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Gregorianism (Russian: Григорианство - Grigirianstvo, Gregorian schism, Russian: Григорианский раскол) was a schismatic movement in the Russian Church in the 1925-1946s of the XX century.


It appeared in troubled times, in a situation of extreme lack of communication between dioceses and Church authorities. Until the late 20-s the Russian Orthodox Church had no clearly defined legal status, which made it impossible to summon a Council in order to determine the positions of the Church and organize the management of Church affairs. The Church being illegal, it was difficult to ensure the canonical transfer of leadership in the Church, to preserve the unity of the Church and evade heresies and schisms. The agreement between the Church and the State was, however, no less perilous. It could alienate from the Church the zealots unwilling to collaborate with the "godless regime".

The situation was particularly precarious in 1925. In April Patriarch Tikhon passed away. Under his will, it was Metropolitan Peter (Poliansky) who became the Locum Tenens. Already in mid-December, however, the Metropolitan had to delegate his powers (also under Patriarch Tikhon's will) to the Deputy Locum Tenens Metropolitan Sergius (Starogorodsky), the future Patriarch.

Frequent changes of the Head of the Church made people think that the Church was left without leadership. The situation was used by Archbishop Grigory (Yatskovsky) of Sverdlovsk (1866 - 1932) and a group of his associates, such as Bishop Boris (Rukin) of Mozhaisk, Bishop Damian (Voskresensky) of Pereyaslavl, Bishop Vissarion (Zorin) of Ulyanovsk, Bishop Innokenty (Busygin) of Kamensk and others. A few days before the arrest of Archbishop Peter this group of hierarchs had already received the instructions from the Central Political Administration (GPU) and Evgeny Tuchkov. The schism had been planned in advance.

The first objective of Archbishop Gregory and his associates was the formation of the Provisional Supreme Church Council (PSCC - Временный Высший Церковный Совет, ВВЦС), also known as the Small Bishopric Council - the body which was to manage the current affairs of the Church. Ten bishops headed by Archbishop Gregory held a meeting on December 25, 1925, in Donskoy monastery, Moscow. The Small Council strongly criticized the activity of Metropolitan Peter as the Head of the Church: "During his tenure, the problems and calamities of the Holy Church have aggravated". The Church was not ruled "in catholicity". "The will of the Holy Church seems to be eclipsed by the sole human will" of Metropolitan Peter.

They cavilled not only at his management of current affairs, but at his political decisions as well: "The Church, with our Lord Jesus Christ at the head and guided by grace of the Holy Spirit may not by Her nature err or commit sins, teaching Her faithful children to obey the authorities not for fear, but for conscience. The Holy Church by its nature and eternal purpose is devoid of vanity and free from any earthly politics". PSCC declared its obedience and loyalty to the State. Moreover, PSCC declared the legalization of the Church to be one of its main objectives.

After the Small Council was over, all regulations on PSCC constitution, lists of bishops who joined PSCC and a petition for the permission of PSCC activities were submitted to the civil authorities for approval. On January 2, 1926, the required certificate was issued.

To present the existence of PSCC, its actions and resolutions as by no means arbitrary or illegal Archbishop Gregory tried to persuade the Deputy Locum Tenens Metropolitan Sergius to join it, but in vain. Thus PSCC failed to become a body standing in canonical communion with the head of the Church. This fact was pointed out by Metropolitan Sergius in his letter to Metropolitan Gregory. Although PSCC consisted of bishops, it did not represent the position of the Russian Church as a whole and did not have the right to address the authorities independently, nor to raise the question of the legalization of the Church. Therefore, Metropolitan Sergius issued a decree depriving the Gregorianist bishops of their chairs and banning them from the Divine Office.

The firm stand of Metropolitan Sergius, as well as the lack of popularity among the believers, did not allow PSCC to influence Church affairs. Archbishop Gregory had to seek the support of Metropolitan Peter, who was at the time in exile. He addressed the Metropolitan in a letter, where, without mentioning the bans put upon the bishops of PSCC and himself, he asked Metropolitan Petr to form a Collegium for the management of the Church affairs. The first reaction of the Metropolitan was quite positive. "For the sake of peace and unity in the Church" Metropolitan Petr considered it useful "to commission a temporary Collegium consisting of three Pastors: Archbishop Nicholas (Dobronravov) of Vladimir, Archbishop Dimitry (Belikov) of Tomsk, and Archbishop Gregory (Yatskovsky), to discharge the functions of the Locum Tenens". According to Metropolitan Peter's idea, the Collegium was to become the mouthpiece of Church authority in all issues, only those of major and nationwide importance requiring the consent of Metropolitan Peter himself. Metropolitan Peter did not doubt the orthodoxy of the three candidates. Besides, the government approved of this choice and promised to legalize the Church management consisting of persons appointed by the Collegium. The Gregorianists seemed to win a victory, and Archbishop Gregory demanded that Metropolitan Sergius delegate his powers to the newly formed Collegium.

But Metropolitan Peter still had the last word. On June 9, 1926, he canceled his resolution dated February 1 and brought back into force all the decrees of Metropolitan Sergius banning the Gregorianist bishops to serve and depriving them of their chairs. After Metropolitan Peter's resolution dated June 9, 1926, the Gregorianist movement took on the characters of a real schism - separation from their bishop, formation of an illegal community and disregard of the ban imposed by the supreme Church authority.

The publication of this resolution conclusively undermined the Gregorianists' authority. A part of bishops left the ranks of the PSCC and repented to Metropolitan Sergius. The ranks of PSCC members had to be replenished with bishops ordained by Gregory. Sverdlovsk was the center of Gregorianism. Western Siberia and the Urals, Middle Volga and Donetsk regions were under its influence, it was felt in Dnepropetrovsk and Uman (Ukraine); in Moscow they had one church in the Donskoy monastery and one church in Zamoskvorechie district. On the whole, however, the schism, initiated by bishops, enjoyed little support on the part of the lower clergy and the parishioners. Gregorianist movement lacked an authoritative, strong leader. Archbishop Gregory was not far-sighted, and Bishop Boris (Rukin) set his personal interests higher than those of the Church. Metropolitan Mitrophan (Simashkevich) and Archbishop Constantine (Bulychov) of Mogilyov had formerly taken part in the renovation schism, though in the "Letter of PSCC to the believers" it was declared that the Gregorianists do not have any contacts with the Renovators and their Synod. Some Gregorianist archpriests went over from the PSCC to Patriarchal Church and back to the schism several times. Few of the participants of this episcopal schism were people of firm convictions, capable of recruiting a large number of followers and undermining the foundation of the true Church.

In April 1927 the Gregorianist movement was delivered one more blow. Metropolitan Sergius submitted to Metropolitan Peter a draft of Synod structure and got into contact with civil authorities to legalize the Church. The cause of the PSCC was thereby irrevocably lost. The legalization of the PSCC, achieved in 1926, proved to have no force, since the PSCC, acknowledged by secular authorities only, was not a lawful, blessed heir and successor to the ecclesiastical power.

In November 1927 the last general church congress of Gregorian bishops took place. The PSCC failed to become a representative body of the Church. Weak and not followed by common believers, it was no longer needed by the authorities. In the same year Archbishop Gregory passed the PSCC leadership to Archbishop Vissarion (Zorin). The latter, together with Bishop Boris (Rukin), left the PSCC in 1933.

The last meeting of supporters of the PSCC was held in Moscow in April 1937.

During the mass repressions in 1937-1938 Gregorians churches mostly were closed, and the clergy was repressed. After that, the Gregorian schim ceased to exist as a hierarchical organization, there is still only a small number of parishes.

In 1943, under pressure from the authorities repented 3 survived Gregorians bishops: Photius (Topiro), Hermogenes (Kuzmin) and Joseph (Vyrypayev) received into communion with the Church in dignity, in what were before their falling away into schism. After that Gregorian finally disappeared. In 1946 he repented last Gregorian hierarch - Theodosius (Grigorovich-Borisov).