Thursday, February 18, 2021

Was Saint John of Kronstadt an Anti-Semite and Pogromist?

There is no evidence - neither in the texts of Father John of Kronstadt, nor the memoirs of his contemporaries - where he would have expressed something anti-Semitic. As for being called a "pogromist" - it is exactly the opposite. When in 1903 there was a terrible pogrom in Chisinau, Father John, together with Bishop Anthony Khrapovitsky, signed a sharp statement - "Word on the Chisinau Events", where he very harshly condemned the pogroms from a Christian standpoint. Furthermore, this text was later disseminated by Jewish societies, which attracted the attacks of extreme reactionaries on Father John.

A little on the historical background to clarify his position. Father John joined the monarchist organization, the Union of the Russian People, an organization that arose in 1905, after the events of the first Russian revolution, that united those subjects of the Russian Empire who were horrified by the turmoil and wanted to save the monarchy; it united people from different classes, different levels of wealth, different cultural levels, and of different nationalities. For Father John, who was deeply devoted to the monarchist idea and was hostile to the revolutionary movement, the Union of the Russian People was, first of all, a traditionalist organization with a protective position.

The program of the Union, in which the main point was that "the good of the motherland lies in the unshakable preservation of Orthodoxy, Russian unlimited autocracy and nationality", was consonant with his convictions on key issues. Then, after the October 1905 manifesto, after the declaration of freedom of speech and assembly, a whole spectrum of political forces emerged in Russia, from the extreme left to the extreme right. Including the Union of the Russian People.

Naturally, in the pre-revolutionary liberal press, and even more so in Soviet propaganda, Father John was presented as a focus of evil, violence, cruelty, and blamed for the same pogroms. Although most of the Jewish pogroms took place before 1905, that is, before the creation of the organization. But who was interested in such chronological precision in Soviet times?

Father John called on the people to fight against the revolutionaries in a Christian way and condemned the senseless violence of the Jewish pogroms. However, pogroms were often deliberately provoked by those, including some Jews, who wanted to use them for their political and revolutionary purposes - and in this Father John figured it all out. Having severely condemned at first, under the influence of the Jewish press, the Russian-Moldovan participants in the Chisinau pogrom in 1903, he later published a statement: “I appeal to the Christians of Chisinau: forgive me that only to you have I addressed the reproach for the atrocities committed. Now I am convinced from the letters of eyewitnesses that it is impossible to blame some Christians who were summoned to the disorder by the Jews, and that the Jews themselves predominantly are to blame for the pogrom ... I am reliably convinced that the Jews themselves were the cause of the riot, mutilation, which marked the 6th and 7th of April. I was convinced that the Christians in the end remained offended, and the Jews, for the losses and injuries suffered, were especially rewarded from their own and other people's brethren” (Observer magazine, 1903, No. 6, pp. 48, 49).

Far from the "philosemitic duty" that reigned in society and even among the clergy at the time, Father John, while condemning all violence against the Jews, did not stray from the biblical and patristic perspective on the Jews who refused to embrace Jesus as the Messiah. Commenting on Romans 11:26, "All Israel will be saved," in his Last Diary, Father John wrote: "All Israel, that is, the true Israelites, like Nathanael, about whom the Lord spoke: 'Behold, a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile' (John 1:47). These are the Israelites who will be saved. Jews in the majority will perish for their guile and countless atrocities, of which they did not repent."

Through the prayers of Father John miraculous healings were performed for thousands of people. And this was not only towards the Orthodox, but also the Gentiles, and the Muslims, and even sometimes desperate Jews, went to him for a blessed healing, and he received all who believed in the power of the Grace of God.