This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Alexander Men" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (March 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message) This article contains wording that promotes the subject in a subjective manner without imparting real information. Please remove or replace such wording and instead of making proclamations about a subject's importance, use facts and attribution to demonstrate that importance. (March 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message) This article needs more complete citations for verification. Please help add missing citation information so that sources are clearly identifiable. (March 2024) (Learn how and when to remove this message) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Alexander Men
Александр Владимирович Мень
Born(1935-01-22)22 January 1935
Died9 September 1990(1990-09-09) (aged 55)
Semkhoz [ru], Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
(now Semkhoz, Russia)
NationalitySoviet Union
SpouseNatasha Grigorienko
Parent(s)Vladimir Men, Yelena Tsuperfeyn
DenominationEastern Orthodoxy
EducationLeningrad Theological Seminary
Moscow Theological Academy
ChurchRussian Orthodox Church
Senior posting
Based inNovaya Derevnya
Period in office1970 - 9 September 1990
Reason for exitAssassinated
Ordination1 September 1960
Memorial Day of Archpriest Alexander Men in Sergiyev Posad

Alexander Vladimirovich Men (Russian: Александр Владимирович Мень; 22 January 1935 – 9 September 1990) was a Soviet Russian Orthodox priest, dissident, theologian, biblical scholar and writer on theology, the history of religion, the fundamentals of Christian doctrine, and Orthodox worship.[1]

Men wrote dozens of books (including his magnum opus, History of Religion: In Search of the Way, the Truth and the Life, the seventh volume of which, entitled Son of Man, served as the introduction to Christianity for thousands of citizens in the Soviet Union); baptized hundreds if not thousands; founded an Orthodox open university; opened one of the first Sunday schools in Russia as well as a charity group at the Russian Children's Hospital.[2] His influence is still widely felt and his legacy continues to grow among Christians both in Russia and abroad. He was murdered early on a Sunday morning, on 9 September 1990, by an ax-wielding assailant outside his home in Semkhoz [ru], Russia. The circumstances of the murder remain unclear.[3]



Men's father, Volf Gersh-Leibovich (Vladimir Grigoryevich) Men, was born in 1902 in Kiev and, as a child, studied at a religious Jewish school, "remembered Hebrew, ... read the prophets by heart," but "was ... a non-religious person," "graduated from two universities, worked chief engineer of a textile factory."[4][5]

Men's maternal ancestors, originally from Poland, lived in Russia since the 18th century.[6] His grandmother, Cecilia Vasilevskaya, and grandfather, Odessa resident Semyon (Solomon) Ilyich Tsuperfein, met in Switzerland while studying at the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Bern.[7] There, in Bern, in 1908, their daughter Yelena (Alexander's mother) was born. After graduating from university, Semyon, Cecilia, and their daughter lived in Paris. In 1914, during his arrival in Russia, Semyon was mobilized, and the family settled in Kharkov.[8] Yelena Semyonovna Men (nee Tsuperfein) was drawn to Christianity from a young age.[9] She studied the Orthodox faith at the Kharkov private gymnasium.[10][11] As a high school student, she left for Moscow to live with her grandmother Anna Osipovna Vasilevskaya; in 1934, she married Volf.[10]

Early life

Men was born in Moscow to a Jewish family on 22 January 1935. At the age of six months, he was secretly baptized with his mother in Zagorsk by the priest Archimandrite Seraphim (Bityukov) of the banned Catacomb Church, a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church that refused to cooperate with Soviet authorities.[12]

When Men was six years old, his father was arrested by the NKVD.[13] His father spent more than a year under guard and then was assigned to labor in the Ural Mountains. Men studied at the Moscow Fur Institute in 1955 and transferred to Irkutsk Agriculture Institute [ru] from which he was expelled in 1958 due to his religious beliefs. A month after his expulsion, 1 June 1958, he was ordained a deacon and sent to the parish of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos [ru] in Akulovo.


On 1 Septemeber 1960, Men became a priest upon graduating from the Leningrad Theological Seminary. His consecration took place at the Donskoy Monastery. Men was appointed second priest in the Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary [ru] in Petrovskoye-Alabin [ru], where a year later he became rector of the temple.[14] In 1965, he completed his studies at Moscow Theological Academy.[citation needed]

In 1964 and 1965, Men's father was investigated in connection with his acquaintance with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.[15]

Men became a leader with considerable influence and a good reputation among Christians both locally and abroad, among Roman Catholics and Protestants, as well as Orthodox.[citation needed] He served in a series of parishes near Moscow.

Starting in the early 1970s, Men became a popular figure in Russia's religious community, especially among the intelligentsia.[16] Men was harassed by the KGB for his active missionary and evangelistic efforts; in 1974, Yuri Andropov wrote a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union about the "ideological struggle of the Vatican against the USSR," where he wrote: "A group of pro-Catholic-minded priests, headed by A. Men (Moscow Oblast), in their theological works pushes through the idea that only Catholicism can be the ideal of church life. These works, illegally exported abroad, are published by the Catholic publishing house Life with God (Belgium) and are then sent for distribution in the USSR."[15]

In 1984, Men was interrogated in the case of his student Sergei Marcus [ru]; during these interrogations, Men was threatened with a ban on serving in any of the Moscow parishes.[17] An article published in the Trud newspaper in the spring of 1986 accused him of attempting to create an "anti-Soviet underground" under the auspices of Archpriest John Meyendorff, of organizing "illegal religious matinees" and of personally voicing "slide films of a religious propaganda nature, which he illegally distributed among believers."[18]

On 11 May 1988, Men's first public lecture took place in the hall of the Institute of Steel and Alloys. As Alexander Kravetsky [ru] noted, "the organizers were completely amazed that a church theme could attract a full hall without any advertising."[19] In the late 1980s, he utilised the mass media to proselytize (he was offered to host a nationally televised program on religion); his days and nights were full of teaching and lecturing at packed lecture halls.[16]

Men was one of the founders of the Russian Bible Society in 1990; that same year he founded the Open Orthodox University and "The World of the Bible" journal.[12] His strenuous efforts in educating the Russian populace in the basics and dynamics of the Orthodox faith has garnered him the label by the Soviet newspaper Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya as a modern-day apostle to the Soviet intelligentsia. However, some representatives of the Orthodox circles have voiced their opinion that several of Fr. Alexander's views were not sufficiently “orthodox” and even advised against using his books as an introduction to Orthodoxy.

Men actively supported charitable activities, attending the founding of the Mercy Group at the Russian Children's Clinical Hospital, which was later named after him.[20]


Alexander Men memorial cross at the murder site in Semkhoz

On Sunday morning, 9 September 1990, he was murdered while walking along the wooded path from his home in the Russian village of Semkhoz (near Moscow) to the local train platform. He was on his way to catch the train to Novaya Derevnya to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Men had served at the parish in Novaya Derevnya for 20 years. His assailant's or assailants' use of an axe indicated a possible revenge motive. The murder occurred around the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and despite orders from within the Soviet (and later the Russian) government that the case be further investigated, the murder remains unsolved. His funeral was held on the day in the Orthodox calendar which commemorates the beheading of John the Baptist.[citation needed]

According to Lieutenant General of Police Vyacheslav Pankin [ru]:

When the suspect was detained, he confessed. Minister of Internal Affairs Barannikov was delighted: we could celebrate! However, apart from confessions, there was no material evidence. And even when the suspect gave investigators the axe with which he allegedly killed the priest, the examination did not confirm that it was the murder weapon. The briefcase with the priest's vestments also disappeared. We worked through a lot of versions, paying attention to the little things. When the priest, with a head wound, reached the gate of his house and hung helplessly on it, his wife did not recognize him. Why? We also checked the wife’s brother, who had a conflict with Alexander Men on the eve of the murder. But it was not possible to obtain significant evidence. Already in Afghanistan, I heard that the crime had allegedly been solved. This was reported by the then head of the Main Directorate of Criminal Investigation, Kolesnikov. But they still worked with the same suspects.

— [21]

Views and thought

According to Men, "the history of world religiosity begins not with Christianity, but much earlier. Christianity is the highest point in the development of religious experience."[22] He wrote:

"The Good News brought by the gospel was a response not only to the aspirations of the people of the era of Augustus and Tiberius. In Christianity, the long world-historical process of the religious quest of mankind has ended. Over the centuries, people have walked along countless roads and paths; they tested and weighed almost everything that the human spirit was able to grasp - from world-denying mysticism to God-denying materialism. And only when these paths were traversed and the search was exhausted, did the 'fullness of time' come, to use biblical language. The Revelation appeared to the world - the greatest mystery; the path to a perfect life was shown to man."[23]

In the introduction to History of Religion, Men characterizes the basic principle of the presentation of the material: "we will seek the truth together with an animist, Buddhist, or Greek thinker, which will help us to grasp the true dynamics of religions that prepared the world for the appearance of the God-man. The movement towards this center, or peak, is a truly spectacular spectacle; by following it, we will be able to better understand the meaning of Christianity itself."[24]

Moreover, Men hopes that "if the proposed series of books helps readers see in the history of religions not a collection of errors, but streams of rivers carrying their waters into the ocean of the New Testament, the author's goal will be achieved".[25]

Men positioned his attitude towards antiquity and paganism as Christian: "even in paganism you will find a presentiment and anticipation of the Good News. It is not for nothing that the Apostle Paul made the altar of the "Unknown God" the starting point of his sermon in Athens. However, this kind of dialogue will often be replaced by a compromise with aspects of ancient beliefs that are alien to the Gospel."[26]


Alexander Men's greatest work is his History of Religion, published in seven volumes under the title In Search of the Way, the Truth, and the Life (volumes 1–6, Brussels, 1970–1983; 2nd edition Moscow, 1991–1992) in which the author examines the history of non-Christian religions as a way for Christians in the struggle of Magiism and Monotheism. Also including as the seventh volume his most famous work, Son of Man (Brussels, 1969; 2nd edition Moscow, 1991). Because of the persecution in the Soviet Union at the time, the Brussels editions were published under a pseudonym. Father Alexander Men was one of the first pioneers of Christian “samizdat” (self-publishing) of the 1960s.[27]

An English translation of Son of Man by Mormon author Samuel Brown was completed in 1998, but is now out of print, as are several other works in English translation. In 2014, a new project was commenced by Revd Alastair Macnaughton (1954 – 2017), an Anglican priest and Russian scholar, to translate the entire History of Religion, into the English language for the first time. Volume 1 was published in 2018. An abridged version of the entire Fr. Alexander Men's magnum opus History of Religion in Two Volumes was also translated into English in 2021 (which additionally includes the history of Christianity of the first millennium). Recent works of Alexander Men in English translation include:

Many other works by Alexander Men have been published in Russian, most notably:


Since his death, Men's works and ideas have been seen as controversial among the conservative faction of the Russian Orthodox Church, citing his strong tendencies towards ecumenism which his books advocate. Nevertheless, Men has a considerable number of supporters, some of whom argue for his canonization. His lectures are regularly broadcast over Russian radio.[citation needed] His books are no longer restricted from print in Russia, whereas during his lifetime, they had to be printed abroad; mainly in Brussels, Belgium by the publishing house Foyer Chrétien Oriental and circulated in secret.[citation needed] Several key Russian Orthodox parishes encourage following his example as one who faithfully followed Christ.[28] Two Russian Orthodox churches have been built on the site of his assassination and a growing number of believers in both Russia and abroad consider him a martyr.[29][30]

In December 1990, the Alexander Men Foundation was founded in Riga.[31] Men was canonized by the Apostolic Orthodox Church [ru] in 2004.[32]

In conjunction with the 25th year Commemoration of Memory, the Moscow Patriarchate Izdatel'stvo publishing house has begun a project to publish Fr. Men's "Collected Works" in a series of 15 volumes.[citation needed]

Men's son, Mikhail Men, is a Russian political figure who from 2005 to 2013 served as the Governor of Ivanovo Oblast and subsequently as Minister of Construction Industry, Housing and Utilities Sector in Dmitry Medvedev's Cabinet. He is also a musician known outside Russia for the Michael Men Project.[citation needed]

Views on Men's work


Many Orthodox people positively evaluate the activities and works of Men. Arkady Mahler noted in 2010: "The number of people who came to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate thanks to the sermons of Father Alexander Men is always greater than we can imagine. Many of them now admit, in a half-whisper, "in fact, it was Men who brought me to the Church from the very beginning," and look away, as if apologizing for something. Moreover, we are talking not only about the "intelligentsia" - Father Alexander was a real people's preacher, quite ordinary people from all over the Soviet empire sought him out, because it was from his texts, randomly found among acquaintances of their acquaintances, that they first learned about God."[33]

Archpriest Andrei Tkachev [ru] positively assessed the work of Men: "Men was great: he took on the heaviest burden - working with atheistic intellectuals."[34]

In February 2021, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) allowed the canonization of Men: "Father Alexander Men was an outstanding preacher, catechist, and missionary of his time. His death was tragic, and I think that if it is proven that it was martyrdom, he can be canonized as a martyr."[35]


At the same time, many representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church argue that some of Men's statements contradict the fundamentals of Orthodox teaching; his ecumenical views were criticized. He was also accused of sympathizing with Catholicism. Orthodox theologian Alexei Osipov and Protodeacon Andrey Kuraev did not recommend the books of Archpriest Alexander Men for getting acquainted with Orthodoxy.[36]

This is the fate of the missionary: one who speaks the language of his contemporary culture finds himself too outdated when that culture passes away. Today we live in a different world. Triumphant atheism was replaced by triumphant occultism. <…> Everyone is playing with beads with words like "karma", "horoscope", "astral", "cosmic ray". Almost all the religions of the world came to our home and unanimously declared Christianity "obsolete." And here a completely different intonation turned out to be necessary, not the one that was in the books of Father Alexander Men. When the islands of Christianity are threatened to be swallowed up by the occult element, there is no time to search for "things in common." It's time to draw boundaries, dividing lines. Time for conflict. Christ is not only the One Whom "all nations await." He is also the One Whom the priests of all popular religions rejected. For the Jews, he was a scandal (σκανδαλον) and for the Hellenes, he is madness.

— Protodeacon Andrey Kuraev on the ecumenism of Alexander Men and an Orthodox attitude to this ecumenism (from the article "Alexander Men: the lost missionary")[37]

In an open letter to Men, allegedly written by Metropolitan Anthony (Melnikov) [ru], it is written: "You are not new to the church, Father Alexander <...> This means that, in your interpretation, when you combine the One God of Christians and Ancient Israel with the "god" of modern Judaism, the devil, you are doing this deliberately, deliberately mixing light with darkness."[38]

Priest Daniel Sysoev was sharply critical of Men. In 2002, he identified 9 points in his creed that he considered heretical: "Manichaeism — the doctrine of the complicity of Satan in the creation of the world, the result of which was the supposed evolution that took place", "the doctrine of man as a transfigured ape", "the rejection of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures", "the rejection of original sin and the postulation of the independence of death from human sin", "the rejection of the existence of a personal Adam and the introduction of the Kabbalistic doctrine of Adam Kadmon", "the rejection of the authorship of almost all Old Testament books", "acceptance of branch theory", "syncretism", "encouragement of magic and extrasensory perception".[39]

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev), on the air of the Church and the World program, aired on the Russia-24 channel on 13 February 2021, stated that in Men's works there are views that are controversial, but that this is not an obstacle to Men's canonization:

Father Alexander Men was an outstanding preacher, catechist and missionary of his time. His life took place in difficult conditions, when the Church was deprived of the opportunity to preach outside churches. He also preached in his church, where he served as a priest until the end of his days. He preached through books, and in his later years, as new opportunities opened up, he preached in secular audiences. His death was tragic. I think that if it is proven that it was a martyr's death, he can be canonized as a martyr. He, of course, considered Jesus Christ the Son of God, and was an Orthodox clergyman who professed the Orthodox Creed. But in his books, you can find views that are controversial. For example, in some of his books he drew parallels between Christianity and other religions, and these parallels created the impression that there was much more in common between Christianity and other religions than there actually was. Father Alexander Men's breadth of views confused readers then, and continues to confuse them now.

— [40]

See also



  1. ^ Batalden, Stephen K. (1 February 2017). "Russia's Uncommon Prophet: Father Aleksandr Men and His Times. By Wallace L. Daniel". Journal of Church and State. 59 (1): 115–117. doi:10.1093/jcs/csw111. ISSN 0021-969X.
  2. ^ Alexander Men Charity Group at Russian Children Clinical Hospital
  3. ^ "BBC - Religion & Ethics - In pictures: Fr Alexander Men". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  4. ^ "Биография". Отец Александр Мень (in Russian). 21 April 2009. Archived from the original on 11 February 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2024.
  5. ^ Мень & Григоренко 2007, p. 22.
  6. ^ Мень & Григоренко 2007, p. 11.
  7. ^ Мень & Григоренко 2007, p. 15.
  8. ^ Мень & Григоренко 2007, p. 13.
  9. ^ Мень & Григоренко 2007, p. 17.
  10. ^ a b "Биография А. Меня". Отец Александр Мень (in Russian). Retrieved 29 April 2024.
  11. ^ Мень & Григоренко 2007, p. 11-12.
  12. ^ a b c Alexander Men Foundation
  13. ^ "Владимирович или Вольфович?". Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  14. ^ "По материалам книги Ива Амана «Отец Александр Мень. Христов свидетель в наше время»". Отец Александр Мень (in Chinese). 30 November 2016. Archived from the original on 5 July 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2024.
  15. ^ a b Бычков С. С. (2010). "КГБ против священника Александра Меня". Вестник русского христианского движения (196 (1)).
  16. ^ a b "Orthodox America on A.Men". Archived from the original on 27 October 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2005.
  17. ^ "К суду над Сергеем Маркусом" (PDF). Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  18. ^ Домбковский Н. Крест на совести // Труд. 1986, № 86 (10 апреля), № 87 (11 апреля)
  19. ^ ""Я выйду на сцену и скажу: а сейчас дискотека"". Правмир (in Russian). 22 January 2018. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  20. ^ Тереза, Мать (2 August 2021). "Фонд "Дети.мск.ру" – Помогите спасти детей". (in Russian). Archived from the original on 15 September 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2024.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ Криминальная, Украина (11 August 2006). "УКРАЇНА КРИМІНАЛЬНА". УКРАЇНА КРИМІНАЛЬНА (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  22. ^ "Филокатолицизм в русской религиозной философии". Отец Александр Мень (in Russian). Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  23. ^ Men 1991, p. 9.
  24. ^ Men 1991, p. 10.
  25. ^ Men 1991, p. 12.
  26. ^ "Теологумены и традиции святых отцов в наследии протоиерея Александра Меня". Отец Александр Мень (in Russian). 30 November 2021. Archived from the original on 4 March 2022. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  27. ^ "The Wellsprings of Religion". SVS Press & Bookstore. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  28. ^ Bishop Seraphim (Sigrist) on A.Men, Saint Michael's Chapel, A Russian Catholic Community of Byzantine Rite
  29. ^ "Храм на месте гибели протоиерея Александра Меня". Отец Александр Мень (in Chinese). Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  30. ^ Reflections on Fr. Alexander Men, Dean John H. Erickson of St Vladimir's Seminary, at the Alexander Men Conference hosted by Nyack College Manhattan campus, August 2004
  31. ^ "Призвание к единству". Независимая газета. 16 October 2002. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  32. ^ "Отец Григорий (Михнов-Вайтенко): «Может, самое страшное ещё впереди» // «Скажи Гордеевой»". YouTube. 6 March 2024. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  33. ^ Малер, Аркадий; Наталья, Шевченково; Nicolskaya, Lana (13 December 2023). "У истоков современной миссии". Татьянин день (in Russian). Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  34. ^ "О Творце через математику . Алексей Савватеев и протоиерей Андрей Ткачёв". YouTube. 6 March 2024. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  35. ^ "В РПЦ допустили канонизацию отца Александра Меня". TACC (in Russian). 13 February 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  36. ^ Осипов А. И. Курс лекций по апологетике, 5 курс МДС, второе полугодие; Курс лекций по основному богословию, 4 курс МДС.
  37. ^ "Александр Мень: потерявшийся миссионер". Православная Беседа (in Russian). Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  38. ^ "Издательство Русская идея". 12 May 2012. Archived from the original on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  39. ^ Sysoev, Daniel. "Просмотрел все обсуждение темы…". (in Russian). Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  40. ^ "Митрополит Волоколамский Иларион: Истинная вера". Патриархия.ru (in Russian). 17 February 2021. Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 7 May 2024.