Church People Clergy and Monastics Deacon Andrei Psarev

Mitred Archpriest Evgenii Smirnoff

A Proper Priest for an Imperial Capital

The Mitred Archpriest Evgenii Smirnoff passed away on this day in 1923.

Father Evgenii Smirnoff held the position of Rector of the Russian church in London for forty years. The Most Holy Governing Synod considered this position a sort of ecclesiastical ambassadorship due to the importance of contacts with the official church of the British Empire. Before the Revolution, the Russian Church used to delegate emissaries of outstanding intellectual and personal qualities. Fr. Evgenii belongs to this category.

Fr. Evgenii was born in 1845 in Reval (now Tallinn), Estonia, and had his primary education in German since the ruling elite in the Baltics was still German-speaking. In 1870, Evgenii was sent on a church assignment to New York after completing his education at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary and Academy. In 1874, he was ordained a priest in St. Petersburg and then served in Brussels. In 1877, Fr. Evgenii arrived in England to minister primarily to Russian diplomats and embassy staff.

It seems likely that Fr. Evgenii had a good command of English, given that he was consulted while preparing the English translation of St. John of Kronstadt’s My Life in Christ. He was a mission-minded priest, and he translated The Rite for Uniting Those of Other Faiths with the Orthodox Church into English. He is the author of A Short Account of the Historical Development and Present Position of Russian Orthodox Missions. In 1897, Fr. Evgenii published an article in the Russian press introducing the Anglican Archbishop William Maclagan of York, who was then visiting St. Petersburg in an official capacity. Fr. Evgenii was among those who received Archbishop Antonii (Vadkovskii) when he visited London in 1897. In 1904, Fr. Evgenii was involved in assessing the union of the Syro-Chaldean Church in India with the Russian Orthodox Church. His correspondents included St. Nicholas of Japan; New Martyr Metropolitan Vladimir (Bogoiavlenskii), then of Saint Petersburg and later of Kiev; and Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev, Chief Officer of the Most Holy Governing Synod.

During the First World War, Fr. Evgenii helped Orthodox servicemen with Canadian troops stationed or receiving medical treatment in England and Austro-Hungarian war prisoners. In 1919, he became the last rector of the embassy church and the first rector of the parish founded to accommodate the increasing number of Russian refugees. Fr. Evgenii was comfortable with Russian ecclesiastical and imperial elites but not with the refugees, who had experienced the Revolution and Civil War trauma. Through all his years in London, Fr. Evgenii culturally became an Englishman and had no idea what his former countrymen arriving with the retreating British expeditionary corps had been through. They were not the same Russians he had known way back before the revolution.

Fr. Evgenii placed the newly established parish under the Russian ecclesiastical administration abroad, headed by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitskii).



Protodeacon Christopher Birchall, Embassy, Emigrants, and Englishmen: The Three Hundred Year History of a Russian Orthodox church in London (Jordanville, NY 2014).

Relevant Link:

Archimandrite Kiprian Kern, “The Pre-Revolutionary Russian Clergy Outside Russia: Ecumenism Before the Ecumenical Movement,” Historical Studies of the Russian Church Abroad.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.