Kazan Old Believers: ''ROC has not formulated completely who we are''

How Metropolitan Feofan and Mufti Kamil Samigullin opened the monument to Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church Andrian in the capital of Tatarstan

Kazan Old Believers: ''ROC has not formulated completely who we are'' Photo: Maxim Platonov

A monument to Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church Andrian in the capital of Tatarstan opened in the capital of Tatarstan. The event is worthy of great attention just because the celebrant of Old Believers has been immortalised in bronze for the first time since Raskol (Editor's Note: the event of splitting the Russian Orthodox Church into an official church and the Old Believers movement in the mid-17th century). A correspondent of Realnoe Vremya tells what representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) with Old Believers spoke about, what a Muslim dignitary did there, and why Metropolitan Andrian was unique.

Old Believers and followers of Nikon of ROC: ''we and they''

A monument to Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church Andrian (Chetvergov) opened in Kazan. The statue was located in the square in front of the Cathedral Church of the Kazan and Vyatka Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church on Staroobryadcheskaya Street. President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia Kornily (Titov) and representatives of the major religions of the region participated in the ceremony.

While people were waiting for honourable guests, the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya talked to the brother of the deceased metropolitan Archpriest Gennady (Chetvergov) who serves as provost of the local Old Believer Cathedral. According to him, the monument was planned to be opened till winter. Moreover, religious people wanted Minnikhanov to visit the event. This is why the ceremony took place at the beginning of December.

''Why did you open the monument here?'' the correspondent asked.

''This district has always been a place of Old Believers. Two Old Believer churches were on this site. This is why it is quite right that the monument was located here. Even if people changed, there are not many Old Believers. Nevertheless, it is a kind of settlement of Old Believers.''

Archpriest Gennady (Chetvergov): ''Unfortunately, we have different opinions about them: we have not formulated who they are. Time will show who we are and how close we are.''

''How many people visit your church?''

''It's difficult to say. The church is full on Sundays. About 150 people come.''

''Metropolitan Feofan is here today. Is there any competition between the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and Old Believers in the region?''

''No, there is not. Everything has been clear in the society. Everybody understands who he is. However, the time when we were 'allowed' to go to church and believe in God was not a long time ago. Some people did not wait for this permission, they had been and were religious. It all was in the 90s when everything started to open and develop. There was a sort of mess: waking up from an atheistic dream and Soviet persecutions, Old Believers rushed to the nearest church. Some people joined the official Church. Somebody comes to us later, returns to the origins. The history of Russia is so sad.''

''Which creed of Old Belief do you belong to?''

''Our church used to be of Belokrinitsky creed, before 1988. It has been called simply Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church since 1988. Belaya Krinitsa is a place where ancient Orthodoxy reappeared.''

''How do bishops and followers of Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church treat you: as people who have the same religion, young brothers or people who went astray?''

''They should be asked this question. They have not formulated completely who we are. Unfortunately, we have different opinions about them: we have not formulated who they are. Time will show who we are and how close we are. Time changes fast, the relationship also changes.''

As Bishop of Kazan and Vyatka Evfimy (Dubinov) (left) told, nowadays Old Believers have three active churches

As Bishop of Kazan and Vyatka Evfimy (Dubinov) told our correspondent later, nowadays Old Believers have three active churches: in Kazan, Verkhny Uslon District and Naberezhnye Chelny. Another church is about to open in the latter. There are communities in Zelenodolsk where the allocation of land is under discussion and in Chistopol. The Nikolsky Church built before the revolution in Nizhny Uslon is to be given. However, the process is dragging on because of bureaucratic wires. He could not tell the total number of visitors and emphasised they did not count them.

Real Kazan citizen, graduate of KAI

It should be noted that the person the monument to whom was opened is really unique. Andrian (secular name Alexander) was born in 1951 in a family of Old Believers who belonged to a famous dynasty of Kazan merchants the Chetvergovs. He graduated from the Kazan Aviation Institute and mastered several professions. He married to a woman from a dynasty of Old Believers.

In 1986, he gave up his secular job and started to work at Old Believers church for the sake of Our Lady of Kazan, carried out restoration works. Then he was elected as chairman of the church community. Then his upward spiritual mobility began. He was consecrated as bishop of Kazan and Vyatka by 2001 and became the youngest Old Believer archpriest. In 2004, he was elected metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church in the consecrated cathedral. As a leader of Old Believers, he supported a dialogue with the Moscow Patriarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church with conservation of his total independence.

In 2005, he died in Kirov Oblast during the traditional Old Believer Velikoretsky procession he was heading. He was buried in Rogozhskoe Cemetery in Moscow.

In 2014, Old Believers of Kazan initiated the erection of a monument to their compatriot. The administration of Tatarstan supported the idea. From April to June 2016, the Ministry of Culture of Tatarstan organised a contest of projects. Benefactors gave money and the process began.

The 2-metre figure of the senior priest of the Russian Orthodox Old Believers Church has a pedestal and was made of bronze in a classical manner

According to religious people who knew Bishop Andrian, the statue has real dimensions. The 2-metre figure of the senior priest of the Russian Orthodox Old Believer Church has a pedestal and was made of bronze in a classical manner. The metropolitan is featured in motion, in traditional clothes. He blesses religious people going to church. His right hand christens using two fingers.

As Metropolitan Kornily noted during the ceremony, a monument to the celebrant of the Old Believer Church has opened for the first time since Raskol, which took place over 350 years ago. People could not think about it during the tsar and Soviet eras.

Meanwhile, as far as we are concerned, such monuments to Old Believers do exist in Russia. For example, the village of Grigorovo in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast has a statue of Archpriest Avvakum. However, he was not the head of Old Believers.

''I am glad that this monument will adorn Kazan that will become better. It becomes a good tradition – respect for all traditional religions, including us, Old Believers, who are closely connected with the history of Tatarstan,'' archpriest Kornily delivered a speech.

The president paid attention that the mufti, metropolitan from the Russian Orthodox Church, Catholics came to the opening of the monument. According to him, such an agreement helps to achieve a dynamic development. He also noted Metropolitan Andrian's merits.

''He is a real Kazan citizen, graduate of KAI and design engineer. He covered a long road and left a big footprint. So now we have an opportunity to immortalise the memory of this great person,'' the head of the region stressed.

The honourable guests saw the exhibition Old Believer Kazan

''Kamil, why are you standing there? Come here.''

Then the procession moved towards the erecting cathedral. They were welcomed by a church choir with canticle. The honourable guests saw the exhibition Old Believer Kazan where old icons, ancient books, canonical dresses, cult items kept in the cathedral were exhibited.

Rustam Minniakhanov who stood around Christian churchmen noticed Mufti Kamil Samigullin in the crowd and called him: ''Kamil, why are you standing there? Come here.'' The chairman of the Muslim Spirituality Directorate of Tatarstan obediently joined the VIP group with the head of the republic.

The metropolitan told that the items conserved by Old Believers are kept in that building. In the future, it is planned to open a museum of Old Believers. Both religious pilgrims and numerous tourists visiting Kazan will be able to see the exhibits. What is more, he told that Old Believers offered Vladimir Putin to celebrate Archpriest Avvakum's 400 th birthday, which will be in 2020, in a big way. The Russian president supported them. Bishop of Kazan and Vyatka Evfimy (Dublinov) added that today Old Believers can feel free and help the republic to restore the spirituality.

Then both bishops presented Minnikhanov a medal in honour of the opening of the monument and a big book called History of Old Belief whose weight is 5 kg.

''Everything we are doing is to the good of people,' the president of Tatarstan answered. Let our guests see how we live in peace. We will help you to complete this work – we will make the facade. Ministry of Culture, come and help. A wonderful square and church are here. Muslims will also want to come here.''

In farewell, Kornily gave the president and the representatives of other religions Old Believer calendar. Metropolitan Feofan took advantage and exchanged words with the Moscow Old Believer bishop and invited him to visit his house in Moscow.

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By Timur Rakhmatullin. Photo: Maxim Platonov