Религиозная организация
Русская Древлеправославная Церковь

THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN ANCIENT ORTHODOX CHURCH. P 1.

THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RUSSIAN ANCIENT ORTHODOX CHURCH. P 1.

THE BRIEF HISTORY OF

THE RUSSIAN ANCIENT ORTHODOX CHURCH 

P 1

The second edition

To mark the 100th anniversary of

Saviour’s Transfiguration

Cathedral Church 

Moscow 2010

This booklet contains materials concerning:

– the history of schism in the Russian Church in the XXVII century;

– spiritual life of the Ancient Orthodox Christians during the period ofabsence of bishops;

– search for and finding of bishops of the same faith to restore thethree-level hierarchy;

– the modern life of the Russian Ancient Orthodox Church in the modernworld.

This booklet shall be beneficial for all those who wish to learn thetrue history of the Ancient Orthodox Church. 

«And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee… to humble thee, and to prove thee, toknow what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, orno” (Deuteronomy 8, 2).

»Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: askthy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee” (Deuteronomy32, 7).

The Orthodox Faith adopted in Russia in thelate Х century A.D. by Equal of the Apostles Great Prince St. Vladimir broughtmagnificent fruit and was decorated with numerous saints.

The Russian Church, at first as a metropole ofthe Church of Constantinople and later as an independent Church, i.e.autocephalous, was in unity with the entire Ecumenical Orthodoxy. The historyof its development, just as the history of Russia, witnessed numerous hardships:invasions of enemies, civil disorders, various heretical insults. But theRussian Church guided by God always overcame all these hardships with honour,both at the time of Kievan Russia and the time of Moscovite Russia because theChurch’s loyal sons defended the authenticity of the Orthodoxy.

In Russia there were times when the supremehierarchy of the Russian Church either fell into heresy or encouraged it, forexample, at the time of Judaizers’ heresy during the Florentine Union when thePapists intended to install Catholicism in Russia. At that time the civilauthorities in the person of an Orthodox tsar together with holy fathers ofRussia raised their voice to protect the Orthodox Faith. Also, there were timeswhen archpriests of the Russian Church sacrificed their life for the Truth,just as Metropolitan Philipp and Patriarch Germogen, leading the Russian peopleand secular rulers to the path of godliness and fulfilment of God’sCommandments. Hundreds of God’s pleasers shone in the Russian Church. Theirrighteous life and prayers strengthened the Orthodoxy in the Russian state andRussia became Holy.

But in the course of time, upon the devil’sinstigation, the negligence to piety grew up and the holiness in Russiadiminished. The things that seemed to be unthinkable of became usual andhabitual and lead to a great disaster. While at the Great Stoglav Council in1551 and during installation of the Patriarchate in 1589 the Russian Churchopenly asserted itself as a full-fledged successor of the earthly greatness ofancient Christian thrones of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, andJerusalem, in just several decades the Russian Church turned out to bedesecrated and laughed at both by its hierarchy and hierarchs who came from theformerly glorious and Orthodox East.

The enemy of the human race, the devil,instigated power-seeking thoughts in both Patriarch Nikon and King AlexeyMikhailovich. One thought himself to be equal to the Ecumenical Patriarchs,while the other – to emperors of Byzantium. And such «oddity”, according tothem, as the difference of the Russian Liturgical Rite from the Rite of theGreeks and the Ukrainians amended under the influence of Catholicism andReformation should not be an obstacle in establishment of the Orthodox Empire.Russia was upheaved, an unprecedented event occurred! All matters that had beenfundamental for the Russian spiritual conscience, according to the clerical andsecular authorities, turned out to be „incorrect” and “unfair” which should beimmediately amended.

Practically all theological texts, even theNicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of the Orthodox Faith, were subjected toilliterate amendments by reformers. The newly printed books published at thattime had numerous amendments in texts of canonical prayers made by Nikon’scorrectors. It often happened that such amendments were not just philologicallyilliterate but blasphemous, too. Liturgical Canons were also amended, and all ordersof service were changed. Even the two-finger sign of the cross, so habitual tothe Russian Christians inherited from ancient holy fathers, was accused ofheresy by reformers and was replaced with the three-finger sign of the crosswhich at that time was widely spread in the East.

The Roman Catholic Church initiated this novelty.In the XIII century Pope Innocent III (1161—1216), a hangman and an infanticide,wrote: „One shall make the sign of the cross with three fingers for it is done tocall up the Trinity about which the prophet says: «Who holds the earth withthree fingers?»1.

Pope Innocent III is known for the fact that in1215 he established the church tribunal, “holy” inquisition, and some timebefore, in 1212, he organized the so-called „Children Crusade” which took awaythousands of children’s lives. It was Pope Innocent who organized the IVCrusade aimed against the Orthodox Christians of the East. After a long siegein 1204 crusaders occupied the stronghold of the Eastern Orthodoxy, Constantinople,and, as a result of three days of robbery and murders, they almost fullydestroyed the city. Crusaders-robbers established the Latin empire and the Popeordained a Catholic patriarch of Constantinople. The three-finger sign of thecross came to the East with crusaders-heretics and gradually proliferatingamong Eastern Christians finally it fully forced out and replaced the ancientapostolic tradition of the two-finger sign of the cross.

Similar rationalisations were the fundamentalof the majority of other novelties of Patriarch Nikon, yet, it could not bedifferent since major assistants of Nikon in the case of carrying out clericalreforms were either Latin heretics or absolute villains.

Ardent supports of the Orthodox righteousnessimmediately opposed the vicious intentions and actions of Nikon — reformer. Hopefulof support of King Alexey Mikhailovich they submitted a petition to him wherethey stated the differences of Nikon’s novelties to the ancient Orthodox Rite.However, the king provided all possible support to the reformer Patriarchalthough from the very beginning he knew about those things which he devised.Various oppressions fell upon priests, adamant followers of the Orthodox Faith,both from the clerical and secular authorities.

To establish some canonical foundation for hismalicious plot on “correction” of the Orthodox faith which had existed inRussia since ancient times Patriarch Nikon summoned a council in 1654 whichruled to amend service books in accordance with ancient Greek and Slavicmanuscripts. Being afraid of their mundane wellbeing practically all seniorhierarchs of the Russian Church supported Nikon’s decision. Only Bishop ofKolomna Pavel openly spoke at this council against these ideas of the reformer patriarch.For such deeds he was beaten by the patriarch’s servants, Nikon tore away arobe from him and, without a ruling of a council’s court, having defrocked himof his bishop’s rank, Nikon sent him to a northern monastery under severesurveillance where this confessor bishop was tortured to death having sufferedpersecution and torment. According to the legend, he was burnt alive byexecutors sent by Nikon.

»Reformers” also dealt away with otheradvocates of the patristic faith: archpriest Avvakum was exiled to Siberia,archpriest Daniil was defrocked and exiled to Astrakhan, archpriest John Neronovwas put under strict monastic surveillance. Many and many supports of theOrthodox faith were punished in a similar way.

Later, Patriarch Nikon who became toopretentious turned out to be no longer needed by Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich whogrew older and Patriarch Nikon also found himself in disgrace.  But his reforms got second wind supported byvarious adventurers and vagabonds from the East as the devil intended to ruinthe Orthodox faith in Russia through them. For some time the Christians livedwith a hope that things would come round, that the secular authorities would understandtheir injustice towards advocates of theancient godliness. However, the councils of reformers held in 1666 and 1667which ruled on numerous severe reprimands and condemnations against the ancientOrthodox traditions, just as all subsequent actions to teach the «true” faithto Russian Christians, made it quite clear that Holy Russia as a symphony ofthe Orthodox people and the Orthodox authorities was gone. Indeed, since thattime Orthodox Russia became hidden, just like the legendary city of Kitezh.

In their savage diabolic rage reformers dealtaway with advocates of the true faith. Ancient Orthodox Christians were burntalive, beheaded, their tongues were cut, their nostrils were torn, their ribswere broken by pincers, they were quartered, they were frozen alive. What madeit all the worse is that new ritual hierarchs who, without exception, supportedthe church reforms of Patriarch Nikon inspired and blessed secular authoritiesto do such bloody genocide, thus, it is quite fair to apply to them the wordsspoken by holy fathers of the VII Ecumenical Council about hierarchs –iconoclasts: „They robbed and put todisorder our churches. At the sametime they were heresiarchs and hierarchs; they proclaimed discourse to peopleinstead of peace, they planted chaff instead of wheat in church lands; theymixed wine with water and gave this harmful mixture to the neighbour. Beingreally Arabian wolves they pretended to wear sheepskin and supported the liesby distorting the truth”2.

Saint Philipp, Metropolitan of Moscow, thewonderworker, once pronounced prophesy about such overall retreat from theOrthodoxy of bishops and church widowhood: “Fortime shall come when the Church accepts widowhood, and clergymen, likemercenaries, shall be despised. And nobody’s service shall be kept immaculate”3.

A many-years siege and desolation of the mostglorious Orthodox monastery, Solovetsky monastery, which brethren refused tosubordinate to ‘novelties’ of Nikon became denunciation of Tsar AlexeyMikhailovich and new ritual hierarchy to God. After eight years of the siege,on January 22nd, 1676, the mercenaries broke into the holy monasteryand with merciless cruelty dealt away with monks. About 400 monks of Solovetskymonastery lost their lives when they were hanged, drowned in ice holes andbeheaded on scaffold.

On April 14th, 1682, archpriestAvvakum, priest Lazarus, deacon Fyodor, monk Epiphaniy were burnt alive in awooden house. Boyar Morozova who was ordained to monasticism beforeimprisonment and her sister, Princess Evdokia Urusova, gained the wreath ofmartyrs for the ancient Orthodox faith. After severe torture they were starvedto death in an underground prison. The history kept the names of just the mostknown advocates of the ancient godliness while there were many thousands ofother Christians who suffered for the true Orthodox faith.

In 1685, upon request of Patriarch Joachim,Tsarevna Sofia adopted a special law against the ancient Orthodox Christians, 12punitive articles, which proclaimed advocates of the ancient Orthodox faith asdissenters and opponents of the church for which they would be sentenced tohorrible punishments. Even those who did not openly profess the ancient Orthodoxfaith were supposed to be ordered to punishment by lashing with subsequentexile. One of the articles said that the ancient Orthodox Christians whobaptised those who were allegedly baptised by the new ritual church (forexample, „baptised” by pouring) “were tobe sentenced to death without any mercy” even if they repented4.

It is necessary to explain that the new ritualcouncil of 1667, apart from various novelties, also ruled to cancel the churchrule about adoption of Catholics to the Church by baptism, thus, equalising theOrthodox baptism by triple immersion with heretical pouring. Naturally, afterthis council a vicious practice started spreading in the ruling church toperform baptism in accordance with the Catholic tradition, i.e. by pouring orsprinkling. This Latin and Protestant tradition was brought to Russia byarchpriests and priests from Little Russia and the Balkans who literallyflooded the Russian country in the last ten years of the XVII century. Withoutdoubt, the ancient Orthodox Christians did not consider baptism by pouring aslawful, fully disregarded it and performed baptism over those who had beenbaptised by pouring and wished to join the Church by full triple immersion inwater and put themselves to deadly threat of being executed without any mercyfor doing so in accordance with 12 articles of Tsarevna Sofia.

Patriarch Joachim issued a decree after thesearticles of Tsarevna Sofia: „See to itthat dissenters shall not live in districts and forests, and if they appearanywhere they shall be exiled, their houses shall be destroyed and theirproperty shall be sold and the money shall be brought to Moscow”.

Due to such sever persecutions and ostracismadvocates of the ancient Orthodox Church were forced to leave towns and villagesand go to deep forests of Zavolzhie and Pomorie, Siberia, areas near rivers ofDon, Terek and Yaik populated by Cossacks. Ancient Orthodox Christians ran awayfrom their Motherland Russia to Poland and the Osman Empire. As some timepassed, through the grace of God and enormous work done by the first ancientChristian settlers, unique spiritual fortresses of the ancient Orthodox faithwere established, such as Kerzhenets, Vyg, Starodubie, Vyatka. Those who didnot accept reforms of new ritual followers but remained loyal to the Orthodoxfaith started gathering in these places remote from the centre of the country!They were monks and the secular clergy, craftsmen and peasants, merchants andthe military, noblemen and princes. This host of Christians brought togetherinto the Russian “pre-schismatic” world started to live separately from thesecular and ecclesiastical authorities of the Russian state. Naturally, suchstate of affairs was not accepted by reformers since preachers of the ancientfaith strongly influenced on that part of the Russian people who only seeminglysubordinated to reforms of Nikon and the Moscow Councils of 1666-1667 but theirhearts were on the side of the patristic faith.

Real military operations were carried outagainst Ancient Orthodox Christians with the purpose of destruction of centresof „ancient godliness” and corporal punishment of the most valuable pastors.Ecclesiastical and secular authorities were especially merciless in Zavolzhie.Ardent ‘nikonian” Pitirim, Metropolitan of Nizhny Novgorod, encouraged dispatchof a punitive squad to Kerzhenets. This event went down into history under thename of the “Kerzhenets desolation”. Similar military expeditions were sent toPomorie and the Don River. Following the example of the Catholic inquisition AncientOrthodox Christians were executed by burning.

But the devil dealt a fiery blow on Christiansnot only from the outside, alas, preachers, the so-called „burners”, appearedfrom Ancient Orthodox Christians. Seeing the anger of Christians caused byreformers and seduced by a false idea they started calling up their children toburn themselves as an act of voluntary martyrdom for the faith of Christ. Smallmonasteries and preaching houses with Russian people caught fire. Having hiddenthemselves from persecutors Christians set fire on themselves hoping to keeptheir godliness in this suicidal fire. They burnt themselves out of grievousevents through simplicity of their hearts having believed in teachings ofpreachers-burners who themselves were caught in the nets of diabolic craftiness.The church could not put up with this fiery madness and people who turned outto be immune to the influence of this diabolic seduction raised their voiceagainst preachers of suicide. Such burning was condemned as only God is theMaster of life and death and only He decides on a man’s life or death.

Some tenyears after the schism in the Russian Church Ancient Orthodox Christians facedyet another problem: priests who were ordained before the schism departed tothe heavens. Christians at that time had no bishop loyal to the AncientOrthodox faith, thus, nobody was available to ordain new priests instead ofageing and dying priests who were ordained before the schism. Then, using themulti-century experience of the Universal Church which was in acceptance ofpriests who were ordained by heretical bishops in some exceptional, speciallyconsidered cases it was ruled to accept priests in the current rank who decidedto join the Ancient Orthodox Church from the new ritual church. For example, inVyatka, in 1695, monk-priest Theodosius Vorypin, one of the last priests atthat time who was ordained before the schism received into communion twopriests, Alexander from Rylsk and Gregoriy from Moscow, who were ordained bynew ritual bishops establishing in this way a new rule for accepting others.

Since the Church at that time lived through aperiod of persecution faithful Christians were dispersed, the Churchcentralisation, i.e. the united church management, was absent, Ancient OrthodoxChristians failed to come to agreement about the rite of acceptance of newritual priests. In some communities new ritual priests were accepted byointment while other communities only asked new ritual priests to condemnheresies to accept them. This difference in the rite caused periodical disputesbetween communities, “however, there wereno divisions between them, and neither party ever objected to the rite ofaccepting priests in any way. And they jointly lived in peace between them likebrothers”5.

However, to great regret, not all AncientOrthodox Christians remained faithful to the truth. At the time of severepersecutions many Christians were caught in the nets of various false teachingswhich proclaimed quick end of the age. They declared „new” dogmas of the faith:establishment of the spiritual kingdom of antichrist in the earth and imminentdepletion of priesthood and all other Church Sacraments established by Christ.Thus, in 1694, in Novgorod, at one of their meetings they made an oath anddeclared: “we establish the followingteaching and we make an oath to keep for ever the established rites and canons. Amen. 1st: Undoubtedly, webelieve and teach others that because of our suns we have lived until the endof time, and now antichrist rules the world but rules spiritually (invisibly)in the visible church sitting on the throne of Living God under the name ofanother Jesus passing himself off as God and by doing so desolating the Churchof God with the help of antichrist’s host. He destroyed all of the Church’ssacraments and befouled all holy things и established his novelties”.

Ancient Orthodox Christians did not acceptthese new dogmas which had been unknown before, they had a firm belief thatChrist’s priesthood would not be destroyed, rather it would be preserved andstay for ever by paths provided by God: „AsHe Himself (Christ) never dies, so His priesthood under the order of Melchizedeknever dies for it is written that you are a priest for ever after the order ofMelchizedek. The order of Aaron died as a temporary one while Christ’spriesthood came to be for ever” (the Book of Cyril, page 78). And truly so,despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of priests firmly acceptedNikon’s reforms, nevertheless, many priests ordained in the new ritual churchbeing caring and attentive to their salvation and understanding the antagonismof reforms to the previous godliness of Russia wholeheartedly wished to acceptthe Ancient Orthodoxy and renounce Nikon’s novelties. According to theSaviour’s words who said: “and him thatcometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John, 6, 37) our ancestorsaccepted with love those priests who ran away from the new ritual church. Afterthey accepted purification and reconciled with the Ancient Orthodox Church viapriests who preserved godliness, Ancient Orthodox Christians gladly submittedthemselves to these priests-newcomers as the true shepherds of Christ’s sheep.

A similar situation was present in the Churchof Christ during the plague of iconoclastic heresy in the VIII-IX centuries. AndSaint Theodore the Studite, answering a question of a certain Stefan, a reader,about his attitude to priests who were ordained in heresy but who returned tothe Church, wrote: „So, let usinvestigate and learn with whom we shall communicate, if he professes the rightfaith, if he was not ordained for money or not, if something even more evil ispresent in his life or what is rumoured about him. But it is true that he,although he received ordination from a heretic, or was ordained for money, isnot himself a heretic and was without his knowledge ordained by someone who hadbeen ordained for money, that is, by a simoniac, and confesses the whole truth,and preserves the faith and the canons unchanged and rejects those who departfrom the one and the other, then we have no basis for separating from him. Forsuch a person is not subject to condemnation, according to the opinion of thesaints – and through them, of all. In such a case we have communion, and we adviseyou to do the same. For if the investigation extends further, then theexhortations of the saints will be rejected, as I said, and the great gift ofthe priesthood becomes vain with the help of which we become Christians. Thus, we may fall into heathendom which issenseless… Priesthood would be destroyed in this way, so, to prevent it, weshall observe the above mentioned rule according to the saints”6.  

Martyr archpriest Avvakum believed in eternityand preservation of the Orthodox priesthood, the Sacrament of Communion to theBody and the Blood of Christ and all other Sacraments of the Church. In hisepistles he tried to bring to reason in a father-like manner those who dared toprofess the opposite: “May God save you,the Church children, for you stay away from false brethren. May God accept yourprudence, but your thoughts about priesthood and the Eucharist are not prudent.You say: they are gone, do not fear, the light shall not be gone even duringthe rule of antichrist. The Body of Christ, It shall stay forever. But it isnecessary to study the priesthood, for numerous false prophets and falsechrists are sons of the hell, they pass themselves for apostles of Christ. Butyou have a sensible soul, if a priest performs services in the right way,according to the ancient Orthodoxy, under books printed during PatriarchFilaret, you shall acknowledge it … For the devil instigated you and you startto deny priesthood and sacraments like Lutherans and Calvinists. My friends,you walked into the depths of vice. Gather your hearts! For even the devilhimself cannot destroy the holy sacraments, even more so the antichrist withhis brood. Our Lord said to His disciples: „I am with you always, even unto theend of the world. Amen”. Our Head is Christ, the true King and Primate, Heshall never allow for destruction of Holiness? Children of God, have no doubtsabout it! For even if the priesthood is expelled, it shall never die completely”7.

However, despite the teaching of saints, therewere people who, according to the words of Saint Theodore and Saint Avvakum,were so reckless that, through their spiritual blindness, failed to observe “the above mentioned rule” but, havinglistened to „an enemy who spoke to theirears” forfeited the priesthood rank “withthe help of which we become Christians” and became dissenters renouncingpriests and sacraments like Calvinists and Lutherans. Having entrusted the lifeof their communities into the hands of usurpers from „the laymen”, theso-called mentors, they quickly divided themselves into various groups inimicalto each other. These groups took the names of their founding fathers, forexample, the Danilovtsy after deacon Daniil Vikulov, the Theodosites afterdeacon Theodosiy Vasiliev, the Phillipovtsy after fugitive soldier FotiyVasiliev (Philipp in monasticism) etc., by doing so they likened themselves toancient dissenters who also took the names of their heresiarchs and becameArians, Nestorians, Donatists etc., by doing so these and those people came tobe denunciators of their wrong faith which, according to their names, wastraced down not to Christ but to their fleshly ancestors as God “convicted them of false witness by theirown mouth” (Daniel 13, 61).

While our ancestors, the true children of theAncient Orthodox Church, invariably kept loyalty to the patristic faith guidedby edifying Sacraments of the Church performed by godly priests »who ran away from novelties”.

As a proof we shall write the names of just fewpriests out of those who preserved the truth or recovered it by sincererepentance. These were protopope and martyr Avvakum who was burnt alive,monk-priests: Job Lgovskiy and Dosifei Chirskiy; Ioasaph, Theodosius, and AlexanderVetkovskiy; Dionysus Shuiskiy and Triphyllus Vologodskiy; Sophronios and AlexanderKerzhenskiy. All of these and many other fathers suffered greatly for Christ’sfaith, they were subjected to defamation and persecution, beating and torture.Many of them were executed by the new ritualists for zealous observation of theancient church traditions. But during their doleful life, despite numeroushardships, they lead their congregation to the Kingdom of God by "a narrow path” catechising them in thepure faith and defending them from various heresies and false wisdoms whichwere prolific at that time of persecution in Russia.

It hurt the Ancient Orthodox Christians to lookat the new ritual church. They witnessed degeneration of the patriarch churchinto the synod church. The church actually lost its independence during therule of Emperor Peter the First and became a state «ministry of spiritualaffairs”, and even refused from naming itself the Church and took a new name: „Ministry of Orthodox Faith”. Havingsubordinated itself to the interests of the mortal world represented by a rulingmonarch the synod church entirely and in all possible aspects tried to observea monarch’s will paying little attention to the will of Christ, the Saviour,the Scriptures and the Church Traditions and Canons. However, the attitude ofAncient Orthodox Christians to the new ritual church was not unanimous. Whilein both capitals of Russia and in eparchial cities “Nikonianism” was evidentand aggressive, in provincial Russia until the nineteenth century, quite often,both the clergymen and the congregation performed prayers under before-Nikonbooks, made the sign of the cross with two fingers, walked cum sole andobserved the rules of the Household Management Code Book. That is why theAncient Orthodox Christians sincerely believed that the sorrow of the RussianChurch is temporary, that there is a hope for its resurrection in its formerglory which it had before the church schism. For example, the famous answers ofKerzhenets monks to questions of new ritual bishop Pitirim of Nizhny Novgorodsay: „We passionately wish and ask OurLord to keep Orthodox bishops until the end of the time. And may those who fellaway from the Orthodox faith return to it“8; „If you make the Great RussianChurch as it was before, then we, without any human persuasion, shall find ourselvesin it and without any objection we shall subordinate to you as true pastors.”9 Old ritual Christians of the legendary Vyg,spiritual fathers of all major dissent groups who renounced priests andsacraments, shared their opinion: “We areanxious about joining the current Russian church not because we disregardchurch meetings, not because we defy holy rites, not because we despise church sacraments but because of noveltiesintroduced at the time of Nikon”10.

Since it was impossible at that time of persecutionto summon a council of the entire Ancient Orthodox Church, where, according tocanonical traditions, Orthodox hierarchs, parish clergy and people would make aunanimous and binding ruling on the new ritual church, heresies which took rootthere, the Ancient Orthodox Christians could not make a final ruling on „newritualists”. Even “Nikonians” quite often changed their false views reinforcingsome heresies and denouncing other ones while blurring some other ones makingit quite difficult to make a balanced and sufficiently full ruling about theirfaith. Gradually they acquired Latinism, some forms of protestant teachings andeven some postulates from classical antique philosophy. Finally, it becamequite evident even to new ritualists themselves: „In our theological teachings,– says a famous new ritualist theologian, Professor Alexander PavlovichLopukhin, – there are two on-going traditions which sometimes deviate from theOrthodoxy to even non-Orthodox outlooks, one of them is close to Protestantism,while the other one is close to Roman Catholicism. It is not a new phenomenon.It became quite evident yet at the time when the great reformer tsar brought usclose to the West in public and political relations. Its two famous advocates, TheophaneProkopovich and Stephen Yavorskiy, acted as representatives of these twotraditions, and since that time this dualism was always evident, of course,first of all, in the area of theological thought but it also affected ourentire public life and thought”11. To great regret, understanding of thistheological dualism appeared only much later and due to various circumstancesnever brought positive fruit.

However, deviation of new ritualists from theOrthodox traditions in theology and everyday life was not the same in allplaces. In various regions of the Russian Empire they differed even externally.Yet, it is beyond doubt that despite various changes in the teaching of the newritualist church it remained invariably hostile to the Ancient Orthodox Churchdefying the Ancient Orthodox traditions and proclaiming them as heretical which“slipped into” the life of the Russian Church due to „ignorance” of its formerchildren. As we have already said this hostility resulted in persecutions,unprecedented for their severity and duration, against the Orthodox Christiansfor observation by them of Orthodox canons, Orthodox traditions, the Orthodoxfaith.

As time went on, attitude of Russian rulers toAncient Orthodox Christians eased up somewhat. It was again allowed to livefreely in cities and villages, go into crafts, trade and agriculture; however,it did not mean the end of persecutions. Such persecutions only changed theirform but actually never stopped. Ungodly Emperor, Peter the First, by hisdecree of February 8th, 1716, ruled that our ancestors should besubjected to an unfair and humiliating double personal tax for the love to thepatristic Orthodoxy, for observation of pious church traditions, in particular,for wearing beards: “If there are schismaticanywhere, in all regions, governors shall list both men and women (except for those who live near frontierareas) and, having listed them, subject them to a tax two times more thecurrent one”. Ancient Orthodox Christians were also obliged to wearclothes of a special cut so that they could be easily identified. Thus, havingfailed to destroy Ancient Orthodox Christians during the years of bloodygenocide, the new ritual church and the state authorities which were unanimouswith it decided to put them all under strict surveillance and full control andat the same time rob unscrupulously desolate and humble people without anypricks of conscience.

No doubt, continuing unfair persecutions causeddiscontent with Ancient Orthodox Christians, however, men who remained loyal tothe true faith in accordance with the Holy Scriptures discussed all theseissues and ruled unanimously: „Thegovernment ruled to subject Christians to the double tax for the faith in 1716 and 1722, to wear clothes with specialupright collars. The council ruled: do not object but obey to the authorities”12. It was awise decision for it gave Christians an opportunity to gain spiritual freedom–to have faith and pray to God as their conscience told them – althoughsuffering from material needs due to unfair double tax. The holy church canonsalso say that those who bought off persecutors are worthy of praise: “Against those who have given money that theymight be entirely undisturbed by evil, an accusation cannot be brought. Forthey have sustained the loss and sacrifice of their goods that they might nothurt or destroy their soul, which others for the sake of filthy lucre have notdone; and yet the Lord says, „What is a man profited, if he shall gain thewhole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26) and again, “You cannotserve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24) In these things, then, they have shownthemselves the servants of God, inasmuch as they have hated, trodden underfoot, and despised money, and have thus fulfilled what is written: „The ransomof a man's life are his riches” (Proverbs 13:8) For we read also in the Acts ofthe Apostles that those who in the stead of Paul and Silas were dragged beforethe magistrates at Thessalonica, were dismissed with a heavy fine. For afterthat they had been very burdensome to them for his name, and had troubled thepeople and the rulers of the city, “having taken security”, he says, „of Jason,and of the others, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent awayPaul and Silas by night unto Berea” (Acts 17:9-10)”13. Although the clothesdictated by the authorities had a special cut but its appearance did notcontradict Christian traditions, was modest and quite decent.

Subsequent rulers of the Russian state afterinfamous Emperor Peter the First paid little attention to particularities ofthe Russian church life, they were either foreigners or were brought up byCatholic and Protestant teachers. So, followers of priest-free groups wereunderstandable to them in their particular aspects of religion and lifementality as they were externally similar to various Protestant sects. However,their attitude to Ancient Orthodox Christians was very apprehensive and oftenhostile. The “Orthodox” empire could hardly put up with the fact that, apartfrom the ruling „Nikonian” Church in Russia there was the Ancient OrthodoxChurch with its clergymen and multiple congregations.

An important event happened in the life of theAncient Orthodox Church during the rule of Catherine the Great. The Russiangovernment having interest in development of vast areas of the empire decidedto call upon colonists from various countries of Europe to settle in emptylands. European Protestants of various traditions and countries, Germans,Danish, Dutch, were the first to come to develop successfully the fertile landsnear the Don and the Volga.

The Russian government also paid attention tothe Russian people who found themselves outside their motherland against theirwill. Through various promises and, sometimes, even threats and direct militarypressure as was the case with Vyatka settlements, Ancient Orthodox Christians returnedto their motherland which they had left many decades before running away frommerciless violence that threatened them. Welcoming the return of AncientOrthodox Christians to Russia Emperor Peter III gave them a promise that “nobody shall be punished for observation oflaw under their traditions and ancient books”. The Manifest by Catherinethe Great of December 4th, 1762, having confirmed the rights ofChristian settlers, also guaranteed that „nobodyshall be persecuted for not shaving beards or not wearing prescribed clothes”.

God Who provides everything to us is merciful! TheOrthodox Vyatka ruined by tsar troops was revived, new centres of AncientOrthodox faith appeared in Russia: Irgyz, Altai, Zabaikalie. Many AncientOrthodox Christians who sought to attract ordained priests settled in theancient capital of Moscow near Rogozhskaya Gate where a big settlement withAncient Orthodox prayer houses and a cemetery appeared.

Empress Catherine the Great allowed AncientOrthodox Christians in their new settlements openly profess their patristicholy faith. She allowed wearing beards and traditional ancient Russian clothes,joining the merchant class. She also cancelled the double personal tax. Besides,she allowed hierarchs in Ancient Orthodox settlements to perform servicesfreely under “the old faith” while ithad been banned before. In 1769 Ancient Orthodox Christians were returned theright to act as witnesses in a court and in 1785 they received the right to beelected to public offices. Such situation made our ancestors so strong thattsar bureaucrats who witnessed such events wrote inn their reports that „the entire region of Povolzhie returned”to the Ancient Orthodox Church. The largest and most authoritative spiritualcentre of the Ancient Orthodox Church was established right there, inPovolzhie, at Irgyz monasteries during the rule of Catherine the Great.

Catherine limited the powers of the new ritualSynod and justly reproached persecutors for persecutions which members of thesynod and their predecessors previously used against the faithful: “Oats and prohibitions! Against what? Againstobjects which are not just innocent, honest, godly and salvific, but even morereasonable and more elaborate than those stated by the council. Corporalpunishments and executions, whips, lashes,cutting of tongues, fires, ice holes – all these things are against whom?Against people who wish only one thing: remain loyal to traditions and faith offathers!... As for corporalpunishments and civil executions, did not you bless it with council rulingsand, tsars, did not you inspire and insist on punishment and execution of yourown people?”14.

Relatively calm times lasted for AncientOrthodox Christians and during the rule of Catherine’s successors. A decree ofPaul I dated March 12th, 1798, allowed Ancient Orthodox Christiansto build churches all over Russia and since October 27th, 1800, inthe ancient capital, Moscow, too. The Emperor’s decree dated March 18th,1798, actually allowed the freedom of religion in Russia.

Tolerance in religious matters was the basis ofthe rule of Emperor Alexander I. The Emperor banned persecution of AncientOrthodox Christians for their beliefs „concerningthe faith”, allowed to maintain the Ancient Orthodox ranks and traditions,perform church services under the ancient books, but “without any public show of teachings and church services”. For thepurpose of avoidance of „show of schism”Ancient Orthodox Christians could not make procession of the Cross around theirchurches even during the Pascha. Outside the church Ancient Orthodox priestswere not allowed to wear the clothes appropriate to their rank. Christiansmight get together to a common prayer but in such a way so that nobody couldsee them; they could maintain a building for praying but in such a way so that neitherthe building architecture nor the bell ringing could reveal that such buildingwas a church.

However, despite such semi-legal situationAncient Orthodox Christians built a lot: new churches and even new monasterieswith numerous monks appeared. In 1815-1816 chapels with domes and bells werebuilt in Chuguyev, Borovsk, Fatezh, village Kurlova in Kursk province, acharity house with a chapel in Saratov, a nunnery with a church near Saratov.The government allowed to keep all these and other buildings and only orderedto remove domes and bells.

The next year saw a decree which disallowedAncient Orthodox Christians to build chapels, churches, charity houses andmonasteries. However, since this decree had little effect and constructioncontinued, on March 26th, 1822, the government made an additionallaw: “Concerning those schismatic churches which were built a long time ago,no further consideration and investigation may be continued… New constructionis strictly banned”. According to the emperor’s personal order thegovernment assigned to a category of „churchesbuilt a long time ago” all churches which had been built by AncientOrthodox Christians before 1817, so, all churches built after the said yearwere demolished. Thus, the above mentioned governmental decree caused hugematerial and spiritual damage to the Ancient Orthodox Church. But God providedconsolation in this new sorrow – all Ancient Orthodox churches built before 1817received the status of officially allowed, moreover, Ancient Orthodox priestswho joined the Church before 1822 were relieved from any persecution.

After accession to the Russian throne ofEmperor Nicholas the First, all Russian society groaned under the bureaucraticand barrack-type yoke. Ancient Orthodox Christians were the major target ofthis oppression. The government of Nicholas the First ruled to liquidate theAncient Orthodox Church as a phenomenon that did not fit into a harmonicmechanism of the state power. All administrative and police measures were usedto bring to “the bosom of the mother,Greek-Russian Church” these»insensible schismatic run-away priestsand congregations”.

Places which were most precious to the RussianAncient Orthodoxy — monasteries, hermitages, churches and chapels – were dealtaway with. Many of them were desolated and confiscated while construction ofnew ones was strictly prohibited. Irgyz monasteries were desolated andtransferred to coreligionists in 1841. Ancient Orthodox monasteries inKerzhenets suffered the same fate. It was strictly prohibited for hierarchs ofthe Greek-Russian church to pass over to schismatic run-away communities.Priests who dared to violate this decree and persons who assisted in theirtransfer to Ancient Orthodoxy were subjected to criminal punishment. Severepressure was put on merchants-benefactors from Ancient Orthodox Christians todeprive communities of means of subsistence.

Laws enacted in 1846-1847 disallowed AncientOrthodox Christians to purchase into ownership real property and land, to entermerchants’ guilds, to be elected to public offices. Entire Ancient Orthodoxcommunities were put under strict police surveillance. Ancient OrthodoxChristians were deprived of all benefits provided by previous tsars. They wereagain deprived of the majority of civil rights and freedoms, an opportunity toperform religious services openly in their motherland.

Nicholas the First could realise with hisrational cold reasoning expressly inclined to Protestantism that he fought not withsome political organisation but the Church of Christ and it was impossible todefeat it and this fact is proved by numerous examples in the history ofChristianity! Neither atrocities of pagan emperors, nor plots of numerousheretics, nor cruelty of Russian new ritualists could destroy the Church ofChrist, so, Emperor Nicholas the First also failed to do so.

Our fathers had to undergo numerous hardshipsat that time. By violence and threats all over the empire they were told tojoin the so-called co-religionism instituted by 1800 by Moscow metropolitanPlaton (Levshin). Co-religionism was instituted under the model of Brest-LithuanianUnion of hierarchs of the West Russian Orthodox Church made with Catholics in 1596.Just at that time it was allowed to those who fell away from the Orthodoxy intothe Union to perform services under "theEastern ritual” in the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church under fullsubordination to the Roman Pope; so, now, those who joined co-religionism wereallowed to perform religious services under ancient books using ancient ritesand traditions but under obligatory subordination to hierarchs of the newritual church.

Defenders of the Ancient Orthodox Church had tolabour a lot to disclose to the doubtful the crafty plot of the emperor’sauthorities and the new ritual synod, to reveal that the synodic church at thetime of the rule of Nicholas the First helped missionary co-religionism withjust one purpose: to catch souls of simple-minded Christians while consideringit as a preparatory phase for their involvement in the "Nikonian” church.

The founding father of the co-religionism andmulti-year advocate of the secular authorities in the fight against the AncientOrthodox Church, new ritual metropolitan of Moscow, Platon, wrote about thetrue purpose of the co-religionism established by the synodic church: "to have a good hope that such people (AncientOrthodox Christians who joined the synodic church editor’s note) indue time would be enlightened by God and would come to concord without anydivisions”15.

Metropolitan Platon was echoed by his successorat the Moscow new ritual cathedra and one of the major persecutors of theAncient Orthodox Church metropolitan Filaret (Drozdov): "We must be lenient towards them (coreligionists – editor’s note)and spare their old habits hoping thatperfect unity would be supported bytheir children”16. Filaret thought that co-religionism was established not toacknowledge the Ancient Church traditions as the Orthodox ones but just as amanes "to bring the alienated ones closerto the unity with the church and hierarchy”17, while he wrote about pre-schismatic liturgical books and ritesthat such books contain "uncorrectedstatements” and the Ancient Church traditions were allegedly "acquired with mistakes”.

For various reasons some Ancient OrthodoxChristians joined the co-religionism of Nicholas. Some joined co-religionismsincerely believing that in such a way they would participate in the great caseof reconciliation of Christians and overcoming of schism. Some did so becausethey were afraid to lose their earthly profit and privileges. Some – "because of Judaic fear” being afraid ofvarious persecutions and repressions on behalf of "Nikonian” government.

Some people from «deacons” communities and theso-called „factory run away priests” fromthe Urals communities joined co-religionism,however, they did their best to preserve their separation from the Synodhoping that by their example of invariable maintenance of the ancient godlinessthey would manage to correct the entire “Nikonian”church.

Oppression due to forceful acceptance ofco-religionism was reinforced by large-scale „hunt” against Ancient Orthodox priests carried out by Nicholas’government over entire Russia. Dozens of priests were arrested and exiled toremote monasteries-prisons under severe surveillance. Numerous Ancient Orthodoxcommunities, in particular, in the Urals and Siberia, for a long time had no pastoraldirection.

Due to these exceptional circumstances the mostauthoritative and spiritually knowledgeable laymen undertook responsibility forthe life of such communities. Gradually these communities started losing anyconnection with communities of other Ancient Orthodox Christians who stillenjoyed pastoral direction by run-away priests. “After the death (around 1840s) of Father Nicholas, the last priest inthe Urals, and later, after the death of Father Pavel Tulskiy who was favouredby some part of the Urals’ Ancient Orthodox Christians, primarily, someprominent Ancient Orthodox Christiansfrom Yekaterinburg, a large part of this community finally turned from thosewho accepted priests to those who rejected priests, at first seemingly on aprovisional basis due to absolute impossibility to have a priest, but graduallythey got used to be without any priests and started absorbing priest-freeconvictions about onset of the last kingdom of antichrist”18.

Having no possibility to perform the DivineLiturgy they turned their churches into chapels which later gave the name tothis Ancient Orthodox Christian communities. „Thus, the so-called “chapel” accord appeared which actually waspriest-free as some thought but which did not fully sever with their formerfaith and traditions in accordance with which ancestors of „chapel” oldbelievers lived. Until now, beforedeath they receive Holy Sacraments allegedly remaining in a sufficient quantityfrom last priests (since 1830-40s). More than one generation grew and, ofcourse, some part of them died without any pastoral direction, i.e. withoutperformance of Holy Baptism, Holy Anointment, without Wedding Ceremony, withoutcommunion of Holy Gifts, justifying this situation by the onset of kingdom of antichristthat allegedly “destroyed the sacrifice”. And „chapel” priest-free Christians, by communion to the Holy Giftsbefore death, seemingly prove that this “sacrifice” was not destroyed yet. It reflects full uncertainty and internaldisagreements of the chapel accord.”19 Chapel Christians also realised it, that iswhy many of them did not lose hope to regain Ancient Orthodox priests andbishops and together with other Ancient Orthodox Christians participated in thecase of search of a worthy bishop about which we shall dwell upon later.

Both in those years and now the AncientOrthodox Church is sorrowful about separation with beloved brothers in Christ,Ancient Orthodox Christians who call themselves „chapel” ones, and pray to Godto remedy this separation by the ways known to Him so that co-religionistbrothers shall be united in one Church and in the same Holy Sacraments.

Nicholas’ oppression which led to almost completedisappearance of Ancient Orthodox priests with renewed vigour revived in ourChristians the wish to find somewhere a bishop who would share their opinions.No doubt, restoration of Ancient Orthodox episcopate would solve the problem oflack of priests and would remedy burdensome dependence of communities on rarepassages of priests from the ruling church.

Nicholas’ decree of 1832 which stipulated anabsolute prohibition of passage of priests from the synodic church to the AncientOrthodox Church was the last drop that spilled the cup of patience of AncientOrthodox Christians. A Council of the Ancient Orthodox Church was summoned insecret from the government at Rogozhskoye cemetery in Moscow in winter of theyear 1832. Representatives of Ancient Orthodox communities came to the Councilfrom all, even most remote parts of the empire – “from Vyatka, Starodubie, Kerzhenets, Irgyz, Saratov, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Rzhev, Torzhok, Tver, Tula, Borovsk,etc. There were 40 Cossacks from the Don and the Urals among the participants”20.

The subject of the discussion at the Council wasthe situation about Ancient Orthodox priests. Various opinions and suggestionswere voiced concerning possible ways of solving the problem with catastrophiclack of priests. Finally, the Council ruled „to petition about restoration of the previously existingprocedure about acquisition of priests and at the same time find the ways toestablish the hierarch office, also to ask to participate in both affairs SaintPetersburg community, especially the head of this community, Sergey Gromov, andsend deputies to Saint Petersburg with this petition”21. Upon theCouncil’s decision Saint Petersburg Christians “on their side shall petitionto the supreme government for all Ancient Orthodox Christians.”22 

Should restoration of 1822 rules be refused itwas decided „to send authorised delegatesto Turkey and Greece to try to persuade a metropolitan without an office tocome us”23 and by doing so to stop dependency of thechurch hierarchy from irregular passages of priests from the ruling church. Atthe same time the majority of our Christians were still sure “that somewhere in the East there should beunaffected Orthodox faith and hierarchs of ancient godliness. We need to find such country and persuadeone of those bishops to come to take over the „widowed” Ancient Orthodox Churchin Russia.”24 

Merchants Shelaputin, Feodor Rakhmanov, Bokov,and Gorelov were ardent advocates of finding a worthy bishop and asked theCouncil “to petition to the government toprovide a permission to have our own bishop which was promised in the previouscentury and, in case of refusal, to secretly establish Ancient Orthodoxhierarchy/”25 

In May 1832 Irgyz deputy Afanasiy Kochuyev onbehalf of Ancient Orthodox Christians made a petition about restoration ofrules concerning „permitted priests” and submitted it to Moscow Governor-General,Prince Gallitzin, but, as one would expect, this petition was left without anyconsequences. The same petition was made by Saint Petersburg Christians,however, their leader, merchant Sergey Grigorievich Gromov, who was to submitthis petition to the emperor, after consultations with the chief of secretpolice and gendarmerie Count Benkendorf, considered this step as useless.

Having persuaded Gromov not to disturb theemperor with a petition about return of freedoms for Ancient Orthodoxpriesthood Benkendorf advised him how Ancient Orthodox Christians could bypassthe existing severe laws. According to archimandrite of Belaya Krinistamonastery, Gerontius (Leonov), it was Benkendorf who suggested to Gromov toestablish a bishop office abroad and then petition to the emperor “aboutpossible permit of His Imperial Majesty to use churches and ordained priests in accordance with foreign religiouslegislative acts”26.

Despite the fact that Benkendorf actually proposedto Ancient Orthodox Christians to consider themselves voluntarily as members ofa foreign, meaning non-Orthodox, religion and liken themselves by doing so to,for example, Catholics or Protestants, Gromov liked the idea as quiteacceptable and he immediately started to implement it.

It is difficult to provide an unbiasedassessment of these or those events which occurred a long time ago,nevertheless, we shall note about this event that in accordance with such adviceof Benkendorf, an opponent and persecutor of the Orthodoxy, Gromov refused tofulfil the will the Council of the entire Church and by doing so he resorted toself-will and arrogance as the basis for all his further actions.

Only after some years, in 1835, Gromov managedto find a person who, according to his opinion, could implement the idea totravel to Eastern countries to find a bishop who would share outlooks ofAncient Orthodox Christians. The name of this person was Pyotr VasilievichVelikodvorskiy. Absolute confidence in his own importance differed Pyotr fromother men. On the basis of dreams he saw he believed that he was under absolutepatronage of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. He believed himself „to be in some especially close relations tohim”27. And after yet anotherdream in which Saint Nicholas allegedly appeared to him “pointing at his light-emitting omophorion and told him: „look at me and see – just as I am, soothers shall be!.. He jumped from his bed in exaltation and woke up hisfriends and called on them: Oh, my brothers! Wake up now! – Christ’s SanctifierNicholas appeared to me twice and assured me with his holiness”28, nothing could shake him conviction that he allegedlyhad some special assignment from the heavens and that he would act under animmediate direction of the master of heavens”29. Under the influence of this visionary conviction Pyotr alwaysacted with initiative and persistence. Later on several times in his life herelied upon dreams and used his own interpretation of such dreams as the basisfor his most important decisions and actions.

Evidently, Pyotr Velikodvorskiy was not awareof teachings of holy fathers about dreams and their warnings and prohibitions aboutbelieving in dreams.

»For thesake of great virtue, however, let it be sufficient for us not to be in any waypersuaded by any fantasy at all. For dreams are for the most part nothing otherthan the phantoms of deluded thought or again, as I said, the mockery of demons”(Saint Diadochos of Photiki) 30.

«The one who believesin dreams is like the one who pursues his shadow and wants to catch it. Once westart believing demons in dreams they shall sport of us and when we are awake. The one who believes in dreams is inexperiencedwhile the one who does not believe in dreams is really wise”(Saint Abba Isaiah) 31.

We have a testimony by Barsanuphius the Great aboutdreams that repeat several times. He was asked once: „I have heard that if one and the same dream appears to someone threetimes, one should recognize it as true; is this so?” And Saint Barsanuphiusanswered: “No, this is wrong; such adream also one need not believe. He who has appeared once to anyone falsely cando this three times and more.”32

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