“Father Arseny, – Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father • Father Arseny: A Cloud of Witnesses.” American Journal of Psychiatry, (12), pp. – Father Arseny’s tale is the saga of an individual who lived out his priestly vows and ideals while subjected to some of history’s most focused malignity. Through. Father Arseny ran to Sazikov and begged him, “Help! Please help, Ivan Alexandrovich! They are cutting people up. There is blood everywhere.

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The political prisoners were all too well aware that each day that raseny brought them closer to the inevitable end of their earthly lives.

As if by some spontaneous reaction, they struggled desperately to keep arrseny spirits alive, to combat the melancholy and depression, to avoid going mad…. Piotr Andreyevich, later Father Arseny, was born in Moscow in and graduated from a practical high school in and the Arweny Imperial University in It was then that he wrote the first art critical studies on early Russian architecture. From until he lived as a monk in the Optina Desert and was ordained as a priest. From onwards he served as a fathee in various churches in Moscow.

In he was placed in charge of a parish church, while in he was arrested and exiled to northern Russia. So it was that in the evenings, after mess and the evening inspection, they would form small groups in their barrack-rooms and strike up conversation on a wide variety of different topics — social, religious, philosophical, technical and historical subjects, etc… Sometimes they would organise impromptu lectures on the theatre, art or literature; they would hold forth on scientific subjects, or read poetry or short stories… All of this was truly impressive in the general climate of rough camp life, with its gloomy prospect of a quick death and the constant tyrannical presence of criminals.

The waves of arrests had filled the camp huts with men from all walks of life and all kinds of educational background — army officers, clerics, scientists, actors, writers, farmers….

Although they were all cut off from aeseny rest of the world and forgotten by mankind, they obstinately strove to preserve the memory of their past, their families and their occupations.

In their discussions they would often disagree and clash with each other. They would lose their aarseny over the slightest things, argue passionately and defend their views uncompromisingly, as if the solution to every problem depended on their opinion being accepted.

Father Arseny took no part in the disputes. He was on good terms with everyone. As soon as a quarrel broke out, he would quietly withdraw to his bunk and devote himself to inner prayer. The intellectuals in his barrack room treated him with arrogant condescension.

Once a group of ten or twelve men got together, consisting of art cather, painters, writers and actors. They began discussing early Russian art. A very tall prisoner, a professor of art criticism, who, despite all the rigours of camp life, had managed to preserve something of his old noble and imposing demeanour, almost monopolised the discussion.

He spoke in a lively and grandiloquent fwther and the others listened to him with great interest. He seemed to know the subject well and so was convincing. At one point Father Arseny fatner by them, silent as always. The others laughed shamelessly, so much so that Avsenkov, who was listening to what they were saying some distance away, inadvertently smiled to afther.

How could that simple and uneducated little priest possibly answer? Aarseny Arseny stopped in his stride. He saw the grins and realised what they meant. Ten minutes later Father Arseny returned and interrupted him: The professor looked at him in a pitiful and scornful way, just as he might have looked at his dimmest student.


As a representative of the Russian clergy, what could you tell us about the influence of Orthodoxy on the visual arts of early Russia? You may even know of them from copies. The simple and good-natured little priest now became a different person. He cast a confident glance at the professor and began to arsrny in a low but clear and steady voice: Various theories have been expressed on this subject, which is one that you yourself, professor, have written and taught about a great afther.

Arseny (Streltzof) – OrthodoxWiki

However, permit me to say that I find some of your conclusions wrong, hasty or even contradictory. What you said just now was much closer to the truth than what you have at times published in your books and articles. You believe that the development of our visual arts is almost exclusively due to the folk economic factor. In other words, you claim that artistic creation, like every other expression of human life, be it social, political, cultural or spiritual, is determined by material, and indeed economic, conditions.

I disagree with you. I believe that Christianity, Orthodoxy, has not only had a decisive and creative influence on Russian painting and architecture but also played a decisive role in the formation of our folk culture as a whole between the tenth and eighteenth centuries.

Culture in Russia essentially begins with Christianity, which we received from Byzantium. The earliest form of Russian literature was based on Byzantine sources, and indeed the writings of the Eastern Church Fathers, which were translated into our language and proved to be the foundation of all subsequent cultural activity in Russia.

As for the works of art, architecture and painting, who can doubt their absolute dependence on Orthodox Greek-Byzantine models up until the seventeenth century? This is due neither to a desire to make an impact on the viewer, nor — more importantly — to a lack of skill on the part of the painter. It is a challenge to the orderless order and wisdomless wisdom of this world, a challenge similar to that of the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel of Christ is foolishness according to the wisdom of this world.

Whoever has not had this personal experience can paint an icon only by conveying the experience of those who have had it — by painting, that is, in the style of the old holy iconographers.

Hence most Russian iconographers carried out their work with devotion, fear of God, prayer and fasting. And our people, who turn prayerfully to the holy icons in both their joys and sorrows, have associated them with magnificent and wondrous traditions. In the former you will behold spiritual depth, the miracle of faith and the truth of Orthodoxy. In the latter you will see a sovereign lady, full of worldly beauty and attractiveness, but lacking divine grace and power — just a woman.

Father Arseny spoke with his head held high, transformed and moved by his own words. His speech was clear, expressive and captivating…. After mentioning a number of historic Russian icons and making a superb exposition and analysis of the essence and spirit of early Russian painting, he did the same for architecture, referring to the monuments at Rostov Veliki, Suzdal, Vladimir, Uglitch and Moscow.

And he rounded off with these words:. The professor was crestfallen and lost for words.

Life of Father Arseny.

Where was his boasting, arrogance and sarcasm now? Where did you study early Russian painting and architecture? For many people — unfortunately including yourself, my dear professor — smother whatever is most sacred in man with fabrications and lies.

Only your articles and books were being circulated by hand. But if you really want to know the truth, Dather must tell you that, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it was the Russian clergy who saved our homeland by uniting the people and helping them to throw off the Tartar yoke. It is true, of course, that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries there was a moral decline amongst the clergy, although this does not mean that during this period there were no great spiritual figures in our Church.


Up until that time, however, they had been the most substantial force in Russia. With these words Father Arseny turned round and walked away. His listeners remained rooted to the spot, stunned and defeated, amongst them Avsenkov.

Many discovered for the first time that not only was there no clash between faith in God and scientific knowledge but that in fact the two went hand in agseny. Avsenkov was a communist idealist, who had once been a fanatical Marxist. He had been silent and uncommunicative. Then he had approached some of his fellow inmates, long-standing communists like himself.

Fatger would look back on the past… Without realising how, he had lost touch with ideas, or rather had replaced them with curt orders, formal fqther and bureaucratic procedures… He had become cut off from the broad masses and their real problems.

The camp had dispelled his illusions. Here he saw life in all its harsh reality. Gradually he had built up a warm human relationship with all his fellow inmates, no matter who they were.

With warmth and kindness he would willingly help anyone in need. Father Arseny exerted an irresistible attraction on him. At the same time, however, something inexplicable had attracted him to him. This man had a secret way of ridding him of the sadness and melancholy that the difficulties and oppression of camp life caused him. Ivan Alexandrovich Sazikov, on the other hand, never changed: His word was law, his authority indisputable and his power absolute; he was, you see, the most experienced and hardened criminal of them all….

Arseny (Streltzof)

After his recovery he paid no attention at all to Father Arseny. A few months later, however, he hurt his leg badly. He was relieved of work duties for five days. But his wound festered and he had to stay in bed longer.

Father Arseny looked after him again with boundless love. One day Sazikov tried to give him a tip. Father Arseny smiled and arsenyy pushed his hand away. The stiff-necked Sazikov had by now softened, but only towards Father Arseny.

He began to talk now and then about his life, something which he had never done before with anybody, even his closest comrades. But you, PiotrAndreyevich, I do trust. You would never betray anyone. You live close to God… You are kind to others not in order to gain anything for yourself but because you love your fellow men… My mother was just like that!

The temperature dropped well below freezing. The prisoners, working all day in the bitter cold, were frozen stiff. Many of them died… almost every evening fewer returned to the barrack-room, although others soon took their place. Things were harder for the political prisoners.

After work, ftaher they returned worn out and numb with cold, their only comfort, and their only hope of staying alive, was their meagre rations. So it was that on one occasion the criminal convicts seized all their bread by force. When the same thing happened the next day as well, things came to a head. After the evening meal, when everyone had gathered in the hut and the doors had been shut, a deadly quarrel broke out between the political prisoners and the criminals.

An invincible card-player, he had the macabre hobby of playing cards with human lives as stakes!