- 08 September 2017
220th anniversary of the birth of Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov)
Two events will take place in Oxford, United Kingdom (8-9 September 2017) and Corfu, Greece (14-16 September 2017)
- Oxford Consultation on Orthodox Missions at Oxford University,
- Orthodoxy from the Ionian Islands to the Arctic Symposium at Ionian University.
Oxford Consultation on Orthodox Missions
Saint Antony’s College, Oxford University
8-9 September 2017
On 14 -15 April 1997, Oxford University commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov) with a focus on his life and legacy in Yakutia and Alaska. Significantly, the speakers included principals of major civic institutions of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia). This took place in Pembroke College of Oxford University. Bishop Kallistos (Ware) was the chairman.
Currently, Oxford University and Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University are commemorating the 220th anniversary. This is taking place in Saint Antony’s College, Oxford University, 8-9 September 2017. This time, we are extending our view to other regions of the world and other eras, looking at Orthodox activity more widely while including Yakutia and Alaska still. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) is the chairman again.
This is a “consultation”, allowing ample time for each of the speeches with discussions, the latter between the speakers as at a round table and with the audience as well. The lectures are scheduled to be published in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review, just as the bicentennial papers were published in the same journal.
1. Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korea, PhD Athens “Saint John Chrysostom's Constitution on Christian Witness: Universal Principles and their Relevance for Korean Orthodox Identity"
2. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, Consultation Chair, DPhil Oxon; Emeritus Spaulding Lecturer in Eastern Christian Studies, Oxford University “Missionary Activity of Saint Cosmas the Aetolian, 18th century”
3. Archbishop Makarios of Nairobi and Kenya, DPhil Oxon, “Practical Orthodox Missiology: a comparison of 19th century Alaska and 20th century Kenya”
4. Dr Sven Haakanson, PhD Harvard; Associate Professor University of Washington (Seattle) “Legacy of the Russian Orthodox Mission on Kodiak Island, Alaska”
5. Prof James C. Skedros, ThD Harvard; Dean and Professor of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA, USA “Paradigms of Orthodox Missionary Activity in the USA”
6. Dr S. A. Mousalimas, Consultation Organizer, DPhil Oxon; Professor North-Eastern Federal University, Yakutsk “Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov) in Alaska and Yakutia”
Symposium “Orthodoxy from the Ionian Islands to the Arctic”
on the occasion of the 200th Anniversary of the repose of Saint Fyodor (Ushakov) and of the 220th anniversary of the birth of Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov)
Ionian University, Corfu
14-16 September 2017
The Symposium “Orthodoxy from the Ionian Islands to the Arctic” is organised by The Geolab Institute / the Laboratory for Geocultural Analyses of the Ionian University (DFLTI), in association with the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk (Russian Federation) and the blessings and support of the Holy Metropolis of Corfu, Paxoi and Diapontian Islands as well as the support of Corfu Reading Society. The event, which is being convened in honour of the 200th anniversary of the repose of Saint (Admiral) Fyodor (Ushakov), a hero of Corfu, and the 220th anniversary of the birth of Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov) is based on primary sources research seeking to interpret the lives and work of the enlightened personalities who played a significant role in the expansion of the Orthodox faith during the critical period from the end of the 18th and through the 19th century. The Symposium focuses on this expansion experience of Orthodoxy also as a global paradigm for communicating Christian values together with embedding good governance practices within its own tradition and towards outsiders.
Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov), 1797-1879: Who was he?
Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov) was born as Ivan Popov in the village Anga near the headwaters of the mighty Lena River in the Irkutsk Gubernia of eastern Siberia. He spent almost his entire life in eastern Siberia, north-east Asia, and Alaska until he was summoned from these regions of his origin and his lifetime work to Europe to become the Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna in his old age in 1867. The latter was the highest position in the Russian Church at that time. He is venerated as a saint in all of these regions where he served the people: in Moscow, he is called Saint Innokentii of Moscow; in Irkutsk and the Amur, Saint Innokentii the Apostle to Siberia and America; in Yakutia, Saint Innokentii the Enlightener of Siberia and Alaska; and in Alaska, Saint Innocent of Alaska. He is also acknowledged as a scientist in the fields of geography, linguistics, and ethnography. He was elected an honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences for his work in those fields of research, which he conducted in Alaska between (particularly) the years 1824 and 1838. The concurrence of his religious and scientific work is evident for us today in a monograph that he authored during the 1830s, titled Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven. He wrote it in the Aleut language with a Russian version. It was published in Aleut by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1840, along with the translation of the Gospel according to Matthew in the same language. The Gospel had been translated at Unalaska among the Aleutian Islands by him together with the pious bilingual Aleut toion (chief) Ivan Pankov, and the two men together would read the drafts in gatherings of bilingual Orthodox Aleuts to assure a certain quality of the language in the translated Gospel. We should note that this monography, Indication of the Way […], was translated into the Yakut language, published in 1857 (or perhaps ‘58). Since then, it has been translated and published in numerous other European and Asian languages, including English, Greek, and Japanese. The English and Russian versions have been reprinted to the present day, including electronic publications such now. The longevity and popularity of this monograph, Indication of the Way …, reflect its depth and relevance. They also reflect the author’s respect for the Aleut people as he wrote such a book for them in their own language. This is an example of his work combining religious, humanitarian, and scientific endeavours. Furthermore, he combined spiritual achievements with practical skills, such as architecture and clock-making. In Yakutia in 1853 – as archbishop by this time and the first resident bishop there – he organized a translation committee which produced a prolific number of publications by the years 1857-58. Remarkably among those publications, 600 copies of the Yakut language Gospels were issued along with 600 copies of a Yakut grammar book. The grammars were meant for use in schools. The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom was also translated into Yakut, and the service in this language was officiated by him in the town Yakutsk in 1859. On a complementary practical level for the civic good, he surveyed the geography of regions of vast Yakutia and planned the improvement of the infrastructure, such as the plotting of a new, improved road from the town Yakutsk to the Okhotsk Sea; and Saint Innokentii worked miracles which are remembered today even through the vicissitudes of history since then: such as the rainfall attributed to his prayers, which broke a long drought and which is commemorated by a large cross that has been erected (anew) at the village of Tungulu in the Megino-Kangalasskii region of Yakutia. In the year 1867, he was summoned by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to become the Metropolitan of Moscow. That was the year when some influential authorities in St-Petersburg sold Russian-America (Alaska) to Washington, DC. Assuming this high position in Europe in January 1868, he was able to help the Russian Orthodox people of Alaska who, in effect, had been sold away with the land. Furthermore in this high position, he was able to create an independent diocese for Yakutia, elevating to its episcopacy a bilingual vicar bishop Dionysii (Khitrov) who, earlier as a priest, had been the head of the translation committee there. He worked for the well-being of the people in Moscow also. For instance with regard furthermore to his contributions just in the field of linguistics, we may notice that the official translation of the Bible into the contemporary Russian language (known as the “Synodal Translation”) was finished and distributed in full in the year 1876, under his metropolitanate. Known there for his philanthropy and sanctity, he was canonized as “Saint Innokentii of Moscow” by the Russian Orthodox Church in the year 1977; and his relics are treasured and available for all to venerate in a prominent place in the nave of the Cathedral of the Assumption in the deeply historical Lavra (Monastery) of the Holy Trinity and Saint Sergius at Sergiev Posad in the Golden Ring near Moscow.
Series of Anniversaries
Respect for Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov) has been expressed through a series of anniversaries over the last two decades: the 200th anniversary of his birth, celebrated in the year 1997; the 210th anniversary in 2007; the 215th in 2012; and now this 220th in 2017. The initiative to honour him from the start, for the bicentennial, came from the Yakut people, and the bicentennial’s main events took place in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), culminating in an international conference in the capital city Yakutsk, involving all of the major civic institutions along with the newly re-established eparchy. From its inception, the bicentennial developed to international dimensions, spanning the northern hemisphere. A committee was formed in Alaska, led by the Russian-American Dr Lydia Black (of blessed memory), comprised of Aleut and Tlingit intelligentsia, and under the auspices of the Aleut Foundation. A conference in his honour was held in the University of Alaska Fairbanks; a museum exhibit in his honour was organized in the Alaska State Museum; and the then-Governor declared 1997 to be the “Veniaminov Bicentennial Year for the State of Alaska”. Other events for the bicentennial included a published, distinguished lecture series in the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, Berkeley, California, which was a meaningful location as Saint Innokentii, in the year 1836, toured the San Francisco Bay Area while on a pastoral visit from Alaska to the Orthodox chapel at Fort Ross (Russia’s southern-most outpost) on the California coast. Furthermore, lectures were delivered from Oxford at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, Massachusetts, USA, in his honour within the Endowment Fund for Orthodox Missions (EFOM) Lecture Series. Here in England for the bicentennial, we convened a symposium at Pembroke College, Oxford University, April 14-15, 1997; and it was followed by one in Scotland, at New College, Edinburgh University, April 17-19: both in his honour and both with significant participation from Yakutia. (It is remarkable that Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain joined us for an evening in Oxford and then hosted some of the speakers from Yakutia for lunch at Thyateira House in London; and Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh had one of the speakers, E. S. Shishigin, deliver a lecture for parishioners of London’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition.) Subsequently the 210th and 215th anniversaries were commemorated with conferences organized by the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and the Eparchy of Yakutsk during the “Days of Yakutia in Moscow”, which celebrated respectively the 375th and then the 380th anniversaries of the joining of Yakutia with Russia, coinciding with the jubilee anniversaries of the birth of Saint Innokentii. The main speakers both times were from Yakutia. The 210th events included participation from Korea as well as Alaska; and both conferences included key participation from Oxford. This time, the initiative for the 220th anniversary commemorations has come mainly from the Irkutsk Oblast, the land of his birth. Those events began in Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East during the year 2014, including conferences in Irkutsk and Yakutsk, both with participation from Oxford. During the intervening years, commemorative events have taken place again in those locations and also in (for instance) the Amur, Kamchatka, and Sakhalin. The main events are taking place in the Irkutsk region around September 8th of this year, 2017. (The 6th is coincidentally his birthday on the Gregorian Calendar.) Earlier this year, in June 2017, mountaineers from Yakutia scaled the summit of Mount Denali in Alaska, the highest peak in North America, dedicating their ascent to the 220th anniversary of Saint Innokentii; and in December, the anniversary of his birth will be associated with the current “Days of Yakutia in Moscow”, celebrating the 385th anniversary of the joining of Yakutia with Russia. Closer to us here, events to commemorate the anniversary have been organized in London by a Yakutian member of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition for their parishioners through Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh and prompted by the initiative at Irkutsk: an original children’s musical, a concert, and a some lectures, scheduled to culminate in October of this year 2017. Following our Oxford Consultation, a symposium will be held on the island of Corfu to honour the anniversary of Saint Innokentii (Veniaminov) there as well, in conjunction with an anniversary of Saint Fyodor (Ushakov), a hero of the island, convened by the Ionian University and the Metropolis of Corfu and with participation from Nairobi, Irkutsk, Yakutsk, Athens, and Oxford. The Oxford Consultation, we should hope, will be a contribution to honour Saint Innokentii this anniversary year and indeed to bring our remembrance of him into an ever wider geographical perspective.