Orthodox America

  A Spiritual Battle

“The atheist state would like to stifle the religious revival which has begun. However, no one throughout history has succeeded in destroying religious life by way of violence. It may be possible to deal with one or another group of representatives of the Christian movement, but to suffer for the cause, which is the cause of his religious conscience, is a desired and happy fate for a Christian.”

Fr. Gleb Yakunin and Lev Regelson in Letters from Moscow.


Among the recent victims of communist repression is Lev Regelson, an Orthodox layman, who has become known to the West over the past 10 years as an advocate of religious freedom and human rights. Regelson was born in 1939 into a staunchly communist family. His Jewish father was a well-known physicist and Regelson himself graduated in physics and mathematics from Moscow University. As a student he studied Nietzche and Freud, then turned to the Russian religious philosopher Berdyaev and was finally baptized into the Orthodox Church. At that time he was a lecturer at the Moscow planetarium and because he refused to make a secret of his new-found Christian faith, openly expressing his religious beliefs during his lectures, he lost his job. Despite efforts to find work, he has been unemployed since then for long periods of time and has had difficulty in supporting his wife and five children. Regelson continued to write scientific articles some of which were published in the West. He also managed to write a thick, carefully documented book, The Tragedy of the Russian Church, 1927-45 (in Russian, YMCA Press; Paris, 1977), on the response of the Church to the October Revolution and the upheavals which followed. Regelson shares the viewpoint of the Russian Church Outside of Russia that Metropolitan Sergius usurped his position,' first as Locum Tenons and then as Patriarch and betrayed the Church by his policy of "adaptation" to the Soviet regime. The book also gives chronological lists of arrested hierarchs, the closing Of churches and brief biographies giving clearly sympathetic views of members of the Catacomb Church. This is a very valuable contribution indeed, especially when one considers the adverse conditions under which it was written and researched.

It is, however, for his statements on religious issues that Regelson is best known. In 1971 he and three other Orthodox Christians sent a statement to Patriarch Pimen objecting to the theological innovations favorable to the Soviet viewpoint which were being introduced into the Church. In 1975 he made a joint appeal to the World Council of Churches together with Fr. Gleb Yakunin (see "Orthodox America" #4) which led to the first open debate ever held by the WCC on the subject of religious persecution despite efforts of the Moscow Patriarchate delegation to stifle the issue. In Nov. 1978 Regelson took over the leadership of the Christian Seminar when its founder, Alexander Ogorodnikov, was arrested. (The Seminar is a discussion group for young Orthodox who have recently come to the faith.) 

And ye shaIl be brought before governors and kings for My sake ....(Matt. 10:18)

In December 1979 Regelson himself was arrested and kept in detention for 9 months in Lefortovo prison prior to his trial in September 1980. He was given a five-year suspended sentence after he admitted that he had engaged in anti-soviet activity, repented of his past actions and vowed to restrict himself to strictly religious activity. This was in marked contrast to his statement made as a witness at the trial of Fr. Gleb Yakunin four weeks earlier when he told the court that he still fully agreed with everything that he and Fr. Gleb had written. Regelson's manner during his trial and his discussions with jour:nalists following the trial were reminiscent of Fr. Dimitri Dudko's television appearance and the possibility of his having been subjected to powerful drugs, as happened to Fr. Dimitri, cannot be ruled out.

According to the latest information from Keston News'Service, Regelson has resumed leadership of the Christian Seminar which is to be restructured to accord with the official views of the Moscow Patriarchate. It is sincerely hoped that Regelson, like Fr. Dimitri, will retract his confession and will not allow himself to be used as a tool of the official Church whose leadership has no interest in the aims of genuine Orthodox Christianity.

May we all have pity and beg God to have mercy and strengthen the soul of His servant who now lies wounded on the field of battle.

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