ABSTRACT

After the death of Patriarch Sergii, his policy of reunion was continued by Metropolitan Alexii (Simanskii), who became the locum tenens of the Moscow patriarchal see. He paid special attention to those Russian eparchies and missions that remained outside the Red Army route. The attempts to return them under the control of the Moscow church administration were justifi ed by the old imperial practice, according to which, “the Russian Church exerted its jurisdiction over all Russian subjects without regard for whether they are inside or outside the state territory.” 2 The reunion of the scattered Orthodox Russian émigrés with the Moscow Patriarchate was aimed at restoring the old church unity, as was clearly stated by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchal Church of Moscow in its Decree No. 32, issued on December 24, 1946:

Now, thank God, the Moscow Patriarchal Throne is the ecclesiastical center of one united Russian Orthodox Church, a center uniting the faithful Orthodox Russian people both in our Fatherland as well as beyond its borders. And the Patriarchate “of Moscow and all Russias ” [italics added] stands unchallengeably and fi rmly on guard over canonical order and Orthodox truth. 3

At the same time, church reunion had a different meaning for the Stalinist regime. It was regarded as a means for limiting the grounds on which anti-Soviet forces could claim that religion was persecuted in the USSR. In case of success, this reunion was expected to be put enormous human resources, as well as the property of Russian émigré churches outside the Soviet Union, at the disposal of the Kremlin. It was also intended to curtail the anti-Soviet activity of the Karlovci Synod. As a result of the joint efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate and Soviet diplomats in the regions beyond Stalin’s grasp, 21 Russian hierarchs and 285 parishes abroad were “reunited” in the period 1945-1946. 4 The émigré press, with the exception of the Karlovci publications, softened its criticisms against the Soviet Union. The pro-Moscow stand of Metropolitan Evlogii in Paris and Bishop Nestor in Harbin also had a positive effect on the Soviet citizenship campaign at the end of the war. 5

The Soviet victory in the war called into question the future of the Karlovci Synod. On August 10, 1945, Patriarch Alexii approached its hierarchy with a query about their canonical legitimacy. He quoted the decrees of Patriarch Tikhon and his successor, the late Patriarch Sergii, concerning the Karlovci Synod and recalled their inhibition over its activity. Alexii’s criticism was especially sharp concerning the collaboration of Karlovci hierarchs with Nazi Germany. According to him, their betrayal was a direct result of the moral degradation of the Russian bishops in exile. Alexii linked the beginning of this degradation with the 1920s, when the Karlovci higher churchmen broke their episcopal oaths and left the jurisdiction of their mother church. In this way, their schismatic malfeasance naturally brought about their alliance with Hitler. 6 In the end of his letter Patriarch Alexii warned that “an ecclesiastical tribunal, composed of high dignitaries of the Russian Orthodox Church, in agreement with all the Eastern Patriarchs, an agreement which they had communicated to us, will pronounce its fi nal decision on those who reject the hand which the Mother Church stretches out to them for the last time.” 7 This document pursued a twofold aim. On the one hand, it intended to intensify the crisis of the Karlovci hierarchy caused by the defeat of Nazi Germany. On the other hand, it had to present the Moscow Patriarchate as a true defender of the purity of Orthodoxy and its canons.