Русский | | January 5, 2005
English translation by Liubov Afonina

In memory of Alapaevsk Martyrs who are hidden under a bushel in China

One grey chilly December evening a votive candle was lit in Beijing in the territory of the Russian Federation Embassy in PRC (former territory of the Russian Spiritual Mission in China) in memory of Grand Duke Sergey Mikhailovich, Grand Duchess Elizaveth Fyodorovna, dukes-brothers Ioann, Konstantin and Igor - the sons of the Grand Duke Constantin Constaninovich, duke Vladimir Paley - the son of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich from a morganatic marriage; Fyodor Remez - the secretary of the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich; Varvara Yakovlevna - a conventual of Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy. The man who lit that candle and placed it on the stone, that formerly had been a part of the memorial to 222 Chinese Martyrs, was Boris Alexandrov - the grandson of Boris Von Kepping. He came to Beijing for some days to see with his own eyes the places, that he knew from childhood stories told by his uncle Metropolitan Victor (Svyatin), his grandmother and his mother (Ksenia Kepping, died two years ago), their friends - all the people, who had lived in the territory of Beiguan. "Beiguan" in Russian is "North metochion", it is the name of the Mission grounds.

Quivering light of the candle, that was lit in the capital of China in time when the commemoration service in Krasnodar started (the last place where Metropolitan Victor (Svyatin) served), merged with lights of many vigil candles in St Ekanerina "Red" (named by people this way because of its beauty) church in Krasnodar. And in this lively light of the Beijing candle not far from half of the memorial stone, earlier covering the well, where Yihetuan had thrown the bodies of the martyred Chinese Orthodox believers, seemed to see the beautiful church of All Holy Martyrs, that had been honor of the Mission and its real glory.

In 1947 Archbishop Victor (Svyatin) had to carry the coffins with the relics of the Alapaevsk martyrs out of the crypt of that church to the Mission cemetery and to place them in the crypt of the Saint Seraphim of Sarov church (as the sister of Vladika Victor (Svyatin) related, and as her daughter Ksenia Kepping has written). Interestingly, at that time a new bronze armature for the Alapaevsk martyrs' coffins, that remained in Beijing, had been made at Boris Von Kepping's own expense (it was his grandson, who was praying in front of the votive candle in Beijing).

All Holy Martyrs Church.
On the background to the right
the monument on the D.L.
Horvat's grave is plainly seen

The choice of the place for setting the votive candle wasn't occassional - on the place where the All Holy Martyrs church and the graves of the builder of this church Metropolitan Innokenty (Figurovsky) (1931), the Chief of the 19th Mission Archbishop Simon (Vinogradov), the manager of the KVZhd General Dmitry Leonidovich Horvat (1937) had been, where children were playing on the Embassy playground. In Beijing's Qingnianghu park on the golf range, that is laid out on the Mission cemetery, the attempt to commemorate the members of the Russian Imperial Family would have ended at its best with the arrival of a shouting duty-officer with red arm band, accompanied by large crowd of curious people, and at the worst with escort to the police-office. They didn't want to explain everything to duty-officers or to Beijing police-officers. That is why we postponed our visit to the Mission cemetery for the next day.

I want to remind readers of some well-known facts: on the night of July 18, 1918 (all the dates given are according to the Gregorian calendar) Bolsheviks have comitted murderous acts - the assassination of the members of Romanov Imperial Family and their colleagues on the outskirts of Alapaevsk. In October of the same year the relics of the innocent killed were found, examined, washed off and placed in coffins, which were set in the cemetery church in Alapaevsk. On October 18, 1918, the coffins were solemnly transported to Holy Trinity Cathedral of Alapaevsk and put in the Cathedral crypt. On July 14, 1919 eight coffins were transported in goods wagon from Alapaevsk to Chita escorted by hegumen Serafim (Kuznetsov) and two novices, and in August 1919 were transferred to the Monastery of Holy Trinity of Chita. In March 1920, the coffins with the relics of the martyrs went by train for China. In mid-April 1920, all eight coffins via Harbin arrived in Beijing, where at that time had been established rules, forbidding carrying in dead bodies. As for the territory of the Russian Spiritual Mission in China, it was located inside the north-east part of the city wall. That is why it was impossible to carry the coffins into the territory of the Mission. All the coffins with the martyrs' relics were buried in the underground crypt of Serafim of Sarov church in the center of the Mission cemetery, located outside the city wall of Beijing (Andingmen gate) to the north-west from the territory of the Russian Spiritual Mission in China. In November 1920, two coffins with the honorable relics of Holy New Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun Varvara were transported from China to Jerusalem. There is evidence that relics of Duke Vladimir Paley were buried in Mission cemetery at his mother's direction. But the other coffins still remained in the crypt of Saint Serafim of Sarov church in the Mission cemetery. After the period of Japanese occupation of China and changes in political climate, in 1938 the Chief of the twentieth (last) Mission in China Archbishop Victor (Svyatin) managed to secure Beijing government's permission to carry the remaining coffins of Alapaevsk Martyrs to the crypt of All Holy Martyrs church, located in the center of the Russian Spiritual Mission in China. This time also wasn't the end of the sorrowful travelling of the Alapaevsk Martyrs' relics. In 1947 in connection with possible opportunity of the Communist regime soon coming to power, the relics were carried out of the Mission territory back to the Mission cemetery. Vladyka Victor (Svyatin) (before he became a monk he was a Russian Army officer - Leonid Svyatin) entrusted to lead this secret operation to his faithful brother-in-arms - Deacon Michael Reshetov. Boris Alexandrov remembers, that his grandmother told him about approach mode with entrenching tools, that had been prepared in Mission for transporting the coffins of Alapaevsk Martyrs to the cemetery. And his grandfather - Boris Michailovich Von Kepping, a Russian Army artillerist, kept silence, didn't tell about the operation and its details even to his close family members. He just prayed about the Alapaevsk Martyrs all his life. The officers, as it is well-known, cannot become "former".

During the so-called "Cultural Revolution" in 1966-1976, the Mission cemetery (incorruptible relics of 222 Chinese Martyrs church were transported there from the crypt of All Holy Martyrs) had suffered numerous desecrations and demolitions. The cemetery was completely razed to the ground in 1987 by the decision of municipal officials (with USSR Embassy absolute indifference to their own country's history). Part of the Mission cemetery was used to lay out "Qingnianhu" park on it. To tell the truth, in the stand at the park entrance only "glade, that turned to well-conditioned park "Youth Lake" by revolutionary enthusiasm of the youth" is mentioned (out of the habit adopted in 1949 to rewrite pages of the History).

There is no one hint on the real history of this wonderful place of Beijing in any modern tourist guide. As almost all the maps of Beijing from the 1860s to the 1940s point out exactly the location of the "Russian cemetery".

The Mission cemetery, mentioned in some Russian sources from the beginning of XVIII century, was small. Its area was about 6 ares (600 square meters), as it is estimated by some Albazines, who remember and hold the memory of their ancestors, buried in the Mission cemetery (till their bones, including the relics of 222 Chinese Martyrs, were desecrated by Red Guards (Hongweibing) - these Yihetuan of Communist persuasion). The cemetery church of Saint Serafim of Sarov with capacity of 350 persons was built in 1903-1906 with Chinese government funding, that was allocated as partial compensation of the Russian casualty during the Boxer Rebellion. The dedication of the church took place on October 1, 1906 - the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. The territory of the cemetery was surrounded with high stone wall. Apart from the church, there were also two stone buildings, one being a lodge. The cemetery was elevated, with two stairs leading to it.

Here it is - the north stairs.

It survived to this day.

In the North "new" cemetery (laid in 1900) joined to the Mission cemetery, there were 50 graves.

The last service in Saint Serafim of Sarov church took place in 1962. Then church premises started being used as a warehouse - they had the example to follow. In 1986 the church was demolished.

The Albazines, whose forefathers took part in the operation of reburying the relics of Alapaevsk Martyrs and the 222 Chinese Martyrs, are strongly convicted that thanks to the far-sightedness of Vladyka Victor (Svyatin), the concrete-imbedded crypt wasn't damaged when the church was being demolished. I have found an indirect proof to it some years ago during conversation with so dear to my heart person - comrade Li Yueran, reposed in 2003. Alexander Michailovich, as he was named in Russian, I support, was the last translator of "the old guard", who contributed to the dialogue by great leaders of two fraternal nations - Stalin and Mao. As now I hear his telling with lots of Russian bywords about another great leader Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, how "cunningly" he persuaded Comrade Mao in the necessity of establishment of a combined Chinese Navy command. But it's not the point. Comrade Li continually mentioned about the concrete-embedded crypt in Qingnianhu park.

So Boris Alexandrov and I arrived at that park at daytime. Chinese golf-players slammed balls to the west edge of the Russian cemetery. Nobody paid attention to us. We have stood in the second floor of the viewing point over the golf course. We didn't arrange with him, I didn't make up something - but our hearts were peaceful, warm, quiet, as it can be only near to something relative.

Then Boris and I came to the stone, that probably could be the second part of the stone of the 222 Chinese Martyrs memorial. That memorial (built near All Holy Martyrs church) was desecrated by our educated countrymen in the late 1950s, when in the days of Ambassador P.F. Yudin of USSR, everything made since 1685 by generations of Russian and Chinese Orthodox people with great love, was being crushed, smashed, hacked, broken, torn by followers of "Sharikovs". Part of the "rubbish", formed after destroying All Holy Martyrs church, the Holy Doors, and the Orthodox Martyrs memorial, probably were transported from the territory of the USSR Embassy to an "unnecessary" Russian cemetery.

Since that time that half of the stone have been laying there, where for now we didn't put our votive candle.

When writing this article I used materials from published works of Ksenia Kepping, Georgy Melihov, Aida Ipatova, Liubov Miller, Fr. Dionisy Pozdnyaev, and also materials from different open sources, gathered by Boris Alexandrov and the author.

Dmitry Napara
January 5, 2005