The priest Fr. Constantine Snyatinovsky, from Vladimir diocese, was
killed. He was officially glorified at a funeral liturgy celebrated by
Patriarch Tikhon on March 31 / April 13, 1918.
(Sources: Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 1, p. 214; Vladimir Rusak, Pir Satany, London, Canada: "Zarya", 1991, pp. 27, 34, 190; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Paris: YMCA Press, 1977, p. 237)
In 1921 a terrible famine caused by the communists' requisitioning policies in the Civil War broke out in the Volga region. In December, 1921, Pomgol - the State Commission for Famine Relief - proposed that the churches help the starving by donating church valuables. The Patriarch agreed, and on February 19, 1922 he issued a pastoral letter permitting the parish councils to make gifts of objects - but only if they had not been consecrated for exclusive use in the Divine services.
The Bolsheviks set up a commission led by Trotsky to oversee the requisitioning of the church valuables. However, their purpose was not humanitarian - the relief of the starving, but the destruction of the material resources of the churches and the sowing of divisions among the clergy. And they were instructed by the Politburo to act with maximum ruthlessness.
Soon clashes with believers who resisted the confiscation of church valuables took place. 1414 such clashes were reported in the official press. In 1921-23, 2,691 married priests, 1,962 monks, 3,447 nuns and an unknown number of laymen were killed on the pretext of resistance to the seizure of church valuables in the country as a whole.
In the province of Ivanovo-Voznesensk 54 clergy and monastics of various ranks were killed on this pretext. In the neighbouring province of Vladimir 81 were killed. And in Kostroma province - 72.
One of the earliest and most important of these clashes took place in the city of Shuya in Ivanovo province. On March 7, 1922, the commission for the registration and removal of church valuables from the churches arrived in the city. First they went into the Resurrection cathedral. There they saw some people removing the ordinary gilded silver riza from the Shuya icon of the Smolensk Mother of God and replacing it with a festive cloth riza with pearls. They asked the warden, Alexander Paramonov:
"Why are you changing this?"
"We always take the covers off for cleaning at this time."
However, the commission suspected that they were changing it in the hope that they would not remove the valuable riza from the icon.
On March 11, the superior of the cathedral, Protopriest Paul Svetozarov, received an official communication from the commission that they would be starting work on March 13 at 11 o'clock and invited representatives of the parish to take part in drawing up a list of church valuables.
On Sunday March 12, immediately after the Liturgy, when all the people were still in the church, it was announced that at 7 in the evening there would be a meeting of the believers to choose representatives for the commission from the Orthodox. The meeting took place under the gaze of representatives of the Soviet authorities. The meeting suggested electing its own commission from the parish. Nicholas Nikolayevich Ryabtsev was elected as president. Fr. Paul said that he himself could not give away church objects having significance for the Divine services, since this was sacrilege and a violation of the church canons. But he did not intend to offer resistance to the removal of the valuables by the state commission. After the departure of the commission the church would be consecrated anew, and then services would begin again in it.
The parishioners, especially women, began to ask that the church's property be replaced by their own personal things.
"The church valuables," replied Ryabtsev, "will go to America, while your shawls and dresses will be taken for simple rags."
One of the parishioners, the teacher Borisov, suggested that they petition the authorities to allow them to redeem the church valuables.
The authorities paid no attention to this petition.
Similar meetings took place in other churches of the city. The meeting of the Trinity cemetery church, whose superior was the seventy-year-old Protopriest John Lavrov, at first decreed that representatives for the commission from the parish should not be elected and church property should not be handed over. But when it came to the actual seizure, everything was given away without resistance. In other churches, for example the Exaltation of the Cross church in Shuya, the parish meeting decreed that voluntary offerings should be given instead of church objects. Some of the churches, especially in the villages, were so poor that there was nothing to take from them - neither church things, nor redemption money.
On Monday, March 13, the Lenten service came to an end at 11 o'clock. There were not many worshippers, but by 12 the people began to arrive, and when the commission appeared, the church was full.
Peter Ivanovich Yazykov worked in a factory. His route passed near the Resurrection cathedral; he saw that a crowd was gathering at the entrance to the cathedral. On learning that the representatives of the Soviet authorities were arriving and would make a list of the valuables, Peter Ivanovich entered the church. The commission soon appeared. The parishioners pressed up against each other to let them through. Shouts were heard:
"Why have they come?! What do you need - you know, the Church is separated from the State!"
When the commission passed, Peter Ivanovich saw that Vitsin, its president, was drunk.
"Look, these people have entered the church drunk," he said to those standing near. "This is an insult to the believers. Besides, they're armed. It is not allowed to enter the altar armed."
However, the commission went into the altar, where they were already awaited by the representatives of the church commission and the superior of the cathedral, Fr. Paul Svetozarov.
"Please clear the cathedral!" demanded Vitsin of the superior in an irritated tone.
"I don't have the right to drive the worshippers from the church," replied the priest.
"But you were told we were coming, and you were obliged to clear the cathedral in time after the service."
"Nevertheless, we cannot remove worshippers from the church."
"Well then," said Vitsin threateningly, "if you do not clear the church now, we shall take you and your commission as hostages."
"And they will take us," thought Fr. Paul. He had already been imprisoned as a hostage. He went out onto the solea and said:
"The state commission is asking you to leave, you are hindering it."
From all sides of the church they immediately began to say:
"We shall not leave, let them leave by the way they came."
"Your behaviour will do no good," said the superior calmly and with dignity.
After Fr. Paul, the members of the church commission spoke. One of them, Medvedev, asked:
"Disperse, otherwise they will arrest you, too, together with Fr. Paul."
Some thought that it was still possible to negotiate with the authorities, one had only to be rational and firm. That is what Peter Yazykov thought.
"If you're afraid that they'll arrest you," he said, "relinquish your powers - others will be found who will be able to talk with the authorities."
The negotiations dragged on, and the parishioners did not move to leave the church. There was no reason for the arrest of the superior and the members of the church commission, but they feared to get down to making the list. Having invited the representatives of the church commission to see the uyezd chief of police, the commission left, saying that they would come on March 15.
Fr. Paul served a moleben and suggested that the parishioners stay to pray with him until the beginning of Vespers. They prayed unto the evening; in the evening after the service the representatives of the church commission went to the uyezd chief of police. There they were told that they would all bear the responsibility for the fact that the people stayed in the church after the Liturgy, and they were ordered from now on to lock the church after the service, and give the key for safe-keeping to one of the church servers. They would not announce the arrival of the state commission beforehand, and would not come on March 15, as previously planned.
On the same day in the evening an extraordinary session of the presidium of the uyezd executive committee was convened and it was decided:
1) To prevent such illegal public gatherings, both in the city and in the area.
2) Immediately to arrest and bring to trial before the revolutionary tribunal those helping or inciting riots.
3) To examine all the present matters without delay.
4) To instruct the chief of the garrison and the chief of police to apply decisive measures up to and including the use of firearms against those violating the established order.
These directions determined everything that ensued. Now it was possible to provoke the people into resistance - and suppress it by force of arms as a counter-revolutionary rebellion. They decided not to change the date for the removal of valuables, but to keep it as it was.
From the morning of March 15 the people - mainly women - began to gather on the cathedral square. By 10 o'clock Vitsin had arrived at the police administration and said that the commission was going to requisition the valuables and that the police had to go out and disperse the crowd that had gathered in front of the cathedral. The chief of police Bashenkov detailed eight mounted policemen. They tried to disperse the crowd with whips. However, the women did not disperse; some broke off stakes from the fencing so as to defend themselves, while logs flew at the police from the crowd. The chief of police sent for reinforcements. Fourteen armed red-army-men were sent. They tried to disperse the crowd, but without success. The people demanded that the police and the red-army-men leave the cathedral. The policemen set about beating the women with whips, and if they turned up - children, too. Some wept, some prayed fervently, others said:
"It doesn't matter that we die - we shall die for the Mother of God."
The chief of the garrison ordered soldiers from the 146th regiment of the Red Army to the tune of forty men in full battle readiness under the command of Kolokolov and Zaitsev.
While the soldiers were going to the square, people met them and tried to persuade them not to disperse the people. But the soldiers in extended formation advanced on the crowd.
None of the clergy or laypeople dared to go up into the bell-tower and ring the bells. But some boys got into the bell-tower. Their mothers encouraged and helped them. The older schoolchildren began to ring the big bells, while the eleven- or twelve- year-old schoolchildren rang the small ones. The result was quite a loud peal.
Soon cars with machine-guns drove up, and shooting began. First they shot above their heads into the cathedral, but then into the crowd.
The first to be killed was the parishioner Nicholas Malkov. As he was passing on the square, he stopped not far from the home of Fr. Paul Svetozarov and shouted:
"Orthodox, stand for the faith!"
- and was immediately shot in the temple and killed.
Some children ran up to the dead youth, but they were pushed away by the policemen. One of them said:
"If you don't go, we shall shoot."
The children ran into the courtyard and in that way saved themselves from the horses of the policemen which were pressing in on them.
The second to be killed was the girl Anastasia. That morning on the way to the factory she had stopped at the cathedral, gone up the steps with some others - and was shot there and then. Auxentius Kalashnikov and Sergius Mefodiev were killed.
On seeing people falling from the shots, the people stood closer together and ran.
At this time the service in the church was coming to the end.
Remembering that the authorities had promised that they would not carry out the requisitioning on March 15, Fr. Paul went out onto the ambon and said:
"There will be no commission today, you can go home peacefully."
Members of the church commission also spoke, trying to persuade everyone to leave. But after what had happened at the walls of the church, noone believed that there would be no requisitioning. More than 300 worshippers had gathered in the church. How could a further clash be avoided? If he left on his own, perhaps they would not carry out the requisitioning in the absence of the superior. And he went to his house on the same cathedral square fifty paces from the church.
Protopriest Paul Mikhailovich Svetozarov was born in 1866 in the family of a deacon who served in the church of the village of Kartmazovo, Malinovsky volost, Sudogodsky uyezd, Vladimir province. Since childhood he had wanted to be a priest. He graduated from Kiev Theological Academy and became a reader in the church of the village of Karmazovo. He intended to become a monk, but the superior of the Shuya cathedral persuaded him to marry his daughter and become superior himself. Soon his wife died, leaving Fr. Paul with small children. Until the revolution of 1917 he taught the Law of God in the Shuya gymnasium, and when teaching was forbidden, he transferred the lessons to the cathedral.
Fr. Paul was a talented preacher and attracted the hearts of believers. The new power noticed this and looked for an excuse to arrest him. The first time he was arrested for a short time in 1919 charged with refusing to submit to the instructions of the Sovnarkom. In 1921 he was arrested again and imprisoned for several months by order of the Cheka in connection with the Kronstadt rebellion, as being politically unreliable. He was several times arrested for his sermons. In order to spy on the priest, the authorities implanted the informer Shvetsova in his house. She often tried to enter into conversation with him in such a way as to find something to accuse him of, but without success. On that day, seeing Fr. Paul entering the house, she shrieked:
"They're killing people!"
Had something happened? He hurriedly entered her room.
The lodger was standing at the window pointing at the square. She was loudly expressing her shock at the Orthodox. Everything she said was so abusive that Fr. Paul could not stand it.
"And are you not guilty of this outrage?" he said. "You yourself belong to the party which preaches ceaseless war and spite, and this war and spite are now spilling out over our heads."
With bullets, whips and horses the crowd in front of the church was dispersed. The corpses of those killed were laid on the threshold, nobody was allowed to go up to them. Fr. Nicholas Shirokogorov served molebens to the Smolensk Mother of God, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and St. John the Warrior at the request of parishioners, and then members of the church commission asked the parishioners to disperse.
The corpses of those killed were carried away, and the wounded were taken to hospital. There was no requisitioning of church valuables on that day.
On March 17 Fr. Paul was summoned for interrogation by the GPU and was arrested. The requisitioning of valuables from the Resurrection cathedral took place, already without him, on March 23, when everything representing any value at all was removed.
In accordance with the instructions of Lenin and Trotsky, the investigation from the beginning tried to prove the existence of a plot among the church-servers, whose aim supposedly had been to resist the requisitioning of church valuables and the calling of the workers to resistance. The bosses and workers of the Shuya textile mill were investigated in minute detail, and it was established beyond doubt that there had been no plot.
Massive arrests began to take place. Four priests were accused of resisting the requisitioning of church valuables: Fr. Paul Svetozarov, Fr. John Rozhdestvensky, Fr. John Lavrov and Fr. Alexander Smelchakov. Fr. John Lavrov and Fr. Alexander Smelchakov were later released because they fully recognized the right of the Soviet authorities to requisition the valuables, and declared that the church canons which defined such requisitioning as sacrilege were unknown to them. Fr. Alexander added that he was from a poor family and had chosen the priesthood only in order to escape material need. Also accused were the warden of the Shuya cathedral Alexander Paramanov and twenty laymen. After the conclusion of the investigation nineteen people were brought to trial.
The priest of the village of Palekh, John Stepanovich Rozhdestvensky, was born in 1872 in the village of Parmos, Sudogodsky uyezd, Vladimir province. He and his matushka had no children, and he devoted all his strength and time to the parishioners and the church. For twenty-five years he served zealously in the church of the Exaltation of the Cross, and his parishioners loved him.
On Sunday, March 19, Fr. John read out the epistle of Patriarch Tikhon as a matter of strict obligation and duty. Having served a moleben after the Liturgy, the priest said:
"You have heard the epistle of the Patriarch. You know about the decree of the central authorities about the requisitioning of the church valuables. I call you, my parishioners, not to resist the removal when the state commission arrives. I myself, as a priest, cannot give away sacred objects according to the canons. And I will not be present when they take away the other things."
After the Sunday had passed a denunciation was delivered to the Shuya GPU saying that the priest John Rozhdestvensky had "in the form of a sermon read out the appeal of Patriarch Tikhon". On March 24, a search was carried out in the house of Fr. John and the epistle of Patriarch Tikhon was removed. The next day he was arrested and accused of reading the epistle.
Witnesses were summoned to the investigation: parishioners, iconographers those who had been present at the shooting. They all said that Fr. John had urged them not to resist the removal of the valuables. On April 2, 1922, the parishioners of the church of the Exaltation of the Cross wrote a petition for the release of Fr. John to the authorities, since his arrest had been a misunderstanding and "Priest Rozhdestvensky had never touched on political themes throughout the whole twenty-five-year period of his service", and the last time had called for calm.
The investigators tried to make the arrested priest say where he had got the epistle from. Fr. John replied that he had received it in the post, but he could not remember where from or what the stamp on the envelope had been. And he did not remember where the envelope itself was.
The investigation lasted for three weeks, until April 11. On April 17 and 18 Fr. John's parishioners sent further petitions to the authorities witnessing to his good works and peaceful intentions. On April 21, the trial began in Ivanovo-Voznesensk, in the local theatre, and lasted until April 25.
Fr. Paul refused to accept his guilt. On being asked whether he had received any instructions from his bishop, and whether he considered the fulfilment of Patriarch Tikhon's as obligatory, he replied that he had received no instructions from his bishop and that he considered the fulfilment of the Patriarch's epistle as obligatory.
Fr. John similarly refused to accept any guilt.
Peter Ivanovich Yazikov also refused to accept that he had been guilty. And he confirmed that he had said that the state commission had been drunk when it entered the cathedral. Peter Ivanovich had been born in 1881 in Shuya. He had been educated in a pious family, and since childhood had gone to church and sung on the kliros. He worked in the textile mill as head of the smelting-house.
At the end of the trial, the president Galkin suggested that the accused would get more lenient sentences if they repented before the authorities and if they provided certain additional facts. Fr. John, for example, could say from where he got the Patriarch's epistle. However, Fr. John said that he did not know where it came from.
When the court called on the accused to repent, Fr. Paul replied: "I cannot lie. And I repeat that I took no part in the resistance to the requisitioning. If I am guilty of anything, then it is perhaps the indefiniteness of my position. My position was between the authorities and the Church. The authorities demanded their own, while there was no completely clear instructions from the Church on how to act. But I did not thirst for blood, as the prosecutor indicates. I ask you not to apply the extreme penalty to me, not for my sake, I am ready for death, but for the sake of my children, since my execution will strike them above all, for they already have no mother and now will have no father."
On April 25 the following verdicts were read out:
(a) Sergius Ivanovich Korovin and Priests John Lavrov and Alexander Smelchakov - two years in prison, but suspended in view of their repentance and advanced age (the priests were released because they recognized that Soviet power had the complete right to remove the church valuables and declared that they did not know the church canons which forbade such requisitioning as sacrilege);
(b) Alexander Mikhailovich Paramanov - one year in prison (he was accused of not stopping the children when they rang the bell);
(c) Euthymius Fyodorovich Sharonov and John Iliaronovich Gureyev - two years in prison;
(d) Michael Vladimirovich Medvedev, Alexander Aggeyevich Gorshkov, Constantine Mikhailovich Bugrov and Basil Kornilovich Afanasiev - three years in prison;
(e) Chariton Ignatievich Borisov, John Vasilyevich Kryukov and Olga Stolbunov - five years in prison;
(f) Peter Ivanovich Yazykov, Basil Osipovich Pokhlebkin, and Priests John Stepanovich Rozhdestvensky and Paul Mikhailovich Svetozarov - execution by shooting, to be changed to five years in prison in the case of Pokhlebkin in view of his "pure-hearted repentance and lack of full awareness".
Peter Yazykov was born in 1881 in the city of Shuye. He was brought up in a pious family and from childhood went to church and sang on the kliros. He was head of the foundry department in a Shuye factory.
On April 26 the parishioners of Palekh sent a telegram petitioning for mercy. The presidium of the VTsIK decided to have mercy on those condemned to execution. However, Stalin decided to refer the matter to the Politburo, where Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Molotov voted for a confirmation of the death sentence. And so, on May 10, 1922 at two o'clock in the morning, the sentences on Fathers John and Paul, and on Peter Ivanovich, were carried out.
Before the executions, the two priests chanted the burial service for themselves and Peter Ivanovich, and behaved with courage. The last prayer of Fr. Paul was for his orphaned children. His prayer was heard. His younger daughter Antonina died at the end of the 1980s in her father's house.
(Sources: Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Novye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 1, pp. 213-14; "Shuiskiye Mucheniki", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, 170, III-1994, pp. 179-204; Gregory Ravich, "Ograblennij Khristos, ili brillianty dlya diktatury proletariata", Chas-Pik, N 18; Hieromonk Damascene (Orlovsky), Mucheniki, Ispovedniki i Podvizhniki Blagochestiya Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi XX Stoletiya, Tver: Bulat, volume 2, 1996, pp. 37-53)
The priest of the village of Kamenka, Yurevetsky region, Fr. Nicholas Apolov, was the superior of the church of the Nativity of Christ and a teacher of the Law of God in the school. He was very well known among the peasants both as a worthy priest and as a doctor who successfully healed diseases of the eyes.
During the persecutions at the beginning of the 1920s two village atheists tried to shoot Fr. Nicholas, but the people intervened and did not allow the pastor to be killed. The next time they came in larger numbers, and armed with rifles and stakes, and arrested him.
Together with Fr. Nicholas they arrested two priests, one of whom was called Michael, and the other - Vinogradov, and two deacons, one of whom was called Zlatoustovsky. They all died in prison.
The priest Nicholas served in the village of Vasilyevsky, Shuye region. At the beginning of the 1920s he was arrested, and died in prison.
The priest Michael Nikolsky served in the village of Georgievsky, Ivanovo region. In 1929, when they came to arrest him, his wife said to him:
"Wait, I'll bring some bread and underwear for you."
The GPU agents did not let her, saying:
"It's not necessary, you can bring them to the village soviet tomorrow."
In the morning when she arrived, they told her that Fr. Michael had been taken away to Kineshma prison. Matushka went to Kineshma, and there they told her that there was no such person there. Only after many years did Fr. Michael's relatives learn from the authorities that he had been shot.
(Source: Hieromonk Damascene (Orlovsky), Mucheniki, Ispovedniki i Podvizhniki Blagochestiya Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi XX Stoletiya, Tver: Bulat, volume 2, 1996, p. 241)
Fr. Elijah Zotikov served in New York and New Jersey around the turn of the century. In 1930, according to Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, he was shot in Vladimir.
(Source; Patrick Barrett, e-mail, July 23, 1997)
In the village of Palishchi in Gus-Khristalny region, Vladimir province, there once lived only clergy with their families. The only laypeople who lived there were the Bogdanovs.
The Protserovy family belonged to the Ryazan nobility (Palishchi originally belonged to the Ryazan diocese). Basil Grigorievich and Eugene Grigorievich Protserovy were brothers. Fr. Basil served in Palishchi and was married to Antonina Nikolayevna Kharkova from Vishchura (Ryazan diocese). In 1937 Fr. Basil was seized and shot on the second day [of Pascha?] in Ivanovo. Protodeacon Kharkov, the father of his wife, who served with the Bishop of Ryazan, was also shot. Fr. Eugene finished his studies at theological seminary and fought in the First World War. After the revolution the soldiers did not allow the commissars to shoot their beloved commander.
The second priestly family in Palishchi were the Golovins. They served in the church of St. Elijah. Fr. John and Fr. Alexander Golovin were brothers. Protopriest Paul Ivanovich Golovin, Fr. John's son, was twice repressed: in 1929, when after three years in prison he was released, and again in 1937. The parishioners very much loved Fr. Paul, who denounced collectivization in her sermons, saying that it would produce nothing except thieves.
According to the witness of Fr. Paul's wife, Alexandra Pavlovna Golovin, all the priests of the village of Palishchi were seized in one night. A car came up and took away Deacon Nicholas Alexandrovich Protserov, Fr. Basil Protserov, the reader Paul Alexeyevich Rozhdestvin and Fr. Paul Golovin. There was clearly a plan to liquidate the Protserovs and Golovins because at the same time they arrested Fr. Sergius Protserov (Sergius Afanasievich Protserov) 200 kilometers away, in the village of Cherkasova, near the city of Tuma.
With them there also suffered Fr. Alexis Gratsinsky, who served as superior of the church in the city of Murom. Besides these clergy and priests there also lived in Palishchi the old priestly family of the Molebnovs.
Fr. Paul Golovin was sent to Vladimir transit prison, where he was condemned by a "troika" and shot. He was irreconcilably opposed both to renovationism and to Soviet power.
Alexandra Pavlovna Golovina said that the brother of her father, Fr. Basil Ivanovich Golovin, was also a priest. He finished his studies at the Tomsk theological seminary. After the ending of the persecution, he did not serve anymore, but lived in his own house working as a musician. The Golovin family was distinguished for its musical talent. Fr. Paul played the violin and the harmonium. And they put on the plays of Dostoyevsky in his home.
Another inhabitant of Palishchi, Fr. Michael, was dismissed from the front in the Second World War for some kind of foolery for Christ which shocked the army leaders. He settled as a hermit in a little house on the edge of the village. Once, during the 1970s, a priest came to serve in the St. Elijah church. To the amazement of many, Fr. Michael came out of his isolation and fiercely attacked the priest for being a member of the komsomol. Then he returned to his hermitage.
Fr. Michael was buried in the cemetery attached to the church of St. Paraskeva one hundred miles away from Palishchi, in the direction of Velikodvorye. His grave is next to that of the Valaam monk Fr. Pancratius, and is venerated by the villagers. On being vested for burial a priestly cross was found on him, so the inscription on the cross at his grave reads: "Priest Michael".
(Source: "Novomucheniki Vladimirshchiny", Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 2 (1575), January 15.28, 1997, pp. 4-5, 15)
Raisa Ivanovna was arrested in 1973 (according to another source, 1972) among a group of eleven True Orthodox women from Vladimir. She was a teacher, the mother of two children. She was sent to the camp for political prisoners in Mordovia (385/3) for seven years. In 1974 she was subjected to a psychiatric examination in the Serbsky Institute in Moscow. Then she was returned to the camp, where the administration tried by all means possible to find witnesses who would certify that she was mentally ill. A prisoner named Kogan (who was a provocateur in the opinion of several of the older prisoners) declared that Raisa had tried to kill her. She was then transferred to block 12, the psychiatric block in the camp hospital, from where she was transferred again to the special psychiatric hospital in Kazan. It is believed that she died on the way to Kazan in 1974.
Other True Orthodox women in the Mordovian women's camp for political prisoners were: Tatyana Krasnova, Nadezhda Usoyeva, Maria Semyonova, Alexandra Khvatkova, Irina Kireyeva, Anastasia Volkova, Catherine Alyoshina, Tatyana Sokolova and Glaphira Kuldysheva. All these women were over fifty when they entered the camp. They were serving their second or third ten-year sentence for "anti-Soviet propaganda" after being declared "particularly dangerous recidivists" by the courts.
Tatyana Krasnova was born in 1903 and was a resident of Vladimir. He served her first term in Kengir, Kazakhstan, and was released in 1955. She began serving her second term - nine years plus three years exile for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" - in 1973. She was considered "especially dangerous".
Nadezhda Mikhailovna Usoyeva was born in Vladimir in 1938. In 1972 she was sentenced to seven years' strict regime camp plus five years' exile. She was in prison in Belorussia and Barashevo. One document relates of her: "She has passed the whole of her life in PKTs and in punishment cells for refusing to work. Nadezhda, according to the testimony of her friend, is the most radiant personality of all the True Orthodox Christians. She is nobility, submissiveness and meekness incarnate. She arrives ill (only just come from the punishment cell) and they do not allow her to rest. They shout: 'Again to correction.' She quietly puts on her boots and shawl, and without murmuring goes again to the punishment cell: 'I'm coming, I'm coming.'"
Maria Pavlovna Semyonova was born in the early 1920s and was a resident of Ryazan. In 1961 she was sentenced to ten years for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda". On her release, she refused to take her certificate of release, passport and money. She was then accused by a KGB captain of having stolen ten roubles and in 1973 was sentenced again to ten years in Barashevo as an "especially dangerous criminal".
Alexandra Khvatkov was born in 1910 and was a resident of Vladimir. After serving terms in Vladimir prison, where she was almost continuously in the punishment cell, she was sentenced to two further terms of ten years each in strict regime camps (Barashevo, Mordovia). She suffered from a nervous disease and was often unable to get up for days and months at a time. Her son was a communist who had rejected her.
Irina Andreyevna Kireyeva was born in 1912 and was a resident of Vladimir. She was unmarried. She was serving her second term of ten years for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" (in Barashevo). She suffered from terrible headaches due to high blood pressure, but was denied treatment for days on end because she would not sign an official document requesting it.
Anastasia Volkova was born in 1910 and was an unmarried postal worker. She was serving her second ten-year sentence in a strict regime camp (in Barashevo) for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda". She was considered "especially dangerous".
Catherine Aleshina was serving her second sentence (seven years from 1973) for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" in a Mordovian camp.
Tatyana Mikhailovna Sokolova was born in 1930 and was a resident of Gorky. She was serving a seven year sentence plus three years' exile in Barashevo. She had had a stroke and was considered third degree invalid. She refused to work and was often put in the punishment cell and refused medical treatment. She was often punished for not standing up when guards disturbed her prayers.
Glafira Kuldysheva was born in 1935. She was a dressmaker and had five or six grown-up children. Her husband considered her to be mentally ill. She refused to see her husband and children. She refused to bathe on religious feast days and was therefore forcibly dragged to the baths by the guards. She was a second degree invalid, having rheumatism and oedema. She was serving a long sentence in a strict regime camp (Barashevo, Mordovia).
Other True Orthodox women serving long terms in the Mordovian camps in this period were Nadezhda Grozena (born 1911), Mariam Mitrofarovna Varseyeva (born 1920) and Claudia Volkova.
The "crimes" of the True Orthodox consisted in having put leaflets in the sergianist churches calling on the clergy to renounce their collaboration with Soviet power. These leaflets contained verses such as: "Satan lies under the mausoleum, his flesh has been rotting for a long time". Some of them had photos and caricatures.
The True Orthodox refused to have their names inscribed on Soviet population registers and would not undertake any officially recognized work, refusing to sign any official document. They acted with great dignity, always saying what they were doing and never lying. After serving one term they were promptly put back in the camps on the same charges.
In the camp they refused to have any contact with the administration. So, for example, on arriving in the camp every woman had to sign for bedding. They did not sign, and slept on the ground. This continued until a commission arrived to visit the camp, after which they issued them with bedding over the signatures of other prisoners.
They categorically refused to work, which earned for them either prison in the camp (PTK) or solitary isolation (SHIZO). In the PTK their food was reduced to a minimum. In the SHIZO they had warm water and four grams of bread on the one day, cooked food on the next.
All of these women fasted strictly on Wednesdays and Fridays; some of them added Mondays. Every day, at 6 a.m., they would wash, pray until 8 a.m. and only then eat. It was the same in the evening.
When they were notified of a punishment (fifteen days in SHIZO, six months in PTK), they would say farewell to the other prisoners, kiss them all and then, prostrating before them, ask their forgiveness. Then they went joyfully to the cell. At the end of the punishment, some came out swaying with exhaustion, but they still refused to work and were again subjected to harsh punishment. It went on like this until, exhausted by suffering, they were declared invalids or unfit for work.
In the camps all the True Orthodox Christians conducted themselves with great dignity. They were distinguished by characters full of kindness and gentleness, and were loved and respected by the other detainees. No one was offended when they refused to join in collective actions against the administration (hunger strikes) because the prisoners saw that they were on a continuous voluntary fast.
On arriving in the camp, they lengthened their uniforms, enlarged the sleeves and closed the collars, thereby taking on the form of monastic clothing - and they were known as "the nuns" by the camp authorities.
The majority of them came from Vladimir region. They maintained secret relations with their co-religionists outside. They said that they became True Orthodox when they saw with their own eyes how the agents of the KGB practised surveillance over the believers in church. In general, they had had no more than two or three years in school.
All had contracted chronic illnesses in the camps. Their behaviour made the already severe regime of the camp a slow death for them. They understood this, and accepted it with joy.
The poetess Irina Ratushinskaya, who was in camp with these women, writes: "These gentle, steadfast and humble women obviously made a powerful impression on everyone who encountered them. And understandably so. An ordinary female prisoner will shower you with a string of curses for the most trivial reason, but these women would react quite differently: 'May the Lord forgive you, my son.'
"Even upon release, they would refuse to accept the document attesting to the completion of their sentence. Off they would go, without a single scrap of paper, heading for a new and certain arrest and sentence. From their point of view, this was perfectly normal: were they not suffering for God? In their eyes, it is we who act unnaturally: we submit to Satan and his minions - the Soviet government - in order to escape persecution. And Satan, they know, will never give up of his own accord - he shall merely exploit any sign of weakness to his greater gain, penetrate ever deeper into your soul. That was and is the reasoning of the 'True Orthodox'. Some of them are still alive, living in internal exile. Yet the exile sentences of some of our babushki had expired, and they did not return to the Zone: so Satan was defeated, after all, forced into retreat. Others of them are still to be found in some of the camps with calm, serene faces, ever ready to lay down their lives for the Lord: to what great honour can one aspire?
"How many of them are there, International Red Cross? No answer. They don't know, and how could they? How many of them are there, Amnesty International? Silence. They do not know, either. How many of them are there, official Soviet Patriarch of All Russia, Pimen? He, too, is silent. Maybe he really does know: the 'True Orthodox' are outside his jurisdiction, so why worry about them? How many of them are there, the KGB of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Silence. They do know, but won't tell.
"About eight 'True Orthodox' passed through our Zone, the last being Granny Manya and Granny Shura. From our Zone, they went on to serve out their terms of internal exile. Granny Manya, according to the stories I heard, was meek and gentle. She found joy in the smallest things, such as the sight of a tiny beetle on a leaf: Look, she would say, how wondrous are the works of the Lord! How beautiful are all God's creatures!
"Granny Shura was made of sterner stuff, and given to uttering 'denunciations' from time to time. She would march out and upbraid the inhabitants of the Zone for succumbing regularly to temptation: watching television, smoking, forgetting to pray - iniquity! Her denunciations, however, were never motivated by spite, but by her sense of duty, and occurred not more than once every two to three months. She herself explained it thus:
"'The Lord will ask me:
"'"Did you sin?"
"'And I will reply, saying: "Not a great deal, Lord."
"'"What about the people around you? Did they sin?"
"'So I will have to say: "Yes, they did."
"'"And what did you do about it?..Why did you not point out the error of their ways?"
"'So that's what I'm doing, it's my duty. Forgive me, for His sake!'"
(Sources: Orthodox Life, vol. 29, no. 5, September-October, 1979, p. 47; Les Cahiers du Samizdat, no. 49, January, 1978; Russkaya Mysl', August 25, 1977, p. 5; Catacombes, September, 1977, p. 7; Le Figaro, August 27-28, 1977; Irina Ratushinskaya, Grey is the Colour of Hope, London: Sceptre, 1989, pp. 65-67; Keston College Archives, KC 2454, September 2, 1981)
The True Orthodox priest or monk, Fr. Bakhrov was serving his second term of ten years, six of which were spent in Vladimir prison (institution OD-1/ST-2). From July, 1972 he was resentenced to ten years under a strict regime.
(Source: Keston College Archives; C.C.E., 27b, 1972)
The Kalyakins were a poor family from the village of Torki, Ivanovo province. They greatly venerated Monk Stefan (Podgorny) of the Spaso-Eleazar monastery in Suzdal, who, while in prison in the monastery, prophesied a great future for Suzdal. All the spiritual children of Elder Stefan remained faithful to Orthodoxy and did not join the sergianist false church.
The Kalyakins moved to Suzdal, whence babka Paraskeva used to go on foot all the way to Kiev. In the 1930s she was in prison for the faith. After the offical church became sergianist, the Kalyakins did not go to church until the appearance of parishes of the Russian Church Abroad in Russia in 1990. Believers would gather in their house for prayer, for which Paraskeva's grand-daughter Alexandra was called a sectarian. She was driven out of her work in the House of Culture because she went to church services on feastdays instead of writing Bolshevik slogans. Alexandra's mother died in the early 1990s. On March 15, 1998 her brother, the talented artist Alexander Alexeyevich Kalyakin died in Suzdal.
(Source: Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 17 (1614), September 1/14, 1998, pp. 13-14)