Bishop Alexis, in the world Alexander Vasilyevich Buj, was born in the village of Nikolayevksy (according to another source, Ksyenyevka), Novo-Kuskovskaya volost, Tomsk uyezd, Tomsk province), in 1892. He was from a peasant family who had emigrated from Siberia from the Vitebsk province, which explains his West Russian surname. He wrote: "I finished my studies at a parish and theological school in Tomsk and, not having the means to continue my education, I entered a church-parish school attached to the Krasnoyarsk Znamensky men's monastery, where I also became a clerk." This monastery was situated on the river Yenisei some thirty versts north of Krasnoyarsk. The monks lived according to a strict rule "in the spirit of Solovki on the White Sea or Finnish Valaam". While staying in the monastery, Alexander Vasilyevich studied as an external student at the theological seminary in Krasnoyarsk, and in 1915 passed his exams to the fourth class. However, he couldn't continue his studies because of lack of money. At the beginning of September, 1915 he became the cell-attendant of Archbishop Anatolius (Kamensky) in the Hierarchical House in Tomsk. With the blessing of Archbishop Anatolius, he was received into the local seminary and was able to finish his studies there and receive a middle-grade theological education.
On September 29, 1915 Alexander was tonsured into monasticism in the Hierarchical House with the name Alexis, and on October 11 was ordained to the diaconate by Archbishop Anatolius in Tomsk cathedral. Being devoted to the archbishop, the young hierodeacon was in charge of his chancellery. On April 4, 1917 Archbishop Anatolius ordained him to the priesthood, and only in 1918 sent him to the Biisk catechetical school in the Altai to teach the Sacred Scriptures. For a whole year Fr. Alexis fulfilled the duties of inspector in this school, and returned to Tomsk in the autumn of 1919, when civil war was already being waged in Siberia.
In Tomsk he became the personal secretary of Archbishop Anatolius, and remained with him until the middle of 1920, when he moved to Irkutsk and entered the Prince Vladimir men's monastery. On June 27, 1922, Fr. Alexis was appointed superior of the monastery. However, the Bolsheviks soon closed it, and Fr. Alexis was arrested for supposedly counter-revolutionary activity and was for three months in Irkutsk prison.
Fr. Alexis was tall and thin, an inspired preacher, a great faster and a true monk. He celebrated the Divine services with great concentration.
On April 21, 1923 he was received into the St. Nicholas monastery, Samara. The local hierarch, Archbishop Anatolius (Grisiuk) wanted to make Fr. Alexis his vicar bishop in Bugulma, but was arrested before he could carry out this plan. Fr. Alexis was then appointed superior of the Alexander Nevsky men's monastery near Bugulma, where there was a famous icon of the Mother of God "Meet it is". On December 19, 1923 / January 1, 1924 Bishops Ioann (Poyarkov) of Dovlekanovsky, Mark (Bogolyubov) of Sterlitamak and Benjamin (Frolov) of Baikinsk decided to carry out the desire of Archbishop Anatolius and consecrated Fr. Alexis as Bishop of Bugulma in the Nikolsk Cross church in Ufa. This consecration was later recognized by Patriarch Tikhon.
However, Bishop Alexis did not stay long in Bugulma. In the spring of 1924 - officially, from July 19 - he became vicar-bishop of the Petropavlovsk Omsk diocese in place of Bishop Gregory (Kozyrev) who did not want to take up this post. Then, after signing the act transferring the highest authority to Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsa on April 12, 1925, he was exiled to Kazakhstan, where he became bishop of Akmolinsk, then bishop of Vitebsk and then (in October, 1925) Bishop of Semipalatinsk, temporarily administering the Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk) diocese for two months. He also administered the Vitebsk diocese from the spring of 1925 to February, 1926. Then he became Bishop of Bishop of Kozlov (Michurinsk) and the superior of a monastery in the town, while also administering the Tambov and Kirsanovsk dioceses. From December, 1926 (the summer of 1927, according to another source), he became Bishop of Urazovsk, a vicariate of the Voronezh diocese. According to one source, he was imprisoned in Butyrki prison, Moscow, for six months.
On February 16/29, 1927, with the blessing of Archbishop Seraphim, deputy of the patriarchal locum tenens, he became guardian of the Church of Voronezh while remaining at the same time bishop of the Kozlov district. This happened after Archbishop Peter (Zverev) of Voronezh was arrested and imprisoned by the Bolsheviks in November, 1926, which encouraged the renovationists in the city, led by "Metropolitan" Cornelius (Popov) and "Bishop" Zacharius (Popov) of Ostrog, to rear their heads again. Soon Bishop Alexis found himself the target of a campaign by the OGPU, who undoubtedly planted stooges in his entourage.
In July, 1927, Metropolitan Sergius of Nizhni-Novgorod issued his notorious "declaration" placing himself and his newly-formed "Holy Synod" in submission to the God-hating atheists.
On January 9/22, 1928 Bishop Alexis wrote an epistle to the clergy and laity of the Voronezh diocese concerning his separation from Metropolitan Sergius, in which he said: "By his actions contrary to the spirit of Orthodoxy, Metropolitan Sergius has torn himself away from unity with the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and lost the right to lead the Russian Church... I elect his Eminence Joseph (Petrovykh) as my highest spiritual leader..." The epistle was signed by ten representatives of the Voronezh clergy, including Archpriests John Andreyevsky, Nicholas Piskanovsky, Peter Novoseltsev, Elijah Pirozhenko, Paul Smirnsky, Sergius Gortinsky, Alexander Philippenko, John Stelbin-Kamensky and Michael Chilikin. It was then taken by Bishop Alexis' cell-attendant, the priest Fr. Stephen Stepanov, to Metropolitan Joseph, and received his approval.
Five days later, on January 14/27, Metropolitan Sergius and his Synod placed Bishop Alexis under ban "for schismatic activity". Then the sergianist bishop of Voronezh, Vladimir (Bogucharsky), announced the "fall" of Bishop Alexis. In April, Metropolitan Sergius entrusted the Voronezh diocese to Archbishop Macarius (Zvezdov) of Smolensk. However, the majority of the Voronezh flock, led by the above-named priests, refused to follow the sergianists.
Protopriest Nicholas Akimovich Piskanovsky was born in 1887 in the village of Stepanovka, Kobrinsky uyezd, Grodno province. He finished his studies at a theological seminary. Until 1914 he was a priest in the church of Grodno province. In August, 1914 he fled eastwards from the Western Ukraine and settled in the remote village of Ivanovka, 20 kilometres from Alexandria in Kherson province. He settled in the region with his relative, the future Hieromartyr Anthony (Kotovich). He fought against the renovationists, being almost the only priest in the whole district who resisted the heresy. He was made a protopriest. In 1922 was appointed rector of the Dormition cathedral in Alexandria at the same time that the future Hieroconfessor Igumen Barsonuphius (Yurchenko) was living there. After a few months there he was arrested and imprisoned on Solovki from 1923 to September, 1926. On his release on October 1, he was arrested again several times and moved from place to place as an administrative exile: to Poltava (in 1926), to Kursk and finally, from June, 1927, to Voronezh, where he served in the Ascension church He was one of the leaders of the Josephites in the diocese. On May 10, 1928 he was arrested and on July 31 or August 31 was sentenced to three years on Solovki.
He was on the main island of Solovki, in the fourth department, from 1929 to 1931, and became the spiritual father of all the confessing, anti-sergianist clergy there. Academician Likhachev, who was with him on Solovki, writes: "Fr. Nicholas Piskanovksy was another radiant person. He had a different character. One could never have called him happy, but always, even in the most difficult circumstances, he radiated inner calm. I don't remember him laughing or smiling, but meeting him was always somehow consoling. And not only for myself. I remember him telling my friend, who had been tormented for a year by an absence of letters from relatives, that he should endure a little and that a letter would come soon, very soon. I was not present at this incident, and so I cannot cite the exact words of Fr. Nicholas, but a letter arrived the next day. I asked Fr. Nicholas how he knew about the letter. And Fr. Nicholas replied that he did not know, the words just slipped out somehow. But there were very many such 'slippings out'.
"The cemetery church of St. Onuphrius belonged to the 'specials' - monks who had concluded a labour agreement with the camp, and was sergianist. The clergy of the sixth company did not form part of it. Fr. Nicholas had an antimins, and he would celebrate the Liturgy in whisper in the sixth ('priestly') company. The stories that almost 20 bishops served in the monastery church are not true. In my time prisoners were allowed to visit the church beyond the boundaries of the Kremlin no more than twice a year after being registered first. I don't know how it was before the schism in the Orthodox Church - perhaps the rules for visits were different.
"Fr. Nicholas knew that his wife had also been arrested, and was very worried about his children. He was worried that they would be taken into a children's home and brought up as atheists! And once, when they took him out of the camp, he was standing in a men's queue in Kemperpunkt for hot water. From the opposite direction a women's queue went to the same tap. When Fr. Nicholas came up to the tap, he saw his wife at the tap. While the prisoners shielded them (it was strictly forbidden for men to talk with women), Fr. Nicholas learned the joyful news that his children had been taken in by believers whom they knew. I have corresponded with Fr. Nicholas' daughter to this day, although I have never seen her.
"Fr. Nicholas' life was sheer torment, perhaps even martyrdom. Fr. Nicholas was exhausted by preceding arrests and exiles, he was weak and worked for a time in a net-weaving workshop. Occasionally, he invited us young people to his barracks, when he got a 'fish' - the notable Solovki herring, for the sake of which a certain number of monk-fishermen were retained in the monastery. I recently received from batyushka's daughter a short life, written in a simple and factual way. It is strikingly similar in its recounting of facts and its style to the life of Protopriest Avvakum."
Wherever he went Fr. Nicholas acquired the general respect and love of the believers. He had a very pious family that was beloved by all.
On October 12 (December 5, according to another source), 1931 he was released from the camp and exiled for three years to Kotlas in Archangelsk region. There he became the secretary of the Catacomb Archbishop Seraphim (Samoilovich) of Uglich until at least 1934. He died in the middle of the 1930s of tuberculosis.
Protopriest Peter Ioannovich Novosiltsev was born in 1883 in the village of Smirnovo, Nizhni-Novgorod province, in the family of a priest. He finished his studies at a theological seminary. He was arrested in 1926, and from November was in exile in Voronezh. He served as rector of the Pokrov church from November, 1926 to 1927. He was arrested on October 25, 1927 and on February 17, 1928 was exiled to Siberia for three years. Until the beginning of the 1930s he was in exile in Turukhansk region near Dudinki. In 1928, on his way through Yeniseisk, he met Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan. Nothing more is known of his further fate.
Protopriest Elijah Ioannovich Pirizhenko was born in 1888 in the village of Popovka, Kharkov province, in the merchant's family. He finished his studies at a theological seminary. He served in the Ukraine. He was arrested in 1923 and sentenced to the camps. He was on Solovki from 1923 to September, 1926. After his release he lived in Voronezh as an administrative exile and served in the Prince Vladimir cathedral. Fr. Nicholas was from 1928 to the beginning of the 1930s in exile in Turukhansk region, near Dudinki. In 1928, on his way through Yeniseisk, he met Metropolitan Cyril of Kazan. After his release he settled in Kazan. He was sentenced on May 25, 1935 to ten years in the camps. He was imprisoned in Khatyngakh, Yagodinsky region, Magadan province, where he worked as a night-watchman. He was arrested again on May 5, 1937 by the Far East UNKVD and sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out in Magadan.
Protopriest Paul Vasilyevich Smirnsky was born in 1873 in the village of Anoshkino, Ostrogozhsky uyezd, Voronezh province, in the family of a priest. He finished his studies at the Voronezh theological seminary and served in a church in the city. He was arrested on May 10, 1928 for antisergianist agitation and on August 31 was sentenced to three years' exile in Kostroma. At the beginning of the 1930s he returned to Voronezh province and served in the Archangels church in Gremyachensky region. He was arrested in the summer of 1937 and was sentenced to death. He was shot on September 25, 1937.
Fr. Sergius Dmitrievich Gortinsky was born in 1889 in Ryazan. At the beginning of the 1920s he was serving in Ryazan, and from 1925 - in the church of the village of Kazinka, Stavropol province. He was arrested at the end of 1926 and sentenced on February 4, 1927 to three years' exile in Voronezh, where he served in the church of the Alexeyevsky monastery. From May, 1928 he was part of the deanery council, and headed the Josephite priests' council. At the end of 1929 he was arrested and accused of taking over the rights of the administration of the diocese, but there was not enough evidence and he was freed. He was again arrested in February, 1930 and on July 28 was sentenced to death. He was shot on August 2, 1930. He suffered greatly in prison before his execution from bronchial tuberculosis.
Archpriest Alexander Leontyevich Philippenko was born in 1883 in the Dmitrievka, Alexandria uyezd, Kherson province, in a peasant family. He finished his studies at a teacher training college. In the 1920s he served in the church of the village of Semyonovka, Lysogorsky region, Pervomaysky district, Odessa province, where he met Igumen Barsonuphius (Yurchenko), and became friendly with him, completely sharing his views. He was first arrested and exiled in 1926, at which time almost all the members of his family died of hunger. He was arrested again on April 16, 1927 and on December 19 was sentenced to three years' exile in Voronezh, where he joined the opponents of Metropolitan Sergius. On May 9, 1928 he was arrested, and on August 31 was sentenced to three years on Solovki. After his release on October 12, 1931, he was exiled for three years to the north. Later he accepted monasticism and was made an archimandrite. In the 1930s he lived illegally in Kozlov (Michurinsk), working as a maker of brick stoves, and served in the True Orthodox Church. On February 11, 1946 he was arrested in Tambov province and was sentenced to ten years in the camps in Gorky province. He was released on November 11, 1954. From 1956 to 1960 he led more than 250 members of the True Orthodox Church in five workers' suburbs of the city of Temiratu (Kazakhstan). In November, 1960 almost all the leaders of the Karaganda Christians were arrested, including Fr. Alexander. Nothing more is known of his further fate..
Fr. John Georgievich Steblin-Kamensky. He was born in 1887 in St. Petersburg, the son of a privy councillor and a former officer of the Baltic fleet. In 1908 he finished his studies in the Naval College in St. Petersburg, and from 1909 to the beginning of 1918 he served as a lieutenant in the Baltic fleet. After demobilization he served as deputy director of the lighthouses of the Baltic fleet from 1919 to 1921. He was ordained to the diaconate as a celibate in 1920, and to the priesthood in 1923. In 1921 he was arrested but soon released. In 1924 he was arrested in Petrograd in connection with the affair of the Orthodox Brotherhoods and on September 26 was sentenced to the Solovki camps for three years. There he worked as an accountant, but continued to dress as a priest and go to services as long as they were allowed. On being released on October 1, 1927, Fr. John was sent for three years to Voronezh. He served in the church of the Pokrov Devichi monastery and was in fact in charge of it. At the end of 1928 Bishop Alexis appointed him diocesan dean, and after the arrest of Vladyka he became de facto leader of the diocese. On May 2, the authorities closed the church of the Pokrov Devichi monastery, and on the same day Abbess Dorogavtseva died. Many thousands of people attended her funeral on May 4, when Fr. John gave a flaming speech in which he said that the abbess had been a victim of the contemporary persecution against the Church. Fr. John had been under constant observation since March, and on May 6/19 he was arrested and imprisoned in July, being accused of enjoying great authority among the anti-Soviet population. It was said that peasants would come to him from the villages seeking cures for their headaches, etc. He acted with great courage during the investigation, refused to admit any guilt, and gave no evidence against anyone. On August 16, 1929 he was sentenced to three years in the camps. He was on Solovki from October 6. He was arrested in camp on February 12, 1930 in connection with the affair of the "Buyevtsy", and was imprisoned in Voronezh on May 5, 1930. On July 28, 1930 he was sentenced to be shot. He was shot on August 2, 1930.
Fr. Michael Nikolayevich Chilikin was born in 1869 in Kashira, Moscow province. He became a priest, joined the Josephites, and in 1930 was arrested in Kozelsk in connection with a branch of the True Orthodox Church. On November 27 he was sentenced in accordance with articles 58-10 and all to three years' exile in the north.
Fr. Stefan Nikolayevich Stepanov was born in 1904 in Omsk province. He was Archbishop Peter (Zverev)'s cell-attendant, and then, from 1927 to 1928, Bishop Alexis' cell-attendant. At the beginning of 1928 he took a letter from Bishop Alexis to Metropolitan Joseph. Fr. Stephen met Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov) several times in September, 1928, and went with him to Taitsy, near Leningrad, where a secret store of Josephite literature was held. This literature spread to the Central Black Earth region, where it was gratefully received and multiplied by the peasants. Particular success was enjoyed by the brochure "What an Orthodox Christian must know". He was arrested in 1930 in Voronezh and on July 28 was sentenced to five years in the camps. He was on Solovki from September 12, 1930. It is said, however, that he continually witnessed against his archpastor, Bishop Alexis, even to his face.
The main centre of the activity of the True Orthodox Christians was the men's Alexeyev Akatov monastery in Voronezh together with the women's Pokrov Devichi monastery, and, in the first half of 1928, the Voznesenskaya and Pyatnitskaya (Nativity of the Mother of God) churches. In all, about 80 parishes separated from Metropolitan Sergius in the Voronezh diocese, mainly in the Ostrogozhsky, Usmansky and Borisoglebsky districts.
Archimandrite Nectarius, in the world Nicholas Dmitrievich Benediktov, was born in 1876 in the village of Burlak, Tambov province, in the family of a priest. In 1905, for his participation in a strike, he was dismissed from his work. Until 1917 he worked as a clerk on the South-Western railway. In April, 1924 he was tonsured into monasticism on Novy Afon. Until June, 1927 he served in the church of the Pokrov Devichi monastery in Voronezh. He was arrested on June 20, 1927, and on September 23 was exiled for three years to Central Asia. He died in exile on October 7, 1929.
On March 18, 1928, Bishop Alexis was visited by Bishop Barlaam (Lazarenko) of Maikop in the North Caucasus, who was living illegally in the mountains while leading the anti-sergianist Christians of the Maikop, Black Sea and Armavir districts. On his way to Voronezh, Bishop Varlaam had united a whole series of parishes in the Poltava, Kharkov and South Kursk provinces, and in particular a group in the Sumsk district led by the priest Fr. Basil Podgorny. Since Bishop Varlaam was not able to lead these parishes himself, he handed them over to the spiritual direction of Bishop Alexis. Moreover, after getting to know Bishop Alexis, he decided to put himself, as well, under his spiritual direction. In this way a large swathe of parishes in the South of Russia came under the omophorion of Bishop Alexis.
In the spring and summer of 1928 the movement of the True Orthodox Christians spread to other dioceses in the Central Black Earth region. In the Kozlov (Michurinsk) district, where Bishop Alexis had previously served, the St. Nicetas church in the town of Kozlov joined the True Orthodox Church, as did the church in the village of Izberdey. In Tambov, the cemetery church of Saints Peter and Paul joined the True Orthodox Church.
On March 17, 1928, there arrived in Voronezh an emissary of the clergy of the town of Yeltz, the priest Fr. Sergius Alexandrovich Butuzov, who was born in 1896 in Moscow. He finished his studies at the 7th Petrograd high school, and in 1916 graduated from Moscow Theological Academy. He was ordained in the same year and served in Orel province from 1918 to January, 1928. He was arrested in 1924 on a charge of concealing church valuables, but was justified by the court. From February to September, 1928 he was superior of the Vladimir church in Yeltz. On returning to Yeltz from meeting Bishop Alexis, he placed his parish of the St. Vladimir church under his omophorion. When the second priest left the church, Bishop Alexis sent Igumen Pitirim (Shumskikh) to support Fr. Sergius. He helped organize a monastic community attached to the St. Vladimir church; this was later transferred to the Yeltz Znamensky monastery, which had left Metropolitan Sergius. On July 21, 1928, he was arrested in Yeltz and was exiled from the Yeltz region on September 12, although he had been released from prison only one-and-a-half weeks earlier. From September to December, 1928 he lived in Voronezh. Bishop Alexis sent Fr. Sergius to the Voznesensky church in Voronezh, but he was not accepted there because the church had already been occupied by the sergianists. So on January 2, 1919, Fr. Sergius became the superior of the church in the village of Nizhny Iskorets, Liskinsky region. He remained there until November 2, when he was invited by Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov) to Petrograd. There he lived at the Vsevolzhskaya station from November 6, and served in the St. Moses church from the beginning of December. He was arrested on March 19, 1930 and sent to Voronezh. During his investigation he gave lengthy accounts of the position of the Church, the essence of the disagreements with Metropolitan Sergius, the movements of the Josephites, and the characters of many bishops and priests. On July 6, 1930, he wrote a penitent letter to the OGPU, asking that it be given wide publicity. On July 28, 1930 he was sentenced to five years in the camps. He was on Solovki from September 12, 1930.
Archimandrite Porphyrius Dmitrievich Shumskikh was born in 1885 in the village of Zhernovetx, Starooskoldsky uyezd, Voronezh region. As an igumen, he was one of Bishop Alexis' closest assistants and his personal secretary from 1928 to the middle of 1929. He served in Voronezh until March, 1928, and then in Yeltz until the beginning of 1929. In June, 1929 he went to see Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov) in Petrograd, and then to Novomoskovsk to Bishop Joasaph (Popov), who raised him to the rank of archimandrite in July. He was arrested in February, 1930 in Voronezh and on July 28 was sentenced to ten years in the camps. From September 12, 1930 he was on Solovki, but was transferred to the White Sea canal camp by 1937. There he was arrested and on September 9, 1937 was sentenced to be shot. He was shot near Medvezhyegorsk.
In May, 1928, there was a meeting of the leaders of the True Orthodox Church in Petrograd. As a result of this, Bishop Alexis formally became the adminstrator of all the Josephite parishes in the south of Russia, fulfilling the duties of the exarch of the Ukraine. Bishop Demetrius (Lyubimov) handed over to Bishop Alexis the clergy of the Kuban and Stavropol who had previously been subject to him. The news of this event, in the summer of 1928, led to a mass movement of sergianist parishes in the Ukraine and the South of Russia to Bishop Alexis: in the town of Elizavetgrad (Zinovievsk), Kupyansky district, the town of Yeisk, various districts of the Kuban, etc. In May Bishop Alexis was forbidden by the OGPU from living in Voronezh, so on May 20, immediately after his return from Petrograd, he moved to Yeltz.
Fr. Sergius Butuzov witnessed during his interrogation in 1930: "After Bishop Alexis moved to Yeltz [in the summer of 1928], there was a wave of people uniting with him. My flat became a kind of wanderers' hostel, since every day two or three priests spent the night there. Most of these people came from Sumsk district, and Bishop Alexis ordained some tens of priests for that district."
On moving to Yeltz, Bishop Alexis appointed as his representative in Voronezh Protopriest Alexander Vasilyevich Palitsyn, who was born in 1852 in the village of Nikolskoye, Rannenburg uyezd, Ryazan province. He graduated from a Theological Academy and served in churches in Voronezh. He was arrested on September 25, 1919, but was soon released. He was one of the leaders of the Josephites in Voronezh. He died in October or November, 1928, and was replaced as diocesan dean by his assistant, Fr. John Steblin-Kamensky..
Another "Buyevtsy" stronghold was the Zadonsk district, where the leading figure was Archimandrite Nicander Alexeyevich (Sturov). He was born in 1865 in the village of Malinino, Khlevensky uyezd, Voronezh province. He was rector of the monastery of the Mother of God in Zadonsk in the 1920s. Patriarch Tikhon gave him the right to receive and unite to Orthodoxy all schismatics. He joined Bishop Alexis in 1928, and in September Bishop Alexis himself went to Zadonsk and succeeded in consolidating the True Church there. On his initiative the Zadonsk deanery came under the omophorion of Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov) from August 6, 1929. He was arrested on September 28, 1929 and on December 26 was sentenced to ten years in the concentration camps. He was imprisoned in Ukhtpechlag. On April 4, 1933 he was released and exiled to the north for the rest of his sentence. He lived in Vologda. On June 8, 1933 he was released from exile. From 1943 to 1955 he lived secretly in Voronezh. He died in 1955 in Voronezh.
In the spring and summer of 1928, a significant proportion of the parishes of the Staro-Oskolsky district, led by the dean, Archpriest Athanasius Shigalev, joined Bishop Alexis, as did the churches in the villages of Dronovo and Terebrino in the Belgorod district, and others in the Kursk district.
In all, the "Buyevtsy" branch of the True Orthodox Church encompassed about 40 districts of the Central Black Earth region.
According to one (dubious) source, Bishop Alexis signed the acts of the so-called "Nomadic Council" of the Catacomb Church in 1928 and was a member of the "Working Group".
In the spring of 1929 fresh repressive measures were undertaken by the authorities, some of them in connection with the just beginning collectivization campaign. On February 21 / March 7, 1929, Bishop Alexis was arrested in Yeltz (according to another source, in Moscow), and on May 4/17 he was condemned to three years in the camps according to article 58 of the criminal code, and was sent to Solovki, where he arrived on June 9. He never returned to his flock.
After the arrest of Bishop Alexis, Metropolitan Sergius appointed Archbishop Zacharius (Lobov) as head of the Voronezh diocese. However, the clergy did not accept him, but rather considered him as no better than a renovationist, and a secret college of priests loyal to Bishop Alexis was formed to administer the diocese. This college consisted of Archpriest John Steblin-Kamensky (the president), the priests Frs. Sergius Gortinsky, Eugene Marchevsky, John Zhityaev and Theodore Yakovlev, and Archimandrite Ignatius (Biryukov).
Fr. Eugene Samsonovich Marchevsky was born in 1882 in the village of Gorotan, Novgorod-Volhynia province. At the beginning of the 1920s he was serving in the Ukraine. In 1924 he was arrested and sentenced to three years' exile. From 1927 to 1930 he lived in Voronezh and served in the church of the Pokrov Devichi monastery (until May, 1929) and then in the church of the Alexeyevsky monastery. He joined the diocesan deanery committee in May, 1928 and the "priests' council" in the spring of 1929. He was arrested in February, 1930 and on July 28 was sentenced to five years in the camps.
Fr. John Georgievich Zhityaev was born in September, 1892 in the village of Sosnovka, Petrovsky uyezd, Saratov province, in a peasant family. He went to a parish school and from 1916 sang in the hierarchical choir in Voronezh. He was a reader from 1918, and in the same year was ordained to the diaconate. In 1922 he was ordained to the priesthood and was appointed rector of the Pyatnitsky church in Voronezh, later becoming rector of the church of the Alexeyevsky monastery. From the spring of 1929 he became a member of the "priests' council". In August, 1929 he was arrest, was freed for a time, and then arrested again in December and sentenced to two years hard labour on the trumped-up charge of 'stealing church property'. He worked on log-felling in Karelia. He was released in October, 1931 and returned to Voronezh, where he served in secret. On February 4, 1932 he arrived in Petrograd and lived illegally in the building of the Ioannovsky monastery. He was arrested together with the nuns of the monastery on February 17, 1932, and on March 22 was sentenced to five years in the camps.
Fr. Theodore Mikhailovich Yakovlev was born in 1897 in St. Petersburg province in the family of a peasant. During the civil war he worked as the head of a local police station. In the 1920s he served in the Vladimir church in Voronezh. From the spring of 1929 he was secretary of the priests' council that administered the diocese, and after the arrest of Fr. John Stelbin became rector of the Alexeyevsky monastery. He was arrested on February 11, 1930, and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Archimandrite Ignatius, in the world John Adrianovich Biryukov, was born in 1865 in the village of Budyennoye, Ostrogozhsky uyezd, Voronezh province. Until 1926 he was the abbot of the Dormition Valuysky monastery, Voronezh province. He had been leader of the monastery choir since the age of 14, and in view of his shortness had had to stand on a stool. He helped Archbishop Peter in introducing chanting by all the people during the services. When the Valuysky monastery was closed in 1926, he moved to Voronezh and joined the Alexeyev monastery, arriving there on January 5, 1926. He was an exceptionally noble and kind pastor, was diocesan spiritual father and de facto leader of the diocese's monastics. He entered both the diocesan deanery council (from May, 1928) and the "priests' council" (from the spring of 1929). On January 30, 1930 (according to another source - February 2) he was arrested in connection with the Voronezh branch of the True Orthodox Church, and, in spite of his old age and tuberculosis, was sentenced on July 28 to five years in the camps on June 28. He was exiled to Central Asia. On April 5, 1931 he was drawn into the investigation of the Moscow branch of the True Orthodox Church, and on May 20 his sentence was extended to ten years, which was commuted to the same period of exile in Kazakhstan, where he died on September 14/27, 1932.
The activities of the "Buyevtsy" were hindered by the lack of a bishop. In the beginning, after the arrest of Bishop Alexis, they were led between March and May, 1929 by Bishop Maximus (Zhizhilenko), who sent an epistle about this to Voronezh. In the "Buyevtsy" churches they began to commemorate Bishop Alexis in the ordinary services, and Archbishop Demetrius and Bishop Maximus - in the litany of fervent supplication.
However, on May 24 Bishop Maximus was also arrested. After this differences of opinion appeared among the Voronezh clergy. In July, most of the diocese began to be served by Bishop Joasaph (Popov) of Bakhmutsk and Donetsk, who lived in the town of Novomoskovsk in what was Ekaterinoslav province. The diocesan spiritual father, Archimandrite Ignatius (Biryukov) "with the brotherhood" applied to come under his omophorion. But the leader of the Zadonsk district, Archimandrite Nicander (Sturov) made a corresponding application to Archbishop Demetrius and received his written agreement to administer the district. When Archimandrite Nicander went to Leningrad, Archbishop Demetrius offered that he accept consecration to the episcopate, but Fr. Nicander refused on grounds of illness. Archbishop Demetrius served the Zadonsk district until his own arrest in November, 1929. In July, Igumen Pitirim (Shumskikh) and Hierodeacon Melchisedek came to him from Voronezh for ordination, but they were refused because of doubts concerning certain facts in their personal biographies. Then they went to Bishop Ioasaph and were raised by him to the ranks of archimandrite and hieromonk, respectively.
Since Novomoskovsk was significantly nearer than Leningrad, the majority of the Voronezh clergy were forced willy-nilly to be served by Bishop Joasaph, even sometimes against their will. Thus Fr. Theodore Yakovlev spoke in favour of joining Archbishop Demetrius and corresponded with him, but in August he nevertheless agreed with the circular of Bishop Joasaph declaring that the affairs of the diocese would now be administered by himself and Fr. Sergius Gortinsky. Bishop Joasaph was considered the ruling bishop of Voronezh and de facto served the majority of the "Buyevtsy" until the massive arrests at the beginning of 1930. Thus on March 5 the dean of Bobrovsky, Archpriest Alexander Archangelsky, sent him a letter asking him to appoint priests in six village churches of the district. On March 7, 1930, Bishop Joasaph wrote an epistle to the clergy and laity of the city of Tambov and sent it with a priest whom he had ordained, Fr. George Nikitin.
At first the activity of the little-known Bishop Joasaph aroused suspicions and fears in the Josephite leadership. According to one source, Archbishop Demetrius even considered the possibility of banning the Voronezh clergy who recognized him. However, this conflict was defused. From the camps Bishop Alexis transferred the administration of the diocese to Bishop Joasaph, which act was sanctioned by Archbishop Demetrius. But according to the witness of Fr. Sergius Butuzov, many Voronezh clergy still sent to Archbishop Demetrius, who was "well known throughout Russia for his steadfastness in Orthodoxy". Fr. Sergius himself received a proposal from Archbishop Demetrius that he accept a place under his leadership and on November 6, 1929 moved to Leningrad. Archbishop Demetrius wanted to send Fr. Sergius to Vyatka or Serpukhov, but the parishioners of the Moiseyevsky church at Porokhovy succeeded in keeping him for their church, where he was arrested on March 19, 1930, in connection with the "Buyevtsy" affair.
The OGPU's main excuse for attacking the Buyevtsy was the unrest that took place in the countryside with the beginning of collectivization in 1929-30. This unrest was supposedly organized by an ecclesiastical-monarchist organization in the south of Russia led by Bishop Alexis and coordinated in the Alexeyev monastery by periodical meetings of the Buyevtsy leadership. During one of these, in December, 1929, Fr. Theodore Yakovlev is reported to have said: "The clergy and believers are now suffering great violence at the hands of Soviet power. The churches are being closed, the priests are being arrested, and the peasants are being forcibly driven into the collective farms." Archimandrite Tikhon said that collectivization was a way of removing the peasants from their churches, which were then closed. And this is what in fact happened. Igumen Joseph (Yatsk) is reported to have said: "Now the times of the Antichrist have arrived, so everything that Soviet power tried to impose upon the peasantry: collective farms, cooperatives, etc., should be rejected."
If we can believe the records of the OGPU, at the beginning of 1930 the Voronezh peasantry rebelled against forcible collectivization in several places. Thus in Ostrogozhsky district alone between January 4 and February 5 there were demonstrations in twenty villages: Nizhny Ikorets, Peskovatka, Kopanishche, Podserednoye, Platava, Kazatskoye, Uryv, Dyevitsa, Godlayevka, Troitskoye, Drakonovo, Mashkino, Badyeyevo, Selyavnoye and others. At the same time there were demonstrations in the neighbouring areas of Usmansky district, from where they moved to the Kozlov, Yelets, Belgorod and other districts, encompassing more than forty districts in all. The OGPU considered that these demonstrations took place under the influence of the "Buyevtsy".
On January 21-22, in Nizhny Ikorets, some hundreds of peasants, mainly women, destroyed the village soviet, tore down the red flag, tore up the portraits of the "leaders" and walked down the streets with a black flag, shouting: "Down with the collective farms! Down with the antichrist communists!"
An active participant in this event was the nun Macrina (Maslovskaya), who said at her interrogation: "I preached Christ everywhere... [I urged] the citizens to struggle with the apostates from God, who are emissaries of the Antichrist, and [I urged] the peasants not to go into the collective farms because by going into the collectives they were giving their souls to the Antichrist, who would appear soon... In the village of Nizhny-Ikorets the believers do not go and will not go into the collective farm... In 1929 I went round many places and everywhere I preached against the communists..."
In February-March, 1930, the OGPU investigated 492 people in connection with these disturbances, of whom 134 were arrested. The anti-Soviet organization called "The Flock" which they uncovered was supposedly made up of 22 leaders and 470 followers, including 4 officers, 8 noblemen, 33 traders, 8 policemen, 13 members of the "Union of the Russian people", 81 priests, 75 monastics, 210 kulaks, 24 middle peasants, and 2 beggars. 134 people were arrested, of whom some were freed, some had their cases referred to higher authorities and some died during the investigation (the violent methods used to extort confessions during the 1930s are well-known). One of the accused, M.A. Vladytska, was found in possession of photographs of Archbishop Peter (Zverev) and Bishop Alexis together with some notes about their fates. This was considered evidence of guilt.
On February 1, 1930, Bishop Alexis was taken under guard in Solovki for spreading Archbishop Seraphim of Uglich's "Appeal to the whole Church", and together with Archpriests John Steblin-Kamensky and Nicholas Dulov was taken by convoy to Voronezh. From March (or May) 5 they were in the local prison. Bishop Alexis was interrogated by A.V. Kazansky several times, but without result. In his last protocol Bishop Alexis wrote in his own hand: "I do not admit myself to have been guilty in anything."
Indictments were read out against 38 supposed leaders of the organization. On July 28, 1930, the OGPU pronounced its verdict: 12 people were condemned to be shot, 14 - to ten years in the camps, 10 - to five years, one was exiled for five years to Solovki and one was given a three-year suspended sentence in the camps.
During the night of August 2, 1930, the following were shot in Voronezh: the priests Archimandrite Tikhon, Hieromonk George (Pozharov), Fr. John Steblin-Kamensky, Fr. Sergius Gortinsky, Fr. Theodore Yakovlev, Fr. Alexander Archangelsky, Fr. George Nikitin, Fr. Cosmas Vyaznikov, and the laymen Mark Tymchishin, Euthymius Grebenshchikov and Peter Vyaznikov.
Archimandrite Tikhon, in the world Timothy Ulyanovich Krechkov, was born in 1862 in the village of Platava, Ostrogozhsky uyezd, Voronezh province. He was for a long time been a hieromonk and the treasurer of the Alexeyevsky monastery, and showed great zeal in the beautifying of the churches. He was arrested on January 30, 1930 (according to another source - February 2), and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out of August 2, 1930.
Hieromonk George Dmitrievich Pozharov was born in 1886 in the village of Malaya Privalovka, Usmansk uyezd, Voronezh province. In 1927 he moved to Voronezh from Tver province, and in 1928 joined the Josephites. By 1930 he was serving in Usmansk district. He was arrested in February-March, 1930 and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Fr. Alexander Nikolayevich Archangelsky was born in 1873 in the village of Soskhki, Lipetsk uyezd, Tambov province. At the end he was serving as a priest in the churches of Buturlinovka (Bobrov), and was the uyezd dean. He was the leader of one of the strongholds of the "Buyevtsy", and was responsible for a number of peasant demonstrations. He was arrested in March, 1930, and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Fr. George Nikitovich Nikitin was born in 1870 in the village of Afanaska, Ostrovsky uyezd, Pskov province. He led the community of Johnnites in the village of Palanka, Tulchinsky district, in the Ukraine. He served as a reader in the Josephite churches in Petrograd from 1928 to August, 1929, and was the Buyevites' link with the south of Russia, the Ukraine and Petrograd diocese. He was ordained to the diaconate on August 28, 1929, and to the priesthood on August 28, by Bishop Joasaph (Popov). He went with a letter of this bishop to Tambov, but on his way back was arrested in a train in March, 1930, and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Fr. Cosmas Trophimovich Vyaznikov was born in 1872 in the village of Staro- Nikolskoye, Usmansky uyezd, Voronezh province. He served in the church of the village of Semidesyatnogo, Gremyachevsky region. He was said to be leader of a counter-revolutionary movement in Platava and was arrested in February-March, 1930 in connection with the affair of the "Buyevites". He was sentenced on July 28 to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Mark Petrovich Tymchishin was born in 1882 in Kamenets-Podolsk province, in a peasant family. During the civil war he fought with the Whites under General A.G. Shkuro. From the 1920s he was living in Voronezh, and was an active Josephite. He was arrested in February, 1930 and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Euthymius Nikiforovich Grebenshchikov was born in 1904, and lived in the village of Platava, Repyevsky region, Ostrozhsky district. He was one of the leaders of the massive demonstration of peasants in the village in January, 1930. He was arrested in March, 1930 and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Peter Mikhailovich Vyaznikov was born in 1876, and lived in the village of Platava, Repyevsky region, Ostrozhsky district. He was one of the leaders of the massive demonstration of peasants in the village in January, 1930. He was arrested in March, 1930 and on July 28 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out on August 2, 1930.
Fr. John Nikolayevich Ivanov was born in 1878 in Pavlovsk, Voronezh province. He was rector of the church in the village of Verkhnyaya Kotukhovka, Kamensky region. He was arrested in February-March, 1930 in connection with the affair of the "Buyevtsy" and on July 28 was sentenced to ten years in the camps. From September 12 he was on Solovki.
Fr. James Pavlovich Lisitsky was born in 1896 in the village of Alexeyvka, Ostrozhsky uyezd, Voronezh province. He served in the church of the village of Khrenovskoye-Vyselki, Usmansky district. He was sentenced to two months hard labour for not appearing for registration in 1925, and to three months hard labour for insulting the village administration in 1929. In February-March, 1930 he was arrested in connection with the affair of the Buyevtsy and on July 28 was condemned to ten years in the camps. From September 12, 1930 he was on Solovki.
Fr. Gabriel Yakovlevich Azarov was born in 1892 in the village of Kostenki, Gremyachevsky uyezd, Voronezh province. At the end of the 1920s he was serving in the church of the village of Semidesyatoye, Usmansky region. He was arrested in February-March, 1930 in connection with the affair of the Buyevtsy and on July 28 was sentenced to ten years in the camps. From September 12, 1930 he was on Solovki.
Fr. Michael Alexeyevich Uvarov was born in Khilkovo, Kirsansky uyezd, Tambov province. He served in the church of the village of Vtoraya Usman, N-Usmansky region. He was arrested in March, 1930 in connection with the affair of the Buyevtsy and on July 28 was sentenced to ten years in the camps. From September 12, 1930 he was on Solovki.
Fr. Peter Petrovich Korystin was born in 1881 in the village of Uglyanets, Usmansky uyezd, Voronezh province. He served in the church of the village of N-Ikorets. In March, 1930 he was arrested in connection with the affair of the Buyevtsy and on July 28 was sentenced to five years in the camps.
Fr. Alexis Alexandrovich Ryltsevich was born in 1879 in Grodno. He served in the church of the village of Platava, Ostrogozhsky region. In March, 1930 he was arrested in connection with the affair of the Buyevtsy and on July 28 was sentenced to five years in the camps. From September 12, 1930 he was on Solovki.
Igumen Joseph Ivanovich Yatsuk was born in 1866 in the village of Ozeryany, Lokhvitsky uyezd, Poltava province. He was arrested in 1921. From 1928 he was a Josephite in Voronezh diocese. He was arrested in February, 1930 and on July 28 was sentenced to five years in the camps. He was on Solovki from September 12, 1930. From February to July, 1931 he was under investigation for anti-Soviet agitation in camp in connection with the affair of Bishop Arcadius (Ostalsky).
Also sentenced in this year were:-
Hieromonk Melchisedek (Khukhryansky) was born in 1887 in Buturlinovka sloboda, Rossoshansky uyezd, Voronezh province. In the 1920s he was a monk in the Valuysky monastery in Voronezh diocese, and was the cell-attendant of Archimandrite Ignatius (Biryukova). In June, 1929 he went to Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov) in Petrograd, and was the link between the Voronezh Josephites and Bishop Joasaph (Popov), who in July, 1929 ordained him to the priesthood. From 1929 he served in the church of the village of Rudnevo, Rossoshansky uyezd. In February, 1930 he was arrested and on July 13 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out in July, 1930.
The priest Fr. Pantaleimon Beda served in the church of a monastery. He was arrested in February, 1930 in connection with the "Buyevtsy" affair and died in exile.
Deacon Panteleimon was also arrested in the Alexeyev monastery in 1930 and shot.
Fr. Peter Vasilyevich Strukov was born in 1887 in the village of Usman, Usmansky uyezd, Voronezh province, in a peasant family. In the 1920s he was a reader in the Alexeyev monastery and was ordained to the priesthood at the end of 1929. By May, 1930 he was superior of the church in the monastery. On May 20, 1930 he was arrested and on July 13 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was carried out in July, 1930.
Vladimir Theodorovich Karelsky (born 1888) was the son of a priest. He became a corporal in the tsarist army, and then a lecturer in the Voronezh agricultural institute. In 1926, Archbishop Peter was asked about Vladimir Theodorovich's rule in church life and his relations with the deceased Metropolitan Vladimir (Shimkevich). He was not arrested at that time, but in 1930 he received it in full for "conducting anti-Soviet agitation while in the Alexeyev monastery among believers, and calling on the people to hold to the old faith and not submit to the antichristian authority". He was sentenced to ten years, and carried out his sentence on canal construction sites. In 1968, while living in Ivanovo, he was rehabilitated.
It was decided not to carry out the death sentence against Bishop Alexis. He and Archpriest Nicholas Dulov were brought to trial in connection with the affair of the All-Union Centre "True Orthodoxy" and were kept in Butyrki prison in Moscow until September, 1931. On September 3, Bishop Alexis was sentenced to ten years in the Svir camps, Leningrad province.
The reverberations from this trial continued to be felt in later years. Thus in 1930-31 the editor of the Voronezh Telegraph, A.N. Averin, the lawyer S.A. Petrovsky, and the workers in the local history museum, V.V. Litvinov and T.M. Oleinikov, were all accused of taking part in the church rebellion while being tried in connection with the "local history worker" affair.
In June, 1931, the authorities closed the Alexeyev Akatov monastery in Voronezh. Of the monks who still remained, some were arrested and others were dispersed. It seemed that this was the end of the "Buyevtsy". But after hiding for a time in the underground, the Voronezh Josephites again set to work in January, 1932.
The leader of the reestablished "Buyevtsy" centre in Voronezh was Hieromonk Bassian, in the world Basil Dmitrievich Molodtskoy, who was born in 1871 in the village of Zemlyansk, Voronezh province. In the 1920s he served as a hierodeacon in the Metrophanes monastery, and also in Voskresensky church and the Alexeyev monastery until its closure in July, 1931. He served in the church of the village of Uglyanets, R-Khavsky region from January to October, 1932. This was chosen as the centre of the activity of the Buyevtsy because it was situated in a remote wooded area but was at the same time not far from Voronezh. In August, 1932 Fr. Bassian visited Bishop Alexis in Svirlag and witnessed: "His Grace Vladyka Alexis blessed us for further difficult exploits in the defence and strengthening of True Orthodoxy, saying that we should continue our work and draw more people to our side, explaining and convincing them that Soviet power... does works that are pleasing only to the Antichrist and is hostile to the true Christian, and that the true Christian must not be troubled by Soviet power, but - the main thing - should not join the collective farms." Fr. Bassian was arrested on October 20, 1932 in Voronezh, and on April 2, 1933 was sentenced to be shot. The sentence was commuted to ten years in the camps. He was on Solovki from the end of August, 1933. He died in exile.
Another leader was the Nun Anatolia (Sushkova), who was born in Kozlov, Tambov province. From 1900 to 1917 she was in the Nikolo-Balynsky monastery, Ryazan province; from 1917 - in Kozlov, and in the Pokrov Devichi monastery in Voronezh until its closure in May, 1928. She was arrested in 1929 and after serving her sentence in the Svir camp returned to Voronezh in 1932. She was arrested in connection with the second affair of the Buyevtsy on October 20, 1932, and on March 28, 1933 was sentenced to ten years in the camps.
The reconstituted "Buyevtsy" diocesan centre quickly united 27 groups - in Voronezh, Kozlov and 25 villages, in the majority of which churches that had separated from Metropolitan Sergius could still function legally. Unfortunately, Fr. Basil Kravtsov, the superior of the Uglyanets church, was recruited by the OGPU and from March, 1932, operating with the codename "Martov", began to incriminate True Orthodox Christians. In August Bishop Alexis appointed Fr. Basil as dean of the Voronezh diocese and indicated that they should continue to commemorate his name during the Divine services. By the autumn 64 new "Buyevtsy" had been arrested and condemned by a troika of the OGPU. On October 4, 74 more people ware arrested. These arrests continued until January 4, 1933. A second "Buyevtsy" affair was fabricated, in connection with which 202 people were investigated.
The defendants conducted themselves with great steadfastness. Thus Nun Anatolia (Sushkova) declared at her interrogation on November 3: "In accordance with my political world-view, I am hostile to the existing regime in Russia for the following reasons: Soviet power is an atheist power which wages war on religion and closes churches, repressing the clergy and thereby persecuting the faith. But we Buyevtsy are conducting an irreconcilable struggle with Soviet power and its enterprises, creating the most fitting cadres of True Orthodox Christians, who can be strong fighters for the Christian faith in Russia."
Again, the priest Fr. Alexander Sviridov, the "leader of the Podgorensky branch", declared that the actions of the authorities in relation to the Church and in the creation of collective farms was unjust: "The clergy is being persecuted. In order to close the Church down, all of the clergy without exception are being accused of conducting propaganda and imprisoned. Atheism is being imposed. The churches of the peasants are being desecrated, ignorance is being inculcated... In spite of the wishes of the majority of the peasants, collective farms are being created which only harm the peasants, for they are not ready for them. Without taking into account the capacities of the peasants, they are imposing intolerable taxes on them, condemning them to certain death."
This second "Buyevtsy" trial involved one bishop, 13 priests, 44 monks and nuns, 4 "wandering churchmen", 2 former policemen, 8 kulaks and merchants, one handicraftsman and one civil servant.
On November 1, 1932, Bishop Alexis was taken to Solovki, and then, on December 19 (according to another source, December 21), he was taken under guard to Voronezh. His first interrogation took place in the local prison on December 21. In his cell he was surrounded by stooges and informers who reported his every word. On December 25, according to OGPU records, Bishop Alexis repented of his opposition to Soviet power and counter-revolutionary activity. On December 27, however, according to the informer "Martov" (Fr. Basil Kravtsov) he said that this repentance had been a lie, a manoeuvre by which he hoped to shorten his own and the others' investigations. And on December 28 he declared to Fr. Kravtsov: "They want to use me to liquidate... the True Orthodox movement. I will never do this, even if they threaten me with death. I am ready to die for the Holy Church with a clean conscience." Three months later the investigation of Bishop Alexis came to an end. Agent "Martov" was released after the investigation.
From March 12, 1933 to April of the same year, Bishop Alexis was in prison in Butyrki, Moscow. From the end of April he was again on Solovki, where he worked in a wood-polishing section.
On March 28, 1933, a troika of the OGPU for the Central Black Earth region sentenced 56 of the accused in the second Buyevtsy trial, and on April 2 - a further 19. 22 people were condemned to ten years in the camps, 48 - to shorter periods of imprisonment or exile in Kazakhstan, while the following were condemned to death: Hieromonk Bassian, Hieromonk Seraphim, Fr. Alexander Dubinin, Fr. Demetrius Zagumennykh, Fr. Theodore Luzganov and Hierodeacon Barsonuphius.
Hieromonk Seraphim, in the world Tikhon Mitrophanovich Protopopov, was born in 1909 in the village of Petino, Gremyachevsky uyezd, Voronezh province. In the 1920s he was condemned for non-payment of taxes. In 1932 he became a Josephite, was tonsured into monasticism, and in April and August visited Bishop Alexis in the camp (the second time with Hieromonk Bassian). He was arrested on October 24, 1932 and on March 28, 1933 was sentenced to ten years in the camps.
Fr. Alexander Pavlovich Dubinin was born in 1896 in Poltava province. In 1928 he was sentenced to three years deprivation of freedom. At the beginning of the 1930s he was rector of the church in the village of Panino, Panino region. He was arrested in November, 1932 in connection with the second affair of the Buyevtsy, and on April 2, 1933 was sentenced to be shot. However, the sentence was commuted to ten years in the camps. At the end of August, 1933 he was sent under convoy to Solovki. On November 11, 1937 the Petrograd NKVD sentenced him to be shot. The sentence was carried out on December 8, 1937 in Petrograd.
Fr. Demetrius Trophimovich Zagumennykh was born in 1892 in Tambov. He was rector of the church in the village of Ivanovka, Panino region. He was arrested in November, 1932 in connection with the second affair of the Buyevtsy, and on April 2, 1933 was sentenced to be shot. However, the sentence was commuted to ten years in the camps. He was sent under convoy to Solovki at the end of August, 1933.
Fr. Theodore Ivanovich Luzganov was born in 1867. He was "dekulakized" in the village of Dmitrievka, Panino region and sentenced to death. However, after several weeks of waiting for death, the sentence was commuted to ten years in the camps.
Hierodeacon Barsonuphius, in the world Basil Yakovlevich Fursov, was born in 1881 in Voronezh. At the beginning of the 1930s he was serving as a deacon in the church of the village of Uglyanets. He was arrested in 1931, but soon released. He was arrested again on October 24, 1932 in connection with the second affair of the Buyevtsy, and on April 2, 1933 was sentenced to be shot. However, the sentence was commuted to ten years in the camps. He was sent under convoy to Solovki at the end of August, 1933.
Among the laymen who were sent to the camps were G.I. Zatsepin, V.N. Yenin and Ya.P. Lisitsky. They later appealed for rehabilitation, but their appeal was refused in 1957.
According to the very approximate estimates of the OGPU, in 1929 there numbered about 700 active members of the True Orthodox Church, while in 1930-31 up to one thousand were "discovered", and in 1932 - another 27 groups comprising 202 people. In 1929 the organs of the OGPU arrested at least 33 clergy. Among the 567 people investigated by the OGPU in 1930-32, 97 were priests, 120 were monastics and one was a bishop - Bishop Alexis.
However, in spite of this second "Buyevtsy" trial, the movement was not annihilated, and a second generation of priests took up the struggle for True Orthodoxy.
Meanwhile, Bishop Alexis was still alive. Archpriest Sergius Shukin recalls an encounter he had with him in the summer of 1936: "We were sent by convoy to the Ukhto-Pechersk concentration camp (in the far north). The transfer took almost a whole month, since every two or three days we had a stop at the following points: Kharkov, Orel, Syzran, Vyatka and Kotlas. In Kotlas the railroad ended and we were conducted further on barges along the Northern Dvine and Vychegda to the harbour of Ust-Vym. From there we were taken on camp trucks to the various camp points.
"At first on this convoy there were no clergymen: it was a mixture of political and criminal exiles. But at each stop our convoy changed - some left, others were added. And at Syzran we were joined by Archbishop Alexis, formerly of Voronezh and Kozlov. He was an old bishop, about 65 years old, tall and of a large build, with an unhealthy colour in his face. But the most extraordinary thing was that Vladyka was carrying with him two large and heavy suitcases. The other people in the convoy had only a single bundle with dry bread and clothes, so as not to attract the attention of the criminals. But the important thing was each carried his bundle himself and put it under his head at night.
"It was quite natural that the appearance of Vladyka with two suitcases became of immediate interest to the criminals in our cell. My companions and I made the acquaintance of the Archbishop and advised him to be careful, especially at night, when the criminals went hunting for other people's things. But Vladyka did not feel well and, shrugging his shoulders, replied: 'What can I do? Let them take them... All the same I will sleep at night.' Then we decided that we would take turns at night and watch over Vladyka's suitcases... The criminals were very dissatisfied with this turn of events and in the morning did not conceal their anger, but God preserved us from trouble...
"The same evening we were brought to the station for the further journey. Such transfers the NKVD always arranges at night, so as not to attract the attention of the local inhabitants. My companions carried Vladyka's suitcases and we were loaded into one of the compartments of a 'Stolypin' wagon....
"Under the Tsarist government people in such convoys received hot food twice a day, but under the Soviets they were given only a 'dry ration': 400 grams of black bread, 20 grams of sugar, and a piece of herring. Water was given only twice a day, morning and evening. Therefore, receiving in the morning a cup of water and after this some salted fish, those in the convoy were tormented with thirst the whole day.
"The whole way Vladyka lay and dozed. He spoke little and rarely; it was evident that he felt ill, and he ate nothing. Of course, both the wagon and the surroundings acted on him in an oppressive manner. The next day, when we arrived at the station of Kotlas, we were separated from Vladyka. Although he was heading for the same Ukhte-Pechersk camp, he was put in a different transfer barracks and we didn't see him again.
"Judging by the physical condition of Vladyka Alexis, the camp regimen was beyond his strength. He could not work, and therefore he could expect the worst rations: 300 grams of bread and once a day a watery soup. Even if people could have sent him food parcels, it wouldn't have been right away, until he could let them know his address. There was no thought given to the diet of prisoners, either; the food was the most crude and monotonous. One has to suppose that Vladyka could not survive long in such conditions. Such was the camp system of the NKVD in order to deliver them from those incapable of work..."
In 1937 Bishop Alexis was transferred to a prison regime, on October 9 he was condemned to be shot by a tribunal of the UNKVD of the Leningrad military district, and was shot in the region of Medvezhegorsk on November 3, 1937 (new style). Before his execution he was tortured. His body was found, together with about a thousand others, most of whom had been brought from Solovki to work on the Onega - White Sea canal, in Sandomorch, Karelia.
The Soviet press recorded the continued existence of True Orthodox Christians in the Voronezh area for decades to come. Thus Komsomolskaya Pravda for September 15, 1937 noted that young women had "recently founded a 'secret monastery' - 15 girls from two neighbouring collective farm villages immediately became nuns in it." Again, Soviet sociological studies conducted at the end of the 1950s found continuing pockets of True Orthodox Christians in the Voronezh, Tambov, Lipetsk and Michurinsk regions.
One of the survivors of those years, the ROCA Abbess Margarita (Chebotareva), recalls: "In 1933 we still had our parishes in places, non-sergianist parishes: the priest Fr. Pantaleimon served at Kolodez station. He was strong, even as a psalm-reader he had not accepted renovationism, and he did not accept sergianism. Fr. Emelyan served in Malysheva, and Fr. John Sklyarov in Ulyanovsk, while Fr. Jerome [who in 1933 made me a ryasofor-nun and blessed me with his prayer-rope] served in the village of Ivanovka.
"And then on one night [in 1935] all the priests were arrested. And there was a fifth with them, an old man, who was exiled. They were betrayed by a woman who was considered a nun. She came to sing with us. They said of her that she was a traitor, and we were so afraid of her, we were trembling. She was called Helen. She used to say that she was driving everyone into the Kingdom of Heaven. And it seems that they paid her for it. They were in prison for nine months, and there was a closed court which lasted for three days.
"In that night they also took Matushka Triena. In the world she had been Tatyana Petrovna Kumskaya, she was a nun of the Pokrovsky monastery. And so they came in the night, looked everything over, rummaged around, and took her. I remained with the sick Mathushka Iegudila. They didn't touch me or the sick woman. We were betrayed by a nun from the Pokrov monastery. She knew Matushka Triena, they were from the same monastery. She had been in prison, and they forced her to become a traitor there. So she came to us. Her excuse was that she wanted a book to read. We had a crack in the door, she went up and had a peek. The priests used to come to us. Fr. John would serve, once three priests served. Then, when Hieromonk Jerome came, he tonsured two nuns and made me a rassofor-nun. And the authorities knew about it. Once they brought a child to us, and Fr. Pantaleimon added a prayer to his [renovationist] baptism. Another time a sick woman had to be given communion, and the nuns also asked to have communion. The authorities knew about that, too. They began to tell Matushka Triena that there had been a baptism in her house. But she was from a monastery and was used to being truthful in everything, so she replied like a child that they had not had a baptism, but had only made an addition.
"The trial took place in the Metrophanes monastery just before Pascha. It lasted for three days, and I went each day. I was pleased because they had interrogated me and they said that interrogated witnesses could be present. So I remained and heard everything that they said. I heard one sergianist priest say that he had not served [in the sergianist church] by conviction, but because it was his profession - and they released him.
"But Fr. Pantaleimon, he was such a zealous priest. He accused everyone: one was unmarried, another was not wearing a cross. He was very careful to see that everything was in order, according to the law. And they gave all the priests eight years - but to him they gave ten. He did not return, nor Fr. Jerome, nor Fr. Emelyan."
Abbess Margarita continues: "In 1937 I received the little schema from Hieromonk Anthony from Tolshevsky monastery. He served secretly from one house to another. He tonsured many into monasticism, including Matushka Marionilla. Before the war Fr. Anthony was often with us. Once someone ordered forty days' prayer for a dead person, so he was with us for a whole month serving every day. Matushka Iegudila and I began be letting a room, but then someone gave us the frame of a house and we ourselves built a little house, and he served there. And when the war came to us, in 1942 he and three monks dug out an underground hut in a shed in Uglyanka and there constructed a church with an altar. It was a secret monastery. Three monks lived with him: Fr. Raphael, Fr. Gabriel and Fr. Angelist, old men whom he had tonsured into monasticism. And they were such workers! They never left the dug-out and slept there. Fr. Anthony was always expecting the Germans. He said that when the Germans came they would open a monastery in Tolshakh. But the Germans never got as far as Uglyanka. And then a Judas was found who betrayed them. On the feast of the Circumcision, 1946 they were arrested. They told us that Fr. Anthony was tied to a carriage drawn by a horse, insulted and tortured. He died in prison on April 17, 1946.
"We had to suffer much during the war: hunger and cold and bombardments, indescribable. I wandered around with two sick nuns. Matushka Iegudila died in 1942. I remained with the sick Matushka Triena. She lay in bed with dropsy for three years. She did not get up at all for seven months. When she died in 1945 I entered into obedience to schema-nun Marionilla.
"The three of us began to live together: Matushka Marionilla, Matushka Agnia and I. Matushka Agnia had been Anastasia in the world, she was born in 1901, and was an orphan. She had been with Matushka Marionilla since the 1920s. She had been tonsured into the little schema by Fr. Anthony, and into the great schema by Fr. John Andreyevsky. She died in 1971.
"At this point Fr. Nicander came to us. He was an archimandrite, the rector of the Zadonsk monastery. He had been in exile for eighteen years, and in 1945 came to us. Matushka Marionilla trusted him, received communion with faith, and then we all began to go to him. A person would be dying, they would come to give him communion, he would become joyful and peaceful and would die. But some doubted. Matushka Marionilla died in 1952.
"In 1952 I received the schema from Archimandrite Nicanderâ€¦"
The last three leaders of the Voronezh community of True Orthodox Christians before the fall of communism were Archimandrite Nicander, Hieromonk Hilarion and Hieroschemamonk Ambrose. They were all buried in the same plot in Voronezh cemetery.
Protopriest Ioann Ardalionovich Andreyevsky, later Hieromonk Hilarion, was born in 1875 in the village of Golyshovka, Voronezh province, in the family of a priest. He finished his studies at the Voronezh theological seminary. In 1901 he was secretary of Archbishop Anastasius in the Annunciation Metrophanes monastery. After the death of the archbishop in 1913 he joined Archbishop Tikhon of Kaluga, with whom he remained until 1920, when he became priest in the Nativity church on Chizhovka in Voronezh and rector of the Resurrection church on Kamenny Most, being nicknamed "Voskresensky". In 1922, during the struggle with the renovationists, he was deprived of his parish, arrested and sent to a camp. In 1925 Archbishop Peter appointed him spiritual father of the penitent renovationists in Voronezh. Until 1928 he lived in the position of an exile, but served as rector of the Resurrection church, being one of the initiators of the union of the Voronezh diocese with the Josephites. He was arrested on May 10, 1928 and on August 31 was exiled for three years to Kinimekh in Central Asia. When Bishop Alexis heard of Fr. John's arrest, he came the same day to the church where the priest had been serving and comforted his grieving flock. After his release he was (on October 12, 1931) deprived of the right to live in twelve places, being confined to a definite place in the Central Black Earth region for three years. In 1930 he was again arrested. He spent 28 years in the camps and exile.
Abbess Margarita writes: that he was released in 1956. "At that time no one said where he was, and none of the believers except two knew. But they revealed the secret to me because of my sick nuns. Then it became possible to write, and Fr. Nicander sent letters to him. Fr. John knew Fr. Nicander from when he had been rector of the Zadonsk monastery. And I also wrote about all my perplexities to Fr. John. And then Fr. John sent a letter of twenty pages answering all my spiritual questionsâ€¦.
" He returned from his last period of exile in 1956 as a terribly sick man: he had terrible pains, a hernia and sclerosis...
"He served secretly in the city of Voronezh. He especially loved the Divine Liturgyâ€¦
"Fr. Hilarion had two daughters. The chekists forced them to isolate their father from the believers, and for this service they promised them a flat. But the chekists did not gain anything. For his refusal to compromise they called him 'hard-nut'. Fr. Hilarion served until the last day of his life.
"On the feast of the "Praise of the Mother of God", 1961, Fr. Hilarion was already lying on his deathbed, and he wanted to receive the Holy Mysteries. About five people gathered in his flat. And suddenly there appeared a chekist (they did not leave him in peace until his very death), who went in and began to write down the names of all the people in the room. Two managed to hide, and one was arrested and interrogated... On Great Thursday the NKVD came again and carried out a thorough search. They were looking for believers, but found no-one except those living in the house. Because of the impossibility of inviting any assistant to come that day, Fr. Hilarion had to serve the all-night vigil with the Passion Gospels alone. The great tension with which his last days were accompanied told on him, and on June 13/26, 1961 he died. Before he died he said:
"'I am sinful in everything, but I have not departed one iota from Orthodoxy.'
"He called Fr. Ambrose, handed to him the keys of the administration of the church with the words:
"'Since the day of the Church schism, canonical Orthodoxy, this golden living thread, has not been broken. I hand over all the Church's affairs to you until the appearance of an Orthodox bishop. And you must look for one!'
"Then he put his cross on Fr. Ambrose...
"The believers considered Fr. Hilarion to be a pillar of Orthodoxy..."
Hieroschemamonk Ambrose, in the world Andrew Antonovich Kapinus, was born in 1887 in the village of Krasnopolka, Malovisovsky uyezd, Kherson province into a large peasant family of which he was the youngest child. Andrew became an orphan when he was only twelve. He remained in the care of his elder brother. From this time he earned his bread himself by pasturing oxen.
"From early childhood," writes Abbess Margarita, "he loved the church; since he had musical talent, he began to sing on the kliros. The old people rejoiced on listening to the orphan, whose singing came from the heart. This was implanted in him by his mother: one of Andrew's undying reminiscences of his childhood was sitting on his mother's knee while she read the Jesus prayer and sang psalms and troparia, while tears streamed abundantly down her face. Evidently the prayers of the mother were heard by God, and He did not abandon the orphan.
"In 1906 Andrew entered military service. And since he was tall and well-built, he served in the Semyonovsky regiment. He often reminisced about this, and often used to recount to all of us the following story: the Tsar-batyushka often used to inspect the discipline of the Semyonovsky soldiers together with the Tsarevich. Once, on a certain feast day, the Tsar asked the young Tsarevich:
"'What should we give to each soldier - a ruble or a chocolate?'
"The young Alexis replied: 'Both a ruble and a chocolate.'
"After completing his military service, Andrew re-enlisted and went to Petrograd, and then to the war... And soon the bloody revolution began. Andrew was pursued by the Bolsheviks because he had been on the side of the Whites. He hid in a women's monastery and there served the priest. A little later [at the beginning of the 1920s] he left for St. Onuphrius' men's monastery in his native Kherson region. Here he received the tonsure with the name of Anubius. The monastery was soon closed by the Bolsheviks, and he began to serve as a hierodeacon in Kiev [until 1928]. When the disturbances in the Church began and they began to serve only in the Ukrainian language (the samosvyaty), he had to leave yet again. Then a hierodeacon whom he knew, Fr. Irinarkh, invited him to his house in Serpukhov, where half the churches were renovationist and half Orthodox. There he served [until November, 1930] under the omophorion of the truly Orthodox pastor, Bishop Maximus."
In 1929 Fr. Anubius was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Demetrius (Lyubimov). On November 15, 1930 he was arrested and on February 5, 1931 was sentenced to five years in the camps. He was sent to Vorkuta in the far north.
"The work was very hard," continues Abbess Margarita, "and consisted in tree-felling. If one didn't fulfil one's work norm one did not receive any bread. According to Fr. Anubius' account, he was saved by a bath which fortunately happened to be there.
"After being released [in the middle of the 1930s] he arrived in Astrakhan and earned his living by repairing shoes. But soon he was arrested again [in 1937, was sentenced to five years in the camps,] and was freed only in 1945 [or 1943]. Then he arrived in Voronezh.
"Here Archimandrite Nicander was serving secretly. He also had only just returned from exile. Fr. Anubius' request to be received into his community put the archimandrite very much on his guard - the times were terrible, and people were being arrested on all sides on the basis of denunciations. And for that reason Fr. Anubius' was not received. But soon he was again arrested [on January 4, 1951, and on September 15, 1951 he was sentenced to ten years in the camps]. He remained in the camps until 1955.
"In 1956 Archpriest John Andreyevsky returned from exile. Fr. Anubius was again in Voronezh and again requested to be received into the community. Now he was not refused. After a short time serving together, Fr. John asked to be tonsured, and Fr. Anubius tonsured him with the name Hilarion. Then Hieromonk Hilarion secretly tonsured Fr. Anubius into the schema with the name Ambrose.
"When Fr. Hilarion died, Fr. Ambrose vested him and buried him. Then he started serving in the Voronezh community. He also had to look after other parishes which for various reasons had been left without a pastor. He tonsured those who wanted it. Everything was done secretly... Remembering the blessing of Fr. Hilarion, they began to look for an Orthodox bishop...
"Fr. Ambrose died on October 1/14, 1966, without being able to hand over to anyone the affairs of the Church... The Voronezh community was orphaned.
One of the last Catacomb Church priests serving in the Voronezh area was Hieromonk Ignatius. He was united (by correspondence) with the diocese of Archbishop Leontius of Chile of the Russian Church Abroad. He died in 1972.
(Sources: "Iz Noveyeishej Istorii Russkoj Tserkvi", Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 14 (1539), July 15.28, 1995, p. 7; M.V. Shkarovsky, "Iz Novyeishej Istorii Russkoj Tserkvi", Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 15 (1540), August 15/28, 1995, pp. 6-10; I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, chapter 11; M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyatejshego Tikhona, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 835-836; Russkiye Pravoslavnye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986; Bishop Ambrose (von Sievers), "Istoki i svyazi Katakombnoj Tserkvi v Leningrade i obl. (1922-1992)", report read at the conference "The Historical Path of Orthodoxy in Russia after 1917", Saint Petersburg, 1-3 June, 1993; "Episkopat Istinno-Pravoslavnoj Katakombnoj Tserkvi 1922-1997gg.", Russkoye Pravoslaviye, N 4(8), 1997, p. 4; Abbess Margarita, "Katakombnye Ispovyedniki", Vozvrashcheniye, N 2, 1993, Saint Petersburg; "Vospominaniya", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', N 10 (537), October, 1994, pp. 12-23; Alexander Akinshin, "Svyashchennomuchenik Aleksij Voronezhskij", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', N 8 (548), August, 1995, pp. 4-16; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1957, part 2, chapter 23, pp. xvii, 175-176, chapter 25; William C. Fletcher, The Russian Orthodox Church Underground, 1917-1970, Oxford University Press, 1971; Andrei Psarev, "Vospominaniya Arkhiepiskopa Leontiya Chilijskago", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', N 5 (557), May, 1996, p. 25; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Moscow: Krutitskoye patriarsheye podvorye, 1996, p. 595; Michael Khlebnikov, "O tserkovnoj situatsii v Kostrome v 20-20-ye gody", Pravoslavnaya Zhizn', 49, N 5 (569), May, 1997, pp. 18-28; Service Orthodoxe de Presse, 223, December, 1997, p. 20; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, p. 58; Victor Antonov, "O Zhizni Svyashchennomuchenike Aleksiya (Buya)", Russkij Pastyr', II/III, 28-29, 1997, pp. 191-194; M.B. Danilushkin (ed.), Istoria Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi, 1917-1970, St. Petersburg: Voskreseniye, 1997, p. 542; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn Muchenij i Vody Slyoz", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, pp. 254-255, 284, 333; M.V. Shkvarovsky, Iosiflyanstvo, St. Petersburg: Memorial, 1999, pp. 271, 319-320, 324-334)
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