Note by G.G. Karpov on the reception by JV Stalin of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. September 1943

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Note by G.G. Karpov on the reception by JV Stalin of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. September 1943

Archive source: Russian patriarchs of the twentieth century. The fate of the Fatherland and the Church on the pages of archival documents. Moscow. RAGS publishing house. 1999. p. 283‐291

Archive: GA RF. F. 6991. Op. 1.D. 1.L. 1 ‐ 10. Original.

September 1943

On September 4, 1943, I was summoned to Comrade Stalin, where I was asked the following questions:

a)   what is Metropolitan Sergius (age, physical condition, his authority in the church, his attitude towards the authorities),

b)   a brief description of Metropolitans Alexy and Nicholas,

c)    when and how Tikhon was elected to the patriarch,

d)  what kind of ties does the Russian Orthodox Church have with abroad,

e)   who are the Patriarchs of Ecumenical, Jerusalem and others,

f)    what do I know about the leadership of the Orthodox Churches in

Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania,

g)   in what material conditions are Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy and

Nicholas now,

h)   the number of parishes of the Orthodox Church in the USSR and the number of the episcopate.

After I had answered the above questions, I was asked three personal questions:

a)  am I Russian,

b)  from what year in the party,

c)   what kind of education do I have and why am I familiar with church issues.

After that, Comrade Stalin said:

‐ It is necessary to create a special body that would liaise with the leadership of the church. What suggestions do you have?

Having made a reservation that I was not quite ready for this issue, I made a proposal to organize a department for religious affairs under the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and proceeded from the fact that there was a permanent Commission on religious affairs under the AllRussian Central Executive Committee.

Comrade Stalin, correcting me, said that it was not necessary to organize a commission or department for religious affairs under the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, that we were talking about organizing a special body under the Government of the Union and that it could be about forming either a committee or a council. Asked my opinion.

When I said that I was at a loss to answer this question, Comrade Stalin, after a little thought, said:

1)                   it is necessary to organize under the Government of the Union, that is, under the Council of Peopleʹs Commissars, a Council, which we will call the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church;

2)                   the Council will be entrusted with the implementation of relations between the Government of the Union and the Patriarch;

3)                   The Council does not make independent decisions, reports and receives instructions from the Government.

After that, Comrade Stalin exchanged views with Comrades. Malenkov, Beria on the question whether he should receive Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy, Nicholas, and also asked me how I look at the fact that the Government will accept them.

All three said they considered this a positive fact.

After that, right there, at Comrade Stalinʹs dacha, I received an order to call Metropolitan Sergius and convey the following on behalf of the Government: “The representative of the Council of Peopleʹs

Commissars of the Union is speaking with you. The Government has a desire to receive you, as well as Metropolitans Alexy and Nicholas, to listen to your needs and to any questions you have. The government can receive you either today, in an hour and a half, or if this time does not suit you, then the reception can be organized tomorrow (Sunday) or any day of the following week. ʺ

Immediately, in the presence of Comrade Stalin, phoned Sergius and introduced myself as a representative of the Council of Peopleʹs Commissars, I conveyed the above and asked to exchange views with Metropolitans Alexy and Nicholas, if they are at this time with Metropolitan Sergius.

After that I reported to Comrade Stalin that Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy and Nikolai thanked the Government for such attention and would like to be received today.

Two hours later, Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy and Nikolai arrived in the Kremlin, where they were received by Comrade Stalin in the office of the Chairman of the Council of Peopleʹs Commissars of the USSR. Comrade Molotov and myself were present at the reception.

Comrade Stalinʹs conversation with the metropolitans lasted 1 hour and 55 minutes.

Comrade Stalin said that the Union Government knew about their patriotic work in the churches from the first day of the war, that the Government had received a lot of letters from the front and from the rear, approving the position taken by the church in relation to the state.

Comrade Stalin, briefly noting the positive significance of the patriotic activity of the church during the war, asked Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy and Nicholas to speak out about the issues that the patriarchate had and they personally had, but unresolved issues.

Metropolitan Sergius told Comrade Stalin that the most important and most urgent issue is the question of the central leadership of the church, since for almost 18 years [he] has been the patriarchal locum tenens and personally thinks that it is unlikely that there are such lasting harm [difficulties], that there has been no Synod in the Soviet Union since 1935, and therefore he considers it desirable that the Government would permit the assembly of a bishopsʹ council, which will elect a patriarch, and also form a body consisting of 5‐6 bishops.

Metropolitans Alexy and Nicholas also spoke in favor of the formation of the Synod and substantiated this proposal for education as the most desirable and acceptable form, saying also that they consider the election of the patriarch at the Bishopsʹ Council quite canonical, since in fact the church has been led permanently for 18 years by the patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Sergius.

Having approved the proposals of Metropolitan Sergius, Comrade

Stalin asked:

a)  what will the patriarch be called,

b)  when the Council of Bishops can be assembled,

c)   is there any need for assistance from the Government for the successful holding of the Council (is there a room, is transport needed, is money needed, etc.)

Sergius replied that they had previously discussed these issues among themselves and they would have considered it desirable and correct if the Government allowed the patriarch to accept the title of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, although Patriarch Tikhon, elected in 1917, under the Provisional Government, was called ʺpatriarch Moscow and All Russia ʺ.

Comrade Stalin agreed, saying that this was correct.

To the second question, Metropolitan Sergius replied that the Bishopsʹ Council could be convened in a month, and then Comrade Stalin, smiling, said: ʺIs it possible to show the Bolshevik tempo?ʺ Turning to me, asked my opinion, I said that if we helped Metropolitan Sergius with the appropriate transport for the fastest delivery of the episcopate to Moscow (by air), then the Cathedral could be assembled in 3 ‐ 4 days.

After a short exchange of views, it was agreed that the Bishopsʹ Council would meet in Moscow on September 8.

To the third question, Metropolitan Sergius replied that they did not ask for any subsidies from the state to hold the Council.

Metropolitan Sergius raised the second question, and Metropolitan Alexy developed the question of training clergy, and both asked Comrade Stalin to be allowed to organize theological courses in some dioceses.

Comrade Stalin, while agreeing with this, at the same time asked why they were raising the question of theological courses, while the Government could permit the organization of a theological academy and the opening of theological seminaries in all dioceses, where necessary.

Metropolitan Sergius, and then even more Metropolitan Alexy, said that they still had very little strength to open a theological academy and needed appropriate training, and with regard to seminaries, they considered it unsuitable in terms of time and past experience to admit persons at least 18 years of age. that until a person has developed a certain worldview, it is very dangerous to train them as shepherds, since there is a large dropout rate, and, perhaps, in the future, when the church has the appropriate experience of working with theological courses, this question will arise, but even then the organizational and programmatic side of the seminaries and academies must be drastically modified.

Comrade Stalin said: ʺWell, as you wish, this is your business, and if you want theological courses, start with them, but the Government will have no objection to the opening of seminaries and academies.ʺ

As a third question, Sergius raised the issue of organizing the publication of the journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, which would be published once a month and which would cover both the chronicle of the church and articles and speeches of a theological and patriotic nature.

Comrade Stalin replied: ʺThe magazine can and should be published.ʺ

Then Metropolitan Sergius raised the issue of opening churches in a number of dioceses, saying that almost all diocesan bishops put [questions] to him about this, that there are few churches and that churches have not been opened for many years.

At the same time, Metropolitan Sergius said that he considered it necessary to grant the right to the diocesan bishop to enter into negotiations with the civil authorities on the issue of opening churches.

Metropolitans Alexy and Nicholas supported Sergius, noting the uneven distribution of churches in the Soviet Union and expressing a desire, first of all, to open churches in regions and territories where there are no churches at all or where there are few of them.

Comrade Stalin replied that there would be no obstacles on the part of the Government to this issue.

Then Metropolitan Alexy raised the question before Comrade Stalin about the release of some bishops who were in exile, in camps, in prisons, etc.

Comrade Stalin told them: ʺPresent such a list, we will consider it.ʺ

Sergius immediately raised the issue of granting the right of free residence and movement within the Union and the right to perform church services to former clergymen who had served their term of imprisonment in court, that is, the question was raised about lifting the prohibitions, or rather, restrictions related to the passport regime.

Comrade Stalin invited me to study this issue.

Metropolitan Alexy, having asked for permission from Comrade Stalin, dwelled on issues related to the church treasury, namely:

a)                   Metropolitan Alexy said that he considered it necessary to grant the dioceses the right to deduct some sums from the treasuries of churches and from the treasuries of dioceses to the treasury of the central church apparatus for its maintenance (Patriarchate, Synod), and in this regard, Metropolitan Alexy gave an example that the inspector according to the administrative supervision of the Lensovet, Tatarintseva did not allow such deductions to be made;

b)                  that in connection with the same issue, he, as well as Metropolitans Sergius and Nicholas, consider it necessary that the Statute on Church Administration be amended, namely that the clergy were given the right to be members of the executive body of the Church.

Comrade Stalin said that there was no objection to this.

Metropolitan Nicholas in the conversation raised the issue of candle factories, stating that at this time church candles are made by artisans, the selling price of candles in churches is very high and that he, Metropolitan Nikolay, considers it best to grant the right to have candle factories in dioceses.

Comrade Stalin said that the church can count on the comprehensive support of the Government in all matters related to its organizational strengthening and development within the USSR, and that, as he spoke about the organization of theological educational institutions, without objecting to the opening of seminaries in dioceses, there can be no obstacles. and for the opening of candle factories and other industries at diocesan administrations.

Then, addressing me, Comrade Stalin said: ʺWe must ensure the right of the bishop to dispose of church funds. There is no need to make obstacles to the organization of seminaries, candle factories, etc.ʺ

Then Comrade Stalin, addressing the three metropolitans, said: ʺIf it is necessary now or if it is needed in the future, the state can release the corresponding subsidies to the church center.ʺ

After that, Comrade Stalin, addressing Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy and Nicholas, said to them: “Comrade Karpov reported to me that you live very badly: a cramped apartment, you buy food on the market, you have no transport. know what needs you have and what you would like to receive from the Government. ʺ

In response to Comrade Stalinʹs question, Metropolitan Sergius said that as premises for the patriarchate and for the patriarch, he would ask to accept the proposals made by Metropolitan Alexy to place the former abbot corps in the Novodevichy monastery at the disposal of the patriarchy, and as for the provision of food, these products are buy on the market, but in terms of transport, I would ask for help, if possible, by allocating a car.

Comrade Stalin said to Metropolitan Sergius: “Comrade Karpov looked at the premises in the Novodevichy Convent: they are completely uncomfortable, require major repairs, and it takes a lot of time to occupy them. Itʹs damp and cold there. The government can provide you tomorrow with quite comfortable and prepared premises, providing you with a 3‐storey mansion in Chisty Pereulok, which was previously occupied by the former German ambassador Schulenburg. But this building is Soviet, not German, so you can live in it quite calmly. We provide you with this mansion with all the property, furniture, which is in this mansion, and in order to have a better idea of this building, we will now show you its plan ”.

A few minutes later, the plan of the mansion on Chisty Pereulok, 5, presented to Comrade Stalin by Comrade Poskrebyshev, with its courtyards and garden, was shown to the metropolitans for acquaintance, and it was agreed that on the next day, September 4, 1 , Comrade Karpov would provide an opportunity for the metropolitans personally inspect the above premises.

Once again touching upon the issue of food supply, Comrade Stalin told the metropolitans: ʺIt is inconvenient and expensive for you to buy food on the market, and now the collective farmer throws out little food on the market. Therefore, the state can provide you with food at state prices. In addition, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow we will provide at your disposal 2 ‐ 3 cars with fuel ʺ.

Comrade Stalin asked Metropolitan Sergius and other metropolitans if they had any more questions for him, if the church had any other needs, and about this, Comrade Stalin asked several times.

All three said that they no longer have any special requests, but sometimes on the ground there is a re‐taxation of the clergy with income tax, to which Comrade Stalin drew attention and suggested that I take appropriate verification and correction measures in each case. After that, Comrade Stalin said to the metropolitans: “Well, if you have no more questions for the Government, then perhaps they will come later. The government plans to form a special state apparatus, which will be called the Council for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, and it is proposed to appoint the chairman of the Council Comrade Karpova. How do you look at this? ʺ

All three declared that they very favorably accept the appointment of Comrade Karpov to this post.

Comrade Stalin said that the Council would represent a place of communication between the government and the church, and its chairman should [report] to the government about the life of the church and the questions it might have.

Then, addressing me, Comrade Stalin said: ʺPick for yourself 2 ‐ 3 assistants who will be members of your Council, form an apparatus, but just remember: firstly, that you are not the chief prosecutor; secondly, your activities are more emphasize the independence of the church. ʺ

After that, Comrade Stalin, addressing Comrade Molotov, said: ʺWe must bring this to the attention of the population, just as later it will be necessary to inform the population about the election of the patriarch.ʺ

In this regard, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov immediately began to draw up a draft communiqué for radio and newspapers, in the preparation of which appropriate comments, amendments and additions were made both from the side of Comrade Stalin, and some from the side of Metropolitans Sergius and Alexy.

The text of the notification was adopted as follows:

ʺOn September 4, this year, the Chairman of the Council of Peopleʹs Commissars of the USSR, Comrade JV Stalin, hosted a reception, during which a conversation took place with the patriarchal locum tenens Metropolitan Sergius, Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad and the Exarch of Ukraine, Metropolitan Nikolai of Kiev and Galich.

During the conversation, Metropolitan Sergius informed the Chairman of the Council of Peopleʹs Commissars that the ruling circles of the Orthodox Church intend to convene a Council of Bishops to elect the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and to form the Holy Synod under the Patriarch.

The head of the Government, Comrade JV Stalin, reacted with sympathy to these proposals and declared that there would be no obstacles on the part of the Government.

The conversation was attended by the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Peopleʹs Commissars of the USSR, Comrade VM Molotov. ʺ

This notice was published in the Izvestia newspaper on September 5, 1943.

The communiqué was handed over to Comrade Poskrebyshev for transmission on the same day on the radio and in TASS for publication in newspapers.

After that, Comrade Molotov turned to Sergius with the question: when is it better to receive a delegation of the Anglican Church wishing to come to Moscow, headed by the Archbishop of York?

Sergius replied that since the Council of Bishops will be assembled in 4 days, it means that the elections of the patriarch will be held, the Anglican delegation can be accepted at any time.

Comrade Molotov said that, in his opinion, it would be better to receive this delegation a month later.

At the end of this reception, Metropolitan Sergius delivered a brief speech of thanks to the Government and personally to Comrade Stalin.

Comrade Molotov asked Comrade Stalin: ʺMaybe we should call a photographer?ʺ

Comrade Stalin said: ʺNo, it is already late now, 2:00 am, so we will do it another time.ʺ

Comrade     Stalin,                     having said goodbye to the metropolitans,

accompanied them to the door of his office.

This reception was a historic event for the church and left great impressions on Metropolitans Sergius, Alexy and Nicholas, which were obvious to everyone who knew and saw Sergius and others in those days.

Source; Polit Buro and The Church,  Svitlana M, Erdogan A