Alexander Men

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Alexander Men
Born (1935-01-22)January 22, 1935
Moscow
Died (assassinated)
September 9, 1990(1990-09-09) (aged 55)
Semkhoz near Moscow
Education Leningrad Theological Seminary
Spouse(s) Natasha Grigorienko
Parents Vladimir Mienia & Yelena Cuperfejn
Church Russian Orthodox
Ordained 1 September 1960
Writings one of the founders of the
Russian Bible Society
Offices held
Pastor in Novaya Derevnya
Lev and Ksenia Pokrovsky and their children with Fr. Alexander Men, 1974
Alexander Men memorial cross in Semkhoz near Sergiev Posad

Alexander Vladimirovich Men (Russian: Александр Владимирович Мень; 22 January 1935 – 9 September 1990) was a Russian Orthodox priest, theologian, Biblical scholar and writer.

Men wrote dozens of books (including his magnum opus, History of Religion: In Search of the Way, the Truth and the Life, the seventh volume of which, Son of Man, served as the introduction to Christianity for thousands of citizens in the Soviet Union); baptized hundreds if not thousands; founded an Orthodox Open University; opened one of the first Sunday Schools in Russia as well as a charity group at the Russian Children's Hospital.[1] His influence is still widely felt and his legacy continues to grow among Christians both in Russia and abroad. He was murdered early on Sunday morning, 9 September 1990, by an axe-wielding assailant just outside his home of Semkhoz, Russia.

Biography[edit]

Men was born in Moscow to a Jewish family. He was baptized at six months along with his mother in the banned Catacomb Church, a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that refused to cooperate with the Soviet authorities.[2]

When Men was 6 years old, the NKVD arrested his father, Volf Gersh-Leybovich (Vladimir Grigoryevich) Men (born 1902).[2] Volf spent more than a year under guard and then was assigned to labor in the Ural Mountains. His son Alexander entered college in Moscow in 1955 and transferred to Irkutsk a few years later but was expelled in 1958 due to his religious beliefs. In the same year, he was ordained a deacon, and in 1960 a priest upon graduating from the Leningrad Theological Seminary.[3] In 1965, he completed studies at Moscow Theological Academy.

Alexander Men became a leader with considerable influence and a good reputation among Christians both locally and abroad, among Roman Catholics and Protestants, as well as Orthodox. Starting in the early 1970s, Men became a popular figure in Russia's religious community, especially among the intelligentsia.[4] Men was harassed by the KGB for his active missionary and evangelistic efforts. In the late-1980s, he utilised the mass media to spread the message of Christ (he was offered to host a nationally televised program on religion); his days and nights were full of teaching and lecturing at packed lecture halls.[4] Men was one of the founders of the Russian Bible Society in 1990; that same year he founded the Open Orthodox University and "The World of the Bible" journal.[2] His strenuous efforts in educating the Russian populace in the basics and dynamics of the Orthodox faith has garnered him the label as a modern day apostle to the Soviet people, who were benighted by seventy years of Communist atheistic rule.

Murder[edit]

On Sunday morning, September 9, 1990, he was murdered while walking along the wooded path from his home in the Russian village of Semkhoz to the local train platform. He was on his way to catch the train to Novaya Derevnya to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Men had served at the parish in Novaya Derevnya for 20 years. His assailant's or assailants' use of an axe indicated a possible revenge motive. The murder occurred around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and despite personal orders from the Soviet (and later the Russian) government that the case be further investigated, the murder remains unsolved. His funeral was held on the day in the Orthodox calendar which commemorates the beheading of John the Baptist.

Legacy[edit]

Since his death, Men's works and ideas have been seen as controversial among the conservative faction of the Russian Orthodox Church, citing his strong tendencies towards ecumenism which his books advocate. Nonetheless, Men has a considerable amount of supporters, some of whom argue for his canonization. His lectures are regularly broadcast over Russian radio. His books are published freely in Russia nowadays. During his lifetime, they had to be printed abroad; mainly in Brussels, Belgium by the publishing house Foyer Chrétien Oriental and circulated in secret. Several key Russian Orthodox parishes encourage following his example as one who faithfully followed Christ.[5] Two Russian Orthodox churches have been built on the site of his assassination and a growing number of believers in both Russia and abroad consider him a martyr.[6]

Men's son, Mikhail Men, is a Russian political figure who since 2005 serves as the Governor of Ivanovo Oblast. He is also a musician known outside Russia for the Michael Men Project.

Works[edit]

Alexander Men's greatest work is his History of Religion, published in seven volumes under the title In Search of the Way, the Truth, and the Life (volumes 1-6, Brussels, 1970—1983; 2nd edition Moscow, 1991—1992) and including as the seventh volume his most famous work, Son of Man (Brussels, 1969; 2nd edition Moscow, 1991). Because of the persecution in the Soviet Union at the time, the Brussels editions were published under a pseudonym.

An English translation of Son of Man by Mormon author Samuel Brown was completed in 1998 but is out of print and rare. In 2014, a new translation project was announced which will translate Son of Man followed by the entire History of Religion, bringing the other six volumes into the English language for the first time.

Men published many other works, most notably:

  • Heaven on Earth (1969), published abroad under pseudonym, later reissued in Russia;
  • "Where Did This All Come From?" (1972), published abroad under pseudonym, later reissued in Russia;
  • "How to Read the Bible?" (1981), published abroad under pseudonym, later reissued in Russia;
  • "The History of Religions" (Volumes 1-2, 1997);
  • "The First Apostles" (1998);
  • "Isagogics: Old and New Testaments" (2000);
  • "Bibliological Dictionary" (Volumes 1-3, 2002).[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alexander Men Charity Group at Russian Children Clinical Hospital
  2. ^ a b c d Alexander Men Foundation
  3. ^ St. Petersburg Theological Academy
  4. ^ a b Orthodox America on A.Men
  5. ^ Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist) on A.Men
  6. ^ Reflections on Fr. Alexander Men, Dean John H. Erickson of St Vladimir's Seminary, at the Alexander Men Conference hosted by Nyack College Manhattan campus, August 2004


External links[edit]