Assasination of Father Men

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This is an article, September 2007, from the Christian History Institute focusing on the assassination of Fr Men in 1990. It does not seem to me to be especially well done but it can represent a certain reflection of and on the events from a of course well intentioned point of view.

On this day, Sunday September 9, 1990, Father Alexander Men left home as usual at 6:30 A.M., walking to the station to catch the train that would take him to church. He had a heavy schedule ahead of him this day, including baptisms and funeral services. But as it turned out, others would have to complete his duties.

Did a snapping twig, the heavy breathing of his assailant alert Fr. Alexander to danger as he stepped down the wooded path? We may never know. An enemy felled Alexander Men with a blow to the back of his head from an axe, the traditional Russian weapon of revenge. Although Fr. Alexander managed to drag himself back up the path to the gate outside his house, he died there.

Who would want to do in the churchman whose personal ministry had brought thousands to Christ? A writer whose apologetics led him to be called the Russian C. S. Lewis? The majority of Russians immediately suspected the KGB--the dreaded secret police. But the KGB said Fr. Alexander was probably killed by anti-Semitic monks in the Orthodox Church. Later they revised their opinion and said it was likely a relative or someone from his parish who committed the crime. They named no suspects, however.

All of these groups had a motive. The KGB had reason to hate and fear Fr. Alexander because he was so successful in turning men and women to Christ. In fact, he was called a "one-man antidote to decades of Marxist propaganda." The KGB had him under constant scrutiny and frequent interrogation. Anti-Semites had reason to hate him, because Fr. Alexander Men was a Christian Jew. Conservatives in the Russian Orthodox Church rejected Fr. Alexander, because he encouraged a more open-minded attitude toward other Christians. "The walls we erect between ourselves are not high enough to reach up to God," he said. (Eight years later, Orthodox Russians would burn Men's works and forbid their reading; among their complaints: Men had spoken favorably of Savonarola and Hus). Finally, Jews might have felt his conversion to Christianity was a rejection of Judaism.

Fr. Alexander was unique. He was born in 1935, during the "catacomb years"--the period when Stalin was trying with all his might to stamp out Christianity. The church was forced to go "underground"--that is, to meet secretly. Alexander's Jewish mother converted to Christianity and had her son secretly baptized. From an early age, Alexander was determined to become a Christian priest. It was inevitable that he would become an apologist for the church, for he had a powerful intellect: at the age of thirteen, he was poring over Immanuel Kant's difficult philosophy.

The church accepted him for the priesthood despite his Jewish descent because during those difficult days candidates for ministry were fewer than usual. Fr. Alexander became a nationally-known religious figure. His writings were circulated and copied by hand or on typewriters in the underground press. By advancing arguments that satisfied intelligent minds, Fr. Alexander encouraged several notable figures (Alexander Solzhenitsyn was one) to return to the church.

The night before he died, Fr. Alexander spoke to a gathering of 600 people. He pointed out that it is absurd to say the world has no meaning. To say something has no meaning one must recognize and judge it by meaning. He showed the new meaning Christ has given the commandment to love our neighbor as ourself. "Christ gave it a completely new sound with the words 'as I have loved you,' because he remained with us in this filthy, bloody and sinful world out of self-giving love. For this reason he said that the one who would follow him must deny himself (not his personality--for that is holy--but his ego of false self-affirmation), give himself up, take up his cross, which is to say his service in suffering and joy, then follow him."


1. "Fr. Alexander Men." Amen Page. 2. Plekon, Michael. Living Icons: persons of faith in the Eastern church; Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002. 3. Zelinsky, Vladimir. "An Extraordinary Pastor - Fr. Alexander Men." Orthodox America.