Vladimir Moss


     Apart from the dogmatic-canonical questions of ecumenism and [i]sergianism, one of the subjects that continues to divide the Moscow Patriarchate from the Russian Church Abroad is their differing attitudes to the victory of the Soviets in the Second World War. For the MP, as was made obvious at the 60th anniversary celebrations in Moscow last May, this was an unequivocally glorious victory, a victory of truth over falsehood, good over evil. In this, of course, it is following closely the lead given by Putin’s neo-Soviet regime, for which Stalin and Stalinism are not dirty words, and which regards the fall of communism in 1991 as “a geopolitical tragedy” which it is doing everything possible to reverse. The attitude of ROCOR was different. Without in any way overlooking or condoning the terrible cruelties of the Nazi regime, it could not fail to regard the victory and consolidation of militant atheism over a vast territory from Berlin to Vladivostok with profound sorrow. Contrary to the slander of the Moscow Patriarch Alexis I, ROCOR never gave unequivocal support to the Nazis; but it did bless those Russian patriots who fought in the German armies in order to liberate their country from the all-annihilating scourge of Sovietism. In this article this thesis is developed on the basis of historical documents, and in particular the speeches of the leader of ROCOR, Metropolitan Anastasy.


ROCOR in Germany


     It is necessary first of all to discuss the question of ROCOR’s relationship to Hitler before the war.


     On February 25, 1938 Hitler signed a law “On the land-ownership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Germany”, according to which “the State in the person of the minister of ecclesiastical affairs received the right to dispose of the Russian ecclesiastical property in the country and in the territories joined to it.” On the basis of this law the German State handed over all the pre-revolutionary property of the Russian Church in Germany into the possession of ROCOR, besides the church in Dresden.[ii] The German government did not hand over all the property to ROCOR immediately. As Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris writes in his memoirs (p. 648), for some time it still retained parishes in Berlin, in Eastern Prussia and in Dresden.[iii] However, on May 5, 1939 the law was extended to Dresden and the Sudetenland.


     It may be asked why the German government was so favourably disposed to ROCOR. Part of the answer may lie in the fact that the authorities had a negative opinion of the Paris jurisdiction of Metropolitan Eulogius because of its links with the YMCA and other internationalist organizations, and were therefore more favourably disposed to ROCOR, which had broken links with the Eulogians. Also, some of the churches in their possession had been built with the participation of German royalty who had family links with the House of the Romanovs, and ROCOR was, of course, the Orthodox jurisdiction with the closest links with the Romanovs. Perhaps also they were counting in this way to elicit the sympathy of the Balkan Slavic peoples towards Germany.[iv]


     In 1938 Hitler also gave ROCOR a plot of land in Berlin to build a church, for which Metropolitan Anastasy thanked him. This formed the basis on which “Patriarch” Alexis of Moscow later accused him of having sympathy for fascism. The truth of the matter was explained by Metropolitan Anastasy himself in October, 1945 as follows: “Soon after his coming to power Hitler learned that the Russian Orthodox people in Berlin did not have a church of their own after the church built by them had been removed from the parish because they could not pay the debts they had incurred for it. This led immediately to order the release of considerable sums of money for the building of a new Orthodox church on a beautiful plot of land set aside for this in the German capital. We should note that Hitler took this step without any deliberate request on the part of the Russian Orthodox community and did not attach any conditions to his offering that might have been compensation for it. The Hierarchical Synod as well as the whole of Russia Abroad could not fail to value this magnanimous act, which came at a time when Orthodox churches and monasteries were being mercilessly closed, destroyed or used for completely unsuitable purposes (they were being turned into clubs, cinemas, atheist museums, food warehouses, etc.), and other holy things in Russia were being mocked or defiled. This fact was noted in the address [given by the metropolitan], but the Synod of course gave no ‘blessing to destroy and conquer Russia’.”[v]


     In fact, the address sent to Hitler was not composed by Metropolitan Anastasy, but by the president of the Russian colony in Berlin, General V. Biskupsky, an adventurer and opportunist who had already been involved in several political escapades.[vi] When it was shown to the metropolitan, he found it too “flowery”. But it had already been sent to the ministry of internal affairs, and it was too late to compose a new, more moderate variant.[vii]


     After the German annexation of Czechia and Moravia in March, 1939, the Germans tried to place all the Orthodox in those territories under the jurisdiction of the ROCOR’s Archbishop Seraphim (Lyade). On November 3, Seraphim concluded an agreement with the Eulogian Bishop Sergius of Prague whereby his parishes were transferred, from a purely juridical point of view, into the jurisdiction of Archbishop Seraphim, but retained their intra-ecclesiastical independence and submission to Metropolitan Eulogius.[viii] A similar arrangement was made with the parishes of the Serbian Bishop Vladimir (Raich) in Transcarpathia and Slovakia.[ix]


     The influence of Archbishop (later Metropolitan) Seraphim in the German government was to prove useful again.  On November 4, 1940 the Eulogian Archbishop Alexander (Nemolovsky) of Brussels was arrested after the liturgy and imprisoned as “enemy ¹ 2” in Aachen. From there he was transferred to a prison in Berlin. It was Archbishop Seraphim who rescued Archbishop Alexander from prison and settled him at the Russian church in Tegel, where he remained until the end of the war.[x]


The German Invasion of Serbia


     It was not surprising, or reprehensible, that ROCOR and her first-hierarch, Metropolitan Anastasy, should have cooperated with the Germans – but without supporting the Nazi ideology - so long as they did no harm to the Orthodox Church, and even benefited it. However, it was a different matter when they invaded an Orthodox country, Serbia. Archbishop Averky writes: “The unexpected German bombardment of Belgrade on April 6, 1941, which soon decided the fate of Yugoslavia, produced such a shattering impression that the capital was completely abandoned, both by the government organs and by the ordinary inhabitants, who fled in indescribable panic for many tens of kilometers. Amidst this complete devastation it was only in the life of the Russian church in Belgrade that no essential changes took place: the services prescribed by the Typicon continued as usual, while priests went with the Holy Gifts around the city, giving communion to the wounded and carrying out prayer services in the refuges. During the raid Metropolitan Anastasy remained at his hierarchical place in the altar, while the clergy took it in turns to serve prayer services in front of the wonder-working Kursk-Root icon of the Mother of God ‘of the Sign’. And this in spite of the fact that five bombs fell in the immediate vicinity of our church, the neighbouring Serbian church of St. Mark burned down, and for a whole two days a gigantic fire from a warehouse full of logs that had been hit by a bomb burned just next to the wall of the church. On the second day, March 25 / April 7, on the very feast of the Annunciation, when there was a particularly violent bombardment, Vladyka Metropolitan was present at the Divine Liturgy which one of the priests celebrated in the basement of the Russian House for the many Russian people who had sheltered there. This liturgy, which was carried out in a situation recalling that of the ancient Catacomb Christians, was sealed for life in the memory of all those who received communion at it. And with the blessing of Vladyka Metropolitan up to 300 people received communion after a general confession (this was in view of the danger of death that clearly threatened everyone).


     “Exactly a week later, on Lazarus Saturday, the Germans entered the completely destroyed and deserted city, and difficult years began for the Russian emigration in Yugoslavia. Together with the whole of his Belgrade flock, Vladyka Metropolitan nobly endured hunger and cold and all kinds of restrictions and deprivations, various unpleasantnesses from the German occupying authorities and hostile attacks from that part of the Serbian population which had submitted to the influence of communist propaganda.


     “Soon after the occupation of Yugoslavia by the German armies, members of the Gestapo carried out a thorough search in the residence of Vladyka Metropolitan Anastasy, and then took away the clerical work of the Hierarchical Synod.[xi] However, they were forced to admit that Vladyka , as a true Archpastor of the Church of Christ, was profoundly alien to all politics, and they left him in peace.”[xii]


The German Invasion of Russia


     The Germans invaded Russia on June 22, the feast of all Saints of Russia.  They were in general greeted with ecstatic joy. Thus Solzhenitsyn writes: “Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia gave the Germans a jubilant welcome. Belorussia, the Western Ukraine, and the first occupied Russian territories followed suit. But the mood of the people was demonstrated most graphically of all by the Red Army: before the eyes of the whole world it retreated along a 2,000-kilometre front, on foot, but every bit as fast as motorized units. Nothing could possibly be more convincing than the way these men, soldiers in their prime, voted with their feet. Numerical superiority was entirely with the Red Army, they had excellent artillery and a strong tank force, yet back they rolled, a rout without compare, unprecedented in the annals of Russian and world history. In the first few months some three million officers and men had fallen into enemy hands!


     “That is what the popular mood was like – the mood of peoples some of whom had lived through twenty-four years of communism and others but a single year. For them the whole point of this latest war was to cast off the scourge of communism. Naturally enough, each people was primarily bent not on resolving any European problem but on its own national task – liberation from communism…”[xiii]


     “In the years of the war,” writes Anatoly Krasikov, “with the agreement of the German occupying authorities, 7547 Orthodox churches were opened (as against 1270 opened in 1944-1947 with the permission of the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church).”[xiv] Even in fully Sovietized regions such as Pskov and the Eastern Ukraine, 95% of the population, according to German reports, flooded into the newly-opened churches.


     It was natural for the ROCOR to welcome the resurrection of Orthodoxy in German-occupied Russia. It had nothing to do with any political sympathies for the Nazis. Thus “in September, 1941 Vladyka Metropolitan gave his blessing to the Russian patriots who hoped that hour of the liberation of the Russian people from the bloody oppression of Bolshevism to form a Russian Corps. However, the Germans did not allow this Corps to take part in military actions on the eastern front, but was left in Yugoslavia to defend it from local communist bands.”[xv]


     Again, in his paschal epistle for 1942 Metropolitan Anastasy wrote: “The day that it (the Russian people) has been waiting for has come, and it is now truly rising from the dead in those places where the courageous German sword has succeeded in severing its fetters… Both ancient Kiev, and much-suffering Smolensk and Pskov are radiantly celebrating their deliverance as if from the depths of hell. The liberated part of the Russian people everywhere has already begun to chant: ‘Christ is risen!’”[xvi]


     In June, the Synod of ROCOR made some suggestions to the German authorities on the organization of the Church in Russia. In June it wrote: “…In the spirit of the canons of the Orthodox Church there exists only one solution in the question of the organization of the Church’s administration, and that is the convening of a Council of Russian hierarchs by the eldest among them and the appointment by this Council of a temporary head of the Church and of the rest of the Church administration.” The final organization of the governing organs and the election of a Patriarch could take place, in the opinion of the Synod, only when ‘hierarchs will be appointed to all the vacant sees and normal relations are established in the country”.[xvii]


     However, ROCOR’s attitude to the Germans remained cautious because the attitude of the Germans to the Orthodox Faith was ambiguous. Hitler was “utterly irreligious”[xviii], but feigned religious tolerance for political reasons. Thus "the heaviest blow that ever struck humanity,” he said, “was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in religion was introduced into the world by Christianity. Bolshevism practises a lie of the same nature, when it claims to bring liberty to men, only to enslave them."[xix] But at the same time he recognized that Christianity "can't be broken so simply. It must rot and die off like a gangrened limb." And on April 11, 1942, he said: "We must avoid having one solitary church to satisfy the religious needs of large districts, and each village must be made into an independent sect, worshipping God in its own fashion. If some villages as a result wish to practise black magic, after the fashion of Negroes or Indians, we should do nothing to hinder them. In short, our policy in the wide Russian spaces should be to encourage any and every form of dissension and schism."[xx]


     The Germans wanted to prepare new priestly cadres who would conform to their views on the Jews. On October 31, 1941 a directive went out from the Main Administration of Imperial Security for the Reich: “The resolution of the ecclesiastical question in the occupied eastern provinces is an exceptionally important… task, which with a little skill can be magnificently solved in favour of a religion that is free from Jewish influence. However, this influence is predicated on the closing of churches in the eastern provinces that are infected with Jewish dogmas…”[xxi]


     One thing the Germans did not want was the resurrection of the Great Russian people through the Church. On May 16, 1942 A. Rosenburg, the head of the ministry of the East, said in Riga to a meeting of General and Security Commissars: “The Russian Orthodox Church was a political instrument of the power of tsarism, and now our political task consists in creating other ecclesiastical forms where the Russian Church used to exist. In any case we will hinder the Great Russian Orthodox Church from lording it over all the nationalities… We should think more about introducing the Latin script instead of the Russian. Therefore it is also appropriate that some churches should remain as far as possible restricted to the province of one General Commissar… It is also appropriate for Estonia and Latvia that they should have their own national churches…”[xxii]


     Again, on August 8, 1942 the head of the German General Commissariat wrote to Archbishop Philotheus, temporary head of the Belorussian Autonomous Church, forbidding the baptism of Jews, the opening of work-houses attached to monasteries, the opening of theological seminaries and academies without the permission of the German authorities and the teaching of the Law of God in school. He also removed the juridical status of Church marriages. It was becoming clear that the authorities were not intending to give any rights to the Orthodox Church in Belorussia.[xxiii]


     On August 12, Archbishop Seraphim (Lyade) wrote from Vienna to Metropolitan Anastasy: “With regard to the question of sending priests to Russia: unfortunately, according to all available data, the higher government authorities are so far not well-disposed towards a positive solution of this question. I made several petitions, but without success. In all probability, the authorities suspect that the clergy from abroad are bearers of a political ideology that is unacceptable for the German authorities at the present time. I did not even succeed in getting permission to transfer several priests to Germany from abroad (for example, Fr. Rodzianko), and according to the information I have received permission was not given because these priests supposedly worked together with émigré political organizations.”[xxiv]


     On October 21, 1943, with the permission of the Germans (the first time they had given such permission), Metropolitan Anastasy came to Vienna from Belgrade and convened a Conference of eight bishops of ROCOR which condemned the election of the Moscow patriarch as unlawful and invalid.[xxv] When the hierarchs assembled in the hall, two representatives of the Nazi government wanted to be present, but the hierarchs refused, saying they wanted to discuss Church matters. The representatives withdrew… Although no protocols of the Council were taken, we know from Bishop Gregory (Boriskevich), formerly of Gomel, who later became a bishop in Canada and then the USA (+ 1957), that the main subject for discussion at the Council was the sending of priests to the territories liberated from communism and the establishment of links with the priests already there.[xxvi]


     “The conference composed and sent to the German authorities a memorandum which contained a series of bold demands. The memorandum is the best proof of the fact that the Conference took decisions independently, and not at the command of the Nazis. In it first of all should be highlighted the protest against the Nazis’ not allowing the Russian clergy abroad to go to the occupied territories of the USSR. The memorandum demanded ‘the removal of all obstacles hindering the free movement of bishops from this side of the front’, and the reunion of bishop ‘on occupied territories and abroad’. (A.K. Nikitin, Polozhenie russkoj pravoslavnoj obschiny v Germanii v period natsistkogo rezhima (1933-1945 gg.) [The Situation of the Russian Orthodox Community in Germany in the Nazi period (1933-1945)], Annual Theological Conference PSTBI, Moscow, 1998). A vivid expression of this protest was the consecration by the participants of the Conference of Bishop Gregory (Boriskevich). He was consecrated for the Belorussian Autonomous Church and received the title of Bishop of Gomel and Mozyr. At the Council an appeal to Russian believers was agreed. The conference did not send any greetings to Hitler or other leaders of the Third Reich. The third agreed point was unexpected for the Nazi institutions. De facto it contained a critique of German policy in relation to the Russian Church and included demands for greater freedom: ‘(1) The free development and strengthening of the Orthodox Church in the occupied regions and the unification of all Orthodox ecclesiastical provinces liberated from Soviet power with the Orthodox Church Abroad under one common ecclesiastical leadership would serve as an earnest of the greater success of these parts of the Russian Church in the struggle with atheist communism…  (3) It is necessary to give Russian workers in Germany free satisfaction of all their spiritual needs. (4) In view of the great quantity of various Russian military units in the German army, it is necessary to create an institution of military priests… (6) A more energetic preaching of the Orthodox religio-moral world-view… (9) Petition for the introduction of apologetic programmes on the radio… (10) The organization of theological libraries attached to the parishes… (13) Giving Orthodox ecclesiastical authorities the possibility of opening theological schools and the organization of pastoral and religio-moral courses.’”[xxvii]


     As the war progressed and the behaviour of the Germans towards the Russians became steadily crueller, the attitude of the Russian Orthodox to them changed.


     This was reflected in the words of Metropolitan Anastasy in October, 1945, in response to Patriarch Alexis’ charge that ROCOR sympathised with the Nazis: “… The Patriarch is not right to declare that ‘the leaders of the ecclesiastical life of the Russian emigration’ performed public prayers for the victories of Hitler’. The Hierarchical Synod never prescribed such prayers and even forbade them, demanding that Russian people prayed at that time only for the salvation of Russia.  Of course, it is impossible to conceal the now well-known fact that, exhausted by the hopelessness of their situation and reduced almost to despair by the terror reigning in Russia, Russian people both abroad and in Russia itself placed hopes on Hitler, who declared an irreconcilable war against communism (as is well-known, this is the explanation for the mass surrender of the Russian armies into captivity at the beginning of the war), but when it became evident that he was in fact striving to conquer Ukraine, Crimea and the Caucasus and other rich regions of Russia, and that he not only despised the Russian people, but was even striving to annihilate it, and that in accordance with his command our prisoners had been starved to death, and that the German army during its retreat had burned and destroyed to their foundations Russian cities and villages on their path, and had killed or led away their population, and had condemned hundreds of thousands of Jews with women and children to death, forcing them to dig graves for themselves, then the hearts of all reasonable people – except those who ‘wanted to be deceived’ -  turned against him…”[xxviii]


     G.M. Soldatov writes: “It was suggested to the metropolitan [by the Germans] that he issue an appeal to the Russian people calling on them to cooperate with the German army, which was going on a crusade to liberate Russia from the Bolsheviks. If he were to refuse to make the address, Vladyka was threatened with internment. However, the metropolitan refused, saying that German policy and the purpose of the crusade was unclear to him. In 1945 his Holiness Patriarch Gabriel of Serbia witnessed to Metropolitan Anastasy’s loyalty to Serbia and the Germans’ distrust of him…


     ”Referring to documents of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other departments of the German government, the historian M.V. Shkarovsky pointed out that Metropolitan Anastasy and the clergy of the ROCOR were trying to go to Russia to begin organizing missionary and charitable work there, but this activity did not correspond to the plans of Germany, which wanted to see Russia weak and divided in the future.”[xxix]


     Nevertheless, of the two alternatives – the Germans or the Soviets – ROCOR under the leadership of Metropolitan Anastasy considered the latter the more dangerous enemy. For Soviet power had been anathematized at the Russian Local Council in 1918, and had subjected the Russian Church to a persecution that was unprecedented in the history of Christianity. Thus in November, 1944 Metropolitan Anastasy addressed the Russian Liberation Movement (the “Vlasovites”) as follows: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! From ancient times there has existed such a custom in the Russian land; before undertaking any good work, especially a collective work, they used to ask the blessing of God on it. And you have gathered here, dear brothers and fellow-countrymen, you workers and inspirer of the Russian national movement, thereby demonstrating the historical link of the great work of the liberation of Russia with the actions of our fathers and great-grandfathers… We are now all united by one feeling – a feeling of deadly irreconcilability with the Bolshevik evil and a flaming desire to extirpate it on the Russian land. For we know that as long as it reigns there, no rational human life is possible, no spiritual movement forward; as long as this evil threatens both our fatherland and the whole of Europe, death and destruction will be established everywhere. And insofar as you, dear brothers and sisters, are striving to crush this terrible evil… you are doing a truly patriotic, even more than that, universal work, and the Church cannot not bless your great and holy beginning… Dear brothers and sisters, let us all unite around this Liberation Movement of ours, let each of us struggle on this path and help the common great work of the liberation of our Homeland, until this terrible evil of Bolshevism falls and our tormented Russia is raised from her bed…”[xxx]


The Soviet Propaganda Offensive


     After the victory of the Soviets in the Second World War, many Russian émigrés were swept up by a feeling of nostalgia for what they thought was their homeland, and, in the words of the writer Vladimir Nabokov, began to “fraternize with the Soviets because they sense in the Soviet Union the Soviet Union of the Russian people”[xxxi].


     Typical of the feelings of many at this time were the following words of Metropolitan Eulogius of Paris, full of emotion and nostalgia but with no spiritual, ecclesiastical content: “The holy Mother Russian Church is calling us to return to her bosom. Shall we decline this maternal call? Our soul has suffered enough in exile abroad. It is time to go home. The higher ecclesiastical authorities promise us a peaceful development of church life. I want to kiss my native Russian land. We want peace in the bosom of our native Mother Church – both us old men, in order to find a final peace, and the young and the middle-aged, in order to work on the regeneration of the Homeland, and to heal her yawning wounds. Without fear or doubt, and without disturbance, let us go to our native land: it is so good, so beautiful…”[xxxii]


     Many were persuaded by the MP’s pro-Soviet propaganda. Thus soon after the visit of the MP’s Metropolitan Nicholas (Yarushevich) to Paris in 1945 a law on Soviet passports was passed (on June 14, 1946), after which more than 3000 Russians living in France hurried to the Soviet embassy to take their passports.[xxxiii] In September, 1945 75 Eulogian parishes were united with the MP. The question of Eulogius’ ban, placed on him by the MP 15 years earlier, was not even discussed, and Nicholas and Eulogius concelebrated in the church of St. Alexander Nevsky. On September 11 the MP decreed that Metropolitan Eulogius should be exarch of these. However, on December 25, 1945 the Soviet deputy foreign minister V. Dekanozov wrote to G. Karpov: “The successes of Nicholas of Krutitsa have not been established and could easily be destroyed. Comrade Bogomolov (the ambassador in France) thinks that the sending of constant representatives of the MP to Paris should be speeded up and the first successes of Nicholas confirmed, otherwise the Anglo-Americans will seize the foreign Orthodox organizations into their hands and turn them into a weapon against us” (GARF, f. 6991, op. 1, d. 65, l. 452). Metropolitan Eulogius twice asked the Ecumenical Patriarch to allow him to return to the MP, but no reply ensued, and he remained dependent on Constantinople, by whom he was also named exarch.[xxxiv]


      Sergius Shumilo writes: “It was precisely thanks to the lying pro-Soviet propaganda of the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate that tens of thousands of émigrés, among whom were quite a few clergy and even bishops, believing in the spectre of freedom, began to return to the U.S.S.R. at the end of the Second World War, where the Soviet concentration camps and prisons were waiting for them... These tragic pages of the history of our Fatherland have been sealed by rivers of innocent blood on all succeeding generations. And to a great degree the blame for this, for the tens of thousands of destroyed lives and crippled destinies, lies on the first Soviet patriarch Sergius Stragorodsky and his church, who by deed and word served the God-fighting Soviet totalitarian system…”[xxxv]


     No less tragic was the fate of those forcibly returned by the western governments, who felt compelled to carry out the repatriation agreements they had signed with Stalin in Yalta. And so “from 1945 to 1947,” writes G.M. Soldatov, “2,272,000 people were handed over by the Allies to the USSR. Of these more than 600,000 had served in the ‘eastern forces’ of the German army.[xxxvi] About 200,000 managed to remain in the West,”[xxxvii] thanks especially to the efforts of Protopresbyter George Grabbe and other ROCOR clergy, who organized evacuation committees in all three of the western zones of Germany.


     The largest category of those forcibly repatriated was composed of those who had fought in the Soviet army. Protopriest Michael Ardov describes their fate: “I am already a rather elderly person. I remember quite well the years right after the war, 1945, 1946, and how Moscow was literally flooded with cripples, soldiers who were missing arms and legs, returning from the war, and then, suddenly, they all disappeared. Only later did I learn that they were all picked up and packed off to die on the island of Valaam, in order not to spoil the view in the capital. There was no monastery there then. You can just imagine for yourselves the conditions that they had to endure there while living out their last days. They were so poor, and were reduced to begging in order to survive. This is how they were treated, just so that the capital should not be spoiled by their presence! This I remember quite well. Besides this, as we all know that, because of Stalin and his military leaders, an enormous number of Soviet citizens were taken out of the country as prisoners. The government immediately disowned them; they were immediately branded traitors. And the consequences of this were that when they, for some reason or another, came back to our country, most of them were whisked off to Stalin’s labour camps. This is how they treated the veterans then…”[xxxviii]


The Tragedy of the Vlasovites


     Another category among those forcibly repatriated was composed of the soldiers who had fought on the German side in General A.A. Vlasov’s “Russian Liberation Army” – not out of sympathy for the Nazis, but simply in order to liberate their homeland from a still greater tyranny. These included many who had fought in the Russian civil war on the side of the Whites and in alliance with the western powers.


     In May, 1945, in Lienz in Austria, “the English occupying authorities handed over to Stalin to certain death some tens of thousands of Cossacks who had fought in the last months of the war on the side of Germany. Eye-witnesses of this drama recall that the hand-over began right during the time of the final liturgy, which Smersh did not allow to finish. Many Cossacks tried to hurl themselves into the abyss so as not to be delivered to the communists, and the first shots were heard from the Soviet occupational zone already a few minutes after the hand-over. It is interesting that the then head of the ROCOR, Metropolitan Anastasy, blessed the Cossacks who had formally ended their lives through suicide because they did not want to fall into the hands of the Reds, to be given a church burial. ‘Their actions,’ he wrote, ‘are closer to the exploit of St. Pelagia of Antioch, who hurled herself from a tall tower so as escape desecration [rape].’…”[xxxix]


     A similar tragedy took place in Kempten, this time at the hands of the Americans. On August 25, 1945, Metropolitan Anastasy wrote about it to General Eisenhower from Munich, where the ROCOR had moved its headquarters earlier in the year: “After seven years of terrible war, the sun of peace has arisen over the suffering earth. This peace was won by the heroism of the Allied Armies and by the wisdom, courage and self-sacrificial valour of these leaders. Among these names yours stands in the first place. These names will be blessed by those people to whom the victory of the Allied Armies returned freedom. It was with a feeling of profound satisfaction that this victory was greeted by émigrés from various countries who now live in Germany… Only the Russians, of whom there were more in Germany than the representatives of any other nation, were deprived of this joy. They were forced to remain in a foreign land because between them and their Home was a wall which their conscience and common sense did not allow them to cross… The Russians, of course, love their homeland no less than the French, the Belgians or the Italians love theirs. The Russians are nostalgic for their homeland. If, in spite of this, they still prefer to remain in a foreign land, having no domicile, often hungry and with no juridical defence, this is only for one reason: they want to preserve the greatest value on earth – freedom: freedom of conscience, freedom of the word, the right to property and personal security. Many of them have already grown old and would like to die in their homeland, but this is impossible as long as there reigns there a power which is based on terror and the suppression of the human personality… It is a remarkable fact that not only intelligentsia, but also peasants and simple workers, who left Russia after 1941, when it entered into war, and who were brought up in the conditions of Soviet life, do not want to return to Soviet Russia. When attempts were made to deport them, they cried out in despair and prayed for mercy. Sometimes they even committed suicide, preferring death in a foreign land to returning to a homeland where only sufferings await them. Such a tragic event took place on August 12 in Kempten. In this place, in the DP camp, there was a large concentration of Russian émigrés, that is, people who had left Russia after the revolution, and also former Soviet citizens who a little later expressed their desire to remain abroad. When the American soldiers appeared at the camp with the aim of dividing these émigrés into two categories and hand over the former Soviet citizens into the hands of the Soviets, they found all the émigrés in church ardently praying to God that He save them from deportation. Being completely defenceless and abandoned, they considered the church to be their last and only refuge. They offered no active resistance. The people only kneeled and prayed for mercy, trying, in complete despair, to kiss the hands and even the feet of the officers. In spite of this, they were forcibly expelled from the church. The soldiers dragged women and children by the hair and beat them. Even the priests were not left in peace. The priests tried by all means to defend their flock, but without success. One of them, an old and respected priest, was dragged away by the beard. Another spat blood out of his mouth after one of the soldiers, trying to pull the cross out of his hands, struck him in the face. The soldiers rushed into the altar in pursuit of the people. The iconostasis, which separates the sanctuary from the church, was broken in two places, the altar was overthrown and several icons were hurled to the ground. Several people were wounded, two tried to poison themselves. One woman tried to save her child by throwing it through the window, but the man outside who caught this child in his arms was wounded by a bullet in the stomach. You can imagine what a huge impression this made on all the witnesses. It especially shocked the Russians, who were in now way expecting such behaviour from American soldiers. Up to that point they had seen in them only help and support. The American authorities have always shown respect and goodwill to Russian churches and church organizations. Many Russians strove to get into the American zone of occupation because of their hope of being defended by the valorous American army… The Russian people consider the tragedy in Kempten to be an isolated case, which took place because of a misunderstanding. They firmly believe that nothing like will ever happen again. They hope that benevolent help will be given to them as before. They are convinced that the victorious American Army, the Army of a country which is glorified by its love for freedom and humanity, will understand their desire to defend their finest national and religious ideals, for the sake of which they have been suffering for more than 25 years. We joyfully note that we, Russian émigrés in Europe, are not alone in this respect. We have recently received news from the bishops of our Church in the United States that they have not agreed to recognize the newly elected patriarch in Russia. They consider that it would be incompatible with their feeling of dignity and with their priestly conscience to be in subjection to an institution that is under the complete control of the Soviet government, which is trying to use it for its own ends. The voice of our brothers speaks about the convictions of their numerous flock in the USA… We are strengthened in the belief that we stand on the right path in defending our independence from the Muscovite ecclesiastical and political authorities until the establishment of a new order in our country that is based on the principle of true democracy, that is, freedom, brotherhood and justice. In obtaining a glorious victory together with its allies, and in pushing its frontiers forward, Russia could become the happiest of countries, if only if returned to a healthy political and social life. Being convinced that the victory of eternal truth will finally triumph, we continually pray that better days come for her, for Russia, and that peace and prosperity may be established throughout the world after the days of war have passed…”[xl]




     Archbishop Averky witnesses that “Vladyka Metropolitan never displayed any extremism in anything, but always behaved with complete dignity, as a true Hierarch of God.”[xli] This quality is particularly evident in his handling of the extremely difficult political situation that confronted him during the period of the Third Reich. As a Russian Orthodox archpastor, he longed more than anything for the liberation of his country from the Bolshevik yoke, and was completely consistent in his unrelenting condemnation of Bolshevism. But he did not fall into the extreme of supporting the Nazis unreservedly. On the contrary: he supported them only so long as they supported Orthodoxy, but never flattered them and never supported their cruel excesses, and sincerely welcomed their defeat at the hands of the western allies.


     However, the same lack of extremism cannot be attributed to Vladyka Anastasy’s opponents, and especially to the Moscow Patriarch who hypocritically accused him of sympathising with the Nazis while himself cravenly bowing down to the most evil and destructive of tyrants, calling him “the chosen one of the Lord, who leads our fatherland to prosperity and glory”. Indeed, the MP’s cult of Stalin knows no parallel in Christian history, and Metropolitan Anastasy was telling no more than the sober truth when he wrote that this was the point “where the subservience of man borders already on blasphemy. Really – can one tolerate that a person stained with blood from head to foot, covered with crimes like leprosy and poisoned deeply with the poison of godlessness, should be named ‘the chosen of the Lord’, could be destined to lead our homeland ‘to prosperity and glory’? Does this not amount to casting slander and abuse on God the Most High Himself, Who, in such a case, would be responsible for all the evil that has been going on already for many years in our land ruled by the Bolsheviks headed by Stalin? The atom bomb, and all the other destructive means invented by modern technology, are indeed less dangerous than the moral disintegration which the highest representatives of the civil and church authorities have put into the Russian soul by their example. The breaking of the atom brings with it only physical devastation and destruction, whereas the corruption of the mind, heart and will entails the spiritual death of a whole nation...[xlii]


[ii] A.K. Nikitin, Polozhenie russkoj pravoslavnoj obschiny v Germanii v period natsistskogo rezhima (1933-1945) (The Position of the Russian Orthodox Community in Germany in the Nazi Period (1933-1945), annual theological conference PSTBI, Moscow, 1998; Monk Benjamin, Letopis’ Tserkovnykh Sobytij (1928-1938) (Chronicle of Church Events (1939-1949)), part 3,, part 2, p.71.

[iii] G.M. Soldatov, personal communication.

[iv] G.M. Soldatov, personal communication.

[v] Poslanie k russkim pravoslavnym liudiam po povodu ‘Obraschenia patriarkha Aleksia k arkipastyriam i kliru tak nazyvaemoj Karlovatskoj orientatsii’ (Epistle to the Russian Orthodox people on the ‘Address of Patriarch Alexis to the archpastors and clergy of the so-called Karlovtsy orientation), in G.M. Soldatov, Arkhierejskij Sobor Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi Zagranitsej, Miunkhen (Germania) 1946 g. (The Hierarchical Council of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad at Munich in 1946), Minneapolis, 2003, p. 13 ®.

[vi] Soldatov, op. cit., p. 12, footnote 9.

[vii] Soldatov, op. cit., pp. 12-13.

[viii] M. Nazarov, Missia russkoj emigratsii (The Mission of the Russian Emigration), Moscow, 1994, vol. 1, p. 266; in  Monk Benjamin, Letopis’ Tserkovnykh Sobytij (1938-1948) (Chronicle of Church Events (1939-1949)), part 3,, part 3, p. 5 ®.

[ix] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 1.

[x] M.V. Shkarovsky, in Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 14-15.

[xi] On the day the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, writes M.V. Shkarovsky, “a search was carried out in the residence of Metropolitan Anastasy [in Belgrade]… [and] searches in the chancellery of the Hierarchical Synod and in the flat of the director of the synodal chancellery G. Grabbe… During the search the clerical work of the Synod and many other documents were taken away to Germany for study. In 1945 they were acquired by the Soviet armies and are now in Moscow, in the State archive of the Russian federation…” (Natsistskaia Germania i Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’ (Nazi Germany and the Orthodox Church), Moscow, 2002, p. 193; in Soldatov, op. cit., p. 12). (V.M.)

[xii] Averky, Zhizneopisanie Blazhennejshago Mitropolita Anastasia (A Life of his Beatitude Metropolitan Anastasy), in Troitskij Pravoslavnij Russkij Kalendar’ na 1998 g. (Trinity Orthodox Russian Calendar for 1998), Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, pp. x-xi ®.

[xiii] Solzhenitsyn, The Mortal Danger, London: The Bodley Head, 1980, pp. 39-40.

[xiv] Krasikov, “’Tretij Rim’ i Bol’sheviki” (The Third Rome and the Bolsheviks), in L.M. Vorontsova, A.V. Pchelintsev and S.B. Filatov (eds.), Religia i Prava Cheloveka (Religion and Human Rights), Moscow: “Nauka”, 1996, p. 203 ®.

[xv] Averky, op. cit., p. xi.

[xvi] Tserkovnaia Zhizn’ (Church Life), 1942, ¹ 4; Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 41.

[xvii] Synodal Archive of the ROCOR in New York, d. 15/41, l.27-30; Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 44.

[xviii] Richard Overy, Russia’s War, London: Penguin Books, 1999, p. 162.

[xix] Cited in Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin, London: Harper Collins, 1991, p. 801.

[xx] Cited by W. Alexeyev and T. Stavrou, The Great Revival, Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co., 1979, pp. 60-61.

[xxi] I. Altman, Kholokost i evrejskoe soprotivlenie na okkupirovannoj territorii SSSR (The Holocaust and Jewish resistance in the occupied territories of the USSR); Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 34.

[xxii] M.V. Shkarovsky, Pravoslavie i Rossia (Orthodoxy and Russia); Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, pp. 41-42.

[xxiii] Archbishop Athanasius (Martos); Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 45.

[xxiv] Synodal Archive of the ROCOR in New York, d. 15/41, l.27-30; Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, pp. 45-46.

[xxv] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, pp. 63-64.

[xxvi] G.M. Soldatov, personal communication.

[xxvii] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, pp. 64-65; M.V. Shkarovsky, RPTsZ na Balkanakh v gody Vtoroj Mirovoj Vojny [The ROCOR in the Balkans in the years of the Second World War]; Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), Arkhierejskij Synod vo II Mirovuiu Vojnu [The Hierarchical Synod in World War II]. 

[xxviii] Soldatov, op. cit., p. 13.

[xxix] Soldatov, op. cit., pp. 12, 13; Averky, op. cit., p. xi..

[xxx] I.L. Solonevich, “Rossia v kontslagere” (Russia in the concentration camp), Volia naroda (The Will of the People), November 22, 1944; Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, pp. 78-79.

[xxxi] Nabokov, in B. Boyd, Nabokov: The American Years, London, 1992, p. 85.

[xxxii] Eulogius, Puti moej zhizni (The Ways of My Life), p. 613; in Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 81.

[xxxiii] Soldatov, op. cit., p. 14.

[xxxiv] Monk Benjamin, op. cit., part 3, p. 94.

[xxxv] Shumilo, “Sovietskij Rezhim i ‘Sovietskaia Tserkov’’ v 40-e-50-e gody XX stoletia” (The Soviet Regime and the ‘Soviet Church’ in the 40s and 50s of the 20th Century), ®.

[xxxvi] On these “Vlasovites”, see Joachim Goffman, Vlasov protiv Stalina (Vlasov against Stalin), Moscow, 2005 ® (V.M.).

[xxxvii] Soldatov, op. cit., p. 11, footnote 6. However, Shumilo (op. cit.) gives a still higher figure: “at the end of the war, with the cooperation of the governments of the western allied countries, more than 6 million ‘Soviet’ prisoners of war, ‘Osty’ workers, refugees and émigrés were forcibly repatriated to the U.S.S.R. up to 1948. The majority of them perished within the walls of Stalin’s NKVD.”

[xxxviii] Ardov, “Avoiding participation in the Great Victory Services”, sermon given on May 8, 2005, Vertograd, May 18, 2005; translated in The Hoffman Wire, May 18, 2005. Shumilo writes: “Under the pretext of restoring ‘socialist legality’ whole families, and even settlements, were sent to Siberia, mainly from Western Ukraine, Belorussia and the Baltic region. By the end of the 40s, Soviet Marshal Zhukov had ordered the forcible removal from Western Ukraine to Siberia, Kazakhstan and other regions of more than 600,000 people” (op. cit.). Alexander Yakovlev writes that during the war the authorities executed 157,000 Red Army soldiers (the equivalent of fifteen divisions) and almost a million were arrested (A Century of Russian Violence in Soviet Russia, Yale University Press, 2003).

[xxxix] A. Soldatov, Vertograd, May 18, 2005; Archbishop Savva (Raevsky), “Lienz”, Orthodox Life, vol. 56, ¹ 4, 2005, pp. 2-8.  

[xl] Prot. A. Kiselev, Oblik gen. A.A. Vlasova (The Face of General A.A. Vlasov), appendix VI ®; Monk Benjamin, op. cit., vol. 3, pp. 90-93.

[xli] Averky, op. cit., p. xi.

[xlii] I.M Andreyev, Is the Grace of God present in the Soviet Church? Wildwood, Canada: Monastery Press, 2000, pp. 32-33 (with some changes in the translation).