861.404/528: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State

1753. A member of the Embassy staff was received on October 22 by the Metropolitan Nikolai, who presented him with a copy of a recent book entitled The Russian Orthodox Church in The Great Patriotic War. This publication is being forwarded to the Department under cover of a despatch.

During the conversation the Metropolitan stated that the recently established Committee on the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church was purely an intermediary body between the Church and the Soviet Government. He emphasized that the Church remained entirely separate from the State and received no financial support from the [Page 861]State.2 In reply to a question, the Metropolitan said that it was impossible to state the present membership of the Orthodox Church but that before the war there were about 120,000,000 Orthodox believers in Russia. At that time, he stated, the society of nonbelievers had a membership of about 3,000,000 but such societies are not active at present, since separate societies are not permitted to operate during the war. The Metropolitan said that it was planned to open a higher theological academy in Moscow and that it was hoped a second academy might be founded in Leningrad. Secondary theological schools are being opened in each Bishopric. In the absence of a public demand, the Metropolitan states, it was not planned to open any new churches in Moscow in the near future.

  1. Mr. Elbridge Durbrow of the Division of European Affairs in a memorandum of October 29, 1943, drew attention to “the probable connection between the [Pan-Slav] movement and the recognition and reestablishment of the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Russia. It is understood that among the southern Slavs who are also Orthodox in religion one of the deterrents to full sympathy with the Soviet Government has been the latter’s suppression of religion.” (860F.01/512½) See also footnote 6, p. 584.