This year of our Lord, 2018, we witness a great celebration of 1030 years of Christianity in Russia
Three decades ago there was a celebration of a millennium of their Christianization. Given the circumstances of that time it was not possible to have such grand celebration, but now the conditions are favourable. I also feel that this year’s grand celebration is a clear message to their unsettled, and shattered neighbours.
This year also marks a centenary of the Romanov martyrdom. The faces of the royal martyrs are carved into our memories and into our souls.
It is also one hundred years since the Lenin’s Decree, which has put the Orthodox religion outside the law, and as a consequence, lawlessness against the church of Christ was made legal and it was the beginning of the persecution of Christians. We can better perceive the size of this year’s festive jubilee through that suffering jubilee.
It’s been a long hundred years since a war was declared to any kind of belief except belief to not believe. The Russian Orthodox Church had been persecuted since 1917. The persecution never stopped, it had only been taking different forms… There were no periods of peace. (Pierre Pascal “The Religion of the Russian People”, New York, 1976
With the events of 1917, and especially those of 1918, a war to extermination was declared to the church. This year’s celebration proves that winning a war against church is impossible. Nobody ever anywhere won a battle against God’s people.
It is a well-known fact that the faith is deeply rooted into the souls of the Slavic Russian people.
“The Orthodox faith in the pre-revolution Russia was not just “religion” in the sense used in the Western part of the world. It was the way of life and the way of understanding life. Every aspect of private and social life in pre-revolution Russia was regulated in a way that it was in agreement with the teaching of the Church and it was done with the blessings of the Church.
Faith was such an important part of their life that not only Christmas and Easter, but all other important holidays celebrated in Orthodox Church were proclaimed days of rest and festivities, so all commercial activities were to stop. The exceptions were the hospitals, the communication and the transportation systems of the country. During the lent proposed by the Church, it was impossible to find meat in restaurants, but not because it was forbidden by the Church, but because the people could not imagine breaking the lent. During the Great Lent, the theatres, the movie theatres, and similar places for entertainment were closed and nobody was unhappy about it because it was a way of life of the whole country and it was an integral part of the Russian culture. Russia was spiritually strong and united country. (D. Konstantinov, Cross Viewpoint, p. 170
And in such spiritual environment filled with incense, torrents and thunders of revolution developed. All forces of Hades, with all its evil powers, attack the Church so that they can eradicate it from the vast soul of the Russian people and destroy it completely. They have been contemplating and preparing for that misdeed for a very long time.
The warriors of unbelief have deceived many with lies about heaven on Earth, and they took advantage of the naiveté and intellectual arrogance of the Russian intellectuals so they sold and gave their souls to the devil. With the intention to destroy Russian constitution of the time, “the Russian intellectuals spread atheism intentionally and they promoted moral decline of the Church, being very much aware that by doing so they attack the foundations of the Russian spiritual strength. For years, the intellectuals had been cutting off the branch they were sitting on. And when they finally cut it off, only a small number of the lucky ones of the intellectual elite were able to flee, while most of them vanished in the communist cells and concentration camps.” (same, p. 170
But everyone pays for his/her misdeeds. The scythe of death was everywhere. ” The blood-red “engine of history” had been started throughout Russian land. The wheels of that engine ruthlessly trampled on centuries-old values of the Russian people. (Vladimir Stepanov (Rusak), Witness of the prosecution, Moscow 1980, p. 21)
The chief master and the director of all that, calmly and diabolically pulling all the death strings. He must have had his hands full. “In 1914, the Orthodox Church of the empire had 117 million members organized in 67 dioceses, with 130 bishops, and 48 thousand of parish churches, and about 50 thousand members of the clergy of all ranks. They lead 35 thousand elementary schools and 58 seminaries. (D. Pospielovsky, The Russian Church Under the Soviet Regime,1917 – 1982, vol. 1, p. 21). We should keep these figures in mind, so we can see the tragedy of the events to come.
If thinking, a faithless and material individual does it in the category of material. “As per primitive Marxist doctrine where religion is part of material superstructure above the foundation, Lenin obviously thought that he would destroy the Church by taking away its possessions.” (same, p.31) Firstly, he put the Church outside the law. In 1918, a Decree on Separation of the Church from the government and the school from the Church appeared. This Decree that made incarceration of the conscience legal was ironically named Decree on freedom of conscience.“V. I. Lenin personally took part in creating it.” (Testimonials, p.45
His principal intention was “to forbid religious church communities to manage assets, to deprive Church of the legal entity status, and to nationalize all of the Church possessions. (same, p.47) The Decree strictly forbade teaching religion in schools. They wanted to turn the holy Russia into faithless Russia. “This Decree was based on arbitrariness, hatred against church and religion in general… essential life foundation of the Church was cut shorter with its every order; the artery of life that linked Church to Russian people forever was being cut off. (same, p. 47) This Decree gave the signal to all dark forces to come out from their hideouts. ” Any bandit wearing a red ribbon on his hat or his lapel could arbitrarily arrest a bishop, a priest, do a search, ‘socialize” their possessions, and do whatever he pleased. (same, p. 73)
Waves of terror alternated one another. Shots were fired at any believer that defended Church, bishops and priests were arrested and tortured, and taken into darkness only to disappear, be imprisoned and vanish so that nobody knew anything about them to this day. In almost all of Russia, churches were desecrated – noted the witnesses – sanctity was humiliated; Church property was taken by force – especially from monasteries, from their very last penny to all of their land, and to their very last bite of bread until the monks and nuns found themselves before a starving death. The premises that belonged to the church administration and their printing and publishing office were taken away from them. The members of the clergy were cruelly murdered, often without any trial or notice of guilt – only because they were servants of the Orthodox Church and preachers of the truth of Christ.” (same, p. 110
“Cry, our home land! Cry and brawl our mother land Russia!” sobs a priest from Belarus. Sanctity of your social life, and your rightful laws are rudely violated, your right of speech is ruthlessly suppressed, inviolability of an individual is severely degraded; everything is wounded to the last bit of your freedom…
Be joyous! – cheers the same priest – for the time of martyrdom for Christ has come…. Instead of being free Church in a free country, our mother, the Holy Orthodox Church, is deprived of all human rights, and it has become a hunted slave. Orthodox Churches in autocratic Muhammadan Turkey did not and do not put up with that. The times of bloody persecution of Christians by the Roman emperors were better times than these in which we live. Roman emperors respected sacred places of Christian burial and they did not touch them.” (same, 117
The hunted could gather the strength and courage to say to the torturer: ” Listen up you, the residents of Smolny, we will never listen to you, and we will not surrender to you for anything… you are taking our temples by force, we will serve to our Lord in our homes and underground. You take our antimension freely, but with the blessing of our bishops we will complete our Liturgy without it. You take by force our church vessels. so we will use our household dishes to complete the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Lord. Without it we cannot live. The Holy Communion gives us joy, unearthly excitement, and the force of life to be able to fight, and the strength to endure the sufferings with ease, like brave men. We are not afraid of the chasing and the suffering any more. We want more of it. We crave their bloody beauty. We are not afraid of your revolutionary tribunals. Our bodies disfigured by your lynching will sting your conscience; they will proclaim the path of victory of light over unbelief, and, undisputedly, the victory will be ours…” (Archpriest Vorobiev, The Testimony, 1, 117-118)
Who could express the whole tragedy of the occurrences; who could transfer the bubbly river of the Russian martyr blood into the crystal glass of recognition; who could transform the whirlpool of the stream of tears into the calm river of storytelling? That is impossible.
It is possible to return to those silent figures and try to imagine that those figures represent millions of people’s lives, tens of thousands of destroyed or closed up churches, hundreds of thousands of broken families, and forever ruined human fates. Those figures embody the cries of Russian mothers for their children lost in Russian prisons and Siberian gorges; of women for their missing husbands; of children for their vanished parents; and of all of them for their imprisoned freedom.
Of, officially registered 117 millions of believing Orthodox Russians, before the bloody years of revolution, before all the Lenins, the Stalins, and the Khrushchevs, it is estimated that until the liberation of the Church there were only about 50 millions left. Regardless of how many exactly there were it was still more that the members of the political party that hunted them. Since the first volley discharge into a Russian soul from the “Aurora” ship, until the beginning of the stormy war years, 207 Russian bishops were killed. You heard already there were 48 thousand operating Russian churches; then there were less than 7 thousand. Religious, Russian nation brought to life a great army of 50 thousand clergymen; and then there were not even 6 thousand left. The Russians had 58 spiritual schools, now there are only 5 left. Of more than 1200 monasteries before the 80s of the last century, only 16 are left.
With the quinquennial of Stalin, between years 1932 and 1937, a complete destruction of all religions, except that of unbelief, was planned. The agents of death and destruction hoped that following the year 1938 there will be no trace of God’s name. That year they were to announce the beginning of the Communist Era.
Today, the Holy martyr Russian Church celebrates 1030 years of its existence, and martyr sufferings. Strong and powerful, resurrected, it resurrects the faith in its people, and announces, finally, its victory that the martyr soul of a Russian priest foresaw that distant, tragic year of 1918.