Alexy I of Moscow : biography
Patriarch Alexy I (Alexius I, , secular name Sergey Vladimirovich Simanskiy, ; October 27 (November 8) 1877 – April 17, 1970) was the 13th Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) between 1945 and 1970.
Born in Moscow to a noble family, his father was a Chamberlain of the Russian Imperial Household. In 1899 he graduated from Moscow Imperial University with a law degree; was conscripted by the army and served in a grenadier regiment. In 1902 he enrolled at Moscow Theological Academy and by 1906 he had been elevated to the dignity of archimandrite and was appointed rector of the seminary at Tula.
After the Bolshevik Revolution he was arrested several times and in 1922 exiled to Kazakhstan. In 1926 he returned to Saint Petersburg (which had been renamed Leningrad) and was appointed Archbishop of Khutyn, that is, the vicar of the Diocese of Novgorod. He ran the diocese for much of the next seven years while Metropolitan Arsenius (Stadnitsky) was in prison or exile. In 1933 Alexius served briefly as Archbishop of Novgorod (for several months) and then metropolitan of Leningrad.
On September 4, 1943, Metropolitan Alexius together with Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky) and Metropolitan Nicholas (Yarushevich) met with Joseph Stalin in the Kremlin where a historic decision was made regarding the fate of the Church in the state ruled by the militantly atheist Communist party. In the midst of the second world war Stalin decided to allow the Russian Orthodox Church to legally function again after two decades of severe persecution. Restrictions on the Patriarchate of Moscow were relaxed somewhat and many churches throughout the Soviet Union were re-opened. Stalin tried to appeal to patriotic feelings of the Russian people especially the peasantry (backbone of the Red Army), many of whom grew up in still deeply religious families.
On February 2, 1945, with Stalin’s approval, Alexius I was elected Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia and enthroned on February 4, 1945. In 1946 Alexius I presided over the controversial "re-unification" of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with ROC seen by many as a takeover forced by the Stalinist government. After 1958, Russian Christians had to endure a new wave of persecution, mostly carried out through the closing of churches by the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Alexius died of a myocardial infarction at the age of 92 in 1970 and was buried in the Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra at Sergiyev Posad outside of Moscow.
Supporters praise Alexius I for working hard to ensure the survival of the Christianity in Russia, advocating peace and inter-church unity, while opponents often accused him of complicity with the Soviet authorities.
A leading opponent of the new church is Gleb Yakunin who claims in his books and articles that the ROC is little more than a branch of the KGB.