Voices from Russia

Saturday, 21 November 2009

A Biography of Fr Daniil Alekseyevich Sysoev

Fr Daniil Sysoev (1974-2009) speaking at a public gathering

Born: 12 January 1974 Moscow

Died: 20 November 2009 Moscow


In his own words, he is “half Russian, half Tatar”. His father is a priest, Fr Aleksei Sysoev. Fr Aleksei is rector of the church of St John the Divine at the Yasenevo Orthodox classical gymnasium and a clergyman of the Ss Peter and Paul church in Yasenevo. His mother, Anna Midhatovna Amirov, teaches Orthodox catechism at the same school.

He graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy in 2000 with a Kandidatura in Theology. {Editor’s note: Literally, a kandidat is a “candidate member of the Russian Academy of Sciences”, equivalent to a Western PhD, but, perhaps, a bit more stringent in requirements and more rigorous.} His thesis was entitled, The Anthropology of the Seventh Day Adventists and the Watchtower Society and its Analysis.

His career as a cleric began in 1994, when he became a reader. In 1995, he received ordination as a deacon, and in 2001, as a priest. He is married and has three daughters. Fr Daniil Sysoev actively engaged in missionary work among Muslims, and converted many to the Orthodox faith. He held a conservative stance towards yoga exercises, karate, Latin American dance, and belly dancing, urging Christians not to attend these classes. Rev Sysoev was critical of the Darwinian theory of evolution

Fr Daniil was the rector of St Thomas parish; he developed an active missionary movement, which included training Orthodox “street missionaries”, whose task was to attract people to Orthodoxy by appealing to passers-by on the street.

On 19 November 2009, D. A. Sysoev was mortally wounded in St Thomas church by two shots from a pistol (other sources say that four shots were fired). The masked assailant managed to escape. At 00.20 Moscow Standard Time on 20 November 2009 (21.20 UTC 16.20 EST 13.20 PST, all of these 19 November), Fr Daniil died on the operating table.

At present, detectives believe that the most plausible explanation for the crime is that the murderer had a religious motivation for the killing. Earlier, members of various extremist groups repeatedly threatened Rev Sysoev. “Fr Daniil was a prominent figure amongst the Moscow clergy, creative and vigorous, and a true preacher and missionary. I think that he was murdered because of his strong views”, said Fr Vladimir Vigilyansky, a spokesman for the MP. Indeed, Rev Sysoev himself stated that he had received death threats on 14 separate occasions.

Church of the Apostle Thomas

In 2005, the Moscow city government allocated the community led by Fr Daniil Sysoev 0.5 hectares (a little under 1.25 acres) of land near the Kantemirovskaya metro stop on the Zamoskvoretskaya Line for the construction of a stone church dedicated to the prophet Daniel. By November 2006, the parishioners had cleared all of the undergrowth and debris on the site and erected a temporary wooden church dedicated to the Apostle Thomas. The parish runs missionary courses, singing lessons, iconography classes, and a scout group. In 2009, four years after the allocation of land, the Moscow City Department of Environmental Management believed that the community was in violation of environmental legislation, although many use the floodplain of the Chertanovka River as a dump for construction debris. The Department stated that the land at this location should be a park and nature reserve, and the construction of a church would result in irreparable harm to the unique natural habitat. In August 2009, deputy prefect of YuVAO stated he approved in principle for the construction of a church in Kantemirov district, and, during public hearings on the new Master Plan of Moscow, residents demanded that a church be part of the draft General Plan.


In 2007, Mufti Nafigulla Ashirov, Co-chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, sued in court [against Fr Daniil] for his book Marriage to a Muslim, which, he said, contained expressions offensive to Muslims. Journalist Khalida Khamidulina accused Fr Daniil of inciting hatred of Islam in his publications and filed a suit in court against him. At the same time, Neo-Nazi groups expressed their displeasure with the Fr Daniil’s views and ultra-rightwing Orthodox publications criticised him for his anti-monarchist position. In addition, some spokesmen for Old Ritualists {Editor’s note: These are mistakenly called “Old Believers” in Western circles… all too many of them are nothing but Protestants in Orthodox drag.} expressed a negative assessment of D. A. Sysoev. They believed that he attacked their faith, considering his publications on Old Ritualists as “slander against the Old Orthodox Church”. {Editor’s note: The so-called Old Orthodox Church is not in communion with any of the recognised Orthodox Local Churches. It is a sect of popovtsy (“priested”) Old Ritualists, in opposition to the sort known as bezpopovtsy (“unpriested”). The latter are literally what their Russian name indicates… they are priestless. The former have a hierarchy ordained by a renegade Orthodox bishop in the old Hapsburg Empire. Neither group is in the Church, as I said above, no Local Church considers them Orthodox. Neophytes should best avoid both sorts. Don’t be fooled by their icons and chanting… they are nothing but Protestants who reject the Church.} They accused him of poor reasoning, faulty judgement, and distortion of historical facts.


  1. Прогулка протестанта по православному храму (A Walk from the Protestant to the Orthodox Church) (Moscow, 2003, 144 pages) ISBN 5-94264-009-2 {Editor’s note: “Church” in this case is khram, not tserk, so, the meaning is “church building”, not “Church”.}
  2. Брак с мусульманином (Marriage to a Muslim) (Moscow, 2006) ISBN 5-98988-007-3

Wikipedia (in Russian)



Sysoev Case Distorted on OrthodoxNet.com… or, Why I Make Fresh Translations From the Russian

Filed under: Christian,internet,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00

Fr Daniil Sysoev (1974-2009) with young parishioners


I was very saddened to see a post on a website on OrthodoxNet.com. The title was Orthodox Priest Who Converted Muslims Murdered in Russia. I wondered, “How could anyone distort the facts so?” I followed the link and found that it directed me to an article in English on RIA-Novosti. There was no background detail in the piece, and there was nothing on the context of the crime. Unfortunately, I’ve found that English translations from Russian on the web are often inadequate (often, they’re over-literal, resulting in a loss of meaning). When you add to that problem the confusion that results because of ignorance of the Russian situation… well, you can see my point.

Firstly, one always goes to a Russian original and makes a fresh translation. It’s the only way to get the whole story. They don’t translate most of the “good stuff”… all too often, only “fluffy” material is “Englished” (a notable exception in this is Voice of Russia World Service, but, I always check the Russian original… it’s often a little different in emphasis… the English is often “dumbed down”). For instance, Interfax translated four articles into English… I utilised 22 articles in Russian for my translations. That’s quite a difference, and a LARGE difference in detail. I must add that there was much more that I read in Russian that I did not translate because it was redundant, and only backed what I had translated.

Secondly, the context to the crime was missing. There has been a problem with terrorist attacks on clergymen; in fact, the majority of the victims have been Muslims. Most of these assaults have been in the Northern Caucasus… but, not all of them. Many of my Russian friends believe that some of these killings have foreign connections… but, not Muslim ones! As one friend of mine wrote, “The Americans want to set the Muslims and Orthodox at each others’ throats”. If one reflects on the links of the CIA with the thuggish SBU goons of Yushchenko (they beat up Fr Dmitri Sidor, a Carpatho-Russian Orthodox activist), this is not lunatic maundering; it is all too probable in some cases. Add to that the fact that the USA is up to its ears in the deep kimchi in Georgia… I needn’t go any farther, must I? Fr Daniil’s work was not merely with Muslims… indeed, that was only part of his ministry. He was a parish priest, worked with counterculture youth, preached amongst the students, and he was active in the Orthodox section of Nashi. To focus on the Muslim aspect was unfortunate.

Thirdly, Americans have no idea how big a “story” this is in Russia. For example, when I was at the funeral for Vladyki Laurus in Jordanville, there were Russian TV crews present and they were televising live from the scene. These were not “religious” stations… they were from Vesti and Pervy Kanal… “regular” secular TV. In short, this was on the Russian equivalent of CNN (reflect on the fact that Russian secular TV has been to Jordanville more than once and NEVER once to televise the poseurs at SVS… interesting, no?). That is also true with this, as Fr Daniil was a prominent public figure in Russia. He was a friend of such people as Fr Vsevolod Chaplin and Bishop Mark Golovkov… no small beer, either one! Was Fr Daniil a “celebrity?” Perhaps… but, I don’t think that publicity, of itself, is evil… it’s how one uses it. He was on TV often enough and he wrote prolifically. Of course, TV is covering it… wouldn’t the American media cover it if someone like Billy Graham were murdered? They would!

Lastly, most Americans lack a historical framework… ergo, an event is seen as an isolated incident, when we really must view it as part of a living entity. It’s why I don’t comment much on the Greek Church… I’m not Greek and I lack the knowledge necessary to make a reasonable argument on many Greek topics. It’s why I reject the so-called “pan-Orthodox” lunacy thoroughly and absolutely, by the way… there’s no such thing… there shall not be “unity in our time” (Paffhausen was unbalanced to state such… and in front of OCL, a bunch of rebellious pirates). Of course, Greek or Arab priests are priests and one can receive the sacraments… but that doesn’t erase the very real differences between “Greek” and “Russian” Orthodoxy. When one knows the historical context, one can say that we have a chance of uniting “Russian” Orthodoxy in this country in our time, but, nothing else, I’m afraid. It is the same with the Sysoev case. There’s a real and long history of interaction between Orthodox and Muslims in Russia. It goes back to the conquest of Kazan in the 16th century by Ivan Grozny. Most Americans are unaware of this and make incorrect conclusions as a result.

To wrap it all up… Fr Daniil Sysoev wasn’t “killed by Muslims”. He wasn’t “killed for converting Muslims”. Either an unbalanced individual or a criminal under contract to a foreign special service (that’s how it’s done, for the purposes of “deniability”) killed him. It’s not so “neat”… but, that’s probably what happened. Pray for the soul of Fr Daniil and pray that they catch his killer and that the court gives ‘em the max (the Butyrki is no rest home or Club Med)… it’s the only Christian thing to do.


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