NEW YORK: October 7, 2005

The Delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Returns From Escorting the Remains of General Denikin and Ivan Ilyin

At the end of last week, the trip to Russia made by Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany and the delegation of the Russian Church Abroad escorting the remains of General Anton Denikin and Ivan Ilyin concluded. The delegation included Protopriest Pavel Tsvetkov, Senior Priest of the Elevation of the Cross Cathedral in Geneva; Protopriest Peter Holodny, Treasurer of the Synod of Bishops; Priest Serafim Gan, personal secretary of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and Vladimir K Galitzine, Warden of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign at the Synod of Bishops in New York City.

From September 28-October 3, an historic and profoundly symbolic event took place for all Russians who found themselves outside the borders of their Homeland against their will, and for those who for decades were forcibly separated from their Orthodox faith, culture and historical truth. The remains of General Anton I Denikin of the White Army and the ideologue of the White Movement, Ivan A Ilyin, along with those of their spouses, were reburied at Donskoy Monastery in Moscow.

This project was initiated by the Russian Cultural Fund and received the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia, and the approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, lovingly responded to this idea, with the Synod blessing a delegation to participate in every phase of this project. The relatives and executors of the reposed prepared all the documents needed for the reburials, thereby fulfilling the wishes of the loyal sons and daughters of the God-preserved Fatherland to have their bodies being returned to be with Russia and her people.

In 2002 the Russian Cultural Fund began filming "Russians without Russia," the first part of which, "Russian Choice," was devoted to the Civil War, the retreat of the White soldiers and their fates abroad. This movie, which first told the historical truth about the White Movement, its heroes and participants to the Russian people, was broadcast in December 2003, as the first phase in the return to Russia of her warrior-defender and her philosopher.

The grave of General Denikin at St Vladimir Cemetery in Jackson, NJ, was filmed for the movie in March 2002, and in August, the first negotiations began with the local authorities on the reburial of his remains. After overcoming many obstacles, on September 23 of this year, the exhumation of his remains was performed; these were placed into a temporary wooden coffin. The coffin was then sealed in the presence of Russian and French diplomatic consuls.

Over 40 people were in attendance during the exhumation, including representatives of émigré organizations. A pannikhida was performed beforehand by Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov along with other clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and during the exhumation, the local hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, Bishop Gregory, who is retired, served, along with the rector of the cemetery church dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God. Before the opening of the coffin, the cemetery director asked the press and guests to stand back and not to photograph the remains. The sole exception was allowed to the representative of the Russian Cultural Fund, which made photographs for their archives.

Entirely unexpected was the condition of the remains. The director of the local funeral administration warned beforehand that little would survive of the body of a person who died in 1947. As it turned out, the body miraculously survived, in its military uniform, and the familiar features of the White general looked as though he were only recently buried.

On Wednesday, September 28, the coffin was delivered to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign in New York, where at noon a pannikhida was performed with the participation of local representatives of Russian émigré socities, the Synodal men's choir under the direction of the young and talented Peter A Fekula, along with the choir of Sretensky Monastery which had arrived from Moscow the evening before with the Russian delegation. A sermon on the significance of the White Movement and on the historical path of the Russian diaspora was delivered by Priest Serafim Gan before the service began. After the pannikhida in the Synodal Building, a commemorative trapeza was offered during which Protopriest Peter Holodny spoke, as did the director of the Presidential Programs of the Russian Cultural Fund, EN Chavchavadze. The Sretensky Choir also sang spiritual and folk music during the reception. As a display of the friendly and elevated emotion of the day, the cadets and Synodal choir sang the songs "Borodino" and "Veshchii Oleg" together. At the end of the trapeza, the coffin was delivered to St Nicholas Cathedral of the Moscow Patriarchate, where a pannikhida was performed by Bishop Merkury of Zaraisk.

That day, at Resurrection Church in Zurich, a pannikhida was performed for Ivan and Natalia Ilyin by the clergymen of the Moscow Patriarchate. Their remains were then taken to Geneva, where Protopriest Peter Tsvetkov headed a pannikhida at the Elevation of the Cross Cathedral. In his eulogy, Fr Peter emphasized the symbolism of this event, calling it an historical moment in the reconciliation between the people of Russia and the Russian diaspora. The return to Russia of the eminent religious thinker of the Russian diaspora, and the participation of representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and of the Russian Church Abroad shows our willingness to achieve the full unity of the Russian Church, said the Senior Priest of the Cathedral.

His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus prayed during the service, and also shared his thoughts on these events and pointed to the importance of a fuller understanding of Russian history.

On September 29, the remains of Ivan and Natalia Ilyin, and of KV Denikin, who was earlier buried at the Russian cemetery in St-Genevieve-du-Bois of Paris, were sent to St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris, where the body of General Denikin arrived the next day. Here Archbishop Gabriel, Exarch of the Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe, headed the pannikhida. In the overfilled cathedral, Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany prayed, along with Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart, the General's daughter Maria Antonovna Denikina, the Russian Ambassador in Paris, AA Avdeev, representatives of Russian émigré organizations and a multitude of worshipers.

At four o'clock, a reception was held at the Embassy, at which the Ambassador addressed the guests, saying, in part:

"Eminent archpastors, deeply-esteemed Marina Antonovna, dear guests!

"Today is a special day for us: not only we but all the Russian people will remember. This is a joyous day because everything is now coming full circle, though slowly, the difficult process of unification into one nation of scattered families, generations and fates. We gradually emerge from extinction at the hands of the horrible totalitarian system, and we justly rewrite our history, we rewrite it in a good sense. Of greatest importance is that we have embarked upon this path and we pay our respects to our remarkable and great Russian figures, who had laid their lives on the line in the name of Russia' greatness, her unity, in the name of Orthodoxy.

"I remember the day when you, Marina Antonovna, along with Elena Nikolaevna Chavchavadze and Nikita Sergeevich Mikhalkov, came up with the idea of reburying Anton Ivanovich Denikin in Russia. You not only planted this idea in us, this great thought, but you gave to Russia treasured archives and documents relating to the live of Anton Ivanovich, and you authored a book, an honest, remarkable book on your father. It has just been published, and I wish to present it to you all. The book is called 'General Denikin—Memoirs of a Daughter.'

"I extend heartfelt thanks to you, Marina Antonovna, and all the participants of today's celebration."

Then the Sretensky Choir sang Russian folk songs and spiritual compositions.

At the end of the reception, Ambassador Avdeev thanked the staff and servants of the Embassy for their efforts, noting that the great thinker Ilyin, a fervent patriot and ideologue of the White Movement, created an economic plan for the development and benefit of an emancipated Russia, a plan for the education of children and youth of the future Russia. "Ivan Ilyin and Anton Denikin were devoted to Russia with their entire souls. These people were portrayed in Soviet textbooks as traitors, as monsters, and worse than the fascists. We cannot allow such filth to ever stain the pages of Russian textbooks, may they no longer serve as a source of lies and slander. And the transfer of these patriots and heroes back to Russia will help this difficult but unavoidable process."

It is noteworthy that on this day, the President's Envoy to the Central Federal District, GS Poltavchenko, expressed the notion that Lenin's body should finally be removed from the mausoleum and buried.

On October 2, the remains were taken from Paris to Moscow. A special flight of the government's aviation arm to Vnukovo Airport was met by Archbishop Arseny of Istrin, Vicar Bishop of the Moscow Diocese.

An honor guard gave the body of General Denikin a military salute, after which the bodies were taken to Moscow's Donskoy Monastery, where His Holiness Patriarch Alexy performed the consecration of the cornerstone of the Memorial to National Reconciliation and headed the pannikhida at the Monastery's Great Cathedral, after which, in the presence of government representatives, politicians and eminent social figures, the remains of General Denikin, Ivan Ilyin and their spouses were reburied. During the pannikhida, Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany read His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus' greeting, which said in part:

"While making an archpastoral visit to monasteries and parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in Western Europe, I send this greeting to all the participants in the reburial in Moscow of the remains of General Anton Denikin and Ivan Ilyin, and join you in the prayers raised today for the repose of the souls of our national heroes who fought for Russia and our people: one who fought with arms, the other with the power of thought. Both later found themselves abroad, but neither forgot his motherland, their thoughts always directed towards Russia, and they lived for her, as did many Russian émigrés."

The honor guard escorted the remains to their final resting place. Military officers carried 10 battlefield banners brought from Versailles, where they are kept, and the personal arms of the General. After the burial of General Denikin, Ivan Ilyin and their wives, shots of salutation were fired.

The area of the Memorial of National Reconciliation and Concord in Donskoy Monastery now contains the graves of five celebrated Russian émigrés. The first of these was the author Ivan Shmelev.

The following day, at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Archbishop Mark participated in the opening of an exhibited devoted to the life and history of the Polish Orthodox Church.