Hieromartyr Joachim, Archbishop Of Nizhny-Novgorod And Those With Him

Archbishop Joachim, in the world John Ioakimovich Levitsky, was born on March 30, 1853 in the village of Petrushek, Kiev province, the son of a junior deacon (according to another source, reader) of the Kiev diocese. He was educated in the Kiev theological seminary. On March 30, 1879, he graduated from Kiev Theological Academy with the degree of candidate of theology. On August 9 he was appointed a teacher in the Riga theological seminary. On June 24, 1880, he was ordained to the priesthood for Riga cathedral. He was married with two sons. Between 1883 and 1886 he was a teacher of the Law of God in the Riga infantry school and in the higher maidens' private school. In 1886 his wife died. On June 28, 1893, he was tonsured, and the next day became rector of the Riga theological seminary with the rank of archimandrite. While in Riga, he was editor of the diocesan journal, and wrote several articles for it on the ecclesiastical history of the Baltic region with a historical-statistical description of the diocese.

On January 14, 1896 Fr. Joachim was consecrated Bishop of Baltsk, a vicariate of the Kamenets-Podolsk diocese. On May 24, 1897 he became bishop of Brest, and on January 11, 1900 - bishop of Grodno. On November 26, 1903 he was appointed bishop of Orenburg and Uralsk, and in November 15, 1908 - bishop of Orenburg and the Turgay.

Vladyka was a man of outstanding spiritual gifts, a fiery preacher with a warm, responsive heart. While in Orenburg, he protected and greatly expanded the diocese's missionary work among the Kirghiz, Bashkirs and Tatars, and a huge number of them were converted to the Orthodox Faith during his episcopate. The Tatar language was introduced into the teaching of the Orenburg seminary, as was the compulsory study of Islam. Vladyka managed to find resources for the upkeep of four diocesan missionaries with a good annual salary.

He personally converted many sectarians and Old Believers to the Orthodox Faith, and founded several yedinovertsy parishes, serving in them himself according to the old books. In 1905 in the village of Sukhorechensky he converted (with the help of the local missionaries) the Old Believer priest Fr. Sabbas Sladky, who brought with him several hundred families into the yedinoveriye. A big parish was formed, and every year many families were added to it. In the conversion of the Old Believers Vladyka was greatly helped by the Synodal missionary Fr. Xenophon Kryuchkov, who had been Orenburg diocesan missionary during the 1880s. Thanks to their joint labours in the Urals region, 50 yedinovertsy parishes, each with their clergy, were founded in the vast region from Orenburg to the Caspian Sea. Hundreds and thousands of Cossacks and non-Cossacks living in the Cossack villages were converted to yedinoveriye Orthodoxy, and every year tens of new parishes were added to the diocese.

In 1903, a movement of resettlement from the southern districts of Russia to the Turgay region began. Spiritually speaking, the settlers were left to cope for themselves. Thus the Turgay settlers were forgotten about, and the Chief resettlement administration concentrated its attention on the peasants of Siberia, the Altai and the Far East. Many sectarians came with the settlers from the southern regions of Russia to the Turgay. In each settlement there were Baptists or Seventh Day Adventists, whose semi-literate "priests" and pastors wasted no time in founding their own prayer assemblies. But the Orthodox were like sheep without a shepherd, and had no place in which to satisfy their spiritual needs. The sectarians took advantage of this and began to invite the Orthodox to their prayer meetings. Soon the Orthodox settlers began to fill up the sectarian prayer meetings and without realizing it themselves became members of sectarian communities. Children were born, the old died, the young entered into conjugal relationships - and there was nobody to carry out the rites. The Orthodox population experienced particular hardships during the Great Fast and on great feasts. In one settlement the Orthodox gathered on Pascha night on a site which had been set aside for the construction of a church, erected six bells which had been brought from Tauris province, rang them for several minutes, chanted "Christ is risen" as best they could, and then dispersed despondently to their huts and dugouts to break the fast. On such days the sectarians arranged their triumphant prayer services and insistently invited the Orthodox to come and "listen to the chanting and preaching". Many went unwillingly, but then stayed for ever.

From June, 1906 to the beginning of 1907, Bishop Joachim sent two diocesan missionary priests to Turgay. They established that the whole region was in captivity to the sectarians. This missionary trip had a reviving effect on the waverers: people brought tens of babies for baptism; young newly married couples came asking that they "receive the law", that is, be married according to the Orthodox rite; and many believers asked for pannikhidas to be performed for those who had died without a church rite.

On the return of the missionaries, Bishop Joachim sent a report to the Holy Synod, which then assigned 50,000 roubles above the normal annual budget for the construction of churches and schools in the Turgay region. Special missionary courses were organized in Orenburg and Kustanay, at which candidates for the priesthood were trained for four months. These were mainly teachers, readers and experienced deacons. Churches, schools and hospitals were built, and every central point received a priest-teacher. A new life began in the Turgay region. Many zealous pastors from other regions asked to do missionary work in the Turgay, and in this way the whole region was soon covered with well-organized parishes led by principled pastors. An end was put to sectarian propaganda. Those who had been lured into the sects were converted without difficulty to Orthodoxy. Everywhere evening services with talks with the priests were organized. Religious-educational and missionary brotherhoods began to be opened. Thus Orthodoxy was saved in the region.

In 1908 Bishop Joachim himself visited the region. In every settlement he was met by masses of believers. At the main centres he served triumphant liturgies, the missionaries preached and distributed anti-sectarian literature. Vladyka himself was an outstanding orator, and amazed everyone with his knowledge of the Scriptures. In his discourses he briefly, but powerfully and convincingly refuted the errors of the apostates. Every year the numbers of those joining the Orthodox Church increased. After a "priest" of the sectarians from the village of Victorovka was joined to Orthodoxy, the sectarians fell silent, and no more conversions to sectarianism were observed. One Baptist sectarian leader by the name of Prostibozhenko, a good chanter and choir director, converted to Orthodoxy with his large family, and became an ardent apologist for Orthodoxy. Bishop Joachim offered to ordain him, but he declined out of humility, and accepted the post of reader, choir director and assistant missionary.

Vladyka Joachim travelled tirelessly on a cart round his huge diocese, which included Orenburg province, Turgay region and the lands of the Urals Cossacks. Every year Vladyka would travel from the river Tobol to the city of Guriev on the Caspian Sea, which was about 3000 versts as the crow flies. In Guriev they had not seen a bishop for 25 years.

Vladyka saved countless people from despair and falls into mortal sin. Once he dissuaded Deacon Gir-ko from killing himself as a result of a family drama. He went to him by night, put him drunk into his carriage, drove him to his hierarchical house and kept him for a whole week, forcing him to serve every day. The deacon came to himself, persuaded by the love of Vladyka. Later Vladyka ordained him to the priesthood and appointed him to a militant workers' parish in P-y factory. Gir-ko literally regenerated the rebellious parish, and presented the image of an ideal priest.

Vladyka protected education, and during his episcopate the church schools multiplied and flourished. He clothed the poor seminarists from head to foot from his own resources, ordained them to the priesthood and provided them with means to live.

He was a true benefactor, doing good deeds both openly and secretly.

Vladyka Joachim passionately loved chanting.

On August 13/26, 1910 (according to another source, in 1909), he was appointed Bishop of Nizhni-Novgorod and Arzamas. On May 6, 1916 he was raised to the rank of archbishop. The inhabitants of Nizhni came to love him, and he served there until the revolution.

Already under the Provisional Government he was imprisoned in Nizhni. In 1917-18 he was a delegate to the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow, and never returned to Nizhni. For the Bolsheviks again imprisoned him for his ardent monarchism. On March 22, 1918 he was retired from his see at his own request and was appointed administrator, with the rights of superior, of the Resurrection monastery at New Jerusalem in Moscow diocese.

In the autumn he went to visit his son and his family in the Crimea. He was often invited from there to serve in the churches of Sebastopol. Once, when all the inhabitants of the house had gone out and he was alone, some unknown people who were supposedly robbers, but were in fact sent by the local Bolsheviks, appeared. According to the witness of a Crimean priest, he was martyred by being hanged with his head down on the royal doors of the Sebastopol cathedral.

The superior of the Simferopol cathedral, Protopriest Alexis Nazarevsky, was also hanged on the royal doors of this cathedral.

(Sources: Akty Svyatejshego Tikhona, Patriarkha Moskovskogo i Vseya Rossii, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, P. 863-64, 974; Protopresbyter Michael Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossijskiye, 1949-57, vol. I, pp. 77-81, vol. II, p. 277; Hieromonk Damascene (Orlovsky), Mucheniki, ispovedniki i podvizhniki blagochestiya Rossijskoj Tserkvi XX stoletii, Tver: Bulat, 1992, pp. 168-170; Russkiye Pravoslavnye Ierarkhi, Paris: YMCA Press, 1986, p. 38; Za Khrista Postradavshiye, Moscow: St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1997, pp. 502-503)

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