Russian Orthodox hymn: "I Am Crying"
My most sinful soul, why don't you cry?!
Cry, my soul, always weep.
Through this, consolation will come to you.
You will not have time to cry,
After death your sins will expose you.
Shed the sinful clothes in virtue of repentance.
And if you don't throw away your sins,
Then you won't avoid hell.
Sufferers wear victor's crowns on their heads.
They sing the song of the archangels:
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
BY HIEROMONK JOACHIM
Evgeny Rodionov was born on the 23rd of May 1977. He was baptised as a child—not because of any strong faith on the part of his parents, but because his mother was afraid for his health. A common superstition was to have a child baptised to ensure good health. His parents were typical Soviet citizens and thought rarely about God.
In 1989, 10 year old Evgeny put on his baptismal cross and never took it off again. His mother said to him ”Maybe you should take it off in public so that no one should see you wearing a cross.” Evgeny responded, ”Never say such things mother.”
In his childhood years and youth he was strong and healthy, finishing his ninth year at High School. He was interested for a while in boxing, even winning second place in a competition, but later quit after having doubts about such a sport, saying, ”I cannot hit a person in the face.”
After finishing his schooling, he found work at a furniture factory, where he made more money than his mother who was forced by their modest circumstances to work three jobs.
Evgeny attended church services in an outlying Moscow suburb called Podolsk but it is not known to whom he confessed.
In 1994 the family moved into a small 2-bedroom apartment.
In 1995 Evgeny was called up to serve in the army. The Russian armed forces require all young men to serve a period of time in the armed forces. He followed an ancient pious Russian custom of wearing a belt embroidered with Psalm 90, and wore this when he entered the army.
His mother, Liubov Vasilievna, recalled that Evgeny did not want to go, but felt that it was his duty to serve his country. He and his friends understood that there are things in this life that you do not want to do but have to do, and they had no thought of evading their military duty. His letters home were affectionate, filled with love and poetry.
Upon induction into the army, Evgeny was allocated to the Border Guards whose main responsibility was border security, and found himself, with other young conscripts, sent to serve in the Russian republic of Chechnya where the Russian Army was fighting a long running war against Moslem separatists. The conduct of the leadership of the Russian armed forces in this conflict has been severely criticised for its ineptitude, lack of planning and failure to provide even basic equipment for their troops.
On the night of the 13th of January 1996, Evgeny and some other young soldiers were posted, unarmed, to a checkpoint 200 metres from their base near the mountainous border between the republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia. The checkpoint, a control and registration post, was a small hut with no electricity and no method of communication back to their headquarters. It was situated on a road which was frequently used by terrorists and criminals for smuggling weapons, ammunition, captives, drugs and so on between the two republics. They disappeared.
Officers at the base later reported at an official investigation that they heard the young soldiers screaming, but did not investigate, and later falsely reported to the divisional commander that the missing men had deserted and this lie was repeated in letters to the missing soldier's families. Chechen rebels had in fact forcibly abducted Evgeny and his comrades from the checkpoint. They had commandeered an ambulance, which they drove up to the unsuspecting young soldiers, and then the armed rebels had leapt out, forced the conscripts into the ambulance and drove them off into captivity.
A later army investigation revealed signs of a struggle and blood stains at the checkpoint, and as a result it was decided to upgrade security by moving the post away from the roadside and issuing weapons to the soldiers who manned it.
Upon capture the young conscripts were held in the cellar of an abandoned house for 100 days as ransom demands were sent to their families. Kidnapping and demanding ransom was almost a cottage industry in Chechnya during that time. They kept Evgeny hanging by his wrists in a basement, starved and beat him. Rodionov's ransom was reported to be 50 million roubles (1.6 million US dollars)—at the time an impossible sum. Another report says it may have been in the US$10,000 range. Whatever it was, the ransom was not met, his parents did not have that kind of money.
Evgeny was held captive for three and a half months. The Chechens demanded that he remove the cross that he wore around his neck, deny his Christian faith and agree to become a Muslim to stay alive. Evgeny refused to renounce his faith. Having suffered indescribable tortures and torments, he did not betray his Orthodox faith, but confirmed it with his blood. Finally, on his 19thbirthday, May the 23rd 1996 (new style), they sawed off his head. He proved that Russian Orthodoxy is still alive and that today, after many years of atheism, Russia still has the potential as it did before to beget martyrs for Christ.
It wasn't until a month after the abduction, on the 16th of February 1996, that his mother received an official telegram notifying that her son had absconded from his military post—in fact while she was reading this telegram his captors were torturing her son.
Liubov, knowing her son, felt affronted by such an accusation, and wrote a number of letters in reply to the Border Guard division trying to convince them that her son would never desert the army. She was not believed, and so she decided to journey to Chechnya to find out the truth of her sons disappearance. Upon meeting Evgeny's Lieutenant and the Commander she felt that they were indifferent to her anguish and the fate of her son. They recommended that she return home and not get involved.
Instead, she ended up in the Russian region of Ingushetia, attending an Orthodox Church where the priest, Father Basil, offered her accommodation near the parish church. Here she received Holy Communion as a believer for the first time. Liubov then set off travelling throughout Chechnya searching for her son, showing his photograph, asking questions and continually praying to God for help. Her journey, which lasted for ten months as she chased down leads and questioned anyone who would talk to her, led through minefields, aerial bombing, and the threat of bandits. She met other Russian mothers searching for sons who had been reported missing in action or having deserted, or been captured by the Chechen rebels, and she met mothers of sons who had been murdered by beheading.
Liubov related ”I think that God was watching over me. I was walking along mined roads, but I did not step on a bomb. He protected me from bombings, He did not let me die, because my duty was to find my son, to bury him on his native land, according to Christian traditions. I have realized that recently. When I was walking along those military roads, I just kept silence, praying to God in my heart.”
In one region of Chechnya with a group of Russian mothers, Liubov came across 55 Russian soldiers surviving out of a group of 150 held captive. But only two of them had become Muslim to save their lives and they were now guarding their former comrades and beating them cruelly. One of the converted soldiers, surrounded by Chechens told his mother, ”I have no mother. I have only Allah. I am not Kostya, I am Kozbek!” The man's mother quietly replied, ”It is better for you to die rather than be like this.”
Liubov found the breakdown of normal society in Chechnya had led to such a levels of corruption, that everything was decided on the amount of money one was willing to spend. In September 1996 she finally met a Chechen rebel field commander named Rusland Haihoroev (also spelled Khaikhoroyev in some sources) who claimed to have knowledge of Evgeny. On first meeting him, Haihoroev told Liubov that her son had been killed during a Russian bombing raid. Liubov felt that he was lying, the man seemed very uneasy at her questioning, and he then told her that unless the Russians stopped their bombing, all Russian captives would be killed.
Haihoroev later admitted that Evgeny had tried to escape but was unsuccessful, and that he had been given the choice—change his faith and take of his cross, or die—but Evgeny had refused to remove his cross. Haihoroev eventually beheaded Evgeny with a rusted saw, an horrific task that took over an hour to complete on May the 23rd, 1996 (his 19th birthday) near the settlement of Bamut. His body, along with those of three other young Russian prisoners, was placed in a bomb crater outside the village of Alexeevskaya and covered up with lime and dirt.
The Chechens preferred this atrocious method of execution because they followed a local superstition believing that a decapitated victim would not come for the murderer after death. Such is their barbarity that the Chechens would often record the executions. There are at least over 400 hours of such recordings on the internet of Russians being beheaded by Muslim Chechens.
Russian troops occupied the village where Evgeny was murdered the day following the execution, too late to have prevented the deaths.
Rusland Haihoroev told Liubov seventeen times over the course of seventeen separate meetings, that she had born a bad son who refused to adopt Islam and join the separatists in their fight against Russia. ”Your son had a choice to stay alive. He could convert to Islam, but he did not agree to take his cross off. He also tried to escape once,” said Haihoroev to Evgeny's mother. She finally agreed to pay Haihoroev some 100,000 roubles (about US$4000) to take her to his gravesite in the forests outside of Alexeevskaya. This was money she did not have, so she had to sell her apartment to finance the deal.
Chechens in Moscow handled the deal and when all was done Haihoroev showed her where his body was. There, late at night, with the assistance of the Russian military, she was able to exhume his body. She found her son's headless body together with the cross he wore and died for among his bones and stained with small drops of blood. The head was discarded in another place. According to Evgeny's mother, this event took place in the following way:
”When I came to Chechnya in the middle of February, a living private cost ten million roubles. This price was 50 million in August. A friend of mine was told to pay 250 million roubles for her son, since he was an officer. It was night-time when I and some sappers began digging into the pit in which the bodies of four Russian soldiers were thrown. I was praying all the time, hoping that my Evgeny was not going to be there. I could not and did not want to believe that he was murdered. When we were taking out the remnants, I recognized his boots. However, I still refused to accept the fact of his death, until someone found his cross. Then I fainted.”
Liubov took Evgeny's body away, along with the bodies of his murdered friends. She returned to Moscow with the aid of the Russian Orthodox Church and buried him. Sadly her grief was compounded because when Liubov Rodionova came back home, Evgeny's father died five days after the funeral. He could not stand the loss of his son.
Evgeny was posthumously awarded the Order of Courage by the Army. Liubov later returned to Chechnya on a second trip and recovered her son's head.
Haihoroev himself and his bodyguards were killed on August the 23rd, 1999 in a fire fight between his group and a rival Chechen band.