The concealed promotion of the Sergian Church that began with the annexation of the western borderlands in September 1939 became visible to the outside observers only four years later, when the locum tenens Sergii (Starogorodskii) was elected as Patriarch of Moscow. This shift started with the private audience that Stalin gave to the ruling triumvirate of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, namely, the metropolitans Sergii, Nikolay, and Alexii. William Fletcher defi nes this meeting as the beginning of “the informal concordat between Church and State” that provided the grounds for postwar church-state relations. 1

Soviet and foreign archives opened after the end of the Cold War shed additional light on this event. To a great degree, the “concordat” was Stalin’s answer to wartime international developments. Until the autumn of 1943, the Soviet leader demonstrated a changed attitude to the church in response to AngloAmerican pressure for more religious tolerance. Despite the measures taken, however, Soviet infl uence in Europe and America remained rather feeble. In the beginning of 1942, Nikolay (Yarushevich), the Metropolitan of Kiev, planned to visit the United States, where the Russian Orthodox community numbered 500,000. His trip, however, was canceled because he was refused an entrance visa. 2 Especially dangerous for the Kremlin’s international reputation was the discovery of the mass graves of thousands of Polish offi cers in Katyn Forest in April 1943. As a result, the Soviet regime had to make new concessions to its allies. On May 20, Joseph E. Davies, Roosevelt’s special envoy and former American ambassador to Moscow (1936-1938), visited Stalin and Molotov to hand in a letter from the American president. 3 He informed his hosts that “the Soviet image in the West would be improved, if they disbanded the Comintern and provided some evidence of religious freedom.” He also suggested that a few statements about religious freedom in the USSR, delivered at a propitious moment, “would be a very useful development among the American citizens.” 4 In fact, the Comintern was disbanded before Davies’s departure from Moscow. 5 The answer to the religious question, however, was held up by the Kremlin.