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Our righteous Father Alexander Hotovitzky was a Russian who came to the United States in the 1890s as a lay missionary and was ordained to the priesthood while there. He was active as a missionary among the emigrated Uniates in the northeastern United States before returning to Russia in 1914. In Russia he was active among the Orthodox Karelians before his assignment to Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in 1917. After the Bolshevik coup he was subjected to the cruelties by the ungodly revolutionists as he defended the Orthodox faith, his people, and church property. Subjected to many arrests and exile Father Alexander serviced his beloved Church as best he could through these tumultuous times until after a final arrest he disappeared from history other than oral reports of his martyrdom.
Missionary in the United States
Alexander Hotovitzky was born on February 11, 1872 in the city of Kremenetz in Volhynia. His father, Alexander, was a priest who was the rector of the Volhynia Theological Seminary. Father Alexander was educated at the Volhynia Seminary before entering the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. Upon graduation from the academy in 1895 with a master’s degree he was sent to the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America as a lay missionary and as reader at the St. Nicholas Church in New York City. He was ordained a deacon after his marriage to Maria Scherbuhina, who was a graduate of the Pavlosk Institute of St. Petersburg. Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov) ordained Father Alexander to the priesthood on February 25, 1896 at the diocesan cathedral in San Francisco.
A week later he returned to New York to become the pastor of St. Nicholas Church, where he had been a reader. During the ensuing years Father Alexander was successful in his missionary activities among the emigrees from Galicia and Carpatho-Russia as well as representing the Orthodox Church before American religious institutions and meetings. He was instrumental in the establishment a many new Orthodox parishes, including those in Yonkers, Passaic, and Philadelphia. He edited the journal of Orthodox activity, the American Orthodox Messenger. He actively participated in establishing an Orthodox mutual aid society, including serving in various management positions. Through his initiative and active participation a new architecturally majestic St. Nicholas Cathedral was built to replace the small parish church in New York City, traveling throughout the United States, and even to Russia, soliciting funds for its construction. In 1903, the new edifice became the diocesan cathedral.
After eighteen years of service in America under Bishop Nicholas, the future Patriarch of Moscow and St. Tikhon, and Archbishop Platon, the now Archpriest Alexander returned to Russia on February 26, 1914.
Russia and Martyrdom
After his arrival in Russia Father Alexander was assigned as a priest in Helsinki, then a part of the Russian Empire. Here, as assistant to his archpastor, Sergius (Stragorodsky) he defending the minority Orthodox against the proselytizing activities of the expansionist Finnish Lutherans. Then in August 1917 he was transferred to Christ the Savior Church in Moscow as an assistant priest to once again serve under his old archpastor from America, the future St. Tikhon.
He also arrived as two historic events were to open, the All-Russia Church Council of 1917 and the Bolshevik coup of October 1917. He was an active participant in the Church Council and assisted St. Tikhon in the administration of the Moscow diocese. With the loss of State funding the Church and the Cathedral had to look to other sources of funds. He, with Father Nicholas Arseniev who was the rector of Christ the Savior Cathedral, aided the establishment of a brotherhood that appealed to the Orthodox flock to defend, preserve the Cathedral, and to aid the starving.
Father Alexander’s activities defending the Church naturally brought him the enmity of the Bolsheviks and led to his arrest for brief periods in May 1920 and November 1921 for violating decrees concerning church relationships. In 1922, the next stage of Bolshevik antagonism began as Church property, including icons and sacred vessels, were confiscated on the pretexts for helping the poor and starving. Although St. Tikhon encourage the Church’s donation of funds for this purpose, this was not enough for the Bolsheviks. So, St. Tikhon issued a decree based on canon law that the clergy in Russia were not to surrender sacred vessels for non-ecclesiastical use. This brought St. Tikhon’s arrest and numerous court trials in which the servants of the Church were accused of counterrevolutionary activity. These trials intensified the Bolshevik attacks and the increased shedding of blood of the clergy and faithful who defending God’s Church.
Father Alexander was in the forefront of those who implemented the Patriarch’s instructions. He took part in meetings to draft a resolution for a general parish meeting of the Christ the Savior parish about the state decrees. This resolution, that was drafted by Father Alexander, was presented at a general meeting of the parish by Archpriest Nicholas Arseniev on March 23, 1922. Father Alexander had already been placed under arrest. The final resolution contained demands of guarantees from the state that all donations by the Church are used for saving lives of the starving. But, the drafting of this resolution was considered a further example of counterrevolutionary activity. This led to further trials and executions of hieromartyrs and martyrs. Then a new high visibility trial was convened in Moscow on November 27, 1922 during which 105 clergy and laity were accused of “attempting to retain in their hands possession of church valuables and, through the resulting starvation, to topple the Soviet Regime.