Hieromartyrs, Martyrs And Confessors Of The Caucasus Mountains

"The church of the village of Kalinovsky, Stavropol province, was led by the Priest John. The parishioners asked him not to serve at such a frightening time, but the pastor remained faithful to his duty. In the autumn of 1918 on the day of his heavenly protector, St. John the Theologian, bandits rushed into the altar during the service. Taking hold of Fr. John, they mocked him. Beyond the village fence they thrust the passion-bearer through with a sword. For a long time the bloodstains on the earth did not dry up.

"In the neighbouring village there served the priest Fr. Peter. He did not allow them to destroy the church: 'Burn me, but do not touch the church.' For these words he was arrested and disappeared without trace. In the same year Fr. John (Ryabukhin) from Yessentuki stanitsa, Stavropol province, was cut to pieces for serving a thanksgiving moleben

"Hieromonk Sasonius (Mironov) lived in Sukhumi monastery. After the destruction of the monastery he settled with his sister in Vingradny khutor. He did not leave the house, but prayed at night for the Russian land suffering under the yoke of antitheism. He was arrested following a denunciation by neighbours who had noticed a little light at midnight. While leading away the warrior of Christ, the chekists mocked the Reserved Holy

Gifts which were found during the search."

(Source: Anna Ilyinskaya, Tajna Startsa Feodosiya, Moscow: "Pravoslavnij Palomnik", 1997, pp. 81-82)


In Grozny a priest was killed after a service with a cross in his hands.

(Source: Vladimir Rusak, Pir Satany, London, Canada: "Zarya", 1991, p. 26)


In August, 1928, Hieromonk Dionysius told the following story to a pilgrim to the Caucasus: "Quite recently in the town I come from there was a priest, a difficult man. He liked cards, drank a good deal and was rude towards his parishioners. Punishments from the church authorities were in

vain. In the beginning of the new regime he was summoned by the authorities of the government and told: 'We know you do not believe in religion and that your children are studying at our universities. It will be better for youand for them if you give up deceiving the people, leave the priesthood and work with us for the welfare of the people. You can make speeches in the factories against religion. Think it over. You know that we do not joke, but think also of your children!' Father Nicholas was so frightened that he gave up drinking. But he was not able to reject this satanic temptation. He left the priesthood. Time passed, and gradually his conscience awoke; he could not

look his former parishioners in the face. Then he had a dream in which hewas surrounded by utter darkness and he saw no possibility of going in any direction at all, but he had the urge to go somewhere. Then he heard someone weeping, but he could not move his head to see who it was. Suddenly he knew it was the voice of his mother weeping over his lost soul. He was ready to weep with her as he had done as a child, but he was unable to move. When he awoke his pillow was wet with tears, whose we cannot say. He used to say of himself that it was impossible for him to weep. He dressed as quickly as he could and ran to his former church which was at that time not yet closed.He ran to the altar steps. The frightened people thought he had come to close the church. But he crossed himself and turned to the people:

"'Orthodox Christians! The Lord has said: 'Fear not those who kill the body, but fear those who kill the soul.' These people have killed my souland left my body. I beg you: pray to God that He raise my soul to new life. Judas, after having betrayed his Lord, went out and hanged himself. After

having betrayed my Saviour, I pray that He will give me strength to suffer for Him. I can no longer lead the life I have led till now. Forgive me!'

"Then he left the church. Of course, in the evening he was arrested. A week later his parishioners met in the church and prayed for the servant of God, the martyr Nicholas. You see how God helped a human soul to rise above despondency and attain great glory, and clad in garments whiter than snow, to celebrate victory over evil. Have strong faith, for without God's will not a single hair can fall from the head of any man. Remember that God will never give you a cross beyond your strength... Always pray to the Holy Virgin: 'Most Holy Virgin, I commit to thee my body, soul and spirit.'"

(Source: "In the Caucasus Mountains: a visit to New Athos", Orthodox Life, early 1950s)


During the persecution of the Church and its clergy, in 1923 there came to the Caucasus a holy recluse. He appeared in the territory of Vladikavkaz, in a deserted place 20 miles from a small railroad station by the name of

Podgorny. He was from Central Russia but no one knows exactly where.

The territory where he chose to dwell was in the foothills of the Caucasus. In a deep forest of gorges and cliffs, he dug a cave for himself where he lived and also had a small church. The altar table was hewn out of rock and there were a number of icons. It was all very poor and yet everything necessary for Divine services was there. The recluse, Elder Macarius, conducted services in this church. When the local people found out about him, they began to flock to him. There they would receive confession and Holy Communion, and the elder would also provide for their other spiritual needs. The number of his visitors constantly increased; with a short time he was receiving pilgrims almost every day.

Elder Macarius was 65 years old, a genuine ascetic whom God glorified in answering his prayers and granting him the gift of clairvoyance: he would

tell people their secret thoughts and deeds. The elder would always meet his visitors about two miles away from his cave and would then conduct them to his dwelling. No one forewarned him about their coming - he would discernit in his spirit. True pilgrimages began to take place, people coming from the vicinity of Kuban and local towns. The believers found there spiritual repose and they felt that they were cared for. After all, there were almost no churches left in the entire area and people were as sheep seeking shepherds.

Father Macarius lived in seclusion until 1928. In this frightful year the Bolsheviks decided to put an end to his church. They had known about it for some time but for some reason had never reached it. At last they cameand arrested the holy recluse. They wanted to take him away secretly, but the believers found out about his arrest and rushed to see him for the last time. As Father Macarius was walking away under guard, he blessed the people onall sides and bid them his final farewell. This holy pastor of the persecuted Catacomb Church was finally martyred in the far north.

(Source: The Orthodox Word, vol. 17, no. 4 (99), July-August, 1981, pp. 185-186)


Protopresbyter Michael Polsky writes: "In 1928, or early 1929, a group of monk ascetics was discovered in the Caucasus and executed by shooting.

They were adherents of the teaching known as 'Name-worshipping', originally expelled from Mount Athos to the Crimea in about 1912. Their leader was Paul Dometich Grigorovich, a noble Kievan landowner who, after twenty years of monasticism, was drafted into the army where he held a high rank during the First World War. After the revolution he returned to the Caucasus and was known as Fr. Pantaleimon. The compiler of this book personally knew him as well as other 'name-worshippers' because in 1918, during the Civil War and the White Army movement in the Kuban, a group of Orthodox missionaries conducted several conferences with the adherents of this teaching with the aim of bringing them back into unity with the Orthodox Church. They hopedto accomplish this by conducting doctrinal debates concerning the Name of God. I was one of these missionaries. A whole list of dogmatic resolutions was developed and signed by both sides. The former name-worshipping monk Methodius was lawfully ordained hieromonk for those who rejected the heresy, and sent to them into the mountains. But unfortunately a disagreement soon sprang up among them. Fr. Methodius remained loyal to Orthodoxy and left the mountains. On his way back, at one of the railway stations, he was shot by the Bolsheviks. In ten years' time the rest of the desert-dwellers were also shot. They were described by the Bolshevik press as a dangerous, counter-revolutionary organization. In 1930 the writer of these lives himself wished to remain in Russia and live in the Caucasus, but having met the desert-dwellers and having learned more about their situation, he became convinced that to remain there would be impossible: all were kept under secret surveillance by the nearby village authorities."

(Source: I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, p. 439)


On Chugush, in the Caucasus mountains, there lived the Schema-Monk Fr. Daniel and his disciple, Fr. Oleg Pol. Constantine Sergeyevich Rodionov visited the two monks in about the year 1928 and wrote: "Fr. Daniel's cell was consecrated to the Dormition of the Mother of God. I had a wonderful icon of the Dormition, a gift to my great-grandfather, Alexis Ivanovich Trubetskoy, from Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow. I gave this icon to Fr. Daniel, since he had no such icon in his cell.

"Fr. Daniel told me about a place called Pskhu, eighty kilometres from New Athos beyond the Zelenchug pass, where some hermits who had found it crowded and noisy in New Athos lived in the remote wilderness. On his advice I bought on the market some buff shoes - in them your feet don't get sorein the mountains - and walked to the hermits. I lived with them for a month.

They tried to persuade me to stay. One of them wrote for me the Prayer tothe Cross, which the desert-dwellers always read before after their evening rule. Since that time there has not been a single day when I have not read this prayer before going to sleep.

"Two years later, mounted patrols came to Pskhu and drove the desert-dwellers out of their cells with whips. The hermits - there were about a hundred of them - walked chanting psalms and thanking God for their trial. The old men died on the road. They were driven to Sukhumi prison, and from there were driven on foot to Tbilisi. And so Pskhu was liquidated with whips.

"When the hermit-elders had been driven out of their cells, they had been led under convoy to Sukhumi prison on foot, along the stony road. Every kind of footwear except buff shoes gets worn out on it - and they had none of them. On the road to Tbilisi the hermits' feet became very sore. And then, I don't remember when, thirty pairs of shoes appeared in my Moscow flat. Onmy way to work at the Military-field construction site, I used to leave my keys with a woman who cleaned the flat. This woman - she was called Marevna - had been my grandmother's maid-servant, and she had also looked after my mother. She was from a village near our estate. She had been driven out of the sovkhoz, and I had suggested that she move to Moscow. She lived with a postwoman. It was clear that they had brought the footwear to her, leaving it for me. I sent all thirty pairs to Tbilisi prison in pairs. I'm amazed they didn't come for me!

"Before their arrests Oleg Pol managed to collect the icons which were in his cell, sew them into a sack and send them from Chugush in a parcel to the monastery at New Athos. In the monastery they first received a telegram-notification: "Roses being sent," and then came the icons. Soon Oleg Pol and Fr. Daniel and Boris Gordi were arrested on Chugush and sent to Novorossiisk. Fr. Daniel's cell was burned. My icon of the Dormition was also consumed in the flames.. Oleg Pol and Fr. Daniel, being monks, had long hair, which those who arrested them demanded that they cut. Oleg said to them:

'Take my head as well.'

"Oleg Pol and Boris Gordi were united in one thing. They were both accused of created the counter-revolutionary society of the Archangel Michael.

"Valerie Demetrievna Liorko [the former secretary of Bishop Mark Novoselov] was at that time in Moscow. When she heard about the arrest, and that Oleg, Fr. Daniel and Borya were sitting in Novorossiisk prison, she asked me to find about the fate of Oleg from the husband of her sister, who was a chekist and lived in Novorossiisk. At that time I had to go through Novorossiisk on my way to Armavir, where I was going to give evidence on behalf of my arrested friend Stepan Petrovich Gamayunov. He was condemnedas a kulak since he had a big apiary, and I had to witness that he was a good worker and member of a cooperative. All this took place in spring at Pascha,..1930. On arriving in Novorossiisk, I went straight to Alexis Vasilyevich Lebedev, the husband of the sister of Valerie Demetrievna. On entering, I saw another chekist through the open door. That was why I didnot say anything substantial during our meeting and only chatted about trivialities. But I handed Lebedev a letter in which Valerie Demetrievna asked to know something about Oleg. I went to Armavir and in a few days again came to them, but this time to their house. They lived in Sadovaya street. Valerie Demetrievna's sister was alone. She said that she had asked her husband to find out about Oleg. Her husband had asked them. They had said nothing.

'Understand it as you like,' she concluded.

"After Armavir I went to Valerie Demetrievna, who was living at that time.. and told her everything. The silence of the chekists was eloquent.We both understood that Oleg and Fr. Daniel had been shot. Boris Gordi, who was a deacon, had been sent into exile..."

(Source: "Vospominaniya Konstantina Sergeyevicha Rodionova (1892-1991), Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, 164, I-1992, pp. 282-284)

Natalya Urusova tells the following story.

In the Vladikavkaz, not far from the railroad station was a convent dedicated to the holy icon of the Iviron Mother of God. I used to visit this monastery every day. I became very close to many nuns, especially to the kind-hearted Matushka, Abbess Theophania. She was not highly educated and evidently came from a peasant family, but she was a wonderful humble soul.

It was early in the year 1922. One day I came to her and she said to me:

"I want to share with you a secret, about which no one knows save for myself, the nun who is the treasurer, and my cell-attendant [a rassophore nun]. Come, let us go."

Abbess Theophania conducted me through several rooms, and in the last one - from which a spiral staircase led to the attic - there was sitting another abbess. I instantly understood that she was an abbess because she was wearing a gold cross. She was unusually attractive, not only in her friendliness and spiritual loveliness, but in her rare outward beauty as well. She looked very young and one could never have guessed that she was already forty. For three months, despite the freezing cold of winter, they had been hiding her in the attic and only rarely would bring her down to this room so that she could get warm. The secret was well kept. Only cell-attendant would ascend to the attic when she brought her food and other necessities. Soon I too became very close to her for we had much in common and we became quite attached to one another. She was well educated and from a good, noble family.

It was not long before she told me her story. She was the Abbess of a women's convent in the town of Kizliar in the Caucasus. In the beginning of the revolution, when the plundering of monasteries was a common occurrence, a crowd of Bolshevik bandits broke into their convent destroying everything, robbing, and shooting to death several nuns who resisted. When for a short time the White Army took the town of Kizliar, somebody unknown indicated to them the persons who had destroyed the monastery and killed the nuns. The murderers were shot by the Whites. When the White Army retreated and the Bolsheviks took control of the town, they began to search for the person who had told the Whites. The Abbess, totally innocent, was accused and sentenced - an act of pure revenge. However, the Lord helped her to flee and at night she walked to Vladikavkaz, to this convent where Abbess Theophania hid her. All over the whole of the Caucasus there were posted proclamations and 'wanted' posters: 'He who will shows the whereabouts of the former Abbess of Kizliar Convent, Antonina, will receive a reward of 3,000 gold rubles.'

For a whole month and a half I had the good fortune of seeing Abbess Antonina almost every day. Once, on a freezing cold night, when there was an unusual amount of snow, at one o'clock at night someone knocked at my window. Everyone woke up frightened. Who would knock at night except for the GPU? I lifted the curtain and couldn't believe my eyes. I saw Abbess Antonina in a white sheep-skin coat; on either side of her stood the nun-treasurer and the cell-attendant Anfisa.

"Hurry up, hurry up. Open and hide Matushka."

They came in. We turned off the lights so as not to attract attention and what did we hear? We heard the following incredible, obvious miracle of God.

Just a few days before this, about which I had no idea, a certain young girl came to the convent, calling herself a daughter of the noble Troubetskoy family. With tears she begged the Abbess to receive her, stating that her father and mother had been killed and their estate robbed, and she remained alone in her grief. She played the part so well that she managed to gain the confidence of the Abbess who, in the simplicity of her heart, not only accepted and was very kind to the girl, but soon even confided to her the secret of Abbess Antonina. The girl disappeared at once - she was an agent of the GPU looking for Matushka Antonina. That same night the convent was surrounded by militia so that no one could escape. They broke in to search, demanding that the abbess be surrendered. When the cell-attendant ran upstairs to inform Abbess Antonina about this, she said:

"Well, what can we do? If it is pleasing to the Lord that they find me, let it be so. But if it is not His will, He will close people's eyes, and they, seeing will not see. Come, we shall go out in front of them."

The nuns put the sheep-skin coat on her and the three of them went down the stairs and simply walked out of the convent gate before the eyes of all the Red Army soldiers. They had not gone far when they heard the commander shout,

"Who just went out of the gate? Who was led out?"

The Red Army soldiers answered: "We didn't see anybody."

"What do you mean," retorted the angry commander, "someone just left in a white sheep-skin coat accompanied by two nuns."

Everyone denied it and only thought that the commander was imagining things. They searched everywhere, turned everything upside-down and were forced to leave empty-handed. A miracle!

And so she was brought to me. I, of course, was overjoyed that I could hide her, although even in our place it was very risky for her, since we ourselves could be arrested at any time. I asked the nuns:

"What shall I feed Matushka, for our meals are very poor?"

The nuns answered: "We shall bring her meals twice a day, lunch and dinner."

They sat with us until morning. Abbess Antonina remained with us and they returned to the monastery. Soon they brought the food, which they continued to do twice a day in the course of the two weeks she lived with us.

Noone could help but love her. The children just adored her, and even my husband, usually indifferent to so many things, respected her and conversed with her with unfeigned pleasure. In those days it was still possible to acquire for a certain sum a secret shelter in the mountains from the local hill-folk, known as the Ingush. The convent wanted to do that, but such an enormous sum of money was demanded that even if all the possessions of the convent - what little remained after the Bolshevik plunder - could have been sold, even then it would not have sufficed. We decided that she would stay with us and did not make any plans for the immediate future, leaving her in God's hands, as we had all come to love her very much. She, however, suffered terribly at the thought that if she were discovered, then not only she would pay severely for it, but we also would be forced to suffer. Her whole case, of course, was a miracle and sheer Providence of God. After all, ever since that night of searching for her in the monastery, in spite of all the hideous designs of the GPU investigations, no one had detected where and why the nuns walked twice a day carrying hot dinners.

Two weeks went by. Meanwhile I put up a gauze curtain separating a place in a corner for her in the only room, where there were already five children. There was a bed for her, and a hanging lampada brought from the monastery which was always burning. Once I noticed that Matushka spent the whole night kneeling and fervently praying with tears. I could see through the thin curtain and I couldn't sleep; I could not help but be affected by her sorrow. Early in the morning she turned to me and said,

"Please do me a favour. Go to the Blessed Anastasia Andeyevna and, without saying anything else, tell her: Matushka Antonina is asking for your blessing."

Anastasia Andreyevna, a righteous fool-for-Christ's-sake, well known throughout all of the Vladikavkaz region for her gift of clairvoyance, lived in a small hut located in the backyard of a good Christian. I went to her. She asked me what I needed and I told her that Matushka Antonina asked for her blessing.

"Yes, yes!" she answered. "Tell her that she should fear nothing; what she has decided and prayed about she should fulfill; yes, she should fulfil it. She should go to the large red government house; yes, she should go!"

I told Abbess Antonina her answer and her face lit up...

"I decided to give myself up to the GPU today. I suffer terribly because you will have to answer for me, and even though I prayed, I still had fears and doubts about going through with this. But now, after the words of the blessed one, nothing and nobody can stop me."

The children and I burst into tears. What could we hope for? The GPU - why, this was an unutterable horror! She left, having parted with us in tears, but with an amazingly tranquil face which became even more glowing and more beautiful than before. She was in her monastic garb and wearing the gold cross of an abbess. In spite of all the hindrances and dangers, she never took off her monastic attire. A little more than an hour passed. We all sat in silence, given over to grief and the thought of her fate. All of a sudden my eleven-year-old daughter, looking out of the window, cried out:

"Matushka Antonina is coming!"

She came in full of such extraordinary joy that it is impossible to describe. And this is what she told us:

"I came to the house of the GPU. The guard on duty asked why I had come. I answered that I would tell and give my name only to the chief. Others joined, demanding subordination to the rules and regulations and that I should register. I said,

"'Tell the chief that I wish to see him and will not subordinate myself to anybody else.'

"They went and reported this to him. He ordered them to inform me that no one was allowed to violate the rules of admission. I again insisted that I would talk only to him. At this time the door opened into the corridor and the chief himself peered out. Seeing me he said,

"'Come in.'

"So I entered.

"'What do you want?'

"'You are offering 3,000 rubles for my head. Well, I have brought it to you myself.'

"He was so dumbfounded that he got up and said,

"'You, you are Abbess Antonina, and you came to us yourself?!!'

"I said yes, and that I had brought my own head. He took out my photograph from his desk. I took from my pocket one just like it. He looked at me and said,

"'You are freed. Go wherever you want!'

"As I was leaving he said,

"'In a year's time, according to the law, I will be obliged to give you some punishment.'"

No one investigated where she went after leaving the GPU and no one touched us. She settled openly in the convent where she lived peacefully for another year. Later I learned that she was ordered to work for a year as a maid in a communist hotel in the city of Rostov-on-Don. But even then she did not take off her monastic attire. Not a single communist, however, would demand service from her; all dealt with her without malice or insults; all paid her the utmost respect and would even slightly bow to her. In 1923 such things could still occur.

Some twelve years later, when I was in Kazakhstan in the city Akhtyubinsk where I lived with my son who was exiled there, I met Archimandrite Arsenius who was also exiled there. He was a close friend of Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd, and through him I had the pleasure of meeting the holy hierarch. I found out that Fr. Arsenius knew Abbess Antonina well and he told me the following about her:

When her time of sentence was over, a group of twelve nuns formed a monastic community under her direction and went to the town of Tuapse with the aim of founding a secret skete high up in the mountains. In those days many monks from the ruthlessly destroyed monasteries hoped to settle in the mountains as hermits to avoid persecution from the Bolsheviks. But the minds of the GPU were sly; they placed their secret agents disguised as forest rangers all over the mountains, and one by one they discovered the secret sketes and dwellings of these hermits - almost all of them were shot on the spot.

When Abbess Antonina climbed up to the top of one high mountain, she met a monk from the skete where Fr. Arsenius was living. In that windswept, craggy wasteland, way up high and far removed from the world, she discovered a whole monastic settlement with caves and churches and enough provisions to live and serve God daily for some time. The monks there offered to help and at once set about digging caves beneath the roots of huge trees, which became dwellings for the nuns. The monks lived in similar dwellings. They likewise constructed a church there and with joy helped the nuns in their needs. But this hidden community was not to last long.

Soon both sketes were discovered. Out of fourteen monks, only one, Fr. Arsenius who was the youngest, was spared and not shot as were the others; he was exiled for eight years to a concentration camp far away in outermost Siberia, and upon completion of these eight years, he was sent to a settlement in Alma Ata. At this time Abbess Antonina was also arrested with all her nuns. She was not shot on the spot but exiled to an unknown place.

(Source: I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, pp. 433-439; Za Khrista Postradavshiye. Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, p. 99)

The monk Fr. Alexander, in the world Alexis Vasilyevich Artemyev, was born in 1876 in the village of Yanovishchi, Pskov province. He struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was shot on October 26 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

The monk Fr. Alexander, in the world Alexis Vasilyevich Chikanov, was born in 1878 in the village of Nikolo, Tikhvin uyezd, Novgorod province. From 1923 to 1924 he was a monk in the New Athos monastery in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was sentenced to ten years deprivation of liberty. In 1936 he was on the White Sea canal in Karelia, but was released before the end of his sentence.

The monk Fr. Antonin, in the world Alexis Ivanovich Golovko, was born in 1880 in the city of Alexandria, Kherson province. From 1903 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prisonin Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa" in accordance with article 58-10. Hewas shot on October 26, 1930 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

The monk Fr. Bartholomew, in the world Vladimir Platonovich Kovalevsky, was born in 1874 in Novocherkassk. From 1902 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was shot on October 26, 1930 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

Hieromonk Victorin, in the world Basil Andreyevich Belyaev, was bornin 1881 in the village of Verkhnyaya Khava, Voronezh uyezd, Voronezh province. >From 1907 to 1924 he struggled in New Athos monastery, Abkhazia. After its closure in 1924 he settled nearby in Serberyanij, where he was arrested on April 23, 1930 and imprisoned in Novorossijsk. On October 8 he was condemned in connection with the affair of the so-called "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and on Lake Ritsa." He was shot on October 26, 1930 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

Schema-Monk Gideon, in the world George Nikiforovich Malyshev, was born in 1873 in the village of Grigoryevskaya, Moshkinsy uyezd, Yaroslavl province. From 1913 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was shot on October 26, 1930 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

The monk Fr. Demetrius, in the world Dionysius Artemyevich Ovsyuk, was born in 1876 in Chernigov province. From 1898 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. In April, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was shot on October 26, 1930 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

The monk Fr. Hilarion, in the world Heraclius Timofeyevich Potapov, was born in 1868 in the village of Listopadka, Yaroslavl uyezd, Yaroslavl province. From 1885 (or 1895) to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery,he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was sentenced to ten years' deprivation of liberty.

The monk Fr. Elijah, in the world Ivan Pavlovich Mironenko, was bornin 1891 at Novij, Izyum uyezd, Kharkov province. From 1915 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near

Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prisonin Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was sentenced to ten years' deprivation of liberty. From April, 1930 to February, 1933 he was in prison in Novorossiysk, and was released before the end of his term.

The monk Fr. Ioann, in the world Joseph Pavlovich Mikhailenko, was born in 1863 in the village of Kuguru, Podolsk province. From 1905 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prisonin Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was sentenced to ten years' deprivation of liberty.

The monk Fr. Ioann, in the world Ivan Mitrofanovich Romanovsky, was born in 1880 in Podolsk province. From 1912 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was shot on October 26, 1930 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

The monk Fr. Joseph, in the world Alexis Vasilyevich Chubchenko, was born in 1877 in the village of Petropavlovka, Slavyanoserbsky uyezd, Ekaterinoslav province. From 1900 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was sentenced to ten years' deprivation of liberty.

The monk Fr. Ignatius, in the world Ivan Pavlovich Abakumov, was born in 1860 in the village of Poschanka, Konstantinogradsky uyezd, Poltava province. From 1895 to 1922 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. >From 1924 to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was shot on October 26, 1930 and buried in the old quarry behind the city cemetery in Novorossiysk.

The monk Fr. Hesychius, in the world Ivan Semyonovich Kechkin, was born in the village of Zaitsevo, Krasnoslobodsky uyezd, Penza province. Fom 1898 to 1924 he struggled in the monastery of New Athos in Abkhazia. From 1924to 1930, after the closure of the monastery, he settled in the valley of the

river Psou near Rigza in Abkhazia. On April 24, 1930 he was arrested and cast into prison in Novorossijsk. On October 8, 1930 he was condemned in connection with a "monarchist terrorist organization which was active in 1927-30 in the valley of the river Psou and at Lake Ritsa". He was sentenced to ten years' deprivation of liberty. From April, 1933 to February, 1933 he was in prison in Novorossiysk, but was released before the end of his term and exiled to the Urals.

(Source: Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, pp. 45, 49, 99, 219, 250, 301, 376-77, 492, 494, 506, 507, 525, 525, 529-30; I.I. Osipova, "Skvoz' Ogn' Muchenij i Vody Slyoz", Moscow: Serebryanniye Niti, 1998, pp. 335, 337, 338, 342, 348, 349, 353, 355, 56, 357, 362)


Protopriest M. Donetsky relates that in the foothills of the Caucasus, not far from Sochi, there was a state dairy farm. It was exemplary. Much was said and written about the farm in the local newspapers, as about one of the best state farms in the country. But in 1937, at the beginning of the Yezhov terror, the leadership of the farm and all the workers were arrested. Some of them, including the director of the farm, were shot, and others were exiled to the north. It turned out that the director of the farm was a bishop, while all the workers were priests and monks. They were accused of concealing their social position and providing secret religious services for the nearby stanitsas and farmsteads.

It is possible that this farm was formed out of the monks of the Drandy monastery, in which several monks from Novy Afon had taken refuge after the closing of that monastery. If so, then the bishop may have been Bishop Nicon of Sukhumi.

Hieromonk John the Romanian (+1960) told a story related to him by a refugee from Russia, Archimandrite Athanasius. This archimandrite had been in a Bolshevik prison awaiting death with one other prisoner. This prisoner told how he had once been hunting in the woods of the Caucasus and had accidentally come upon a whole group of Christians, including a bishop, priests and deacons, who had not seen another Christian for four years.

(Source: Protopriest M. Donetsky, Pravoslavnoye Slovo, N 18, 1952; in Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 2, xix; Fr. Alexander Chesnokov, Glinskaya Pustyn' i yeyo startsy, Holy Trinity Lavra, Sergiev Posad, 1994, p. 106; I. Gindis, "Nyevidimaya Obitel'", Pravoslavnaya Rus', N 22 (1595), November 15/28, 1997, pp. 5-6)



In 1951 V.K. wrote: "In spite of terrible persecutions, the 'Catacomb Church' existed and continues to exist in various places of the boundless Soviet Union. Particularly good places for her are the big cities, where massive accumulations of population serve as a convenient shield for the religious underground, the mountains of the Caucasus and the Altai, the impassible corners of the Siberian taiga and the Central Asian steppes...The organs of the NKVD-MVD have already discovered tens and hundreds of such underground religious organisations in various parts of the country, but they do not hide the fact that similar groups exist to this day.

"In the 1930s near Moscow several underground 'Tikhonite' groups were discovered. In one of the cities of the Caucasus there existed a strongly concealed Orthodox (Tikhonite) church. It numbered hundreds of people of both sexes, beginning with ordinary workers from local enterprises and ending with people of middle and higher education. At the head of the church was a former igumen of one of the monasteries of the Crimea who had survived the terror by a miracle. He had hidden from his Bolshevik pursuers for about twenty years and had led this group of fearless confessors of Christ for almost as many years... In this city there were two hideaways. One was in the yard of a cemetery watchman looking out onto the cemetery graves only a few paces away. A second hideaway was constructed under the floor of a cowshed. An ordinary collective farm cow stood there peacefully chewing the cud, while under the floor in the damp, dark basement a church had been built with all the appurtenances necessary for Divine services. At the four corners of the block in which the catacomb church was located, four old women sold seeds and watched the behaviour of the passing public. If they noticed anyone suspicious, they immediately told the catacombs. Adolescents were good couriers and passed on the instructions of their babushkas in good time. At critical moments, when danger threatened the worshippers, the leaders moved to another place while the rest of the congregation went through the entrance gates and scattered in different directions. And only several years later, during the German occupation, did the servant of God Fr. D. come out of his hideaway into the light of day and breathe freely.

It turned out that the former igumen had been in an illegal position since 1927. This Orthodox group reacted very negatively to the Bolshevik religious 'NEP' [after the Stalin-Sergius pact of 1943], calling Metropolitan Sergius and his stooges servants of the Antichrist. Later we had the opportunity to learn that their attitude to Patriarch Alexis was even more negative. His flirting with the Kremlin revolted them so much that even the so-called 'sergianists', thatis, the former supporters of the reposed Metropolitan Sergius, - even these fainthearted people turned away from the patriarch as from an apostate.

"In the inaccessible parts of the Caucasus ridge, in a huge basin protected on all sides by a wall of mountains, the tops of which were covered with snow for ten months of the year, there was a settlement of hermits. They had a cave-church where oil-lamps and candles burned and services were celebrated continuously. The council made up of several hieromonks and priests was led by Bishop M., who ruled the colony and maintained links with other underground groups scattered throughout the USSR. The colony was so secret that not even many of the underground groups in Sochi, Sukhumi and other cities of the coast knew about it. Among the novices and ryasophor-monks, and also among some of the hermits living on their own, one could meet major artists, musicians, teachers and journalists who had fled to this remarkable colony from Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov and other cities. The colony had a garden, vegetable patch, a herd of goats and a pair of donkeys. Almost the whole year round the hermits made crosses, spoons, boxes, caskets, cases and toys, and through the young novices they sent them to Sukhumi, Gagra and Sochi, where they entered into contact with rich Soviet holiday-makers and sold their artefacts to them and bought salt, matches, soap, nails, instruments, clothing and shoes..."

It is possible that the bishop of this colony was the same bishop asthe one described by Archbishop Lazarus of Tambov: "After Fr. Theodosius [of Minvody, +1948] died, some believers recommended that I meet a secret bishop who lived in the Caucasus. I spent two years under his guidance, fulfilling various obediences.

"In 1950 I was arrested. At that time I was in the area of Rostov and wrote a letter asking to see this bishop, not knowing that he had already been arrested. I was sent a telegram and went immediately to Boloshov, inthe Saratov district, and there on the street, at one o'clock at night, I was arrested. They had been waiting for me. I, of course, suspected nothing. They arrested me, brought me to the Party headquarters, and began interrogating me. I denied everything, afraid of betrayal. For three days they torturedme. I still did not admit to knowing him, but they showed me the telegram andmy letter. I replied that I was simply going to see a woman who had invited me, and spoke as though I were going to Moscow to Patriarch Alexis in order to be assigned somewhere. I was scared, naturally, and lost my head. I was 19 at the time. They wanted to make a separate case of it there in Rostov, but since I was adamant they decided to take me to Saratov for a face to face meeting with the bishop. They brought me into a large room. Sitting there were ten Chekists. I was scared; they all looked at me. With his back to me sat an old man. When they led me to him and ordered him to stand, I saw it was [my bishop], although I hardly recognized him: his beard was shaved, and he was blue, emaciated, with sunken eyes, but they were affectionate, kind. He told me that we were all here; there was no need to resist: ''We are all on the cross, and it will get worse; they will torture us.' He blessed meto ascend the cross, and we parted.

"They arrested 150 of us in all, including two hieromonks, in various cities and villages around the country. After the six months it took to decide our case we were sent to prison camp. They couldn't pin anything on us: there were no witnesses, no evidence; we were arrested simply becausewe were believers of the True Orthodox Church (TOC), who didn't agree with [Metropolitan Sergius'] Declaration; after 1927 our hierarchs and clergy were obliged to go underground. Renovationists were making a strong case for themselves; then came the Declaration, in Ukraine you had self-made clergy all around the Church was being tormented. Since they took the churches away from our bishops and priests we were forced to go underground. Furthermore, we saw that Stalin was behind Patriarch Alexis' election; the Sobor which elected him was not free; it was under strong pressure of the NKVD. Therefore our priests did not recognize him and continued their [underground] existence. And for merely not recognizing Patriarch Alexis, priests were given 25 years' imprisonment and laymen were given 10 years. So it was with us. Our bishop was sentenced to be executed, but it was commuted to 25 years since people were no longer being executed for violation of that particular statute, 58-11 of the criminal code. They charged us with 'group agitation and propaganda'. In fact, we conducted no propaganda whatsoever: we gathered secretly when a priest or hierarch came, fulfilled our religious needs, the Mysteries, had discussions when we could, and dispersed. We didn't print any leaflets, we didn't write any books, we didn't preach on the streets against the authorities. But they were set against us, accusing us of being monarchists, members of the True Orthodox Church, that we didn't recognize the Soviet regime They sought for us everywhere. Not just us personally, our group; there are catacomb believers all over the country; there's not a single city in which, to this day, there aren't at least a few people belonging to the Catacomb Church. Most are concentrated in the central republics.

"1950. The Church was in ruins; things were confiscated, even houses were confiscated, book were taken, vestments, mantias. I myself saw crosses bent down. They cursed, blasphemed; they called us antichrists. Whenever we went in to the examiner they always gave the order, 'Stand up, antichrist!'"

(Source: V.K. "Katakombnaya tserkov' v SSSR", Novoye Russkoye Slovo, 5 April, 1951; in Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 2, xix-xxi; Archbishop Lazarus, "Our from the Catacombs", Orthodox America, vol. X, no. 10 (100), June, 1990, p. 5)


Kind, gentle, welcoming to a rare degree, always seeking as if to serve everyone in some way, to help and please them - such was the secret monk Fr. Joasaph. He would take up the things of complete strangers and help the elderly and invalids in trains and buses, although he himself was no longer young, but an old man.

He never went into the open churches, being directed in this by the advice of the elders.

He sang beautifully. But after imprisonment - where he was put for refusing, as a Christian, to serve in the Red Army - he began to play the fool for Christ's sake. He went out into the yard at night and began to crow. Exactly like a real cock. They say that while he was living in Transcaucasia, where he often travelled by bus, he would suddenly begin to sing in a high, clear tenor some melody or other. And then he would suddenly make a noise like a cock and tell everyone:

"they put a cock into my stomach during the operation".

They all laughed at him... But in camp he really had had an operation for twisted bowels. And he had dreamed that there, in his stomach, was sitting a cock - or perhaps he had only imagined it. But in any case all this was noted by the authorities; and, of course, they regarded this cock as very dangerous agitation undermining Soviet power.

He was pursued by two men. But he was able to escape from their hands. But they threatened him:

"You wait, we'll catch you, you won't get out alive, remember that!"

To arrest him in an official manner would have been very unpopular, for he and his complete harmlessness were well-known in the town. So the authorities decided to act in an unofficial manner. And in this they succeeded.

This old man - almost nobody knew that he was a monk - sometimes went out to the mountains to collect medicinal herbs. He was an expert in these herbs. And this time, when he set out on this business, the two men did not let him slip away. He noticed them, but too late. Seeing his desperate situation, he fell to his knees, face to the ground, and began to pray in preparation for death. Then the killers, coming up to him, as he knelt with his head pressed to the ground, began to kick him from both sides in the stomach. Fr. Joasaph lost consciousness, remaining on his knees with his head to the ground. The killers ran away, but when evening came, under cover of darkness, they returned to their victim. Apparently they had not expected, or in their haste had not realized, that the monk appeared to be dead. And they quickly hung him up, simulating suicide. However, they were not able to hide the proofs of the murder...

On another day, some passers-by accidentally found him hanging in a very unnatural position. For he had managed to stiffen on the ground in the face-down position of prayer, several hours before they hung him up. And this was clear evidence against the official verdict of suicide!

The whole body of the murdered man was curled up. His knees were strongly bent, his hands pressed to his chest. His head was turned back, with the face turned forward... With a suicide the picture is different. The head and the face look down, as if to the feet, because the chin of a man who has hanged himself is always resting on his thorax, his hands stretched "downthe seams", his legs and even his feet forming one straight line...

It is very characteristic that the fingers of his hands - not only the right, but also the left hand - were frozen in the form of the sign of the Cross... It is absolutely clear that first the killing took place, and then, ten to twelve hours later, the killers simulated suicide.

But apart from the external appearance of the body, still more conclusive proofs were provided by the inner organs of the body. In a self-hanging there always remains the dark trace of the rope on the neck squeezing the throat and causing death. Here there was no such mark. At the medical post-mortem examination - which was performed by a woman - a massof congealed blood was found in the abdominal cavity. The liver seemed to have been cut in several places by very powerful blows. And the whole stomach had turned a deep blue colour. All this confirmed murder as the cause of death. But the authorities declared, in spite of clear evidence to the contrary, that the cause of death was suicide. And this confirmed that the death ofthe secret monk of the Catacomb Church had been planned and approved in the offices of the authorities. He was killed on August 26 or 27, 1968 (old calendar).

(Source: Schemamonk Epiphanius (Chernov), Tserkov' Katakombnaya na Zemlye Rossijskoj)


After the Second World War, there circulated in Russian =C3=A9migr=C3=A9 circles a brochure entitled, "Why I also believe in God". In it, the author, originally an atheist pilot, describes how he was commissioned to track down a groupof monks and priests hiding way up high in the Caucasus mountains. It must have been as late as the outbreak of the war. One day he spotted a ragged group of them on a high plateau. Upon seeing the plane, they began to run. The pilot clearly saw how they, apparently fleeing in the direction of their hiding place, were actually heading towards a wide chasm which separated them from the rest of that mountainous plateau. When they reached the abyss, they made the sign of the cross and, to the pilot's utter astonishment, they continued running in the air until, having safely reached the other side, they disappeared from sight into the rocky cliffs. The dumbfounded pilot was instantly converted and came to believe in God Who had hidden His faithful slaves from the eyes of evil men but had allowed him to be a witness of this great miracle of Russia's Catacomb Saints for the salvation of his soul.

(Source: I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1982, p. 441)


"Our" teacher Maria Vasilyevna was a wonderful person, if only because all her pupils loved her and always, when pronouncing her name, added "our". She was very attentive to all the pupils of the school. It was impossible ever to see her angry. She could get on well with everyone and everyone confided in her as in a mother, knowing that she never caused anyone any trouble at any time. There was something elusive in her which made her different from the other teachers. This elusive something which she hid from everybody was her flaming faith in God and His Holy Providence. And therefore if she learned about somebody that he or she was from a believing home, a believing family, she was especially considerate and kind to them.

But the director of the school was not only a member of the party, but also a convinced atheist and, apparently, connected with the KGB. He suspected Maria Vasilyevna of being a believer because she was not close to him and in a certain way distanced herself from him. And he thought up a plan to establish exactly whether she was a believer or not.

Now in the courtyard of the school there was a kind of ditch. And the director used this circumstance to conduct a test. But perhaps it was the other way round: the ditch itself was devised as a sham excuse for the test he had thought up. This trick of the director's served not only as a means of exposing Maria Vasilyevna, but also the whole staff and all the pupils with regard to their religious convictions. With this aim a holy icon of the Mother of God and Child was laid, with the painted surface upwards, across the ditch as a little bridge. Standing on the icon, the director explained that the whole school had to assemble in classes with their class teachers in the courtyard and then walk over the icon from one side of the ditch to the other. As he said this, he knocked on the very face of the Mother of God with his heels.

After this introduction he began to let everyone go in classes across this "bridge", following the expressions on the faces of those passing over. And in front of each class there first had to pass the class master or mistress, and then the whole class behind them. And when Maria Vasilyevna came up with her class and had to walk over the holy icon of the Mother of God to the other side where the director was standing, she stopped and said in a loud voice:

"I consider the fulfilment of your demand to be contrary to the Constitution of the Soviet Union. I am a believing Orthodox Christian. And I shall not walk over the holy icon of the Mother of God and God-Child!"

This was enough for the best teacher in the school to disappear completely, not only as a pedagogue, but also as a living person (we do not know where it happened). It was as if the earth swallowed her up. No-one ever heard anything more of her... Only there was a rumour that, as a believing Christian, she had been shot!...

(Source: Schemamonk Epiphany (Chernov), Tserkov' Katakombnaya na Zemlye Rossijskoj)

This life was published in Orthodox America.


In the early 1980s a small secret community of monastics was discovered in the high mountains about 60 kilometres from Sukhumi by the KGB. 18 monastics managed to take shelter in a cave. The pursuers in a helicopter threw a cask full of burning liquid into the entrance and set it on fire.All those hiding in the cave perished. Their names were: Irina, Maria, Eudocia, Ulyana, John, Gregory, Basil, Andrew, Stephen, and others.

(Sources: Russkaya Mysl'; Professor Demetrius Pospielovsky, "Russian persecution ignored by the West", The Globe and Mail, Toronto, October 1, 1983)


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