January 01, 2005

Father Alexander Men

From the beginning, Fr. Alexander was no ordinary priest. He did not fit the standards set by the authorities and knew the spiritual needs of some believers, especially Moscow intellectuals and students, better than more conventional Russian Orthodox priests. Prominent literary scholar Sergei Averintsev, in his article about Alexander Men, even called him “a missionary for the intelligentsia tribe.”

In the church in Novaya Derevnya (30 miles north of Moscow), where Fr. Alexander served for 20 years, there was an odd mix of urban intellectuals (mathematicians, biologists, doctors, writers etc.), youth, pious elderly women, blue-collar workers, and peasants from nearby villages. Men was a beloved pastor to thousands and had the ability to win people’s trust, from highly-educated intelligentsia like Andrei Sakharov, to the simplest of believers. He also brought many people to the Church, including Alexander Galich and Alexander Solzhenitsin.

And yet today, even though Fr. Alexander has been dead for 14 years, many still revile his memory. Anti-Men pamphlets are still sometimes distributed in churches and it is difficult to publish anything in his defense in official Orthodox magazines and newspapers.

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