History of EOC

Achievement of and Fight for Independence
of the Orthodox Church of Estonia
in 1940-1945

The Russian revolution brought about a change in the life of the Orthodox Church - the state church developed into people's church. The orthodox community had requested as early as in 1917 that the Suffragan See of Tallinn (Estonia) be established under the Diocese of Riga. After the request had been satisfied, Paul Kulbush, Archpriest of the Estonian orthodox parish of St. Petersburg, was unanimously elected as head of the new Suffragan See and he was consecrated as Bishop on 31 December 1917 in Tallinn. The first orthodox ethnic Estonian prelate Bishop Plato was able to serve the Estonian Church only for one year, because he was executed by the Red soldiers on 14 January 1919. The General Assembly of the EAOC on 21 March, 1919 established, under the name of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (the word 'apostolic' being a purely linguistic addition), the Diocese of Tallinn and the Council of the Diocese of Estonia. The Estonian church leaders began to petition the Russian Church for an independent status of the Estonian Orthodox Church. At their joint meeting on 10 May, 1920 the Holy Synod and the Highest Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church discussed the former territories of the Diocese of Pskov and Suffragan See of Tallinn, which formed part of the territory of the Republic of Estonia, and adopted the following resolution.
1) Since the Estonian Church was located within the boundaries of an independent state, the church was, essentially, already independent in economic, administrative, educational and other terms. Therefore by Resolution No 183 of 17 April 1920 of the Holy Synod and the Highest Church Council, the Estonian Orthodox Church was recognised as autonomous until the General Assembly of the Russian Orthodox Church would convene to pass a resolution on autocephaly.
2) Being guided by the precedent set by the Finnish Orthodox Church, the Holy Synod and the Highest Church Council granted the Administration of the Estonian Church the right to give its orthodox parishes permission to celebrate church holidays according to the new (Gregorian) calendar.

On 15 June 1920 the Holy Synod and the Highest Church Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon, adopted the Resolution No 1780, which recognised the Estonian Orthodox Church as autonomous. Thus the Estonian Orthodox Church had achieved autonomy in 1920. The months that followed were busy for the church administration because of the pending consecration of the bishop. At the General Assembly on 1 September 1920, Chairman and Priest Nikolai Päts urged Priest Aleksander Paulus at the tomb of Bishop Plato at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in Tallinn to assume the post of the head of the church. Finally, Priest Aleksander Paulus gave his consent and was there and then unanimously elected (110 in favour) the Archbishop of the EAOC.
Basically, the autonomous rights granted by the Moscow Patriarchate brought no changes to the local church life. Firstly, since Bishop Plato's time the Estonian Orthodox Church had been conducting church business and leading church life without intervention of the Moscow Patriarchate. Secondly, the Patriarch of Moscow retained control over the most important part of church life - i.e. granted permission for the consecration of bishops and organised the consecration. Thirdly, it was required that the Archbishop of Estonia should be under the Patriarch and Council of Bishops of Moscow, so the Estonian Orthodox Church was no different from other Russian dioceses in terms of canonical law. The Estonian Orthodox Church, like other Russian dioceses, had no right to shorten the liturgy, use the hymns in a widely spread metre, say secret prayers audibly, and make other minor liturgical changes.
Obviously, the church administration was dissatisfied with such state of affairs in the Estonian Orthodox Church. Therefore, the very first General Assembly of the Church of Estonia on 18-22 March 1919 made a unanimous demand for a fully independent Church of Estonia. This demand was to be realised by the church administration, or the Council of Diocese. The Patriarch of Moscow notified the latter in 1920 that the Church of Estonia had been granted independence in the economic and educational domains. However, the final resolution on full independence i.e. autocephaly of the Church of Estonia was entrusted to the General Assembly of the Russian Orthodox Church at a future date.
Because of the obstruction by the Soviet authorities of the communication with the Patriarch of Moscow, arrest of Patriarch Tikhon, abolition of the former church administration of Russia as well as interventions by the Russian Orthodox Synod Abroad (so-called Karlovac Synod), the EAOC General Assembly on 14-16 September 1922 decided to seek the final canonical recognition of the Church of Estonia elsewhere, and transfer under the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Authorised by the EAOC General Assembly, Bishop Aleksander and the EAOC Synod approached Patriarch Meletios IV of Constantinople and all orthodox patriarchs of the Eastern Church on 17 April 1923 with a request for spiritual protection and perpetual canonical rule. At a solemn meeting of the Synod on 7 July 1923, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV announced that the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church was granted the act of independence (Tomos No 3348, 7.7.1923), thereby placing the EAOC as an autonomous church under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Finnish Orthodox Church was granted a similar Tomos. On the same day Archbishop Aleksander was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia. The Church of Estonia became an independent (autonomous) Metropolis of Estonia ("Uus Elu", July 1923). With this historic act of Patriarch Meletios IV, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church had reached the finishing line as far as its external organisational activities were concerned. According to Tomos, Patriarch Meletios IV proposed to divide the EAOC into the Tallinn, Narva and Petseri dioceses. The Diocese of Tallinn had existed since 1920. The Diocese of Narva was opened under the name of the (Russian) Diocese of Narva and Irboska on 24 September 1923 and the former Archbishop of Pskov Eusebius (Grozdov) became the first bishop there on 1 December 1925. The Diocese of Petseri was opened on the basis of Tomos of the Patriarch of Constantinople on 9 July 1923 (EAOC Synod meeting Record No 12 of 29.12.1924).
According to Clause 32 of the Churches and Religious Societies Act adopted on 24 December 1934, all churches were required to submit their statutes for the approval of the Government of the Republic within three months. The amended and improved Statutes of the EAOC were approved by the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Estonia and were registered with the Ministry of Internal Affairs on 22 May 1935.
As at 16 June 1940, all orthodox believers in Estonia were members of the autonomous church under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. By the year 1940, the church comprised two dioceses and the Suffragan See of Petseri:
1) the Tallinn Estonian Diocese with nine deaneries, in all 127 parishes and four monasteries and nunneries: the monastery in Petseri (Pechory), nunneries in Narva and Pühitsa (Kuremäe) and Pühitsa Priory in Tallinn.
2) the Narva Diocese with 29 parishes.
So all in all there were 156 parishes in the EAOC, where 140 priests and 30 deacons performed their religious duties. In the year 1938, there were 3 bishops in office and one retired. On the basis of the EAOC Statutes of 1935, the Metropolitan ruled the church with the assistance of the Synod (Church Administration), which comprised bishops of all dioceses and five clergymen and three laypersons, who were elected by the Church Council (General Assembly).
The clergy were educated at the Theological Seminary in Petseri (1933-1940 at the monastery in Petseri, Rector - Archbishop Nikolay) and Chair of Orthodoxy of the Faculty of Theology of Tartu University (headed by Archpriest Prof. Karp Tiisik and Archpriest Prof. Vassili Martinson as of 1919 and 1922, respectively) (Raid. 1995; Kaljukosk, 1967).
The following theological periodicals were published: "Uus Elu" (New Life) (1918-1933), "Usk ja Elu" (Faith and Life) (1933-1940), "Laste Elu" (Children's Life) (1933-1938), "Vaimulik Laul" (Sacred Hymn) (1936-1940), "Elutõde" (Truth About Life) (1936-1940) and, in the Russian language, "Pravoslavny Sobesednik" (1931-1940).
With the incorporation of Estonia into the USSR on 19 June, Andrei Zhdanov, a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU, arrived in Tallinn to form a left-wing government and place the Republic of Estonia under the Soviet Union.
On 5 July the Riigikogu (parliament) was dissolved, and elections to the new Riigikogu were announced. The elections were held on 14-15 July. On 22 July the communist Riigikogu passed a resolution to approach the Supreme Soviet of the USSR with a request that Estonia be incorporated into the USSR. On 23 July the Riigikogu passed a resolution to nationalise the land, large and private companies, and accepted the information that President K. Päts had stepped down (he was deported to the Soviet Union on 30 July). On 6 August 1940 the Estonian SSR was accepted into the USSR as the sixteenth Soviet republic.
In the years 1939-1940 there were some 3,000 orthodox parishes in the territory occupied by the USSR (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bessarabia, Poland), which were soon united with the Moscow Patriarchate. On the pretext of nationalisation, the land possessions, buildings and bank deposits of the EAOC were expropriated by the new authorities as early as on 23 July 1940. Clergymen were imposed higher income and social taxes, which evoked a wide negative response among the EAOC clergy.
In his correspondence with the deans, Metropolitan Aleksander had been discussing a possibility, because of the pressure by the authorities, of union with the Moscow Patriarchate as early as in September 1940. The correspondence reveals that the majority of the deans did not rule out the union, but emphasised that it should materialise on EAOC's own initiative and by EAOC's own means, in the spirit of brotherly understanding, with no pressure from their side nor denigration nor restriction of the rights of the EAOC and its principal.
On 23 September 1940 the EAOC Synod, in order to anticipate an intervention of the Government in the church affairs, decided to approach Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow, with a request to accept the EAOC into the Moscow Patriarchate on the basis of the Resolution No 1780 (15 June 1920) of Patriarch Tikhon and the Synod as an autonomous church. An extract of this resolution (No 2139) was sent to Sergius, Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow on 16 September 1940. Metropolitan Aleksander believed that the union with the Moscow Patriarchate was possible on the following terms only: the EAOC would retain the new calendar; Pavel (Dmitrovsky) would remain the Bishop of Narva; Metropolitan Aleksander would retain the title of the Metropolitan of Tallinn and Estonia; and a new church ruling procedure would be prepared in collaboration.
In December 1940 Vicar of the Patriarch Sergius (Stragorodsky) sent Metropolitan Aleksander a reply, saying that there could be no union under such conditions and that no two orthodox churches could rule in parallel in one and the same country.
On the basis of the "Book of Resolutions" of Aleksander, Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia, all in all 76 clergymen (one archbishop, 25 archpriests, 44 priests and 6 deacons) left office on their own request from 10 May 1940 to 25 March 1941. In addition, the Ministry of Education of the Estonian SSR dismissed Professor of the University of Tartu Archpriest Vassili Martinson on 9 September 1940.
Ivan Nelson has written about this in his Soviet propaganda book the following:
More than 50 % of the entire clergy submitted their petitions almost at the same time, requesting that they be released from their duties as wardens of parishes. More than half of the churches no longer conducted services. Parishioners began to express their dissatisfaction, because it was clear to them that this was a show of hostility against the new rule, even though the priests had stepped down on their own request….
In all probability, it was not only a show of hostility against the new power but also a demonstration of reluctance to be heading for a union with the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as fear of repression. Anyway, the extensive stepping down, which peaked in August - December 1940, was the reason why the EAOC leadership now cast aside the idea of the union. At the joint meeting of the EAOC Synod and deans on 27 December 1940 it was decided to deliberately delay the execution of the resolution on the unification. There were hopes that the political situation would improve, Estonia would regain independence and the EAOC would retain its position.
In late December 1940, the Moscow Patriarchate sent Archbishop Sergius (Voskresensky) of Dmitrov to Estonia and Latvia on a mission to examine the state of affairs in the Estonian and Latvian orthodox churches and unite these. Later Sergius (Voskresensky) became Archbishop of Lithuania and Vilno. On 17 January 1941 Archbishop Sergius (Voskresensky), representative of the Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow paid an unexpected visit to Tallinn. Sergius demanded that the EAOC Synod meeting be convened without delay so that he could dictate the wording of the request for transfer under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. The EAOC Synod met, but lacked quorum to pass resolutions. The document (No 2322 of 17 January 1941) reveals that the Synod record expressing the desire to approach the Moscow Patriarchate with the request to accept the EAOC under its jurisdiction was, on the basis of Clause 45 of the EAOC Statutes of 1935, null and void since only 2 clerics were present, who were elected members of the Synod - archpriests Konstantin Gustavson and Ioann Bogoyavlensky. Neither the Chairman nor Deputy Chairman were present. The named resolutions could not represent free desire of the EAOC Synod and church community, and therefore erroneous is the statement by Patriarch Alexy II that, allegedly, the EAOC Synod lead by Metropolitan Aleksander had repeated on 17 January 1941 the request for the union with the Moscow Patriarchate.
At the end of January 1941 Archbishop Sergius returned to Moscow and announced that the Latvian and Estonian schismatics had made a "request for the union". As a result, the Moscow Patriarchate decided to unite the Estonian and Latvian churches, and resolved not to recognise Metropolitan Aleksander of Tallinn and All Estonia nor Metropolitan Augustin of Riga and All Latvia as the heads of the EAOC and Latvian Orthodox Church, respectively, until they repent of the schism.
On 24 February 1941, the EAOC and Latvian orthodox churches were abolished by the Resolution No 10 of the Moscow Patriarchate, and instead the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate was established as one metropolis, which was to comprise the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian dioceses. By Ukaz No 387 of the Moscow Patriarchate the new Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky) of Lithuania and Vilno was appointed as the head of the newly established Exarchate on 2 March 1941, and the title of Exarch of Latvia and Estonia was bestowed upon him. The main responsibility of Metropolitan Sergius was to dissolve the EAOC Synod, the Synod of the Latvian Orthodox Church and the Administration of the Lithuanian Diocese, and establish the administration of the Exarchate instead, i.e. his task was to organise a new church order. The Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian orthodox bishops and metropolitans Aleksander and Augustin were placed, as suffragan bishops, directly under Exarch Sergius. Riga became the centre of the Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarchate and residence of the Exarch. On 9 April 1941 Metropolitan Sergius arrived in Riga and began to govern the Exarchate. Before that, on 26 March 1941 Exarch Sergius had visited Tallinn where he had declared the EAOC Synod abolished and had begun to form the administration of the Exarchate. On 28 March 1941 Metropolitan Sergius, Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow, invited metropolitans Aleksander and Augustin to Moscow for the resolution of organisational church issues, in order to carry out the forcible unification of the Estonian and Latvian orthodox churches. On 30 March metropolitans Aleksander and Augustin attended the divine service at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Manifestation of Christ, where Metropolitan Aleksander was forced to sign a prepared beforehand Act and thereby give up the autocephaly of the EAOC (this Act of union referred to the EAOC as the Estonian Autocephalous Church), repent, and place himself as the head of the EAOC under the Moscow Patriarchate. It should be noted that the EAOC has never been granted autocephaly neither by Moscow nor by Constantinople patriarchs, and for this reason this Act was null and void both canonically and legally (Archbishop Cyril of Alexandria, rule III). At the meeting of the church administration of the Russian Orthodox Church on 31 March the EAOC was accepted as a Diocese under the Moscow Patriarchate, and the autonomy of the Estonian Orthodox Church was abolished. Sergius (Stragorodsky), Vicar of the Patriarch, chaired this meeting, where Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky) made a longer speech, explaining that Moscow ruled secularly and, consequently, also ecclesiastically, and therefore the Baltic churches could no longer be independent. Metropolitan Sergius added that he had been appointed as the Metropolitan of Lithuania and Vilno, and, at the same time, Exarch of Estonia and Latvia. The resolutions for the unification of the Estonian and Latvian churches with the Moscow Patriarchate had been prepared beforehand and were read out. Metropolitan Aleksander still submitted a written request of reconsideration that the Estonian parishes should be allowed to proceed in their own spirit and orthodox Estonians should be allowed to celebrate church holidays according to the new calendar, but his request was disregarded. On the basis of the agreement, Metropolitan Aleksander was granted the right, in the position of Bishop, to take care of the Estonian parishes whereas Russian parishes were entrusted to Bishop Pavel of Narva. Exarch Sergius himself began to watch over the Russian parishes in Latvia, whereas Metropolitan Augustin and Bishop Alexander of Jersika became responsible for Latvian parishes.
Metropolitan Aleksander gave a picturesque description of the situation as it was:
On 17 January 1941 Archbishop Sergius Voskresensky, representative of Metropolitan Sergius, Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow, appears in Tallinn. He had already been to Riga in the matter of the unification of the churches, and there the unification of the Orthodox Church of Latvia with the Moscow Church had been carried through affirmatively. Therefore, whether we wanted to or not, we had to agree to the union with the Moscow Church, and the more so because Archbishop Sergius seemed to have the support of the Government of the Soviet Union in carrying out his task. After that came an invitation to come by 29 March to resolve the organisational church matters, telegraphed by the Vicar in Moscow at the end of March. On 30 March, together with the Vicar of the Patriarch and other bishops, I attended the divine service, which was followed by the surrender of autonomy. On 31 March 1941 I received an order from the Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow, stating that the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church had been united with the Moscow Church as a diocese and not as an autonomous church, which was in full contradiction with the resolutions and requests of the Government and representatives of the Republic of Estonia… An order that followed appointed a bishop from Moscow to Estonia - Archbishop Sergius was appointed as the Exarch, because, allegedly, they (the Moscow Patriarchate) had been asked to do so (Vasilyev, Kulikov, Shkolov, Shvedov and Archpriest Verkhoustinsky…).
I may prove beyond doubt that Estonian orthodox people are, without exception, against the union with the Moscow Patriarchate, and so is large part of ethnic Russian orthodox people together with them.
On 26 March 1941 Exarch Sergius paid his second visit to Tallinn and declared the Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church inoperative, the Provisional Administration of the Exarchate established, and began to make, without consulting me, decisions which were unpractical and inappropriate. For instance, he appointed as the Dean of Petserimaa Archpriest E. Verkhoustinsky, who is not suited for this position at all…

The violent uniting of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church with the Moscow Patriarchate in March 1941 actually marked the end of the EAOC as an independent church. The EAOC Synod was dissolved. The unification was carried out within the framework of the plan, which covered all the recently annexed countries. Estonia turned out to be at the bottom of the list after Bessarabia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Church lands and property had been nationalised as early as on 23 July 1940. The EAOC bank deposits and securities had been expropriated as well. The storehouse where the publications of the church were kept was confiscated and so were parish buildings in some places. During the first Soviet occupation in the years 1940-1941 before the entry of the German troops into Estonia, 5 churches with accessory buildings burnt to the ground, 9 churches suffered so severe damage that it was impossible to conduct services there. The buildings of 4 more churches were badly destroyed. However, the most onerous burden for the EAOC were the losses among the clergy. 16 clergymen and 2 laymen of the EAOC Synod (Ioann Lagovsky, Aadu Birk) were arrested, the majority of them were either executed or deported. 2 more clergymen were executed, 8 clergymen were conscripted by force and 2 were killed in a bomb attack. In addition, about 2,500 parishioners were deported in June 1941. The Theological Seminary in Petseri and Chair of Orthodoxy of the Faculty of Theology of Tartu University were closed down. Religious instruction was removed from schools. The publication of periodicals of religious content was forbidden.
Erroneous is the statement of Patriarch Aleksy II that the union with the Moscow Patriarchate had been initiated by the EAOC and resulted from negotiations. The political turmoil of 1940-41shattered the EAOC, and the subordination to Moscow caused a number of problems. However, during the first Soviet occupation, the church was still able to retain de facto its autonomy granted by Patriarch Tikhon and the Ecumenical Patriarch, and put up fight for the autonomy during the German occupation.
In conclusion, it may be noted that when Estonia was incorporated into the USSR, the idea of union with the Moscow Patriarchate, which came high on the agenda, resulted from political changes rather than free will. In 1940 only the Petseri Parish of Forty Martyrs and a few Russian clergymen in the EAOC requested a direct reunification with the Moscow Patriarchate.
With the abolition of the EAOC and establishment of the Exarchate in February-March 1941, the Moscow Patriarchate persistently denied the rights of local orthodox churches, and encountered several problems, especially with the formation of the administration of the Exarchate. The local bishops (metropolitans Aleksander and Augustin) together with the rest of the clergy expressed their dissatisfaction with the current situation and subordination of EAOC to Exarch Sergius of the Patriarch of Moscow. Till the end of the Soviet occupation in 1941, Exarch Sergius failed to subdue the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church once and for all. He could not reorganise the EAOC into the Estonian diocese - unlike in Latvia where the subjection of the Orthodox Church was carried out faster.
At the very beginning of the World War II on 9 July the German troops took Petseri and on 28 August 1941 they took Tallinn. On the first days of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union (30 June 1941) Metropolitan Aleksander declared himself head of the independent EAOC, and reaffirmed the ties of the EAOC with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Metropolitan Aleksander had the support of the Estonian parishes and, in addition, of the Estonian self-government and, with reservations, of the Generalkommissariat. In September-December 1941, 24 clergymen out of the 76 who had left office in 1940 returned to serve the church. During the German occupation, the ranks of the EAOC clergy increased by one bishop. On 25 July 1943 the Metropolitan Aleksander and former Archbishop Nikolay of Petseri consecrated Dean Peeter (Pähkel) of Petserimaa at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord in Tallinn as the Bishop of Petseri and Tartu, entrusting him the entire south-eastern Estonia. Church life was restored. The EAOC was returned the building of the church administration and some other buildings and land possessions, which had been nationalised by the Soviet authorities. On 19 June 1942 the Reichskommissar Ostland ordered that all religious societies be registered. They had to submit to the Reichskommissar by the set deadline a respective application together with a detailed report on the activity of their religious organisation. Being guided by the resolution of the Synod meeting of 23 July 1942, on 20 October 1942 Metropolitan Aleksander registered with the Estonian Generalkommissar the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Metropolis under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. On 28 October 1942 the resolution of Generalkommissar gave the clergy and parishes a choice - either to remain in the EAOC under Metropolitan Aleksander, or in the Narva (Russian) Diocese under Bishop Pavel.
With this resolution the German occupation authorities officially registered the EAOC. The EAOC was granted the right to proceed on the former bases as the Estonian Orthodox Metropolis (in German: Orthodoxe Kirche Estlands) and Metropolitan Aleksander was acknowledged as the head of the Metropolis (in German: Metropolit der Orthodoxe Metropolie Estlands). Thus Metropolitan Aleksander and the EAOC leadership succeeded in obtaining a permit for an independent activity on the pre-war bases, despite the sympathy of the Reichskommissar Ostland for the Moscow Exarchate.
The Narva Diocese with 24 parishes was registered by the German authorities on 10 November 1942 as a diocese of the Moscow Partiarchate under Exarch Sergius of Latvia and Estonia. Part of the clergy of the Narva Diocese with 7 parishes transferred to the Tallinn Diocese under Metropolitan Aleksander, expressing so their dissatisfaction with the fact that Bishop Pavel of Narva had placed himself under the Moscow Exarchate and the unity of EAOC had been destroyed. The policy of the German authorities was that the choice had to be made without any pressure, yet Bishop Pavel of Narva exerted such pressure on the parishes in order to force them to unite with the Moscow Exarchate. He anathematised the above-named clergymen and banned them from performing their religious duties. In order to put an end to the anti-EAOC actions of Bishop Pavel, who refused to recognise and respect the EAOC Statutes, in August 1942 Metropolitan Aleksander decided to dismiss him from his post of the Bishop of the Narva Diocese, and banned him from any office in the parishes and clerical institutions of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church. Under these circumstances Metropolitan Aleksander assumed temporarily the administration of the Narva Diocese.
On 23 July 1942 the bishops of the Moscow Exarchate held their first meeting where they sharply criticised Metropolitan Aleksander. At this first meeting, convened in Riga with the assistance of the German security police, the bishops of the Exarchate telegraphed greetings to the head of state Adolf Hitler, publicly denouncing Moscow Partiarchate's sympathising with the Soviet power. It was decided to no longer commemorate the Vicar of the Patriarch at regular services.
Later, at the second assembly of the bishops of the Moscow Exarchate in Riga on 2-6 November 1942 Metropolitan Aleksander was illegally anathematised and dismissed from his office of bishop and leader of the Estonian Diocese. Metropolitan Aleksander was accused of the secession from the Mother Church and schism in the EAOC at the time of the Republic of Estonia. Upon passing the resolution guidance was taken from the criticism made by the assembly of bishops on 23 July 1942 and Resolution No 129-IV of Exarch Sergius (of 5 November 1942) on banning the head of EAOC from serving. The same had been done in respect of Metropolitan Augustin, the head of the Latvian orthodoxy (Resolution No 515 of 25 October 1941). By these resolutions the Moscow Exarchate refused to acknowledge any consecrations of metropolitans at a future date. The Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow could no longer ignore the behaviour of Exarch Sergius, and especially his anti-Soviet orientation, so he strongly condemned the meeting of the bishops of the Baltic Exarchate of 23 July in his message (of 22 September 1942). In this message the Vicar of the Patriarch together with 12 other bishops appealed to the members of the Exarchate of the Baltic Orthodox Church and noted that church court could not tolerate in the Church among bishops such disobedience and insubordination of slanderers. On the same day the Vicar of the Patriarch and 12 other bishops signed the Resolution No 27 "About Metropolitan Sergius Voskresensky and others", in which, however, agreement was reached to put the final decision of the matter (i.e. condemnation) off until the specifics have been clarified. The resolution required that
1) Exarch Sergius and other prelates - participants of the meeting should report and explain (also in the press) whether the information that the Patriarchate had received about the bishops' assembly in Riga was true.
2) If the information that the Patriarchate had received was true, then every action should be taken to remedy the transgression…so that the pending church court could take into account not only the errors but also their corrections…
And Metropolitan Sergius (Voskresensky) was not anathematised, unlike other prelates who were making German-friendly statements in the occupied territories. In April 1944 the Most Holy Synod decided to recognise as valid the consecrations of the Exarch and the bishops under him.
However, it is reasonable to assume that the criticism of Exarch Sergius by the Moscow Patriarchate in 1942 may have called in question the resolutions of the bishops' meeting of 23 July 1942 and their validity (including the condemnation and anathematising of Metropolitan Aleksander).
In conclusion it should be noted that after the retreat of the Soviet troops from Estonia, on 28 August 1941 the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church declared itself independent from the forcibly imposed ties with Moscow, and ceased recognising the administration of Exarch. An attempt by Exarch Sergius to subdue the EAOC in 1941-1942 failed, and the fierce struggle for the registration of the EAOC ended with the recognition of EAOC's independence by the Generalkommissar on 20 October 1942. However, the conflict resulted in a schism in the EAOC, because the Bishop of Narva and 24 parishes transferred under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate and registered as the Diocese of the Exarchate in 1942. In the autumn of 1944 when the armed fighting reached the Estonian territory, Metropolitan Aleksander together with 23 other EAOC clergymen had to leave their fatherland and go into exile to West Germany, where Metropolitan Aleksander continued to lead the EAOC. He realised well that under the conditions of Soviet occupation the EAOC could not be retained as an independent church. The Metropolitan himself organised the activity of the churches in Germany. In March 1943 Metropolitan Aleksander left for Sweden where he, together with the newly established Synod, began to lead the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Exile. After the end of the World War II, the issue of the orthodox churches in Estonia, Latvia and Poland was again high on the agenda. The destiny of the Estonian Orthodox Church had been decided, like the destiny of other orthodox churches in Eastern Europe. However, the precondition for the unification was repentance for the "schism" - this applied to the EAOC, the American Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Exarchate in Western Europe (connected with the Patriarchate of Constantinople) alike. On 10 December 1944, after having examined the situation in the Estonian orthodoxy, the Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate decided (Resolution No 2074) to:
1. terminate the activity of the Synod of the Estonian Orthodox Metropolis in Tallinn,
2. establish a provisional council of the diocese comprising 4 clerical members (2 Russian and 2 Estonian nationals) and a Chairman. It had been decided beforehand to appoint Archpriest Ioann Bogoyavlensky as the Chairman.
The main task of the newly established provisional council of the diocese was to accept, by means of repentance and registration, the schismatic clergy and parishes of the EAOC. On 6 March 1945 there was an Episcopal service at the Nikolay Church in Tallinn, conducted by Archbishop Grigory and attended by the majority of the clergy of the Tallinn orthodox parishes. On behalf of the entire schismatic EAOC clergy, an ex-member of the EAOC Synod Archpriest Christofor Vink had to read out the act of repentance and reunification, in which remorse was expressed for the caused schism and secession from the Moscow Patriarchate. Thereafter an Act was prepared concerning the unification with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian-Estonian clergy and secular community of the Estonian Diocese, who had arbitrarily seceded from the Mother Church.
On 9 March 1945 a joint meeting of the Council of the Narva Diocese and the Synod of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Metropolis was held in the premises of the Council of the Narva Diocese. Archbishop Grigory (Chukov) of Novgorod and Porkhov read out the Ukaz (decree) on the dissolution of the EAOC Synod and termination of the activity of the Synod. On the same day a five-member Council of the Diocese of Estonia and Tallinn of the Russian Orthodox Church was appointed, and the tasks of the new body were specified. On the same day the newly established council met to pass a resolution on the take-over of the EAOC record management and property. Archbishop Pavel (Dimitrovsky) became the Chairman of the Council of the Diocese and remained in this position until his death on 1 February 1946.
On 16 April 1945 the Patriarch of Moscow terminated the legal activity of the Apostolic Orthodox Metropolis, its Synod and the Narva Diocese by establishing the Tallinn Diocese under the Patriarch of Moscow. The former bishop of the Narva Diocese Pavel was assigned as the head of the Tallinn Diocese in March 1945. Archbishop Pavel had a large number of seditious messages printed, which criticised the activity of Metropolitan Aleksander and invited the Estonian orthodox community to unite with the Patriarchate of Moscow. Again, coercive measures were taken, a good example of which is the compulsory introduction of the old calendar. At his time 16 parishes were closed - 4 of which were active and 12 had their churches destroyed in the course of the war. By the end of the war 12 clergymen had been arrested and 12 more were arrested after the war, including Bishop Peeter (Pähkel) of Tartu and Petseri. Bishop Peeter (Pähkel) was arrested on 26 June 1945 and was sentenced to 10 years of exile (he died on 20 August 1948). In addition, 2 members of the EAOC Synod were arrested: R. Koemets and Andrei Punšun.
In addition it may be noted that the Estonian Orthodox Diocese operated only 4 years, because on 19 December 1949 it was reorganised into the Estonian Orthodox Suffragan See of the Leningrad Diocese under the leadership of the Metropolitan of Leningrad and Novgorod and under the supervision of the fully authorised representative of the Council for matters of the Russian Orthodox Church at the Council of Ministers of the USSR. As a result of the amendment of the border of the Estonian SSR in October 1946, the local orthodox diocese lost 15 % of the total number of its parishes, all in all 20 parishes: Irboska Mother of God, Irboska St. Nicholas, Kolpino, Krivasoo (Kriusha), Kulye, Lisye, Myla Nativity of Christ, Myla St. Onuphry, Nizy, Olga-Risti, Pankyavitsa St. Nicholas, Pankyavitsa Holy Trinity, Petseri Mother of GodVirgin Mary, Petseri Forty Martyrs, Petshki, Salesye, Senno, Skamya, Venkyla, Shcheremitsa. Disregarding the EAOC Statutes of 1935, the Patriarch of Moscow appointed the following bishops of Tallinn and Estonia:
in 1947 Isidor (Bogoyavlensky), who closed 3 parishes; in 1950 Bishop Roman (Tang) of Tallinn under Leningrad Metropolis, who was the Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia as of 1951 and closed 15 parishes.
From 1945 to 1953 the number of orthodox parishes in Estonia decreased by 54 (32 were closed, 20 were annexed to other dioceses as a result of the border amendment); the number of ethnic Estonian clergymen dropped from 69 to 38.
In conclusion in may be noted that political changes rather than free will generated the idea of the union with the Moscow Patriarchate, which emerged in the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church during the first Soviet occupation. Only one Russian-speaking orthodox parish and a few Russian clergymen requested the unification of the EAOC with the Moscow Patriarchate in 1940. With the abolition of the EAOC in 1941 and establishment of the Exarchate in February-March 1941, the Moscow Patriarchate consistently disregarded the rights of the orthodox churches of Latvia and Estonia, and thereafter ended up in a complicated situation. The local bishops and the entire clergy expressed their dissatisfaction with the current situation, which was explicitly demonstrated by the 76 orthodox clergymen who left office (over 50 % of the EAOC clergy) from May 1940 to March 1941. Although the Moscow Patriarchate had abolished the EAOC as early as in March 1941, Exarch Sergius failed to completely subdue the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church by the end of the first Soviet occupation in 1941 and failed to reorganise it into the Estonian Diocese. In its fight for the registration during the German occupation, the EAOC succeeded in adapting to the new situation, restored the autonomy that had been abolished in 1941, denounced the forcibly imposed relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate, and thereby remained connected with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The independence and church life of the EAOC were restored during the German occupation, yet the internal unity of the EAOC was disturbed by the establishment of the new diocese under the Moscow Patriarchate, lead by Bishop Pavel of Narva and comprising 24 parishes. With the abolition of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church for the second time, completed in March 1945, the history of the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Estonia was severed. In the confusion of war the EAOC Metropolitan Aleksander together with 23 clergymen left Estonia to establish the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church in exile.
The history of the orthodox Church in Estonia in 1940-1945 lead to the conclusion that despite political changes and turmoil of war, the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church was able to adapt to the conditions of the first Soviet occupation and the German occupation, and retain its autonomy on home soil until 1945, and later in exile.

A summary of the thesis by Andrey Sychov made in June 2001 in Tartu University


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