Hieromartyr Peter, Metropolitan Of Krutitsa 3 of 3

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On March 27, Metropolitan Peter wrote to B.P. Menzhinsky: "I was given a five-year exile which I served in the far north in the midst of the cruellest frosts, constant storms, extreme poverty and destitution in everything. (I was constantly on the edge of the grave.) But years passed, and there remained four months to the end of my exile when the same thing began all over again - I was again arrested and imprisoned by the Urals OGPU. After some time I was visited by comrade J.V. Polyansky, who suggested that I renounce the locum tenancy. But I could not accept such a suggestion for the following reasons which have a decisive significance for me. First of all I would be transgressing the established order according to which the locum tenens must remain at his post until the convening of a council. A council convened without the sanction of the locum tenens would be considered uncanonical and its decisions invalid. But in the case of my death the prerogatives of the locum tenens will pass to another person who will complete that which was not done by his predecessor. Moreover, my removal would bring in its wake the departure also of my deputy, Metropolitan Sergius, just as, according to his declaration, with his departure from the position of deputy the Synod created by him would cease to exist. I cannot be indifferent to such a circumstance. Our simultaneous departure does not guarantee church life from various possible frictions, and, of course, the guilt would be mine. Therefore in the given case it is necessary that we discuss this matter together, just as we discussed together the questions relating to my letter to Metropolitan Sergius dated December, 1929. Finally, my decree, coming from prison, would undoubtedly be interpreted as made under pressure, with various undesirable consequences."

In the spring of 1931 Tuchkov suggested to Metropolitan Peter that he work as an informer for the GPU. On May 25, Metropolitan Peter wrote to Menzhinsky that "such an occupation is incompatible with my calling and is, besides, unsuited to my nature." And again he wrote to Menzhinsky: "In our weakness we fall more or less short of that ideal, that truth, which is enjoined upon Christians. But it is important not to be burdened only by earthly matters and therefore to refrain from violently murdering the truth and departing from its path. Otherwise it would be better to renounce God altogether... In this matter one would come up against two completely contradictory principles: Christian and revolutionary. The basis of the former principle is love for one's neighbour, forgiveness of all, brotherhood, humility; while the basis of the latter principle is: the end justifies the means, class warfare, pillage, etc. If you look at things from the point of view of this second principle, you enter upon the revolutionary path and hurl yourself into warfare, and thereby you renounce not only the true symbol of the Christian Faith and annihilate its foundations - the idea of love and the rest, but also the principles of the confession of the faith. There is no need to say how this dilemma - between love for one's neighbour and class warfare - is to be resolved by a seriously believing person who is, moreover, not a hireling, but a real pastor of the Church. He would hardly know any peace for the rest of his life if he subjected himself to temptation from the direction of the above-mentioned contradictions."

Metropolitan Peter's sufferings after the visits of Tuchkov were so acute that for some days his right arm and leg were paralyzed.

On July 23, 1931, the OGPU condemned Metropolitan Peter to five years in a concentration camp "for stubborn struggle against Soviet power and persistent counter-revolutionary activity". Immediately after this sentence had been passed, OGPU agents Agranov and Tuchkov sent the administration of the Ekaterinburg prison a note recommending that Metropolitan Peter be kept under guard in the inner isolation-cell.

In the summer of 1933 they substituted his walks in the common courtyard with walks in a tiny, separate courtyard which was like a damp cellar whose floor was constantly covered with pools of rain-water and whose air was filled with smells from a latrine which was just next to the courtyard. When Vladyka saw this place he had an asthma attack and barely made it to his room. Soon the prison administration told him that the money which had been given for him had been spent and that they would no longer be providing him with additional food from the refectory. Vladyka was strictly isolated. The doctor's assistant who was in the room next to him was strictly forbidden to enter into any kind of relations with him, and his request to meet the local bishop was refused.

In August, 1933, Vladyka wrote to the authorities: "In essence, the locum tenancy is of no interest to me personally. On the contrary, it constantly keeps me in the fetters of persecution.. But I am bound to reckon with the fact that the solution of the given question does not depend on my initiative and cannot be an act of my will alone. By my calling I am inextricably bound to the spiritual interests and will of the whole Local Church. So the question of the disposal of the locum tenancy, not being a personal question, cannot be left to my discretion, otherwise I would turn out to be a traitor of the Holy Church. By the way, in the act [of my entry into the duties of locum tenens] there is a remark to the effect that I am bound not to decline from fulfilling the will of Patriarch Tikhon, and consequently the will of the hierarchs who signed the act..., as well as the will of the clergy and believers who have been in communion of prayer with me these last nine years."

Protopresbyter Michael Polsky cites the words of one witness that Metropolitan Peter had secret links with Metropolitan Joseph, who was in exile in Chimkent. Polsky also writes that Peter was freed for a short time in 1935. This fact was confirmed by the Paris newspaper Vozrozhdenie, which said that Peter refused to make concessions in exchange for the patriarchal throne and was again exiled. Another Paris newspaper, Russkaya Mysl' wrote that Peter demanded that Sergius hand over the locum tenancy to him, but Sergius refused.

Vladyka was transferred to the special purpose Verkhne-Ural prison, put in an isolated cell and given the number 114 instead of being given a name, so that no one should know about the fate of the locum tenens.

He came to the end of his term on July 23, 1936, but they did not release him, but prolonged his term for another three years. From this time the conditions of his imprisonment became still stricter, he hardly saw anyone except the head of the prison and his deputy.

On the evening of August 2, Metropolitan Peter asked to have a talk with the head of the prison Artemyev. On the next day, Artemyev made a report in which his deputy Yakovlev called for Metropolitan Peter to be brought to trial on the grounds that he "made an attempt to establish links with the outside world". Then Artemyev and Yakovlev declared that Metropolitan Peter was an "irreconcilable enemy of Soviet power and slanders the existing state structure..., accusing it of 'persecuting the Church' and 'her workers'. He slanderously accuses the NKVD organs of acting with prejudice in relation to him...He tried to make contact with the outside world from prison, using for this person the medical personnel of the prison, as a result of which he received a prosphora as a sign of greeting from the clergy of Verkhne-Ural."

On August 29 / September 11, 1936 there was an official announcement about the death of Metropolitan Peter. On December 145/27 Metropolitan Sergius assumed the title of locum tenens of the patriarchal throne and Metropolitan of Krutitsa - although, as he himself had admitted, the rights of the deputy of the locum tenens ceased immediately after the death of the locum tenens himself, and as Metropolitan Peter had written in 1931, "my removal would bring in its wake the departure also of my deputy, Metropolitan Sergius."

But Metropolitan Peter was not dead. His execution came later: "On October 2, 1937, the troika of the UNKVD for Chelyabinsk region decreed the execution by shooting of Peter Fyodorovich (Polyansky), metropolitan of Krutitsa. The sentence was carried out on October 10, 1937 at 16.00 hours. Head of the UGB of the UNKVD, security forces Lieutenant Podobedov."

He was buried in Magnitogorsk.

(Sources: M.E. Gubonin, Akty Svyateishego Patriarkha Tikhona, St. Tikhon's Theological Institute, 1994, pp. 681-682, 879-86; S. Belavenets, "Obdorsky Izgnannik", Moskovskij Tserkovnij Vestnik, N 13 (31), June, 1990; V. Rusak, Svidetel'stvo Obvineniya, Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1986; Luch Svyeta, Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1970, pp. 61-62; Protopresbyter George Grabbe, The legal and canonical situation of the Moscow Patriarchate, Jerusalem, 1974; Lev Regelson, Tragediya Russkoj Tserkvi, 1917-1945, Paris: YMCA Press, 1977; M. Spinka, The Church and the Russian Revolution, New York: Macmillan, 1927; Protopresbyter Mikhail Polsky, Noviye Mucheniki Rossii, Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1949-56; I.M. Andreyev, Russia's Catacomb Saints, Platina: St. Herman of Alaska Press, 1982; "Vladyka Lazar otvechayet na voprosy redaktsii", Pravoslavnaya Rus', no. 22, 15/28 November, 1991, p. 5; S. Savelyev, "Bog i komissary", in Bessmertny, A.R. and Filatov, S.B. Religiya i demokratiya, Moscow: Progress, 1993; Alexander Nezhny, "Tretye Imya", Ogonek, no. 4 (3366), January 25 - February 1, 1992; Hieromonk Damaskin, "Zhizneopisaniye patriarshego myestoblyustitelya mitropolita Pyotra Krutitskago (Polyanskogo)", Vestnik Russkogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya, no. 166, III-1992, pp. 213-242; "Novomuchenik Mitropolit Pyotr Krutitsky", Pravoslavnaya Rus', no. 17 (1518), September 1/14, 1994; V.V. Antonov, "Lozh' i Pravda", Russkij Pastyr', II, 1994, pp. 79-80; M.B. Danilushkin (ed.), Istoria Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi, 1917-1970, St. Petersburg: Voskreseniye, 1997, pp. 206-209)

This life was published in "Orthodox Life".

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