Protopriest Serafim Gan:
We Must Honor the Martyrs, Not Their Executioners
Protopriest Serafim Gan, Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, on why the canonization of Joseph Stalin is categorically rejected by the Russian Church Abroad.
Recently our Russian Church rejected the suggestion by some that we honor Tsar Ivan the Terrible—who ordered the murder of Hieromartyr Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow—who is often compared to Joseph Stalin. It is interesting to note that Professor Andreev of Oxford University, a scholar of Russian history of the 16th century, wrote in 1974 that Ivan the Terrible was responsible for over 3000 executions during his fifty-year reign. Considering the cruelty of the 16th century, which included St Bartholomew's Day Massacre and the Inquisitions, the actions of Ivan the Terrible cannot compare, let alone compare his deeds to those of Lenin and Stalin, whose hands were bloodied by tens of millions of victims of the militantly-atheist regime: guilty of collectivization, the destruction of the kulaks and the terrible persecution of the Church. This truth was loudly declared by the first and second waves of Russian emigres, who were ministered to by the Russian Church Abroad.
The Russian emigration includes not only Russians but representatives of other peoples of Russia who shared the same Russian background, considering themselves to be the loyal sons of historic Russia. Among them were those who suffered at the hands of the godless regime or were eyewitnesses who of the torture and murders, they knew the people who suffered and were persecuted, who endured the horrors of repression.
The political mission of the immigration was to bear witness to the world of the essence of the Communist regime, yet it was not purely political because this witness sprang from a moral foundation, for it exposed the immoral, anti-human and anti-religious nature of the communist state.
“The greatest social force,” wrote Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), “is the power of inner rebirth.” And the power of inner rebirth is a prerequisite for the renaissance of our Fatherland, rebirth through lofty morality and spirituality rooted in Holy Orthodoxy.
We must always remember that this is our foundation, the glorification of our Martyrs and Confessors, and we must honor the memory of the many millions of victims of communism, not their executioners and persecutors, who far outdid Diocletian, Julian the Apostate and others.
“Memory is not ill will,” wrote Protopresbyter Alexander Kiselev in the forward of his book Their Memory Unto Ages and Ages . “Even great deeds of wickedness do not deserve revenge, as the Christian faith teaches us. But our entire immeasurable tragedy as a whole, and the individuals who participated, cannot be forgotten, for only the memory of the past will move the life of the nation forward.”
So the New Martyrs and Confessors and all the victims of Leninism and Stalinism cannot be forgotten, and the blasphemy of “canonization” of the executioners must be rejected. It is necessary to strengthen and confirm the veneration and memory of the martyrs throughout the Russian land, which was soaked first in blood, then in tears, otherwise we will simply turn away from God’s blessings and this abandon this river of Russian holiness.