Cyril (Smirnov) of Kazan

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The hieromartyr His Eminence Cyril (Smirnov) of Kazan, also Kyrill (Smirnov) of Kazan, was the Metropolitan of the Eparchy of Kazan of the Church of Russia from 1918 to 1922. Designated by Patr. Tikhon as first locum tenens of the see of the Patriarchate, Metr. Cyril fought against Bolshevik control of the Church of Russia during the 1920s and 1930s. He was glorified in 1981 by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. His feast day is November 20.


Constantine Ilarionovich Smirnov was born in the city of Kronstadt in the St. Petersburg province of Russia on April 26, in either 1862 or 1863. The son of a Church reader, Constantine entered the St. Petersburg Theological Academy, graduating in 1887 with a degree of candidate in theology. Having married, he entered the Holy Orders and was ordained a priest on November 21, 1887. Constantine was appointed priest of the St. Petersburg Resurrection Church located near the Warsaw Station in St. Petersburg. The church, located in an industrial section of St. Petersburg, was the center of the city's Temperance Movement - The All-Russian Alexander Nevsky Society of Sobriety. He also taught the Law of God at the Elizabeth gymnasium. In 1894, he was assigned as a priest at the Kronstadt Holy Trinity cemetery Church, and on October 1, 1900 he was appointed the senior priest of the Holy Trinity Church.

As the new century began, tragedy struck Father Constantine's family. In early 1902, his daughter Olga died tragically after swallowing a needle, and then his wife, also called Olga, died from grief. With the death of his family, Fr. Constantine turned to the monastic life. He received the monastic tonsure on May 10, 1902 with the name Cyril, after the enlightener of the Slavs and was appointed head of the Orthodox Mission in Urmia, Persia and with the rank of archimandrite.

In 1904, Fr. Cyril was elected to theepiscopate and consecrated the Bishop of Gdov, a vicar of the St. Petersburg Eparchy and progressively became second vicar on October 31, 1905, and first vicar on February 15, 1908. He is credited with introducing into the Alexander Nevsky Lavra chanting by the whole congregation. He was a member of the Pre-Conciliar Council.

Having been a close friend of Father John of Kronstadt, Bp. Cyril fulfilled the request of the future saint when, as the chief celebrant, Bp. Cyril conducted the funeral services in 1908, including placing St. John's body in the coffin.

During Theophany of 1909, St. Petersburg was suffering an outbreak of cholera. This brought a decree that all water to be blessed for the feast was to be boiled beforehand and the blessing should be performed over steaming pots. Bp. Cyril defied these warnings and blessed the water of the River Neva at St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra through a hole in the ice, while the police took measures to ensure no one took any water from the "Jordan".

On December 31, 1909, Bp. Cyril was transferred to the Eparchy of Tambov and Shatsk, and on May 6, 1913 he was elevated to archbishop. Abp. Cyril was active visiting throughout his large diocese at unexpected times. Reflecting a good knowledge of the life of the people, Abp. Cyril's sermons embraced common themes of their drunkenness, foul language, and prejudice against literacy and schooling. The fundamental aim of his life was the enlightenment of the people in the spirit of the Orthodox Church. He was also very exacting towards the clergy. It was enough for him to notice two deacons talking during a service for their names to appear in the local diocesan newspaper. But, at the same time he was very merciful to the poor.

In July, 1914, on the initiative of Abp. Cyril the glorification of St. Pitirim of Tambov took place in the cathedral in Tambov.

As president of the section on the teaching of the Law of God, Abp. Cyril took a leading part in the Local Church Council of 1917-18. He was one of the 25 candidates for patriarch. As the council elected Abp. Tikhon of Vilnius elected the first Patriarch of the Church of Russia in two hundred years, the Bolsheviks began their takeover of Russia. During the Russian Civil War, Abp. Cyril was appointed Metropolitan of Tiflis and Baku and exarch of the Caucasus on April 1, 1918. However, as the Church of Georgia had declared its autocephaly in the midst of the Civil War, he was not successful in reaching his see.

In November, 1919, Abp. Cyril was arrested in Moscow by the Bolsheviks on a charge of “counter-revolutionary agitation". Imprisoned in the Cheka prison in Moscow, he was released after two months. His attitude towards the Soviet "authorities" was that of openly refusing to recognize them. In April, 1920, Abp. Cyril was appointed Metropolitan of Kazan and, in May, he was named a member of Patriarch Tikhon’s Holy Synod. After arriving in Kazan on July 9, Abp. Cyril was arrested on August 19 because he “left Moscow for the city of Kazan without the permission of the Cheka”. On August 27, he was sentenced to imprisonment, in a camp, for “counter-revolutionary activity” until the end of the Russian Civil War, at which time his punishment was changed to a five-year sentence. From October 5, 1920, Abp. Cyril was confined, in one cell, in the Taganka prison in Moscow with Bps. Theodore (Pozdeyevsky) and Gurias (Stepanov). While in prison Metr. Cyril, on November 7, was elected an honorary member of the Kazan Theological Academy. During the times that Metr. Cyril was detained by the Bolsheviks authorities, administration of the Eparchy of Kazan fell to Bp. Joasaph of Mamadysh, a vicar of the eparchy.

On December 24, 1921, Metr. Cyril was released, and arrived in Kazan on January 18, 1922, having been met by Bps. Joasaph and Athanasius and a group of joyful Christians. In April, the Bolsheviks requisitioned the valuables of the Kazan churches supposedly "for the benefit of the starving". However, during August Metr. Cyril was arrested again, this time for his involvement with the American Relief Organization which supplied food to the starving. After a time in prison in Moscow, he was exiled first, in January, 1923, to the province of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, then to Ust-Sysolsk (Syktyvkar), then a third time to Ust-Kul (Komi SSR), and finally to Kotelnich in Vyatka province. During this period Patriarch Tikhon was also imprisoned. This gave the Church renovationist heretics the opportunity to try to take control of the central administration of the Church. The State Political Directorate (GPU) tried to persuade the Patriarch, even after he was released from prison in 1923, to enter into negotiations with the renovationists, with the promise that if he did many hierarchs held in prison and exile would be freed. So in May, 1924, the renovationist leader Vladimir Krasnitsky was admitted briefly into the Patriarch's Higher Ecclesiastical Council.

Also in May, 1924, Metr. Cyril was called to Moscow for negotiations with the GPU agent Tuchkov. Since Cyril refused to recognize the renovationists, Tuchkov threatened to let him remain in prison. But Metr. Cyril did not give in. Also, Metr. Cyril was able to visit Patr. Tikhon, who asked him his opinion about admitting Krasnitsky into the Council. Metr. Cyril's responded strongly that he must not compromise with Krasnitsky. Thus, strengthened, Patr. Tikhon struck Krasnitsky's name off the list of the Council members, which resulted in Metr. Cyril again being exiled, in July, first to Yelsk and then to Perevolok.

Although Metr. Cyril was still in exile, Patr. Tikhon, on January 7, 1925, appointed him the first locum tenens of the patriarchal throne in the event the patriarch were unable to continue his duties. Later in the spring of 1925, Metr. Cyril was sent in exile to Zyryansk region, an exile for a year to a place to which he had to travel for two weeks by boat, without anything to eat, and forced to sleep in the bitter cold outside the cabins in which his guards slept. During this period Metr. Cyril governed his diocese through his vicars, Bps. Joasaph, Athanasius, and Andronicus.

In his will that was read after his death on April 7, 1925, Patr. Tikhon had appointed Metr. Cyril as the first of three hierarchs who were empowered to become locum tenens of the patriarchal throne and assume leadership of the Russian Church until a new patriarch could be elected. Since Metr. Cyril was in exile and not allowed to return to Moscow to assume the locum tenancy, and since the second candidate, Metr. Agathangel of Yaroslavl, was also in exile, the post fell to the third candidate, Metr. Peter of Krutitsa.

In December, 1925, Metr. Peter was imprisoned for rejecting the terms for legalization of the Church offered by the Government Political Administration (GPU). As Metr. Peter appointed Metr. Cyril the first candidate to the locum tenancy in the event of his death, the GPU agent Tuchkov went to Metr. Cyril and presented the same terms for the legalization of the Church to him. When Metr. Cyril refused to cooperate with Tuchkov, he was sent back to Turukhansk. Yet, Tuchkov tried again when at the beginning of his locum tenancy Metropolitan Sergius was firm and uncompromising. Tuchkov succeeded in persuading Metr. Cyril to accept the position of locum tenens, as he was the first candidate according to Patriarch Tikhon's will. When he arrived in Rybinsk after leaving his exile, Metr. Cyril met an ascetic nun, Blessed Xenia, who lived in Rybinsk, and asked her what he should do about his decision. She replied that if he went to Moscow and accepted Tuchkov's offer, he would lose everything spiritual that he had gathered throughout his life. Thus, the Metropolitan went back into exile.

In November, 1926, a secret ballot of 72 bishops elected Metr. Cyril as the best candidate as the patriarch. But, on December 21, 1926, he was arrested in Kotelnich and cast into the special isolator (solitary confinement cell) in Vyatka. On March 28, 1927, Metr. Cyril was sentenced to three years in exile in Siberia in “The Case of Metropolitan Cyril (Smirnov) and Protopriest Alexander Agafonnikov, Vyatka province, 1927” that involved them in an alleged conspiracy in the Vyatka province to elect a new patriarch. For this, Metr. Cyril was sent to Khantaika, Turukhansk region, in north-western Siberia. When he heard the infamous declaration of Metr. Sergius, Metr. Peter's deputy, that placed the Church in the same position of servitude that Metr. Cyril had rejected. Cyril rejected the declaration and broke communion with Sergius. During the following years, Metr. Cyril corresponded with Metr. Sergius in an attempt to dissuade him from his course of action, but was unsuccessful.

From May to December, 1929, Metr. Cyril was in exile in Yeniseisk. On April 23, 1930, he was sentenced to deprivation of the right to live in Moscow and Petrograd provinces, as well as in Kharkov, Odessa, Dagestan, and Tataria for three years. Again, he was sent into exile in the Turukhansk region for three years. On August 19, 1933, Metr. Cyril was released and chose to live in the town of Gzhatsk in European Russia, from where he continued secretly to lead the opposition to Metr. Sergius. On July 14, 1934, he was arrested on a charge of “counter-revolutionary activity” and was transferred to the inner isolator in the Butyrki prison in Moscow, where, on December 2, he was convicted of “counter-revolutionary activity” and sentenced to three years’ exile in Yany-Kurgan in Southern Kazakhstan. On July 7, 1937, Metr. Cyril was arrested in Yany-Kurgan and imprisoned in Chimkent on a charge of “participating in a counter-revolutionary underground organization of churchmen” together with Metr. Joseph of Petrograd.

On September 23, 1937, Metr. Cyril was joined in prison by Metr. Joseph of Petrograd. The two hierarchs were condemned by a troika of the South Kazakhstan region on November 19, and were shot together on November 20, 1937 in Lisiy ovrag, near Chimkent. They were buried in Lisiy ovrag.

Succession box:
Cyril (Smirnov) of Kazan
Preceded by:
Constantin (Bulychov)
Bishop of Gdov
Vicar of St.-Petersburg diocese

Succeeded by:
Benjamin (Kazansky)
Preceded by:
Innocent (Belyayev)
Archbishop of Tambov and Shatsk
Succeeded by:
Zenobius (Drozdov)
Preceded by:
Jacob (Pjatnitsky)
Metropolitan of Kazan
Succeeded by:
Mitrophan (Polikarpov)
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