Mikhail Novosyolov

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Holy new-martyr Mikhail (Michael) Novoselov (1864 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian theologian and spiritual writer. He was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000. The commemoration date is January 8 (21).


Martyr Mikhail was born in 1864 in the village of Bab’je in the Tver province in the family of Alexander and Kapitolina Novoselov.

In 1887, after the death of the father, Mikhail entered the historical-philological faculty of Moscow University, wanting to become a history teacher and teach history so that "past life of humanity gave to the young men the concept of the people and their actions in relation to their closeness or remoteness from the teachings of Christ".

A devotee of Tolstoy

By this time, Mikhail was already a good friend of Lev Tolstoy and a big devotee of his "doctrine". He did not notice the deep anti-Christian focus of Tolstoy and the fact that his desire to become a teacher of humanity is essentially of the Anti-Christ kind. Since many of the works of Tolstoy were anti-state or anti-Christian in nature, they were not allowed by the censors to be published and the young supporters of Tolstoy, including Mikhail Novoselov, published them using hectograph machine. After a successful police raid on Mikhail‘s apartment, he was arrested. But upon learning about the arrest, Tolstoy came to the head of the Moscow gendarmerie, stating that prosecution should be directed primarily against him as the author, and the authorities decided after his visit to hush up the story. Novoselov was released under strict police surveillance with the prohibition of living in the capital.

Mikhail decided to apply the teachings of Tolstoy in practice. With the money left over from his father, he bought land in the village of Dugino of the Tver province and founded one of the first communities of Tolstoy, consisting of five intellectuals. However, as one would expect, this community suffered a complete collapse and crumbling. These people were not suited to work on the ground, they were assuming that peasant labor – it is a never-ending party and were affected by vainglorious thoughts about their alleged help to the people. And at the same time, they were not really capable of sustaining the least weakness of another person.

One of the reasons for the termination of Novoselov’s relationship with Tolstoy was hatred of the latter to Christ. Together with his own reflections on faith and pangs of conscience, this all lead Mikhail into the Church.

Return to the Church

On his return to the Orthodox Church, Mikhail with all his soul clung to the patristic sources and to the living bearers of the grace of the Holy Spirit. He became a friend of St. John of Kronstadt and the elders of Zosimov Pustyn Monastery.

Mikhail Alexandrovich not only took up the matter of his personal salvation, but seeing how other people are ignorant and uneducated, what deep misconceptions are prevalent among the intellectuals and the educated class, he took up the matter of missionary work and education, and in 1902, together with a group of like-minded people he began to publish "Religious and Philosophical Library" – series of pamphlets and books, which give a feasible answer to the questions posed by the life. He published 39 books before the revolution of 1917.

Because of his works on the spiritual enlightenment and Christian apologetics, Mikhail was elected an honorary member of the Moscow Theological Academy in 1912. For several years he was also a member of the school board of the Holy Synod.

After the revolution of 1917, Mikhail entered the Interim council of the united parishes of the city of Moscow, which at its very first meeting, called on the faithful to stand up for the temples to protect them from attacks of atheists. On July 11, 1922 OGPU made a search at the apartment of Novoselov, suggesting to imprison him on charges of anti-Soviet activities. Mikhail Alexandrovich was not at home, search it did not lead to any results and the case was closed. Upon learning about the search, Mikhail started to hide from police, living in a village and at his friends in Moscow and Petrograd, preparing for the day and hour when he will have to confess Christ before the persecutors. During this time he began to write a theological work that was called "Letters to Friends". In every letter he tried to answer the pressing questions that are put in front of the church by the reality and society. In particular, speaking about the reasons of the revolution of 1917, he wrote about "spiritually corrupting influence of intellectuals" and was supporting it with the words from the Holy Scripture and words of present-day ascetics.

In July of 1927, following the publication of the declaration of Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), an embarrassment and confusion began among the church people. Some bishops departed from Metropolitan Sergius, in particular, St. Metropolitan Joseph (Petrovykh), Bishop Demetrius (Lyubimov), St. Metropolitan Agathangel (Preobrazhensky) and St. Archbishop Seraphim (Samoylovich). Soon Mikhail also joined that church movement and, because of a flawless moral reputation, he has become one of the most authoritative of its participants. During this period, he took an active part in the discussion of church issues among the clergy and church intellectuals.


On March 22, 1929, Mikhail was arrested and imprisoned. On May 17, 1929, he was sentenced to three years which he spent in Suzdal and Yaroslavl political prisons of OGPU. Since then, Mikhail suffered from all prison limitations and was at the mercy of arbitrary guards and the prison administration. In these circumstances, any illness could be fatal. On August 7, 1930, Mikhail was brought in as a defendant in the new case and was transferred for interrogation in the prison of the OGPU in Moscow. The investigation lasted about a year.

In September 1931, Mikhail Alexandrovich was sent to the detention center of Yaroslavl. The conditions were very severe. Since the mid-thirties, the conditions in the prisons have worsened, and the Yaroslavl prison became a special purpose prison of the NKVD. The prison was not the way of isolation but as a means of killing.

On March 23, 1937, the sentence must end, but it was decided not to release Mikhail to freedom until his death, and on February 7, without any further consideration of the case, a special meeting of the NKVD sentenced him to another three years in prison. To bargain this sentence an appearance of legitimacy, NKVD sent an application for the approval of the government and the sentence was approved on March 3. Mikhail Alexandrovich was transferred to Vologda prison, where he arrived on June 29, 1937. At this time the conditions further tightened, the prisoners were given numbers and confessor Mikhail was given the number 227.

The jailers compiled the following reference: "Michael A. Novoselov, 74 years old, in prison for 9 years, has a higher "theological education", and based on that "education" all his world-view and political conviction are built which are reflected in his religious fanaticism and political obscurantism. <...> In his preaching, he fills his whole philosophy with the particular content of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and the prophecies of the Evangelical predictions, trying to present it in the form of heart-felt (religious and philosophical) conversations, each of which is accompanied by one of the prayers or any religious or mystical poems. He does not repent of his opinions, and is not going to repent, he already reconciled to the idea to die for his beliefs in the prison, especially since he does not have a family and he does not want to bother his friends".

On January 17, 1938, NKVD troika sentenced Mikhail to death. Mikhail Alexandrovich Novoselov was shot on January 20, 1938 in Vologda prison, and was buried in an unmarked mass grave.


  • (Russian)

New-martyr Mikhail Novoselov. Orthodoxy and the World.

  • (Russian)

http://www.fond.ru/userfiles/person/56/1290028783.pdf Living of Martyr Mikhail.