Anatoly Chistousov

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Fr. Anatoly at the Michael Archangel church destroyed during fights
Michael Archangel Church, in 90th

Fr. Anatoly Chistousov (in world Anatoly Ivanovich Chistousov, born 1953, Kirov — killed February 14, 1996, village Old Achkhoy, Chechnya) was a priest of Russian Orthodox Church, a rector of Michael Archangel Church of city of Grozny. He was martyred in Chechnya.

Life in world

Father Anatoly Ivanovich Chistousov was born in Kirov in 1953. He graduated from a military college of navigators of the Air Forces and pedagogical institute (in absentia). In the eighties the twentieth century he served as an officer-tutor in one of military colleges of the city of Stavropol. In 1990 he became a parishioner of a Church of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Stavropol that had only recently been returned to believers after decades of Communism.

In 1993 he retired from of the army, becoming a major of the reserves.

On March 18, 1994, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Gedeon (Dokukin).

On March 20, 1994, he was ordained a priest. Before his ordination he was asked by the metropolitan: "And if you will be sent where it is restlessly, where it is dangerous, will you go?" He answered: "Where you will bless, Vladyko, there and I will go. No terrestrial circumstances are terrible for me"

Serving in Chechnya

On March 21, 1994, he was appointed to help protopriest Peter Netsvetayev, the dean of Orthodox churches in the Chechen Republic. Receiving an appointment, Fr. Anatoly at once departed for Grozny, where at that time it was very dangerous.

Fr. Anatoly at once earned the love of parishioners of Michael the Archangel Church and inhabitants of the city of Grozny. Implicitly he executed obediences appointed by the dean, visited parishes for fulfilling church services, served reverentially, and aspired as soon as possible to learn services.

In December 1994 in Grozny a large-scale war operation began. The temple appeared in epicentre of the fighting; one of the first shells destroyed the second floor of the church building, some shells hit the temple, but divine services were conducted in the church cellar. Fr. Anatoly, in a cassock, went fearlessly among bullets and shells to assist the soldiers, to inhabitants who remained hidden in cellars of houses in the city. He confessed, partook communion, and baptized. His cassock was shot through by bullets in several places, but he again and again went to those who waited for him.

Soon after the beginning of war operations protopriest Peter Netsvetayev left the city and his flock. Without questioning, Fr. Anatoly, still a beginning priest, headed the parish. The city was on fire, bullets whished, terrible explosions of aerial bombs sowed destruction, but Fr. Anatoly continued to stay with his flock. He helped both Russians and Chechens as he could, shared the last that he had. Under his management the temple in baptistery, the only remaining usable part of the parish home, has been arranged. Services in the newly arranged temple were conducted constantly.

On New Year's Eve of 1995 he was forcibly taken by bandits to the Grozny railroad station, where he was ordered to appeal to Russian defense forces to surrender. In response, Fr. Anatoly said nothing and silently blessed the soldiers.

Since March 15, 1995 he was appointed the rector of Michael Archangel Church in Grozny and the dean of Orthodox churches in Chechnya. In view of disastrous financial conditions of the parish, Metr. Gedeon decided to provide for it from Diocesan funds[1].

Captivity and Martyr Death

On January 29, 1996, during the First Chechen war, Fr. Anatoly, together with archpriest Sergius Zhigulin (now Archimandrite Phillip) from External Church Relations Department, was going to meet with Brigadier General Akhmed Zakayev to negotiate the release of a soldier of the Federal Forces Boris Sorokin from Chechen captivity. However, on the way to the Chechen capital from Urus-Martan, they were captured by an armed group under Doku Makhayev's command and were placed in a concentration camp of the so-called Department of State Security of the Chechen Republic Ichkeria. Afterwards the investigation established that the order to capture the priests had been given by same Zakayev[2].

In the end of the first day of the captivity the prisoners, under the offer of Fr. Anatoly partook of the Eucharist with bread that was available for them, consecrating it with their prayers to Body of Christ making it possible to partake further[3].

From the memoirs of Fr. Sergius, "When we shared the Sacrament, Father Anatoly looked at me with an extraordinary expression. What I saw occur with him was a transfiguration. The face of Fr. Anatoly became surprisingly light, his widely opened eyes were full unprecedented light. He said, "Listen, brother, for the happiness is to suffer for the Christ, to die with His name on ones lips"[1].

After the prisoners were divided from each other, Fr. Anatoly was exposed to torture, but did not surrender himself nor renounced his belief and, as a result, he was shot by bandits. He was martyred in February 14, 1996.

Fr. Sergius survived and was released after 160 days of captivity. He writes,
"For the first time, I saw the sun after four months... We lived in the basements of destroyed buildings... People were held captive in a burrow, which was very narrow, and people couldn't stand or move. Later on, as federal troops were advancing, we were moved to the mountains and placed into blindages, where up to 100-130 people lived. This lasted for 3.5 months. The blindages were completely flooded with rains. The hostages were sittings there as at a temperature of zero; the Chechens took our clothes away. It is just a miracle that the other people and I survived under those awful conditions."[4]

On April 29, 2000 Federal Security Service of the Russia passed to Metr. Kyrill of Smolensk, Chairman of the External Church Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate, a selection of documents testifying to destiny of the priest of Michael Archangel Church, Anatoly Chistousov, abducted by the Chechen terrorists on January 29, 1996. During the period, when a history of Fr. Anatoly remained unknown, the Church hierarchy attempted to obtain the freedom of the abducted priest, as well as other clergymen and the children of Church who had been captured in Chechnya. Eventually some prisoners found freedom. In other cases, regretfully, they had been executed by the gangsters and reposed in settlements of the righteous[5].

Remains of Fr. Anatoly were exhumed only in July 2003 in mountains near Old Achkhoy[6]. Now he has been buried on the Stavropol cemetry. His tomb is within the cemetery chapel.


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