by Maxim Shevchenko

Nezavisimaia gazeta, 25 October 1996 Russian text of this article

It is quite possible to consider the 10-11 October session of the synod of the Russian Orthodox church epochal. As the communique of the department of external church relations: "On the basis of detailed and comprehensive studies the commission on the canonization of saints unanimously considered it possible to raise the question of adding to the list of saints the passion-bearers Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, Tserevich Alexis, and Grand Duchesses Anastasia, Maria, Olga, and Tatiana." Thus the arguments of many years' duration have culminated. The royal family will be enrolled in the list of saints at an upcoming local council (though it is not clear just when). On the one hand, everything seems proper: martyrs who even without a decision of the synod are being venerated by "the Orthodox community" as saints will take their place in the synodik. But questions remain. For example, why does the decision of the synod persistently enscribe the names of members of the royal family with their titles? At the time of his death Nicholas II was not the emperor. And however one may describe the circumstances of his abdication, nevertheless he signed this abdication not under mortal threat and in sound mind and soberly. And he became a martry as a former emperor. And he abdicated not in favor of his son but of his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail. That's the first point. The second is, with all respect to the last Russian sovereign and with full recognition that he died a martyr's death and in all regard for the authoritative bishops who long ago emphasized their spiritual unity with the untrarightist Karlovtsy church, it is impossible not to recognize that to call Nicholas II a holy emperor is deceptive. It is possible to explain the downfall of the empire as the Satanism of revolution, demonism of the liberal intelligentsia, and the bewitchment of covert Masonic influence, but it is impossible to explain as the imagination of enemies "Bloody Sunday," the Moscow artillery shelling of December 1905, two lost wars (as if victorious wars justified canonization), a shattered state and millions of slaughtered subjects who had entrusted their fate and lives to their ruler who was unable to find an accommodation to the times and to halt the impending catastrophe. Indeed this man, and even more his family, evokes sympathy. And why not consider this man, his wife and children already to be canonized among the new martyrs? What is the point of emphasizing the monarchical aspect of the motives for canonization? Or will this great gilded display under the slogan "restoration of the empire" not disturb the current rulers of Russia who have nothing in common with the empire or with Orthodoxy? And will not this decision of the Russian nation (somewhat improperly associated with the Russian Orthodox church) disturb the other ethnic groups of Russia who do not have such a love for the Romanov dynasty? And finally, if canonization is a matter for the church--not only the episcopate, clergy, and monks who have access to Chisty Lane, nor the "one hundred Moscow priests," but also the millions of laity whose opinion on the question of canonization by no means respects the royal family--then a local council, whose convocation evokes a heap of questins, should be organized on extremely carefully considered principles. Haste in making decisions is not the style of the church.

Translated by PDS: Russian text of this article