Plato Bishop And Hieromartyr Of Revel (Tallinn) And Those With Him

Bishop Plato, in the world Paul Petrovich Kuldbush, was born on July 13, 1869 in Riga province, in the family of a Church reader. In 1893 he graduated from St. Petersburg Theological Academy with a master's degree and became a priest. In 1894 (according to another source, 1904) he was appointed superior of the Estonian Orthodox Church of St. Isidore in St. Petersburg. In 1917-18 he was a participant in the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church. On December 31, 1917, at the request of the clergy and parishioners of Riga, he was consecrated bishop of Revel (Tallinn), a vicariate of the diocese of Riga, by Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd and Bishop Artemius of Luga, having been tonsured and raised to the rank of archimandrite seven days before. Then, on January 10, 1918, he was made bishop of Riga.

Bishop Plato eagerly began to re-establish order in his diocese, which had been disrupted during the revolutionary outbursts of 1917. It was a terrifying time: burglaries, violence and murder abounded. No-one was sure what the next day would bring, and everyone was in need of spiritual encouragement and comfort. During the short period of his episcopate, Bishop Plato personally visited 71 parishes, re-establishing church life and soothing the perplexed souls of his flock with words of love and faith.

But this did not last long. On December 19, 1918, the German troops who had occupied Estonia, left the town of Tartu (Yuriev). Three days later, the Bolsheviks recaptured the town and began their second reign of terror there.

In the course of 24 days more than 500 people were arrested, and more than 300 of them were shot. January 2, 1919, when Bishop Plato was recovering from a serious illness, he was arrested on the streets of Tartu by the Bolsheviks and imprisoned with several others in the Credit Bank, which had been turned into a prison. On January 14, 1919, at 10.30 a.m., about 20 of the prisoners were taken into the basement and executed.

After the retreat of the Bolsheviks, the basement of the Bank revealed about 20 bodies, some of which had been mutilated beyond recognition. Bishop Plato's body revealed traces of seven bayonet thrusts and four bullet-wounds, one of which had been made by a dumdum bullet into the right eye. The fingers of his right hand were formed in the sign of the cross...

Two priests were shot with with Bishop Plato - Protopriest Nicholas Bezhanitsky and Fr. Michael Bleive. Fr. Nicholas was born on December 14, 1859 and graduated from Riga Theological Seminary. On January 16, 1883 he married the daughter of the priest John Kazarinov, Maria Ivanovna Kazarinova, and had two daughters. He served in Pernovsky uyezd, then in Vyra, in Vilyandi and in Tartu - as superior of the Estonian Orthodox church of St. George. Because of an injury suffered during his youth, he could not kneel. However, in the altar he was so carried away by the services that he would often fall down on his knees - and not be able to get up. So the church warden always had to be near him and help him to get up.

While serving in Vilyandi, Fr. Nicholas saved eight innocent prisoners from death at great risk to himself. His popularity among the people rose because he was prepared to save anyone - Lutheran or Orthodox, Estonian or Russian. While serving in Tartu, he became especially popular among the students, whom he used to marry without charging money. He also helped needy families, and was in general a model of Christian love. During his last hours in prison in Tartu, Fr. Nicholas behaved with great calmness and dignity, and was nicknamed their patriarch by the other prisoners.

On February 9, 1919, the body of Bishop Plato was triumphantly carried into Tallinn and buried by the left kliros of the Transfiguration cathedral. The date of the death of Bishop Plato and those with him was proclaimed a day of general mourning in Free Estonia. The bodies of the two priests shot with him were buried in the Assumption cathedral in Tartu; and on January 14 each year for many years thereafter, a triumphant pannikhida for the two priests was served in the presence of the all the priests of the city - both Orthodox and Lutheran.

(Sources: Akty Svyateishego Patriarkha Tikhona, St. Tikhon Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 886-87, 988; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 1, pp. 82-83; Russkiye Pravoslavnye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986; T. Milyuntina, "Protoierej Nikolai Bezhanitsky", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, N 168, II-III 1993, pp. 181-196)

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