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Nikolai Eshliman was 57 : Ousted Russian Orthodox Priest Dies

June 15, 1985|From Times Wire Services

MOSCOW — A former Russian Orthodox priest who was suspended when he publicly criticized his church was buried here Friday as a layman.

Nikolai Eshliman, who opposed Soviet restrictions and intervention in church affairs, died June 8, it was announced earlier this week. He was 57.

Keston College of London, which monitors Soviet religious affair, said that Eshliman died after a long period of "ill health and depression."

The college said that Eshliman--a descendant of Scottish immigrants to Russia--and the Rev. Gleb Yakunin, a fellow Orthodox priest, jointly wrote a letter in 1965 to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, criticizing the church and Soviet attitudes toward it.

40-Page Protest

The 15,000-word, 40-page letter protested "the mass closure of churches, monasteries and church schools . . . the intervention of secular authorities in the appointment of clergy" and many other alleged restrictions.

Those violations were "the bitter fruits and undeniable evidence of the unconditional submission of the Moscow patriarchate to the unofficial, oral mandates of atheist officials," the letter said.

Copies of the letter were circulated widely in church circles.

Keston College said that the Orthodox patriarchy, which tried to get the letter retracted, suspended the two priests for writing it.

'Targets for Harassment'

The two were charged with breaking church discipline and attempting "to destroy peace in the church."

"Both priests became targets for harassment by the Soviet authorities," a college statement said. "The shock and pressures to which they were subjected forced Father Nikolai to retreat from the active dissident scene," where he reportedly became increasingly depressed.

Father Yakunin continued his dissent and was sent into exile in Siberia in 1979.

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