The Divinity Of Father Ivan

It seems enough, in Russia, when a single individual is obsessed by

some more or less ridiculous idea, for his whole environment to become

infected by it also. The ease with which suggestions make their way

into the popular mind is amazing, and this reveals its strong bias

towards the inner life, the life of dreams. The actual content of the

dreams is of small importance, provided that they facilitate the soul's

t to a better world, and supply some link in a chain which shall

attach it more firmly to the things of eternity. Consequently, those

who have any supernatural experience to relate are almost sure to find


An illiterate woman named Klipikoff one day proclaimed the good news of

the divinity of Father Ivan of Cronstadt. The incredulous smiles of

her fellow-citizens were gradually transformed into enthusiastic

expressions of belief, and Madame Klipikoff proceeded to found a

school. About twenty women began to proclaim openly throughout

Cronstadt that Father Ivan, the miracle-worker, was divine, and he had

difficulty in repudiating the honours that the infatuated women tried

to thrust upon him. According to the priestesses of this

"unrecognised" cult, Father Ivan was the Saviour Himself, though he hid

the fact on account of the "Anti-Christians"--that is to say, the

priests and the church authorities. Those who were converted to the

new doctrine placed his portrait beside that of the Divine Mother, and

prayed before it. They even fell on their knees before his garments,

or any articles belonging to him, and though the old man expressed

horror at such idolatry, he nevertheless permitted it. One of the

local papers described a ceremony that took place in one of the houses

where the pilgrims, who journeyed to Cronstadt from all parts of

Russia, were lodged. Father Ivan deigned to give his benediction to

the three glasses of tea that the hostess proffered him, and after his

departure she divided their contents among the assembled company, in

return for various offerings.

There were, however, cases in which, instead of kneeling before the

garments of miracle-workers or committing suicide, the visionaries

strove to reach heaven by offering up the lives of their fellow-men in


In the law-courts of Kazan a terrible instance of one of these

religious murders was brought to light. It was revealed that the

inhabitants of a neighbouring village had suspended by the feet a

beggar named Matiounin, and then, opening one of his veins, had drunk

his blood.

There are throughout Russia many records of proceedings brought against

such murderers--for instance, the tragic case of Anna Kloukin, who

threw her only daughter into an oven, and offered her charred body to

God; and that of a woman named Kourtin, who killed her seven-year-old

son that his mortal sins might be forgiven.

The vague remembrance of Abraham, who offered up his only son, and the

conviction that Anti-Christ, "born of a depraved woman, a Jewess,"

travels the earth in search of Christian souls--these are the most

obvious motives for murders such as we have described. Their real

cause sprang, however, from the misery of the people and their

weariness of life.

By a kind of reaction these murders--whose perpetrators often could not

be found--frequently gave rise to even stranger crimes and

disturbances. Suspicion was apt to fall upon any Jews dwelling in the

district, and there resulted trials, such as that of Beilis, or Jewish

_pogroms_ which filled the civilised world with horror.