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|Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Rodionov|
|Born||23 May 1977
Chibirley, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Died||23 May 1996
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
|Years of service||1995-1996|
|Unit||2631 Border Troops|
|Battles/wars||First Chechen War|
Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Rodionov (Russian: Евгений Александрович Родионов; 23 May 1977 - 23 May 1996) was a Russian soldier who was taken prisoner and later murdered in Chechen captivity for his refusal to convert to Islam and defect to the enemy side. The circumstances of his death have garnered him much admiration throughout Russia. Despite widespread popular veneration he has not been glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church as a New Martyr due to lack of evidence about his death.
Career and capture
Rodionov was born in the village of Chibirley, Penza Oblast. Though he aspired to be a cook, he was conscripted into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in 1995. Private Rodionov was deployed to Chechnya, where he served in border troops. On 13 February 1996, he went to mount guard over the road accompanied by privates Andrey Trusov, Igor Yakovlev and Alexander Zheleznov. During the watch they stopped an ambulance, in which brigade general of “Chechen Republic of Ichkeria” Ruslan Khaikhoroev and a dozen of enforcers were transporting weapons. During their attempt to examine the ambulance, the young soldiers were overpowered and taken prisoners. After the soldiers were discovered to be missing, they were initially announced as deserters. Military police came home to Yevgeny Rodionov’s mother to search for her missing son. Only later, after detailed survey of the checkpoint the soldiers had been manning, and detection of traces of blood and fighting, the military recognized that the missing soldiers had been taken prisoner. On his 19th birthday, Rodionov was beheaded on the outskirts of the Chechen village Bamut. According to his killers, who later extorted money from his mother in exchange for knowledge of the location of his corpse, they beheaded him after he refused to renounce his Christian faith or remove the silver cross he wore around his neck. Ruslan Khaikhoroev later admitted the murder. In the presence of foreign representatives of OSCE he confessed: "Your [Yevgeny's mother] son had a choice to stay alive. He could have converted to Islam, but he did not agree to take the cross off. He tried to escape". On 23 May, after 100 days of imprisonment and tortures, Rodionov was again ordered to remove the cross he was wearing and accept Islam. After his final refusal, Rodionov was beheaded while still alive. Andrey Trusov shared his fate, while Igor Yakovlev and Alexander Zheleznov were shot dead.
Yevgeny Rodionov was posthumously awarded the Russian Order of Courage. There was a growing movement within the Russian Orthodox Church to canonize him as a Christian saint and martyr for faith. Some Russian soldiers, feeling themselves abandoned by their government, have taken to kneeling in prayer before his image. One such prayer reads:
Thy martyr, Yevgeny, O Lord, in his sufferings hath received an incorruptible crown from Thee, our God, for having Thy strength he hath brought down his torturers, hath defeated the powerless insolence of demons. Through his prayers, save our souls.
As of 2003[update], religious icons depicting Yevgeny had become popular. His mother has one herself; she has suggested that the icon of her son sometimes emits a perfume which she believes to be holy, to the extent that it actually drips with it.
Because of the huge devotion given to the New Martyr Yevgeny, the pious faithful sought official canonization from the Moscow Patriarchate. Initially, it refused, which divided the Orthodox Church in Russia. Maksim Maksimov, Secretary of the Canonization Commission, explained the Synod's position in Tserkovny Vestnik (Church Bulletin), the official publication of the Russian Orthodox Church. His arguments can be summarized in three points:
- The only evidence that the soldier was executed for this faith is the testimony of his mother, who in her love made a god of her son;
- The Russian Orthodox Church has never canonized anyone killed in war;
- The period of new martyrs ended with the collapse of the Bolshevik regime.
However, he emphasized that the deceased can be honoured without canonization. Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow personally blessed the popular account of Yevgeny's life but worried that his cult would balloon into anti-Muslim rage.
Opponents of the decision, including Alexander Shargunov, a well-known priest, argued that an outbreak of people's love is enough for the truth and that Yevgeny's grave works miracles, curing the sick and reconciling enemies. They also pointed out that the soldier did not die at war but in captivity and that to say that the time of martyrs is over is nearly heresy.
- "Boy soldier who died for faith made 'saint'", The Daily Telegraph, January 24, 2004
- "A Drive to Turn a Soldier Into a Saint", The Moscow Times, October 19, 2004
- "From Village Boy to Soldier, Martyr and, Many Say, Saint", The New York Times, November 21, 2003
- "The First Saint of the Chechen War", RIAN, October 5, 2004
- "Russian Soldier Goes Through Chechen Captivity Hell", Pravda Online, January 8, 2003