Staunton, September 9 – On September 9, 1990, Father Aleksandr Men, who has been described as “a missionary for the tribe of the intelligentsia” because of his enlightened approach to Russian Orthodoxy, was murdered not far from his home despite the fact that he was trailed by the Soviet KGB who had given him the code name “missionary.”
In today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Boris Kolymagin offers a remarkable appreciation of a remarkable man, “the first clergyman killed in post-perestroika times” by those who wanted to silence him and who to this day have not been identified or brought to justice by the Russian authorities (ej.ru/?a=note&id=28565).
Whoever ordered the murder – Orthodox fundamentalists or “employees of the special services playing their own games” – is now probably beyond knowing, the Moscow commentator says. Too much time has passed. But one thing is clear: whoever it was failed to silence Father Aleksandr who lives on in books, tapes, and the memory of those who knew him.
After 70 years of Soviet atheism, Father Aleksandr offered the possibility of the restoration of “normal Christianity,” a faith not tarnished by playing games with the secular power, and that was something that both some in the Moscow Patriarchate and some in the Soviet state feared.
Kolymagin says that he remembers that there were people around Patriarch Aleksii II who “even were gladdened by the death of ‘the heretic’ and did not conceal this in private conversations,” however horrible that sounds. And even Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev expressed the view that Men “left in time. Otherwise, he would have been declared a new Sakharov” and would have been drawn away from his faith.
What made and makes Father Aleksandr so important is that he, like a small number of other Orthodox priests “tried to restore horizontal ties among people, to help them without the interference of officialdom to cooperate in charity, spiritual education, and the raising of children, Kolymagin says.
Initially Men’s works came out in tam- and samizdat, but since then, they have been republished around the world in many languages. Because this is the 80th year of Men’s birth as well as the 25th of his unsolved murder, the Moscow Patriarchate has announced plans to publish a 15 volume collected works.
There are many events planned, Kolymagin says. “But the question arises: why all this if Orthodoxy is moving not in his direction but frightening society with its archaic quality, its servility and its lack of culture.”
“The answer,” he says, “is obvious: there is Christianity and there is its dark twin.” Father Aleksandr understood that, and indeed, one can say he died for it, asserting the day before his martyr’s death, “Christianity is only beginning.” One retains the hope, Kolymagin says, that Father Aleksandr Men was not mistaken” and that the church will be freed from the embrace of the state and someday soon “begin its independent life.”
Today’s “Vechernyaya Moskva” features an interview with Father Aleksandr’s son, Mikhail Men, who is Russian minister for construction. He makes several interesting comments. He notes that his father’s murder was the first murder in the USSR of “a public man” (vm.ru/news/2015/09/08/mihail-men-otets-nikogda-ne-navyazival-svoyu-tochku-zreniya-296733.html).
And he points out that the fact that his father’s murderer was never found opened the way for the commission of more such murders in the years that have followed.