“The Mad Monk of Russia” –RUSSIAN RARITY INSCRIBED TO IGOR SIKORSKI

Essay contributed by Dan Bowen. [ Book has sold.]

Илиодор.  Великая Сталинградская Марфа.  Нью Иорк, 1943.

Iliodor.   The Great Stalingrad Martha.  New York: Colonial Printing and Publishing Co., 1943.

Printed red wrapper, some rubbing to edges, sunning to spine, and some fading and soiling. Handwritten note in Russian from Iliodor to Igor Sikorsky tipped in on front blank. The note translates: “To my kindhearted and dear Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky to remember the sinful and humble Iliodor. New York.” Sikorsky, 1889-1972, a legendary Russian–​American aviation pioneer, businessman, and inventor largely credited with the invention of the helicopter, maintained close ties to the White Russian communities in and around NYC.

Rare Russian language reminiscence written by Sergei Michailovich Trufanov (formerly Hieromonk Iliodor, 1880-1952) , a lapsed hieromonk (a monk who is also an ordained priest) of the Russian Orthodox Church, a charismatic preacher, a panslavist, an actor and author of one of the first books on Gregory Rasputin. He was ordained in 1903 at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. As described below, Iliodor is credited with orchestrating the assassination attempt which left Rasputin wounded and forced him and many of his followers into exile.

At the Academy, he met Father Georgy Apollonovich Gapon, founder of the Assembly of Russian Factory and Mill Workers of St. Petersburg, (which was financially supported by the Russian Secret Police). Fr. Gapon would organize and lead the procession to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II on January 9, 1905. This procession, initially authorized by the police, was attacked by them in what became known as Bloody Sunday; hundreds of people were shot or trampled by the Cossacks. This incident gave impetus to the 1905 Revolution. Little more than a year after Bloody Sunday, Gapon would be garroted on the streets of Petrograd.

Through Gapon, Iliodor met Rasputin and through him was invited to preach to Nicholas and Alexandra at Peterhof Palace. There he caused a scandal by preaching in favor of land reform, a policy at odds with the Tsar and his government. The Holy Synod banned Iliodor from preaching, but he was supported by Rasputin and the Tsar himself. Instead, he was assigned to the region of Volhynia on the northern border of Ukraine. There he became part of the Panslavic movement. He was quickly again forbidden to preach, but the ban was overturned through the intercession of his bishop and he was assigned to the city of Tsaritsyn, where he established the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. For a third time, he was banned from preaching and this time exiled to the city of Minsk. He was then invited to Tsarskoye Selo, where he met with the Tsarina. A year later, after again being exiled, he was invited back to Tsarskoye Selo; this time to meet the Tsar. Five days after this meeting, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite.

In 1912, Iliodor began a campaign to blacken Rasputin’s reputation. His campaign was supposedly based on letters from the Tsarina to Rasputin; letters implying she was his lover. Iliodor had somehow gotten hold of these letters and presented them to the Tsar, after first leaking them to the press. After this incident he renounced the Russian Orthodox Church and was defrocked.

In the summer of 1914, he encouraged a once beautiful woman whose nose had been eaten away by syphilis named Khioniya Kozmishna Guseva to kill Rasputin. While she succeeded in stabbing Rasputin, he survived, and the former Iliodor fled the country, dressed as a woman, with help from Maxim Gorky, taking his voluminous set of papers on Rasputin with him.

In 1916, he published The Mad Monk of Russia, Iliodor: Memoirs and Confessions of Sergei Michailovich Trufanoff which dealt in large part with Rasputin. The book formed much of the basis for the, now lost, silent film The Fall of the Romanoffs. It was released in September 1917 (just 6 months after Nicholas abdicated). In this film, Iliodor played himself.

(That’s Iliodor playing Iliodor)

He would return to what had become the Soviet Union in 1918 and live again in Tsaritsyn until 1922, when he moved his family to New York City. He would live in that city for the remainder of his life. There he became a Baptist and, divorced and broke, worked as a janitor for the Metropolitan Life Company.

The Russian biographer and historian Edvard Radzinsky could only find a copy of this “most rare” book in the New York Public Library when he was researching his book The Rasputin File. The book, Martha of Stalingrad, is a memoir of Iliodore’s years in the city that, at the time it was written, was known as Stalingrad, the site of Germany’s greatest defeat in World War II. Before being named for the “Man of Steel,” the city had been known by the name Tsaritsyn, and today is known as Volgagrad.


In the book”, Radzinsky writes, “Iliodor says that it was he who decided to take Rasputin’s life. At [the monastery he had founded] ‘New Galilee’, he gathered his flock by the banks of the river. Around four hundred people came. ‘The congregation chose the three most beautiful young women … Those three beauties,’ Iliodor writes, ‘were supposed to lure Rasputin and kill him.’ But Khionia Guseva, who was present, said, ‘Why ruin beautiful women whose lives are ahead of them? I am a wretched woman and of no use to any one…I alone shall bring about his execution. Father, give me your blessing to stab him as the ancient prophet stabbed the false prophets.’ Iliodor gave her his blessing for the murder.”


Iliodor titled his memoirs The Great Martha of Stalingrad after a woman, known to him and to Rasputin, named Marfa Semenovna Medvenskaiya. She is better known as Blessed Martha of Tsaritsyn. During her lifetime, she was known for her prophesies; predicting the Russo-Japanese War, The First World War, The Russian Revolution, The Death of the Romanovs, and The Great Patriotic War. This book has what is believed to be the only photographic image of the prophetess (facing p. 8).

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