The priest Fr. Constantine Snyatinovsky, from Vladimir diocese, was killed. He was officially glorified at a funeral liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Tikhon on March 31 / April 13, 1918.
(Sources: Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, Jordanville, 1949-57, part 1, p. 214; Vladimir Rusak, Pir Satany, London, Canada: "Zarya", 1991, pp. 27, 34, 190; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Paris: YMCA Press, 1977, p. 237)
In 1921 a terrible famine caused by the communists' requisitioning policies in the Civil War broke out in the Volga region. In December, 1921, Pomgol - the State Commission for Famine Relief - proposed that the churches help the starving by donating church valuables. The Patriarch agreed, and on February 19, 1922 he issued a pastoral letter permitting the parish councils to make gifts of objects - but only if they had not been consecrated for exclusive use in the Divine services.
The Bolsheviks set up a commission led by Trotsky to oversee the requisitioning of the church valuables. However, their purpose was not humanitarian - the relief of the starving, but the destruction of the material resources of the churches and the sowing of divisions among the clergy. And they were instructed by the Politburo to act with maximum ruthlessness.
Soon clashes with believers who resisted the confiscation of church valuables took place. 1414 such clashes were reported in the official press. In 1921-23, 2,691 married priests, 1,962 monks, 3,447 nuns and an unknown number of laymen were killed on the pretext of resistance to the seizure of church valuables in the country as a whole.
In the province of Ivanovo-Voznesensk 54 clergy and monastics of various ranks were killed on this pretext. In the neighbouring province of Vladimir 81 were killed. And in Kostroma province - 72.
One of the earliest and most important of these clashes took place in the city of Shuya in Ivanovo province. On March 7, 1922, the commission for the registration and removal of church valuables from the churches arrived in the city. First they went into the Resurrection cathedral. There they saw some people removing the ordinary gilded silver riza from the Shuya icon of the Smolensk Mother of God and replacing it with a festive cloth riza with pearls. They asked the warden, Alexander Paramonov:
"Why are you changing this?"
"We always take the covers off for cleaning at this time."
However, the commission suspected that they were changing it in the hope that they would not remove the valuable riza from the icon.
On March 11, the superior of the cathedral, Protopriest Paul Svetozarov, received an official communication from the commission that they would be starting work on March 13 at 11 o'clock and invited representatives of the parish to take part in drawing up a list of church valuables.
On Sunday March 12, immediately after the Liturgy, when all the people were still in the church, it was announced that at 7 in the evening there would be a meeting of the believers to choose representatives for the commission from the Orthodox. The meeting took place under the gaze of representatives of the Soviet authorities. The meeting suggested electing its own commission from the parish. Nicholas Nikolayevich Ryabtsev was elected as president. Fr. Paul said that he himself could not give away church objects having significance for the Divine services, since this was sacrilege and a violation of the church canons. But he did not intend to offer resistance to the removal of the valuables by the state commission. After the departure of the commission the church would be consecrated anew, and then services would begin again in it.
The parishioners, especially women, began to ask that the church's property be replaced by their own personal things.
"The church valuables," replied Ryabtsev, "will go to America, while your shawls and dresses will be taken for simple rags."
One of the parishioners, the teacher Borisov, suggested that they petition the authorities to allow them to redeem the church valuables.
The authorities paid no attention to this petition.
Similar meetings took place in other churches of the city. The meeting of the Trinity cemetery church, whose superior was the seventy-year-old Protopriest John Lavrov, at first decreed that representatives for the commission from the parish should not be elected and church property should not be handed over. But when it came to the actual seizure, everything was given away without resistance. In other churches, for example the Exaltation of the Cross church in Shuya, the parish meeting decreed that voluntary offerings should be given instead of church objects. Some of the churches, especially in the villages, were so poor that there was nothing to take from them - neither church things, nor redemption money.
On Monday, March 13, the Lenten service came to an end at 11 o'clock. There were not many worshippers, but by 12 the people began to arrive, and when the commission appeared, the church was full.
Peter Ivanovich Yazykov worked in a factory. His route passed near the Resurrection cathedral; he saw that a crowd was gathering at the entrance to the cathedral. On learning that the representatives of the Soviet authorities were arriving and would make a list of the valuables, Peter Ivanovich entered the church. The commission soon appeared. The parishioners pressed up against each other to let them through. Shouts were heard:
"Why have they come?! What do you need - you know, the Church is separated from the State!"
When the commission passed, Peter Ivanovich saw that Vitsin, its president, was drunk.
"Look, these people have entered the church drunk," he said to those standing near. "This is an insult to the believers. Besides, they're armed. It is not allowed to enter the altar armed."
However, the commission went into the altar, where they were already awaited by the representatives of the church commission and the superior of the cathedral, Fr. Paul Svetozarov.
"Please clear the cathedral!" demanded Vitsin of the superior in an irritated tone.
"I don't have the right to drive the worshippers from the church," replied the priest.
"But you were told we were coming, and you were obliged to clear the cathedral in time after the service."
"Nevertheless, we cannot remove worshippers from the church."
"Well then," said Vitsin threateningly, "if you do not clear the church now, we shall take you and your commission as hostages."
"And they will take us," thought Fr. Paul. He had already been imprisoned as a hostage. He went out onto the solea and said:
"The state commission is asking you to leave, you are hindering it."
From all sides of the church they immediately began to say:
"We shall not leave, let them leave by the way they came."
"Your behaviour will do no good," said the superior calmly and with dignity.
After Fr. Paul, the members of the church commission spoke. One of them, Medvedev, asked:
"Disperse, otherwise they will arrest you, too, together with Fr. Paul."
Some thought that it was still possible to negotiate with the authorities, one had only to be rational and firm. That is what Peter Yazykov thought.
"If you're afraid that they'll arrest you," he said, "relinquish your powers - others will be found who will be able to talk with the authorities."
The negotiations dragged on, and the parishioners did not move to leave the church. There was no reason for the arrest of the superior and the members of the church commission, but they feared to get down to making the list. Having invited the representatives of the church commission to see the uyezd chief of police, the commission left, saying that they would come on March 15.
Fr. Paul served a moleben and suggested that the parishioners stay to pray with him until the beginning of Vespers. They prayed unto the evening; in the evening after the service the representatives of the church commission went to the uyezd chief of police. There they were told that they would all bear the responsibility for the fact that the people stayed in the church after the Liturgy, and they were ordered from now on to lock the church after the service, and give the key for safe-keeping to one of the church servers. They would not announce the arrival of the state commission beforehand, and would not come on March 15, as previously planned.
On the same day in the evening an extraordinary session of the presidium of the uyezd executive committee was convened and it was decided:
1) To prevent such illegal public gatherings, both in the city and in the area.
2) Immediately to arrest and bring to trial before the revolutionary tribunal those helping or inciting riots.
3) To examine all the present matters without delay.
4) To instruct the chief of the garrison and the chief of police to apply decisive measures up to and including the use of firearms against those violating the established order.
These directions determined everything that ensued. Now it was possible to provoke the people into resistance - and suppress it by force of arms as a counter-revolutionary rebellion. They decided not to change the date for the removal of valuables, but to keep it as it was.
From the morning of March 15 the people - mainly women - began to gather on the cathedral square. By 10 o'clock Vitsin had arrived at the police administration and said that the commission was going to requisition the valuables and that the police had to go out and disperse the crowd that had gathered in front of the cathedral. The chief of police Bashenkov detailed eight mounted policemen. They tried to disperse the crowd with whips. However, the women did not disperse; some broke off stakes from the fencing so as to defend themselves, while logs flew at the police from the crowd. The chief of police sent for reinforcements. Fourteen armed red-army-men were sent. They tried to disperse the crowd, but without success. The people demanded that the police and the red-army-men leave the cathedral. The policemen set about beating the women with whips, and if they turned up - children, too. Some wept, some prayed fervently, others said:
"It doesn't matter that we die - we shall die for the Mother of God."
The chief of the garrison ordered soldiers from the 146th regiment of the Red Army to the tune of forty men in full battle readiness under the command of Kolokolov and Zaitsev.
While the soldiers were going to the square, people met them and tried to persuade them not to disperse the people. But the soldiers in extended formation advanced on the crowd.
None of the clergy or laypeople dared to go up into the bell-tower and ring the bells. But some boys got into the bell-tower. Their mothers encouraged and helped them. The older schoolchildren began to ring the big bells, while the eleven- or twelve- year-old schoolchildren rang the small ones. The result was quite a loud peal.
Soon cars with machine-guns drove up, and shooting began. First they shot above their heads into the cathedral, but then into the crowd.
The first to be killed was the parishioner Nicholas Malkov. As he was passing on the square, he stopped not far from the home of Fr. Paul Svetozarov and shouted:
"Orthodox, stand for the faith!"
- and was immediately shot in the temple and killed.
Some children ran up to the dead youth, but they were pushed away by the policemen. One of them said:
"If you don't go, we shall shoot."
The children ran into the courtyard and in that way saved themselves from the horses of the policemen which were pressing in on them.
The second to be killed was the girl Anastasia. That morning on the way to the factory she had stopped at the cathedral, gone up the steps with some others - and was shot there and then. Auxentius Kalashnikov and Sergius Mefodiev were killed.
On seeing people falling from the shots, the people stood closer together and ran.
At this time the service in the church was coming to the end.
Remembering that the authorities had promised that they would not carry out the requisitioning on March 15, Fr. Paul went out onto the ambon and said:
"There will be no commission today, you can go home peacefully."
Members of the church commission also spoke, trying to persuade everyone to leave. But after what had happened at the walls of the church, noone believed that there would be no requisitioning. More than 300 worshippers had gathered in the church. How could a further clash be avoided? If he left on his own, perhaps they would not carry out the requisitioning in the absence of the superior. And he went to his house on the same cathedral square fifty paces from the church.
Protopriest Paul Mikhailovich Svetozarov was born in 1866 in the family of a deacon who served in the church of the village of Kartmazovo, Malinovsky volost, Sudogodsky uyezd, Vladimir province. Since childhood he had wanted to be a priest. He graduated from Kiev Theological Academy and became a reader in the church of the village of Karmazovo. He intended to become a monk, but the superior of the Shuya cathedral persuaded him to marry his daughter and become superior himself. Soon his wife died, leaving Fr. Paul with small children. Until the revolution of 1917 he taught the Law of God in the Shuya gymnasium, and when teaching was forbidden, he transferred the lessons to the cathedral.
Fr. Paul was a talented preacher and attracted the hearts of believers. The new power noticed this and looked for an excuse to arrest him. The first time he was arrested for a short time in 1919 charged with refusing to submit to the instructions of the Sovnarkom. In 1921 he was arrested again and imprisoned for several months by order of the Cheka in connection with the Kronstadt rebellion, as being politically unreliable. He was several times arrested for his sermons. In order to spy on the priest, the authorities implanted the informer Shvetsova in his house. She often tried to enter into conversation with him in such a way as to find something to accuse him of, but without success. On that day, seeing Fr. Paul entering the house, she shrieked:
"They're killing people!"
Had something happened? He hurriedly entered her room.
The lodger was standing at the window pointing at the square. She was loudly expressing her shock at the Orthodox. Everything she said was so abusive that Fr. Paul could not stand it.
"And are you not guilty of this outrage?" he said. "You yourself belong to the party which preaches ceaseless war and spite, and this war and spite are now spilling out over our heads."
With bullets, whips and horses the crowd in front of the church was dispersed. The corpses of those killed were laid on the threshold, nobody was allowed to go up to them. Fr. Nicholas Shirokogorov served molebens to the Smolensk Mother of God, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and St. John the Warrior at the request of parishioners, and then members of the church commission asked the parishioners to disperse.
The corpses of those killed were carried away, and the wounded were taken to hospital. There was no requisitioning of church valuables on that day.
On March 17 Fr. Paul was summoned for interrogation by the GPU and was arrested. The requisitioning of valuables from the Resurrection cathedral took place, already without him, on March 23, when everything representing any value at all was removed.
In accordance with the instructions of Lenin and Trotsky, the investigation from the beginning tried to prove the existence of a plot among the church-servers, whose aim supposedly had been to resist the requisitioning of church valuables and the calling of the workers to resistance. The bosses and workers of the Shuya textile mill were investigated in minute detail, and it was established beyond doubt that there had been no plot.
Massive arrests began to take place. Four priests were accused of resisting the requisitioning of church valuables: Fr. Paul Svetozarov, Fr. John Rozhdestvensky, Fr. John Lavrov and Fr. Alexander Smelchakov. Fr. John Lavrov and Fr. Alexander Smelchakov were later released because they fully recognized the right of the Soviet authorities to requisition the valuables, and declared that the church canons which defined such requisitioning as sacrilege were unknown to them. Fr. Alexander added that he was from a poor family and had chosen the priesthood only in order to escape material need. Also accused were the warden of the Shuya cathedral Alexander Paramanov and twenty laymen. After the conclusion of the investigation nineteen people were brought to trial.
The priest of the village of Palekh, John Stepanovich Rozhdestvensky, was born in 1872 in the village of Parmos, Sudogodsky uyezd, Vladimir province. He and his matushka had no children, and he devoted all his strength and time to the parishioners and the church. For twenty-five years he served zealously in the church of the Exaltation of the Cross, and his parishioners loved him.
On Sunday, March 19, Fr. John read out the epistle of Patriarch Tikhon as a matter of strict obligation and duty. Having served a moleben after the Liturgy, the priest said:
"You have heard the epistle of the Patriarch. You know about the decree of the central authorities about the requisitioning of the church valuables. I call you, my parishioners, not to resist the removal when the state commission arrives. I myself, as a priest, cannot give away sacred objects according to the canons. And I will not be present when they take away the other things."
After the Sunday had passed a denunciation was delivered to the Shuya GPU saying that the priest John Rozhdestvensky had "in the form of a sermon read out the appeal of Patriarch Tikhon". On March 24, a search was carried out in the house of Fr. John and the epistle of Patriarch Tikhon was removed. The next day he was arrested and accused of reading the epistle.
Witnesses were summoned to the investigation: parishioners, iconographers those who had been present at the shooting. They all said that Fr. John had urged them not to resist the removal of the valuables. On April 2, 1922, the parishioners of the church of the Exaltation of the Cross wrote a petition for the release of Fr. John to the authorities, since his arrest had been a misunderstanding and "Priest Rozhdestvensky had never touched on political themes throughout the whole twenty-five-year period of his service", and the last time had called for calm.
The investigators tried to make the arrested priest say where he had got the epistle from. Fr. John replied that he had received it in the post, but he could not remember where from or what the stamp on the envelope had been. And he did not remember where the envelope itself was.
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