Spiritual Christian Molokan Bi-Centennial

July 22, l805 — July 22, 2005

Translated from Russian by Michael P. Lediaev — Presented here with a grateful heart
Text in (parenthesis) and bold added by Lediaev.  Original Russian text to be posted.

Petition to the Tsar Aleksander Pavlovich — July 12, 1805

To our most August, most serene, most merciful King of all Russia, the Imperial Majesty, Aleksander Pavlovitch [Alexander I].

From Tambov Province, Borisoglebskoi District, citizen Peter Zhurovtsov, from Voronezh Province, Novo-Khaperskoi District, Makarov village, Maksim Losev and from the village Pesok, Matvei Matilev, petition the following:

Since the early times, we upheld our faith as "Spiritual Christians, in secret. The common people simply call us "Molokans". Founded by our predecessors and forefathers, we believe in the Omnipotent God, Creator of all, and in His only begotten Son, as the Holy Bible teaches us.

From Mesopotamia, Abraham's descendants went to Egypt. After 400 years of hard labor, they called unto the Lord, and God heard their lamentation and sorrow. He sent them His servant, Moses, to lead them out of the land of bondage, with great signs. He led them through the Red Sea, and in the desert they came to Mount Sinai, where the Lord Himself was in the cloud.

There were sounds like unto trumpets. They were given commandments. Up to that time the way of justification was not revealed. It was only promised to His servant Abraham, that the way of redemption will be through Jesus Christ, as foretold by His prophets.

Moses spoke to the people that God will give them a prophet from their own brethren, "Like unto Me, listen to Him." The prophet Isaiah wrote, A virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel.  (Isaiah 7:14)  Isaiah also writes: 
"For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called. Wonderful, Counselor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.

His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace. He shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom: to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever. The zeal of the Lord of host will perform this." (Isaiah 9; 6-7)

The prophet Zechariah writes:

"Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall grow up in his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.

It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD, and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule upon his throne. And there shall be a priest by his throne, and peaceful understanding shall be between them both.

And the crown shall be in the temple of the LORD..." (Zechariah 6:12-14)

Other prophets and righteous men wrote in the Holy Scriptures that He (Jesus Christ) existed before creation, and whether in heaven or on the earth, by Him all things were created. He came at the end of that age.

He was incarnated as a man, by birth from the Holy Virgin Mary. He taught, performed miracles, resurrected the dead, healed the sick, demonstrated His powers and finally, in martyrdom. He died for all. According to the Scriptures, He rose again on the third day. After forty days, He appeared to His disciples and ascended to heaven before their eyes. He is to return again in all His glory to judge the living and the dead.

Upon His instructions, His apostles gathered in the upper room to await the promise of the Holy Spirit, and when they received it, they went and preached to the ends of the earth, and wrote for us the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles to various churches.

Like a winged eagle, the Apostle Paul flew to all parts of the world, to all nations, with his teaching and with his epistles, he enlightened many. The Egyptian King Ptolemy (309-246 B.C.) had the Bible (Old Testament) translated into Greek by seventy-two scholars.

After Prince Vladimir accepted the Orthodox Faith (about 988 A. D.), many books were brought to him, including the Holy Bible. This book was forgotten for many years, until Prince Yaroslav (1019-1054 A. D.). He carefully examined this book, then issued a decree to print it, and made it available to the general population.

This book was written without division into chapters or verses, and without footnote references. It was difficult to understand. It was in handwritten form, and continued this way until the reign in Maloi-Beloirus, of Aleksei Mikhailovitch (1645-1676).

He issued a decree in 1562* to have it printed in the city of Ostroozheskom, and make it easier to understand. After his death, his son Peter Alekseivitch (Peter the Great, 1682-1725) first inherited his throne to rule over all of Russia and continued this work, but was unable to complete it during his reign. His beloved daughter, Imperial Highness Elizaveta Petrovna (1741-1761) completed this Holy task, without any corrections. In 1513*, Ekaterina Alekseivna (1762-1796) ordered it to be printed in Moscow.

[* The translator suspects that the dates 1562 and 1513 appear to be inaccurately stated in the Russian text. All that is in parenthesis has been added by the translator.]

Your Imperial Highness, with your Monarchial grace, in all our beloved land of Russia, you have lit a bright candle within all our hearts. With God's Holy teaching, we have been enlightened by the light of God. We are encouraged by your Highness for all people to be allowed the freedom of access to this great treasure, which was hidden in past ages, and is now available in our Russia for diligent study as to what our Lord spoke to His servant Abraham.

In our studies, from the time of creation to the Law of Moses, to the writings of the Prophets, to the Gospels about the Savior of the world, to the Acts of the Apostles and in all of the Epistles, nowhere is it written to worship any images in heaven, on earth, in hell, in the waters under the earth, or any likeness thereof, or to pray to Holy persons, to angels, to prophets, to apostles, to tyrants or to Holy Fathers. We are to pray to one God the Father, who is the Creator of all, and to His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Nowhere is it written in the Holy Scriptures to make any kind of images, be it a cross to wear, or to worship manmade objects. At this time, your Imperial Highness, we are compelled to reveal to you our secret existence of many years. Since the time of Aleksei Mikhailovitch (1645- 1676), our existence has been in secret, due to fear of former Monarchs, Governors, County Administrators, rural Police and officials of parish Priests. We gathered in fear to read the Bible, to praise God, to ask God for mercy for our Tsar, for all his household, and for all governors.

As soon as we would gather, the Priests would report to the Police where we were and in whose house our gathering was taking place. Immediately people are handcuffed, shackled, beaten without mercy, put into prison, chained to the wall without food, put into dark cells and sentenced to hard labor with daily punishment. Your Lordship's people suffer greatly. Our tormented situation compels us to report this to your Highness.

Just as it was in the time of long ago, when there were tormentors such as the Greek Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A. D.), or the Roman Emperor Decius (249- 251 A. D.), the same is done today. Entire families are broken apart, the elderly are sent into exile, the young are inducted out of their turn into the service (Army) of your Highness, children are sent into institutions, babies are taken away from their mothers' breasts and sent away to orphanages, where they are eventually given away as laborers to anyone, where they receive harsh punishment, worked to exhaustion, are given pain and oppressed in various ways.

Your Imperial Highness, most August, All-merciful Ruler, Aleksander Pavlovitch (1801-1825). Look upon your humble servants. We prostrate ourselves under your scepter, upholding the throne of your Highness. Look upon your always ill oppressed and downtrodden people. We ask you, Sovereign, on behalf of our very old elders, our young children and their mothers. We petition you with tears in our eyes, that you will end our suffering, so we can firmly set our spiritual foundation upon the Holy Scriptures. We submit 30 articles of our faith, which are the same as previously submitted by two Dukhobor delegates.

Your Grandmother, Ekaterina Alekseivna (1762-1796) had a very proud nature. Those that came before her (the Dukhobor delegates) were ill informed of her nature. Instead of receiving mercy, they suffered great punishment, and were exiled to all parts of Siberia. We, the Spiritual Christians, being in fear of punishment, hid ourselves into obscurity until the time of rule of your Highness.

In the beginning, when you took the scepter of power, the Dukhobors and Molokans were moved to select two good and trustworthy men, who presented to your Highness about the unfortunate plight of our exiled brethren. Immediately, by your Monarchial grace, our brethren were allowed to return back to Russia, and were given plots of land in the state of Tavria.

This day, we also petition to your illustrious throne, to your Imperial Majesty, to consider giving us freedom from the bonds of slavery to the Orthodox religion, from tortures, from slander against us by the clergy, from the hands of our oppressors, who take the innocent out of our homes in handcuffs, and send them to prisons throughout the land. Your Lordship, free us from our torment, from harassment by government officials and the clergy.

Our Articles of Faith, we submit into the hands of your Highness. Forbid (Government officials and the clergy) entry into our homes without just cause. Forbid them to make false and slanderous reports against us, to your Highness, by State and Government officials, by rural Police, that we swear against their clergymen, that we blaspheme their crosses and icons, and that we hold bold insolence against your Highness. After such false reports, the Police come and take our innocent away.

Bring peace to your Kingdom, and God will bless your Highness, and will bless all of your dissidents in this land of ours, Russia. We have long awaited your ascension to the throne, and your reign over all of Russia. All of our people call upon a heavenly King of Kings, that He will grant you grace and peace, the way it was during the reign of King Solomon. May God surround you with His strong protective fortification. May God bless your Highness with heavenly dew, and the fat of the land. May the land produce abundant grain, wine and oil. May our most August Lordship rejoice with his household.

Signed by Molokan Delegates,
Zhurovtsov, Losev, Matilev
On the 12th of July, 1805

This petition was submitted by delegates of the Spiritual Christian sect, to the committee of ministers of the Lord, in session on July 12,1805.

July 15, 1805

On July 15,1805, his Highness called into session the committee of ministers residing in the capital city, including the Field Marshall, his honorable Count Kutuzov, military generals, head dignitaries, church advisors (Orthodox), the Archbishop residing in Saint Petersburg.

At 10 o'clock in the morning, the meeting was called into session with his Highness on the throne. Immediately, his Highness ordered his secretary Mikhail Mikhailovitch Speranski to read the Molokan petition to all who were present.

After reading the petition by Secretary Speranski, he was ordered to record the names of all who were at the committee meeting. His Highness spoke: "What do you lords have to say on this matter, about these people (Molokans) enduring such hatred for reading the Holy Scriptures, which was issued with my approval?"

The first to reply was the honorable Count Kutuzov, Lordship from Smolensk!:

"Assembled Lords, can anyone stop anybody from reading the Holy Bible, whether by Orthodox Christians, or by any human being?"

Then Secretary Speranski asked Archbishop Ambrosim:

"Holy Father, would you give us an answer to honorable Count Kutuzov's question?"

The Archbishop replied:

"It is as impossible to stop the sun from traversing the sky, for the moon to give its light, to stop the stars from shining. It is impossible to stop anybody from reading the Word of God."

Then Count Kutuzov spoke:

"Then it is impossible to stop these people (the Molokans) from reading the Holy Bible, where they will find a path and build a strong foundation for their faith."

Then the Tsar's Secretary asked the honorable Lordship Monarch (Tsar Aleksander Pavlovitch):

"It is also required that your Highness give us your opinion on this matter."

"I decree an open manifesto, mercy for the Dukhobors and the Molokans."

His Lordship, continuing, spoke:

"Lords, you read in the Holy Scriptures, in the Gospels of Jesus Christ, that in the beginning He came to Hebrews. And how did He treat them, in a harsh and violent manner, or did He treat them with love, and in the spirit of humility?

As you all know, as the Savior of the world, He treated them with compassion. He made a call to all mankind:

‘Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourself and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. And in me, you will find rest for your souls.' (Matthew 11:28-29)

The Apostle Paul writes:

‘Who, being (Jesus Christ) in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God....took upon himself the form of a servant.' (Philippians 2:6-7)

We, as Orthodox Christians, should conduct ourselves likewise, with tolerance, not persecuting such people. We should entice them into our Orthodox Church. 

Harsh torture, violence, beatings, and all kinds of offensive measures were inflicted upon the Dukhobors and Molokans for thirty years, with constant persecution and all kinds of violence [brutality] and imprisonment. Our prisons were overflowing with such people, for the offense of reading the Word of God. This is how my deceased Grandmother Ekaterina Alekseivna (Catherine the Great, 1762-1796), treated them. She punished them by exiling them to Siberia, to Arkhanghelsk, and to Volghoghrad. She put them into dark cells. In the Tambov region, one official beat two of them to death. The fear of death was not a deterrent for them. Just the opposite happened. More and more followers joined them'."

I the Tsar, order to inform all military and all officials of the civil government not to interfere or hinder their beliefs. In their work order* to the government, in obedience to the Tsar, the higher throne or rural authorities, these people are not to be physically beaten[* "Work order" probably refers to the repair of bridges, roads, etc., "pro bono" by the people in the vicinity of such a project. If the work was not done in a timely fashion, the workers were severely beaten.]

Orthodox Christians are to endure such punishment, just as our redeemer left such an example for His followers.'"

After his Imperial Majesty finished speaking. Count Sheremetev asked:

"Your Highness, your high command allows freedom of religion for those that existed from early time. What about those who left the Orthodox Church recently? Should we not return them to church and bring them to repentance, so as not to give opportunity for others to leave the Orthodox Church?"

The reply to Sheremenkov came from a Government counselor, a minister for enlightenment to the people, Count Victor Pavlovitch Kochubei:

"Yes, Honorable Sergei Vasili'evitch, from your advice, it is clear that you have very small concern as to what the Word of God teaches, or to give protection to these unfortunate people. Your personal and only concern is that you have many who would leave the Orthodox Church.

You have them in the Nizhneghorodskoi Province, in the village of Raskazov. In my travels throughout Russia, it became known to me that the majority of such people do exist in Tambovskoi, Saratovskoi and Orenburskoi Provinces. Also here and in their other provinces."

Then, the Minister of Finance, the honorable Count Peter Vasilievitch Lapukhin, gave his opinion:

"Our great Lordship and all the Lords comprising this committee, can anyone stop the flow of River Neva? Who can stop it, during its swift current? Likewise, it is impossible to stop God's work. Look and what happened during Christ's and the Apostolic time, how hard the Jews tried to stop the way to the Lord. It did not succeed, and in the end, they themselves were destroyed by the Roman sword. Let us remember what the Priest Gamaliel said, 'Anything that is of God, no one can destroy.' In the end, we will be remembered as wrestlers against God."

When Lapukhin finished, then Aleksander Niclolaievitch Golitzin spoke:

"Honorable Monarch! Great Lord! And all Lords in session! Listen to the words of Jesus Christ, who spoke to the people: 'If the end did not come to Israel, we would not have had salvation.'

This is also in agreement with the Prophet Amos and the Apostle James. We must understand as to what is happening in our time, that God has begun His work within the lower class of people. Just as it was with the Israelites, when they were poor (in Egypt). Even the Savior Himself prayed to the Father in heaven and earth said:

 'It was the will of the heavenly Father. We must understand this, my Lordship and all Lords! It is up to us today, to show an apostolic, true way to Christ, to these lower class of people.'"

At the end of the High Council meeting, his Highness ordered his secretary to form a united Imperial Committee Council, and to obtain signatures from all present committee members, as to giving freedom without any objections, for the Molokan sect to exist, according to their Articles of Faith.

July 17, 1805

On July 17,1805, the Molokan delegation was ordered to appear before the Senate of his Highness, in session, consisting of twelve Senators. His Highness asked the delegates:

"How do you interpret the Holy Scriptures? And how do you pray? How do you  sing psalms? Do you adhere to your submitted Articles of Faith? You explain  that to us here, personally."

Then Zhurovtsov began to speak:

"Your Imperial Majesty, we pray for your indulgence to hear us on what we have to say."

Then his Lordship replied:

"You are granted to explain as to what your sect believes."

Zhurovtsov stood in the midst of the Senators, directly in front of the Emperor, and began to speak:

"We believe with all of our hearts, without a doubt, in the Word of God that was proclaimed by ancient prophets, by apostles and by the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, as it is written in the Holy Scriptures. We gladly accept these books.

We try as, best as we are able, to learn from it about our salvation. We truly keep to what is written in them. The foundation of our faith is based on the Word of God. We believe and confess only one God, Who is expressed in three personages. All three personages are as One. God did not derive from anyone. He is self existing. Who is all. He is everlasting, He is unseen. Who exists in unapproachable light. He is All Seeing and Ruler of all.

We believe that the triune God created everything by His Word, the heavens, the earth, unincarnated spirits that we call Angels. Some angels that remained committed to the Creator, they became angels, archangels, cherubims and seraphims.

We believe that the first man, Adam, was created in a perfect image and likeness of God. Likeness does not mean to a physical form. God does not have a physical body. The image of God is within our souls, in a pure mind, to live within God's will.

The first man, Adam, was deceived by a serpent and did him evil. For disobeying God's command not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam fell. In this manner, Adam destroyed his own image and likeness of God. For that, goodness and sweetness of the Garden of Eden was denied to him. Because of that sin, he brought upon himself labor, sickness, misery and finally death.

The true God saw Adam's misery, his tears and his poor state of being, being without the blessed garden. In His compassion, God promised that He would, from the seed of a woman, send a Redeemer, who would bruise the head of the serpent who tempted Adam, and once again restore the image and likeness of God (within mankind).

This Savior of the world was none other than God's only begotten Son, who, in the appointed time, left the glorious heaven, and came to this earth. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, became the God-man, lived among the people, was baptized by John, taught, preached, died on the cross for the sins of the world, paid for the price with his blood. He tasted death for all. On the third day he rose again, and after forty days, he appeared to his disciples. Being witnessed by his gathered disciples, he ascended into heaven and sat down on the right hand of God the Father, who exists in all incomprehensible glory. Soon afterwards, God sent the Holy Spirit upon His Holy Apostles. With that, He established and sanctified His Holy church that correctly believed.

At the end of the age, our Lord Jesus Christ will come back again, in all His glory, with all of His Holy angels. He will resurrect all those who died in Christ. Those who are alive will be transformed into incorruptible. He will lead all the righteous into the everlasting Kingdom that has been prepared for them. The lawless and unbelievers will be judged and sentenced to Hell."

When the delegates finished reading, singing and praying, his Imperial Highness told them to go home in peace,

"Your petition will be granted."

The delegates bowed to the ground, gave thanks to God, to the King of Kings, to the earthly King and to all the Royal Ministers.

Before the end of the Senate's session, the Royal Imperial Highness ordered his Secretary Speranski to write a decree to be sent to the Police Minister of Internal Affairs, to Count Victor Pavlovitch Kochubei, for him to notify throughout all the land of Russia, to all Military and Civil Governments, local officials and rural Police, to recognize the Spiritual Christian Molokans as a legal sect, and to inform all Diocese, Archbishops and traveling clergymen* from this day forward, not to enter the Molokan homes[* "Traveling clergymen" = Orthodox clergy who traveled to rural areas that were without a parish, to baptize the newborn, etc.]

Immediately thereafter, cemeteries were to be made immediately available for all kinds of people. As soon as anyone submits a petition to a Government official, a Police Inspector or Assessor is to immediately be sent to investigate which sect they belong to. Notify all clergy not to oppress. Should anyone attack them in any form, for reading the Bible, they (the Molokans) are to be defended, so that they may read it openly, freely, without any fear. If anyone treats them cruelly for the above, report it to me.

The original decree bears the signature by the hand of his Imperial Highness, Aleksander I, and Minister Count Kochubei, July 22,1805, Moscow, Russia.

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