocked. Metropolitan Agathangel was immediately arrested and sent into exile, to the Narymsk region. However, the appearance of this appeal showed that the unprincipled line of V.D. Krasnitsky was meeting with a sharp rejection in ecclesiastical circles…”[28 

     Agathangel was arrested for writing that the renovationists had “declared their intention to revise the dogmas and moral teaching of our Orthodox Faith, the sacred canons of the Holy Ecumenical Councils and the Orthodox Typicon of Divine services given by the great ascetics of Christian piety”, and gave the bishops the right to administer their dioceses independently until the restoration of a canonical Higher Church Authority.[29]

     The metropolitan’s reference to the renovationists’ revising the dogmas and moral teachings of the Faith, as well as the canons and services, was correct. Thus in its “Reform Programme”, the renovationists called for “the re-establishment of the evangelical teaching of the first Christians, with a deliberate development of the teaching concerning the human nature of Christ the Saviour and a struggle with the scholastic corruption of Christianity.” And one of the subsections of the programme bore the title: “The terrible judgement, paradise and hell as moral concepts”.[30]

     Fr. Basil Redechkin writes that the renovationists “united the leaders of various rationalist tendencies. Therefore various voices were heard: some denied the Holy Icons, others – the sign of the Cross, others – the Holy Relics, others denied all the sacraments except baptism, while yet others tried to overthrow the veneration of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and even the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said about the All-holy Virgin Mary: ‘She is a simple woman, just like all women, and her son was, of course, only a man, and not God!’ And the ‘livers’ created a completely atheist ‘symbol of faith’ to please the God-fighting, antichristian authorities. It was published in the journal Zhivaia Tserkov’ in 1925, and was composed of thirty articles. This ‘symbol’ began with the words: ‘1. I believe in one power that created the world, the heavens and the earth, the visible and invisible worlds. 2. In one catholic humanity and in it (in the man) Jesus Christ.’

     “And it is completely understandable that after this they should declare that the Canonical rules by which the Holy Church has been guided for two thousand years: the rules of the Holy Apostles, of the Ecumenical and Local Councils and of the Holy Fathers – ‘have become infinitely outdated’ and have ’repealed’ themselves… So the ‘liver-renovationists’, wanting to walk ‘in step with the times’,… introduced a married episcopate, allowed widowed priests to marry a second and even a third time, and took other liberties.”[31] 

     The focus now shifts back to Petrograd. On May 25 Vvedensky appeared before Metropolitan Benjamin with a document signed by the renovationist Bishop Leonid, which said that he, “in accordance with the resolution of Patriarch Tikhon, is a member of the HCA and is sent to Petrograd and other cities on Church business”. The metropolitan, not seeing the signature of the Patriarch, refused to accept it. 

     The next day, at the Sunday Liturgy, an Epistle from the metropolitan was read in all the churches of Petrograd, in which he anathematised the rebellious priest Alexander Vvedensky and Eugene Belkov and also those with them. “According to the teaching of the Church,” it said in the Epistle, “a diocese that is for some reason deprived of the possibility of receiving instructions from its Patriarch, is ruled by its bishops, who remains in spiritual union with the Patriarch… The bishop of Petrograd is the Metropolitan of Petrograd. By obeying him, you will be in union with him and will be in the Church.”

     The next day chekists arrived at the residence of the metropolitan and arrested him. Meanwhile, Vvedensky took over the chancellery. Without turning a hair, he went up to the hierarch for a blessing. “Fr. Alexander,” said the metropolitan peacefully, “you and I are not in the Garden of Gethsemane”. And without blessing the schismatic, he calmly listened to the statement about his arrest.[32]

     On May 29, the administration of the diocese passed to his vicar, Bishop Alexis (Simansky) of Yamburg, the future false-patriarch.

     On the same day, Metropolitan Benjamin was brought to trial together with 86 others. They were accused of entering into negotiations with Soviet power with the aim of annulling or softening the decree on the requisitioning of church valuables, and that they were “in a plot with the worldwide bourgeoisie and the Russian emigration”. He was given many chances to save himself in a dishonourable manner. Thus even before the trial Vvedensky and the Petrograd commandant Bakaiev had come to him and given him the choice: either revoke the anathema against Vvedensky or face trial. But the metropolitan refused to revoke the anathema. (His deputy, Bishop Alexis, having recognised the HCA to be lawful, did revoke the anathema, on June 4. According to A. Levitin and V. Shavrov, he did this because the chekists threatened him that if he disobeyed Metropolitan Benjamin would be shot.[33]) Again, during the trial, the judges hinted that he save himself by naming “the authors” of the proposition he had sent to Pomgol. The metropolitan again refused, saying: “I alone did it – I thought everything over; I formulated, wrote and sent the proposition myself. I did not allow anybody else to participate in deciding matters entrusted to me as archpastor.”

     The renovationists Krasnitsky and Vvedensky testified against Metropolitan Benjamin during the trial, which was staged in what had been the Club of the Nobility. Three witnesses came forward to defend the metropolitan. They were immediately arrested, so no-one else came forward. On July 5, the metropolitan was convicted of “organizing a counter-revolutionary group having set himself the aim of struggling with Soviet power”. Ten people were condemned to be shot; the others were given prison sentences of varying lengths. The metropolitan himself was shot on the night of August 12 to 13, 1922.

     In a letter written from prison, the metropolitan expressed the essence of what was to become the position of the Catacomb Church a few years later: “The reasonings of some, perhaps outstanding pastors are strange… – ‘we must preserve the living forces’, that is, for their sake, we must abandon everything! Then what is Christ for? It is not the Platonovs, the Chuprins, the Benjamins and their like who save the Church, but Christ. That point on which they are trying to stand is destruction for the Church; it is not right to sacrifice the Church for oneself…”

     The renovationist schismatics continued to gain ground throughout 1922. On June 16, three important hierarchs joined them, declaring: “We, Metropolitan Sergius [Stragorodsky] of Vladimir and Shuya, Archbishop Eudocimus of Nizhegorod and Arzamas and Archbishop Seraphim of Kostroma and Galich, having studied the platform of the Temporary Church Administration and the canonical lawfulness of its administration, consider it the only lawful, canonical, higher church authority, and all the instructions issuing from it we consider to be completely lawful and obligatory. We call on all true pastors and believing sons of the Church, both those entrusted to us and those belonging to other dioceses, to follow our example.”[34]

     Metropolitan John (Snychev) wrote: “We do not have the right to hide from history those sad and staggering apostasies from the unity of the Russian Church which took place on a mass scale after the publication in the journal ‘Living Church’ of the epistle-appeals of the three well-known hierarchs. Many of the hierarchs and clergy reasoned naively. Thus: ‘If the wise Sergius has recognized the possibility of submitting to the Higher Church Administration, then it is clear that we, too, must follow his example.’”[35]

     The GPU gave valuable aid to the renovationists, arresting and sending into exile all the clergy who remained faithful to the Patriarch. Also, they handed over to them nearly two-thirds of the functioning churches in the Russian republic and Central Asia, as well as many thousands in the Ukraine, Belorussia and Siberia. However, these figures exaggerated the true strength of the renovationists, in that their churches were almost empty while the patriarchal churches were filled to overflowing.

     In April, the government announced that the Patriarch was about to go on trial on charges arising from the trials of the 54 in Moscow and of Metropolitan Benjamin in Petrograd the previous year. At about this time, international opinion began to make itself felt in support of Patriarch Tikhon. On April 10, 1923 G.V. Chicherin reported to Stalin that the Anglo-Saxons were as interested in Orthodoxy as they were in Catholicism, and that the execution of the Patriarch would be disadvantageous in all respects.[36] On April 21, Dzerzhinsky proposed to the Politburo that the Tikhon’s trial be postponed. The Politburo agreed and backed down.[37] The trial was postponed to June 17. On May 8, the British foreign minister Lord Curzon issued an ultimatum to the Soviets, demanding, among other things, a cessation of religious persecution and the liberation of Patriarch Tikhon, otherwise there would be a new intervention against the USSR. This was supported by an outcry in the British and American press. The conflict was resolved by the end of June, when the Patriarch was released from prison.[38]

     One of the reasons why the Soviets postponed the trial of the Patriarch was their desire that the renovationists condemn him first. They were not disappointed… At their second All-Russian council, which met in Moscow on April 29, 1923, the renovationists first heaped praises on the revolution, which they called a “Christian creation”, on the Soviet government, which they said was the first government in the world that strove to realize “the ideal of the Kingdom of God”. And they were no less generous to Lenin: “First of all, we must turn with words of deep gratitude to the government of our state, which, in spite of the slanders of foreign informers, does not persecute the Church… The word of gratitude and welcome must be expressed by us to the only state in the world which performs, without believing, that work of love which we, believers, do not fulfil, and also to the leader of Soviet Russia, V.I. Lenin, who must be dear also to church people…”

     Patriarch Tikhon was tried in absentia, and deprived both of his orders and of his monasticism, being called thenceforth “layman Basil Bellavin”. Then the restoration of the patriarchate was called a counter-revolutionary act; so it was abolished and replaced by a synod. The council proceeded to decree: “Church people must not see in Soviet power the power of the Antichrist. On the contrary, the Council draws their attention to the fact that Soviet power, alone in the whole world, is able by state methods to realize the ideals of the Kingdom of God. Therefore every believing churchman must not only be an honourable citizen, but also must struggle in every way, together with Soviet power, for the realization on earth of the ideals of the Kingdom of God.”[39]

     Some further resolutions were adopted allowing white clergy to become bishops and priests to remarry, and introducing the Gregorian calendar 

     When the decisions of the council were taken to the Patriarch for his signature, he calmly wrote: “Read. The council did not summon me, I do not know its competence and for that reason cannot consider its decision lawful.”[40] Forty-six “bishops” (out of the seventy-three who attended the council) signed the decree condemning the Patriarch. One of them, Joasaph (Shishkovsky), told Fr. Basil Vinogradov how this happened. “The leaders of the council Krasnitsky and Vvedensky gathered all those present at the ‘council’ of bishops for this meeting. When several direct and indirect objections to these leaders’ proposal to defrock the Patriarch began to be expressed, Krasnitsky quite openly declared to all present: ‘He who does not immediately sign this resolution will only leave this room straight for the prison.’ The terrorized bishops (including Joasaph himself) did not find the courage to resist in the face of the threat of a new prison sentence and forced labour in a concentration camp and… signed, although almost all were against the resolution. None of the church people had any doubt that the ‘council’s’ sentence was the direct work of Soviet power and that now a criminal trial and bloody reprisal against the Patriarch was to be expected at any time.”[41]

     However, already at this 1923 council the renovationist movement was beginning to fall apart. The 560 deputies were divided into four groups: the supporters of Krasnitsky (the Living Church), of Vvedensky (the Ancient-Apostolic Church), of Antonin (Church Regeneration) and of Patriarch Tikhon. When Krasnitsky tried to take control of the council and reject any coalition between his group and the other renovationists, a schism amidst the schismatics was avoided only by strong behind-the-scenes pressure on his supporters from the communists, who succeeded in regrouping them under a “Holy Synod” led by Metropolitan Eudocimus.[42]

     At the beginning of June, the Patriarch fell ill, and was transferred from the Donskoy monastery to the Taganka prison. There he was able to receive only official Soviet newspaper accounts of the Church struggle, which greatly exaggerated the successes of the renovationists. But the newspapers said otherwise – and the Patriarch was deceived. As he said: “Reading the newspapers in prison, with each passing day I was more and more horrified that the renovationists were taking the Church into their hands. If I had known that their successes were so meagre and that the people was not following them, I would never have come out of prison.”

     Feeling that his presence at the helm of the Church was absolutely necessary, and that of his two enemies, the renovationists and the communists, the former were the more dangerous, the Patriarch decided to make concessions to the government in order to be released. Thus on June 16 and again on July 1 he issued his famous “confession”, in which he repented of all his anti-Soviet acts (including the anathema against the Bolsheviks), and “finally and decisively” set himself apart “from both the foreign and the internal monarchist White-guard counter-revolutionaries”.[43]

     The Patriarch’s position was extremely difficult. Nevertheless, his “repentance” was undoubtedly a blow to the Church. Thus in a report dated December 12, 1923 to his superior, T.D. Deribas, Tuchkov wrote: “The second significant moment in the work of the Section was the accomplishment of the ‘repentance of Tikhon’, which as you are probably aware, made an extremely unfavourable impression on the Russian monarchists and the right-leaning elements in general, who had seen in Tikhon, up to this time, an adamant anti-Soviet figure.”[44]

     We see a striking parallel between the destinies and decisions of Patriarch Tikhon and Tsar Nicholas here. Both were peacemakers, ready to lay down their own lives for the sake of their flock. Both, in the interests of saving lives, made fateful decisions which they came bitterly to regret – the Tsar his decision to abdicate the throne, and the Patriarch his decision to “repent” of his anti-Soviet behaviour. But in spite of these mistakes, both were granted the crown of life from the Lord, Who looks on the heart and intentions of men, forgiving them their unintended consequences…

     Some have seen a less flattering parallel between Patriarch Tikhon and his successor, Metropolitan Sergius. Suffice it to say at this point that, whatever compromises Patriarch Tikhon made, he never made them them to spare himself, but only others, and he never betrayed his colleagues to death by calling them “counter-revolutionaries”… 

     Moreover, the Patriarch managed to write to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), as it were replying to the perplexities elicited by his words on “walling himself off” from the “counter-revolution” of the Church Abroad: “I wrote this for the authorities, but you sit and work”.[45] In other words, the Church was not to take his words seriously…

     In defence of the patriarch’s “confession, Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky) pointed out: “1) it did not annul the anathema in the name of the Russian Orthodox Church on Soviet power, 2) he did not declare himself a friend of Soviet power and its co-worker, 3) it did not invoke God’s blessing on it, 4) it did not call on the Russian people to obey this power as God-established, 5) it did not condemn the movement for the re-establishment of the monarchy in Russia, and 6) it did not condemn the Whites’ struggle to overthrow Soviet power. By his declaration Patriarch Tikhon only pointed to the way of acting which he had chosen for the further defence and preservation of the Russian Orthodox Church. How expedient this way of acting was is another question,… but in any case Patriarch Tikhon did not cross that boundary which had to separate him, as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, from the godless power.” [46]


April 6/19, 2019.

[1] Ferguson, The War of the World, pp. 158-159.

[2] Krasikov, in Tserkov’ i Revoliutsia (The Church and Revolution), 1919, N 1, p. 3.

[3] Roslof, Red Priests: Renovationism, Russian Orthodoxy, and Revolution, 1905-1946, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002, p. 28.

[4] S. Savelev, "Bog i komissary" (God and the Commissars), in Bessmertny A.R. and Filatov, S.B., Religia i Demokratia (Religion and Democracy), Moscow: Progress, 1993, pp. 164-216.

[5] Quoted in Edward Radzinsky, Stalin, New York: Doubleday, 1996.p. 244.

[6] Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolsheviks, p. 338.

[7] Protopriest Benjamin Zhukov, Russkaia Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’ na Rodine i za Rubezhom (The Russian Orthodox Church in the Homeland and Abroad), Paris, 2005, p. 33, footnote 19.

[8] Bishop Gregory Grabbe, Russkaia Tserkov’ pered litsom gospodstvuiushchego zla (The Russian Church in the Face of Dominant Evil), Jordanville, 1991, p. 42.

[9] Grabbe, op. cit., p. 32.

[10] Walters, “The Living Church 1922-1946”, Religion in Communion Lands, vol. 6, N 4, Winter, 1978, pp. 235-236.

[11] N.N. Pokrovsky, S.G. Petrov, Arkhivy Kremlia: Politburo i Tserkov’ 1922-1925gg. (The Kremlin Archives: the Politburo and the Church, 1922-1925), Moscow: Rosspen, 1997, vol. 1, p. 7.

[12] Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, London: Fontana, vol. 1, pp. 342-344.

[13] M.E. Gubonin, Akty Sviateishago Patriarkha Tikhona, Moscow, 1994, p. 190.

[14] Matushka Evgenia Grigorievna Rymarenko, "Remembrances of Optina Staretz Hieroschemamonk Nektary", Orthodox Life, vol. 36, N 3, May-June, 1986, p. 39.

[15] Ravich, "Ograblennij Khristos, ili brillianty dlia diktatury proletariata" (Christ Robbed, or Diamonds for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat), Chas-Pik (Rush Hour), N 18, pp. 24-25.

[16] Ravich, op. cit., p. 26. According to another estimate, up to 10,000 believers were killed (V. Petrenko, “Sv. Patriarkh Vserossijskij Tikhon” (His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of All Russia), Vestnik I.P.Ts. (Herald of the True Orthodox Church), Odessa, N 1 (11), 1998, p. 27). Donald Rayfield writes that in the parishes some 2,700 priests and 5,000 monks and nuns perished (Stalin and his Hangmen, London: Viking, 2004, p. 122).

[17] Lenin, Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenij (Complete Works), vol. 45, p. 666, cited in Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizhenia (The Herald of the Russian Christian Movement), N 94, pp. 54-60; Richard Pipes, The Unknown Lenin, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996, p. 134.

[18] Pipes, The Unknown Lenin, p. 155; Rayfield, op. cit., pp. 121-122.

[19] N.A., "Ne bo vragom Tvoim tajnu poviem..." (I will not give Thy Mystery to Thine enemies), Vestnik Germanskoj Eparkhii Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi za Granitsej (Herald of the German Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad), 1992, N 1, p. 17.

[20] "Mucheniki Shuiskiye", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizhenia(Herald of the Russian Christian Movement), N 170, III-1994, p. 190.

[21] Pipes, op. cit., p. 355. According to Rayfield, “barely four million gold roubles were realized of which one million was spent on famine relief” (op. cit., pp. 120-121). For another estimate, see Volkogonov, op. cit., p. 381. Rukh (N 34, November 4, 1996) reports that the Bolsheviks received a “profit” of 2.5 million gold rubles. At the same time, Bukharin admitted to having spent nearly $14 million on propaganda during the famine (Richard Joseph Cooke, Religion in Russia and the Soviets, p. 149). But the Bolsheviks already had the Russian crown jewels, worth one billion gold roubles, and jewels from the Kremlin museum, worth 300 million gold roubles – far more than the market price of the church valuables (Pipes, op. cit., p. 355).

[22] Monk Benjamin (Gomareteli), Letopis’, p. 67.

[23] Gubonin, op. cit., p. 198; Solzhenitsyn, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 348.

[24] Russkaia Mysl' (Russian Thought), N 3143, March 17, 1977.

[25] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 74.

[26] N.A. Krivova, Vlast’ i Tserkov’ v 1922-1925gg. (The Authorities and the Church in 1922-1925), Moscow, 1997.

[27] J.S. Curtiss, The Russian Church and the Soviet State, Boston: Little, Brown, 1953, pp. 159-160; Gubonin, op. cit., p. 290.

[28] Levitin, A. and Shavrov, V. in Gubonin, op. cit., p. 813.

[29] Gubonin, op. cit., pp. 219-221.

[30] Zhivaia Tserkov’, N 10, October 1, 1922; Zhukov, op. cit., p. 30.

[31] Redechkin, “Pojmi vremia: Iskazhenie Pravoslavnogo Uchenia Moskovskoj Patriarkhii” (Understand the Time: The Distortion of Orthodox Teaching by the Moscow Patriarchate), Moscow, 1992, samizdat, p. 5.

[32] Protopriest Vladislav Tsypin, Istoria Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1918, chapter 2; Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 76.

[33] Levitin and Shavrov, op. cit.; Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 77.

[34] Gubonin, op. cit., pp. 218-219.

[35] Snychev, “Mitropolit Sergij i Obnovlencheskij Raskol” (Metropolitan Sergius and the Renovationist Schism), in M.B. Danilushkin, Istoria Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi (A History of the Russian Orthodox Church), vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1997, p. 182.

[36] “G. Chicherin and L. Trotsky told the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets: ‘Do nothing and say nothing that could close the path to a peaceful resolution of the conflict with England’” (S. Bychkov, Moskovskij Komsomolets (Muscovite Komsomolian), May 16, 1990).

[37] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 94.

[38] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 96.

[39] Zhukov, op. cit., p. 34.

[40] Gubonin, op. cit., p. 224.

[41] Cited in Archbishop Nikon (Rklitsky), Zhizneopisanie Blazhenneishago Antonia, mitropolita Kievskago i Galitskogo, vol. VI, p. 114. The council also consecrated the married Protopriest John (Kedrovsky) as Metropolitan of the Aleutian Islands and North America. On returning to America, he conducted a stubborn struggle against Metropolitan Plato, drawing 115 churches to his side (Monk Benjamin, op. cit., p. 96).

[42] Savelev, op. cit., p. 195.

[43] Gubonin, op. cit., pp. 280, 286. There is some evidence that Patriarch Tikhon's release from prison was linked with the fact that in June, 1923 the Bolsheviks finally accepted that Lenin was too ill to return to politics. A. Rykov took over from Lenin as president of the Sovnarkom, and on entering office immediately received the Patriarch and promised to reduce the pressure on religious organizations, reduce the taxes on the clergy and churches and release some hierarchs from prison - a promise that he kept. See Latyshev, op. cit.

[44] Archpriest Alexander Lebedev, “[paradosis] Who is Really Behind the Schisms?”, March 2, 2006. The second achievement Tuchkov claimed for himself as director of the 6th Section of the Secret Department of the OGPU was the splitting up of the Church and a decline in faith among the young. Here he exaggerates, failing to take into account the strengthening of the patriarchate’s position vis-á-vis the other groups since July: “The goal which had been placed before the Section at the end of 1922 to move the Orthodox Church from its moribund and anti-Soviet position and to deprive it of that strength which it had held prior to that time, has been completely accomplished by the Seciton. The Orthodox Church as a single apparatus does not exist any more at the present time; it has been broken into several separate groups which have their separate hierarchies, and which are found in constant enmity to one another and which are disposed to be completely irreconcilable to one another.

     “At the present time there are four such groups that are fully formed and which have their own ecclesiastical apparatus, namely the Tikhonites, the Renovationists, the Renascenists, and the Working Church. All of these groups have been placed in such a state, that willingly or unwillingly they are bound to constantly be at war with one another and to curry favour from the organs of civil authority. The enmity between these groups deepens from time to time and more and more, and concurrently the authority of the servers of the cult is being lost, and from this, among the faithful, and especially among the youth, is created an extremely passive, and at time inimical attitude even to the Church itself, on the grounds of which there begins to develop the growth of atheism.

     “The splitting up of the Orthodox Church into the above-indicated groups is the fulfilment of only one part of the work which was completed regarding the Orthodox churchmen in 1923.”

[45] Izvestia, June 12, 1924; Lebedev, Velikorossia, p. 577.

[46] Rklitsky, op. cit., pp. 151-152.

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