Murders and Assaults on Priests in Russia in 1990-2013: A Reference

admin | 27 December 2013

Archpriest Alexander Men, September 9, 1990

Murdered on the morning on September 9, 1990, on the path to the Semkhoz railway station.  An unidentified person struck him on the head with a heavy object (probably an axe). The priest walked to his home, near which he died from loss of blood.  The suspect for the murder, a criminal and drunkard, allegedly mistook Fr. Alexander for another person, the more so because the priest was dressed in civilian clothes.

Igumen Lazar (Solnyshko), December 26, 1990

Secretary of Metropolitan Yuvenaly of Krutitsy and Kolomna, was killed on December 26, 1990, in Moscow. The circumstances of the murder were puzzling, although law-enforcement authorities managed to arrest a co-worker of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Mikhail Potemkin (who later became a bishop in one of the branches of the Russian True-Orthodox Church under the name of Manuil (Platov)). At the time he spent almost two years in an investigatory isolation ward at Butyrka. The investigation failed to result in a trial.

Igumen Seraphim (Sergey Shlykov), February 2, 1991

The rector of the Nativity Church in Putinki. The clergyman’s corpse was found on February 2, 1991, in a flat on Krasnoselksaya Street. Money, radio, and video equipment had been stolen.

Three monks of the Optina Hermitage, April 18, 1993

Hieromonk Vasily, Monk Trofim, and Monk Ferapont were murdered on April 18, 1993, on Christ’s Radiant Resurrection, in the Optina Hermitage.   The accused criminal, Nikolai Averin, proved to be a devil-worshipper and told the investigation that he had received an order from the devil.

 Hieromonk Nestor (Savchuk), December 30-31, 1993

The rector of the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in the village of Zharki, Yurievets district, was atrociously murdered on the night of December 30-31, 1993, in a cell of the rector’s home. Hieromonk Nestor (secular name, Nikolai Ivanovich Savchuk) was found lying face down in a pool of blood, spread below the cross of Jesus Christ and showing no signs of life.  His body was totally exsanguinated.  After the murder, a large sum of money was found missing from the priest’s briefcase, donated to him that day by businessmen for construction and repair work on the church. The district court of Yurievets sentenced the murder convict to four years of imprisonment. The court decided that the murderer was not entirely competent.

Priest Anatoly Chistousov, February 14, 1996

Rector of the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Grozny, an officer of the Russian Army before his priestly ordination, was killed on February 14, 1996, in Chechen captivity. Up until he was kidnapped by the Chechens (January 29, 1996), despite the fact that the church appeared to be in the epicenter of combat action (in the vicinity of the former Dudaev’s palace), he did not stop providing pastoral guidance to his flock and regularly performed divine services. On the New Year’s night of 1995 he was forcedly brought by the criminals to the railway station of Grozny, where he was ordered to address the Russian soldiers, who held the line, with a request to give up. In response, Fr. Anatoly blessed the soldiers for military work.

Priest George Zyablitsev, September 23, 1997

A senior official at the Department for External Church Relations, died on September 23, 1997. He was killed upon his return from a trip abroad in his own apartment after several hours of cruel torture. He died of multiple knife wounds assumedly on September 22 or 23 1997. Fr. George was responsible for the Catholic sector and travelled much on official assignments.

Archpriest Alexander Zharkov, September 14, 1997

The rector of the Church of the St Elizabeth in St. Petersburg at the St. Petersburg City Hospital No.3 was killed in 1997. The body was found on September 14 in the outskirts of the town of Pushkin.  Not long before he had moved from the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.  Allegedly the priest became the victim of the funeral mafia – a gang consisting of coworkers, mostly sanitary assistants, of the Petersburg morgues.  The head of the criminal grouping, Valery Burykin, the former vice-director of the government health-care institution “City Pathological-Anatomical Bureau” of St. Petersburg, was arrested in November 2007 on the Austrian-Hungarian border. In September 2008, Burykin was extradited by the Hungarian authorities to Russia at the request of the General Procurator’s Office of the Russian Federation.

Archpriest Mikhail Satsiuk, October 12, 1998

The rector of St. Nicholas Church was killed on October 12, 1998, in Brest.  The same day his corpse was found in an automobile on an exit road from the city. The investigation concluded that the motive for the murder was financial; the murderer pursued the purpose of robbery.

Hieromonk Dimitry (Rasstegayev), January 1998

The Old Rite priest,  was atrociously murdered in January 1998, in the Yaroslavl region. The motive of his death was his flat in Yaroslavl, which the young priest was going to sell, leaving for a new parish in Belaya Krinitsa.  A gang of burglars, which settled in the Yaroslavl region under the guise of the real estate firm “Partner”, killed the clergyman, dismembered his body, and threw it into the basement of the house, where a drunken party began. The criminals were caught only after three years.

Archpriest Boris Ponomarev, July 16, 1999

The rector of the Church of the Prophet Elijah, was killed on July 16, 1999, in the Ilyinsk settlement, Mozhaisk district of Moscow region.  The police solved the murder rather quickly. It turned out that the priest was murdered by three repeat criminals. They were parishioners of his church and the archpriest sometimes invited them to come to see him. The criminals noticed several ancient icons at his home and decided to rob the priest. In the night they broke into Ponomarev’s home, tied up his wife and a female relative, and killed the priest himself.

Archpriest Peter Sukhonosov, March 28, 1999

The rector of the Holy Protection Church in the Cossack station Sleptsovskaya (Ingushetia), was kidnapped on March 28, 1999, by four bandits, who attacked the church in which he had served for more than forty years. He died in captivity.


Hieromonk Simeon (Anosov), August 23, 2000

The rector of the Church of St. Andrew the First-Called in Barnaul (Altai territory) was killed on August 23, 2000.  The murderer was the former hieromonk’s driver, Konstantin Shlenkov, who had been previously convicted several times.

Hieromonk Alexander (Kulakov), January 8, 2001

Murdered on January 8, 2001. The murder of  was committed in the Sabaevo village (Mordovia). The murderer, Alexei Maksimov, was hiding in the Monastery of St. John the Theologian near Saransk, under the name of Alexei Svetov. During his military service he killed his comrade-in-arms and then, hiding from the tribunal, he committed a number of grievous crimes.

Hieromonk Grigory (Yakovlev), March 21, 2001

The rector of the church in the village settlement of Tura, Krasnoyarks territory, he  was brutally killed on March 21, 2001 in Evenkia, Tura, at the Church of the Holy Trinity.  The criminal carried the cut-off head into the sanctuary and threw it on the altar. The suspect claimed to be a Krishna worshipper and said he had committed this crime on Krishna’s order.

Priest Igor Rozin, May 13, 2001

On May 13, 2001, in the city of Tyrnyauz (Kabardino-Balkariia) he  was killed after repeated threats on the part of local residents and a warning of premeditated murder two weeks before. Having come to the church and remained alone with the priest, twenty-three year-old Ibrahim Khapaev struck Fr. Igor three times with a knife. Later the court found Khapaev incompetent.

Fr. Sergiy Tsvetukhin, October 9, 2001

The rector of St. Demetrius Church in the town of Kamyshin, Volgograd region, was killed on October 9, 2001. The body of the thirty-three year-old priest was found in his apartment with multiple stab and cut wounds. According to investigation data, two local residents visited to see the priest. In the course of a quarrel they killed their host and decamped from the scene of crime, having torn from him his cross and chain.  One of the murder suspects was arrested in Volgorgad region in 2008, another one was put on the wanted list. The detainee confessed to the offense.

Igumen Jonah (Efimov), October 14, 2002

The rector of the village Church of the Icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin, of the Moscow Patriarchate, eighty-five year-old Igumen was killed in Tatrstan, on October 14, 2002.    His body was found in the morning in his own garden beside his home. A criminal had hit the priest with a heavy object on the temple. The injury proved to be lethal. The motive for murder was robbery.

Hieromonk Nil (Salvenkov), August 8, 2003

On August 8, 2003, the murder of Hieromonk Nil (Salvenkov), Father Superior of the Voldozersky St Elijah Hermitage in Karelia, was committed. The murderer was Andrey Nasedkin, a thirty-eight year-old native of Tolyatti with a previous conviction.

Hieromonk Isaiah (Yakovlev), November 2, 2003

On November 2, 2003, the murder of Hieromonk Isaiah (Yakovlev) was committed near the village of Raif (Tatarstan) by Dmitry Novikov, a previously convicted nineteen year-old local resident in a drunken state.

Hieromonk Alexander (Tyrtyshny), December 25, 2003

On December 25, 2003 Hieromonk Alexander (Tyrtyshny) was killed in the village of Kolosovka, Omsk region. A previously convicted local resident, twenty-three year-old Dimitry Litvinov asked to make his confession, though not at the church, but rather at home. Hieromonk Alexander agreed to his request, and when coming into his house Fr. Alexander put on his riassa, the murderer attacked him with a knife.

Archimandrite Herman (Khapugin), July 26, 2005

The  rector of St. David’s Hermitage, was killed on July 26, 2005, in the Chekhov region of Podmoskovye. His body was found in the cell.  The priest’s hands were bound up.  It was discovered moreover that he had traumatic brain injuries. Things in the cell were thrown about and a safe there had been pried open.

 Fr. Andrew Nikolaev, December 2, 2006

In the village of Priamukhino, Tver region, an Orthodox priest, his three children, and his wife Xenia died in a fire. Fr. Andrew Nikolaev perished together with his family on the night of December 2, 2006.  The house was poured over with gasoline and set on fire.  Several months before the priest had turned to the police asking for help and protection. Every night Fr. Andrey defended the church from local thieves with a rifle in his hands. Local residents robbed the church in order to buy alcohol. Not long before the priest’s house had been already burnt down.

Priest Oleg Stupichkin, January 6-7, 2007

The rector of the local Sts Peter and Paul Church was killed on Christmas Eve on the night of January 6-7, 2007, in Alapaevo district, Sverdlovsk region. The priest’s body was found in the church after the fire. More than twenty icons had been stolen from the church. The crime was solved “hot on the trail.”  Two suspects were apprehended. These were local residents, unemployed, with more than one previous convictions.  The deceased priest left behind a widow and four children.

Priest Dimitry Astashenko, February 12, 2007

In the village of Posevnoye, Cherepanov district of Novosibirsk region, early in the morning on February 12, 2007, an unidentified person set fire to the house of Priest Dimitry Astashenko, rector of the Church of the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon.  The house went up in flames in just seconds, and the priest, having broken the window, threw out four underage children (the elder girls were four-and-a-half and two-and-a-half years old, and the younger boys were one year eight months and eight months old) and then got out through it together with his wife. The house burnt to ashes. All the family members were undressed and fell sick from getting too cold.  In addition, Fr. Dimitry had his toes frost-bitten, for he had to run barefoot on the snow.  The priest supposed it was arson, because of the footprints of unknown people that were left behind the house on the side of the vegetable garden.

Fr. Petr Petrov, March 4, 2007,

The rector of St. Nicholas Church of Voronezh, was assaulted on March 4, 2007. A stranger inflicted several knife wounds to the priest on his chin and neck. Fr. Petr was taken to the hospital. The offender, a resident of the Central region of Voronezh, born in 1987, was detained by onlookers. According to the information of the regional Chief Directorate of Internal Affairs, this person is mentally ill.

Priest Pavel Khodzinsky, June 9, 2007,

He was attacked by a mentally sick person with a knife on June 9, 2007 before the Liturgy, The attacker (it was a thirty-eight year-old local resident, registered with the psychoneurologic dispensary) ran up to the priest, when the latter stood on the steps of the Church of the Holy Hierarch Philaret, and managed to inflict several tangent cuts on the priest’s hand with a penknife, following which he was detained by parishioners and then transferred to the police. The injured was provided medical assistance onsite, but he refused hospitalization.

Igumen Avenir (Smolin), August 22, 2007

On the eve of August 22, 2007, the rector of the parish of Ascension of Our Lord, Igumen Avenir (secular name Alexei Yurievich Smolin, born 1978) was killed in his own house in the town of Furmanovo, Ivanovo region. On August 24 one of the murderers was arrested. The motive of crime was robbery.

Archpriest Vladimir Kuziv, November 24, 2007

On November 24, 2007, the house of Archpriest Vladimir Kuziv, rector of the Cathedral of St. Elias, was set on fire. According to the preliminary version of the investigation, about 4:30 a.m. an unidentified attacker threw a bottle with an incendiary compound into the priest’s house, thus causing fire. The roof and garret floor with a total square of 6 m/sq were damaged by fire, as well as the room. At that moment in the house were the priest, his wife, and three children, the youngest of whom was eighteen. In consequence of the fire Fr. Vladimir suffered burns.

Priest Anatoly Nagorny, February 7, 2008

On February 7, 2008, Priest Anatoly Nagorny was on his way home after Vespers in the Church of the Holy Hierarch Mitrophan of Voronezh, when a stranger attacked him with a knife. The assailant struck the priest on the neck from behind and disappeared. He did not attempt robbery. The priest returned on his own to the church on Khutorskaya street, from which he called the police and an ambulance. He was hospitalized with profuse bleeding to the Sklifosovsky Research Institute for Emergency Medicine.

Igumen Ilia (Khamaza), February 25-26, 2008

On the night of February 25-26, 2008, in the village of Belostok, Lutsk district in Volyn, the rector of a local church, Igumen Ilia (Khamaza) was hacked to death with an axe. On March 28 he would have turned thirty.

Fr. Alexei Gorin,  March 9, 2008

On March 9, 2008, the murder of Fr. Alexei Gorin, rector of the parish of the Icon of the Mother of God “Derzhavnaya” in Belorechensk, Krasnodarsk territory, was committed.  On suspicion of having committed this crime, the elder son of Gorin was detained. According to the investigators, in the heat of passion he inflicted several wounds to his father, one of which proved lethal.

Hieromonk Serapion (Mitko), November 28, 2008

On November 28, 2008, unidentified people set fire to the house of the head of the missionary department of the Diocese of Yaroslavl and vice-rector of the Yaroslavl Theological Seminary, Hieromonk Serapion (Mitko).  His house was situated in the Petrovo village, Yaroslavl district, near the regional centre. The house set on fire almost immediately on three sides.  The priest managed to get out into the street.  According to the priest, later eye-witnesses reported seeing a car without numbers with three men inside in the outskirts of the village. After the house set on fire, these people dropped out of sight.

Church of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas in Birulevo, Moscow, November 30, 2008

On November 30, 2008, an explosion occurred at the Church of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas in Birulevo, Southern district of Moscow. Representatives of the law enforcement agencies reported that, according to preliminary data, this was a self-made explosive device. Two persons were injured as a result of explosion. The church building was not damaged by the explosion.

Priest Vasily Smolyak, November 19, 2007

Priest Vasily Smolyak  was killed in Beltsy city, Moldova, on November 19, 2007. The eighty-five year-old priest was found in his home with his throat cut. According to eye witnesses, the murderer dropped out of sight upon seeing the priest’s daughter approaching.  A detective dog handler followed the trace with a dog that ended at the Reut River, but soon policemen in Belsk arrested the murderer at a railway station in the Ungheni region. It was a native of Fîntîniţa village, Drochia region, twenty-nine year-old Ruslan Nikorich, who had previously spent six years in prison for theft.  In March, 2008, he had been sentenced by the court of primary jurisdiction to twenty-two years of imprisonment for homicide committed with special cruelty. The judge found groundless the investigation data that Nikorich intended to rob the priest, and concluded that the motive for murder was revenge.  Fr. Vasily Smolyak had served the Church for fifty-five years. During the last ten years he had had a well-earned retirement.

Hieromonk Efrem (Gatsenko), January 2-3, 2009

On the night of January 2-3, 2009, two young men, one of whom was fifteen and another twenty-one years old, beat up the fifty year-old Hieromonk Efrem (Gatsenko), who had refused to give them money or alcohol.  The incident took place in the hermitage located in Volobuevka village, Rylsk district, Kursk region. In the morning the driver found the priest already dead.  Previously the deliberate criminals had beaten up a novice of the local hermitage, who had also refused their demands.  As a result the novice was taken to an intensive care centre. The accused were taken into custody, confessed to criminal behaviour, and remained in the pretrial detention center of Rylsk.

Bishop Sophrony of Mogilev and Mstislavl, August 24, 2009

On August 24, 2009, Bishop Sophrony of Mogilev and Mstislavl was attacked at the Cathedral of the Three Holy Hierarchs in Mogilev (Belarus). Before the beginning of the divine service a man approached the bishop, took out a knife, and struck him in the abdominal area, and also hurt the veins on his arm, with which the bishop managed to hold off another blow. Bishop Sophrony was immediately taken to the nearest hospital and operated on. The offender was detained by the parishioners and then, upon arrival of a police response unit, he was transferred to representatives of the law enforcement agencies. Later it turned out that the deliberate criminal was registered with a regional Mogilev psychiatric hospital. A criminal case was initiated against the assailant under Article 147 of the Criminal Code of Belarus (“Intended infliction of grievous bodily harm”).

Fr. Daniel Sysoev, November 19, 2009

On November 19, 2009, in the evening, Fr. Daniel Sysoev, aged thirty-five, was shot dead in the chest and head at the St. Thomas Church in the south of Moscow. His assistant, Vladimir Strelbitsky, aged forty-one, received a gunshot wound to the chest. Fr Daniel wrote in his Internet blog about the threats: I’m not afraid anymore. Five years ago, I was. Now, I’m just used to living under constant threat. After all, it’s not only the authorities and me, but also the Muslims themselves, that attest to these threats. Everything is in the hands of God. If that’s so, I’ll immediately go to heaven without tribulations. That’s great!”

Fr. Vitaly Zubkov, December 5, 2009

On December 5, 2009, in Moscow before the All-Night Vigil, an assault was made on Fr. Vitaly Zubkov, a clergyman of the Church of the Holy Apostle Thomas in Kantemirovska street (whose rector had been the murdered Priest Daniel Sysoev), a prominent missionary, Indianologist, author of a series of publications on mission in India, and participant in several missionary trips to India. According to Fr. Vitaly, the attack was committed when he was on his way to church to conduct the All-Night Vigil; there were three assailants, they ran up to him and started attacking the priest.  “I was walking, thinking, and praying and, all of a sudden, a blow, I didn’t understand anything,” Fr. Vitaly said.  He fell down and they went on beating him; the priest did not know how long it lasted.  At first they beat him on the legs and then on the head.

Archpriest Alexander Filippov, December, 2009

On December, 2009, in the evening, Archpriest Alexander Filippov, rector of the Holy Ascension Church in the village of Satino-Russkoe (Podolsk district, Moscow region) was murdered by hooligans. The criminals shot the priest dead after he reproached them for urinating on the porch.

Archpriest Anatoly Sorokin, April 24, 2010

On April 24, 2010, in the village of Yantikovo, Yaltchin district of Chuvashia, the dead body of the forty-six year-old Archpriest Anatoly Sorokin was found near the church. He was killed with a shot to the back. Investigation Committee to the Prosecutor’s Office of Chuvashia initiated a criminal case on Article 105, part 1 of the Criminal Code (murder). In two days the field investigators managed to detect and apprehend the suspect. He turned to be a forty-seven year-old resident of Sughaikasy village, Kanash district. The alleged priest’s murderer was registered with a psychiatrist and had a mental disability status. Ten years previously he had been admitted legally incompetent by the Kanash court’s decision.

Hieromonk Vadim (Smirnov), May 5, 2010

On May 5, 2010, a corpse with knife wounds was found in Cheboksary. The victim was the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Artemenkino village, Vurnar district, Hieromonk Vadim (Smirnov).

Igumen Vissarion (Glazistov), January 17, 2011

On January 17, 2011, in the village Kadyshevo, Ulyanovsk region, Igumen Vissarion (Glazistov) was beaten to death by an alcoholic he had taken to his house. The culprit was found at the crime scene unconscious from alcohol.

Archpriest Pavel Adelgeim, August 5, 2013

priest_bigPavel Adelgeim, 75, died late Monday in the northwestern Pskov region from a stab wound to his heart. A man, born in 1986, was arrested on suspicion of murdering the priest but stabbed himself as he was being detained. He has now been hospitalized with lung damage and investigators were waiting to interrogate him. According to investigators, the young man had been staying with the priest before the murder. The motive is unclear. Adelgeim, a former religious dissident who had been imprisoned under Soviet rule, had in recent years in his blog and newspaper articles been hugely critical of the powerful leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Igumen Makary (Loshkarev), August 5, 2013

Igumen Makary was found on July 24, 2013, at 9 a.m. in the street with a severe head injury. A passerby called for an ambulance. The priest was in a coma for twelve days; he was operated on, but died on August 5, 2013, not having regained consciousness.

Archpriest Nikolai Medentsev, October 19, 2013

Archpriest Nikolai Medentsev, rector of the Holy Protection Church in Byelorechensk (Krasnodar region) was killed over a property dispute. The priest’s dead body was found in the trunk of his Audi on October 19, 2013, after it had crashed into a tree. At the same time, the priest’s house was burning. The search and investigating operations found that forty-one year-old Yuri Skripalyov, who had been the husband of the victim’s niece, was involved in the crime. Skripalyov is the ex-husband of the priest’s niece, with whom he had a property dispute.

Fr. Alexander Morozov, November 22, 2013

Priest Alexander Morozov, rector of the church of the Transfiguration in the village of Smalany, Belarus, Orsha district, was killed on November 22, 2013. The suspect is a young man for whom Fr. Alexander cared and even provided free accommodation in his house.

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