Conference on the History of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th Century (1917-1933)

In October 2000, the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia adopted a resolution calling for a scholarly conference to study questions related to the history of the Russian Church in the 20th Century. Invitations were extended to independent historians, as well as to clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. The conference was held November 13-16, 2001, in the residence of the Buda Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the town of Szentendre, Hungary. With the hospitable participation by and under the honorary chairmanship of Daniel (Krstic), Bishop of Buda, papers regarding the history of the Russian Church during the period 1917 to 1933 were presented and discussed. Among the speakers was our rector, Fr. Victor. The following is the document which summarized the conference.

The aim of the conference was to analyze questions in church history touching upon the divisions within the Church. The conference participants agreed that many questions regarding the history of the Russian Church of the 1920s-1930s urgently demanded further research and comprehension. The inadequacies inherent in a politicized approach to the study of history of the most recent period in the history of the Church, an approach which lead to a distortion of historical fact and Church truth, were underscored. In that regard, it is considered important to agree upon and delineate Church-historical terminology.

The conference posits that it is essential to develop and expand study of [primary] source [materials on] the history of the Russian Church in the 20th Century, and supports the activities of the pertinent research institutions in Russia and abroad. Detailed study of documents related to the Neo-martyrs and Confessors Patriarch Tikhon, Peter of Krutitsa, Kirill of Kazan, Joseph of Petrograd, as well as those related to Metropolitans Sergius (Stragorodsky), Antony (Khrapovitsky), Anastassy (Gribanovsky) and many other hierarchs will facilitate finding a more balanced and objective basis for understanding their heritage.

The conference expresses the hope that secular and ecclesiastical authorities will help provide freer access to source materials regarding the history of the Russian Church.

The following subjects were discussed at the conference:
- Questions of ecclesiastical administration in Russia and Abroad (1917 to 1933);
- The anti-religious policies of the Soviet regime in the 20s and 30s, and their consequences for the Church;
- Metropolitan Sergius' (Stragorodsky's) church policy and attitudes thereto in Russia and abroad.

The Theomachist regime, whose goal was the complete extirpation of the Church, did everything possible to push the Church onto a course of apostasy and self-destruction.

It was recognized as appropriate that, in examining the possibility of glorifying Neomartyrs of Russia who were opposed to Metropolitan Sergius, the Synodal Commission (MP) for the canonization of saints determined the fundamental criterion to be maintenance of canonical unity with Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa.

A noteworthy phenomenon in Church life during the period under examination was the movement associated with Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh). This movement yielded a host of Neomartyrs and Confessors, many of whom were included in the ranks of the Saints by the Russian Church Abroad (in 1981) and by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (in 2000).

The importance of the ecclesiological opinions expounded by Hieromartyr Kirill of Kazan was especially noted. The conferees found attractive Hieromartyr Kirill's call to reject the dialectical-pedantic use of the canons and to maintain the sanctity of their spirit. That spiritual appeal may serve as a frame of reference for developing further historical/canonical research.

The ecclesiastical/legal heritage of the undivided Russian Church (in part, Ukaz No. 362 of 7/20 November 1920) brings us back to the general sources of the perception of conciliarity (sobornost') in the Russian Orthodox Church. [Viewed in] this perspective, there is cause to hope for a conciliar resolution of the estrangement which has been of many years' standing.

Orthodox researchers of the history of the Russian Church are called to be faithful to the Truth of Christ, and the isolation of the [several] parts of the Russian church must not lead to tendentiousness in the interpretation and assessment of historical events. Such a determination was often seen in practice in the course of discussions at this conference.
The conferees, recognizing that questions of the hoped-for unity of the Church are within the province of the hierarchical authorities, express a readiness on their part to continue their work to contribute as best they can toward achieving unity in truth.

At the conclusion of the conference, subjects for discussion at future meetings were identified. Proceedings of the conference are being prepared for publication.

Feast of the Hieromartyrs Acepsimus, Joseph and Aeithalas
3/16 November 2001.
Honorary conference chairman:
+ Daniel (Krstic), bishop of Buda
Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov), __scow
Archpriest Alexander Lebedeff, Los Angeles
Archpriest Victor Potapov, Washington
Archpriest Nicholas Artemoff, _unich
Archpriest Valentin Asmus, __scow
Hieromonk Euthemiy (Logvinov), Munich
Professor O. Yu. Vasilieva, Ph.D., __scow
Professor A. N. Kashevarov, Ph.D., St.Petersburg
Professor S.L. Firsov, Ph.D., St. Petersburg
Professor M.V. Shkarovsky, Ph.D., St. Petersburg
Professor A.V. Zhuravsky, Ph.D. Candidate, Doctoral Candidate in Theology, Kazan
S. G. Petrov, Doctoral Candidate, Novosibirsk
M.V. Nazarov, Moscow
M. Sotskova, Munich


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