Part 1: The initial interrogation
The arrested Akimov was imprisoned for two months, but without being interrogated. At the end of March, he was summoned unexpectedly. The interrogator posed the usual question to him: “You, of course, are aware of why you were arrested?”
Akimov however, having been interrogated many times previously by the GPU, didn’t answer as most inexperienced beginners do: “No, I don’t know”. For the consequences of claiming such ignorance often invite measures that will “assist” the arrested individual to “remember” his guilt without interrogation.
Rather, he simply replied: “Absolutely”.
“Well that’s great,” said the interrogator, nodding his head. “This means we will finish quicker. Relate everything in order, in as full detail as possible. A pure heartfelt acknowledgment lessens the guilt.”
“Everything you know, I confirm citizen interrogator” replied Akimov, “but as for what is unknown to you – why would I hang that around my neck? You are the interrogator, I – the accused. Your task is to ensnare me and to hang it around my neck; while my task, as far as is possible, is to vindicate myself. Therefore you see – there is no need for me to narrate. Question me and I will answer correctly.”
“It’s pleasant to have a conversation with an intelligent person” answered the interrogator with a smile. “Well, alright… I accept. You are an Old Churchman?”
“I am Orthodox…”
“Hey, no! If I am civil with you, then you be civil with me. Don’t confuse me. After all, I am conversant with your activities… And you are certainly aware of who we regard as “Orthodox”. Those who are currently permitted by the censorship. I ask you – answer me as we have agreed, straight and precisely… Are you an Old Churchman?”
“Yes, I am an Orthodox Old Churchman.”
“That’s pleasant to hear. What role did you play in this illegal, anti-government organization?”
“And what do you know about this citizen interrogator?”
“Clever!” he sneered. “Well, alright. For example, it’s known that in 1924 you were sentenced to six years under the surname of Lebedev for your Tikhonite counter-revolutionary actions. You served this period in Kem, from where you escaped in 1927.”
“What interests you in my activities?”
“Everything! Like for example, who assisted you when you fled? How did you procure the documents? Where were you and what were you doing from 1928 to 1931? … Everything in general.”
“Well, I will relate in sequence then: I fled from Kem alone, by myself, over three years, weak points can be found with any sentry. I fled in the motorboat on which the camp commander sent his guests back to Arkhangelsk. They didn’t search the commander’s motorboat and I hid in an empty oil barrel. It brought me back successfully. I obtained the documents from felons in Arkhangelsk for 2 coins. I then left for Yaroslavl. I worked for two years in a lumber camp as a striker. You can have this confirmed. I then resigned and came here to the Combine. My documents were in order so no protection or help was needed.”
“How did you establish contact when you didn’t know anyone?”
“At the lumber camp, there was no one to maintain contact… and there was no time for that. While at the Combine, the GPU helped.”
“How is it the GPU helped?”
“Here’s how. Do you remember, citizen interrogator, Sudakov? The same one who after interrogation was sent to the psychiatric hospital? At that time, our brigade was replacing the heating system. That’s when Sudakov gave me the letter to his relatives.”
“How did Sudakov know you?”
“He didn’t know me but just gave the letter to the first person he met. This, according to our understanding, means that God sent me to him, while according to your understanding – this was a chance occurrence.”
“To whom was the letter written?”
“To his father and wife. They lived at Dostoevsky, 73.”
“I know. Well, continue?”
“Well, I delivered the letter. At the time, as you well know, the whole town knew about Sudakov, therefore I knew what I was carrying with this letter. I brought the letter, made their acquaintance, and revealed myself to them… Here is the contact.”
“Who did they put you in contact with?”
“With Bishop Rodion, Eltsov, Puhanov, and Lyashnko…”
“And with Klimov?” the interrogator sneered ironically. “You can boldly admit your friendship with him too, for he, like the others you mentioned, is dead. Why is it that you are feeding me with the deceased?! Sudakov, Rodion, Eltsov, Puhanov, Lyashenko – what are they to me? Even a subpoena by the GPU wouldn’t be able to summon them from their graves. Give me the names of those people that worked with you who are still alive!”
“Here, I am not guilty citizen interrogator, that you made corpses of all the members of the organization. As for the rest, I am the only one left alive.”
“The only one? You are not the only one. What is the name of that short, blackish fellow, with whom you were traveling when that dispute developed with a priest?”
“With what priest?”
Part 2: Accused by an apostle of the Antichrist
“I will show you what priest!”
The interrogator then came to the door and cried out: “Citizen Gromoglasov!”
A thin, tall, pale priest then entered wearing a cassock and even a cross. He stopped without coming close to the table at which the interrogator sat.
“Come closer,” said the interrogator. “Is that him?”
“Yes, that’s him” replied the priest, having coughed into his hand.
“Tell us sequentially what you know about him.”
The priest then related: “Before Christmas, I was returning from the city where I had been called on business. Sitting beside me in the train was him (the priest pointed to Akimov) and his friend, whom he called Vasya. Seated opposite us were workers from the depot. Initially, the workers made fun of me, but seeing that I wasn’t responding, they turned to me directly, stating, “How is it, father, that priests and atheists build socialism together?” I deemed it necessary, in obedience to my authorities, to respond: “The priests,” I said, do not go together with the atheists, but they support the atheists who are implementing Christ’s covenant, for although they do not believe in Him, they nonetheless do work and strive to build a society which is fully consistent with the ideas of Christ.”
“How is it,” someone asked, “that the teachings of Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Kaganovich, and Molotov correspond to the ideas of Christ?”
“I replied, It’s not their view on the assignation and purpose of human life, but the practical arrangement of an earthly society for humanity. This arrangement, which is rooted in the ideals of Karl Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, corresponds with the arrangement pointed out by Christ in the Gospel.”
“When I said this, his (the priest pointed at Akimov) acquaintance Vasya could not contain himself. He asked, “Are you daring to say that the future Communist society, which the atheists are attempting to build, and the Kingdom of God which you are expecting, are identical?” As soon as he said “identical”, I immediately understood who he was, for a communist worker would never have said that.”
“Yes, I said, because it’s being built by the same people and by the same plan”. This time, Vasya jumped up screaming, “How can it be – the same people and one plan?”
“Don’t worry” I said, “it is very simple. Don’t you know that Christ turned with His Gospel to “all who labor and are heavy laden” i.e. the contemporary proletariat. Marx too turned to them with the call: “Workers of the world – unite!” You see: one and the same people called upon to build God’s Kingdom and Communist society. And about the plan – take time out to read the Acts of the Apostles, where it is pointed out that “everything was to be common and nobody was to call anything his own”. Here is the common plan. The Church authorities of the past turned out to be blind leaders who were unable to unite the ones called and lead them toward their aims which were indicated by the Lord. That’s why the reigns of authority were taken away from them and given to children, who like in the sermon, “not knowing God, are fulfilling His plan”.
Here Akimov also could not restrain himself and uttered to me: “You are a worthy son of the father of lies. You are not preaching the Gospel of that Christ, Who incarnated from the Virgin Mary and Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, died, was buried and resurrected. You are antichrist’s apostle.” (This was what he said to me!) “Is the Gospel of truth brought only to the proletariat? … And in no way are Marx, Lenin, and Stalin children, who although not knowing God, are fulfilling His plan! Rather they are conscious servants of the God-fighting powers. They know God very well but want to serve the antichrist. Also, in general, Christianity and Communism are mutually exclusive – not only in their spiritual essence but also in the forms of their external, physical organization”.
Not knowing how this public conversation would end, his friend – as though awakened, began to restrain him: “Stop it Akimov, it’s time for us to leave!”. They then got up and left. I then watched through the window how he was greeted by the Combine workers, and realized that this is where they work. His face appeared familiar to me, and when I arrived at home I remembered that we were incarcerated together at Kem. At that time, I didn’t perceive God’s truth in the revolution, and for that I served my punishment. But, when I remembered where I had known Akimov from, I followed my pastor’s conscience and acted obediently. I informed the special section of the Commune about Akimov. Sadly however, I couldn’t determine his friend’s surname.
“Well?” the interrogator turned to Akimov. He had a strange look and expression on his face…
Akimov then replied, “He related everything precisely. Thank you!”
The priest remained silent. The interrogator gazed at both of them intently.
“I am not asking you about accuracy” said the interrogator to Akimov, “but about whether you listen to, and understand what the Orthodox Church teaches about you? The Orthodox Church without any prefixes, without ‘old Church-‘, ‘pre-schismatic-‘, ‘wilderness-‘ Church! This is how all citizens of the Soviet Union must think and believe – if they want to believe. No one lays a finger on such people for their belief. But you, who are you? You are schismatics! During previous times, the schismatics declared Patriarch Nikon and Peter the Great to be antichrists, and likewise you call Sergius and us Soviets antichrists. In fact, just as they tried to save their economic and political structure from collapsing because of religion, likewise, you are not accepting us because of certain economic and political considerations, and not because of your religious ideas. And just as those were pursued, imprisoned, and executed by the Patriarchs and government, so are we forced to act likewise with you! We will pursue, exile, and execute you – not for the Orthodox faith as Orthodoxy is free among us, but for your anti-people schism, for your uprising against the world, for your heresy! Submit! Cease your schism, acknowledge the truth of the Church, and we will even give you, in like manner, something of the same religion. But if you remain in schism – we will uproot you!”
Akimov remained silent, peering at the interrogator’s face. The priest was standing, leaning his back against the corner of the bookcase, at times nodding his head at the interrogator’s words.
“Try and disprove this obvious truth!” exclaimed the interrogator, and strangely enough – he was troubled…
Part 3: The revelations of a Confessor
“It seems to me”, began Akimov, looking calmly and directly at the face of the interrogator, “that you yourself understand the difference between those schismatics and us. In the thinking of those times, the Church and the government could pursue, exile, and execute those schismatics. And they felt themselves to be schismatics. But we are not schismatics! We are the Church Herself! Those schismatics didn’t doubt that what they broke away from was really the Church, albeit, in their opinion – a Church in sin; but we” – Akimov indicated the priest, “do not recognize this. We say that what they have is not a Church, and they are not priests”.
“Then according to you – who are we?” – the priest shouted.
“You? You are the priests of Hades’ gates! You are the harlot that sits on the scarlet beast – as described in Revelations. You are that harlot, who attempts to present herself as a substitute for the true Bride of the Lamb – which has fled into the wilderness.”
The interrogator turned pale and cried out: “What then, according to you, they are blessing not in God’s name, and perform not mysteries but black masses?”
“Frightening blasphemy! Sacrilege against the Holy Spirit!” exclaimed the pale-faced priest.
“No, not blasphemy and not sacrilege!” Akimov firmly replied. “You both know very well the Martyr and Confessor for Christ who said: ‘Every time, when the Church accepts a position of legality in an epoch of apostasy (which occurs contrary to the Word of God, historical experience and healthy reasoning), then it inevitably turns from being a pure virgin and Christ’s Bride, into a Church of the wily, into a harlot, into Satan’s assembly. She unavoidably becomes a miserable slave, awakening to the universal activity of a Babylonian harlot… The altar and sanctuary then transform into a brothel, and the grace of the Holy Spirit departs from the harlot, who now doesn’t save but rather torments her children.” And he further warns us: “The Sergianist harlot, will gradually deepen and expand, while also receiving world-wide significance and will assert herself on many waters (in many lands). Having seated herself firmly on the beast, she will begin to satiate herself with the blood of Saints.’ That’s who they are, citizen interrogator. No, we are not schismatics.”
“Of course not… You are not schismatics,” the interrogator said slowly. “But do you understand, Akimov, that if you are correct, it means not we – the Communists who employ the Church in order to strengthen our authority, but “that” [the Sergianists] which will use us to prepare the harlot – as you say. But tell me, what is the goal for “that” to rely on the harlot and not on us directly?”
Akimov, speaking slowly and quietly responded, “The image of Christ will shine for a long time in you, and the likes of you. You are still printed with the seal and grace of the Holy Spirit. “That” cannot yet rely on you: you are afraid of him – you are already afraid of him… Only when the harlot substitutes the Lord’s image in your soul with that of the beast – the false Christ, when the Patriarch of Moscow with signs and miracles proclaims the peace of the Lord’s second coming, the kingdom of God organized on the earth, when he renders nationwide honors to the Antichrist, then his priests,” Akimov glanced at the priest, “instead of sealing with the gift of the Holy Spirit, you will be engraved with the name and number of “that”… beast… And then he will be able to rely on you…”
“Then according to you – he is frightening only to you, whereas all the rest will stretch out their necks to him?” asked the interrogator.
“No, he is frightening to everyone,” said Akimov in a barely audible voice. “Just as all types of creatures rejoice and are happy in Christ, they will be horrified by “that” and will lament and seek salvation. More so a human being, who was created in the image of God and stamped with the gift of the Holy Spirit. “He” is frightening to everyone and everybody is horrified by him!…
“He said it!” the investigator nervously laughed. “Here is the theme, Father; prepare rebuttals of what Akimiv revealed and send them to me. You may now go.
The interrogator then phoned and ordered that Akimov be taken back to his cell.
Part 4: Fr. Michael and the softened Communist
Akimov was summoned for the second time in June. The same interrogator sat him down opposite himself in the same room, and as though continuing their old, unfinished conversation, began as follows:
“Before I used to work in Moscow. Once I had matters to deal with at an inquest concerning a Tikhonite priest. I don’t recall his surname but he was called Michael [this was very possibly Fr. Michael Polsky – editor]. He was tall, wide of shoulders and a Cossack. Well, roughly speaking, he said the same things you spoke about last time. ‘The sin of Sergianism’ said he, ‘consists of betraying your salvific aims, your own essence, your calling as the Church. It’s a sin against yourself, as for example, fornication – it’s a sin against your own body. Now, Sergianism has become not only a non-Orthodox Christianity, but even an expression of no belief in God in general, and it’s not even a religion.’ He told me this at an interrogation. He was a bold, far-sighted person. To the question, does he acknowledge his guilt in battling against Soviet authority and in sabotaging the building of a socialist society, he responded: “The battle for my faith against the Soviet authorities is as normal as a traveler’s battle for his life against attacking bandits.” He was indeed a bold priest. Something like you. At his departure, I asked him, ‘Here you are, a person of faith – but what benefit is there from this faith?’ Fr. Michael responded, “Here you are but when you get home and find out that your wife was run over by an automobile, then the horror and senselessness of this event will kill you spiritually. Everything will seem senseless – every love, attachment, reasoning, and even life itself. But we, believers, know that everything is God’s will, that love is eternal and not in vain, because there is eternal life… In such a situation, we believers will say: see you with the Lord.”
“It may be by chance, but he became a prophet. For after a few months, my wife was killed by an automobile. Yes, it was then that I felt the uselessness of life. I loved her deeply. Yes, but to say, ‘see you with the Lord’ I couldn’t say at this time. Did you know this priest? He also spent some time in Kem. He was called Michael. He was tall and broad-shouldered?
“I may have seen him, only I don’t remember” replied Akimov.
“Someone like him you wouldn’t forget. Therefore, you surely didn’t see him. As a matter of fact, he is now overseas. He managed to go over to Persia in 1931. He is not aware that I saw him once at Dzhulpha railway station (it’s nearly at the border). I didn’t bother him… let him be… Should you ever see him, please tell him my wife’s name is Luba, and mine is Constantine… So that we could see him there, at least there, as he said.”
The interrogator had become silent, clenching his teeth with a twitch. The corner muscles of his face were twitching nervously. What will power this person was applying in order to maintain the appearance of a calm composure!
“You will surely meet” declared Akimov firmly. “It’s as true as Christ has risen and there is no death. And her love for you and your love for her are not in vain. And her death was necessary so as to receive you eternally. Believe! After all, you knew she was a Christian. But I don’t think I will be able to relay your message to Fr.Michael.
“Who knows? As they say – a mountain will not come together with another mountain. By the way, you are being exiled to Lenkoran. It’s a township on the Persian border. Here is the decree. Read and sign it.”
Akimov read the decree, signed it, and stood up as one ready to go – as one amazed at the ways of God!
“You could have at least said ‘Thank you’” – the interrogator said, smiling tightly.
“But why speak? You can hear how the heart is shouting!” revealed Akimov.
“I hear… well, go… with God, brother!” responded the softened interrogator.
[This story was recorded by Monk Zachary of the Russian Orthodox Catacomb Church. He is also the author of “To Those Seeking Their Mother” which was published in “Pravoslavnaya Rus” (Jordanville, 1947), as well as some other writings. Kindly translated by Seraphim Larin. It has been edited and adapted by Gregor Isiopili.]