‘I’m waiting to be killed or imprisoned’

The story of Victor Pivovarov, a Russian archbishop who is not afraid to criticise the war in Ukraine

On 24 March 2023, Archbishop Victor Pivovarov got a fine of 40,000 rubles (€450). A Krasnodar court considered that one of the priest’s sermons “discredited” the Russian army.

Why is the priest not afraid to openly criticise Russian aggression in Ukraine? A report by Novaya-Europe from Slavyansk-on-Kuban.

Archbishop Victor

“She heard my sermon at the service and couldn’t even finish listening. The satanic spirit blew her away. She ran off saying, ‘Your sermon is political! And you're in big trouble!’” says Archbishop Victor Pivovarov.

He was born in 1937 in the Altai region. His father died in the first year of the war, and his mother raised four children alone.

“The thing is, I’ve hated Bolshevism since I was a child. I saw how the Chekists, the Bolsheviks, abused my mother. Our father was killed at the front, there were four of us children, and she was ill. They tortured her. And I made a vow, you could say, to take revenge on Bolshevism for that,”

says Archbishop Victor.

After the war, he graduated from a seven-grade school and entered a technical college. In 1951, a “catacomb man” came to live with the family as a lodger, which changed Pivovarov’s life forever.

Catacomb people in the USSR were members of the church who did not recognise Soviet authority and conducted illegal services. In 1963, Victor Pivovarov entered the Moscow Theological Academy but was later expelled from his final year because of his opposition activities.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he preached illegally and repaired churches and icons. After that, he was ordained to the rank of priest in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and, in 2006, became Archbishop of the Russian Orthodox Church.


Archbishop Victor. Screenshot

St. Pokrovsko-Tikhonovsky Church

Slavyansk-on-Kuban is an hour and a half drive from Krasnodar. This is where Victor serves: at the Church of the Holy Protection of the Intercession.

“Archbishop Victor is an old-school man; there are hardly any of those now.”

“Theologian. Merciful. The true shepherd...”

“There are no fixed prices for prayers or candles. It’s a matter of conscience. Donate or not, no one will say a word against you.”

So say the parishioners. There are about a hundred regular visitors to the temple.

The parishioner who caused the scandal and reported it to the police was not seen here before or after. According to the assistant to the archbishop, Victor had already drawn the authorities’ attention before due to his statements about the annexation of Crimea and service abroad.

“Archbishop Victor devoted his entire life to fighting for the right cause. People have some sort of delusion that you need to pray, and then God will save you. God will not save you if you do not work, have no love, or simply watch evil being done... if you do not denounce it, do not fight, then you are not a Christian,” says the Archbishop’s assistant, Hieromonk Jonah.

Hieromonk Jonah, Archbishop’s assistant. Screenshot

Hieromonk Jonah, Archbishop’s assistant. Screenshot

The war

“A police officer came to our church to draw up a report on her denunciation. There was a fine of 40,000 rubles for speaking out against Putin’s actions, which he is now producing in Ukraine,” says Hieromonk Jonah.

The parishioners collected the money for the fine. According to Father Victor, some police officers and administration staff are silently in solidarity with him and attend his service but do not openly support him.

“If foreign tanks are there under our windows, it means we are at war with an enemy, an interventionist. But if our tanks are in a neighbouring country, and our soldiers are savagely torturing the people, waging an invasive war, then they are damned. Such a war is cursed both by God and man,” says Archbishop Victor.

St. Pokrovsko-Tikhonovsky Church. Screenshot

St. Pokrovsko-Tikhonovsky Church. Screenshot

The archbishop has spent years interpreting the Apocalypse. According to him, nuclear war is coming, and he is not afraid of the consequences of his statements.

“That’s what I’m waiting for, to be killed or put in jail. Then the world will know and wonder who he was, why he knew in advance,” says the priest.

Hieromonk Jonah answers the question about possible reprisals with more restraint:

“Repression is something we fear, of course. But to the extent that we must, we speak to the congregation because we fear reprisals from Jesus Christ most of all, whom we serve. We have committed our lives to him. Otherwise, we will become disconnected from God. We must do what we do.”

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