Posts tagged Nicholas Ziorov
Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, head of the Russian Mission in America from 1891 to 1898, is one of the most underappreciated people in American Orthodox history. I am afraid that I have done nothing to help this state of affairs. Back in June, I wrote dismissively that Bishop Nicholas “was a good man, but was also a Russian nationalist whose primary focus was (quite understandably) on the conversion of Uniates to Orthodoxy and their subsequent Russification.”
I based my assessment on a 1967 article by Fr. Alexander Doumouras (“Greek Orthodox Communities in America Before World War I,” published in St. Vladimir’s Quarterly). In the section dealing with San Francisco, Doumouras wrote the following:
It could also be that statements such as the following excerpt from a homily by Bishop Nicholas in 1896, helped to create division between the Greek and Russian parishioners. The sermon centered around the feast of St. Alexander Nevsky. Since it was also the feast of the Russian Tsar, the bishop urged his people to celebrate this particular feast with gratitude in their hearts to the Tsar of the Russian Empire: “It is meet that Orthodox Christians of foreign nationalities — Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Roumanians, Georgians and others — should, as well as the Russian, celebrate the high feast days of the Russian Church. It is meet — if only out of sympathy with an Empire that followed the same religion. … But this is not enough; all Orthodox nationalities should be inspired in this matter by a feeling of gratitude to the Russian Empire; for the Russian sovereigns have always been zealous guardians and defenders of Orthodoxy all over the world.” It is not difficult to sense that such an expression of Russian nationalism could have antagonized Greek sensitivities and that shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century, a Greek parish came into existence in San Francisco.
When I first read that passage, I had barely heard of Bishop Nicholas, and the idea of him as a mere nationalist got stuck in my head, in spite of all the facts to the contrary. Maybe he was a nationalist, but in the late 19th century, who wasn’t? Regardless, it’s clear that he was more than a nationalist.
The reality is that much of what St. Tikhon is credited with doing was actually accomplished by his predecessor, Bishop Nicholas. Yes, St. Tikhon was a visionary — but in many respects he was continuing, implementing, and expanding upon the vision of Bishop Nicholas. It was Nicholas, not Tikhon, who recruited gifted young men like St. Alexander Hotovitzky, St. John Kochurov, and St. Anatolii Kamenskii to serve in America. Bishop Nicholas ordained Hotovitzky and Kochurov to the priesthood, as well as the great Serbian priest Fr. Sebastian Dabovich. And it was Nicholas, not Tikhon, who first set up special ministries for different ethnic groups, empowering Dabovich and importing talented clergy such as St. Raphael Hawaweeny and Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides. The flood of Uniates into Orthodoxy began with the conversion of St. Alexis Toth shortly before Bishop Nicholas arrived in America, but it was under Nicholas that the “return of the Unia” really picked up steam.
Bishop Nicholas came in 1891 to a diocese that was reeling from the scandals of Bishop Vladimir, a diocese that had not experienced hierarchical stability since the drowning/suicide of Bishop Nestor Zass in 1883. The diocese in 1891 was centered in Alaska, with only two parishes in the continguous United States (San Francisco and Minneapolis). While not neglecting Alaska (he was a great advocate for the Orthodox natives), Bishop Nicholas oversaw dramatic growth in the rest of the US, with an average of about two new parishes founded every year. Whereas the diocese was tiny and weak in 1891, by the time of Nicholas’ departure in 1898, it was thriving and healthy. St. Tikhon, Nicholas’ successor, was able to accomplish so much because he was a genuinely great man, but also because he took the reins of a diocese made strong by Bishop Nicholas.
After leaving America, Nicholas served as Archbishop of Tver and Kashin, and later Archbishop of Warsaw. He died in 1915.
Nicholas Ziorov may not have been the perfect hierarch, he was one of the most stable, effective bishops American Orthodoxy has ever seen. He provided strong, sound leadership and a forward-thinking vision at a critical time in our history. His tenure and his legacy warrant further study.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Tsar Alexander III of Russia died on November 1, 1894. A week later (and 116 years ago today), on November 8, two memorial services for the Tsar were held in America. Both were of note, for various reasons.
New York had no Russian church in 1894, so the Russian consul and numerous other dignitaries converged on the Greek church of Holy Trinity, on West 53rd Street. Here is how the New York Times described the event the next day:
The church was draped in black and white, and the walls were covered with a background of white, relieved at intervals with white crosses. Flags of Russia, Greece, and the United States hung in the forward part of the church, and in front of the altar was a canopy of black crepe, with a wreath of violets on one side, and another of white roses on the other side.
Father Matrofani, a Russian monk, conducted the services, partly in Greek and partly in Russian, and Father Agathadora, the pastor of the church, assisted him. An introductory prayer in Russian opened the service, and then Father Matrofani appeared before the altar clad in full golden sacerdotal robes, accompanied by Father Agathadora, who wore a black surplice.
Both priests carried lighted candles, and Father Matrofani led the chant choir, which consisted of Mme. Eugenie Lineff, Mlle. Chacquin, and Peter Popoff. Two Greek gentlemen who stood to the left of the altar responded to some of the Greek chants.
A portion of the service which seemed queer to the Americans present was the eating of a portion of rice and a raisin by Father Matrofani at the conclusion of the singing. This is an old custom in the Greek Church, commemorative of the early Christianity, when the priests were fed by their congregations.
Following the Russian custom, the women were separated from their escorts upon entering the church, and were conducted to their seats in the aisle to the left of the altar by Consul General A.E. Alarovesky of the Russian Consulate.
The Times went on to list the many notable people who attended the service, including Russian officials, representatives of numerous countries, the granddaughter of the last Tsar of Georgia, and future St. Nicholas Cathedral founder Barbara MacGahan. The article concluded, “Father Matrofani, who is on his way from San Francisco to Russia, sailed on the Columbia yesterday. Before going he expressed the hope that a Bishop of the Greek Church, now on his way to this country, would establish a Russian congregation here.”
The Times was slightly misinformed, as the bishop in question, Nicholas Ziorov, was already in America and had, in fact, conducted a memorial for the Tsar in Washington, DC on the very same day. This service is especially notable because it was attended by the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland. The following account is reprinted from the Daily New Mexican of Santa Fe (11/9/1894):
Profoundly impressive ceremonies were held at the Russian legation to day in memory of the late czar, Alexander II [sic]. President Cleveland and his entire cabinet, except Postmaster General Bissell, attended, accompanied by Mrs. Cleveland and the cabinet ladies. Foreign ambassadors and ministers, with their extensive suites, wearing their rich official and court costumes, were present in a body, lending a brilliant color to the solemn occasion. Ambassador Bayard and ex-Secretary of State Foster were also there. The service began at 9 o’clock with mass celebrated by Bishop Nicholas, of the Russian Greek church, assisted by a Greek monk and two attendants. These services lasted until 10 o’clock and were held in private, being attended only by Prince Count Cresene, Russian minister, his daughter and the officials of the Russian legation. At 10 o’clock, chants and prayers for the repose of the czar’s soul began in the presence of the president, the members of the cabinet and the diplomatic corps. Each participant held a wax candle throughout the service.
I’m not certain, but this may be the first Orthodox church service ever attended by a US President. When the previous Tsar, Alexander II, died in 1881, Fr. Nicholas Bjerring held a memorial in Washington, but President Garfield was unable to attend (Washington Post, 3/16/1881).
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
This past weekend, those of us on the New Calendar celebrated the feast day of St. John Kochurov, the Russian New Martyr and former priest of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago. With that in mind, I thought I’d talk a bit about St. John’s arrival in Chicago.
John Kochurov was just 24 years old when he became a priest, in the summer of 1895. The ordination took place in Russia, but it was done by the visiting Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, the head of the Russian Mission in America, and Fr. John was to accompany Bishop Nicholas back to the United States. They arrived in November, just as Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny was getting settled in Brooklyn.
The young Fr. John was entering a bit of a sticky situation. From the Chicago Tribune (11/25/1895):
Nicholaei of St. Petersburg, Archbishop of All America, held solemn mass in the Greek [that is, Orthodox] Church, at No. 13 South Center avenue, yesterday morning for the installation of Father Kochureff as assistant priest of the parish. He was assisted by the local priest, Father Kazantsier, and assistant, and two pages from St. Petersburg. The vacancy of assistant priest was caused by a difference of opinion between Archbishop Nicholaei and R.A. Bouroff, late assistant pastor, who has come under the displeasure of his superiors by attendance at the University of Chicago.
Nearly 100 persons were crowded into the little room reserved for the congregation of the Greek Church in Chicago. It is the front room of a ground flat in a modest three-story building erected for a dwelling. The chancel occupies an adjoining front room. The service is more elaborate than that of the Roman Church, and differs radically in much of the ceremony, being conducted behind a high chancel screen, sometimes with the single entrance closed. All the appointments of the altar and chancel are different. The service is unique in many ways.
A pretty standard description of vestments, candles, etc. follows. Then, we read,
There is a division in the Greek congregation owing to the retirement of Assistant Priest Bouroff. It is said that a wing of the congregation is at outs with the authorities because of loyalty to the younger priest, who persists in carrying on his studies at President Harper’s institution. These members credit Archbishop Nicholaei with having caused the exile of more students to Siberia than any man in Russia. On this account it is easy to believe, they declare, that the Bishop of All America will never forgive the independence of ex-Assistant Pastor Bouroff.
About a dozen clergy from all over the country came to Chicago for Bishop Nicholas’ visit; these included Fr. Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky of New York, Fr. Anatolii Kamenskii of Sitka (the future bishop and confessor), and Fr. Theodore Pashkovsky of Jackson, CA (the future Metropolitan Theophilus).
Several things, right off the bat: Bishop Nicholas was not actually an archbishop, and his title was “Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska,” not “Bishop of All America.” Other newspapers give various names for the other Chicago priest; the most accurate rendition is probably “Fr. Pavel Kazanski.” Also, the Chicago Inter Ocean says that the parish is called “St. Ivan.” Originally it was “St. Nicholas,” and this was soon changed to “St. Vladimir” and later “Holy Trinity.” I’m not sure if, at some point, “St. Ivan” was used, or if this was a reporter’s mistake.
In the Tribune article quoted above, Fr. John Kochurov is named as the assistant priest, with Fr. Pavel Kazanski as the parish rector (having apparently replaced Fr. Ambrose Vretta, who was transferred to Seattle). However, I’ve found several reports from 1896 which put it the other way round, with Kochurov as the rector and Kazanski as his assistant. It’s possible that the earlier Tribune article got it wrong; certainly, it would be odd to have a formal “installation” for an assistant priest. Most probably, Kazanski held down the fort until Kochurov arrived, at which point the former became the latter’s assitant.
In any event, the most interesting part of this story is the Fr. Bouroff, who was apparently removed from his post for daring to attend the University of Chicago. I know some of our readers here have connections to that institution; perhaps there is something in the school’s archives which could shed more light on this episode?
Of course, for the Chicago parish, everything worked out fine in the end. Kochurov would prove to be a dedicated and exemplary pastor, and he would lead the community for more than a decade. It’s interesting; recently, we discussed the fact that Fr. Evtikhy Balanovitch, in New York, got into trouble and was replaced by a saint, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky. Here, at exactly the same time, Fr. Bouroff got into trouble and was replaced by another saint, Fr. John Kochurov.
For the rest of the story on Fr. Basil Bouroff, click here.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article detailing some of the history of prayers for the US President in American Orthodox churches. After I published it, a reader named Andy Romanofsky sent along this excerpt from Chapter 1 of Archbishop Gregory Afonsky’s A History of the Orthodox Church in America: 1917-1939:
The faithful of the Orthodox Church in America never considered any form of political dependence on Russia. Just as in his own day the Russian Prince Vasili Dmitrievich (XIV century) stopped commemorating the Byzantine emperor in Russian churches on the grounds that, although the Russians received the Church from Byzantium, “they did not receive the emperor and will not have him,” so too Bishop Nicholas Zyorov, in 1896, reported to the Holy Synod that, “the commemoration of the Emperor and the Reigning House during divine services brings forth dismay and apprehension among Orthodox in America of non-Russian background. This practice is also a hindrance to the propagation of Orthodoxy among Russian Uniates who came to America from Austria-Hungary.” In an Ukase dated January 27, 1906, and addressed to Archbishop Tikhon, the Holy Synod confirmed the practice of commemorating the American President by name during divine services.
It’s not clear to me whether the Russian parishes in America actually ceased commemorating the Tsar, or whether they just began commemorating the US President along with the Russian Tsar. Frankly, I’d be very surprised if they simply removed the prayers for the Tsar altogether. They were, after all, still a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Russian hierarchs were still subjects of the Russian Emperor. If anyone has more details on this, please let me know.
As his name suggests, Valerian Gribayedoff was from Russia. He was born in Kronstadt in 1858, the son of a colonel in the Tsarist army. He studied in St. Petersburg and then went to England, where he appears to have been acquainted with the exiled French Emperor Napoleon III (aka Louis Napoleon). I’ll let the Wisconsin State Journal (8/21/1885) pick up his story:
Valerian wearied of home life and ran away to South America, where he entered the Chilian [sic] army as a drummer boy. At the close of the war with Peru he went to Russia and soon identified himself with certain political societies, which brought him under the notice of the government and compelled him to seek other climes. After a prolonged residence in Paris, Berlin and other European cities, he came to this country and engaged in journalism, which profession he followed until the craze for pictorial papers induced him to turn his artistic talents to account.
Gribayedoff did all this by the age of 25. He quickly became famous as an illustrator, renowned for his “keen insight into character” (New York Times, 2/17/1908) and his ability to convey that insight in black and white. When photography became more common, Gribayedoff learned how to use a camera, took photos, and then copied them as sketches. His works led directly to the rise of Sunday newspaper supplements, full of photos and illustrations.
He wasn’t just an illustrator, though. Gribayedoff continued his journalistic writing, tackling all manner of subjects. In 1895, he published his first and only full-length book, The French Invasion of Ireland. By this time, he was well-established as the leader of a growing group of New York-based illustrators.
Gribayedoff was tall, handsome, and charming. He made friends easily, and was a popular raconteur in late 19th century New York. He spoke many languages, and, having traveled throughout the world, he was as cultured as they come. His subjects didn’t even mind his camera; according to the Times, “his natural tact enabled him to take his pictures without the audacity of those who have taken his place.”
Coming from the Russian nobility, it is likely that Gribayedoff was baptized in the Orthodox Church, but it’s not clear whether he maintained his Orthodox faith into adulthood. Certainly, his period of youthful rebellion suggests that he probably abandoned Orthodoxy at some point; whether he rejoined the Church remains an open question.
That said, he made his own contribution to American Orthodox history, authoring (and illustrating) numerous articles on Orthodoxy for different US publications. In an 1892 article on the Russian Orthodox Church, Gribayedoff called it “that wonderful branch of organized Christianity.” After briefly recounting the history of Orthodoxy, he concluded, “It has a great mission to perform, and, on the whole, it is doing its work nobly.” (Christian Union, 12/10/1892)
Elsewhere, writing about Orthodox services aboard a Russian naval vessel, Gribayedoff said, “I cannot imagine a more grateful subject for the artist’s brush than these morning and evening devotions on board a Russian war-vessel, the rugged outlines of the worshipers softened by the dim half-light of early dawn or the twilight of evening; the plash of a distant oar, the cadence of flowing waters beyond the taffrail, lend an added charm to the scene, the poetry of which can be fully realized only by those who have witnessed it.” He went on: “A glance around at the earnest throngs will convince the most skeptical that he is indeed in a house of prayer!” (Christian Union, 6/10/1893)
Gribayedoff wrote several articles on Orthodoxy in the United States, which, of course, was a rather new thing in those days. He told his readers of the 1894 centennial of Orthodoxy in Alaska, and reported on the early conversions of Uniates to the Russian Church. In 1895, he reported on the creation of a Russian parish in New York; indeed, Gribayedoff’s account is one of our main sources for this landmark event. He must have known Barbara MacGahan, the Russian-born war correspondent who was largely responsible for founding the New York church. Of MacGahan, Gribayedoff wrote, “Without her efforts but little would have been attained.”
In 1897, Gribayedoff began to feel that America was becoming “too hurried and crowded.” He moved to Paris on very short notice, and he quickly gained renown there for his photos of the Dreyfus trial. During the Russo-Japanese War, Gribayedoff worked in Siberia as a correspondent for an American newspaper.
Valerian Gribayedoff died in Paris in 1908. He was just 50, but had lived a life fuller than most men twice his age. He left a wife and a 25-year-old son; the son, apparently as much a traveler as his father, was working as a surgeon in the Philippines.
From his writings, it’s clear that Gribayedoff knew a great deal about Orthodoxy. He had a good grasp of Orthodox history and theology, and he was well acquainted with many of the leading Orthodox figures of his own day. In many places, he spoke very highly of the Church, and while I have no evidence that he was a member, it would certainly not surprise me. Even if he was not Orthodox himself, his writings on Orthodoxy are valuable sources.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]