October 20, 2012
English translation by Igor Radev
METROPOLITAN NESTOR ENLIGHTENER OF THE PEOPLES OF KAMCHATKA
(On the 50th anniversary of his blessed repose)
Metropolitan Nestor (Nikolai Aleksandrivich Anisimov) was born on November 9/22 1885, in the town of Vyatka, on the Feast of the Icon of the Mother of God "Steadfast Helper". From his early childhood on, he was marked by deep religiosity. After finishing his secular elementary education, he enrolled at the Missionary Department of Kazan Spiritual Academy.
In 1907, following his soul's craving, as well as God's will, and after receiving blessing from the righteous John of Kronstadt, Nikolai Anismov set his mind on the path of missionary work. On April 17, 1907, in Transfiguration Monastery of Kazan, he received monastic tonsure under name of Nestor. On May 6, 1907, he was elevated to the rank of a hierodeacon, and three days later he was ordained a hieromonk.
On June 2, 1907, Fr. Nestor set off for the venue of his missionary service Kamchatka. During 1907-1909, Hieromonk Nestor under harsh environmental conditions, conscientiously, often being in life-threatening situations, performed his pastoral duties by preaching the Word of God and receiving into the faith in Christ thousands of native pagan Kamchadals. His deep regard for the people, their language and their customs, as well as his unceasing willingness to tend the sick, the infirm and the indigent, brought Hieromonk Nestor deeply felt love and the trust of his flock even from the farthest parts of this large geographical area. And still, the young shepherd of souls wasn't fully satisfied with his efforts. He understood that relying only on his meager strength he could never resolve the problems of all of the inhabitants of distant Kamchatka. It was necessary to attract the attention of those with more power in the world: the clergy, all honorable people willing to provide help to their neighbors, to the poor, the sick, the drunkards, the ignorant and to those suffering under the duress of arrogant officials.
In the beginning of 1910, after receiving the blessing of the governing Hierarch, Fr. Nestor went to Saint Petersburg, where he was confronted with the callousness and even the enmity of the bureaucrats from the Holy Synod and its over-procurator. However, that didn't discourage the young hieromonk. Employing strenuous efforts, he succeeded in swaying large portion of the Orthodox public, including some members of the State Duma, to the idea of forming a Brotherhood. Still, a crucial role was played by the personal involvement of the Holy Sovereign Nikolai Alexandrovich, Holy Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna and the Tsarina Mother Maria Fedorovna. As a result of those efforts, on September 14, 1910, the Charitable Brotherhood of the Not-made-by-hands Icon of the All-merciful Savior was formed in Vladivostok. Soon, branches were formed in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and other Russian cities. Eminent people from all walks of life (the clergy, social and political dignitaries, representatives of culture and the sciences, merchants, businessmen, aristocrats) thought it an honor to become members and donors of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was also helped by the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Archbishop Nikolai of Japan, the Holy Martyr Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fedorovna, Holy Hieromartyr Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kiev and Galitsia, Saint Macarius, Metropolitan of Altai. Material Assistance was also provided by the Imperial Family. The Brotherhood received a church, liturgical vessels, money, and transport privileges as gifts. The Holy Crown Prince Alexy Nikolaevich became the official patron of the Brotherhood.
During 1910-1917, the Brotherhood oversaw the mass construction of churches, chapels, schools, hospices, hospitals and infirmaries.
After mastering the Tungus (Evenki) and Koryak languages, Hieromonk Nestor translated into them the Divine Liturgy, parts of the Gospel and selected prayers. Due to this work, Fr. Nestor in 1913 was elevated to the rank of Abbot. Already then he was begun to be called, quite deservedly, Apostle of Kamchatka.
With the beginning of the Great War in 1914, Fr. Nestor organized and led the medical unit "First Aid under Enemy Fire". Joining the Guard of the Dragoon regiment, mounted on a horse, he accompanied the soldiers on their filed campaigns, where he personally evacuated the wounded from the battlefield, and then transported them, comforted them and organized their dispatch to infirmaries. For his pastoral mercy and tremendous courage Abbot Nestor was awarded the highest military award given to clergy Pectoral Cross on St. George's Ribbon, and also several military honors (of St. Anna, 2nd and 3rd degree; of St. Vladimir, 4th degree).
At the end of 1915, after Fr. Nestor was demobilized from the front, he was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite and continued his pastoral mission in Kamchatka.
On October 16, Fr. Nestor was ordained a Bishop and was appointed to the post of governing Hierarch of the newly formed Kamchatka Diocese. The years spent in Kamchatka he deemed to be the happiest in his life.
Bishop Nestor was among the few hierarchs who denounced the February Revolution, considering it to be masterminded by the enemies of Russia. In 1917-1918 he took part in the All-Russia Local Council and in the election of Holy Patriarch Tikhon. Following the Bolshevik coup, during the flare up of the October revolutionary events in Moscow, he walked at night through the city streets carrying a first aid kit, and braving the danger, he picked up the injured, giving them the necessary medical help. With the Council's blessing, as a member of the Committee for photographing and recording the damages done to Kremlin by the Bolsheviks, Bishop Nestor published the incriminatory book "The Shooting of Moscow Kremlin", which was recognized as an important historical document of that era. During the same period he became an inspirer and organizer of the only genuine attempt (unfortunately without success) to rescue the Imperial Family. In March, 1918, the Bishop was arrested for the first time by the Bolsheviks and spent a month in prison. He was released only after pressure was put by the Local Council and all the faithful. At that time all of Orthodox Moscow stood behind the young Hierarch.
After the Council concluded with its work, Bishop Nestor, facing many difficulties, traveled to Petropavlovsk of Kamchatka via Kiev, Odessa, Crimea, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, India and China. There he continued his episcopal service. But soon he was evicted from Kamchatka by the Bolsheviks.
Having found himself in a forced emigration in Harbin (Manchuria), the Bishop painfully endured the separation with his beloved Homeland, but nevertheless he did not despair. Doubling his energy, he continued his pastoral, catechetical, charitable and public activities, and soon he became one of the recognized leaders of the Far East branch of the Russian Emigration. In 1921, he formed in Harbin a "Kamchatka representative house" and later the "House of Mercy and Labor", which was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of adults and children, who were caught up in the whirlwind of the civil war. Through the Bishop's effort, at the premises of the "House of Mercy", a church and memorial chapel dedicated to the Crowned Martyrs were constructed.
Regardless the turmoil that had beset the life of the Church during the 20s and 30s in the Homeland, as well as in the Russian Diaspora, Bishop Nestor remained faithful to the idea of unity of the suffering Mother Church. During that period, the Bishop visited a number of European and Asian countries, meeting with the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and the hierarchs of several local Orthodox Churches, in addition to eminent representatives of the Russian emigration. He also managed to go to a pilgrimage in the Holy Land. In 1938-39 he was engaged in missionary work in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). In 1933, he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop, and in 1941 he was bestowed the honour to wear a cross on his mitre.
Vladika Nestor never held any illusions regarding the true nature of the Bolshevik government in Russia. Its God-opposing essence was perceived and publicized by him already in October 1917, having witnessed the tragic events during the storming of Moscow's Kremlin by the Bolsheviks, and also by being an active participant of many an episode of the Civil War in the Ukraine, in Crimea, in Siberia and the Far East. Being consistent in his attitudes, Vladika Nestor always publically expressed his negative views on the Bolshevik regime, which he has done either conversationally or through numerous books, booklets and articles. This confidence in the inevitable fall of the God-opposing regime didn't leave Vladika even to the end of his days.
In addition to that, he always remained an ardent patriot of his Homeland and an unwavering supporter of the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church. With the beginning of the Great Fatherland War, Vladika decided that in those years of trial for the Homeland, he shouldn't be outside the Mother Church. So, in 1943, at the most difficult time for the country, when no one could have foreseen the outcome of the war, he secretly restored contact with the Moscow Patriarchate. These contacts called for secrecy during a certain length of time, since under the brutal regime of the Japanese occupation they could have brought deadly consequences both to Vladika and to his flock. However, even in his sermons he put forward with renewed strength the subject of the holy duty to protect one's Fatherland from its subjugators, which received lively response from the parishioners, strengthening their patriotic feelings.
In June 1945, before USSR began its military action against Japan, Vladika Nestor decided to make not only a courageous, but by the standards of that time, a truly heroic act, namely, to commemorate during the Divine Services the name of His Holiness, the Patriarch of Moscow and All of Russia. Under his initative, all of the Harbin hierarchs signed the appeal addressed to the Patriarch of Moscow, asking to be received together with their flock under his omophorion.
In August 1945, Archbishop Nestor together with the other Russian inhabitants of Manchuria was joyful about the coming of the liberating army, when he also met with its commanders.
In 1946, Vladika Nestor was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy I, and was subsequently assigned with the post of Governing Hierarch of Harbin and Manchuria and Patriarchal Exarch of East Asia. Vladika's activities in those difficult post-war years were also fruitful.
On June 14, 1948, on the very day he planned to leave Harbin for Moscow, in order to attend the 500th anniversary of the autocephaly of the Russian Orthodox Church, Vladika was arrested by the Chinese authorities and was deported to the USSR. By a special decision of the state security organs of the USSR, the Hierarch was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in a concentration camp. His judicial conviction was due to the publishing of his book "The Shooting of Moscow Kremlin" and also to his ecclesiastical and social activity during the years of emigration. He served his sentence in the camps of Mordovia for "important state criminals", the so called Special Camps No. 3 (Dubravlag). Even the hard years of imprisonment accompanied by cruel torture, harassment and humiliation did not break the spirit of the Hierarch.
After his release in 1956, Vladika was appointed Metropolitan of Novosibirsk and Barnaul. It was then the largest diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, which at that time included the territories of Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk and Altai regions, as well as the Tuva Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (that it is to say, almost 20% of the total territory of the USSR).
Burdened by many infirmities and half-blind, he still found strength to preach the Word of God, not only in the larger cities of his diocese (like: Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, Barnaul, Biysk, Kizil, Achinsk), but also in the remote villages, where, according to his own testimony, a Hierarch had never set foot, and the people haven't seen a Bishop or a Service delivered by Bishop's hands. This produced a notable revival of the Church life in his diocese. Vladika protested against the closure of churches and raised the question of opening new parishes and a Spiritual Seminary. This high profiled activity of Metropolitan Nestor caused displeasure among the authorities, who organized persecutions against the Hierarch.
In December 1958, Metropolitan Nestor was entrusted with the governance of Kirovgrad and Nikolaevsk dioceses. During that period, in spite of the continuous persecution, he travelled around his diocese, preaching the Word of God and protesting against the closure of churches done by the God-opposing government. In those difficult times, just prior to the closure of the Kiev-Pechora Lavra of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, Vladika visited the monastery, in order to give comfort to the Abbot and his brotherhood by reinforcing in them the assurance in the inevitable victory of Christ's Faith. In 1961, Vladika finished his remarkably sincere book of recollections, which was in later years republished many times.
Metropolitan Nestor reposed on October 22 / November 4, 1962, in Moscow, on the Feast of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. During the funeral service, the prayer for the deceased on behalf of the reposed Hierarch was read by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy I. Vladika was buried at the premises of the Transfiguration Church in the Patriarchal Representation in Peredelkino.
The Orthodox people keep the grateful memory of the great missionary, the humble offeror of prayers, merciful pastor, remarkable man, fervent patriot, brilliant preacher and eminent ecclesiastical writer. Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka Diocese filed a petition before the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church with a supplication for glorification of the Enlightener of the peoples of Kamchatka.
May God remember thy Hierarchical Dignity in His Kingdom!
© Alexander Karaulov, Valery Korostelev