Sergei Nilus

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Sergei Nilus

Sergei Aleksandrovich Nilus (also Sergiei, Sergyei, Sergius, Serge; Russian: Серге́й Алекса́ндрович Ни́лус; 9 September [O.S. 28 August] 1862 in Moscow - 14 January 1929, Krutets village, Vladimir Oblast, USSR) was a Russian religious writer and self-described mystic.

He was responsible for publishing for the first time "in full" The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Russia in 1905. It appeared as the final chapter of his book Velikoe v malom i antikhrist, kak blizkaja politicheskaja vozmozhnost. Zapiski pravoslavnogo (The Great within the Small and Antichrist, an Imminent Political Possibility. Notes of an Orthodox Believer), about the coming of the Antichrist. An allegedly abridged version had been published in 1903 in the newspaper Znamya.


The son of Alexander Petrovich Nilus, from a family of Swiss immigrants, Nilus was a landowner in the governorate of Orel. He studied law and graduated from the University of Moscow, and was a magistrate in Transcaucasia. He later moved to Biarritz, living there with a mistress named Natalya Komarovskaya until his estates went bankrupt and she broke off their relationship. Though he was raised in the Russian Orthodox faith, Nilus did not seem to care much about religion until an accident with his horse caused him to recall an unfulfilled childhood vow to visit the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra. Later he met St. John of Kronstadt, whom he credited with healing a throat infection and turning him fully back to his native faith.

In 1901 or 1902, Nilus published his book Velikoe v malom i antikhrist, kak blizkaja politicheskaja vozmozhnost. Zapiski pravoslavnogo (The Great within the Small and Antichrist, an Imminent Political Possibility. Notes of an Orthodox Believer). The text of the Protocols appeared as Chapter Twelve of the 1905 edition of this book. A secret investigation ordered by the newly appointed chairman of the Council of Ministers Pyotr Stolypin soon determined that the Protocols had first appeared in Paris in antisemitic circles around 1897–1898.

In 1906, Nilus married Yelena Alexandrovna Ozerova, who had served as a lady-in-waiting to Alexandra Feodorovna, last empress of Russia. In 1907, Nilus moved to Optina Monastery, where he lived until 1912. During this time he published several books on spiritual topics, including his most famous work (other than Velikoe v malom): On the Bank of God's River, a portrait of his years at Optina and of the many Orthodox Starets living there. During this timeframe, Nilus "discovered" the papers of Nikolay Motovilov, a Russian landowner and Fool for Christ who was a disciple of St. Seraphim of Sarov. Nilus published one of these manuscripts as "A Wonderful Revelation to the World: the Conversation of St. Seraphim with Nicholas Alexandrovich Motovilov on the acquisition of the Holy Spirit."[1] This manuscript would become one of the most oft-read Orthodox texts of modern times. In 1912 a report was received by the Holy Synod that Nilus was living at the monastery with his wife (though the Niluses were not actually living within the monastery, but rather as guests in a small house nearby), and Nilus was ordered by the Synod to leave Optina.

Nilus circulated several editions of the Protocols in Russia during the first decade of the twentieth century. Though the early prints were in Russian, the Protocols soon spread to the rest of Europe via expatriates who left Russia after the 1917 revolution. Some of them claimed that they provided proof that the Jews were behind the Russian Revolution. By the time Nilus died, Europe had been saturated by millions of copies of the Protocols.

Under the new Soviet government, Sergei Nilus was arrested and briefly[citation needed] imprisoned in 1924, 1925 and 1927. He died on 14 January 1929 after a heart attack.

In the USSR, possession of Nilus' books was punished by up to 10 years of imprisonment, as "running anti-Soviet propaganda by keeping anti-Soviet literature".


  • Velikoe v malom i antikhrist, kak blizkaia politicheskaia vozmozhnost. Zapiski pravoslavnago. [Russian title romanized] (The Great within the Small and Antichrist as an Imminent Political Possibility. Notes of an Orthodox Believer) (TSarskoe Selo, Tip. TSarskoselskago Komiteta Krasnago Kresta, 1905) [imprint], 2. izd. ispr. i dop. [edition], 417 pp., including at Ch. XII:
Protokoli sobraniy sionsikh mudretsov: str. [title romanized] Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion [title transliterated into English]
  • Na beregu Bozhiei reki (On the Bank Of God's River)
Reprinted by Orthodox Christian Books and Icons, San Francisco, Calif., 1969
  • Holiness Under a Bushel
  • The Power of God and the Weakness of Man
  • The Optina Elder Theodosius
  • The Wheat and the Tares, Published 1908 by Holy Trinity-St. Sergeius Lavra


  • Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln: The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (London: Jonathan Cape, 1982). ISBN 951-9107-41-X
  • Michael Hagemeister: "Vladimir Solov’ev and Sergej Nilus: Apocalypticism and Judeophobia" in Reconciler and Polemicist (eds.) Wil van den Bercken, Manon de Courten, Evert van der Zweerde, and Vladimir Solov’ev (Leuven: Peeters, 2000), pp. 287–296. ISBN 90-429-0959-5
  • Michael Hagemeister:"Sergei Nilus" in Antisemitism. A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution vol. 2, pp. 508–510, ed. Richard E. Levy (Santa Barbara, CA.: ABC-Clio, 2005). ISBN 1-85109-439-3

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