The Diocese of Kazan is a diocese under the jurisdiction of the Church of Russia with the see of the ruling bishop located in the city of Kazan. The borders of the diocese are common with those of the Republic of Tatarstan. The city of Kazan is located in the center of European Russia along the Volga River. Since its establishment, the borders of the diocese have varied greatly as Christianity was established in the formerly pagan countryside. Archbishop Anastassy (Metkin) of Kazan and Tatarstan is the ruling hierarch of the Diocese of Kazan.
Orthodox Christianity made its appearance in the lands of the Golden Horde as early as the thirteenth century under the leadership of the diocese of Sarsk and Podolsk with the bishop’s residence located in the Horde’s capital Sarai. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century before a diocese was formed in the area of Kazan. The Diocese of Kazan was initially established on April 3, 1555 by Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow, during the time of Ivan IV (the Terrible), as the diocese of Kazan and Sviyazhsk. The first ruling bishop was Bishop Gury (Rugotin), who had been the heguman (abbot) of the Monastery of Selizharov in Tver.
Bp. Gury was accompanied in his new assigned by Archimandrites Varsonofy and Herman, with instructions to evangelize the inhabitants and not to compel baptism. Organizationally, the Kazan diocese was subordinated to the Moscow metropolitanate and joined as the third diocese with the metropolitanate of Moscow and the archdiocese of Novgorod.
The territory of the diocese initially included that of the Kazan khanate and Vyatka. After the conquest of Astrakhan by Russia, all the territory of the middle and lower Volga was added to the diocese in 1556. Later, during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the territories of the Ural mountains and Siberia were added to the diocese. During the seventeenth century, however, other, new dioceses were formed from the very large Kazan diocese. First, in 1602, the Astrakhan diocese was formed from the territory of the Lower Povolzhje, followed by the formation of the Tobolsk diocese in Siberia in 1620. Then, in 1657, the Vyatka diocese was formed.
With the formation of the Kazan and Ufa provinces in the early eighteenth century by Tsar Peter I, these provinces delineated the border of the Kazan diocese. Through the remainder of the century, the borders varied, especially during the reforms of Tsarina Catherine II. By the 1790s the diocese was defined by the reorganized Kazan and Simbirsk provinces that were established in 1789. Then, after the creation of Simbirsk diocese in 1832, the Kazan diocese included only the territory of Kazan province.
After the formation of the Soviet state, borders of Kazan diocese were adjusted to the new territorial organization. In the 1920s, the diocese included the Chuvash and Mari republics in addition to that of Kazan. In 1946, the Cheboksary and Mari dioceses were formed, followed in 1993 by the formation of the Yoshkar-Ola and Mari diocese. With these changes the borders of the Kazan diocese coincided with those of Tatarstan.
With the territorial changes that the Kazan diocese experienced the title of the ruling hierarch also changed. Initially, the bishop held the title …of Kazan and Sviyazhsk. With the addition of the territories of Astrakhan, Metr. Hermogen used the title …of Kazan and Astrakhan, while Metropolitan Ioasaf was the Bishop of Kazan and Bolgar. During the period from 1795 to 1832, the bishops of Kazan used the title …of Kazan and Simbirsk. During the Soviet times the bishops used the original title ……of Kazan and Sviyazhsk until 1950. Then, in succession, the titles changed from …of Kazan and Chistopol (1944 to 1958), to …of Kazan and Mari (1958 to 1993), and finally to …of Kazan and Tatarstan (1993 to the present).
In addition to the ruling hierarchs, a number of vicariates were established after 1799. The first established was the vicar of Sviyazhsk that was abolished in 1822. This position was followed by adding a vicar of Cheboksary in 1853 who was also the hegumen of the Kizichesky Monastery, a vicar of Chistopol in 1899 who was the rector of the Kazan Theological Academy, and a vicar of Mamadysh in 1907 who was also hegumen of the Savior-Transfiguration Monastery. All the vicars resided in Kazan.
- See also Bishops of the Diocese of Kazan
After the initial missionary efforts by the Archimandrites Varsonofy and Herman and other early missionaries, missionary work in the Kazan diocese languished, With the arrival of Metr. Tikhon (Voinov), who ruled from 1699 to 1724, missionary work was invigorated. During the eighteenth century, a missionary group was formed, the New Christening Bureau, that participated in the baptizing of over 400,000 non-Russian natives. By the end of the nineteenth century a total of 575,000 Chuvashes, Mordvinians, Cheremis, Tatars, and Votyaks had been baptized. However, abusive actions by some bishops caused many of these converts to leave Christianity.
The nineteenth century found an active missionary organization within the diocese. By mid-century, a special missionary organization was founded. Translation of the Holy Scriptures was under taken by a biblical translation society that, in 1814, translated the New Testament into the Tatar language. By 1854, three missionary departments had been opened in the Theological Academy. On October 4, 1867, the St. Gury Orthodox Brotherhood was established to encourage missionary education in the diocese. During this period lived Nikolai Ivanovich Ilminsky, the Apostle of Kazan non-Russians, a missionary and interpreter who established the Central School for Christening Tatars (in 1864) and the Seminary for non-Russian natives (in 1872). He was influential in the organization of the Gury Orthodox Brotherhood and its translation activities.
The Kazan Teacher’s Seminary and the other missionary schools established cadre and a priesthood for reaching and baptizing the non-Christians and which also led to establishment of parishes that celebrated the Divine Services in the native languages of the congregations.
By the eighteenth century a number of monasteries began organizing within the diocese such that by 1764 there were eleven monasteries that received state subsidies, beside many other smaller, unsubsidized monasteries. The three major monasteries were: Sviyazhsk Dormition Monastery, Savior-Transfiguration Monastery, and Kazan Convent of the Mother of God.
Kazan Mother of God icon
Closely associated with the diocese is the icon of the Mother of God. The icon was found by a ten year old girl, Matryona, on July 5, 1579. The priest Yermolai, the future Patriarch Hermogen of Moscow and saint, placed the wonderworking icon in a church, before it was moved to the Kazan Convent of the Mother of God. A number of copies of the icon were made over the years that were sent to various places. In 1904, the icon was stolen from the Kazan Convent and never found. Since the true identity of the icon sent to Moscow in 1612 is lost in time (was it the original or a copy), the fate of the original has been open to question. Over the years many miracles have been attributed to the wonder working icon.
From the opening of the Kazan Slavonic-Latin School in 1723, the Kazan diocese has been associated with education. During the nineteenth century the Kazan Theological Academy became one of the four academy level theological schools in Russia. The academy produced over 80 students who became bishops.
During the nineteenth century, the diocese established a number of other lower level religious educational institutions. These included a two-year missionary course as part of the work of the Savior’s Transfiguration Monastery, a female ecclesiastical school of religion for daughters of priests of the Kazan, Vyatka, and Perm dioceses, and a diocesan school for women.
The diocese was a center of Orthodox publications including the Orthodox Interlocutor, the newspaper News of the Kazan Diocese, and Church and Social Life.
As the diocese entered into the difficult times of the Soviet years, the year 1917 is a benchmark for the following years. In 1917, the diocese recorded the statistics before the difficult years to come. The diocese had 794 churches, 27 monastic communities, 419 chapels, 1554 married priests, 202 nuns, and 1601 monks. There were also 26 priests of the old belief who came under the jurisdiction of the Church of Russia.
During the Soviet times, the diocese, as well as the whole Church of Russia, suffered greatly. More than twenty priests were killed by 1918. The ruling bishop Metr. Kyrill was under banishment and in prison, only twice able to visit his see before he was martyred. Except for Bishop Afanasy (Malinin) who ruled the diocese from 1918 to 1937, all hierarchs were martyred. All monasteries were closed. Over 100 priests and monks were martyred during the years 1929 to 1931 and 1937 to 1938. By 1939, only two churches were functioning.
In 1938, Abp. Andrei (Komarov) was the ruling bishop of the diocese, with the only church (Wonderworkers of Yaroslavl at the Arsky cemetery) operating in Kazan city as his cathedral. As part of the softening of relations by the bolshevik government during World War II, the life of the church revived some in 1944. About 40 of the Tatarstan churches were functioning again. But, in the 1960s, persecutions returned to the church and the number of churches in Tatarstan was reduced to 15.
Under Bp. Panteleimon (Mitryukovsky) from 1975 to 1989, the diocese began to recover again. He was able to restore three parishes in major districts and, by the end of 1988, the diocese recorded 25 churches in Tatarstan and Mari.
On December 11, 1988, Archimandrite Anastasy (Metkin), rector of St. Nicholas Cathedral, was consecrated bishop in the Epiphany Cathedral in Moscow to fill the cathedra of the Diocese of Kazan. In 1989, the Cathedral of the Apostles Peter and Paul was returned to the diocese, the start of a stream of churches that gradually were returned to the Kazan diocese over the following years. In succession, the Raifa Monastery was returned in 1991, St. Barbara’s and St. Sophia Churches were returned in 1994. In 1996, Makaryev Monastery (of St. Makaius Zheltovodsky) and the Church of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God led the return of many churches and monasteries that year.
The Diocese of Kazan, in more recent years, has opened some 176 active parishes, divided into 22 deaneries. The diocese has been restoring six male and two female monasteries. In 2005, 25 deacons and 22 priests have been ordained. In September 1997, the Kazan Theological School was re-organized as the Kazan Theological Seminary, and church schools have been steadily opened in many of the parishes.
The 450th anniversary of the founding of the Kazan cathedra was held in 2005.