Christian Martyrdom in Russia/Appendix I
Letter from Peter Verigin to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
May the Lord God preserve thy soul in this life, as well as in the future age, Sister Alexandra.
I, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, am living in the testimony and glad tidings of His truth. I am in exile since the year 1886, from the Spirit-Wrestlers' Community of Trans-Caucassia. The word "Spirit-Wrestler" should be understood thus: that we in the spirit and with our soul profess God (see,—the Gospel; the meeting of Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well).
I implore thee, sister in Christ the Lord, Alexandra, pray thy husband Nicholas to spare the Spirit-Wrestlers in the Caucasus from persecution. It is to thee that I address myself, because I think thy heart is more turned towards the Lord God. And there are at this moment more women and children suffering: hundreds of husbands and parents are confined in prisons, and thousands of families are dispersed in the native villages, where the authorities incite the population to behave coarsely with them. This falls specially heavily upon the Christian women! Lately they have been putting women and children into prisons.
The fault on our part is that we, as far as it is possible to us, endeavour to become Christians. In regard to some of our actions, our understanding may not be sufficiently enlightened.
Thou art probably acquainted with the teaching of vegetarianism; we are sharers in these humanitarian views. Lately we have ceased to use flesh as food, and to drink wine, and have forsaken much of that which leads to a dissipated life, and darkens the light of the human soul. Refusing to kill animals, we in no case regard it as possible to deprive men of life. If we were to kill an ordinary man or even a robber, it would seem to us that we had decided to kill Christ.
The State demands that our brethren should learn the use of the gun, in order to know well how to kill. The Christians do not agree to this; they are put into prisons, beaten and starved; the sisters and mothers are coarsely defiled as women, very often with railing exclamations, "Where is your God?" "Why does He not help you?" (Our God is in heaven and on earth and fulfils all His will.)
This is sad especially because it is all taking place in a Christian country. Our community in the Caucasus consists of about twenty thousand men. Is it possible that such a small number could injure the organism of the State, if soldiers were not recruited from among them? At the present moment, they are recruited, but uselessly: thirty men are in the Ekaterinograd penal battalion, where the authorities are only tormenting themselves by torturing them.
Man we regard as the temple of the living God, and we can in no case prepare ourselves to kill him, though for this we were to be threatened by death.
The most convenient manner of dealing with us would be to establish us in one place where we might live and labour in peace. All State obligations in the form of taxes we would pay, only we cannot be soldiers.
If the Government were to find it impossible to consent to this, then let it give us the right of emigration into one of the foreign countries. We would willingly go to England or (which is most convenient) to America, where we have a great number of brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the fulness of my soul I pray the Lord for the welfare of thy family.—The servant of Christ,
(living in exile in the Government of Tobolsk).
- This letter has on two occasions been placed in the hands of Court ladies, who have near access to the person of the Empress, but it is unknown to us whether it was, by them, transmitted to the Empress.—(Ed.)
- The Spirit-Wrestlers were vegetarians, at least as far back as the beginning of this century; towards the middle of the century they had relaxed in this respect, as well as in regard to their other principles.—(Ed.)
- In this number are also included the five thousand who have betrayed their original principles, and whom we have described as the "Small Party " in Chapter I.—(Ed.)