A monument to Archpriest Mikhail Vasilyev, who died in the war in Ukraine, has been put up in the Moscow Region, as can be seen in a photo shared on the social network VK. Shortly before his death, the priest called on Russian mothers to “have more babies” so as not to spare their children for the war.
The bust was placed in the Moscow Region's village of Vlasikha, as Vasilyev was the head of a local church — the Church of the Great Martyr Barbara and St. Elijah Muromets at the headquarters of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces.
“A bust honoring Father Mikhail Vasilyev, who died in the war exactly one year ago (November 6, 2022), has been put up in the Moscow Region village of Vlasikha. As a Hero of Russia, first of all. And the first monument to a dead priest... In general, it seems to be the first monument to a priest — our contemporary,” read the description under the post on VK.
In July 2023, a church at the headquarters of Russia’s Airborne Troops in Sokolniki opened and consecrated a memorial plaque dedicated to Vasilyev.
In an interview with the Orthodox Spas TV channel last October, Vasilyev said that if women in Russia gave birth more, it would be easier for them to send their sons to war:
“Every lady is allowed by God to give birth to a lot of children. And if the lady, in fulfilling the commandment ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ has renounced artificial means of pregnancy termination, in the broadest sense possible, then obviously she will have more than one child. This means that it will not be so painful and scary for her to part with it, even if just for a while,” Vasilyev said.
He added: ‘The devil is not as scary as they paint him. If God does not give us up, a pig will not eat us.’”
Mikhail Vasilyev’s death was originally reported on November 6, 2022. A statement released by the church claimed that he died in the so-called “special military operation” [a euphemism used by the Russian state to refer to the invasion — translator’s note] in Ukraine “while performing his pastoral duties.” Vasiliev's funeral was held in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, with Patriarch Kirill — the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) — in attendance.
Mikhail Vasilyev was born in 1971, and later graduated from Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Academy of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. He was the head of the Church of the Great Martyr Barbara and the Venerable Elijah Muromets, located at the HQ of the Strategic Missile Forces in Vlasikha near Moscow.
During his lifetime, Vasilyev received multiple state awards, such as the Order of Courage, the Order of St. Sergius of Radonezh (3rd degree), and the Medal of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland (2nd degree). After his death, Vladimir Putin awarded him the title of Hero of Russia “for courage and heroism shown in the performance of civil duty.” The priest took part in missions to military “hot spots” and in Russian operations in “Kosovo, Bosnia, Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, the North Caucasus and Syria,” according to the Orthodox website Pravmir.
Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, at least four ROC clergymen, who offered “spiritual” assistance to soldiers, have lost their lives. A video of one of the clergymen, Pavel Dmitrievich Kunitsyn, “working” at the front was earlier published online, showing him firing a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and declaring: “The Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary is fighting NATO. Christ is Risen.”
Patriarch Kirill (Vladimir Gundyaev) regularly justifies the invasion of Ukraine, and calls on the clergy and Orthodox Christian Russians to pray for President Vladimir Putin's health. Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, recounted how Gundyaev made arguments in support of the war during a phone conversation. The ROC later published Gundyaev's speech, in which he contemplated the time it might take for missiles to reach Moscow and complained about the possible enlargement of NATO.
In April 2022, almost 200 priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) — which by that time was separate from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), as the latter had declared its full independence and autonomy — demanded that Patriarch Kirill be placed under a church tribunal.