Theofan (Bystrov)

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Archimandrite Theofan, Feofan or Theofanes in 1909

Theofan of Poltava (born Vassili Dimitrievich Bystrov, Russian: Василий Дмитриевич Быстров) was a Russian archbishop and theologian in the Eastern Orthodox Church, born on 12 January 1875[1] and died 19 February 1940 in Limeray, France. He was widely known as the "only Russian ascetic bishop".[2] A few times he was the confessor of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his wife Alexandra.


Vladyka or Basil was born in the village of Podmoshie, in the Luga district (subsequently part of the Leningrad Oblast) and baptized on the day of St. Basil the Great.[3] In 1896 he finished his studies at St Petersburg Theological Academy, which he had entered as one of the youngest students. The year after he became assistant-professor in history of the Old Testament. In 1898 he became a monk under the name of Theophanes the Confessor; in 1901 an archimandrite. In 1905 he received his master's degree on the Tetragrammaton.[4] He was friendly with Grigory Rasputin, "who amazed us all with his psychological perspicacity", and invited him to his apartment. Theofan introduced Rasputin to Milica of Montenegro, who in her turn introduced him to the Imperial couple on 1 November 1905 (O.S.).[5] Two weeks later Theofan was invited and became their spiritual guide. In 1908 he (and brother Makary) visited Rasputin in his home village Pokrovskoye and investigated his supposed Khlyst behavior, after charges made the year before.[6]

In 1901 Theofan had already become inspector, in 1909 he was appointed rector of the St Petersburg Theological Academy. Theofan was a devout monarchist and came to the conclusion Rasputin was a garrulous person, a false starets and could be a danger to the throne.[7] Theofan and Rasputin became enemies. In 1910 Theofan moved to the Crimea, because of his health. He was appointed bishop of the eparchy of Simferopol and at the same time elected as an honorary member of the St Petersburg Theological Academy. In 1911 Hermogenes, Iliodor and Theofan were banned due to a conflict with Rasputin and Alexandra Fyodorovna.

In 1912 Theofan was appointed as bishop in Astrakhan, but his health got worse; in March 1913 he was created bishop in Poltava. From 1917–1918 he lived in Moscow and testified about Rasputin and the Tsarina. He became involved in local politics. In 1919 he was evacuated[by whom?] to Sevastopol. In 1920 he emigrated to Constantinople. From there he moved to Petkovica monastery in Serbia, and to Sofia and Varna in Bulgaria. From 1931 he lived in Clamart and in Mosnes (in France), leading the life of a hermit.