The article examines the main episodes in the struggle of prominent representatives of the Orthodox clergy to prohibit V. Protopopov’s play Black Ravens (1907) in the Russian Empire, using materials from pre-revolutionary periodicals. Written by the popular journalist and playwright Viktor Protopopov (1866–1916), the play Black Ravens was of an accusatory nature and, according to the author himself, was directed against the semi-fraudulent groups parasitising on the popular veneration of Fr. John of Kronstadt. Based on the analysis of the play and other sources, the article attempts to prove that its accusatory pathos was directed not so much against the swindlers as against the Kronstadt shepherd personally and against the traditional church in general. The ascetic tension of the religious life of Revd. Ioann Sergiev and his followers, combined with a fi rm commitment to the established forms of church ritual, were perceived by some representatives of Russian intellectual society as a manifestation of fanaticism and cultural backwardness. Many of them considered it their civic duty to fight this “cultural backwardness”. In turn, the admirers of the Kronstadt pastor tried to protect, by all available means, their spiritual values and religious feelings. The indiscretion in the choice of means and the excessive emotionality of the main participants in the struggle for the prohibition of the play caused some reputational damage and complicated the Russian Orthodox Church’s already diffi cult relations with society.The factors were used by its implacable enemies in propaganda purposes. Consideration of the confl ict between the clergy and the theater community around the Black Ravens, with an analysis of its causes and consequences, seems relevant in the context of today’s public debate over the use of symbols and plots on the theater stage and in cinematography that off end (deliberately or accidentally) the feelings of believers.
«Black Ravens», V. V. Protopopov, John of Kronstadt, “Ioannites”, Bishop Germogen (Dolganev), Archpriest Ioann Vostorgov, Tolstoy’s religious doctrine