The First Council of The Russian Church Abroad in Sremski Karlovtsi (21 Nov.-2 Dec. 1921): The Notes of One of the Participants

This is a translation of the article “Iursdiktsionnyie Spory v Russkoi Tserkvi Emigratsii i I-yi Vsezarubezhnyi Sobor v Karlovtsakh v 1921 godu” originally published in Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniia 114 (1974). We are republishing it from Eastern Churches Review 7.2 (1975). The English translation of the first part of this article was published in Eastern Churches Review 7.1 (1975).

In March 1921 I found myself with my parents in Constantinople, which was packed out with Russian refugees. There I soon made the acquaintance of Bishop Veniamin (Fedchenko) of Sevastopol’ (1882-1962), who impressed me deeply. He invited me to take part in the church assembly which he planned to convene in Tsargrad 1, and upon his advice I embarked on theological courses organized by him 2.

In October 1921 our whole family moved to Belgrade, where I and my youngest sister entered the theological school of the university. Bishop Veniamin had gone to Serbia before us. He enlisted my services for the Preparatory Commission for the Church Assembly of the Russian Diaspora. Thus, when it opened in November in Sremski Karlovtsi I was able to be present at its sessions as an observer.

The text which follows consists of brief jottings about the Council made at the time of the sessions 3. These I here present without any changes as an historical document. In addition to them I also quote fragments from my diaries. These documents are highly coloured by the sympathy which I felt at that time for the position defended by Bishop Veniamin. I reacted keenly to his victories and his defeats and suffered especially when, with the fieriness which was peculiar to him, he failed to observe a sense of proportion and thereby played into the hands of his opponents – the representatives of the Supreme Monarchist Council. I had just turned twenty-three at that time, and I think that at the present moment I am the sole living witness of the Karlovtsi Council.

(25 October 1974)

Records of the Sessions Morning Session on Tuesday 9/22 November 1921

Those present: Metropolitan Antonii of Kiev, Archbishop Anastasii of Kishinev, Bishops Feofan of Kursk, Apollinarii of Belgorod, Gavriil of Cheliabinsk, Mikhail of Stavropol’, Sergii of Chernomor, Serafim of Lubliansk, Veniamin of Sevastopol’, the Serbian Bishop Maksimilian, and about fifty clergymen and laymen from Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, France, Italy and Switzerland, and also representatives of the army and navy.

After a prayer, Today the Holy Spirit has brought us together’, Metropolitan Antonii opens the gathering, saying that this joyful occasion does not permit us to forget the terrible state of the Church in our homeland. The Patriarch is under arrest, fifteen bishops have been imprisoned, Metropolitan Kiril has lost his sight, Gurii is suffering from tuberculosis, Bishop Fedor has gone mad. Everywhere there is disorder: the Ukrainians have seized the Cathedral of St Sophia in Kiev and are demanding auto-cephaly, supported by the Bolsheviks and the Jesuits; in Poland 300 parishes have been closed and priests have been imprisoned. The Patriarch has confirmed Bishop George as Exarch, but other bishops are protesting and a schism is tearing apart our Church in Poland.

Greetings are sent to Patriarch Tikhon and to Patriarch Dimitrii of Serbia, to King Alexander, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna, the Skupshtina 4, the Council of Ministers, General Wrangel. The salutation ‘Many Years’ is sung. The Metropolitan asks if there are any who object to greetings being sent to Maria Fedorovna and Wrangel. All wish them to be sent.

The former Ambassador to Serbia, V. N. Strandman, reads out a cold, official panegyric of the Serbian authorities and the State Commission.

Telegrams from absent Serbian bishops are read out.

The Metropolitan reads a long message from the Bulgarian Synod. It is written in a colourful and imaginative style. ‘Russia is the heart of Orthodoxy. Her successes are the successes of all the Eastern Churches. Peace in Russia means peace in the whole world.’

A powerfully built Cossack speaks on behalf of his fellow combatants. ‘We know that our wives and sisters are leading terrible and dangerous lives. We were once rich and happy, and therefore exile is harder for us than for others. We follow with special attention everything that might save Russia. In the Church there is strength for salvation and that is why we greet the Council.’

N. L’vov speaks eloquently but a little floridly. ‘Russia has fallen into an abyss of sin, but we also are guilty. Our common sin has brought Russia into ruin.’

Solntsev speaks languidly and officially on behalf of the Russian colony in Belgrade; Count Bobrinskoi speaks on behalf of the Russian colony in Novi Sad, with an emotion which grips me. ‘With our 2,000 people we are the second largest colony in Yugoslavia, and we are all following the progress of the Council with ardent attention. We all as one have ranged ourselves beneath the banner on which is written, “Faith, Tsar, Fatherland”. We have no Tsar, but there is faith, and this faith will not be broken by our enemies. Many of us formerly believed that the Church was a hothouse plant, living under the protection of the bureaucracy, but it has turned out to be the “Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, the Church of the Living God”; and now with its martyrs it has proved that it is alive, and such it will ever be.’

General Batiushin speaks briefly and officially on behalf of the Zemun colony.

Trepov says: This is the first non-political conference of the emigration, and for this we are indebted to Metropolitan Antonii (‘Many Years’ is sung).

Metropolitan Antonii: The promoter of the conference, entirely on his own initiative, is Bishop Veniamin (‘Many Years’ is sung).

The priest Krakhmalev, on behalf of the Russians in Greece: All expect from the Church a national and political unification.

Platonov, on behalf of all parishes, brotherhoods and sisterhoods in Bulgaria: All Russian organizations are united by their corporate efforts for the spiritual rebirth of our homeland, on which depends its salvation. He ends: ‘Let God arise and all his enemies be scattered’.

Vasil’ev, on behalf of the Society for the Care of Spiritual Welfare, speaks boringly and tediously about sobornost’ and the Moscow Council of 1917-18.

Balabanov speaks as representative of the Russian students. He talks very loudly, for a long time, with the inflated style encountered at public meetings, in meaningless phrases: ‘the ardent minds of youth’, ‘the poison of socialism’, ‘the temple of science’, ‘dark forces’, ‘the political arena’. He ends: ‘The Russian student body is apolitical, but is ready under the protection of the Cross to rise up as one man in the defence of the homeland at the call of the Church.’

Metropolitan Antonii comments on this last speech. Although it was a little long, we must nevertheless be indulgent towards the young and rejoice that they have become patriots. Formerly Russians were surprised that the Serbs used to call Serbia their mother, but now we too realize that Russia is our mother, and moreover a suffering mother. The Metropolitan weeps.

A list of the members of the assembly is read out.

Lyuba Ivanovich welcomes the assembly, as President of the State Commission 5. He speaks in Serbian and authoritatively. The Serbs have experienced great suffering during the war, many of them being compelled temporarily to abandon their native land. Therefore they understand the distressing position of the Russians and would like to help them, but do not know how to do this best. Since all Russians speak in contradictory ways, no one knows where the true Russia is.

Trepov rises and declares: ‘Mikhail Rodzianko is here among us. Does the assembly acknowledge him as one of its members?’ This is an unexpected thunderclap. General confusion. The Metropolitan jumps up from his seat and tries to calm the assembly, assuring it that this question will be examined later on. For the time being he asks everyone to sit down and select a commission to check plenary powers. An interval is arranged. Rodzianko goes out with the Metropolitan for personal negotiations 6.

After the interval a list of persons who have been selected for membership of the commission is read out. This commission is entrusted with the task of deciding whether there is quorum or not-a thing about which Bishop Veniamin is in doubt. Prayers. The session ends.

Extracts from my Diary Tuesday 9/22 November

Sremski Karlovtsi is a beautiful township, situated on the banks of the Danube. In the centre stands the large cathedral, built in the Western style characteristic of Orthodoxy in the former Austrian Empire. I arrived in the morning, leaving my things with Bishop Veniamin, and went to the assembly at once. At first I followed its progress with simple curiosity, but the affair over Rodzianko has shaken me. I had the feeling that I was looking at a man who was being led to the executioner’s block. An abscess had burst, the presence of a group of monarchists had been revealed at the assembly-of people who wished to use the Church as a tool. Metropolitan Antonii tries hard to smooth everything out, but he does not desire to fight against them. Only Bishop Veniamin dares to stand up to them. In the afternoon the Bishop talked with me for a long time and with much emotion. He has made up his mind to fight to the bitter end.

There was a private session about Rodzianko. The priests are for him, the laymen against him. Rodzianko wept – how he must be suffering in his soul.

In the evening Metropolitan Stefan of Bulgaria came to our hostel. The Serbs are demanding his immediate departure 7. He spoke in a very inspired way, emphasizing that he believes in the rebirth of Russia. Kiev for him is the most beautiful and holy city on earth, since in it he found God. His oriental eloquence is so different from the reserved attitude of the Serbs towards us.

Session on Wednesday 10/23 November

The message sent in answer to the Synod of the Bulgarian Church is read out.

General Nikol’skii reads a short and impressive greeting from General Wrangel. For four years, Russia has been groaning, all is defiled, everywhere filth and desolation, the Church alone stands pure, in her there is salvation, and everyone both in the homeland and here in exile looks to her with hope. The Russian Army awaits that hour when the Lord will lead it to renew the struggle and to return to the homeland, bringing her freedom and forgiveness. The Commander-in-Chief and the army are greeted with cries of ‘Hurrah’ and ‘Many Years’.

The Metropolitan thanks the General for the greeting and expresses his joy at the spiritual rebirth of the army. Next comes the written statement from Rodzianko, who resigns from membership of the assembly. The letter is written with dignity. Rodzianko expresses his surprise that certain people have decided to violate the sanctity of the Council with a scandal. He is leaving because he does not wish to be the cause of this, in spite of the fact that he has a right to be a member of it, as a vice-president of the Moscow Council (the Church Council of 1917-18).

Bishop Veniamin declares that he will make a written statement on this episode. Count Apraksin says that in that case he will also state his contrary view. The order of proceedings is read out. Changes are suggested which are passed on to the administrative commission. Apraksin very solemnly and excitedly proclaims: ‘As a member of the Moscow Council I object to any changes whatsoever in the order of proceedings.’

The question of the quorum arises once more 8. Anasov, on behalf of the commission, declares that there is a quorum. Fifty people are present in the hall; but out of the total number of those invited (150), only 109 have to be taken into account when the quorum is calculated. Bishop Veniamin protests against this nervously and heatedly. He speaks several times. Anosov, Trepov and Apraksin object. There is great agitation in the hall. The question is voted on. The majority are opposed to Bishop Veniamin and his supporter Platonov. The praesidium is selected by secret ballot: Archbishop Anastasii, Arch-priest Sergei Orlov, A. N. Krupenskii, Prince Shirinskii-Shikhmatov; and as secretaries, Golikov, Skrynchenko and Archpriest Pisarchuk.

Diary for Wednesday 10/23 November

The Bishop woke me at seven o’clock and we went to the Liturgy. At the morning assembly Rodzianko’s letter was read out. He had left. The Bishop was very angry and tried nervously to prove that there is no quorum. I felt very sorry for him. The result of this was his defeat in the elections for the praesidium. After the end of the assembly I dared to criticize the Bishop, pointing out that he spoke without due peace of mind. He objected to this. Later ‘the monks’ – Archimandrite Antonii, Hieromonk Nikolai and Hieromonk Feodosii – came to see us. They were totally on the Bishop’s side. They all consider that a secular spirit pervades the assembly, hardly anyone goes to the services, lay people control everything, the bishops have faded into the background, the priests are in a minority.

After supper ‘the monks’ met again in our rooms. I like Fr Nikolai in particular. He has a soul full of joy and such pure, beautiful eyes. He is a peasant by birth, a Siberian. He has an aura of the open spaces and the melancholy of Russia. He said: ‘This assembly is of the nobility; there is a gulf between the “white bone” and the “black”.’ He speaks breathlessly, getting carried away and the whole time adding his own proverbs. He has strong, white teeth, his hair is soft and light-coloured. Fr Feodosii is small, humble and not so talkative. Fr Antonii is dark and impetuous. He is even more fervent than the Bishop, but without his breadth. Fr John has dark hair and is very reserved. The evening was inspiring for me. They spoke about the Church, about the state, they all stood for the full independence of the Church. I feel a deep disillusionment with the lay people, everything about them is so vulgar and unchurchlike. The Bishop wrote down in moderate and balanced terms his own opinion about Rodzianko. We talked much of this. The course of action outlined by the Bishop is a wise and Christian one.

Session on Thursday 11/24 November

Many new delegates have arrived: from Berlin, a priest from London, several people from Constantinople and Bishop Damian. On the other hand many participants have disappeared. Greetings and statements from those who could not come are read out. A greeting is also read out from Bishop Innokentii in China, together with a request to put him in contact with the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Apraksin gives a report on the changes in the order of proceedings and proposes that everything included in it should be cancelled.

Archpriest Lomako speaks in defence of a project to create a special organ, ‘The Presbyteral Council’ 9 He says: ‘It is feared that we priests will decide by ourselves our own particular problems’. He speaks intelligently, a little ironically, and repeats himself. Objection from Apraksin. Invoking the authority of the Metropolitan, he says that he is against a Presbyteral Council; priests can give their own opinions, but not collectively, for all questions have to be decided by a simple majority of votes.

Bishop Veniamin makes a brilliant spiritual speech. He speaks with inner emotion, gesticulating a great deal but preserving his peaceful disposition. To give priests the right to have their own organ-that is a small request, and one of which perhaps they will not even make use, but the question raised is of great importance, for on it depends whether we shall have a Church Council (Sobor) or merely an ecclesiastical conference. References to the Moscow Council are not convincing. There prevailed at it a democratic spirit and much has already changed since that time. A Presbyteral Council is necessary and important from a canonical point of view. Sobornost’ presupposes that each person is working according to his ability. The priests know the canons best, and church life is closer to them. Therefore I ask you to grant them this opportunity to express corporately their opinion at this assembly.’ Vasil’ev then got up and began to speak at great length and very boringly, so that protests were soon heard. He defended the Moscow Council and protested against those who desired to divide the ecclesiastical body.

Apraksin objected with obvious annoyance to Bishop Veniamin’s speech. This was the decisive turning-point. After the Bishop’s speech the assembly did for a moment become a Council (Sobor), but Apraksin won the day, the assembly backed him up – it refused to be a Council (Sobor). His speech was passionate: ‘I find it difficult to speak against our best orator’, he began. ‘Bishop Veniamin maintains that he follows divine truth, but our feeling of respect for the Moscow Council does not permit us to alter its resolutions.’ Then Apraksin began to speak insincerely about his love for the priests. Why do they wish to separate themselves? We must not have a division between the clerical and lay estates. Such a division will hinder the bishops from holding impartial discussions. Twenty-four votes were cast in favour of a Presbyteral Council, thirty against it. Those against it were Markov, Skarzhinskii, Maslennikov, Trepov, Makharablidze, Anosov, Archpriest Vostokov and all the military representatives from Germany. These were the least ecclesiastical part of the assembly. Many abstained, not knowing for whom to vote. At the head of the abstentions was Professor Lokot’ 10. The delegation from Constantinople, Count Bobrinskoi, L’vov and nearly all the priests voted for it. After the voting the mood in the hall is dispirited. Vasil’ev starts speaking afresh about a personal question. Many begin to leave the hall, especially the priests. Apraksin cries angrily to Vasil’ev: ‘Whom are you talking to?’ Vasil’ev, taking no notice, goes on to develop his point that lay people also are blessed with grace and that one ought not to criticize the Moscow Council. He is proud that he was present at it. He goes on further about some nonsense or other.

The Metropolitan rises. ‘The priests are offended, our priesthood has always been kept in the background, and therefore you can understand their pain. I myself have changed my opinion four times. Bishop Veniamin is right, but in view of the division which I did not expect and the small amount of time at our disposal it would be best if the Presbyteral Council were not formed.’ He finished with a call for peace and mutual concessions.

A prayer is read.

Diary for Thursday 11/24 November

Morning Liturgy. After tea Bishop Veniamin received us at his residence. Those from Constantinople, who arrived yesterday morning, came along. There is a completely different atmosphere about them. They are all on the Bishop’s side. Nenarokomov spoke brilliantly. The concept of a paradise on earth, which had inspired the 19th century, is dead. We must have new ideas. We must not mix the Church up with the state. Rodzianko came to bid us farewell. He is leaving with the feeling that he is an innocent victim of extremists, but his mood is calmer. Trepov came. He believes that a powerful call to stand firm in defence of the Orthodox Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland may be of great significance. The Russian people need order. The Tsar is indispensable for us. Russia must cast off its European veneer and become itself. The pulsating of something powerful can be heard coming from Russia.

A proposal to create a Presbyteral Council was rejected by a few votes at the assembly. The priests are stung to the quick. The struggle will continue. I attended Vespers. A choir of Serbian seminarians was singing. It is crude but powerful, as though timber is being felled. I hardly see the Bishop, there are always callers at his house, and apart from that he is writing an address to the army. I am reading N. S. Trubetskoi’s 11 Russia and Europe. His idea of a return to the East is close to my heart. The West is dead and loathsome. But for me the primary concern is Christ and the Church, and only after that nationalism. For Trubetskoi the Church comes second.

Diary for Friday 12/25 November

I feel a sense of well-being, especially after the Liturgy. My close contacts with the Bishop and the monks inspire me. It is now clear that yesterday was the decisive session, when thirty were against a Presbyteral Council and twenty-four were for it. The politicians invited to this ecclesiastial assembly have proved victorious over the representatives of the parishes and the clergy. In spite of this, Christian Russia is present here, Orthodox, humble, faithful, poor, but it is in the minority. If the Metropolitan had been firmer, the assembly could have become a genuine Council. The Metropolitan gives Bishop Veniamin due credit but he does not support him. The Bishop’s opponents are narrow-minded, fanatical and caught up in politics. I am deeply disillusioned by the type of men who used to rule the Empire. If only some wise monks, priests and simple laymen could have been brought together instead of the politicians, if only they had all taken communion and prayed together, then this assembly would have been a Church Council. The Bishop is in high spirits and joyful. Visitors have been with him the whole day. I do not have a chance of speaking to him. I went to bed but he is up, writing and writing in spite of the late hour. It is distressing that he has many enemies.

Session on 13/26 November

Bishop Veniamin reads out a message which he has composed, addressed to the armed forces. It is written almost in verse, in the old Russian style, long-winded and without any basic thoughts. I do not like it. The message is unanimously accepted.

Archbishop Anastasii speaks of what it is still possible to do for Russia. Sincere conviction makes itself felt in his toneless, beautiful voice and calm manner. This is the speech of a distinguished and self-controlled prince of the Church. He says: ‘Enough of words, for everything that was great in Russia has drowned in their turbid foam. Our banknotes are no longer guaranteed with gold; this gold is the will to carry out our decisions, and that we simply do not have. We cannot comfort Russia, so deeply is she submerged in her own trials. We must raise our voices, addressing ourselves to the Western world and to Russians living in exile, with a call not to cross over that abyss which is filled with the corpses of martyrs and which divides us from the Bolsheviks. We can pray here, and we must do our utmost to ensure that murky political passions do not pollute the immaculate robe of the Church. This is the main contribution that the Church abroad can make.’

Apraksin presents a report on the organs of ecclesiastical administration. They will consist of the Patriarch’s deputy, of the Synod, of all the bishops and of the ecclesiastical committee. The latter consists of the Patriarch’s deputy, one bishop, two members of the clergy and two laymen. The bishop is selected by an Episcopal Synod, the other members by the assembly. After a brief discussion these proposals are accepted.

Diary for Saturday 13/26 November

The session is not very interesting, apart from a beautiful speech by Archbishop Anastasii. In the morning Metropolitan Evlogii arrived at last. He did not impress me much. I spoke to Bishop Gavriil of Cheliabinsk, who told of the plans for a theological school. He loves Bishop Veniamin but chaffs him in a friendly manner.

All the suggestions of the Bishop were rejected by the votes of the right-wingers. This upset him. There was a solemn vigil service. When the Bishop began to preach I felt alarmed. Sometimes he speaks far too long and repeats himself, but on this occasion he was terse. In the evening everyone attended the reading of Markov’s report. The Bishop and the monks came late. They were full of anxiety. The Monarchists want to carry through their resolution stressing the need to assure the legitimacy of the succession.

Diary for Sunday 14/27 November

Solemn Liturgy. Metropolitan Antonii gave the sermon, intelligently and so easily that the words seem to come from him without any effort. They come from the mind and not the heart. The Bishop is receiving guests continually. In the evening Markov came to see him. Everything is tightly sealed-up inside him, his immobile face shows this eloquently enough. The Bishop complained about him, indeed he complains about everything that is happening here. Markov listened attentively. He made an offer of his help for reconciliation, on the condition that a blessing should be given to the restoration of the Romanov dynasty to the throne. He said that a plan was ready, and although it was not ideal, nevertheless it was the only correct one. The Bishop was satisfied with the talk, and he became more relaxed and cheerful. In the evening there was a meeting of the clergy. They are all very cautious.

Session on Monday 15/28 November

The minutes of the meeting about the Presbyteral Council are read out. They are almost indecently biased in favour of Apraksin. Bishop Veniamin points this out with his usual fervour. Lomako also objects, he is supported by Nenarokomov. Unexpectedly Markov makes concessions and offers to add Nenarokomov to the secretariat. All urge him to agree.

Nenarokomov: ‘My enemies wish to bring my efforts to nothing by means of this offer; I do not agree.’

Apraksin angrily defends the secretariat and declares that if Bishop Veniamin’s speech is to be reproduced in a changed form, then in that case his address also should be expressed in a different way. The minutes are rejected.

Vasil’ev gets up and twice attempts to speak, to chants of ‘Please stop: That will do!’

Nenarokomov reads a report from the commission on parishes. The Church must be outside politics and not dependent on the civil power. Then the parishes will be powerful, a moral force, a terror to all the many enemies of Christianity. The parishes must stand financially on their own feet.

The report receives unanimous acceptance.

Fr Rudakov outlines the constitution of the parishes, but he does not have time to finish his report, the discussion is postponed until the evening.

The Metropolitan makes a proposal to limit the time of speakers to fifteen minutes. He says: ‘There is little time left us and the end of the Council is drawing near.’ His proposal is adopted.

Fr Stel’mashenko puts forward a proposal that we should get to know better the church life of other Christians. ‘This is the most important thing for all of us, but instead of this we are filled with political talk. Yesterday for example Maslennikov talked only of the work of the monarchist association in Germany.’ Grabbe objects that there is not enough time for this. A decision to hear all the addresses, even if it is necessary to sit three times a day for this, is carried.

Diary for Monday 15/28 November

The Bishop is nervous and angry. The words ‘tsar’ and ‘monarchy’ are heard the whole time. Once more there were signs of strain at the session. The two sides cannot be reconciled. People immediately flare up in irritation. The Metropolitan definitely wants to have done with the Council, but the Council lives on. This is torture both for the Council and for the Metropolitan. The haste has an oppressive effect on everyone. Meanwhile the ecclesiastical side is beginning to raise its head. It is important that Archbishop Evlogii is on our side. It is strange that Stel’mashenko is opposed to the Bishop. The secretariat continues to distort the debate. All the speeches of the Bishop’s opponents are recorded in their entirety, but his addresses are not mentioned. The parish statutes have been adopted immediately. This holds no interest for anyone, but on the other hand the just remark of Fr Stel’mashenko, that one must study the church life of other Christians, has met with resistance. Even Bishop Apollinarii is filled with indignation at the conduct of the Markovites, and the Bishop is once more seething. Kvaskov is right, the monarchists have made out a draft and now they are demanding that it be endorsed with the signature of the Council. After the Liturgy I talked to Archbishop Anastasii. I esteem him highly. Professor lanitskii from Berlin called on our Bishop. He wants to leave, he does not consider the Council to be ecclesiastical. He is an excellent man. A new idea of handing over the supreme state power to the Patriarch has made its appearance. At the sessions they argue and argue – and always about the Tsar. The sessions have lost their interest for me. I went to bed before the Bishop returned to his cell.

Diary for Tuesday 16/29 November

The sessions have become positively uninteresting. The reports of non-controversial commissions were being discussed. The Metropolitan is hampering the work with his obvious disregard for everything that is put forward. The dangerous campaign of the Catholics and the sectarians against the Church was discussed. The Metropolitan abandons everything as a bad job. The pastoral school will not work, the parishes are unnecessary, the paper on which the appeals are written is good only for covering jam-jars. It is awful that a president whom all were prepared to follow should speak in this way. Tomorrow there will be the last battle. ‘They’ will insist on the proclamation of the legitimacy of the House of Romanov. It is obvious that there will be a break. Politics is an unhappy affair. I had a talk with the Bishop. He thinks that ‘they’ will win, but they are faced by a strong opposition. In the evening there was one more session with reports being read from the parishes. I did not expect to hear such encouraging news about their life. One of them that is particularly well-organized is in London. I was greatly impressed by Fr Orlov from Geneva.

Diary for Wednesday 17/30 November

A battle, ‘their’ victory, but a Pyrrhic victory. A decisive day. The plenary session was devoted to the question of Russia’s rebirth. The speaker was Markov. He spoke well, intelligently, leaving no stone unturned in his desire to convince those who did not agree. We must not stop at the word ‘monarchy’, we must pronounce ‘the name’. Later, with threats and persuasions, he said that no one could refuse to swear an oath of loyalty to the House of Romanov which had made Russia great: after all, both Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich and Tsarevich Aleksei might be alive. His speech was fervent and well-considered. When it had ended there was a murmuring in the hall. The Metropolitan proposed an immediate vote without further discussion. From somewhere there appeared a very unfortunately-worded note with thirty signatures to the effect that the insertion made by Markov about the House of Romanov was a political one and therefore unacceptable. I awaited the denouement with some trepidation, everything hung by a thread, the unfortunate wording of the note split the opposition. Kvaskov asked the Metropolitan directly whether we were bound by allegiance to this oath. The Metropolitan did not answer this question. The Serbian commissioner declared that the arguments had acquired a political character. It was explained to him that the House of Romanov is referred to in prayers and he calmed down. The Metropolitan was annoyed and insisted that the question of the dynasty was an ecclesiastical one. In the end, after much noise and confusion, they called on Bishop Veniamin to speak. The Bishop was very excited and as a result repeated himself. All the same, he spoke with force and sincerity, and there was truth in his words. He was especially impressive when he declared: ‘Let the Romanovs hear me, they will not condemn me for telling the truth.’ His main idea was that it is still early days, and therefore destructive, to raise the question of the dynasty, for the following reasons:

  1. Even among the monarchists there is a division; and what will happen in the parishes? Therefore the time is not yet ripe. Our goal is reconciliation. Undue haste can only hinder the restoration of the monarchy.
  2. Our reference to the Romanovs merely compromises them. Who are we to declare to them that they have a right to the throne? They themselves know this better than we. And to compare them with other pretenders is humiliating. Here the Metropolitan mentioned General Slashchev and Petliura.
  3. It is the people who ought to call for the Romanovs and it is not our affair to forestall their will.
  4. The Lord removed the throne from the Romanovs and he is strong enough to give it to others.

Markov thanked the Bishop for his speech and asked for it to be recorded word for word in the minutes. Fifty-one people voted for Markov’s resolution and thirty-two abstained on the ground that it was a political question and not within the competence of the Council.

Archbishops Anastasii, Evlogii, Bishops Sergii, Apollinarii, Veniamin, the Serbian Bishop Maksimilian, Archimandrites Feodosii and Antonii and nearly all the priests and professors abstained. Fr Stel’mashenko especially protested against the resolution, and the Bishop left before the session had ended. A heavy burden had been removed from us, we felt at ease in our hearts. The truth had been powerfully stated and without anger. The Bishop was joyful. In the evening, many people gathered at our residence; they were all on our side. A mood of unanimity reigned among us; everyone felt relieved. Everyone felt the need to keep in touch and looked to the Bishop as a leader of the opposition. At first he did not wish to hear of any kind of organization, but everyone insisted on it. Some proposed the creation of an association, others preferred a personal link with the Bishop by means of correspondence. Nothing was decided, but the necessity of some centre of information became clear.

Diary for Thursday 18 November / 1 December

The Bishop did not go to the assembly. He is writing about socialism. People continue to come and see him and they all want to keep in contact with him. It has become painful to attend the sessions. There are so many members possessed by intolerance who bitterly condemn all who differ from them.

There was a concluding meeting at four o’clock. The Bishop did not read his report and left immediately. Fr Nikolai said that the voice of the Church could not be heard in the noise of contending parties. The Metropolitan, however, declared the assembly had become a Council. Apraksin and Batiushin were elected to the ecclesiastical committee. I felt lonely and abandoned. Later on there were intercessory prayers before the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God of the Sign. The prayer brought peace and calm to me.

In the evening many came along to bid us farewell. Fr Nikolai insisted on the complete separation of the Church from political life, Archimandrite Antonii wished to fight on. The Bishop asked everyone their opinion on what is to be done next. Professor lanitskii has rightly said that the Bishop possesses an exceptional gift – a genuine interest in other people’s opinions. Platonov, the representative of the merchants, appeared unexpectedly. He had sided with ‘them’ but had avoided voting. He said: ‘We have inflicted a blow on the monarchy by our vote’, and added: ‘No matter, we shall pray, the Lord will help us. He will decide everything.’ These words inspired calm. Fr Orlov also called on us and said: ‘Thank God for everything. Please do not start controversy; let us rely on faith and love.’ The Bishop wanted to follow this path, but that was not so easy; after all, the opponents are not personal enemies but the enemies of the Church. V. M. Skvortsov 12 arrived quite late. He is one of ‘them’ and this was a test for the Bishop. He listened calmly to Skvortsov’s criticism. A great deal of strength was needed by the Bishop in order to refrain from entering into a new argument.


These fragments from my diary are concentrated on the personality of Bishop Veniamin, who was without doubt the outstanding member of the Council, provoking a constant struggle around his person. Of course my notes are not without bias and they reflect my outlook at that time, when the prevailing atmosphere in emigre circles was one of reaction against the West. In conclusion I cite the text of the message of the Council which had so profoundly split its participants into two hostile camps. 13

To the Children of the Russian Orthodox Church Who Are Dispersed in Exile


Results of the Council, Extracts from my Diary (5 December 1921, Belgrade)

I saw Bishop Veniamin. We spoke about the results of the Council. I expressed the following thoughts: In general I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction about the Council. All the same, I think that the Council had to take place. It had its positive achievements: useful information, contacts among the various countries of the Russian diaspora. All the participants had gained a consciousness of the importance of the Church. I think that for many the Council has been a spiritual event in their lives. It seems to me, however, that the messages have either a negative effect or more probably none at all – but about this, time will tell.

This conversation helped me to sort out what I personally had gained from attending the Council. I have learned that the monarchists could be just as possesed by ill-will as the left-wing, just as unscrupulous as the Bolsheviks; that a minority at a Church Council can be closer to the truth than the majority, even when the latter is supported by bishops; that malice proves more destructive and pernicious when it is presented as zeal for Orthodoxy; and, finally, that unanimity and peace are the surest signs of the truth.  14

Portraits of Some of the Participants in the Council at Karlovtsi

Metropolitan Antonii of Kiev and Galich (Aleksei Pavlovich Khrapovitskii, 1864-1936)

Short, monumental, almost square. A large, intelligent head, a broad, thick beard, kindly grey eyes. Reminds me of a pre-Petrine boyar with deep roots in the Russian soil. He speaks with deliberate frankness and employs expressions and words which one would not expect from a church hierarch.

From the end of the Council until his death Metropolitan Antonii remained at the head of the Synodal jurisdiction. A born leader, he gave the impression of integrity and strength, but in reality he was often led by those around him. This duality in his conduct occurred as a result of the contradictions in his rich and outstanding personality.

Politically an extreme conservative, he was a daring innovator in theology. An advocate of the restoration of the Patriarchate and the independence of the Church, he was at the same time a supporter of the extreme reactionary political party, the ‘Union of the Russian People’. A very clever man, yet a poor judge of character. A very kind man, yet unrestrained in his speech and sharp in criticism of others.

He preached more from the head than the heart – and yet his sermons were often interrupted by his tears.

Rector of three Academies in succession, he brought up a whole generaation of learned monks and priests; at the same time, as a nobleman of the old school, he looked down on the clerical caste and used to refer frequently to the specific faults of the Russian clergy.

These contradictions in the Metropolitan’s character constantly made their appearance in the course of the Council and were an additional cause of bitter party struggle. They had a still greater influence on the later deepening of the schism. Thus, for instance, in 1926 the Metropolitan put his signature to a resolution drawn up by the Synod of Bishops in Karlovtsi, condemning the international Christian organizations which had helped the Russian Student Christian Movement and the Theological Institute in Paris. The World Student Christian Federation and the YMCA were labelled as ‘obviously masonic’, and members of the Russian Church were forbidden to co-operate with them. At the same time, however, in a letter sent to members of the RSCM, the Metropolitan declared that he openly acknowledged representatives of the international organizations personally known to him as friends of the Orthodox Church and faith, whose influence upon the Russian student body could only be positive. (See the Vestnik of the RSCM, 10 Paris 1926: 25.).

In January 1927 the next session of the Synod of Bishops in Karlovtsi, under the presidency of Metropolitan Antonii, suspended Metropolitan Evlogii and broke off eucharistic communion with parishes which were under his jurisdiction. Thus the Church in the diaspora was split into two. Yet in a letter to Professor V. V. Zenkovskii, the president of the RSCM, that very same Metropolitan Antonii wrote that our church disputes were ‘a mean wrangle built up out of nothing’ (See Vestnik, 10, 26.).

Bishop Veniamin of Sevastopol’ (Ivan Fedchenko, 1882-1962)

The complete opposite to Metropolitan Antonii. A peasant by birth, a man of natural gifts. Talented, emotional, not at all intellectual; a fiery orator, an inspired choir conductor, a poet, an icon-painter. Of medium height with a light brown beard and bright, grey-blue eyes. He walks with a brisk step. Impetuous, always aspiring to new plans, constantly in the grip of enthusiasm.

In 1925 Bishop Veniamin moved to Paris and became the inspector of the Theological Institute. In 1927 he abandoned Metropolitan Evlogii’s jurisdiction and began to supervise the parishes in France which remained in the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Sergii (Stragorodskii, 1861-1944), the chief hierarch in Soviet Russia. In 1934 he became exarch of the Moscow Patriarchate in the USA. In 1947 he returned to the Soviet Union and there he administered in succession the Riga, Rostov-on-Don and Saratov dioceses. He died in the Pskov-Pecherskii monastery.

Archbishop Anastasii of Kishinev (Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Gribanovskii, 1873-1965)

Thin, with an ascetic face and prominent eyes. Bears himself with great tact and dignity, very cautious and reserved.

Soon after the Council he changed his position and moved over to the victorious party. After the death of Metropolitan Antonii he headed the Synodal Church.

Archbishop Evlogii of Volyn’ (Vasilii Semonovich Georgievskii, 1868-1946)

Big, soft, with a long beard and small, lively eyes looking over the top of his gold-rimmed spectacles. A first impression of looseness, a lack of skeleton, but behind this exterior is concealed a man with a great deal of experience who knows how to reach his goal.

Patriarch Tikhon (Beliavin, 1865-1925) entrusted Archbishop Evlogii with the administration of the Russian parishes abroad by a decree of 8 April 1921. When the resolutions and messages promulgated at the Council in Karlovtsi reached Moscow, the Patriarch declared that the Council did not possess canonical authority. He annulled the administrative organs which it had created, reaffirmed that the sole canonical hierarch abroad was Evlogii, and elevated him to the rank of Metropolitan. The latter, however, attempted a compromise and continued to co-operate with Metropolitan Antonii. Relations between them became more and more strained. The break came in 1926, when the Synod of Bishops in Karlovtsi, despite the protests of Metropolitan Evlogii, separated the German parishes from his diocese and designated Bishop Tikhon as their diocesan bishop. In 1927 the same Synod, as has already been mentioned, broke communion with Metropolitan Evlogii.

In 1930 yet another break took place, this time with Metropolitan Sergii in Russia, who was demanding an attitude of loyalty towards the Soviet government from the clergy abroad. As a result of this friction, Metropolitan Evlogii arranged for the Ecumenical Patriarch to take the Russian parishes in Western Europe under his jurisdiction on 17 February 1931.

Metropolitan Evlogii, alone of the older generation of the episcopate, proved capable of building up church life in the emigration under the entirely new conditions of a refugee existence. He was a broad-minded man, possessed a wise tolerance and was ready to learn from life. At the Council he bided his time, sizing up the situation and, unlike Bishop Veniamin, not becoming involved in controversy. Up till the Revolution, he was connected, as a deputy in the Duma, with the right-wing parties, and his refusal to co-operate in the emigration with the representatives of the extreme monarchists was regarded by them as treason.

The other bishops at the Council in Karlovtsi conducted themselves in a passive manner, not taking part in the debates and evidently feeling lost in the stormy atmosphere of a politically-coloured church assembly. The majority of them finished their lives as pensioners in Serbian monasteries, with the exception of Bishop Serafim (Sobolev, 1881-1950), who was appointed to administer the Russian parishes in Bulgaria, where he died. Another exception was Bishop Apollinarii (1933), who went to America.

Archpriest Grigorii Lomako (1884-1959)

Corpulent, with a pointed beard and coarse facial features. Energetic, businesslike, speaks in a loud, authoritative voice, knows what he wants and openly declares it. He ended his life as dean of the cathedral in Paris. He was a committed supporter of Metropolitan Evlogii.

Archpriest Sergii Orlov

The complete opposite of Lomako. Slender, affectionate, pious, speaks in a high voice, rolling his eyes a little. He attempts to reconcile everyone, to smooth out discord. He himself, however, sticks to his own views and is not ready to retreat from them. He differed from the rest of the clergy in that he did not experience the Revolution, as he was rector of the Russian church in Geneva. Subsequently he proved to be one of the bulwarks of the Synodal Church in Western Europe, but he did not permit interference in his own parish in Geneva, which he ran with a firm grip.

Archpriest Leonid Kolchev (1871-1944)

He wins people over by his goodwill and inner calm. A theological academy graduate, a man of culture and good upbringing. He behaves with independence and dignity. Dean of the church in Copenhagen and chaplain to the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna, who died in 1928.

Archpriest Piotr Belovidov

A typical example of a good provincial archpriest, with a musical voice, conducting services in a traditional manner and with conviction. Until his death, rector of the Russian parish in Belgrade. He treated with reserve the activity of the Russian student circle and any concern that lay outside the confines of the worshipping life of his parish, which he organized skilfully.

Archpriest Nikolai Sakharov

Yet another priest who had not experienced the Revolution. He emanated calm, almost indifference. Handsome, always carefully dressed. A small, black beard, average height. The stormy scenes oi the Council did not disturb his apparent well-being and tranquillity. He finished his life as dean of the cathedral in Paris, where he had spent the First World War.

Archimandrite Antonii (Marchenko)

Dark, bony, angular and impetuous. He is liable to flare up and is full of energy. Later a bishop in Poland.

Hieromonk Nikolai (d. 1932)

A Siberian peasant by origin. Soft, light-coloured hair. Full of spontaneity and life. He ended his life as bishop of the Synodal jurisdiction in London.

Archimandrite Feodosii

Short, with curly hair. Taciturn. A calm face, somewhat pellucid, covered with a thick light-brown beard.

Archimandrite Tikhon (Liashchenko, d. 1944)

Middle-aged with a long, straight nose. He wears gold-rimmed bi-focal glasses. Reminds me of a large, rather ungainly and erudite bird. He speaks in a confused way. In 1924 Metropolitan Evlogii, after much hesitation, consecrated him bishop. In 1926 the desire of the new bishop to be at the head of an independent diocese provoked a schism in the Church in exile. The circumstances surrounding this consecration are described by Metropolitan Evlogii in his autobiography, Put’ moei Zhizni (The Path of my Life, Paris 1947), 418.

A. F. Trepov (b. 1864)

Rather short; his upright figure full of a consciousness of his own importance. His stern look through his gold pince-nez compels one to forget his small build. He speaks in a calm bass, sure that his words will be attentively listened to. He is a statesman, a true bureaucrat. He is intelligent, understands a great deal, but is too full of himself to change his mind. He voices the views of the extreme monarchists.

P. B. Skarzhinskii

The main leader of the extreme right-wingers. Of average height, he holds his head slightly inclined forwards. Black moustache, closely-cropped hair with a large bald patch. Everything is concentrated in his small, sharp eyes which are set deep and close together in his face. A high, narrow forehead, a frequent ironic grin. All this speaks of a stubborn, reserved and not very kind-hearted man.

Count Mikhail Grabbe

An upright little man. He has a brisk walk, mincing his step and turning his head in a self-satisfied manner. Tidy, he wears pince-nez with a black cord. His eyes radiate contentment; he has fine, white teeth. He gives the impression of a good but not very clever man. A prominent churchman in France. One of the founders of the parish in Asnieres near Paris.

A. P. Krupenskii

President of the Monarchist Conference in Reichenhal (1921). Tall, bony, with a long, fleshy nose and sleepy eyes. He wears pince-nez. A parliamentarian, at the assembly he felt in his habitual atmosphere. ‘

General Batiushin

A small man with a short grey moustache and dry, grey eyes. Everything about him is dry, unloving but strong and determined. He can persist in stubborn efforts to attain his goal.

N. E. Markov (Markov the Younger, d. 1943)

The monarchist’s ideological leader. Big, tall with curly black hair going grey. Portly with a large, black beard. There is a distinctive strength and peace of mind in him, but at the same time there is something gloomy and immobile about him, an unexpected mixture of reticence and elasticity. Count Bobrinskoi Rather stout, he bears himself loosely and somehow casually, but in a way peculiar to himself. Ardent, sincere and obstinate. An aristocrat. Obviously a good, broad soul.

Count P. N. Apraksin

Tall, with a greying moustache and a small beard. Slightly paunchy. He speaks in a loud voice, with ardour but unkindly, and for some reason he seems to be insincere. The contrast between his tired, almost dead eyes and his very mobile mouth is striking.

A. M. Maslennikov

Member of the Supreme Monarchist Council, a former member of the Duma. A tall old man with a regular and rosy face. He loves company and good chat, but he has a weak and dull personality.

Nikolai L’vov

A dry old man with a grey, pointed beard and a long nose. A bald and twisted skull. He limps a little and keeps himself to himself. He treats everything with an original touch and scepticism. There is something genuine and distinctive about him.

Professor Aleksandr Nikolaevich lanitskii

Of medium height, a lean dark-haired man, shy, giving an attentive look over the top of his round, horn-rimmed spectacles. A man with a tender and sensitive soul. Despite his softness there is something persistent and strong in him.

A. F. Vasil’ev

An imitator and even a caricature of Slavophilism. He wears a kaftan, high boots, has grown a long, white beard. He is always muttering something, he cannot stop talking, his voice is squeaky and soporific. All his speeches end with a reference to sobornost’ and the Moscow Council. As his place of residence he chose Belgrade where, inevitably, he spoke at all the social gatherings.


An example of a non-westernized Russian, bearded, with typical merchant haircut. He speaks in a pleasant bass with his eyes fixed on his beard. He does not get excited but insists on having his own way. He is not stupid and is self-assured.


A merchant with a red, spade-shaped beard. Tall and putting on weight. His face has regular features but is beginning to get flabby. He smells of the Russian soil. He loves to complain of a lack of education. It does not take him long to address you with the familiar ‘thou’. He holds his head downwards. Makes excessive prostrations in church. Clever and believes in himself.

I. Nikanorov (d. 1939)

A typical example of a school-teacher from the provinces. Small moustache and beard; lean and businesslike. He speaks with enthusiasm about the organization of the union of Petrograd parishes in the first years of the Soviet regime. He settled in France and took an active part in the life of the diocese of Metropolitan Evlogii.

[*] For the background to the 1921 Council at Sremski Karlovtsi, see Dr Zernov’s article in the last issue, “The Schism within the Russian Church in the Diaspora: its Causes and the Hopes of a Reconciliation”, Eastern Churches Review VII. 1 (1975): 59-65.


  1. The Russian name for Constantinople: literally, ‘tsar’s town’.
  2. A description of church life in Constantinople at this time is given in the book edited by N. Zernov, Na perelome (At the Turning-Point: Paris 1970), chapters 14-17.
  3. A description of the Kalovtsi Council is given in the book edited by N. and M. Zernov, Za rubezhom (Abroad: Paris 1973), chapter 2.
  4. The Serbian Parliament.
  5. The Serbian State Commission which was responsible for the financial support of the Russian refugees.
  6. Mikhail Vasil’evich Rodzianko (1869-1924): former president of the State Duma and member of the Moscow Church Council of 1917—18. His appearance at the 1921 Council in Karlovtsi provoked the indignation of the Monarchists, because of the part he had played in the abdication of Emperor Nicolas II.
  7. Relations between the Serbs and the Bulgars after the First World War were so strained that no Bulgarian was allowed to visit Serbia. The unexpected arrival of the Bulgarian Metropolitan was regarded as an insult to the Serbian Church, and the Serbian Patriarch Dimitrii therefore refused to be present at the opening of the Karlovtsi Council.
  8. The Russian delegation from Constantinople had not yet arrived, and so the representatives from the Supreme Monarchist Council enjoyed an undue predominance at the Karlovtsi meeting. Hence Bishop Veniamin’s claim that there was as yet no quorum, and his attempt to delay proceedings.
  9. The monarchist group at Karlovtsi were strongly opposed to the proposal to create a separate ‘Presbyteral Council’. They suspected that the priests would prove hostile to any resolution calling for the restoration of the Romanovs, and they therefore wished to prevent the priests from forming a distinctive group and so gaining a sense of their own identity. In the event, when the crucial motion concerning the Romanovs was put to the vote on 17/30 November, the majority of the clergy abstained.
  10. Professor T. Lokot’, the church historian, died in 1945.
  11. 1890-1938.
  12. 1859-1939.
  13. Archbishop Nikon in his biography of Metropolitan Antonii, Zhizhneopisanie Blazhenneishago Antoniia, Mitropolita Kievskago i Galitskago, VI (New York 1960) 31, cites the following objections of Archbishop Evlogii to the above message. ‘The speaker on behalf of the commission, Markov, affirms that in the projected appeal there are no politics whatsoever. This is untrue. Although the concept of an Orthodox monarch as the Lord’s Anointed can be treated from an ecclesiastical point of view, the idea of dynasty does not have an ecclesiastical character, and as such is not open to discussion at an ecclesiastical assembly, which would thereby be brought down to the level of a political gathering.’- N.Z.
  14. These outline portiaits were drafted by me during, the sessions of the Council: I have added dates of death and some references to the later careers of the participants.

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