THE HISTORIC PETROGRAD DELEGATION OF 1927
- THE HISTORIC PETROGRAD DELEGATION OF 1927
AN INTERVIEW WITH METROPOLITAN SERGIUS
The Infamous Declaration of Metropolitan Sergius, issued on July
16|29, 1927, gave a profound shock to the entire Russian Orthodox
world. From every corner of the Russian land there resounded the
voices of protest of clergy and laymen. A mass of "Epistles" was
sent to Metropolitan Sergius, and copies of them were sent
throughout the land. The authors of these "Epistles" implored
Metropolitan Sergius to renounce the ruinous path he had chosen.
After a whole torrent of such "Epistles" of protest, an unending
file of delegations began to stream to Metropolitan Sergius in
One of such countless delegations was the historic Delegation of the
Petrograd Diocese, which came to Moscow on November 27, 1927, being
composed of the following members: His Grace Dimitry Liubimov,
Bishop of Gdov (Vicar of the Petrograd Diocese), Archpriest Victorin
Dobronravov, Prof. I. M. Andreev (myself), and C. A. Alexeev. Bishop
Dimitry represented Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd and had with
him a long letter that had been signed by seven bishops who were in
Petrograd (among whom, besides Metropolitan Joseph and Bishop
Dimitry, were Bp. Gabriel, Bp. Stephen, and Bp. Sergius of Narva).
Archpriest Dobronravov represented a numerous group of Petrograd
clergy and had with him a letter from them, which was signed by
Archpriest Professor F. K. Andreev. I represented the academic
circles and brought a letter from a group of academicians and
professors of the Academy of Sciences, the University, and other
higher institutions of learning; the letter had been composed by
Professor S. S. Abramovich-Baranovsky (formerly of the Academy of
Military Jurisprudence) and Professor M. A. Novoselovy (the well-
known publisher and editor of the "Library of Religion and Monks,"
who was then secretly living in Petrograd and Moscow). S. A. Alexeev
represented the broad masses of the people.
Despite the fact that the Petrograd Delegation came to Moscow after
many other delegations that had come with the same purpose, it was
received without waiting its turn. The Delegation's interview with
Metropolitan Sergius lasted for two hours.
After going to Metropolitan Sergius, all members of the Delegation
went up to him to receive his blessing, introduced themselves and
testified that they had come as faithful children of the Orthodox
When Metropolitan Sergius had finished reading the letters that had
been brought to him (from the episcopate, from the clergy, and from
the laity), Bishop Dimitry, who was 70 years old, fell to his knees
before him and exclaimed in tears: "Vladika! Listen to us, in the
name of Christ!"
Metropolitan Sergius immediately raised him up from his knees,
seated him in an armchair, and said in a firm and somewhat irritated
voice: "What is there to listen to? Everything you have written has
been written by others earlier, and to all this I have already
replied many times clearly and definitely. What remains unclear to
"Vladika!" began Bishop Dimitry in a trembling voice with copious
tears"At the time of my consecration you told me that I should be
faithful to the Orthodox Church and, in case of necessity, that I
should be prepared to lay down my own life as well for Christ. And
now such a time of confession has come and I wish to suffer for
Christ; but you, by your Declaration, instead of a path to Golgotha
propose that we stand on the path of collaboration with a God-
fighting regime that persecutes and blasphemes Christ; you propose
that we rejoice with its joys and sorrow with its sorrows Our
rulers strive to annihilate religion and the Church and rejoice at
the destruction of churches, rejoice at the successes of their anti-
religious propaganda. This joy of theirs is the source of our sorrow.
You propose that we thank the Soviet government for its attention to
the needs of the Orthodox population. But how is that attention
expressed? In the murder of hundreds of bishops, thousands of
priests, and millions of faithful. In the defilement of holy things,
the mockery of relics, in the destruction of an immense number of
churches and the annihilation of all monasteries. Surely it would be
better if they did not give us such 'attention!'"
"Our government" Metropolitan Sergius suddenly interrupted Bp.
Dimitry "has persecuted the clergy only for political crimes."
"That is a slander!" Bishop Dimitry cried out heatedly.
"We wish to obtain a reconciliation of the Orthodox Church with the
governing regime," Metropolitan Sergius continued with
irritation, "While you are striving to underline the counter-
revolutionary character of the Church Consequently, you are counter-
revolutionaries, whereas we are entirely loyal to the Soviet regime!"
"That is not true!" exclaimed Bishop Dimitry heatedly. "That is
another slander against the confessors, martyrs, and those who have
been shot and those who are languishing in concentration camps and
in banishment What counter-revolutionary act did the executed
Metropolitan Benjamin perform? In what lies the 'counter-revolution'
in the position of Metropolitan Peter of Krutitsk?!"
"And the Sobor of Karlovtsy, in your opinion, also did not have a
political character?" Metropolitan Sergius interrupted him again.
"There was no Sobor of Karlovtsy in Russia," Bishop Dimitry replied
quietly, "and many martyrs in the concentration camps knew nothing
of this Sobor."
"I personally," continued Bishop Dimitry, "am a completely
apolitical man, and if I myself had to accuse myself to the GPU, I
couldn't imagine anything of which I am guilty before the Soviet
regime. I only sorrow and grieve, seeing the persecution against
religion and the Church. We pastors are forbidden to speak of this,
and we are silent. But to the question whether there is any
persecution against religion and the Church in the USSR, I could not
reply otherwise than affirmative! When they proposed to you,
Vladika, to write your Declaration, why did you not reply like
Metropolitan Peter, that you can keep silence, but cannot say what
"And where is the untruth?" exclaimed Metropolitan Sergius.
"In the fact," replied Bishop Dimitry "that persecution against
religion, the 'opium of the people' according to the Marxist dogma,
not only exists among us, but in its cruelty, cynicism, and
blasphemy has passed all limits!"
"Well, we are fighting with this," remarked Metropolitan
Sergius, "but we are fighting legally, and not like counter-
revolutionaries And when we shall have demonstrated our completely
loyal position with regard to the Soviet regime, the results will be
even more noticeable. Probably we will be able, as a counterbalance
to the Atheist, to publish our own little religious journal "
"You have forgotten, Vladika," remarked Archpriest
Dobronravov, "that the Church is the Body of Christ, and not a
consistory with a 'little journal' under the censorship of an
"It is not our political, but our religious conscience that does not
permit us to join ourselves to your Declaration," I noted.
"I wish to suffer for Christ, and you propose that we renounce Him,"
said C. A. Alexeev with bitterness.
"And so you want a schism?!" Metropolitan Sergius asked
"Do not forget that the sin of schism is not washed away even by the
blood of martyrdom! The majority is in agreement with me," he added
"Voices must be weighed, not counted, Vladika," I objected. "After
all, Metropolitan Peter, the lawful Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal
not in agreement with you; nor are Metropolitans Agathangel, Cyril,
and Joseph; nor such lamps as Metropolitan Arsenius, Archbishop
Seraphim of Uglich, Archbishop Pachomius, Bishops Victor, Damaskin,
Avericus, and many others; nor the Elders of Optina, nor the
prisoners of Solovki "
"Truth is not always where the majority is," remarked Archpriest
Dobronravov; "otherwise the Saviour would not have spoken of
the 'little flock.' And the head of a Church has not always turned
out to be on the side of Truth. It is sufficient to recall the time
of Maximus the Confessor."
"By my new church policy I am saving the Church," Metropolitan
Sergius replied deliberately.
"What are you saying, Vladika!" all members of the Delegation
exclaimed with one voice. "The Church does not have need of
salvation," added Archpriest Dobronravov; "the gates of hell shall
no prevail against it. You yourself, Vladika, have need of salvation
through the Church."
"I meant that in a different sense," replied Metropolitan Sergius,
"And why, Vladika, did you order that a prayer for the regime be
introduced into the Liturgy, while a the same time you forbade
prayer for 'those in prisons and in banishment?'" I asked.
"Do I really have to remind you of the well-known text of the
Apostle Paul concerning the authorities?" Metropolitan Sergius asked
"And as for the prayer for 'those in banishment,' many deacons make
a demonstration out of this."
"And then, Vladika, will you change the Beatitudes in the Liturgy?"
I again objected; "after all, one can make a demonstration out of
"I am not altering the Liturgy," Metropolitan Sergius said dryly.
"And who needs the prayer for the regime? Certainly the atheist
Soviet regime does not need it. And believers could pray only in the
sense of the entreaty 'for the softening of the hard hearts of our
rulers,' or 'for the enlightenment of those in error.' But to pray
for an anti-Christian regime is impossible."
"Really!What kind of Antichrist do you find here?" replied Metr.
Sergius with a disdainful gesture of the hand.
"But the spirit is precisely that of Antichrist," I insisted. "And
what called for this prayer? Did they force you to introduce this
"Well, I myself found it necessary."
"No, Vladika, answer as before God, from the depths of your
archpastoral conscience: did they force you to do this, as with much
else in your 'new church policy,' or not?"
This question had to be repeated stubbornly and persistently many
times, before Metr. Sergius finally replied: "Well, so they press
one, and force onebut I myself think that way, too," he concluded
hastily and fearfully.
"And why, Vladika, did you order that right after the name of Metr.
Peter your own name be commemorated? We have heard that this also
was ordered from higher up, with the intention of soon omitting the
name of Metr. Peter altogether." Metr. Sergius did not reply to this
(In 1936 the commemoration of Metr. Peter, who died in 1937 or 1938,
"And who appointed your 'Temporary Patriarchal Synod?' And who has
occupied himself with the appointment and transference of bishops?
Why was Metr. Joseph (of Petrograd) removed against the wishes of
his flock? We know, Vladika, that all this is done by the
unofficial 'ober-procurator' of your Synod, the Communist secret
police agent Tuchkov, against your wishes."
"Where did you take all that from?" Metr. Sergius asked, somewhat
"Everyone knows it, Vladika."
"And with whom have you surrounded yourself, Vladika?" added
Archpriest Dobronravov. "The very name of Bishop (later 'Patriarch')
Alexei Simansky is enough to discredit your whole Synod."
Metropolitan Sergius stood up and said that he would think about
everything we had said and give a short written reply in three days.
The audience was finished. In three days Metr. Sergius gave a
written reply, repeating in general and nebulous expressions the
theses of his Declaration.
The delegation returned to Petrograd. And in a short time a schism
occurred. To those who broke off communion with Metr. Sergius, the
latter replied by interdictions; the organs of the secret police
cynically helped him.
The members of the Petrograd Delegation were soon arrested and
suffered terribly. The aged Bp. Dimitry was put in the Yaroslavl
political isolation ward for ten years, and then was shot.
Archpriest Dobronravov was sent to a Siberian concentration camp for
ten years, and then was sentenced to ten more years, without right
of correspondence. I was sent to the concentration camp at Solovki.
S. A. Alexeev, after becoming a priest, was shot.
The true Russian Orthodox Church went into the catacombs, where it
remains to the present day as an invisible city of Kitezh,
preserving itself as the unspotted Bride of Christ.