John the Russian

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John the Russian
Icon of St. John the Russian in Prokopi, Euboea, Greece, where his body lies
Pious, Confessor of the Faith
Cossack Hetmanate, Russian Tsardom
DiedJune 9, 1730
Ürgüp, Turkey
Venerated inEastern Orthodoxy
Major shrineChurch of Saint John the Russian in Prokopi, Euboea, Greece
FeastJune 9/May 27

John the Russian (Russian: Иоанн Русский; 1690 – May 27 (N.S. June 9), 1730) is one of the most renowned saints in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Being a prisoner of war and a slave to a Turkish Ağa, he became famous and respected even by his Muslim master for his humility, steadiness in faith and benevolence. His holy relics are claimed to be undecayed and wonder-working; there are traditions that this saint particularly helps sick children and those who suffer from cancer.



John the Russian was born in approximately 1690 in the Cossack Hetmanate, in the Russian Tsardom. Having come of age, he was recruited to the army of Peter the Great and took part in the Russo-Turkish War (1710–1711). During the war, he was taken prisoner and sold as a slave to the head of the Turkish cavalry who lived in Ürgüp in Cappadocia in Central Turkey.

Life in slavery[edit]

Because he refused to convert to Islam, John was humiliated and tormented by the Turks, who called him a gavur (unbeliever). But as time passed, the mockery stopped because of John's steadiness of faith, humility and diligence and eventually John won the respect of his master and his household. He worked as a groom and lived in the stables. Other slaves mocked him for working zealously, but he didn't take offence, trying instead to help and comfort them in their need. For his kind-heartedness, John earned the love and trust of the Ağa who offered to let him live as a free man in a separate house. However, John refused, saying: "My patron is Lord, and no one is above Him. He predestined me to live as a slave in a foreign land; seems, it must be so for my salvation".

During the day John worked and prayed, keeping a strict fast, but when the night came, he used to go in secret to the cave-church of St. George, where he said the prayers of the All-Night Vigil. Every Saturday he used to take Holy Communion.

Soon the Ağa became one of the most influential people in Ürgüp and thought it due to the holy man who lived in his home. Having become rich, the Ağa decided to carry out the Hajj. While he was away, his wife threw a dinner for relatives and friends. When the master's favourite dish, pilau was being served, she said to John, who was serving as a waiter: "How glad would your master be, if he could eat this pilau with us". John asked her to give him the dish, promising to send it to Mecca. Everybody laughed thinking that John wanted to eat the rice himself or give it away to the poor.

When the Ağa returned, he described a miracle that had happened to him: while in Mecca, he found a steaming plate of pilau in his locked room. And his name was engraved on this plate - as it was on every plate in his home.

Beginning of reverence[edit]

News of this miracle spread quickly, and everyone, even Muslims, began to call John a "Wali" - a "saint". However, he did not change the way he lived, and passed his time working hard and praying. Before his death, he became seriously ill and, being unable to stand up, asked a priest to give him Holy Communion. The priest was afraid to be seen going to a Muslim house and hid the Eucharist inside an apple. John the Russian died on June 9, 1730, some time after receiving the Holy Communion.

He was buried in the church of St George in Prokopi in Cappadocia (now Ürgüp), and was revered as saint. When the Greeks had to leave Turkey in 1924, the people took his relics to their new home on the island of Euboea.[1]


The relics of John were interred in the Church of Saint John the Russian in[2] Prokopi in Euboea, Greece. His right hand is in the Russian Monastery of St Panteleimon on Athos. By the blessing of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow in 2003-2004 a small wooden church of St. John the Russian was erected in Moscow, in Kuntsevo district, a larger stone one was built nearby later and consecrated in 2016. In Novosibirsk, Russia the lower side chapel of the church of Our Lady of the Sign is also devoted to John the Russian. There is also a small private wooden chapel (tsasouna) of St. John the Russian in Viljakkala (Ylöjärvi municipality) in Finland.

External links[edit]

  • [1] Life and miracles of St. John the Russian
  • [2] Interior of the church of St. John the Russian in Neo Prokopion
  • [3] Icon of St. John the Russian
  • [4] Official website of the Church of St. John the Russian in Moscow (in Russian)
  • [5] Website of the small private chapel of St. John the Russian in Finland
  • [6] The Saint of Kayakapi - St. John the Russian


  1. ^ "St. John the Russian: The Saint of Kayakapi | Kayakapi Premium Caves - Cappadocia | Luxury Boutique Cave Hotel".
  2. ^ Neo Prokopion 38°44′13.44″N 23°29′23.79″E / 38.7370667°N 23.4899417°E / 38.7370667; 23.4899417