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Ivan Mikhailovich Andreev

The Trial of Patriarch Tikhon

Patriarch Tikhon's freedom of movement was first restricted in 1919, but his formal arrest and incarceration--first in a monastery, and later in the prison of Moscow's GPU--took place in the autumn of 1922, after the trial of Metropolitan Benjamin, when the Soviet authorities made the following accusations against the Patriarch: 1) that the Patriarch hindered the saving of the lives of those perishing from the famine; 2) that the Patriarch sympathized with the counter-Revolutionary movement during the Civil War, and with his authority supported the actions of emige "counter-Revolutionary" circles (in particular the political aspect of the activity of the Church Council of 1922 in Sremski-Karlovtsi, the so-call Karlovtsi Council). These accusations were totally unsubstantiated and were in no way proven. On the contrary, even in the official press at the time, the Epistles and Appeals of His Holiness the Patriarch were published, from which his ardent desire to save the starving was clearly evident. The principled, apolitical character of Patriarch Tikhon was also well known to all.

Nevertheless, the Soviet regime arrested the Patriarch and organized demonstrations among the benighted masses and riffraff of the populace for the adoption everywhere of resolutions demanding the death sentence for the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Knowing the Soviet regime's methods of "influencing" the populace (even to the point of torturing children before their parents' very eyes), it is no surprise that such "resolutions" began to appear everywhere, in great numbers.

It is sufficient to cite a single example of such a negative and abominable "resolution" to understand the full vileness of the agitation provoked by the government against the imprisoned Patriarch. Thus, for example, such a "resolution," attributed to the peasants of the Zagarskaya Administrative Region (province not indicated), was published in the News of the VTsIK [VTsIK, or Vserossiiskii Tsentral'niy Ispolnitel'niy Komitet, was the All-Russian Central Executive Committee--trans.] (#87 [1824], dated 21 April 1923): "We, non-partisan peasants of the Zagarskaya Administrative Region, having learned that Patriarch Tikhon is to be tried in court in the near future, declare that he is a blood-sucker in a riassa, a counter-Revolutionary and a cannibal. We demand of the Central Soviet authorities that they inflict upon the blood-sucker Patriarch Tikhon a stern and pitiless measure of punishment."

After a series of such "demands from the populace," there appeared in the News of the VTsIK (#90 [1827], dated 25 April 1923) the following remark: "Mass resolutions of the clergy denouncing the Patriarch even before trial as both a traitor to the Church and a counter-Revolutionary criminal, serve as the best answer to the White Guard curs." The well-known Communist Krylenko, assigned to prosecute the case of Patriarch Tikhon, addressing the representatives of provincial organizations gathered in Moscow to submit the "resolutions" of those organizations demanding that the death sentence be imposed upon the Patriarch, said to those assembled: "The fate of citizen Tikhon is in our hands, and you can rest assured that we will not spare this representative of the classes which, over the course of centuries, have oppressed the Russian people, and which to this time have not abandoned their intention to wage war on the sovereign will of the Russian proletariat. The Soviet government has reached the firm decision to respond to these attempts with the most energetic reprisal. It will be pitiless and will show leniency to no one. The proletariat must at all costs maintain the positions it has gained. At the present time, one of the main stages of the war we are waging is the war against religious prejudices and the blind fanaticism of the masses. We have declared war on religion, war against all religious denominations, of whatever kind they are: the Russian people must be freed from the yoke of the latter."

The persecutions and oppression of the Church by the atheist Soviet regime were still not the most terrible trial of the faithful. Such a trial ensued when there appeared within the Church itself a movement started by the traitor priests Vvedensky and Krasnitsky. This movement, known as the "Living Church" or "Renovationism," began to grow after the arrest of the Patriarch, and quickly spread throughout all of Soviet Russia. This was a crop sown even before the Revolution by the liberal intelligentsia. The Revolution perverted the hierarchy of spiritual values. The sacred formula of Orthodox Russian Autocratic National Government, "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality," under which the masses of the people were held in check by the authority of the government, which was responsible before God and the Orthodox Church, was destroyed. Instead of that sacred formula there appeared a wicked, satanic, anti-Christian formula: "the dictatorship of the proletariat," with its demand, "All power to the Soviets."

The supreme spiritual value--religion--was also overthrown. Faith in God was replaced with faith in atheism and materialism. The interests of the whole nation were reduced to the interests of the proletarian and peasant classes. Yet in view of the "backwardness" of the peasant class, the leading role was ceded to the proletariat. And since the entire proletariat was en masse also referred to as "comprehending little," the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was transformed into the Dictatorship of the Bolshevik Communist Party. Yet since the Party as a whole was also acknowledged to be "insufficiently aware," the "dictatorship" passed to the Party's leadership, an organized group of people united by a common atheistic-materialistic Marxist-Communist world-view.

At the head of the Party stood the "leader"--at first Lenin, then Stalin. The leader received absolutely unlimited power. Thus, Orthodoxy (and along with it every higher religious value) was replaced. The Tsar was murdered, and the ideal of Orthodox Autocratic Royal authority was discarded. The falsely-so-called "power of the people" was in fact transformed into a despotic power of a single person over the people, a person responsible to no-one, who confessed no religion or morality. "I will smite the shepherd and scatter the sheep."

After the Shepherd-Patriarch was smitten, the sheep were scattered. There appeared traitorous Judases within the Church itself, and a pack of wolves in sheeps' clothing abetting them. There arose, in the words of the priest Prof. Cyril Zaitsev, "The nightmare of a counterfeit church, which turned out to be, in various places, in possession of nearly all the churches (C. Zaitsev, The Orthodox Church in Soviet Russia [Shanghai, 1947]). The "Living," "Renovationist" church, supported by a Soviet regime that with all its power rained down persecutions, terror and tortures on the "Tikhonite," i.e., the legal, patriarchal Russian Orthodox Church, began to spread all throughout Russia.

Patriarch Tikhon was arrested and isolated from the populace. Yet in spirit the populace was with the Patriarch. In response to the persecutions and martyrdoms, the faithful flock, even though majority of them submitted to the Soviet regime, could not bear the taste of tortures and began to ignore the "Red Church" and decided that it was better not to attend any church than to attend a "church" of traitors. There also appeared confessors, and even martyrs, for the "Tikhonite" Church. When the number of these confessors and martyrs gradually, slowly, yet constantly increased, the Soviet regime decided not to create a "new Hermogen," it abandoned its plan to execute Patriarch Tikhon.

It was decided to use torture, if not physical, then moral, and diabolically clever temptations, to move the Patriarch himself to compromises which he might make personally, from the height (moral and administrative) of his patriarchal throne. On 12 May 1922, even before the Patriarch was entirely deprived of freedom, under circumstances which have yet to be fully explained, Patriarch's Tikhon's consent to a temporary transfer of the supreme administration of the Church to another hierarch was wrested from him.

On that day, a group of clergymen, consisting of Archpriest Vvedensky, the priests Krasnitsky and Kalinovsky, and the precentor Stadnik, presented themselves to the Patriarch at the Metochion of the Holy Trinity Lavra and had an lengthy discussion with him. The gist of the discussion was a demand that Patriarch Tikhon convoke a Local Council, the purpose of which was supposedly to place the Church in good order, and that Patriarch divorce himself entirely from the administration of the Church until the Council reached a decision. As a moral torture intended to "influence" the decision of the Patriarch, the following device was used by this group of "revolutionary clergy": the Patriarch was shown that after the just concluded trial conducted by the Moscow Provinical Military Tribunal (in a case involving opposition to the confiscation of church valuables), eleven men were sentenced to death.

If the Patriarch agreed to the suggestion that he renounce his authority, these eleven men would not be executed. After this torturous conversation, the following was published in the News of the VTsIK: "The group of clergymen demanded of Patriarch Tikhon that he convoke a Local Council to set the Church in good order, and that he divorce himself completely from the administration of the Church. As a result of this conversation, after some hesitation, the Patriarch signed the abdication, transferring his authority to one of the senior hierarchs until the Local Council could be called."

The eleven men who received the death sentence were not executed. The Patriarch appointed the 70-year old Metropolitan Agafangel as his locum tenens. But the Soviet regime refused to allow Metropolitan Agafangel to leave Yaroslavl', and he was subsequently arrested. Not long before the arrest of Metropolitan Agafangel, a delegation from the "Living Church" went to him, promising their support if he would recognize the "Living Church" and participate in its work. The Metropolitan refused and soon after was arrested.

Not satisfied with all they had succeeded in accomplishing as a result of the imprisonment of the Patriarch, early in May of 1923 the Soviet regime convoked a pseudo-Church Council consisting of representatives of the clergy and laity obedient to it. With the help of devices unsurpassed for their cynicism, all unsatisfactory elements at the "elections" at the "Council" were excluded. One of the "resolutions" of this "Council" was the deposition of the Patriarch, merely to enable the Soviet regime to condemn the Head of the Church as a simple layman.

Patriarch Tikhon himself refused to recognize this resolution as legal. To characterize this "red council," as the masses of the faithful referred to it, it is sufficient to quote two passages of its "Appeal." "The Second Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, commencing its labors, sends its thanks to the All-Russia Executive Committee for its permission for the chosen sons of the Church to meet to deliberate imminent questions. Together with these thanks, the Council also sends its greeting to the Supreme Organ of the Workers' and Peasants' Authority, and to V. I. Lenin. Using governmental methods, the great October Revolution is bringing to life the great principles of equality and labor, which are also contained in Christian doctrine."

The greeting concludes with the words: "The Council wishes V. I. Lenin the most speedy recovery of his health, that he may again stand in the vanguard of those who battle for great social truth." The moral authority of those who took part in the "Council" is defined by the following words of one of its principal leaders, Archpriest Vvedensky, which were printed in the News of the VTsIK (#97, 1923): "We must address words of profound gratitude to the government, which, contrary to the slander of emigre whisperers, is not persecuting the Church. In Russia, every person can confess his own convictions. A word of thanks must also be given to the sole authority in the world which does, without believing, that work of love which we who believe do not do, and also to Lenin, the leader of Soviet Russia."

One of the "Conciliar Resolutions" of the "Red Council" was the following: "The people of the Church should not view the Soviet authority as the power of Antichrist. On the contrary, the Council directs attention to the fact that the Soviet authority, using governmental methods, is the only one in the world that is able to realize the ideals of the kingdom of God. For this reason, every believing member of the Church must be not only an honest citizen, but must also strive in every way possible, together with the Soviet authority, for the realization on earth of the ideals of the kingdom of God."

With great sorrow and holy indignation one should note that the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople expressed his solidarity with the Soviet regime regarding the question of the condemnation of Patriarch Tikhon. At the same time, on the part of the Western world, in the person of a whole series of prominent social and political figures in Europe, serious attention was shown the trial and fate of Patriarch Tikhon--attention which did not fail to have an influence on the Soviet regime (see the roster and account of all the Appeals to the Soviet Government lodged by various governments, in The Black Book of A. A. Valentinov [Paris, 1925]).
The proposed trial of the Patriarch, of which all the Soviet newspapers wrote at length, many times, and maliciously, with advance agitation for the death sentence, did not take place. The Soviet regime used the Patriarch's imprisonment to organize a new ecclesiastical authority, the so-called "Living" or "Renovationist" church, which, with the help of propaganda, terror and violence, began to spread throughout the whole country, all the while cruelly and pitilessly persecuting the so-called Tikhonites, i.e. those who remained faithful to His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon.

Reading the newspapers in prison, His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon became increasingly horrified with each passing day, seeing how the "Living Churchmen" and "Renovationists" were taking into their own hands control of all the churches and the entire supreme ecclesiastical authority in Russia. With great sorrow one should not that even prominent hierarchs (e.g., Metropolitan Sergy [Stragorodsky] of Nizhegorod, who at one time had embraced Renovationism, but later repented), were tempted and fell during the time of persecutions.

At that time, the moral tortures to which the Patriarch was subjected in prison were intensified. Before His Holiness was dangled the possibility of disbanding the entire "Red Church" and the easing of the indescribable sufferings of the true believers, if only he would compromise with the atheist regime. The problem that confronted him was: under what conditions is the legalization of the Orthodox Church under a godless and atheistic government possible?

The Patriarch had to use his own prestige and fame as a martyr to sacrifice, if required, all possibilities for the good of the Church, without doing anything to compromise the prestige of the Orthodox Church itself, Christian morality in general, or the mood of the people and clergy of the Church, and without violating the canons of the Church. To this end, in addition to issuing Epistles and Statements acceptable to the Soviet regime, Patriarch Tikhon duly attempted to mollify it by introducing the New Calendar (after this had been done by the Ecumenical Church of Constantinople), to establish around him a Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration which included an agent (a certain archpriest) of the Bolsheviks, and to propose the commemoration of the authorities during the divine services.

But when the hierarchy, clergy and people loyal to the Patriarch refused to accept these measures on the local level, the Patriarch willingly and gladly canceled his directives. Seeing the iniquitous dominion of the Renovationists, achieved with the help of the Soviet regime; seeing the sea of blood, and hearing from every quarter the groans wrested from the faithful during their unbelievable tortures; seeing how, one by one, even the elect were falling and stumbling (e.g., Metropolitan Sergy of Vladimir, later of Nizhegorod, who addressed an archpastoral appeal for all to unite with those who had unconditionally submitted to the Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration of the "Living" "Renovationist" Church), His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon decided to consent to that series of concessions and compromises with the Soviet regime which might have cast a shadow over the moral personality of the Patriarch himself, but which not only did not bring spiritual harm to the Church, but even preserved its spiritual freedom.

His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon agreed to sign an Epistle in which he condemned any infringement of the Soviets' authority, and dissociated himself from all counter-Revolution. On 26 June 1923, a terse statement on the release of the Patriarch from prison was published, stunning everyone with its unexpectedness. In the 29 June 1932 issue of the News of the VTsIK, the Epistle of the Patriarch, which he had issued the evening before, was published, under the heading "Among the Churchly": "To the archpastors, pastors and flock of the Orthodox Church." In it, the Patriarch refused to recognize the sentence pronounced on him by the "Living Church Council," and refuted the accusations made against him by the "Council"; he was innocent of political counter-revolution, since, already by 1919, he had given the Church precise orders not to meddle in politics. "Of course," wrote the Patriarch, "I do not present myself as such a partisan of the Soviet authorities as the Renovationists declare themselves to be, nor am I such a counter-revolutionary as the "Council" presents me." Here the Patriarch declares: "I resolutely condemn all infringement against the Soviet authorities, from wherever it might come."

The moment of His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon's emergence from prison made an impression on its eyewitnesses. "A crowd of many thousands had long poured in, filling the whole square around the prison. A carriage stood beyond. A large force of the secret police on either side of the crowd formed a corridor from the gates of the prison to the carriage. After a long wait, the gates opened and the Patriarch appeared. His hair was long, disheveled, gray; his beard was matted; his eyes were deeply sunken in a gaunt face; an old soldier's greatcoat was wrapped around his naked body. The Patriarch was barefoot." Shaken, the crowd of many thousands fell to their knees as a single man and made a prostration. Slowly, the Patriarch walked to the carriage, blessing the crowd with both hands, and tears flowed down his ravaged face." The people greeted His Holiness the Patriarch with tears of great, inexpressible joy.

Only to a small degree was the joy dimmed by the fact of the Patriarch's "repentance" before the Soviet regime, which the newspaper began to exaggerate intensively. The people understood the motives which moved the Patriarch to sign such a "paper," and they did not accord it any significance, understanding perfectly, without being told, that this was really only a "paper" which to no extent essentially defined either the Patriarch's relationship to the Soviet regime or the relationship of the Soviet regime to the Patriarch.

The freeing of the Patriarch was a great historical event in the history of the much-suffering Russian Orthodox Church. There are no words to express the universal exultation of the faithful, the general relief from the never-ending nightmare of the "Living" "Renovationist" church and its "Supreme Ecclesiastical Administration." All the impurity of this pseudo-church was, in a single moment, swept away, melted away like wax by fire, like smoke by the wind, like a nightmare when one awakes.

The activity of the "Living Church Renovationists," from the point of view of the Orthodox Church, was more horrible than the activity of the Bolshevik party-members. Falsehood within the heart of the Church is more terrible than falsehood anywhere else. Having established that falsehood and deception were the fundamental activities of the "Living Churchmen," His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon pronounced upon them stern interdicts, and held their resolutions to be of no effect, null and void. All the actions and sacraments performed by such bishops and priests who had fallen away from the Church the Patriarch declared to be "devoid of grace and of no effect." The Patriarch proposed that all the priests and bishops who had turned aside into sin cleanse themselves by repentance and return to the bosom of the one, universal Orthodox Church.
Many repented. But why was Patriarch Tikhon set free and delivered from trial when the death sentence had already been pronounced upon him? Of course, those protests which were lodged by foreign governments throughout the world carried great weight. But of even greater significance was the growth of the moral authority of those persecuted for the immaculate bride of Christ, the true "Tikhonite" Russian Orthodox Church. Tormenting Patriarch Tikhon constantly and morally torturing him, the Soviet regime missed no opportunity to stress that all the blood shed by the faithful depended directly on the conduct of the Patriarch.

One day, the Patriarch had to take a personal part, as a witness, in the trial initiated by the Bolsheviks against a group of clergymen. The Patriarch was warned that the fate of the accused depended on his testimony. This was a trial involving a great many priests, and concluded early in May of 1922, at which "red justice" was showcased. Here is an eyewitness description of the Patriarch's interrogation and the conduct of the accused and the audience. "When the stately figure, robed in black, appeared at the doors of the hall, accompanied by two escorts, everyone involuntarily stood up. All heads bowed low in profound, respectful homage. His Holiness the Patriarch calmly and majestically made the sign of the Cross over the accused and, turning upon the judges a direct, stern and majestic gaze, awaited his interrogation, leaning on his staff. 'You gave orders that your Appeal be read publicly, calling the people to refuse to submit to the authorities?' asked the presiding judge. The Patriarch answered calmly: 'The authorities are well aware that there was in my Appeal no call to refuse to submit to the authorities, only a call to preserve our holy things, and in the name of preserving them to request the authorities to permit us to pay the monetary equivalent of their value, so that, while aiding the starving brethren in such a way, we might still preserve our holy objects.' 'So, this Appeal will cost the lives of your dutiful servants,' said the presiding judge, indicating with a dramatic gesture the accused seated on a bench. "The elder cast a kind and loving glance at the ministers of the altar and said clearly and firmly: 'I have always said, both to the investigative authorities and to all the people, that in this I alone am guilty. These are merely my army of Christ, which is obediently carrying out the orders of the leader given it by God. But if a redemptive victim is required, innocent lambs of the flock of Christ must die.' Here the voice of the Patriarch rose and was audible in all corners of the immense hall; and he himself seemed to grow when, turning to the accused, he raised his hand and blessed them, loudly and distinctly saying: 'I bless the faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer and die for Him.' The accused fell to their knees. The interrogation of the Patriarch was over."

That evening's session did not continue. "At dawn on 25 April 1922, the sentence of the 'just and impartial' 'people's' court was handed down: eighteen men were to be executed by firing squad, the rest were to be imprisoned for terms of various lengths. The suggestion of the presiding judge that an appeal for leniency be made to the higher authorities was responded to by Archpriest Zaozersky in an ardent speech and was rejected by all those sentenced." Only a deep sigh was audible in the hall at the pronouncement of the sentence; not a groan, not weeping.

A great redemptive sacrifice was to be offered up for the sins of the Russian people, and the people dispersed in silence. Yet not to their homes, but to the square, where all night more and more awaited the fatal moment. It was already light, the sun had already risen, when the heavy doors of the court opened and those sentenced to death emerged on the square, surrounded by a forest of bayonets. They walked bare-headed, their arms crossed upon their breasts, their eyes upraised to heaven, where the good Redeemer of the world awaited them, where all is forgiven, all is forgotten, where there are no sufferings, no evil. And a loud and exultant hymn poured forth from them: "Christ is risen from the dead."

Ecstatically, the people responded to them, crying: "Truly He is risen!" They kissed their hands, the hems of their garments. The guards fended off the crowd with their rifle-butts, yet they swelled in number, pressing against the soldiers. Mounted detachments appeared and pushed the people back with their horses; they beat them back with their rifle-butts, with whips--all to no avail. The ecstatic singing poured forth, the ecstatic people hurled themselves at the martyrs. A truck carrying soldiers of the Red Army forced its way into the crowd. They seized the convicted and literally threw them into it. The truck rumbled and sped off. Yet the joyous "Christ is risen!" was long heard, was long audible in the clear air of the sunny spring morning."

The "red courts" and "show trials" clearly revealed the astounding moral purity and religious struggle of the true-believing "Tikhonites" and the loathsome baseness and treachery of all the Renovationists. These courts and trials became the most powerful religious preaching, instead of serving as antireligious propaganda. This was not immediately grasped by the Soviet authorities. And they left many documented facts which future historians can use to reproach them. The main argument against the "Living Churchmen" and "Renovationists," which the Patriarch, clergy and laity all used, was the pointing out of the violation of the sacred canons of the Orthodox Church.

All of this forced the Soviet regime gradually and radically to alter its religious policy and to adopt new methods to demoralize the Church. The atheists began to search for such a "canonically correct" bishop, who might agree, without violating the canons, to serve the satanic regime of Antichrist. All the concessions made by His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon did not satisfy the Soviet government. The Patriarch had not surrendered the spiritual freedom of the Church. In all his "repentances" and so-called "acts," the canonically correct Patriarch had not agreed to "serve" the Soviet regime as it required. And those of the bishops who had agreed to such service had violated the canons.

For this reason, the principal objective of the Soviet regime with regard to the Church was the attempt to form, in a canonically correct way, the "servile" Church it required. Twice attempts were made on the life of the Patriarch. One day, a certain supposedly "insane" man threw himself at a bishop as he was leaving the sanctuary, but seeing that this was not the Patriarch, he did the bishop no harm. On 9 December 1923, at 8:00 P.M., Iakov Pozolov, the Patriarch's attendant, was murdered. According to the testimony of a friend of Patriarch Tikhon, Bishop Maxim (in secular life, Dr. M. A. Zhizhilenko), at the time of the murder of his attendant, the Patriarch was in the same room, sitting in an arm-chair; but the murderer didn't see him.
Moral tortures, in the form of endless, clandestine, private "conversations" between the secret police and the Patriarch, continued. It is difficult to imagine how the Patriarch suffered. They brought him to the point where, though by nature he was a very calm man, he trembled in agitation and annoyance when informed of the arrival of a secret police agent. In the spring of 1924, Patriarch Gregory of Constantinople tried to meddle in the affairs of the Church of Russia with the aim of "reconciling" the "Tikhonites" and the "Living Churchmen."

His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon categorically rejected this attempt. On 25 March 1925, the feast of the Annunciation, His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon, that greatest of the new-martyrs of Russia, reposed. According to the testimony of Bishop Maxim (Dr. M. A. Zhizhilenko), the Patriarch was poisoned. After the death of the Patriarch, a forged "Deathbed Appeal of Patriarch Tikhon" was produced, which contradicted what the Hieromartyr had preached and confessed throughout his entire life.

There are direct proofs that it is a forgery. In the "Appeal," the Patriarch calls himself "Patriarch of Moscow & the Whole Russian Church." The Patriarch had never referred to himself in this way. He always referred to himself as "Patriarch of Moscow & All Russia." The signature at the end--"Patriarch Tikhon"--was also never used by His Holiness. He always signed with the words "The humble Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow & All Russia."

The funeral of the Patriarch was a worldwide event. Many millions of the faithful came to pay homage at the coffin, and later, at the grave of the Patriarch. Among the countless wreaths were many from abroad. One such wreath bore the inscription, "To a Martyr for Religion."

From Ivan M. Andreev's book, A Brief Overview of the History of the Church of Russia from the Revolution to Our Days (Jordanville, 1952).