Posts tagged Russian
February 20, 1874: The future hieromartyr Vasily Martysz was born in Poland. He served in America — first in Alaska, and then in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, and Canada — from 1901 to 1912. He died in 1945 and was canonized by the the Orthodox Church of Poland in 2003. To read a biography of St. Vasily, click here.
February 20, 1900: At the behest of Bishop Tikhon, the Russian Holy Synod officially changed the name of its North American missionary diocese, from “Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska” to “Diocese of the Aleutians and North America.”
February 21, 1923: Serbian clergy held a meeting in Gary, Indiana, where they formally declared their independence from the Russian Church and their affiliation with the Serbian Church.
February 23, 1934: The Ukrainian Bishop Joseph Zuk died.
February 23, 1984: Archimandrite Serafim Surrency died in New York, at the age of 58. He was a historian, best known for his important work The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America (published in 1973). Until recently, Surrency’s book was the source for information on many American Orthodox historical subjects, including the American Orthodox Catholic Church, the Federation, and the early years of SCOBA. And, despite its limitations, the book remains an essential resource. One mystery which Fr. Oliver and I have been trying to solve for years is what became of Surrency’s personal files — we think they’re full of important material, but we don’t know what happened to them after he died.
February 24, 1904: The newly-consecrated Bishop Innocent Pustynsky arrived in America to take up his post as auxiliary bishop of Alaska. As Scott Kenworthy recounted in an interview with me last year, Bishop Tikhon had been trying for years to get an auxiliary to help govern his immense diocese. Eventually, Tikhon just went to Russia and refused to leave until he had a duly consecrated bishop in hand for his return voyage to America. Very soon after Bishop Innocent’s arrival, he and Tikhon consecrated Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny to the episcopate — the first Orthodox consecration in the New World.
February 24, 1931: The newly-elected Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou arrived in America to take charge of the Greek Archdiocese.
February 25, 1896: The future hieromartyr Alexander Hotovitzky was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. Fr. Alexander was assigned as rector of the fledgling St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in New York.
February 26, 1895: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich celebrated the first Orthodox services in the newly established multiethnic chapel in Portland, Oregon. (To read more, check out my 2009 article on early Orthodoxy in Portland.)
St. Nicholas Kasatkin, the missionary bishop of Japan, died 100 years ago today. He was remarkably well known in America, where both secular periodicals and Russian Church publications chronicled his ministry. The official newsletter of the Russian Mission was the Vestnik, known in English as the Russian Orthodox American Messenger and edited by Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky. When Bishop Nicholas died in 1912, the Vestnik ran a two-part article on Orthodoxy in Japan, beginning on March 14. They also published a brief eulogy, which we’ve reprinted below. While no author is credited for the eulogy, it was almost certainly written by Hotovitzky, who was not only the Vestnik editor but a sometime poet.
An irreparable loss! The Orthodox Church is mourning. Her most worthy son, the apostle of her teaching, has departed from earthly life. Before the news of the decease of the Most Reverend Nikolai, the glorious light-bringer of Japan, all the small struggles and discords which are vexing the organism of the Russian Orthodox Church shrink into insignificance. “Nikolai of Japan”: you have before you the most glorious page of the missionary work of the Orthodox Church, an Orthodox pastor’s service of more than fifty years in a foreign land, and what service! He gave himself up wholly to his sacred task, and wedding his bride, the Japanese Church, he kept those sacred ties unbroken until his latest breath. A unique example! While he lived, there was no need to prove to enquirers and questioners of the vitality of the Orthodox Church, and its missionary tendencies: it was enough to say “Nikolai of Japan”, and the whole world of other creeds and other faiths became silent in adoration: for all the powers of other creeds and other faiths could not show his equal among the ranks of their warriors!
Let us prostrate ourselves before thy sacred tomb, O light-bringer of Japan, true servant of Christ! And let us pray: — Be thou the representative, in the heavenly habitations, of thy beloved Orthodox Church, and may God save her from all injuries and obstacles, and may He send forth other light-bringers, even in part like to thee to illumine the world with the light of the Gospel of Christ!
One of the little mysteries I’ve been meaning to research for some time has a bit of a family connection. This past week, I finally had the opportunity to delve into it, and the results were far different than I ever anticipated.
My great-grandparents were married on May 2/15, 1908 at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in New York City. As someone who specializes in that particular era, and who has focused a lot of research on events and figures at St. Nicholas at the time, it’s always been a bit of a curiosity as to which priest married them. With the number of notable clegymen in and around New York at the time, and being a historian, I just had to know. Last week, while having lunch with my grandmother (their youngest daughter, now 97 years old), I asked if she had their marriage certificate. A few minutes later, she retrieved a rather fascinating set of documents from a file drawer, which included not only the answer to my original question, but also led me to something I think our readers would find interesting.
In 1916, my great-grandparents,who had moved to Detroit, wrote to the cathedral and requested the metrical records for their wedding and the baptisms of the three of their children who were born in New York. In return, they received pre-printed forms designed for this purpose, with the requested information from the metrical books filled in by hand by Vsevolod Andronoff, the cathedral’s deacon, and signed by Fr. Leonid Turkevich (the future Metropolitan Leonty), then the Dean of the Cathedral.
In the record for the marriage, I was surprised to find the name of a priest I had never seen before: Fr. Ilia Zotikov. When I got home, I searched through the print and online sources I normally use to find information on priests, and found surprisingly little. Other than the fact that he was in New York at the early part of the 20th century, Zotikov seemed to have fallen into obscurity. Then, like any crafty, 21st-century researcher, I ran a Google search in Russian. Dozens of hits popped up. This is where the story became something quite interesting.
In 1922, Fr. Ilia Zotikov, like untold thousands in his vocation during the Soviet era, was forced into the murky abyss of the Soviet prison system, where his personal and professional lives were interrupted by a dizzying series of arrests, trials, imprisonments, exile, and ultimately, death. Of course, Orthodox Americans are quite familiar with the Hieromartyr Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky, who is depicted and venerated in iconography throughout the world, and whose biography has been published far and wide. This has as much to do with the circumstances of his various trials and ultimate martyrdom in the Gulag in the Soviet Union as his prominence in the North American Diocese during the nearly two decades he served in the United States. Yet the same cannot be said for Zotikov, even though his life, ministry, and subsequent fate were quite similar, and intrinsically tied, to those of Hotovitzky.
Ilia Ivanovich Zotikov was born into a priestly family in Finland in 1863. He was educated at the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, where his classmates included John Kochurov and Alexander Hotovitzky. In 1895, Zotikov was one of a number of Russian seminarians recruited for service as missionaries in America by Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, Bishop of Alaska and the Aleutians. Zotikov was assigned to be an assistant to Fr. Evtikhy Balanovitch, and both were sent to New York City to start the small parish that would ultimately become St. Nicholas Cathedral.
They arrived in New York with their wives, both named Mary, on April 1, 1895 (NY Sun, 4/2/1895). On May 19th, Bp. Nicholas ordained Zotikov to the priesthood in the parish’s tiny house parlor sanctuary at 323 2nd Avenue (New York Herald, 5/20/1895). When Balanovitch left St. Nicholas in 1896, Zotikov stayed on to assist Balanovitch’s replacement, his seminary classmate Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky, who had been ordained a priest in San Francisco earlier in the year. Together they were instrumental in both the growth of the congregation and the subsequent building of the parish’s new church on 97th Street, which would become the cathedral of the entire North American Diocese in 1905. Hotovitzky became the Cathedral Dean, and Zotikov the Sacristan. It was there that Zotikov officiated the marriage of my great-grandparents in 1908, and where, as my grandmother’s files revealed, Hotovitzky baptized their first daughter two years later.
In the late summer of 1910, Zotikov returned to Russia. For most of the ensuing decade, he served in various parishes in St. Petersburg. In 1919, he was reassigned to Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, where, alongside Hotovitzky, he served as Sacristan of the Cathedral and assistant to Patriarch Tikhon, in a nearly identical arrangement to that at St. Nicholas Cathedral more than a decade before. There, the Patriarch, Hotovitzky, Zotikov, and Cathedral Dean Fr. Nicholas Arseniev were on the front lines of the defense against the repression of the Church by the Bolshevik government. Both Patriarch Tikhon and Fr. Alexander would be arrested and imprisoned multiple times in the early years of Bolshevik rule.
In early 1922, the Bolshevik government ordered the seizure of all ecclesiastical vessels and objects of value held by the Church. This was met with resistance by clergy and laity alike. The clergy of Christ the Savior Cathedral, led by Hotovitzky, were especially instrumental in resisting the order, and meetings were held at Hotovitzky’s apartment to draft resolutions in opposition. For his participation in these meetings, Zotikov was amongst a group of clergy and laity arrested in the spring of 1922, and was subsequently sent to Butyrki Prison.
In December, Zotikov, Hotovitzky, and others appeared before the Moscow Revolutionary Tribunal. Hotovitzky and two others were given ten-year sentences. Most of the others, Zotikov amongst them, were sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and one year of deprivation of civil rights. Appeals were unsuccessful, but in late 1923, many of the sentences were cut short on amnesty. Zotikov returned to Christ the Savior, and in 1924, was reassigned to the Descent of the Holy Spirit, where he remained for several years. Hotovitzky was left without a parish assignment, instead filling in where he was needed.
Zotikov was arrested again in June 1927. Found to be in possession of the “Solovki Declaration,” a document issued by bishops imprisoned in the Solovki prison camp in opposition to the Soviet government, Zotikov was again imprisoned at Butyrki, put on trial, and sentenced to three years of exile in Vladimir, about 120 miles east of Moscow. There, he became rector of a small cemetery chapel then serving as the cathedral for the entire Diocese of Vladimir following the forced closure of Dormition Cathedral earlier in 1927. By this point in time, Soviet law had restricted the clergy from nearly every aspect of their vocations, leaving priests like Zotikov on dangerous ground as they attempted to perform even the most basic sacramental duties. By 1929, widespread arrests of clergymen were underway.
In 1993, the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate published an article by Andrei Kozarzhevsky about parish life in Moscow in the 1920s and 1930s, which sheds some light on this period of Zotikov’s life. (Thе article was recently translated into English and published on the Russian website Pravoslavie.ru.) Kozarzhevsky was baptized by Zotikov in 1918, and was well acquainted with both Zotikov and Hotovitzky in his adolescence. As a child, he assisted Zotikov during services in Vladimir, and recalled Zotikov’s third arrest, on October 13th, 1930, for “membership in a counter-revolutionary organization of churchmen,” that being the Church.
On October 19th, 1930, Zotikov was convicted by the OGPU (the arm of the Soviet secret police who spearheaded the repression of religious groups) and was relegated to the notoriously brutal Vladimir Central Prison. On October 23rd, Zotikov was sent for execution. Some sources state both he and Protodeacon Michael Lebedev were shot by a firing squad, though Kozarzhevsky claims he suffered a fatal heart attack on the way to the execution. Regardless, Fr. Ilia Zotikov is considered a Hieromartyr, and is commemorated according to the church calendar with the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia on January 25/February 7.
Andrei Kozarzhevsky’s recollections of Zotikov do not end with his death. After Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky was martyred in the Gulag in 1937, Kozarzhevsky came into possession of a few of Hotovitzky’s personal effects, including a copy of a poem written by Hotovitzky in New York during the summer of 1910, on the occasion of a “triple event:” The feast of St. Elias, Zotikov’s name-day, and his imminent departure for Russia.
By any measure, it is clear that Zotikov and Hotovitzky (and their wives) were particularly close, a bond which apparently began in seminary, yet was forged largely in America. When Hotovitzky departed for Russia in 1900 to raise money for the building of St. Nicholas Church, it was Zotikov who officiated the service blessing his trip. When the church complex was finished, the Hotovitzkys and Zotikovs were neighbors in its apartments. Mary Hotovitzky and Mary Zotikov later served together on the board of the Cathedral Sisterhood.
Far away from their native land, the two former classmates depended on each other, and continued to do so after they were reunited in Russia, where they ultimately met similar fates in the Gulag. It is no surprise, then, that Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky’s 1910 poem was “dedicated to my best friend Fr. Ilia Zotikov.”
A note on sources: Much of the metrical data for this article, including the particular dates of Fr. Zotikov’s biography, can be found (in Russian) here. Additionally, biographical details and a brief biography of Zotikov can be found in The Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Central Russia (Vladimir Moss, 2009, 657-8), available for download (along with other similar works) here.
February 14, 1872: Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, on a tour of the United States, visited New Orleans and met with representatives of the city’s fledgling Orthodox parish. The Grand Duke presented gifts to the parish, including, most likely, a gold-embossed Gospel book. 130 years later, the parish still has these gifts.
February 14, 1959: The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elected Fr. James Coucouzis to be the new Greek Archbishop of North and South America. The new primate took the name Iakovos and was the most prominent and influential figure in American Orthodoxy until his retirement in the 1990s.
February 15, 1966: Antiochian Metropolitan Antony Bashir died in Boston at the age of 67. He had led the Antiochian Archdiocese of New York for three decades, and was one of the most important American Orthodox bishops of his time. For more on Bashir, check out the article and podcast I did two years ago.
February 17, 1977: Metropolitan Orestes Chornock, founding primate of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, died. There is a nice little biography of Met Orestes on the ACROD website; click here to read it.
February 19, 1909: In South Omaha, Nebraska, a Greek man named John Masourides shot and killed policeman Ed Lowery. Two days later, a mass meeting was called to decide how to “rid the city of the undesirable Greeks.” At the close of the meeting, a mob descended on the Greek quarter. They attacked the Greeks, rioted, and destroyed property. The Greeks fled the city. The governor called in the National Guard. Order was restored, but the bigots of South Omaha had accomplished their goal: the Greeks were gone, and most of them would never return. The mass exodus almost wiped out the parish of St. John the Baptist. To learn more, check out this article I wrote in 2010.
February 6, 1993: Bishop Job Osacky was enthroned as the new OCA Bishop of Chicago, almost exactly ten years after his consecration to the episcopate. Bishop (and later Archbishop) Job went on to become a key advocate for transparency in the recent OCA crisis before his untimely death in 2009.
February 8, 1973: St. Vladimir’s Seminary professor Basil Bensin died in North Carolina. Bensin lived an eventful life. Born in Russia in 1881, he met St. Tikhon (then the Bishop of North America) in 1903, when Tikhon was on a visit to St. Petersburg. Tikhon recruited Bensin to come to America, taking a position as professor at the first Russian seminary in Minneapolis from 1905-1912. In 1912, he earned a degree in agricultural sciences from the University of Minnesota — a credential which would come in handy later. The seminary moved to Tenafly, NJ, and Bensin continued to teach until the turmoil following the Bolshevik Revolution made seminary life impossible. Bensin moved to Czechoslovakia for a decade before returning to America to work as an agricultural engineer in Alaska. When St. Vladimir’s Seminary was established in 1938, Bensin was one of the original professors, and he remained at SVS until his retirement in 1952. In retirement, Bensin continued his scholarly work, devoting a lot of time to researching the history of Orthodoxy in America. He produced only a few articles on the subject, but there must be valuable material in his notes (which are kept at SVS). (My sources for this information are Bensin’s obituary in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly and a short biography at the Hoover Institution website.)
February 9, 1908: Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny ordained Theophan Noli, an Albanian student at Harvard, to the priesthood, on behalf of Russian Archbishop Platon Rozhdestvensky. Two years ago, I wrote about Noli’s first Albanian liturgy, but I erroneously said that Archbishop Platon had performed Noli’s ordination. But apart from that mistake, that old article is still pretty decent, and if you want to know more about Noli, you might check it out.
February 11, 1962: In Damascus, Fr. Michael Shaheen was consecrated as the Antiochian Bishop of Toledo, Ohio. This is a complicated story, and I don’t have time to tell it all here, but the gist of it is this: Since the mid-1930s, the Antiochians in America had been divided into two overlapping jurisdictions — the Archdiocese of New York (led by Metropolitan Antony Bashir) and the Archdiocese of Toledo (led by Metropolitan Samuel David). Met Samuel had died in 1958, and after a lot of behind-the-scenes machinations, the Antiochian Holy Synod chose Archimandrite Michael Shaheen to replace him. But Shaheen was a priest of the New York — not Toledo — Archdiocese, and although he was consecrated with the title “Bishop of Toledo,” in reality he was to serve merely as an auxiliary to Met Antony. In this way, it was hoped, the two Antiochian jurisdictions would be united at last. But it didn’t work: the Toledo parishes refused to accept Bp Michael unless he denounced Met Antony. In response to the impasse, the Holy Synod changed course, recognizing Toledo as an independent diocese and raising Bp Michael to the rank of Metropolitan. In this way, the Antiochian schism persisted for another 13 years, until Metropolitan Michael accepted a demotion of sorts, recognizing the authority of Bashir’s successor Metropolitan Philip Saliba for the sake of unity.
February 12, 1907: Bishop Platon Rozhdestvensky was elected to the Second State Duma (equivalent to a parliament) in Russia. Within months, he would replace Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin as primate of the Russian Archdiocese in North America.