SURSA: Orthodox Christianity and Militant Atheism in the Twentieth Century Russia ("compiled for educational purposes on behalf of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship of the University of Queensland.")
General[From Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Church (2nd ed),
Penguin Books, London 1993, pp 145-9 and 162.]
'Those who desire to see Me shall pass through tribulation and despair.'
(Epistle of Barnabas vii, II)
THE ASSAULT UPON HEAVEN
From October 1917, when the Bolsheviks seized power, until around 1988, the year when Russian Christianity celebrated its millennium, the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union existed in a state of siege. The intensity of persecution varied at different points in those seventy years, but the basic attitude of the Communist authorities remained the same: religious belief, in all its manifestations, was an error to be repressed and extirpated. In Stalin's words, 'The Party cannot be neutral towards religion. It conducts an anti-religious struggle against all and any religious prejudices.'  To appreciate the full force of his words, it has to be remembered that the Party, under Soviet Communism, to all intents and purposes meant the State.
In this way, from 1917 onwards, Orthodox and other Christians found themselves in a situation for which there was no exact precedent in earlier Christian history. The Roman Empire, although persecuting Christians from time to time, was in no sense an atheist state, committed to the suppression of religion as such. The Ottoman Turks, while non-Christians, were still worshippers of the one God and ... allowed the Church a large measure of toleration. But Soviet Communism was committed by its fundamental principles to an aggressive and militant atheism. It could not rest satisfied merely with a neutral separation between Church and State, but sought by every means, direct and indirect, to overthrow all organized Church life and to eliminate all religious belief.
The Bolsheviks, newly come to power, were quick to carry their programme into effect. Legislation in 1918 excluded the Church from all participation in the educational system, and confiscated all Church property. The Church ceased to possess any rights; quite simply, it was not a legal entity. The terms of the Soviet constitution grew progressively more severe. The constitution of 1918 allowed 'freedom of religious and anti-religious propaganda' (Article 13), but in the 'Law on Religious Associations' enacted in 1929 this was changed to 'freedom of religious belief and of anti-religious propaganda'. The distinction here is important: Christians were allowed - at any rate in theory - freedom of belief, but they were not allowed any freedom of propaganda. 'The Church was seen merely as a cultic association. It was in principle permitted to celebrate religious services, and in practice - more particularly from 1943 onwards - there were a certain number of church buildings open for worship. Also, after 1943, the Church was allowed to maintain a few institutions for training priests, and to undertake a limited publishing programme. But it was allowed to do virtually nothing beyond this.
The bishops and clergy, in other words, could not engage in charitable or social work. Sick visiting was severely restricted; pastoral work in prisons, hospitals or psychiatric wards was impossible. Parish priests could not organize any kind of youth group or any study circle. They could not hold catechism classes or Sunday schools for children. The only instruction that they could give to their flock was through sermons during church services. (Often they took full advantage of this: I can recall attending celebrations of the Liturgy in the 1970s at which four or five different sermons were preached; the congregation listened with rapt attention, and thanked the preacher at the end with a great cry of gratitude - an experience I do not usually have when preaching in the west!) The clergy could not form a parish library, since the only books which they were permitted to keep in church were service books for use in worship. They had no pamphlets to distribute to their people, no informative literature, however basic; even copies of the Bible were a great rarity, exchanged on the black market at exorbitant prices. Worst of all, every member of the clergy, from the bishop to the humblest parish priest, required permission from the State to exercise his ministry, and was subject to close and relentless supervision from the secret police. Every word that the priest spoke in his sermons was carefully noted. Throughout the day, watchful and unfriendly eyes would observe who came to him in church for baptisms and weddings, for confession or for private talks.
The totalitarian Communist State employed to the full all forms of anti-religious propaganda, while denying the Church any right of reply. There was, first of all, the atheist instruction that was given systematically in every school. Teachers received such injunctions as these:
A Soviet teacher must be guided by the principle of the Party spirit of science; he is obliged not only to be an unbeliever himself, but also to be an active propagandist of godlessness among others, to be the bearer of the ideas of militant proletarian atheism. Skillfully and calmly, tactfully and persistently, the Soviet teacher must expose and overcome religious prejudices in the course of his activity in school and out of school, day in and day out. Outside school, a vast anti-religious campaign was carried on by the League of Militant Atheists; this was replaced in 1942 by the slightly less aggressive All-Union Society for the Dissemination of Scientific and Political Knowledge. Atheism was actively propagated among the new generation through the Young Communist League. Museums of Religion and Atheism were opened, often in former churches such as Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg. In the 1920s, anti-religious processions of a crude and offensive character were held in the streets, especially at Easter and Christmas. Here is a description by an eye-witness:
There were no protests from the silent streets - the years of terror had done their work - but nearly everyone tried to turn off the road when they met this shocking procession. I, personally, as a witness of the Moscow carnival, may certify that there was not a drop of popular pleasure in it. The parade moved along empty streets and its attempts at creating laughter or provocation met with dull silence on the part of the occasional witnesses. Not only were churches closed on a massive scale in the 1920s and 1930s, but huge numbers of bishops and clergy, monks, nuns and laity were sent to prison and to concentration camps. How many were executed or died from ill-treatment we simply cannot calculate. Nikita Struve provides a list of martyr-bishops running to 130 names, and even this he terms 'provisional and incomplete'.  The sum total of priest-martyrs must extend to tens of thousands. Of course religious believers were by no means the only group to suffer in Stalin's reign of terror, but they suffered more than most. Nothing on a remotely comparable scale had happened in the persecutions under the Roman Empire. The words of Archpriest Avvakum, spoken in the seventeenth century, were certainly fulfilled under Communism three hundred years later: 'Satan has obtained our radiant Russia from God, that she may become red with the blood of martyrs.' 
What effect did Communist propaganda and persecution have upon the Church? In many places there was an amazing quickening of the spiritual life. Cleansed of worldly elements, freed from the burden of insincere members who had merely conformed outwardly for social reasons, purified as by fire, the true Orthodox believers gathered themselves together and resisted with heroism and humility. A Russian of the emigration wrote, 'In every place where the faith has been put to the test, there have been abundant outpourings of grace, the most astonishing miracles - Icons renewing themselves before the eyes of astonished spectators; the cupolas of churches shining with a light not of this world ... Nevertheless, all this was scarcely noticed. The glorious aspect of what had taken place in Russia remained almost without interest for the generality of mankind ... The crucified and buried Christ will always be judged thus by those who are blind to the light of His resurrection.'  It is not surprising that enormous numbers should have deserted the Church in the hour of persecution, for this has always happened, and will doubtless happen again. Far more surprising is the fact that so many remained faithful.
1914 1939 1947 1988 1992 Churches 54,174 some 100s ?20,000 about 7,000 over 12,000 Priests and Deacons 51,105 some 100s ?30,000 about 7,000 about 10,000 Monasteries (for both men and women) 1,025 none 67 21 121 Monks and Nuns 94,629 ? ?10,000 1,190 ? Theological Academies 4 none 2 2 2 Seminaries 57 none 8 3 25 (including pre-theological schools) Pre-theological Schools 185 forbidden by law forbidden by law forbidden by law Students ? none ? 2,000 4,000 Parochial Schools 37,528 forbidden by law forbidden by law forbidden by law no statistics available; rapidly proliferating Homes for the Aged 1,113 forbidden by law forbidden by law forbidden by law no statistics available; rapidly proliferating Hospitals 291 forbidden by law forbidden by law forbidden by law no statistics available; rapidly proliferating Parish Libraries 34,497 forbidden by law forbidden by law forbidden by law no statistics available; rapidly proliferating
[The following appears as Appendix III of Nikita Struve’s Christians in Contemporary Russia, Harvill Press, London 1967, pp 393-8.]
LIST - PROVISIONAL AND INCOMPLETE - OF BISHOPS OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH, MARTYRS FOR THEIR FAITH
This list includes the bishops of the Patriarchal Church and of the socalled Josephite schism , but not those of the Renewed (Living) Church.  The names are given in probable chronological order.
1. Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, Metropolitan of Kiev, born in 1848, assassinated 25th January 1918, not far from the Monastery of the Caves. First martyr of the Russian Church.
2. Andronic Nikolsky, Archbishop of Perm, assassinated 4th June 1918.
3. Theophanus Ilchensky, Bishop of Solikamsk, Vicar to the Archbishop of Perm named above, drowned in the Kama 11th December 1918.
4. Basil, Archbishop of Chernigov, appointed by the All-Russian Council to investigate the assassination of the bishops of Perm, was himself assassinated, together with the other members of the Investigation Commission, in the train, on the return journey.
5. Hermogen, formerly Bishop of Saratov, tried to oppose Rasputin, and was removed from his see. After the Revolution, was appointed Bishop of Tobolsk. Was arrested in April 1918 and drowned in the river Tura 16th June 1918, together with the members of the delegation of the faithful who had come to negotiate for his release. Among those martyred was Bishop Hermogen's brother.
6. Isidor Kolokov, Bishop of Mikhailov, impaled at Samara.
7. Ambrosius Gudko, Bishop of Sarapul, killed at Sviasjk in January 1918.
8. Mitroplian Krasnopolsky, Archbishop of Astrakhan, thrown down from a high wall.
9. Leontii Vimpfen, Bishop of Enotai, Vicar of the diocese of Astrakhan, martyred with many priests of his diocese.
10. Platon Kulbush, Bishop of Revel, assassinated at Iuriev 14th January 1919.
11. Tikhon, Archbishop of Voronej, hanged in a church in December 1919.
12. Joachim Levitsky, Archbishop of Nijni Novgorod, hanged in a church at Sebastopol.
13. Nicodemus Kononov, Bishop of Belgorod.
14. Macarius Gnevushev, Bishop of Viazma.
15. Laurence Kniazev, Bishop of Balakhnin, Vicar of the diocese of Nijni Novgorod.
16. Pimen, Bishop of Vierny (Alma-Ata).
17. Herman, Bishop of Kamyshin, shot as hostage at Saratov.
18. Varsanuphii Vikhvelin, Bishop of Kirillov, Vicar of the diocese of Nijni Novgorod.
19. Sylvester, Archbishop of Omsk, died in the town prison.
20. Simon Shleev, Bishop of Ufa, killed at his home 6th July 1921.
21. Nazarius, Metropolitan of Kutaissi (Church of Georgia), shot in 1924.
22. Methodius Krasnoperov, Bishop of Petropavlovsk, killed in the spring of 1922.
23. Benjamin Kazansky, Metropolitan of Petrograd, executed 12(?) August 1922.
24. Philaret, Bishop of Kostroma, died in deportation at Archangel in 1923.
25. Seraphim, Bishop of Eloturovsk, died in prison in the Perm region in 1925.
26. Ieropheus Afonik, Bishop and Vicar of the diocese of Veliky Ustiug, killed in May 1928 (Josephite schism).
27. Peter Zverev, Archbishop of Voronej, died in the Solovki Islands, 25th January 1929.
28. Hilarion Troitsky, Bishop and Vicar of the diocese of Moscow, right hand of Patriarch Tikhon, outstanding theologian, deported in 1923 to Solovki, died in a Leningrad prison 15th December 1929.
29. Sergius, Bishop of Efremovo, shot at Buzuluk in 1929.
30. Maximus Zhizhilenko, Bishop of Serpukhov, doctor, shot in Moscow in 1930 (Josephite schism).
31. Basil, Bishop of Priluky, killed in Moscow in 1930-1 (Josephite schism).
32. Seraphim Meshcheriakov, Metropolitan of Stavropol. After having been deported to Solovki, he was shot at Rostov-on-Don in 1932 together with 120 members of the lower clergy.
33. Agapit Vishnevsky, Archbishop of Ekaterinoslav, died in prison.
34. Pimen, Metropolitan of Kharkov, died in prison in Kupiansk in 1933.
35. Theodosius Vashnetzov, Bishop of Moghilev, died in Siberia in 1933.
36. Nicodemus, Archbishop of Semyretchiey, died in deportation or shot in 1933.
37. Photius Purlevsky, Bishop of Semipalatinsk, shot in 1933.
38. Platon Rudnev, Bishop of Bogorodsk, deported to Solovki, shot in 1933.
39. Alexander Belozerov, Archbishop of Podolsk, died in 1934, in the Steppe, from hunger, in Kazakhstan.
40. Philip Gumilevsky, shot in the prison of Krasnoiarsk in 1934 (Josephite schism).
41. Arsen Zhadanovsky, Archbishop of Serpukhov, shot 30th June 1935.
42. Daniel Troitsky, died in Briansk prison in 1935 (brother of Bishop Hilarion, cf No. 28).
43. Hermann Riashentzev, martyred in deportation at Ust-Sysolsk in 1935.
44. Serapion, martyred in deportation at Ust-Sysolsk in 1935.
45. Theodore Pozdeyev, formerly Rector of the Moscow Theological Academy, martyred in deportation at Ust-Sysolsk in 1935.
46. Damascinus Tzedrik, Bishop of Glukhov, died in deportation in 1936 (Josephite schism).
47. Bartholomew Remov, Bishop and Vicar of the diocese of Moscow, shot 26th June 1936, for having directed a clandestine theological school in Moscow.
48. Peter Poliansky, Metropolitan of Krutitsy, locum tenens of the Patriarch, died in deportation in December 1936.
49. Constantine Diakov, member of the temporary Patriarchal Synod, Archbishop of Kharkov from 1923 to 1935, Metropolitan of Kiev and last Exarch of the Ukraine before the war, shot in October 1937.
50. Parthenus, Bishop of Ananiev, martyred in 1937.
51. Maximus, Bishop of Polon, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
52. Macarius, Bishop of Uman, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
53. George Deliev, Bishop of Ekaterinoslav, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
54. Philaret Lintchevsky, Bishop of Jitomir, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
55. Leo Cherepanov, shot in 1937.
56. Procopius Titov, Bishop of Kherson, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
57. Juvenal Maslovsky, Archbishop of Kursk, then of Riazan, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
58. Gleb Pokrovsky, Archbishop of Perm, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
59. Ignatius Sadkovsky, Bishop of Belev, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
60. Mitrophan Grinev, Bishop of Aksai, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
61. Paul Vvedensky, Bishop of Melekess, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
62. Seraphim Protopopov, Archbishop of Baku, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
63. Sophronius Arefeev, Bishop of Yakutia, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
64. Cyprian Soloviev, Bishop of Semipalatinsk, then of Viatka, shot in Jitomir in 1937.
The last nine bishops in this list had been deported to the Solovki Islands as early as 1923.
65. Pachomius Kedrov, Bishop of Chernigov, shot in 1937.
66. Avercius Kedrov, brother of the above, Bishop of Zhitomir, shot in 1937.
67. Amphilocius, Vicar of the Yenissey region (Josephite schism), shot in 1937.
68. Stephen Zismerovsky, Archbishop of Vologda, shot in 1937.
69. Gurii Stepanov, Archbishop of Alatyr, imprisoned since 1918, shot in 1937.
70. Seraphim Alexandrov, Archbishop of Tver, member of the temporary Patriarchal Synod, shot in 1937.
71. Nicholas Dobronravov, Archbishop, shot in 1937.
72. Innocent Nikiforov, Archbishop of Klin, then of Orel, shot in 1937.
73. Theophanus Elansky, Vicar of the diocese of Nijni-Novgorod, shot in 1937.
74. Ambrosius Libinsky, Vicar of the diocese of Petrograd, shot in 1937.
75. Alexis Bui (Josephite schism), shot in 1937.
76. Raphael (Gumilev?), shot in 1937.
77. Tikhon Sharapov, shot in 1937.
78. Taras Khorov, shot in 1937.
79. Job (Rogozhin?), shot in 1937.
80. Anthony, shot in 1937.
81. Josaphat, shot in 1937.
82. Thaddeus, Archbishop of Kalinin, died in prison in 1937.
83. Anatole Grisiuk, Metropolitan of Odessa, member of the temporary Patriarchal Synod, arrested for the second time 27th July 1936, died in deportation in the Far North 10th February 1938. In 1941, many thousands of believers gathered for a service celebrated in his memory in Odessa.
84. Boris Shipulin, Bishop of Kamenets-Podolsk, shot in 1938.
85. Benedict Plotnikov, Bishop of Kronstadt, condemned to death in 1922 and reprieved, appointed to the see of Novgorod in 1935 and to that of Kazan in 1936, shot in 1938.
86. Joseph Petrovykh, Metropolitan of Leningrad, head of the opposition group of the Right, shot in 1938.
87. Dimitry Liubimov, Archbishop of Gdovsk (Josephite schism).
88. Pitirim Krylov, Archbishop of Dimitrov, shot in 1938.
89. Nikon Purlevsky, Bishop of Belgorod, brother of Bishop Photius, (cf No. 37), shot in 1938.
90. Nikon Lebedev, shot in 1938.
91. Hilarion Belsky, Vicar of the diocese of Smolensk (Josephite schism), shot in 1938.
92. Alexander Petrovsky, Archbishop of Kharkov, died in prison in 1939.
93. Methodius, Archbishop of the Far East, then of Piatigorsk, shot in 1939.
94. Eutychius, shot in 1939.
95. Eugene Zernov, Archbishop of the Amur region, deported to the Solovki Islands, then appointed to the see of Kotelnikovo and then that of Nijni-Novgorod, arrested in 1937 and disappeared.
96. Theophilus Bogoiavlensky, Archbishop of Kuban, disappeared in about 1932.
97. Nicholas, Bishop and Vicar of the diocese of Tsaritsyn, arrested in 1933. Disappeared.
98. Paul Kratirov, Bishop of Novo-Moskva, arrested circa 1935. Disappeared.
99. Paulinus Kroshechkin, Bishop of Rilsk, arrested in 1927. Disappeared.
100. Seraphim, Archbishop of Smolensk, arrested in 1936. Disappeared.
101. Peter Shibkov, Archbishop of Samara, arrested in 1937. Disappeared.
102. Arkadii Ostalsky, Vicar of the diocese of Poltava, disappeared in 1937.
103. Cyril Smirnov, Metropolitan of Kazan, died in deportation circa 1938 (member of opposition group).
104. Josaphat Udalov, Bishop of Chistopol, arrested for the last time in 1937. Disappeared. (Josephite schism.)
105. Seraphim Samoilovitch, Archbishop of Uglitch, died in deportation circa 1935. (Josephite schism.)
106. Victor Ostrogradsky, Bishop of Glasov, disappeared circa 1933. (Josephite schism.)
107. Onuphrius Gagaliuk, Bishop of Kursk, disappeared in 1938.
108. Nicodemus Krotkov, Bishop of Simferopol, arrested for the last time in 1936 and deported to Kadalachka where he probably died.
109. Theodosius, Bishop of Poltava, arrested in 1938. Disappeared.
110. John Bulin, Bishop of Pechory, arrested in 1941. Disappeared.
111. Damascinus Maliuta, Bishop of Kamenets-Podolsk, arrested in 1944. Disappeared.
112. Seraphim Kushneruk, Bishop of Kherson, arrested in 1944, disappeared.
113. Pancratius, Bishop of Kursk, disappeared.
114. Anthony Martsenko, Archbishop of Tula, arrested in 1949, disappeared.
There is no information available, however, about the fate of the following bishops:
115. Chrysogonius Ivanovsky, consecrated Bishop of Iuriev in 1930.
116. Sergius Vasiliev, consecrated Bishop of Demian in 1932.
117. Joanicius Popov, consecrated Bishop of Kamyshn in 1932.
118. Alexander Toropov, consecrated Bishop of Kinechma in 1932.
119. Viacheslav, consecrated Bishop of Novgorod-Volynsk in 1932.
120. Benjamin Ivanov, consecrated Bishop of Stavropol in 1933.
121. Theodosius Kirik, consecrated Bishop of Nikolaev in 1933.
122. John Shirokov, Bishop of Volokolamsk.
123. Onisim, Bishop of Tula.
124. Vassian Piatnitsky, Bishop of Tambov.
125. Nicetas, Bishop of Borovichi.
126. Alexander Shchukin, Archbishop of Orel.
127. Nicholas Pokrovsky, Bishop of Polotsk-Vitebsk.
128. Dimitri Dobroserdov, Bishop of Kostroma.
129. Vassian Veretennikov, of Satkinsk.
130. Uarius, Bishop of Lipetsk. Etc.
Priests, Deacons, Nuns and Monks
In 1922 alone, 2,691 secular priests, 1,962 monks and 3,447 nuns were liquidated - source: Nikita Struve’s Christians in Contemporary Russia, Harvill Press, London 1967, p 38.
1. Works, vol 10 (Moscow 1953), p 132.
2. FN Oleschuk (formerly Secretary of the League of Militant Atheists), in Uchitelskaya Gazeta, 26 November 1949.
3. GP Fedotov, The Russian Church since the Revolution (London 1928), p 47.
4. N Struve, Christians in Contemporary Russia, pp 393-8.
5. From Avvakum's Life; see Fedotov, A Treasury of Russian Spirituality, p 167.
6. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, pp 245-6. The miraculous 'renewal of icons', to which Lossky refers, has occurred in a number of places under Communist rule. Icons and frescoes, darkened and disfigured with age, have suddenly and without any human intervention resumed fresh and bright colours.
7. Named after Metropolitan Joseph Petrovykh (see No. 86 in the above list of Bishops). Metropolitan Sergius (deputy to the patriarchal locum tenens) made a declaration on 24 July 1927, which, amongst other things, included the following statement, "we wish to be Orthodox, and at the same time to recognise the Soviet Union as our civil fatherland, whose joys and successes are our joys and successes, and whose failures are our failures…". Following this declaration a number of Bishops (including Metropolitan Joseph) severed links with the rest of the church. Amongst the complaints of these Bishops were the following:
See Struve, note 4 above, pp 43-58.
- the provisional synod appointed by Metropolitan Sergius in 1927 was not canonical;
- illegal transfers of Bishops had occurred;
- Metropolitan Sergius’ policies amounted to an implicit betrayal of the Martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church; and
- the declaration of 24 July was untrue.
8. "From May 1922 to June 1923 …[Patriarch Tikhon] was kept in prison, and, while there, he was persuaded to hand over the control of the Church to a group of married clergy, which unknown to him was acting in co-operation with the Communist authorities. This group, which came to be known as the 'Renewed' or 'Living Church', initiated a sweeping programme of ecclesiastical reform, including the introduction of married bishops. Even though many of the reforms were not objectionable in themselves, the movement was compromised from the start by its collaboration with the atheist authorities. Tikhon, as soon as he realized its true character, broke off relations with it. Despite initial successes, it soon lost support among the faithful, and as a result the Communists ceased to be interested in it. After 1926 the Living Church and its offshoots no longer possessed any great importance, and during the Second World they disappeared altogether." From Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Church (2nd ed), Penguin Books, London 1993, pp 150-1 (footnote omitted).
Dupa filmul "Ultima zi a ultimului Ţar".