Hieromartyrs, Martyrs And Confessors Of Ryazan

During the campaign for the requisitioning of valuables from the churches in 1922, the authorities reported the following from Ryazan: "In the surrounding monasteries 97 monks were arrested and subjected to intensive interrogation [i.e. tortures]. 12 monks were shot."

(Source: Gregory Ravich, "Ograblennij Khristos, ili Brillianty dlya Diktatury Proletariata", Chas Pik, N 18, p. 26)

The monastery of St. John the Theologian in Ryazan province was closed in about 1933 before Mattins on the feast of the Holy Trinity. The people were not warned about the closure. As is usual on a feastday, many people from the surrounding villages had come to the service. Those who had come a long distance were given accomodation the night before with acquaintances. One elder in the village of Letovo spent the night together with other pilgrims. The next morning he said that during the night he had had a dream in which he had seen many monks walking along the road in sandals. The dream turned out to be prophetic. Even before setting off for the service the believers were struck by the lack of bell-ringing calling people to the Mattins of the feast. And as they approached the monastery they were met by a ring of policemen who told them that the monastery had been closed and the monks arrested and taken away (they say that in the twenties there were as many as 180 brothers in the monastery. One eye-witness saw them being driven through Ramensky forest. It was June, but that day it was freezing.

After the closure of the monastery a parish church still remained in its village of Poshchupov-Bogoslov until 1935. Fathers John Rakitin and Michael Protsyrov served in it. At this point the authorities began to employ a cunning stratagem in order to close the church - they closed it as if in response to the requests of the parishioners themselves. To this end an activist was appointed who went round and collected signatures from the locals on a paper demanding the closure of the church. In Poshchupov they gave the task of collecting the signatures to a teacher, since she was the person most dependent on the bosses. She complied, and the signatures were obtained. People feared the consequences of a refusal. This whole procedure was based on fear. "If you don't sign, that means you are unreliable and an opponent of the policies of Soviet power." And so this church disappeared together with its priests. They turned the building into a club and danced in it. Some felt uncomfortable at these dances - too much reminded them of the holy church building they had known from their childhood, and having gone there several times, they stopped going thereafter.

Just before the liquidation of this parish, a woman in the village became pregnant from someone. She accused one of the priests of this - Fr. Michael, it seems. This was a fine opportunity for anti-religious propaganda:

"Look, that's what the popes do, so there's no harm in exiling [and imprisoning and shooting] such people from the parish."

Or: "The popes themselves don't believe in God, which means He doesn't exist."

If a woman would become pregnant from the president or one of the collective farm-workers, there would be no meetings to discuss it, of course. But in this case they convened a meeting full of people at which the priest was accused and condemned. "The people know, you know, they don't talk without a reason", etc.

They also say that one of these priests - Fr. John, it seems - had a daughter. During a time of persecution she was in someone's house for some reason. She was good-looking, and was sitting there dressed in city fashion neatly and tidily. Her dress was open at the neck. And at this point some boys suddenly threw a burning pancake onto her open neck. This produced such a terrible impression on her that it turned her mind - she thereafter always - or for a long time, at any rate - wore some kind of gauze clothes.

The nearest functioning church was in the village of Volyn. The Poshchupov parishioners began to go there. The most zealous parishioners Basil Mukhin and Peter Roznov often went there, but they were soon arrested. Basil was, moreover, the last person to enter the collective farm. He lived without a wife with two young daughters. When they arrested him, the daughters were left completely alone. It was good that a relative of theirs living in the same village looked after them. But immediately after the arrest of their father they were thrown out of school.

Two others - Theodora Falonkina and Joanna Mayorova - were arrested, as were a young nun called Pelagia who lived in the same village and the teacher Demetrius Ivanovich Borisov. None of these returned home alive. It is not known where they were taken or how they died. Some of them sent home spiritual verses in their letters which were sung in the village.

Also in the village was a boy called Sasha Kiselev. In school in front of everyone, including the teacher, he tore up the portrait of Stalin, saying:

"Why always your Stalin, Stalin?! What is your Stalin to me?"

Soon it was rumoured that he was not normal, although he had been a very good student. And they say that they put him in a psychiatric hospital.

(Source: Priest Basil Redechkin, from Poshchupo villagers Yanina and Prikazhikov)

In 1948 a special investigation revealed secret prayer houses in 189 places in Ryazan district, including the towns of Mikhailov, Skopin and Kasimov. Almost all of them had their clergy: Archimandrites Andrew (Isayev), Gabriel (Khitrov), Paisius, Igumens Joasaph, Paisius (Rozhkov) and others.

From 1948 to 1948, according to a document of the Council for Religious Affairs, the number of unregistered prayer houses in the district rose from 175 to 190, and were served by about 200 priests.

(Sources: M.B. Danilushkin (ed.), Istoria Russkoj Pravoslavnoj Tserkvi, 1917-1970, St. Petersburg: Voskreseniye, 1997, pp. 547, 549)

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