His Bitter Talk Against His Enemies.
Rumors of His Recall to Russia.
The Bishop Denies Them and So Does the New Russian Consul.
The return of the Russian Bishop Vladimir from Alaska has started once more in circulation the rumors and charges of scandalous practices in the Russian Church in this city, and crimination and recrimination are the order of the day. The arrival of the newly appointed Russian Consul has added a new phase to the controversy, and statements have been freely made that he is here to investigate the matter, with authority to order the ecclesiastic to return to Russia if he should deem that course proper. Accusations of criminal and corrupt deeds in Alaska have gained currency, and the Bishop is again the object of a bitter attack. The entire matter has assumed a peculiar aspect, from the fact that during the absence of Bishop Vladimir his actions have been made the subject of inquiry by the Russian Consul.
Bishop Vladimir, when seen last night, had an interesting story to tell of the affair. He was neither mild nor conservative in his denunciations of certain persons now members of the Russian colony, and explained in detail what he thought to be the origin of the accusations.
"Every charge against me is a lie," he said. "They are the malicious fabrications of a shameful rascals and an apostate Jew. I have never attempted to defend myself against these slanderers, and would not do so now were I not asked. The Russian Church in this city and I, as its official head, are not assailed by Americans, but by fugitive Russian nihilists fleeting from punishment, and by fugitive Russian Jews. Their attacks, though ostensibly directed against me personally, are really prompted by a desire to injure the State and the church. I am neither the first, nor will I be the last, to be subjected to the assaults of these lying malefactors.
"It is said that I have been recalled and that the Russian Consul has power either to make me go or drive me from the church. Both statements are false. I assure you I have not been recalled. If I were I would at once obey. Out of the Russian Church I have no hope or desire to live. If Holy Synod were to recall me I would at once accept the decree. My disobedience would be all that would be needed to deprive me of my rights and authority as a bishop. The Archimandrite sent out b Holy Synod to investigate the affairs of the Russian Church in this city and Alaska returned last November perfectly satisfied with my administration. Petitions from almost every Russian, Slavonic and Greek parishioner and society in this city were sent to Russia with the earnest request that I be sustained, and I was. But there are several slanderers and conspirators at work in this city against me. I will tell you the story of one, the renegade priest Leven. It is he who has circulated the present falsehood and who has been at work at others.
"When I was in Alaska circulars signed by an alleged committee of a Russian benevolent society were distributed among the people there. They charged that I had been recalled and that I should not be obeyed by Christians. They were all forgeries by Leven.
"Leven is an apostate Jew. I raised him to the priesthood. He created dissensions in my own household. He attempted to make my attendants rebel against me. He violated the most solemn oaths taken at the altar. Complains came from parishioners and I decided to send him away. I put him in Alaska, but in three months the people there had accused him of unpriestly deeds. He returned here and soon had his relatives from Russia established in the city. Still I did not want to cast him adrift, and I decided to send him to the mission in Japan. I gave him traveling expenses and bought his ticket. He kept the money, sold the ticket and refused to leave the city.
"Like a robber he came here in my absence and took away the Russian boys, and now he wishes to harass me with these additional lies. Most Russians are good and most Jews are honorable, but some Russians and some Jews are liars.
"Again, it is charged that the Consul came here to investigate my administration. If he did so he had no authority, nor has he any authority to compel me to go to Russia or to leave the church. I admire the Consul very much and we are on the most friendly terms. To me he has said nothing of an investigation, and I am positive he has made none. The whole scandalous story is one tissue of lies whose only motive is to destroy the influence of the church."
The Russian Consul, Artzymovitch, was equally emphatic in his denial of the rumor that he was here with a demand for the Bishops recall. He is a dark, nervous and extremely excitable man, and was very wroth at the system of newspaper license which he said permitted such baseless scandals to gain currency, and only made matters worse by explanation. "They dont do it that way in Russia," he exclaimed.
"You see," he said, "I am a new man here, and I wanted to know for personal reasons just what was in the stories circulated about the Bishop. So I sought and obtained information from priests and others. It was not in any sense an investigation or an inquiry. I have power to make neither." The Consul emphasized his assertion by grabbing a cigarette and puffing away at an alarming rate.
Continuing, he said that he was convinced that all the atrocious charges made against the Bishop were groundless. "But," he resumed, "it is an unfortunate matter. It does no good to keep constantly denying the charges, and I think we may send the Bishop away. We have no right to do so, and if he wishes to remain it is his privilege. I consider him perfectly able and fit to administer the duties of his office, and will so write."
"To whom will you write?"
"To my acquaintances in Russia," said the Consul with a smile.
San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, August 28, 1891
Reprinted in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 1, No. 12, August 1994.