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Alexey Mikhailovich Ridiger's father Mikhail Aleksandrovich Ridiger (1900-1960), born in Saint Petersburg, was a descendant of a Baltic German noble family. His ancestor Captain Heinrich Nikolaus (Nils) Rüdinger, the commander of a Swedish fortification in Dünamünde, Swedish Livonia, was knighted by Charles XI of Sweden in 1695. After Swedish Estonia and Swedish Livonia became part of the Russian Empire in the aftermath of the Great Northern War in the beginning of the 18th century, another forefather of Alexy II, Friedrich Wilhelm von Rüdiger (1780-1840), adopted Orthodox Christianity during the reign of Catherine II of Russia. From the marriage with a Polish woman Sophie Dorothea Jerz?bska was born the future Patriarch's great-grandfather, Yegor (Georgi) von Rüdiger (1811-1848).
After the Russian October Revolution in 1917, Alexey Ridiger's father Mikhail became a refugee and the family settled in Estonia, first in Haapsalu where a shelter was provided by priest Ralph von zur Mühlen.
Later Mikhail moved to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he met and married in 1928 to Yelena Iosifovna Pisareva (1902-1955), who was born and later died there.
Alexey Ridiger's father graduated from the theological seminary in Tallinn in 1940 and was ordained a deacon and later a priest and served as the rector of the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Tallinn. Later, he was a member and the chairman of the Diocesan Council in Estonia.
During Occupation of Estonia by Nazi Germany (1941-1944) Alexey Ridiger attended with his father Mikhail, who had become an Orthodox priest on 20 December 1942, the German prison camps in Estonia offering salvation to the Russian prisoners of war. Such activities were tolerated by the German occupation authorities because it was seen as an effective anti Soviet propaganda. After Soviet forces returned to Estonia in the autumn of 1944, unlike the most of the people with Baltic German roots, the Ridiger family chose to stay in Estonia and didn't evacuate to the west.
During the war Joseph Stalin had revived the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union. Having been closed during the war time, after the Soviet annexation of Estonia the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn was reopened in 1945. Alexey Ridiger who had become a Soviet citizen served as an altar boy in the cathedral from May to October 1946. He was made a psalm-reader in St. Simeon's Church later that year; in 1947, he officiated in the same office in the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Tallinn.
On 15 April 1950, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Gregory (Chukov) of Leningrad, and on 17 April 1950, he was ordained a priest and appointed rector of the Theophany church in city of Jõhvi, Estonia, in the Tallinn Diocese. On 15 July 1957, Fr. Alexiy was appointed Rector of the Cathedral of the Dormition in Tallinn and Dean of the Tartu district. He was elevated to the rank of Archpriest on 17 August 1958, and on 30 March 1959 he was appointed Dean of the united Tartu-Viljandi deanery of the Tallinn diocese. On 3 March 1961 he was tonsured a monk in the Trinity Cathedral of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
On 14 August 1961, he was chosen to be the Orthodox Church Bishop of Tallinn and Estonia. On 23 June 1964, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop; and, on 25 February 1968, when he just turned 40 years old, he was elevated to metropolitan.
In 1986 he was released from the post of the Chancellor, which he had held since 1961 and which allowed him to be based in the Moscow Patriarchy's headquarters, and transferred to Leningrad; the decision was effectively made by the Council for Religious Affairs and was later presented by Alexy as punishment for his letter in December 1985 to Mikhail Gorbachev with proposals of reforms to church-state relations. Shortly after Alexy's death, the then Chairman of the Council Kharchev strongly denied that and said the decision was aimed at "defusing the tense emotional atmosphere within Patriarch Pimen's inner circle". In an earlier interview Kharchev suggested the removal had been requested by Patriarch Pimen "for a year".
After the death of Patriarch Pimen in 1990 Alexiy was chosen to become the new Patriarch of The Russian Orthodox Church. He was chosen on Local Council on the basis of his administrative experience, and was considered "intelligent, energetic, hardworking, systematic, perceptive, and businesslike." He also "had a reputation as a conciliator, a person who could find common ground with various groups in the episcopate." Archbishop Chrysostom (Martishkin) remarked "With his peaceful and tolerant disposition Patriarch Aleksi will be able to unite us all."
Patriarch Alexy II was "the first patriarch in Soviet history to be chosen without government pressure; candidates were nominated from the floor, and the election was conducted by secret ballot."
Upon taking on the role of Patriarch, Patriarch Alexy became a vocal advocate of the rights of the church, calling for the Soviet government to allow religious education in the state schools and for a "freedom of conscience" law. During the attempted coup in August 1991, he denounced the arrest of Mikhail Gorbachev, and anathematized the plotters. He publicly questioned the junta's legitimacy, called for restraint by the military, and demanded that Gorbachev be allowed to address the people. He issued a second appeal against violence and fratricide, which was amplified over loudspeakers to the troops outside the Russian "White House" half an hour before they attacked. Ultimately, the coup failed, which eventually resulted in the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Alexy II speaking to orthodox believers in Pereslavl (1997)
Alexy II had complicated relations with John Paul II and the Roman Catholic Church. He had a dispute with Rome over the property rights of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine, which had emerged from Soviet control after the Gorbachev's liberalisation of Russia. He nevertheless had good relations with Latin-rite Christians in France and was friends with Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who invited him to the country shortly before his death.
Patriarch Alexy II (right) and Metropolitan Laurus (left) in the residence of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia in Peredelkino.
Patriarch Alexy II repeatedly affirmed the traditional stand of the Orthodox Church and opposed the display of homosexuality in Russia, and in particular, opposed gay parades in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Church, according to the Patriarch, "has invariably supported the institution of the family and condemns untraditional relations, seeing them as a vicious deviation from God-given human nature". He also said, "I am convinced that gays' desire to organize a parade in Moscow will not help strengthen the family as the foundation of a strong state". He also said that homosexuality is an illness, and a distortion of the human personality like kleptomania.
Patriarch Alexy has also issued statements condemning anti-Semitism.
On 27 April 2007, he was reported by some Russian media to be in grave condition and even dead, though this was later shown to have been a hoax. Patriarch Alexiy has stated that the motivation behind these rumors were to scuttle the upcoming reconciliation between the Russian Church inside of Russia with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. "As you can see, I'm healthy, I'm serving, I'm alive," he is quoted as saying. Despite his age, he appeared healthy, and had been leading an active pastoral life. He was frequently seen on Russian TV, conducting Church services, and meeting with various government officials.
In February 2007 a controversy erupted when Diomid, Bishop of Chukotka, condemned the ROC's hierarchy and personally Patrirch Alexy II for ecumenism, supporting democracy and misguided loyalty to the Russian secular authorities. Bishop Diomid also took the position that taxpayer IDs, cell phones, passports, vaccination and globalisation were tools of the antichrist, and that the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church have "departed from the purity of the Orthodoxal dogma" in its support of the Russian government and of democracy, as well as its ecumenism with other confessions. After a decision of the All-Russian Council, and Bishop Diomid's refusal to appear, he was defrocked in July 2008,
He married Vera Alekseeva, the daughter of a priest from Tallinn Georgi Alekseev, later Bishop of Tallinn and Archbishop of Gorki, on 11 April 1950, on the Tuesday of Bright Week when marriages are normally prohibited according to Church tradition; however, permission was granted by Metropolitan Gregory of Leningrad, at the request of Bishop Roman of Tallinn and the fathers of both the bride and groom (both of whom were priests, and who concelebrated the marriage together). Moskovskie Novosti has alleged that according to a denunciation written by a priest-inspector Pariysky to the Leningrad Council of Religious Affairs, the marriage had been expedited in order for Ridiger to become a deacon and avoid being drafted into the Soviet Military (marriage is impossible after ordination in Orthodoxy). Up until 1950, seminarians were given a deferment from the draft, but in 1950 this was changed, and only clergy were exempt. For reasons which have remained private, they divorced less than a year later.
The Patriarch's private residence was located in the village of Lukino (near Peredelkino), now a western suburb of Moscow; it includes a 17th-century church, a museum, and a spacious three-storey house built in the late 1990s. According to the Patriarch's May 2005 interview on the residence's compound, nuns drawn from the Pühtitsa Convent take care of all the household chores.
There was also a working residence in central Moscow--a 19th-century town mansion, which had been turned over to the Patriarchate by Stalin's order in September 1943. Both residences acted as living quarters and Patriarch's office at the same time. He commuted in an armored car and was under the protection of federal agents (FSO) since January 2000.
The formal residence (infrequently used for some official functions) is located in the Moscow Danilov Monastery - a two-storey Soviet building erected in the 1980s.
He died on 5 December 2008, from heart failure, aged 79. He died 80 days short of his 80th birthday( February 23, 1929 - December 5, 2008), just being 1 single day older at death than the previous Russian Patriarch, who had died 81 days short of his 80th birthday( July 23, 1910 - May 3, 1990)
Awards and honors
2000 - Russia, the national Man of the Year prize and the Outstanding People of the 1990-2000 Decade.
Medal of 1,500th anniversary of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem (1965)
Gold medal, 1st class the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica (Greece, 25 September 1980)
Gold Medal of the I degree Archdiocese of St. Catherine of Katerini (Greece, 4 May 1982)
Medal "15 years of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk dioceses" (Diocese of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk, 22 March 2008)
State awards of the Russian Federation
Order of St. Andrew (19 February 1999) - for outstanding contribution to the spiritual and moral rebirth of Russia, to preserve peace and harmony in society
Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 1st class (23 February 2004) - for outstanding contribution to strengthening peace and harmony between peoples, the restoration of historical and cultural heritage of Russia; 2nd class (11 September 1997) - for outstanding contribution to the achievement of unity and harmony in society and long-term peacekeeping efforts
Order of Friendship of Peoples (Belarus, 26 March 2004) - for the fruitful work of rapprochement and mutual enrichment of national cultures, and his great personal contribution to the spiritual and intellectual potential of the fraternal peoples of Belarus and Russia
Order of Francisc Skorina (Belarus, 23 September 1998) - for outstanding achievements in developing and strengthening friendly relations between nations
Order of the Republic (PMR, 8 February 1999) - for his invaluable contribution in promoting the true Orthodox faith of our fathers, a huge, sustained attention, and displaying to the children of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of our State, and in connection with the 70th anniversary of the birth
Diploma of the Soviet Peace Fund (23 August 1969)
Medal and certificate of the Soviet Peace Foundation (13 December 1971)
Commemorative medal inscribed board of the Soviet Peace Fund (1969)
Medal of the World Peace Council (1976) - in connection with the 25th anniversary of the peace movement
Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee (1974) - in connection with the 25th anniversary of the Committee
Diploma of the Soviet Peace Committee (November 1979)
Certificate of Merit and a commemorative medal of the Soviet Peace Fund (November 1979)
Commemorative medal of the World Peace Council (1981) - in connection with the 30th anniversary of the peace movement
Honour Board of the Soviet Peace Foundation (15 December 1982) - for active participation in the fund
Charter of the Soviet-Indian friendship
KGB Certificate of Honour (February 1988)
Honorary citizenship of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Sergiev Posad, the Republic of Kalmykia, of the Republic of Mordovia, of the Leningrad Region, the Republic of Karelia (2006), Dimitrov (2003), Murom (Vladimir Region, 2006), Kemerovo Region (2005) and Podolsk, Moscow Region (2001)
Honorary Doctor of the Baku Slavic University, 
Honorary Doctor of Petrozavodsk State University (2000) 
Planck's Order of St. Pervozvannogo
Order "For merits before Fatherland" I degree
Order "For merits before Fatherland" II degrees
Order of Red Banner of Labor Order of Friendship Order of Friendship of Peoples
Medal Anatoly Koni
Medal for contributions to the development of agriculture
Band to White Lotus (Kalmykia). Png
Order of "Glory" (Azerbaijan)
Order of Friendship of Peoples (Belarus)
Order of Merit (Belarus)
Medal of Francis Skorina rib.png
Order of the Republic (PMR)
Grand Cross of the Order of the Cross Mary's Land
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Three Stars
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas
Dostyk Order of 1st degree
Most of the National Order of the Cedar tape
Order of the Republic (Moldova)
Tape "15 years of the Diocese of Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk". Png
Russian Federation State Prize
Order "Glory and Honor"
The Order of St. Alexis the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, I degree
Order of St. Prince Vladimir Equal-I degree (ROC)
Order of St. Prince Vladimir Equal-II degree (ROC)
Order of the Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, I degree
The Order of St. Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna, a degree
The Order of Saint Blessed Prince Dimitry Donskoy great I degree
Order of St. Sergius I of a degree
Honorary citizen of Moscow
Apology to Germany
During Alexy II's first official visit to Germany in 1995, the Patriarch publicly apologized for the "Communist tyranny that had been imposed upon the German nation by the USSR". The apology resulted in accusations by Russian Communists and the Russian National Bolshevik Party of insulting the Russian nation and treason.
Opposition in the Russian Orthodox Church
Some activities, views and policies of Alexy II such as engaging in ecumenical dialogue (when Metropolitan, Alexy had been one of the presidents of the Conference of European Churches since 1964; in March 1987 he was elected President of the CEC Presidium and Advisory Committee, in which post he remained until November 1990) with representatives of other religious groups and publicly condemning antisemitism were met with opposition by some in the Russian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Alexy II responded by saying that such people do not represent the opinions of the church but expressed their own private views as free citizens instead.
It is alleged that the Estonian KGB recruited Alexy as an agent on 28 February 1958, just days after his 29th birthday, assigning him the codename "Drozdov" (he had completed his dissertation on Metropolitan Filaret Drozdov). The report detailing his recruitment makes clear that the KGB viewed Alexy, then still a priest, as a high-flier. It had already earmarked him as a future Bishop of the Russian Orthodox diocese of Tallinn and Estonia. He was appointed to this post less than three years later. Among his KGB assignments was one in 1983, when he was sent to the Pskov-Caves Monastery to "pacify" rebellious monks.
In February 1988, exactly 30 years after his recruitment, the KGB chairman awarded him the Certificate of Honour.
The Moscow Patriarchate has, however, consistently denied that Patriarch Alexy was a KGB agent.
Konstantin Kharchev, former chairman of the Soviet Council for Religious Affairs, explained: "Not a single candidate for the office of bishop or any other high-ranking office, much less a member of Holy Synod, went through without confirmation by the Central Committee of the CPSU and the KGB". Professor Nathaniel Davis points out: "If the bishops wished to defend their people and survive in office, they had to collaborate to some degree with the KGB, with the commissioners of the Council for Religious Affairs, and with other party and governmental authorities."
Patriarch Alexy acknowledged that compromises were made with the Soviet government by bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, himself included, and publicly repented of these compromises:
"Defending one thing, it was necessary to give somewhere else. Were there any other organizations, or any other people among those who had to carry responsibility not only for themselves but for thousands of other fates, who in those years in the Soviet Union were not compelled to act likewise? Before those people, however, to whom the compromises, silence, forced passivity or expressions of loyalty permitted by the leaders of the church in those years caused pain, before these people, and not only before God, I ask forgiveness, understanding and prayers."
According to Nathaniel Davis, when asked by the Russian press about claims that he was a "compliant" bishop, "Aleksi defended his record, noting that while he was bishop of Tallinn in 1961, he resisted the communist authorities' efforts to make the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the city a planetarium (which, in truth, they did do elsewhere in the Baltic states) and to convert the Pühtitsa Dormition nunnery to a rest home for miners." Official records show that the Tallinn diocese had a lower number of forced Church closings than was typical in the rest of the USSR during Patriarch Alexy's tenure as bishop there. Timothy Ware notes, "Opinions differ over the past collaboration or otherwise between the Communist authorities, but on the whole he is thought to have shown firmness and independence in his dealings as a diocesan bishop with the Soviet State."
During the service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, which was broadcast live by Russia's state TV channels, after Kathisma XVII had been chanted and Metropolitan Kirill set about doing the incensing round the coffin, he appeared to teeter and, being propped up by two bishops, was ushered into the sanctuary and was absent for about an hour. Reuters reported: "Kirill was helped away by aides at one point and a Kremlin official said he had apparently fainted. The metropolitan later rejoined the funeral." The ROC official spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin lashed out at the news media that had reported the incident "incorrectly" insisting that Kirill had not fainted, but merely had "felt unwell".
Opinions about Alexy II
According to Russia's Prime-minister Vladimir Putin: "Patriarch Alexy II had been a prominent figure in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as a great statesman <...> he made a very considerable contribution to relations between various faiths. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he had friendly relations with representatives of all traditional faiths in Russia". Putin also acknowledged that Alexy II "did a great deal to help establish a new governance system in Russia".
Prime Minister Putin at the coffin of Patriarch Alexy.
On the day of Alexy II death the BBC said: "Patriarch Alexiy II had an extraordinary career, in which he switched from suppressing the Russian Orthodox Church to being its champion. A favourite of the KGB, he was promoted rapidly through the Church hierarchy, doing the Kremlin's bidding at a time when dissident priests were thrown into jail. As the Church's effective foreign minister, he helped cover up the repression of Russian Christians, defending the Soviet system to the outside world. He rose quickly through the ranks, being elected head of the Russian Orthodox Church at a crucial time, in 1990, with the Soviet Union on the path to collapse. Surprisingly, perhaps, he seized the moment, and went on to oversee the revival and flowering of the Church."
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a leader in the American Jewish community, was asked by church officials to attend the Patriarch's funeral. In a statement, he stated that Alexy II "served as the ethical pulse of the religious community in the former Soviet Union under a regime that neither welcomed nor tolerated people of faith and the leaders of organized religion."
^?. ?. : «? ?» Konstantin Kharchev's interview published 29 December 2001.
^Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, 2nd Edition.(Oxford: Westview Press, 2003), p 85.
^ abNathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, 2nd Edition.(Oxford: Westview Press, 2003), p 86.
^Zhurnal Moskovskoi Patriarkhii, No. 10 (October), 1990, p.16, quoted in Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, 2nd Edition.(Oxford: Westview Press, 2003), p 284.
^Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, 2nd Edition.(Oxford: Westview Press, 2003), p 96.
^Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, 2nd Edition.(Oxford: Westview Press, 2003), p 97.
^"Official spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchy Father Vsevolod Chaplin labeled such reports as "absolutely unsubstantiated" in a Wednesday interview with Interfax. "There is no data indicating that Patriarch Alexy II was an associate of the special services, and no classified documents bear his signature," he said. "I do not think that direct dialogue between the current patriarch and KGB took place," Father Vsevolod continued. However, "all bishops communicated with representatives of the council for religious matters in the Soviet government, which was inevitable, since any issue, even the most insignificant one, had to be resolved through this body. It is quite another matter that the council forwarded all its materials to the KGB," he said." Moscow Patriarchate Rejects Times Report of Alexy II'S Collaboration with KGB, Sept 20, 2000 (Interfax) "Chaplin, the church spokesman, said in March, "Nobody has ever seen a single real document that would confirm the patriarch used his contacts with Soviet authorities to make harm to the church or to any people in the church." Russia's Well-Connected Patriarch, Washington Post Foreign Service, 23 May 2002; "Father Chaplin said: 'In recent times many anonymous photocopies of all sorts of pieces of paper have been circulated. In none of them is there the slightest evidence that the individuals we are talking about knew that these documents were being drawn up, or gave their consent. So I don't think any reasonably authoritative clerical or secular commission could see these papers as proof of anything.'", Russian Patriarch 'was KGB spy', The Guardian (London), 12 February 1999
^Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p .96 Davis quotes one bishop as saying: "Yes, we - I, at least, and I say this first about myself - I worked together with the KGB. I cooperated, I made signed statements, I had regular meetings, I made reports. I was given a pseudonym - a code name as they say there... I knowingly cooperated with them - but in such a way that I undeviatingly tried to maintain the position of my Church, and, yes, also to act as a patriot, insofar as I understood, in collaboration with these organs. I was never a stool pigeon, nor an informer."
^From an interview of Patriarch Alexy II, given to "Izvestia" No 137, 10 June 1991, entitled "Patriarch Alexy II: - I Take upon Myself Responsibility for All that Happened", English translation from Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p 89. See also History of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, by St. John (Maximovich) of Shanghai and San Francisco, 31 December 2007
^Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), p. 89f
^Nathaniel Davis, A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy, (Oxford: Westview Press, 1995), fn. 115, p. 272
^Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, New Edition, (London: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 164