This abridged translation of the paper, which will be presented at the conference in November 2021 in Belgrade. It has been posted here to enable conference participants to supply their questions to the presenter beforehand. The translation has been paid for by donations from Nicolas Mabin and George Luimes.
The question of organizing a Far Eastern Ecclesiastical District as a potential center of church administration outside of Russia was discussed in the Far East after Decree No. 348 (349) was issued by the All-Russian Church Authority on April 22 (May 5), 1922, dissolving the Supreme Church Administration Abroad in Sremski Karlovci. The decree was founded on Patriarch Tikhon’s condemnation of “certain clergymen” making “political statements on behalf of the Church.”Cf. Tserkovnye vedomosti [Church Bulletin] 1922. No. 12–13, pp. 6–7. However, even after he signed this document (evidently under duress), the Soviet authorities continued to demand that the imprisoned Patriarch publicly condemn and excommunicate and take other measures to influence “members of the Orthodox clergy abroad represented by Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitskii) and others who took part in the Karlovci Council (November 21 – December 2, 1921), which decided in favor of restoring the monarchy in Russia” with members of the Romanoff dynasty its head.Protocol of the Interrogation of Patriarch Tikhon on May 5, 1922, in: Akty Sviateishego Tikhona, Patriarkha Moskovskogo i vseia Rossii [Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All … Continue reading Metropolitan Anthony was the main object of these demands, since he was accused of authoring the message to the Genoa Conference (April 10–May 19, 1922) calling for non-recognition of the Bolshevik government and armed assistance to the White Movement.Cf. Novoe vremia [New Era]. No. 254 (March 1, 1922); Tserkovnye vedomosti. No. 3/1922. pp. 2–4 The situation of the Karlovci party was further complicated by the fact that in May 1922, the Renovationist/Living Church group created by the GPU and registered by the Soviet authorities, had made a claim to All-Russian church authority.In a note to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in March 1922, L. D. Trotskii put forward the idea of using the clergy as agents for the Party’s … Continue reading
Yet the year 1922 was also marked by other important milestones related to attempts to revive the former state system of the Russian Empire and the involvement of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in this struggle. This took place at the end of the Civil War in the Far East.
Yet the year 1922 was also marked by other important milestones related to attempts to revive the former state system of the Russian Empire and the involvement of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church in this struggle. This took place at the end of the Civil War in the Far East. However, paradoxical though it may seem, the Far Eastern bishops were of much less concern to Soviet authorities than the Karlovci bishops were. Proof of this can be found in the fact that, strangely, we have forgotten certain names that are essential to understanding the activity of the last White governments that relied on the authority of the Church and laid the ideological groundwork for the struggle between the Whites and the Reds. After all, it was in the Far East that the meaning of this struggle finally emerged when the principle of “non-resolution” formulated by the White movement back in 1918According to this political program of the White movement, after the downfall of the Soviet regime, an All-Russian National Constituent Assembly was to be convened to make the final decision about … Continue reading was edged out by the rallying cry, thitherto less popular among the White leaders, for the restoration of the monarchy in Russia.
The alliance between Orthodoxy and Autocracy also found expression here in open “political statements on behalf of the Church” by members of the Orthodox clergy. At the same time, churchmen, some of whom were in exile, were faced with the question of organizing a special ecclesiastical district in the Far East.
During this period, the Far Eastern part of the Church Abroad comprised the newly created Diocese of Harbin (established by a decree of the Supreme Church Administration Abroad of March 16 (29), 1922), as well as the Beijing, Japanese and Korean missions of the Russian Orthodox Church. The center of the Orthodox diaspora in the Far East was the Chinese city of Harbin, built by the Russians in the right-of-way of the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER) as an administrative center for the same (1898). Between 1920 and 1923, four bishops emigrated to Harbin: Archbishop Mefodii (Gerasimov) of Orenburg and Turgai, Bishop Meletii (Zaborovskii) of Transbaikalia and Nerchinsk, Bishop Nestor (Anisimov) of Kamchatka and Petropavlovsk, and Bishop Michael (Bogdanov) of Vladivostok and Primorʹe.
News of the creation of an independent diocese in Harbin reached Patriarch Tikhon about a month before the abolition of the Supreme Church Administration Abroad. Evidence of this is given by Archpriest Nikolai Artemov, an author of well-known works on the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in Harbin, from the book Ideinaia borʹba za Sviatuiu Rusʹ [The Ideological Struggle for Holy Russia] by the Harbin priest Vasilii Demidov. Father Vasilii wrote the following: shortly after the diocese was established, I. M. Borisov, warden of Vladivostok Cathedral, was sent to Moscow on behalf of the workers’ organizations, where he was able to obtain an audience with His Holiness the Patriarch and had a long talk with him. Borisov described the state of church affairs in the Far East to Patriarch Tikhon and reported that a new diocese had been established for Manchuria by the Supreme Church Administration Abroad and Archbishop Mefodii, “who had suffered much from the Bolsheviks”, had been appointed to this diocese. According to Borisov, “the Patriarch wept for joy when he heard about the thriving church life in Chinese territory, and asked his visitor to convey his primatial blessing to Archbishop Mefodii and the entire Far Eastern Church, adding that he would pray daily for the prosperity and well-being of the same.” Borisov’s testimony was recorded under oath in a file that was kept by the Harbin Diocesan Council.Cf.: Archpriest Nikolai Artemov. “Postanovlenie No. 362 ot 7/20 noiabria 1920 g. i zakrytie zarubezhnogo VVTsU v mae 1922 g.” [“Decree No. 362 of November 7/20, 1920, and the Closing Down of … Continue reading
The matter of organizing a Provisional Supreme Church Administration in the Far East and forming an ecclesiastical district under it began to be discussed in the summer of 1921, when a delegation from Chita arrived in Harbin. They were representatives of Transbaikal Diocese and participants in the Diocesan Congress held in early July, which addressed problems relating to local church government. They informed Bishop Meletii, who was still head of Transbaikal Diocese in Harbin, of Decree No. 362 of November 7 (20), 1920, of the All-Russian Church Authority on the organization of church government “in cases where a diocese is cut off from the Supreme Church Administration or the latter ceases operation.”In Transbaikalia, Resolution 362 was passed on by Bishop Dionisii (Prozorovskii) of Chelyabinsk. The decree, as a document of the utmost importance, was to be received by the bishops of all the dioceses on Russian territory. However, thanks to the delegation from Chita, it reached the foreign part of the Russian Orthodox Church and was sent from the Far East to the Supreme Church Administration Abroad in Sremski Karlovci, where it was received in January 1922.
Thus, it was first stated in July 1921 that an independent Provisional Supreme Church Administration ought to be formed for all the Far Eastern dioceses, both those in Russian territory and those abroad. This was all the more so given previous experience with this kind of autonomous organization: in 1918 and 1919, two Provisional Supreme Church Administrations had been formed in Russia – in Siberia and the South-East – and in 1920, a third was organized outside Russia that supposedly brought together all the foreign dioceses, missions, and parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church (Supreme Church Administration Abroad). As for the Far East, the matter of forming a Provisional Supreme Church Administration for dioceses within Russian territory had been under discussion since the spring of 1921.
The Russian Civil War was not yet over by then. Primorʹe was a stronghold of anti-Bolshevik resistance, where it was especially difficult for the Soviet regime to gain a foothold, and where the last large exodus of Russian refugees left in late 1922. In 1921–1922, there were two White governments there: the so-called “Merkulov” government and the Amur Provisional Government that replaced it.
These had been preceded by pro-Soviet state bodies in Primorʹe. Before May 1921, Primorʹe was part of the Far Eastern Republic (FER), a “buffer” state created in April 1920 at the initiative of the leadership of the RSFSR. From October 1920, the capital of the FER was in Chita, where a Constituent Assembly was held from February 12 to April 12, 1921, resulting in the election of a Bolshevik-led government and the adoption of a constitution that proclaimed democratic freedoms, the abolition of private property, separation of church and state, etc.
By this time, the White Army formally no longer existed. However, in late 1920/early 1921, the scattered remnants of the Far Eastern Army (about 30,000 men) managed to relocate to Primorʹe, where the nearly unarmed troops were divided into two camps: the “Kappelites” (in Nikolʹsk-Ussuriiskii and Razdolʹnoe, commanded by Lieutenant General G. A. Verzhbitskii) и “Semenovites” (in Grodekovo, commanded by Lieutenant General G. M. Semenov). Although they were no longer officially an army and were just, as one of the Kappelevites later wrote, people “who were looking for shelter, a job”P. Petrov. “V Primorʹe (1921–1922 gg.)” [“In Primorʹe (1921–1922)”], in: Poslednie boi na Dalʹnem Vostoke [The Last Battles for the Far East]. p. 8. order was maintained in the units, and in the spring of 1921, combat training was even begun.
During this period, monarchist sentiments had already begun to prevail in the Far East. However, the time for overtly monarchist statements had not yet come. The Non-Socialist Congress proclaimed that its ultimate goal was to restore a “United, Great, and Free Russia in which the Russian people would be assured of the free peaceful expression of their creative will through the Constituent Assembly as sole master of the Russian Land.”Svet. Harbin, March 22, 1921.
The congress worked out an overall plan to create a bourgeois state in Primorʹe on the basis of an adjusted Cadet program. However, for certain right-wing organizations in the Far East, some of the provisions of this program, above all the idea of calling a new Constituent Assembly and Japanese intervention, were not acceptable.D. A. Liakhov. “S’ezd nesotsialisticheskikh organizatsii Dalʹnego Vostoka: popytka konsolidatsii antibolʹshevistskikh sil Primorʹia” [“The Congress of Non-Socialist Organizations in … Continue reading
In May 1921, there was a White coup in Primorʹe that went down in history as the “Merkulov” coup. On May 23, Kappel’s units nearly peacefully freed Nikolʹsk-Ussuriiskii from the Bolsheviks; on May 26, they occupied Vladivostok. The FER regional government was overthrown, power passed to the five-person Council of the First Congress of the Non-socialist Population of the Far East. They formed a new Amur Provisional Government, chaired by S. D. Merkulov, brother of N. D. Merkulov and a former legal adviser to the Vladivostok Municipal Government.
On June 10, 1921, a second Congress of Non-socialist Organizations was convened in Vladivostok. It continued to discuss plans for state-building. At the end of the Congress, Bishop Nestor (Anisimov) of Kamchatka celebrated a prayer service. After the service, Bishop Nestor delivered a sermon calling upon all present, in spite of their “political differences,” to unite in prayer to God “that righteousness and truth may be spread through love, and not through evil.” As one devoted to the Faith, the Tsar, and the Fatherland, he spoke of the need to demonstrate “pure, robust patriotism” in “strengthening this land which has been liberated from its enemies” and saving their compatriots in Russia, where “a pyramid of millions upon millions of human bodies of people who have been tortured, murdered, starved to death and died in epidemics is mounting”, and where “innocent people – men, women, and even children, ministers of the Church and laymen – are languishing in prison.” Bishop Nestor ended his speech with an appeal for help from the White Army in fulfillment of its duty to liberate its homeland.“Slovo Episkopa Nestora na molebne pri zakrytii Sezda predstavitelei nesotsialisticheskogo naseleniia v gor. Vladivostoke 25 iiunia 1921 goda” [“Sermon of Bishop Nestor at a Prayer Service at … Continue reading
As a result of the heterogeneous Non-socialist movement, the new government convened an Amur People’s Assembly, which was supposed to be “modeled on the English Parliament”. The monarchist law professor N. I. Miroliubov, the chairman of the Harbin District Commission on Elections, was actively involved in this work. In 1919–1920, as a supervising prosecutor, he worked with the commission of investigator N. A Sokolov, who led the investigation into the murder of the Russian royal family. It was Professor Miroliubov who, in January 1921, first petitioned Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitskii, the head of the Supreme Church Administration Abroad) to establish an independent diocese in Harbin, the capital of the Russian Far East, and to appoint as its head Bishop Methodius (Gerasimov), the most senior of the Far Eastern émigré bishops,Letter of January 2, 1921. Nikander I. Miroliubov papers, Box 1, Hoover Institution Library & Archives., which was indeed done in March 1922.
The People’s Assembly, which consisted of delegates from Primorʹe and various white organizations from the Exclusion Zone of the Chinese Eastern Railway, was elected in July 1921, as a regional representative body for a period of one year. Initially, it consisted of ten factions (monarchist, cadet, SR, peasant labor, and others). Each candidate running in the elections had to sign a statement saying that he did not belong to “anti-state parties, as specified in Article 29 of the Regulation on the elections to the Amur People’s Assembly”.Nikander I. Miroliubov papers, Box 1, Folder title, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.
By early 1922, the Amur state formation included not only the Primorʹe region, but also Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and part of the Yakutia and Amur regions.Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 1. However, most of those who identified as its citizens were White soldiers and refugees. The majority of the local population either remained indifferent or sympathized with the Reds; they were mostly urban workers and rural inhabitants of southern Primorʹe, and often joined partisan detachments. After June 1921, they were opposed by the Kappelite units.
The Whites’ position remained difficult, mainly because of the state of the army: the conflict between the pro-government Kappelites and the pro-Japanese Semenovites began to be exacerbated due to disagreements between the Kappelite command and the Merkulov government, which had imperceptibly pivoted to the Semenovites. This resulted in a political crisis.
The People’s Assembly, which supported the Kappelites, was not able to be reconciled to the actions of the Merkulov government and increasingly criticized it. These tensions eventually reached a point where the National Assembly was dissolved by a government decree of May 31, 1922. However, some members disobeyed this decree and on the night of June 1, declared the Amur government to be deposed, while forming their own government. By a decree of June 3, 1922, it was declared that the People’s Assembly had elected Lieutenant-General M. K. Diterikhs in the place of the deposed Amur Provisional Government. Diterikhs, who knew nothing of these events, was at that time in Harbin, and until he could come to Vladivostok, Major-General V. M. Molchanov was put in charge as interim president of the government.Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 1,5.
For several days, there were two authorities in Vladivostok that did not recognize each other. The intervention of General Diterikhs saved the day. After acquainting himself with the situation, Diterikhs compared the events in Vladivostok with the February Revolution of 1917. As a convinced monarchist who nonetheless did not wish to deepen the split, he publicly rejected the “revolutionary election” and announced the dissolution of the People’s Assembly and convening of a Zemsky Sobor (Assembly of the Land) to determine the structure and composition of the supreme authority in the Amur region.Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 11–12. As a result of the negotiations, the People’s Assembly as well as the government it constituted resigned. General Diterikhs assumed command of the armed forces, succeeding General Verzhbitskii.
The question of power in the Primorʹe was thus resolved peacefully, thanks chiefly to the efforts of Lieutenant-General M. K. Diterikhs. An important result of his involvement in the conflict was the fact that having forced the People’s Assembly to dissolve itself, he was able to set a tough condition for the Merkulov government: the convening of a Zemsky Sobor.
Not long before the opening of the Zemsky Sobor, in early June 1922, the Harbin press reported that a special commission had been formed to make preparations for a Far Eastern Church Council to be held in Harbin. Archbishop Mefodii of Harbin issued a decree saying that the commission consisted of: Archpriest Korovin, Archpriest Voznesenskii, Priests Demidov and Petilin, and the laymen K. G. Rubanov and I. V. Lavoshnikov. The bylaws for the Council were likewise drafted personally by the Archbishop and comprised twenty points. The first stated that the Far Eastern Church Council was to be gathered in fulfillment of the decree of the Supreme Church Administration about organizing church authorities in localities no longer in contact with it (that is, resolution No. 362 of November 7/20, 1920). The Regulations stipulated the makeup of the Council and gave an indication of the agenda for it, which mostly concerned diocesan governance and problems related to parish life.Cf.: E. N. Sumarokov. XX let Kharbinskoi eparkhii, 1922–1942 [The Diocese of Harbin After 20 Yerars, 1922–1942]. Harbin, 1942, p. 46. However, Abp. Mefodii did not wait until the commission could conclude its work and set out for Vladivostok to take part in the Zemsky Sobor.
The opening of the Zemsky Sobor took place on July 23, 1922. According to the regulations that had been worked out, it comprised members of the Amur Provisional Government, representatives of the clergy, the military command and the army, Cossacks, civil bureaucracy, institutions of higher education, and other social and religious organizations. Communists and those who had joined ranks with them were not allowed to take part in the sessions, nor were internationalist socialists. There were three delegates from the newly formed Diocese of Harbin at the Zemsky Sobor: Priest Vasilii Demidov, representing the clergy; Professor N. I. Miroliubov from the Diocesan Council; and the layman A. K. Skorodinin (or Skorodikhin, the spelling is ambiguous; perhaps a print-shop worker).
The sessions were preceded by a military parade, followed by a procession and service of intercession served by Bishop Mihail (Bogdanov) of Vladivostok, with a large number of clergy concelebrating. Welcome addresses were made by members of the government, including President S. D. Merkulov, who said that “the task of the Zemsky Sobor that is now commencing is to capture the dying life of Russia in a little piece of Primorʹe and lead the healing of the entire Russian land from here – even if not in the sense of direct action, then at least by example.”Svet. Harbin, June 25, 1922. Further speeches were then given by representatives of the army and navy (M. K. Diterikhs), the Cossacks (General N. S. Anisimov), the municipal authorities (A. I. Andogskii, V. N. Tolok) and members of the Sobor from other non-socialist organizations in the Far East. A welcome address was given on behalf of the Orthodox clergy by Priest Aristarkh Ponomarev, who represented a group of members of the All-Russian Local Council. Bishop Meletii (Zaborovskii) of Transbaikalia, who could not come to the Zemsky Sobor’s sessions due to illness, sent his blessing to the Sobor.
After these welcomes, the members of the Sobor took an oath: they all repeated words read out by Priest Aristarkh Ponomarev and kissed the cross and Gospel book. It is also important to note that from day one, each session of the Zemsky Sobor began and ended with a common prayer.
At the second session, on July 25, a presidium was elected. Prof. N. I. Miroliubov was named president of the Zemsky Sobor, and General A. P. Baskhseev and V. N. Tolok, mayor of Nikolʹsk-Ussuiriiskii, were chosen as vice-presidents. Patriarch Tikhon was elected as an honorary president; the council members sang the polychronion to him, after which the presidium was tasked with drafting a public address to the population and clergy of Soviet Russia and submitting it for discussion. At the session on June 28, honorary vice-presidents were elected: Archbishop Mefodii of Harbin, as the most senior of the bishops at the Zemsky Sobor, and the Old-Believer bishop Philaret of Kazan and Vyatka.
Three historically significant theses drafted by the Committee of Monarchist Organizations of the Far East were put up for discussion at the session on July 31: 1) the Zemsky Sobor acknowledges that the right to supreme authority in Russia rests with the Romanov dynasty; 2) the Zemsky Sobor considers it necessary and in accord with the wishes of the population for a sovereign power in Primorʹe to be assumed by a supreme ruler from the Romanov dynasty deemed suitable for this purpose; 3) the Zemsky Sobor considers it necessary to report on the above points to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich. It was suggested that the Government enter forthwith into negotiations with the Romanovs about having one of them invited as a supreme ruler, and to elect a temporary government for the duration of the negotiations and appointment process.
This matter was discussed over the course of the following days. As a result of the election, Lieutenant-General M. K. Diterikhs was named temporary governor of the Amur region by an overwhelming majority of votes: 213 to 19.
On that same day, July 31, Archbishop Mefodii of Harbin gave a speech in defense of the monarchy at the Zemsky Sobor; he began by reiterating his welcome statement to the Sobor, made at the third session on July 27, in which he said that “only sacred royal authority can save our homeland, this sacred authority must be entrusted to one of the members of the Romanov dynasty, who have raised Russia up to the level of a great power and offered an invaluable sacrifice on the altar of the Fatherland: the blood of a Czar-martyr.”Nikander I. Miroliubov papers, Box 1, Folder title, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.
On August 3, there was another open session partly on church issues. A letter from Harbin Diocesan Council to President N. I. Miroliubov was put up for discussion; it spoke about the Renovationists’ seizure of power in the church in Russia and the arrest and imprisonment of three Siberian bishops. Enclosed with the letter were copies of documents received from Krasnoyarsk by Priest Mikhail Toporkov that contained Renovationist directives.
The first document called upon the faithful to condemn Patriarch Tikhon and any clergy loyal to him. It further reported that “a [Renovationist] temporary All-Russian Church Administration [had been formed] for the provinces of Siberia, as well: a Siberian Church Administration headquartered in Tomsk”. It called upon the local church authorities to create regional structures and a provincial church administration with clergy and laity. In addition, they were obligated to “preach sermons befitting the moment at hand” and to act in concert with the civil authorities, “who are instructed to facilitate the ecclesiastical revolution in Siberia and to adopt a positive stance toward the progressive clergy”.Ibid.
The next encyclical contained information about the makeup of the Renovationist Temporary Church Administration in Tomsk, which began its work on June 3, 1922. It called on clergy and laity to be entirely apolitical in Church matters, to submit to the decrees of the Church Administration in Tomsk, and to adopt a positive stance toward the All-Russian Ecclesiastical Revolution. The re-election of Deans and Church Councils from among “progressive elements” and the calling of a Local Council in Tomsk were declared to be the most immediate tasks. Clergy and laity were instructed to “arrange assemblies concerning the important moment at hand” in conjunction with the authorities, and to adopt measures “to enable the free confiscation of church valuables in order to render aid to the hungry while leaving the most important cultic objects in churches”.Ibid.
The second point in the document prescribed new formulas for commemorating the authorities at litanies, while also specifying that the latter could be intoned in either Russian or Church Slavonic.
Next, two messages in defense of Russian church valuables addressed to the Bishop of Canterbury and the President of the United States of America were read out. They were written by Archbishop Mefodii of Harbin. His first message to the Bishop of Canterbury ended as follows:
“The Orthodox populace of the city of Harbin and the entire Archdiocese of Manchuria, led by their Bishop, bowing before the unparalleled sacrifice made by the faithful people of England to save the sacred valuables of the Orthodox Russian Church, and accepting it as a good omen for the future unity of the Orthodox and Anglican Churches, expresses feelings of boundless gratitude to Your Eminence and to all the faithful Anglican people while being animated by the hope that the faithful Anglican people will unite with the Russian Orthodox people in common fraternal prayer for the salvation of our suffering homeland, and in a common struggle against the enemies of the faith and the Church of Christ”.Ibid.
In the second address to the American President, Archbishop Mefodii called the President the chief instigator of the protest “against the violence visited by a bloody, tyrannical government on the poor people enslaved by it,” asked that he “convey to the American people a feeling of boundless gratitude for their noble decision to defend justice and humanity and to come to the aid of our ill-fated homeland in a time of calamities without precedent in its history. We believe and hope,” the message read, “that the American people will come to the aid of our suffering people in the future, not only to help them morally and financially to survive the terrible natural disasters which have struck them, but also to lend a helping hand, when the time comes, to all the faithful sons of our great homeland, the Russian land, in the struggle for the liberation of their people from the bloody regime of the tyrants.”Ibid.
One cannot but note that, since Archbishop Mefodii was speaking on behalf of the Orthodox populace of Harbin and the entire Diocese of Harbin, with him at its head as its Bishop, his addresses can be deemed “political statements on behalf of the Church”. The Zemsky Sobor unanimously supported these appeals, adding to them “the voice of the Russian Land of Amur, gathered at the Zemsky Sobor”.Ibid.
The session on August 5, 1922, once again touched upon church matters. The Amur Zemsky Sobor, “numbering about 300 people, with three Orthodox bishops – Archbishop Mefodii of Harbin and Manchuria, Bishop Mikhail of Vladivostok and Primorʹe, and Bishop Nestor of Kamchatka and Petropavlovsk – among them”, issued an appeal, signed by President Miroliubov, to the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Serbia, the Metropolitans of Athens, Sofia, and Romania, the Archbishop of Cyprus, and the president of the Supreme Church Administration Abroad, Metropolitan Antony (Khrapovitskii). All the addressees were urged “to raise their authoritative voice against the derision and violence directed against the Russian Orthodox Church and against the unauthorized, non-canonical reorganization of its church administration.”Ibid.
Here it can be seen that the dissolution of the Karlovci Supreme Church Administration Abroad was not deemed valid in the Far East, and that Metropolitan Antony was still considered to be the president of the Supreme Church Administration Abroad.
At a solemn meeting of the Zemsky Sobor on August 8, 1922, a transfer of power occurred from the Amur Provisional Government to the newly elected ruler, M. K. Dieterikhs. On the same day, General Dietrikhs issued decrees announcing his taking office and renaming the Amur Rural Krai to the Amur State Agglomeration. In the following days, there were sessions behind closed doors and private meetings to discuss reports by government members, including some on military matters.
While the Zemsky Sobor was still in session, the outcome of the struggle against the Bolsheviks was not yet clear. General N. A. Lokhvitskii, a representative of the monarchist center of Harbin, had visited the Balkans and tried to negotiate with the French about sending General Wrangel’s units to the Far East and about whether it might be possible for one of the members of the former imperial family to take over as commander-in-chief. Most monarchists pinned their hopes on Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, who had the most influence in the diaspora. However, he stubbornly refused to stand at the head of the movement and adopted a firm position of “non-determination”.As early as March 1917, the Provisional Government had sent the Grand Duke into retirement from his post of Supreme Commander-in-Chief, officially notifying him of the reluctance of the triumphant … Continue reading
At the session on August 9, after reading a telegram from the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna thanking the President and the Zemsky Sobor for their kind greetings on her name-day, Bishop Nestor of Kamchatka proposed that a telegram be sent to Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, also on the occasion of his name-day, and that a polychronion be intoned to him. After this, President Miroliubov suggested that the Sobor ask Bishop Nestor, “as the former father-confessor of the Grand Duke,” also to sign this telegram.Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-5194. Item 4, ff. 538–539.
At the last meeting of the Zemsky Sobor on August 10, on the basis of the three theses heard on July 31, resolutions were passed electing two delegations, one to Western Europe and the other to Japan. The members of the delegation to Europe were President Miroliubov, Bishop Nestor of Kamchatka, and former head-of-government S. D. Merkulov.Russian State Archive, Fonds P-5194. Item 4, f. 576. The main purpose of their trip was to resolve the issue of the unification of the army and the appointment of a member of the House of Romanov as a ruler in the Far East – a role intended for Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich. The delegation’s trip to Japan had to do with petitioning the Japanese government to postpone the evacuation of Japanese troops, for the return of seized weapons, and for a loan — which, as the newspapers reported, could not meet with success under the circumstances.Cf.: Svet. Harbin, August 12, 1922.
Believing that the population should be united around the Church, in his first decree outlining the principles of state-building, Diterikhs had already instructed Archbishop Methodius of Harbin to convene an Amur Church Council,Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 28. which, together with a Zemstvo Duma, was to form the basis of a representative authority in the region. In the next decree, he ordered an immediate transition to a structure of parish government: the Zemstvo Duma was urgently instructed to develop a provision under which parishes, governed by Parish Councils, would become the main administrative units of local government in the city and the region, and among the Cossacks. In addition, the decree stated the need to convene a congress of representatives of all national organizations in the Far East, “based on the principles proclaimed by the Zemsky Sobor, in order to unite Far Eastern public organizations around the Church Council”.Svet. Harbin, August 18, 1922.
To prepare for the Church Council, Diterikhs charged Bishop Mikhail of Vladivostok with convening a “Bishops’ Conference”,Ussuriiskoe slovo. September 13, 1922, which took place from September 13–14 in Nikolʹsk-Ussuriiskii. It was attended by five bishops: Archbishops Mefodii (Gerasimov) of Harbin and Sergii (Tikhomirov) of Japan, and Bishops Mikhail (Bogdanov) of Vladivostok, Nestor (Anisimov) of Kamchatka and Meletii (Zaborovskii) of Transbaikalia. Prior to the Conference, they visited the governor and discussed pressing issues of church life with him.
The main result of the Bishops’ Conference in Nikolʹsk-Ussuriiskii was a decision to convene a Far Eastern Church Council with an expected 50 members “in the very near future” (this was supposed to happen in October 1922). In addition to the members of the Bishops’ Conference, the Council was to include: Archbishop Innokentii (Figurovskii) of Peking, Bishops Sofronii (Starkov) of Chita, Iona (Pokrovskii) of Tientsin, and Simon (Vinogradov) of Shanghai, and Archimandrite Feodosii (Perevalov), the head of the Korean mission. Members of the All-Russian Local Council, elected from the laity, military clergy and parishes, and who were in the Far East and had the opportunity to come to Vladivostok, were also invited to take part in the Council.Cf.: Zemskii Krai. Vladivostok, October 13, 1922. The participants in the Bishops’ Conference considered and adopted a program for the future Council, the chief point of which was the question of the organization of ecclesiastical administration.
At that moment, there were two potential solutions: either to organize an independent Far Eastern Provisional Supreme Church Administration, or to keep the Far Eastern dioceses and missions under the newly created Synod Abroad (established on August 20, 1922) as the main body of church administration outside of Russia. Since the organization of an independent Far Eastern Provisional Supreme Church Administration was in doubt because of the worsening military situation in Amur Region and the impossibility of quickly restoring communication with the Patriarch, it was decided in favor of Karlovci in September 1922.
The main argument for the necessity of centralizing church administration abroad (which did not rule out the creation of the Far Eastern VVCU and a church district subordinate to it) was made by Bishop Nestor, who reasoned that church administration in Russia was paralyzed: “Patriarch Tikhon is arrested, most bishops have been shot or somehow removed from Church administration”. The life of the Church has been brought into disrepute by the latest anti-canonical decrees of the Bolshevik clergy: baptism at age 18, worship in Russian, the ordination of married priests as bishops, and many other things,” he said. “[Therefore there is] an urgent need for a unifying church center.”Ussuriiskoe slovo, September 13, 1922.
In view of these circumstances, an emergency decision was made at the Bishops’ Conference to change the status of the Diocese of Kamchatka, which was in Russian territory; this was given emergency approval by the Synod of Bishops Abroad. On September 15, the day after the Bishops’ Conference adjourned, Bishop Mikhail of Vladivostok and Bishop Nestor of Kamchatka had already received telegrams from Karlovci splitting off the Diocese of Kamchatka (a semi-independent vicariate of the Diocese of Vladivostok) into an independent diocese and creating a Vicariate of Okhotsk within it. The Synod gave its blessing to Archpriest Daniil Sherstennikov, the former rector of the Kamchatka cathedral, who was at that time in Vladivostok, to fill the See of Okhotsk.Cf.: Svet. Harbin, September 21, 1922.
In view of the order of the Synod Abroad, Bishop Nestor urgently left for Vladivostok to take part in the monastic tonsure and consecration of Father Daniel. It was assumed that the newly consecrated bishop would take the first ferry to Petropavlovsk, where he would stand in for Bishop Nestor. The latter was to depart for Europe to fulfill the mission entrusted to him by the Zemsky Sobor.
After Father Daniel’s consecration, which took place in October,Fr. Daniil (Sherstennikova) was consecrated by Bishop Mikhail (Bogdanov) of Vladivostok and Bishop Nestor (Anisimov) of Kamchatka. Bishop Nestor left for Japan, from whence he returned to Harbin on October 21, 1922, intending to stay there until November 1 and then travel to Western Europe by ship via Japan. But this trip never happened. After Red troops seized Primorʹe, the delegation from the Zemsky Sobor no longer had any reason to visit Europe.
In spite of the proactive steps taken by the Karlovci Synod toward solving the problems of church administration in the Far East, it could still not claim to have all the functions of an All-Russian Ecclesiastical Authority. This was understood both by the foreign hierarchs themselves, who remained loyal to the Patriarch of All Russia, and by ordinary believers.
However, the Far Eastern Council was no longer destined to be convened. On October 25, 1922, Amur Zemsky Krai, a bastion of the old Russia, ceased to exist. The last mass exodus of post-revolutionary émigrés from Russia had begun. With the influx of refugees, the Church was faced new, urgent challenges that would take years to solve.
In 1923 and 1924, important decisions were taken abroad concerning the creation of a legal body of supreme church administration to which all the dioceses and ecclesiastical missions outside Russia would be subject. After the abolition of the Provisional Supreme Church Administration by Patriarch Tikhon’s decree, it was assumed that the question of the organization of church government abroad would be resolved at an All-Diaspora Church Council composed of bishops, clergy, and laypeople. This Council anticipated and was effectively replaced by the Council of Bishops that commenced its work on May 18 (31), 1923, that is, a year after the Provisional Church Administration Abroad had been shut down.
In preparation for the Council, the Provisional Synod of Bishops sent out questionnaires and invitations to the bishops of all the dioceses and missions of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. On April 25, 1923, one of these letters, dated February 5 (18) of that year, was received in Harbin. The local bishops were informed that, in the event that it would be impossible for them either to attend the Council or to send a deputy, each was invited to express his opinion in writing on four points concerning the convening of an All-Diaspora Council, the composition of a future church administration abroad, the Provisional Synod of Bishops, and the possibility of transferring the functions of the All-Russian Church Authority, which no longer existed in Soviet Russia, to the Synod Abroad.Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6343. Item 3, ff. 10–11.
Five days after receiving the letter, the bishops in Harbin convened a meeting to discuss it. Since none of them was able to take part in the upcoming Council, a written reply was drafted for the Synod Abroad, which largely conformed to the comments of the majority of the Russian hierarchs abroad.
It was not only bishops who took part in resolving issues of church governance abroad. A meeting of the Synod of Bishops Abroad on August 7, 1923 – two months after the Council of Bishops – heard a report from the Diocesan Council in Harbin based on the Council’s program. The report was a response to Archbishop Mefodii’s April 25 resolution asking for the advice of the Diocesan Council on the questionnaire items. Along with the letter from the Synod Abroad, he forwarded a copy of Decree No. 348 on the abolition of the All-Diaspora Council. The Diocesan Council in Harbin passed a resolution on three of the points at an extraordinary session on April 27. The first two contained responses to the first three questions, and for the most part, these responses did not diverge from the opinions of the bishops resident in China.
Of particular interest to the Synod of Bishops Abroad was the resolution of the Diocesan Council on Decree 348, which proposed transferring authority to the Far East to establish a Far Eastern Church District in the event that the Supreme Church Administration Abroad were terminated. The document was signed by the chairman of the Diocesan Council, Archpriest Piotr Rozhdestvenskii, and by Council members Archpriest Mikhail Philologov, Priest Konstantin Lebedev, and Professor N. I. Miroliubov. However, there was no reaction from Synod Abroad to this report. Since “the Council of Bishops had already issued a statement on these questions,” the report of the Harbin Diocesan Council was duly noted and filed by the Council on August 13, 1923.
Thus, while the provisions of the well-known Decree No. 362 of November 7/20, 1920 were the main argument of the supporters of the Far East for splitting off into a separate metropolis in 1921, by 1923, the Diocesan Council had gone further: the Far East not only claimed independence; it could have become an alternative to Sremski Karlovci, even though this was already becoming impossible at the time. In the view of most of the hierarchs of the Church Abroad, founding an autonomous Far Eastern district (second only to that in Western Europe) might have definitively disrupted the “internal unity” of the Church, and the “external unity” of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad that was based thereupon. The proposal by the Harbin Diocesan Council to establish a Metropolitan District in the Far East and to have it assume the functions of an All-Diaspora Church Administration in the event of the loss of these functions by the Temporary Supreme Church Administration Abroad, was not discussed by the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, and no decision was made on it – which would seem to reflect the tendency of the Karlovci Synod to distance itself from lay pressure on such an important matter as the formation of an All-Diaspora Church Administration. The fact that the Far East had lost its special status as a potential political center for the revival of the Russian Empire also played a role.Cf.: S. N. Bakonina Tserkovnaia zhiznʹ russkoi emigratsii na Dalʹnem Vostoke v 1920–1931 gg. [The Church Life of the Russian Diaspora in the Far East, 1920–1931]. Moscow, 2014, pp. 131–138.
In late 1923, a Harbin Diocesan Council was abolished at the initiative of Archbishop Mefodii, the head of the Diocese of Harbin. It had existed for just over a year. In 1922, it comprised five members chosen from among the most respected representatives of the Russian diaspora: three priests (Archpriest Piotr Rozhdestvenskii, sacristan of the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas, President; Archpriest Mikhail Philologov, Rector of Saint Sophia Church; and Konstantin Lebedev, a priest of a church in Old Harbin), two laymen (N. I. Miroliubov, the future president of the Amur Zemsky Sobor and a Harbin Law School professor, and S. V. Kedrov, the head of the Higher Elementary School), and one representative from the China Eastern Railway (N. L. Gondatti, the former governor-general of Amur Region and head of the CER’s regional administration).
As a result of disagreements between the ruling bishop and the members of the Council, this structure was unexpectedly changed by a personal decision of Archbishop Methodius. The evidence suggests that this decision was influenced by Abp. Mefodii’s entourage, including oppositional elements who for some reason or another were sympathetic to the Renovationist movement in the Church in Russia.For details, see: Ibid., pp. 124–131.
The Far East did not become an alternative to Karlovci, because after the end of the Civil War, it could no longer claim to be a unifying church center, due to both the changing political situation and internal upheavals. Yet could the Far East still become an a priori alternative to Karlovtsy? It undoubtedly could; however, this idea was able to come to fruition only during the Zemsky Sobor of 1922 when the Amur Zemsky Krai still existed, and when there was effective unity of all non-socialist forces of the Far East, whether in Russia or abroad, under the blessing of the Church. Such a unifying center could only exist within a part of the Russian Empire that had not yet surrendered to the Bolsheviks, in alliance with the whole Church Abroad. Perhaps the Karlovci Synod itself could have found refuge in this corner of Orthodox Russia.
|↵1||Cf. Tserkovnye vedomosti [Church Bulletin] 1922. No. 12–13, pp. 6–7.|
|↵2||Protocol of the Interrogation of Patriarch Tikhon on May 5, 1922, in: Akty Sviateishego Tikhona, Patriarkha Moskovskogo i vseia Rossii [Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia]. Moscow, 1994 p. 54.|
|↵3||Cf. Novoe vremia [New Era]. No. 254 (March 1, 1922); Tserkovnye vedomosti. No. 3/1922. pp. 2–4|
|↵4||In a note to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in March 1922, L. D. Trotskii put forward the idea of using the clergy as agents for the Party’s policy of destroying the Church. He sorted them into two movements: a “clearly, openly counter-revolutionary one with a Black-Hundredist and Monarchist ideology”, and a “Soviet” one with an ideology he defined as “new-thinking” or “conciliatory”. In the struggle against the Church, Trotskii proposed relying on the “new-thinking” clergy and pointed to the need to induce this part of the clergy “to break off from the Black-Hundredist hierarchy, convene a new Council and elect new hierarchs.” (cf.: Note by L. D. Trotskii to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) on Church Policy, March 30, 1922, in: Arkhivy Kremlia [The Kremlin Archives]. Moscow/Novosibirsk, 1997–1998, pp. 162–163). A Supreme Church Administration of the Renovationist All-Russian “Living Church” headed by Bishop Antonin Granovskii (elevated to the rank of Metropolitan) was established by the Soviet authorities on May 16, 1922.|
|↵5||According to this political program of the White movement, after the downfall of the Soviet regime, an All-Russian National Constituent Assembly was to be convened to make the final decision about the form of government in the country (monarchy vs. republic), elect a head of state, and approve draft socio-economic and political reforms (cf.: V. Zh. Tsvetkov. Beloe delo v Rossii [The White Cause in Russia]. Moscow, 2008, p. 14).|
|↵6||Cf.: Archpriest Nikolai Artemov. “Postanovlenie No. 362 ot 7/20 noiabria 1920 g. i zakrytie zarubezhnogo VVTsU v mae 1922 g.” [“Decree No. 362 of November 7/20, 1920, and the Closing Down of the Supreme Church Administration Abroad in May 1922”], p. 159.|
|↵7||In Transbaikalia, Resolution 362 was passed on by Bishop Dionisii (Prozorovskii) of Chelyabinsk.|
|↵8||P. Petrov. “V Primorʹe (1921–1922 gg.)” [“In Primorʹe (1921–1922)”], in: Poslednie boi na Dalʹnem Vostoke [The Last Battles for the Far East]. p. 8.|
|↵9||Svet. Harbin, March 22, 1921.|
|↵10||D. A. Liakhov. “S’ezd nesotsialisticheskikh organizatsii Dalʹnego Vostoka: popytka konsolidatsii antibolʹshevistskikh sil Primorʹia” [“The Congress of Non-Socialist Organizations in the Far East: An Attempt at Consolidating the Anti-Bolshevil Forces in Primorʹe”], in: Rossiia i ATR. No. 4, p. 58.|
|↵11||“Slovo Episkopa Nestora na molebne pri zakrytii Sezda predstavitelei nesotsialisticheskogo naseleniia v gor. Vladivostoke 25 iiunia 1921 goda” [“Sermon of Bishop Nestor at a Prayer Service at the Conclusion of the Congress of Representatives of the Non-Socialist Population in Vladivostok, June 25, 1921”], in: Dvuglavyi Orel [The Two-Headed Eagle]. Berlin, 1921. No. 17, pp. 1–3.|
|↵12||Letter of January 2, 1921. Nikander I. Miroliubov papers, Box 1, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.|
|↵13||Nikander I. Miroliubov papers, Box 1, Folder title, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.|
|↵14||Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 1.|
|↵15||Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 1,5.|
|↵16||Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 11–12.|
|↵17||Cf.: E. N. Sumarokov. XX let Kharbinskoi eparkhii, 1922–1942 [The Diocese of Harbin After 20 Yerars, 1922–1942]. Harbin, 1942, p. 46.|
|↵18||Svet. Harbin, June 25, 1922.|
|↵19||Nikander I. Miroliubov papers, Box 1, Folder title, Hoover Institution Library & Archives.|
|↵26||As early as March 1917, the Provisional Government had sent the Grand Duke into retirement from his post of Supreme Commander-in-Chief, officially notifying him of the reluctance of the triumphant democracy to have members of the imperial family not only in the highest military posts, but generally in the ranks of the revolutionary army. (Cf.: Iu. N. Danilov. Velikii kniazʹ Nikolai Nikolaevich [Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich]. Moscow, 2007, p. 15; Russkaia voennaia emigratsiia 20–40-kh godov [The Russian Military Emigration of the 1920s–40s]. Moscow, 2001. Vol. 2, pp. 68–69).|
|↵27||Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-5194. Item 4, ff. 538–539.|
|↵28||Russian State Archive, Fonds P-5194. Item 4, f. 576.|
|↵29||Cf.: Svet. Harbin, August 12, 1922.|
|↵30||Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6143. Item 3, f. 28.|
|↵31||Svet. Harbin, August 18, 1922.|
|↵32||Ussuriiskoe slovo. September 13, 1922|
|↵33||Cf.: Zemskii Krai. Vladivostok, October 13, 1922.|
|↵34||Ussuriiskoe slovo, September 13, 1922.|
|↵35||Cf.: Svet. Harbin, September 21, 1922.|
|↵36||Fr. Daniil (Sherstennikova) was consecrated by Bishop Mikhail (Bogdanov) of Vladivostok and Bishop Nestor (Anisimov) of Kamchatka.|
|↵37||Russian State Archive, Fonds Р-6343. Item 3, ff. 10–11.|
|↵38||Cf.: S. N. Bakonina Tserkovnaia zhiznʹ russkoi emigratsii na Dalʹnem Vostoke v 1920–1931 gg. [The Church Life of the Russian Diaspora in the Far East, 1920–1931]. Moscow, 2014, pp. 131–138.|
|↵39||For details, see: Ibid., pp. 124–131.|