The editorship of Orthodox Life is troubled by recent signs, even among certain members and clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, of a revisionist history taking hold regarding the tumultuous and tragic events of the early 20th century — namely, the controversial and enigmatic figure of Grigory Efimovich Rasputin. We therefore offer this thorough and sober investigation by a respected scholar and historian of the Russian Church. May the question of “the real Rasputin” be finally put to rest, so that without discord and tumult in the Church, we may worthily honor the life and sufferings of the Holy Royal Martyrs and all the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, especially in the current and upcoming anniversary years.
A version of this article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Holy Trinity Monastery’s Russian-language journal Православная Русь.
Russia is living through complicated times. The country is being reborn after disintegration and abasement. A torturous search for a national idea is afoot. All these processes are undergirded by a colossal, partly frenetic spiritual tension in our society. The huge number of magicians, astrologists, psychics, and healers who appear on television and in print are a clear indication that the populace is ill, and gravely so.
"So this messenger of death stands between the throne and Russia... He kills because he is two-faced."
One symptom of this illness is the veneration in certain — albeit narrow — circles of Grigory Efimovich Rasputin. The facts of his life are so widely known there is no need to recount them here. For us, a different question is important — why has a movement appeared for this person’s canonization and what are the arguments, both for and against? This discussion is unavoidable in order to develop a firm position on such a complex question and so as not to fall under the influence of pseudo-ecclesial agitators and, in the final equation, to not do harm to our own spiritual state.
Attempts to realize the canonization of Rasputin are fraught with several negative consequences. First, admirers of “elder Grigory” make of him a certain symbol of “folk Orthodox tradition,” set against the “bishops-bureaucrats.” The movement thereby carries an anti-ecclesial character. Even after the Commission on the Glorification of Saints of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has expressed its authoritative view against the glorification of Rasputin among the saints, his self-willed apologists nevertheless venerate him as a saintly elder and martyr.
Second, the canonization of such a character as Rasputin would throw a shadow upon the Royal Family and would undermine the credibility of their own glorification. Such an act would also be a huge gift to the anti-Orthodox media, giving them an excuse to pour dirt upon the Church.
The “Real Rasputin” — Man and Myth
Did he truly love the Royal Family? If it were so, he would not have discredited them in the eyes of the public by his behavior.
Men like Rasputin appear specifically at moments of crisis and a tension immediately arises surrounding them. About him are layered a large number of the most varied myths. Some consider him a saint, others — a cunning and immoral scoundrel. It is difficult to prove or disprove anything when it comes to Rasputin. The thing is, the extant witness accounts of him conflict in the extreme. Even descriptions of his external appearance made by people who associated with him are so contradictory that one is given to wonder. Some write that he was tall, others — not so tall. Some write that he was, for a peasant, tidy, others — that he was dirty and unkempt. A singer who saw Rasputin many times describes his rotten teeth and foul breath; whereas the writer Zhukovskaia, who knew him well, informs us that his teeth were impeccable and every one intact, while his breath was fresh. Rasputin’s secretary writes that he had a wide mouth but that some sort of black roots were visible through it. Meanwhile Sazonov, an admirer of Rasputin, describes strong white teeth.
To move on from here to personality traits is extremely difficult. The situation is complicated by Rasputin’s own lack of education. His papers are completely unintelligible; they contain no information and express only Rasputin’s interest in the matter of the petitioner at hand, although in no way clarifying the substance of the request. Just as unhelpful as sources are Rasputin’s letters and telegrams, which consist of congratulations, information about his health, and various opaque adages.
Rasputin at the Court of the Tsar
How did a semi-literate muzhik from Tobolsk land in the Imperial Court and enjoy the esteem of the Royal couple? The problem of Rasputin is in many respects a problem of history. Interest in “God’s people” was visible throughout contemporary Russian society. For instance, the head of the archive and library of the Most-Holy Synod, A.N. Lvov, remarked in his diary for 1984 that some wanderer, Antonii, has been roaming St Petersburg barefoot and in chains. His appearance in the capitol in such a state was enough on its own to give him a halo of sanctity, and such appearances become a sign of the times. The shining Petersburg society treated even the tongue-tied vagrant, Mitya Kozelsky, with full credulity.
Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and the revolution of 1905 brought out in the society, and especially among aristocratic circles, a heightened sense of nervousness. Per the remarks of the assistant to the chairman of the Extraordinary Investigatory Commission of the Provisional Government B.N. Smitten, “Rasputin came to fertile ground and it enveloped him.” A portion of the aristocracy strove to be immersed in the “popular faith,” all the while not quite grasping what was meant by this. It is illustrative that they sought answers to their questions not so much from pastors of the Church as from a varied crop of newly-appeared prophets and “elders.”
Metropolitan Veniamin (Fedchenkov) fairly noted that the cause of the devotion to Rasputin lay not so much in his own person as in the atmosphere which reined within high society. From the start, he left a strong impression even on erudite hierarchs. Vladyka Metropolitan Veniamin, having witnessed the first introduction of Rasputin to the father confessor of the Royal family, Archimandrite Theophan (Bystrov),1in future, Bishop of Poltava recalls that Rasputin immediately left a strong impression on the latter, both in the intensity of his personality and in the understanding of his soul. Fr Theophan was completely carried away, seeing in him the ideal of a holy man. Having overheard the conversations between Rasputin and Fr Theophan, Vladyka Veniamin notes that the former was no charlatan or hypnotist; he simply affected people by the strength of his personality. This trait is also recorded by other contemporaries.
Janus of the Imperial Court
Contradictory opinions of Rasputin, from misunderstood and persecuted righteous one to the monster who destroyed the Royal Family, are founded in the first instance on the contradictory traits of his own personality. The philosopher and convinced monarchist Lev Tikhomirov wrote regarding Rasputin:
To the Royal Family, he turns the face of an “elder,” peering into which the Empress perceives the spirit of God resting upon a holy man… Тo Russia, he turns his debauched mug, drunken and lascivious, the face of a devilish satyr from the Tobolsk taiga…
And from this stems everything…
The whole country grumbles, indignant that Rasputin is in the Tsaritsa’s chambers… But in the Tsar and Tsaritsa’s chambers — bewilderment and bitter resentment… Why do the people rage? Because this holy man prays for the unfortunate heir?… For the gravely ill child, whose every careless movement portends death? This perturbs them. Why? Over what?
So this messenger of death stands between the throne and Russia…
He kills because he is two-faced.
Many saw in Rasputin a superb actor who took on the role of saviour and lived it to such a degree that he would not part from it even at the very end. Many contemporaries noted the remarkable union within this man of sin and righteousness. Thus, Prince Zhevakhov remarks in his memoirs that there is nothing surprising about the polar-opposite evaluations of Rasputin in society, since some saw him as he was in Tsarskoe Selo, and others — as he was in the tavern. From this, we might gather that Rasputin was neither a saint nor a consummate villain and rogue.
He also had positive traits. From time to time, he appears a kind, responsive, co-suffering, and generous person. Rasputin strove to help many. Notes of his have survived with requests for assistance from this or that petitioner, who had laid siege to his apartment for whole days. Eyewitnesses recall a time when, in response to pleas from a widow who had come to him lacking funds enough to survive, he immediately turned to a person of means who stood there and without looking at the money handed to him immediately turned them over to the widow. After crossing the threshold of the apartment where Grigory Efimovich lived, she saw that she had received from him 500 rubles, a giant sum for that time.
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As regards his writings (“Life of an Experienced Wanderer” — 1907; “My Thoughts and Reflections: Brief Description of Travels to Holy Sites and Reflections upon Religious Questions Raised by Them” — 1911; and others), these were dictated to one of his admirers and carry evidence of significant literary exaggeration. Rasputin’s dialect could not have been intelligible to his erudite followers. The so-called “Rasputin’s Diary” was written under the dictation of Rasputin’s admirer, the aristocrat Maria Evgenievna Golovina. Even less reliable as sources are the transcriptions of Rasputin’s thoughts, composed by his admirers; here we see not so much an expression of his thoughts as of their reception by the one recording them.
At first, the “Siberian wanderer” behaved wisely and circumspectly. Often genuine piety manifested itself within him. As noted above, he was able to win over not only certain representatives of the clergy but even the Royal Family. There are several explanations for such affection. The tsar sincerely wished to bridge the divide between the public and the government, to become as close as possible to his people. Rasputin, to an extent, played for the Tsar the role of the people’s tribune, who would bring all its hopes and needs directly to the Autocrat.
Empress Alexandra, Devoted Mother
If the learned monk and theologian Theophan esteemed him at first as a saint and happily associated with him, then it is no wonder that the reaction within the Royal household was the same. In the most trying period, he appeared before them as a guide, a teacher, and even an elder from the very heart of the people. A true “man of God.” Rasputin became a legend already in life, and as often happens, the legend obscured the character of the real, living person.
...the absence of admirers of Rasputin in the Russian diaspora can be explained by the presence within the emigration of people closely associated with the Court... who remembered the real Rasputin rather than the myth concocted about him later.
Empress Alexandra Feodorovna saw in Rasputin a friend, heeded his counsels and appraisals, and relied upon the weight of his authority.2Авторитет is a particularly difficult word to translate into English. It connotes a level of expertise which is widely acknowledged and lends to the one wielding it a certain gravitas unavailable to others. Rasputin conducted discussions with her on suffering, mercy, meekness, and patience. To her, he seemed an unmercenary and spiritually gifted seeker of God from among the people. Under his influence the Empress became a wartime nurse and she received constant support from him in this path, which of course contradicted neither her convictions nor the inclination of her soul.
One of the main causes of the Empress’s love toward Rasputin was his ability to ease the heir’s suffering during more than one attack of hemophilia. Let us not judge the doting parents for grasping at any opportunity to aid their son, who himself loved Grigory Efimovich. But again arises the question of this character’s two-faced nature. Did he truly love the Royal Family? If it were so, he would not have discredited them in the eyes of the public by his behavior. Or, if he saw that the situation had gotten out of hand, then he would have quietly withdrawn. Instead, he placed self-assuredness before this. Besides which, sanctity does not signify omniscience. Though sincere [in their affection], the Royal Family misjudged their “friend.”
It must be noted that the “special intimacy of the elder” with the Royal Family advertised by Rasputin’s admirers is greatly exaggerated. To be exact, there was no “special bond” at all. The Tsar, contrary to commentary of both the pro-Rasputin and the Soviet press, did not place blind trust in Rasputin. In a letter to the Empress, he writes, “As far as Rasputin’s counsels, you know how carefully one must regard his counsels.” As evidence, S. Oldenburg shows in his book, The Life and Rule of Emperor Nicholas II, that in 1915–16 the Sovereign heeded not one of Rasputin’s seventeen recommendations.
No Elder at All
The tragedy of the Royal Family, who saw in Rasputin an elder from among the people, lies in this key fact — he was no elder. As is well known, an elder is a spiritual guide, healer of spiritual infirmities who leads a sinner on the path of salvation. Apologists for Rasputin offer evidence that he was an ascetic, elder, and seer. Yet, one attribute of a false prophet is that he cannot foretell his own fate. Under this criterion, Rasputin cannot be considered a true prophet because he could not accurately predict his own fate. True, there is his will, in which he says that if members of the Romanov family kill him, their line will end; but this seems more like a threat, once we take into account that he knew perfectly well how the majority of the Imperial House regarded him.
"Rasputin came to fertile ground and it enveloped him."
One may suppose that for the Sovereign, with whom was tied the status of head of the Orthodox confession, it was easier to turn for help to a man of the people than, for example, to Bishop Kirill (Smirnov), who served in Gatchina3site of the Imperial residence,which made Bishop Kirill easily accessible to the Sovereign –trans. but was his subordinate.4Later, Vl Kirill was appointed Metropolitan of Kazan and named by St Tikhon as the first locum tenens of the patriarchal throne. Finding himself in exile upon the death of St Tikhon, he was never allowed by the Bolsheviks to take up this calling.
Unfortunately, Rasputin was somewhere below the summit of his faculties. Vladyka Theophan notes in his report to the Investigatory Commission of the Provisional Government, “He [Rasputin] was neither a hypocrite nor a scoundrel. He was a true man of God who appeared from among the people. But under the influence of high society, which could not comprehend this simple man, a horrible spiritual catastrophe took place, and he fell. The Imperial retinue, which wished for this to happen, remained nonplussed and accounted everything that occurred as something frivolous.” Vladkya Theophan exhorted Rasputin to change his ways, but it was already too late. Later, convinced by precise, documented evidence, Vladyka broke with Rasputin whilst deeply pained by his disillusionment in the Siberian wanderer. And this disillusionment was supported by serious foundations. Rasputin’s daughter, Matrena Soloviev-Rasputin, described to the investigator N.A. Sokolov5Coroner of the Imperial Court. In 1918, Sokolov would lead the investigation into the murder of the Royal Family and the search for their remains in December of 1918:
He spoke of God remarkably well when he was drunk. As I already said, when he left to become a wanderer, he stopped drinking. But in Petrograd he returned to wine and drank a lot. More than anything he loved madeira and red wine. He drank at home, but even more in restaurants and at his friends’ homes. The Royal Family knew that he drank and judged him for it. We also spoke to him about it. He always had the same answer for all: “I cannot drink that which will come after.” The key to his thinking was that he awaited some evil for the future of his homeland, and he wanted to drown in wine the bitterness caused by this dread anticipation.
Voeikov, the last commandant of the palace at Tsarskoe Selo, described how Rasputin indeed was able to stop the heir’s loss of blood and saved his life more than once. The trouble, however, was that sometimes he was so drunk that it was impossible to get him to the palace. If help was urgently needed, they would bring him the phone, and Rasputin, speaking with the tsarevich, would stanch the blood by phone.
Researchers have at their disposal irrefutable evidence of Rasputin’s bacchanalian lifestyle, recorded by the directors of Russian special services, based on the dispassionate and objective information of their numerous agents — e.g. the memoirs of General A.I. Spiridovich, head of the Sovereign’s personal guard from 1913–1916,and K.I. Globachev, head of the Petrograd security department from 1915–1917. The latter was personally responsible for the protection and surveillance of Rasputin in the last years of his life.
Throughout almost the entirety of the day, people from all social strata and representing various official and social positions would visit him. Some came out of personal sympathy for Rasputin, others sought his protection, while still others simply hoped he would fill their pockets. The list of people who visited Rasputin for this or that purpose was very long. Besides these, there were the regulars, which is to say, his entourage, the composition of which morphed according to Rasputin’s personal leanings at a given time. The most loyal of his friends were women — ladies-admirers who believed in him as a saint.
As neither an admirer nor an enemy of Rasputin, Globachev quite dispassionately describes his everyday routine, which he knew better than others. According to Globachev, Grigorii Efimovich was simply a smart peasant who lucked out and operated with a great deal of [other people’s] trust. But Globachev also attests to the close ties between Rasputin and such dark figures as the “doctor of Tibetan medicine” Badmaev and the famous bankers Manus and Rubenstein, who conducted major financial transactions through him. Besides this, Rasputin’s unworthy behavior is repeatedly noted in the diaries of outside observers.
The View of Rasputin’s Contemporaries
It’s no surprise that the reaction of many of Rasputin’s most notable contemporaries to him was negative in the extreme. Here’s how Pyotr Arkadievich Stolypin6Prime Minister of the Russian Empire from 1906 until his assassination in 1911, most notable for the program of economic and agrarian reforms that he initiated as a means of strengthening the monarchy recalled his introduction to the “elder”: “He ran after me with his milky-white eyes,” writes Stolypin, “and uttered some cryptic and disjointed quotations from Holy Scripture, gestured with his hands in an odd way, and I felt awakening within me an insurmountable aversion to this monstrosity sitting across from me. But I understood that this person possessed a great power of hypnosis and that he was impressing upon me quite a strong moral impression, albeit one of repulsion.”
The Empress’s lady-in-waiting, A.A. Vyrubova, writes about Rasputin somewhat guardedly. Finding herself, per the tsaritsa’s orders, in the village of Pokrovsk, she notes the local clergy’s hostile attitude towards him and concedes that the vagrants who surrounded Rasputin, preying on his simplicity, had stolen him away and gotten him drunk. Rasputin’s visitors and entourage left an unpleasant impression on Vyrubova.
Those who were part of his inner circle also spoke negatively about Rasputin, among them Iliodor (Trufanov), Minister of Interior Affairs Khvostov, and the former Chief of Police S.P. Beletskii. Many highly-placed government officials characteristically viewed Rasputin as a duplicitous man, playing the role of a simpleton and “fool for Christ,” but injuring the prestige of the monarchy both in high society and among the plain folk. Stolypin, Minister of Interior Affairs A.A. Makarov, Ober-procurator of the Synod A.D. Samarin, and Minister of the Court Count V.B. Fredericks all held to this view.
Among Rasputin’s adversaries were also to be found Church leaders, later to be numbered among the saints: the Venerable Martyr Elizaveta Feodorovna, the Hieromartyrs Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and Bishop Hermogenes of Tobolsk. Even those hierarchs who maintained ties with Rasputin and enjoyed his protection tried not to advertise their contact with him. It is worth noting that, despite the many people who sought his protection and received help and money from him, no one spoke out in his defense, as if considering any mention of a connection with him to be compromising.
The Fate of Rasputin
The continuing presence of Rasputin near the Royal Family threatened to fatally discredit the Supreme authority. The negative attitude of the intelligentsia towards the “elder” was not the most frightful consequence of the Rasputin affair. Scarier still was the attitude towards him among the people. In a report about the role of Rasputin dated December 27, 1916, State Duma Deputy V.A. Maklakov expresses clearly: “Now in the minds and souls of the Russian people is occurring the most terrible revolution that has ever taken place in history. This is not a revolution, but a catastrophe; the entire age-old worldview, the people’s faith in the Tsar, in the righteousness of his authority, in the idea [of monarchy] as Divinely established.” In the end, the situation was resolved with the murder of Rasputin, which took place on the night of December 16, 1916 and was committed by a group of people devotedly close to the Court and fiercely loyal to the Tsar.
Apologists for Rasputin say that the conspiracy was effected by the Masons, who wished to rid themselves of examples of popular piety, a true man of the people, as the Empress described him. Documented evidence regarding the masons of the early 20th century is so contradictory that one can ascribe to them anything one desires. But Rasputin’s killers were far from revolutionaries. They had no desire to overthrow the monarchy or to separate the Romanov dynasty from the throne. Purishkevich belonged to the far right; Prince Yusupov was married to a relative of the Sovereign Emperor.
The very pretense for inviting Rasputin to Yusupov’s home is indicative. They wish to introduce him to the most beautiful woman in Petersburg, and he gladly accepts. They clearly invite him to a clandestine gathering, and he goes. At first, they attempt to poison him with potassium cyanide, hidden in the madeira and pastries.
Society’s reaction to the news of the royal “friend’s” death witnesses to how far the process of de-mystification of the Tsarist regime had come. The news caused jubilation among the people. The Venerable Martyr Elizaveta Feodorovna wrote to Grand Prince Dmitri Pavlovich and Princess Yusupova, “May God strengthen Felix after the patriotic act he has committed.” “All my deep and ardent prayers surround you all for the patriotic act of your son. May God protect you.”
Not long after Rasputin’s murder, Vasily Shulgin evaluates the event thus: “For all its futility, killing Rasputin was a deeply monarchist act… thus it was understood… When news of what had happened reached Moscow (this was in the evening) and penetrated into the theatres, the public demanded that the National Anthem be performed. And, perhaps for the last time, ‘God save the Tsar’ was heard in Moscow. Never did this prayer have so profound a meaning.”
Seventeen signatories from the Tsar’s closest retinue wrote him a petition for leniency in the punishment of Grand Prince Dmitri Pavlovich in connection with Rasputin’s murder, which they also regarded as a “patriotic act.” Even at the headquarters of the Supreme Commander [of the military forces], the higher and lower ranks congratulated each other with three kisses, as on the day of Pascha.
The Question of Fr Nikolay Guryanov
Supporters of Rasputin’s canonization often cite elder Nikolay Guryanov (+2002). The thing is, in the last years of his life, Fr Nikolay was surrounded by proponents of the sanctity of Rasputin. His cell attendants became famous for setting loose in his name various rumors, among them his supposed veneration of Ivan the Terrible and Grigory Rasputin as saints. Now, following the elder’s repose, these rumors spread with new strength since there is no one left in a position to verify their accuracy. Such accounts are especially exaggerated by his former cell attendant, schemanun Nikola (Goryan). It is unknown where or by whom she was tonsured. Preying on Fr Nikolay’s elderly infirmity, his cell attendants took photographs of him sitting with an icon of Rasputin in his arms.
In my view, the crux of the matter is that the elder’s heart, overflowing with love, received with joy all the good things said about anyone, especially someone close to the Royal Family. But he had no opportunity to verify this information. He could not study the archives, discuss with researchers, consult with historians. He received evidence only from the people who surrounded him, who carefully filtered what information reached him. Fr Nikolay was a man of prayer, an ascetic and elder, but he was not a historian.
The Sectarian Foundations of the Rasputinites
Veneration of Grigory Rasputin is a comparatively recent development. Prior to the 1990’s, proponents of his canonization were completely unknown in Russia, let alone outside the country. In my view, the absence of admirers of Rasputin in the Russian diaspora can be explained by the presence within the emigration of people closely associated with the Court (e.g., Voeikov and Globachev, noted above), who remembered the real Rasputin rather than the myth concocted about him later. It follows that we must seek the roots of this veneration for the “holy elder” in Russia.
No book, no matter how well-written, not even the most spectacular and gripping film, no strum of the guitar should outweigh in our minds the view of the pastors and archpastors of the Church.
Veneration of Rasputin first appeared in the ecstatic-mystic sect, “The Theotokos Center,” also known as the “Church of the Reigning Mother of God.” Citing “revelations of the Mother of God,” its leader, John Bereslavsky writes: “Elder Grigory was for the Imperial couple the personification of Russian holiness and God-bearing. The Sovereign literally quaked before his ‘friend,’ as the Emperor Nicholas and Tsaritsa Alexandra affectionately called him.“7«Белый Свет России» c. 20
The heretics’ praise for Rasputin is not a coincidence. According to the Synodal commission’s conclusions, “The few works attributed to Rasputin witness not only to the theological ignorance of the Siberian ‘elder,’ but also his adherence to spiritual states, characteristic of mystical-charismatic sects.” Let us turn to one of the most important of Rasputin’s “compositions” — “Life of an Experienced Wanderer.” As is known, sectarians regard Orthodox clergy with disdain. Rasputin’s appraisal is guardedly critical but still clearly negative. Although the author encourages the reader to visit the church of God, participate in the Mysteries and respect the clergy, one finds pervading the work the notion that they [the clergy] are infirm and in need of condescension.
Genuine guides in the spiritual life are not priests, but rather special “experienced” people, and what is very symptomatic of sectartian arguments — their “experience” is contrasted with “the letter” and “book-learning.” It is “the chosen ones of God” who “will speak not from a book, but from experience” and “possess perfect love.” They can teach even the priests and bishops, whose “lips freeze and they cannot contradict,” inasmuch as “their teaching remains insignificant and they listen to your simple words.” These experienced spiritual wanderers are of course always persecuted, in the first instance by priests, possess only theoretical knowledge. Similarly, the heretics of the “Theotokos Center” declare that the Orthodox Church preaches the dead letter, while they stand on the path of worship in the spirit. In reality, this “worship in spirit” consists of unhealthy ecstasy and dark mysticism.
Rasputin in Popular Culture
Today, thanks to the activity of pseudo-ecclesial media organizations and several unconscientious “historians” and writers, the campaign for the rehabilitation and canonization of Rasputin is becoming increasingly widespread and strident. It should be noted that Rasputin’s supporters attempt to conduct the debate over their hero’s righteousness not on scholarly grounds, so as not to attract the attention of serious historians, but in the pages of literature, both fiction and non-fiction. The bright image of a man from among the people, a bright elder, and friend of the Royal Family is being urgently crafted. Of such a character are the compositions of A.N. Bokhanov, O.A. Platonov, S.V. Fomin (author of the seven-volume series Rasputin: An Investigation), the previously mentioned Tatiana Groyan,8the former cell attendant of Fr Nikolay who wrote Martyr for Christ and Tsar, the Man of God Grigory. Man of Prayer for Holy Russia and Her Most Bright Youth.9i.e. the heir, Tsarevich Alexei
A feature film and a television series have been produced — Rasputin, with Gérard Depardieu in the title role, and Grigory R., where the title role is played by the famous Russian actor Vladimir Mashkov. The sometime popular singer of folk songs and city romances, Zhana Bichevskaia, has joined this company by dedicating a song to Rasputin.
It is always worth noting that works of art are not scholarly research. The artist expresses in them his own subjective view of this or that event or character. One should not expect objectivity and impartiality from such works. Rather, the main compass for us, Orthodox Christians, must be the voice of the Church. No book, no matter how well-written, no strum of the guitar, not even the most spectacular and gripping film should outweigh in our minds the view of the pastors and archpastors of the Church.
Canonization or Ecclesial Peace?
No group of people has the right to independently declare someone a saint, paint icons and compose a service. In so doing, they perform disobedience. In order to suppress similar works, the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia approved a decision on September 20th, 1978 regarding the veneration of un-canonized new martyrs and ascetics and regarding their icons, in which is stated: “Icons even of the most revered people are not allowed either in the church nor at home, until they are glorified according to the decision of the Supreme Church Authority.” If icons of un-canonized martyrs and ascetics are not even allowed, then it is all the more inadmissible to possess iconographic images of such persons as Rasputin and Ivan the Terrible.
But the main danger is that proponents of Rasputin’s canonization provoke discord in the Church and set themselves against the Church hierarchy. The head of the Commission on Glorification, Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, fairly notes: “The initiators of this canonization cannot but admit that even the consideration of such a glorification may call forth (and already has caused) confusion among the Orthodox faithful, leads to temptation and the discrediting even of the idea of canonizing saints. Our common task and responsibility is not to allow the Ark of the Church to break apart.” We also should be watchful and not gullibly trust all sorts of rumors, dialogues, films, or even “historians” and “writers,” but rather be conformed to the mind of the Church.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)