The Orthodox Priesthood: Pastoral Activity in the German Occupation and Later




Nazi occupation; partisans; World War II; Russian Orthodox Church; repressions; Orthodox clergy


This article considers the new period of relations between the state and the Church in the USSR which began between 1943 and 1948. It was characterised by the restoration of patriarchate and a general warming between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Stalinist state. However, a different process began on the territory occupied by Nazi troops at the beginning of the war. Arrests of the clergy began to take place, with some priests being removed from large parishes and others transferred to neighbouring dioceses. Many bishops, especially those from among the former Renovationists, tried to protect themselves by removing priests associated with the Nazis from their dioceses. At the same time, there was a process of appointing clergymen who had shown their commitment to the Soviet state and helped the pro-Soviet underground during the war, especially partisans, to vacant parishes. Many of the priests were not ready for such serious appointments and asked to be excused from the administration of parishes. The clergymen who had participated in anti-Soviet propaganda during the war and who had been members of diocesan administrations organised under the German occupation were replaced by young priests who had previously served in the Red Army and who were absolutely loyal to the Soviet regime. They were incredibly ambitious and able to quickly gain the trust of local believers. Some of latter were friendly to priests who had served under the Germans and even tried to help them and prevent their criticism. Others, on the contrary, were sending “signals” to the diocesan authorities about the suspicious actions of the “occupation priests”. Believers also behaved differently. Many opposed the appointment of new clergymen, did not trust them, and considered them to be supporters of the Soviet regime. Such believers appreciated priests who did not incessantly collect money for patriotic needs during the war, did not preach about protecting collective farm property, or publicly denounce unregistered church groups in the region. Other believers, however, became champions of church repressions and started to organise internal investigations into the economic activities of “occupation priests”. This research is relevant as currently there are no works tracing the fate of the Orthodox clergy who found themselves in the temporarily occupied territory of the Russian SFSR during World War II and stayed in the Soviet Union afterwards. Works published mostly focus on the clergy evacuated to the West or the new generation of Orthodox pastors who became priests after the war. This article is based on documents of Russian regional archives, mainly in the so-called Central Black Earth region (Kursk, Belgorod, Voronezh, Orel), as well as the archives of north-western and southern Russia and Belarus.

Author Biography

Ivan Petrov

PhD (History), Assistant, St Petersburg State University; Senior Researcher, St Petersburg State Institution of Culture the Museum and Exhibition Center.

7/9, Universitetskaya Embankment, 199034, St Petersburg, Russia.

bldg. 1, 32, Basseinaya Str., 196070, St Petersburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-3692-7938


AKE [Archive of Kursk Diocese]. Lichnoe delo svyashchennika Pavla Govorova.

ASPbE [Archive of St Petersburg Diocese]. Stock 1. List 26 (2). Dos. 1; List 13V. Dos. 113.

GABO [State Archive of Belgorod Region]. Stock R-1147. List 1. Dos. 87.

GAKO [State Archive of Kursk Region]. Stock R-3487. List 1. Dos.10.

GANIBO [State Archive of Modern History of Belgorod Region]. Stock 1. List 1. Dos. 336.

GAOO [State Archive of Orel Region]. Stock R-4330. List 1. Dos. 20, 21, 29; Stock R-3681. List 1. Dos. 6; Stock P-52. List 2. Dos. 623.

GAVO [State Archive of Voronezh Region]. Stock 957. List 3. Dos. 7, 84; List 5. Dos. 7.

NARB [National Archive of the Belarus Republic]. Stock 951. List 1. Dos.4.

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How to Cite

Petrov, I. (2020). The Orthodox Priesthood: Pastoral Activity in the German Occupation and Later. Quaestio Rossica, 8(3), 777–791.



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