Despite the important political changes in the region in the period 1917-1923, the
Roman Curia continued to use the name "Russia" for the church province encompassing
- the Russian Empire (except Poland) until 1917
- the successor states (except the Baltic States, Finland and Poland) since 1917
- the U.S.S.R. (except the Baltic States) since 1923
Not covered by this page are the hierarchies in East Galicia (West Ukraine) and in
South Sakhalin (Karafuto), which in the covered period were considered as Polish
and Japanese jurisdictions.See also RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH for more information on Church history in Russia
Although there were some Catholics in Russia before, it was only after the first
partition of Poland in 1772 that the first important communities became subjects of
the Russian Empire and that a regular hierarchy was established. (1)
(1) The first Catholics present were foreign traders and diplomats for whom
a first church was established in Moscow in 1691.
Other early groups included German colonists in Southern Russia.
Together with the Lithuanians and the Poles these Germans consituted the
major part of the adherents.
(See also Armenians, Russians and Ukrainians)
The Diocese of Mohilev (in Belarus) was erected in 1773. In 1783 it was upgraded to
the rank of an Archdiocese, covering the whole Russian Empire, thus making it the
largest jurisdiction of the world.
1863 - 1872 vacant
1863 - 1871 Jozef Maksymilian Staniewski,
Titular Bishop of Plataea in
Greacia II 1795 - 1871
1871 - 1872 Jerzy Iwasziewicz, Titular
Bishop of Anthedon in
Palestina I 1819 - 1876
1872 - 1883 Antoni Fijalkowski 1797 - 1883
1883 - 1889 Aleksander Kazimierz Dziewaltowski-Gintowt 1821 - 1889
1889 - 1891 vacant
1889 - 1891 Apolinary Dowgiallo
1891 - 1899 Szymon Marcin Kozlowski 1819 - 1899
1899 - 1901 vacant
1899 - 1901 Karol Antoni Niedzialkowski,
Titular Bishop of Samos in
Insulae 1846 - 1911
1901 - 1903 Boleslaw Hieronim Klopotowski 1848 - 1903
1903 - 1905 Jerzy Jozef Elizeusz Szembek 1851 - 1905
1905 - 1908 vacant
1905 - 1908 Stefan Antoni Denisewicz 1836 - 1913
1908 - 1909 Apolinary Wnukowski 1848 - 1909
1910 - 1914 Wincenty Kluczynski 1847 - 1917
1914 - 1917 vacant
1914 - 1917 Jan Cieplak 1857 - 1926
1917 Eduard Baron von der Ropp,
continued in office after the
revolution (s.b.) 1851 - 1939
In 1798 several suffragans were detached from Mohilev. By 1917 these suffragans -
and the territories they covered (2) - were :
The Diocese of Kamyanets was erected in the 14th century and confirmed as a separate
diocese in 1798. In 1866 its administration was taken over by the Bishops of Lutsk-
Its jurisdiction extended over parts of Ukraine.
1866 - 1917 The Bishops of Lutsk-Zhytomir s.b.
The Diocese of Lutsk was erected in the 14th(?) century. It was abolished in 1793,
but already restored in 1798. It was then immediately united with the newly created
Diocese of Zhytomyr.
Their jurisdiction extended over parts of Poland and Ukraine.
1848 - 1883 Kaspar Borowski 1802 - 1885
1883 - 1891 Szymon Marcin Kozlowski s.a.
1891 - 1897 vacant
1897 - 1898 Cyrill Lubovidski 1... - 1898
1898 - 1901 Boleslaw Hieronim Klopotowski s.a.
1901 - 1911 Karol Antoni Niedzialkowski s.a.
1911 - 1915 Longin Zarnovetski
1916 - 1917 Ignacy Maria Dubowski, continued
in office after the revolution (s.b.) 1875 - 1953
The diocese of Minsk was erected in 1798. In 1869 the see became vacant and its
administration was taken over by Mohilev.
Its jurisdiction extended over parts of Belarus.
1869 - 1917 the Archbishops of Mohilev s.a.
The jurisdiction of this diocese extended over parts of Latvia and of Lithuania.
In 1847 the separate suffragan see of Tiraspol was erected for the Catholic German
colonists that had settled in South Russia - mainly in the Volga region - in the
course of the 18th century. (3)
Its jurisciction extended over Bessarabia (= Moldova), parts of Southern European
Russia (including the Vice Royalty of the Caucasus) and of Ukraine.
It was one of the largest dioceses of the world.
(also de facto in charge of some Uniat Eastern communities : Armenians, Chaldeans,
and a very small group of Georgians)
1864 - 1872 vacant
1872 - 1888 Franz Xaver Zottmann 1826 - 1901
1889 - 1902 Anton Zerr 1849 - 1932
1902 - 1904 Eduard Baron von der Ropp s.a.
1904 - 1917 Josef Alois Kessler, continued
in office after the revolution (s.b.) 1862 - 1933
The jurisdiction of this diocese extended over parts of Lithuania (s.b. for more).
(2) The territories of the Empire not covered by one of the listed suffragans
were directly subordinated to Mohilev itself :
- parts of Belarus and of Ukraine and Northern European Russia,
- Asiatic Russia, including - formally at least - also the protectorates
of Bukhara and Khiva,
- Estonia, Finland and part of Latvia.
(3) Before that the Germans had been under the care of :
- 17.. - 1... their own preiests
- 1... - 1803 priests of the Baltic provinces
- 1803 - 1820 Jesuit missionaries
- 1820 - 1847 Polish priests.
The seat of the bishop was Saratov on the Volga, but the Diocese was named
Tiraspol, after the capital of the ancien Diocese of Kherson (14th century)
THE LATIN JURISDICTIONS IN SOVIET RUSSIA AND IN THE U.S.S.R. 1917-1945
After the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917 the hierarchy described above at first
continued to exist. Later, the establishment of successor states led to some major
modifications (4) and by the end of 1925 the formal structure of the Catholic Church
in the U.S.S.R. was :
- Archdiocese of Mohilev
(the major part of the Russian S.F.S.R., parts of the Belarussian S.S.R. and of
the Ukrainian S.S.R.)
- Kamyanets (parts of the Ukrainian S.S.R.)
- Minsk (parts of the Belarussian S.S.R.)
- Tiraspol (parts of the Russian S.F.S.R. and of the Ukrainian S.S.R., the whole
- Zhytomyr (parts of the Ukrainian S.S.R.)
- Apostolic Administration(s) of Siberia (to be added)
- Diocese of Vladivostok (s.b.)
This formal structure didn't however reflect the real situation of the Church in
the area. As a consequence of the ongoing wars and of persecutions the bishops all
had left the territory of the future U.S.S.R. by 1920. Other members of the clergy
and believers also were persecuted, jailed, expulsed or executed and by 1921 the
hierarchy had actually been destroyed, only some parishes - mainly in major cities
where there was an important foreign presence (Leningrad, Moscow, Vladivostok, etc)
and in the German territoires of the Volga - continuing to be tolerated.
The period of the N.E.P. (New Economic Policy) brought some relief and the Holy See
then started negotiations with the Soviet government for a possible restoration of
a hierarchy acceptable to the government.
But nothing came of it and consequentlty the Curia established an "underground"
hierarchy of regional Apostolic Administrations, without however formally abolishing
the existing archdiocese and dioceses. (5)
The structure of the Church in the U.S.S.R. established in 1925 (and subordinated
to the new Pontifical Commission for Russia):
- the Archdiocese of Mohilev (united with the Diocese of Minsk, restored in 1917,
but later partly transferred to Poland, see here)
de facto divided into the "underground" Apostolic Administrations of :
- Kazan, Samara (actually detached from Tiraspol) and Simbirsk
- Mohilev and Minsk
- the Exarchate of the Russian Catholics.
- the Diocese of Kamyanets
de facto an "underground" Apostolic Administration
- the Diocese of Tiraspol
de facto divided into the "underground" Apostolic Administrations of :
- the Armenian Catholics
- the Caucasus
- Tbilisi and Georgia
- the Volga
- the Diocese of Zhytomyr
de facto an "underground" Apostolic Administration
- the Apostolic Administration(s) of Siberia (to be added)
- the Diocese of Vladivostok (s.b.)
It didn't take long for the Soviet authorities to discover and to dismantle the
underground jurisdictions and by the end of the 1930's the Catholic communities had
been virtually annihilated, the major - if not only - remnant being the Parish of
Saint Louis des Français of Moscow. (6)
Taking advantage of the occupation of parts of the U.S.S.R. by the Germans and their
allies in 1941 - 1944 the Holy See did an attempt to restore an hierarchy in the
occupied areas :
- in German occupied Belarus (part of Ostland) and in the adjacent area's under
military rule, the Apostolic Administration of Mohilev and Minsk - entrusted to
the Archbishops of Lithuanian Vilnius - was revived.
While it achieved some results in the military territories, its activities were
a complete failure in Ostland, where there was a strong German opposition to the
presence of Catholic priests, some of them even being arrested.
- in the Romanian occupied zones of Bessarabia and Transnistria (a part of Ukraine)
an independent Mission of Transnistria was established in 1942.
Apostolic Visitor of the Mission of Transnistria
1942 - 1944 Markus Glaser, Titular Bishop
of Caesaropolis in Macedonia II,
(1943), arrested by the Soviets 1880 - 1950
Both jurisdictions disappeared at the Soviet reconquest.
(4) Changes in the period 1918 - 1925 :
- the following communities were detached from the direct authority of
the Archdiocese of Mohilev :
- the communities in Estonia, Finland and Northern Latvia,
- communities in Asia, forming the new Diocese of Vladivostok (s.b.)
- the Diocese of Kamyanets was detached from Lutsk-Zhytomyr (1918)
- the united Diocese of Lutsk-Zhytomyr now covered territories in Poland
(Lutsk, Pol.: Luck) and in the Soviet Ukraine (Zhytomir).
In 1925 it was formally divided into two separate dioceses.
- the Diocese of Samogitia was transferred to Latvia and Lithuania
- the Diocese of Tiraspol lost the communities in Bessarabia to Romania.
- the Diocese of Vilna was transferred to Lithuania and later passed to
Poland (See here for its history and incumbents since 1848).
(5) They actually only were underground until 1930-1931 when the names of
their incumbents were published in the Annuario Pontificio.
Although they later all became vacant, these jurisdictions formally
continued to exist until the early 1990's, being listed for the last
time in the Annuario Pontificio of 1991.
(6)Saint Louis des Français of Moscow
In 1786 the Russian government granted the important French community in
Moscow the right to establish its own catholic parish of Saint-Louis des
The parish was under the protection of the French Embassy and gradually
became one of the most important of the country.
It survived the revolutions of 1917 and became even more important after
Moscow had again become the capital and the residence of Western diplomats
in the 1920's.
Vicars (since the revolution)
1913 - 1921 ... Vidal
1921 - 1926 none. Management of the Church taken
over by a Mrs. Alice Ott, assisted by
a Polish priest for spiritual and
1926 - 1945 The Apolstolic Administrators of
MOHILEV AND ITS APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATIONSArchbishops of Mohilev and Bishops of Minsk
1917 - 1939 Eduard Baron von der Ropp,
arrested in 1919, left the
country the same year s.a.
1919 - 1926 Jan Cieplak, Titular
Archbishop of Achrida in
Bulgaria Occidentalis (2x),
arrested and sentenced to
death in 1923, expelled
in 1924 s.a.
1939 - 1991 vacant
Apostolic Administrators of Moscow
The Apostolic Administrators of Moscow were the senior of the Administrators : they
had the right to appoint another administrator in case of vacany, were in charge of
possible relations wih the Soviet government, etc.
Moscow was the only administration that survived until 1945, mainly because its
incumbents also were Vicars of the Parish of Saint Louis des Français, and as such
were tolerated by the Soviet authorities.
1926 - 1936 Pie Eugène Joseph Neveu,
Titular Bishop of Citrus in
Macedonia I 1877 - 1946
1936 - 1945 Leopold Maria Braun*, Chaplain of
the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and
Chaplain (sometimes "Protector") to
the American Catholics in Moscow
and in the U.S.S.R. (possibly the
only tolerated Catholic official
in the non-occupied part of the
U.S.S.R. 1941 - 1944) 1903 - 1965
Apostolic Administrator of Mohilev and of Minsk
1926 - 1981 Boleslaw Sloskans, Titular Bishop
of Cillium in Bizancena, arrested
in 1927 and exiked to the Solovski
islands until 1930, again exiled
1930 - 1933, expelled 1933 1893 - 1981
Apostolic Administrator of Kazan, Samara and Simbirsk
1926 - 19.. Michal Jodokas, arrested in 1929,
..., again arrested in 1934 (still
listed as a prisoner in 1937),... 1891 - 1959
Apostolic Administrator of Kharkov
1926 - 1937 Wincenty Ilgin, arrested in 1926,
exiled to the Solovski islands,
expelled 1933 1886 - 1937
Apostolic Administrator of Leningrad
1926 - 1935 Antoni Malecki, Titular Bishop of
Dionysopolis in Frigia Pacaziana II,
briefly arrested in 1927, again
arrested and exiled 1930 - 1934,
expelled 1934 1861 - 1935
1918 - 1926 Petr Mankowski, left the country
in 1920, resigned in 1926 1866 - 1933
1926 - 1991 vacant
1926 - 1959 Jan Swiderski, arrested in
1930, expelled 1932 1876 - 1959
TIRASPOL AND ITS APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATIONSBishops of Tiraspol
1917 - 1929 Josef Alois Kessler, left
Russia in 1920 s.a.
1929 - 2002 vacant
Apostolic Administrator of the Caucasus
1926 - 1938 Johannes Roth, arrested in 1930
and exiled to Kazakhstan,,...,
again arrested in 1936 and
executed 1881 - 1938
Apostolic Administrator of Odessa
1926 - 1937 Aleksander Frison, Titular Bishop
of Limyra in Licia, under strict
police surveillance 1926 - 1929 and
1931 - 1933, arrested 1929 - 1931
and since 1933, executed 1873 - 1937
Apostolic Administrator of the Volga
1926 - 1937 Augustyn Baumtrog, arrested in
1930, ... 1883 - 1937
Apostolic Administrator of Tbilisi and Georgia
1926 - 1938 Stefan Demurow*, arrested 1937
and executed 1871 - 1938
The Catholic communities in Eastern Siberia were established in the course of the
18th and 19th centuries by German, Lithuanian and Polish migrants or exiles.
They were at first subordinated to the Archdiocese of Mohilev, but in 1923 - as a
consequence of the particular political situation in the Russian Far East - some
coastal regions and the northern part of Sakhalin island were organized into the
exempt Diocese of Vladivostok.
1923 - 1933 Karol Sliwowski, exiled to Sedanka
village 1933 , where he died 1848 - 1933
1933 - 2002 vacant
Father Jerzy Jurkievicz (1884 - 1942), the last priest of Vladivostok was arrested
in 1931 and died in a prisoners camp. A service continued under laymen until 1935,
but therefater the Church was liquidated like elsewhere in Russia (1938).
ZHYTOMYRBishop of Lutsk-Zhytomyr
1917 - 1925 Ignacy Maria Dubowski, left the
country in 1920, leaving
Vicar General Teofil Aleksander
Skalski (1877 - 1958) in charge s.a.
Bishops of Zhytomyr
(For the Bishops of Polish Luck after 1925 see here)
1925 - 1991 vacant
Apostolic Administrator of Zhytomyr
1926 - 1958 Teofil Aleksander Skalski,
arrested 1926, expelled 1932 s.a.
In 1850 a Diocese of Artvin - subordinated to the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of
Cilicia - was erected for the Uniat Armenian Catholics in the Caucasus region of
the Osmanli Empire.
When this area was ceded to Russia in 1878, the Russian government - attempting to
end the union with Rome - suppresed the diocese and united its territory with the
Catholic see of Tiraspol.
The Holy See refused to endorse this situation and after 1888 considered the see
vacant, allowing however the bishops of Tiraspol to take care of the management of
the daily affairs in 1912.
Following the reaogenization of 1926 an Aposltolic Administration for the Armenians
was created. It seems to have survived until the early 1940's.
HEADS OF THE COMMUNITY
Bishops of Artvin
1859 - 1878 Antoine Halagi 1795 - 1883
1878 - 1888 Hovhannes Zacharian, not recognized
by the Russian government after 1878 1858 - 1888
1888 - 1972 vacant
Apostolic Administrators of the Armenians
1926 - 1930 Agop Bagaratian, Titular Bishop
of Cucuse in Armenia II (1928)
arrested and forced to resign in 1930, 1872 - 1936
1930 - 1931 Dionisij Kalatozov* 1... - 1931
1931 - 19.. Karapet Dirlughian*, arrested and
exiled 1936 - 1940, (7)
(7) He was still listed as acting Apostolic Administrator in the Annuario
Pontificio of 1961, although nothing had been heard from him since early
As at that time he already was in his 70's, he most probably was deceased
by 1961 ...
A moveement for the union of the Russian Orthodox Church with Rome appeared at the
end of the 19th century, but it was however only after the passing of a resolution
on religious tolerance in 1905 that a small community of Uniat Russians emerged.
Except for a brief period in 1908 - 1909 - when it formed an independent mission
- it was under the direct authority of the Archbishops of Mohilev until 1917 when
an Exarchate for the Russian Catholics was established. This Exarchate ceased to
function after the Bolshevik revolution, but it was restored in 1926 as one of the
"underground" jurisdictions, subordinated to the Apostolic Administration of Moscow.
Like all other communities the Russian Catholic also disappeared in the 1940's in
Russia itself, only surviving in the diaspora, mainly in Australia, China and the
HEADS OF THE COMMUNITY
Head of the Mission
1908 - 1909 Aleksey Evgrafovich Zerchaninov 1847 - 1933
1917 - 1935 Leonid Ivanovich Fyodorov, arrested
and exiled to the Solovski 1923 -
1926, confirmed as Exarch in 1926,
again arrested and exiled 1926 1879 - 1935
1935 - .... vacant
Bishop of the Russian Catholics
(resided in Rome - mainly concerned with the communities in the diaspora)
1936 - 1958 Aleksander Evreinov, Titular Archbishop
of Parium in the Hellespontus 1... - 1958
Part of the Orthodox communities in Belarus and in Ukraine united with Rome in 1595
when these territories were under Polish-Lithuanian rule.
After the incorporation of the area into the Russian Empire the jurisdictions that
had been established (under the authority of the Metropolitans of Kyiv) at first
continued to exist. But in the early 19th century the Russian authorities gradually
started reintegrating the communities into the Russian Orthodox Church and in 1838
the union with Rome was formally dissolved and the Uniate hierarchy suppressed.
The community however survived in the West (Austria and later Poland) where Lviv now
became the major center.
After the annexation of the Polish parts of Belarus and Ukraine to the U.S.S.R. in
1939 Andrii Sheptytskyj, Metropoltian of Lviv (1865 - 1944, Metr. : 1900 - 1944)
unilaterally extended his jurisdiction to the East and divided the whole U.S.S.R.
into four exarchates (Belarus, Greater Ukraine, Russia and Siberia and Volhynia-
These new jurisdictions didn't however survive the persecutions (1939 - 1941 and
since 1944) and WWII and by 1946 the Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy had once again
ceased to exist in the U.S.S.R.
(8) The action of Sheptytskyj was only confirmed by the Roman Curia after some
Taking advantage of the German occupation of Ukraine - and despite German
opposition - Sheptytskyj very briefly succeeded to extend Uniat activities
as far as Kyiv.
German opposition to Catholic activities in the east was based on the fact
- Hitler considered the whole area as an exclusive Orthodox territory and
wished it to stay so,
- Minister Rosenberg - in charge of the occupied Eastern territories - was
a viruent anti-Catholic,
- the Vatican refused to formally endorse the German "crusade" in the East
HEADS OF THE COMMUNITY
Exarchs of Belarus
1939 - 1942 Antoni Niemancevicz
arrested by the Germans 1893 - 1942
1942 - 194. ...
Exarch of Greater Ukraine
1939 - 1944 Josyf Slipyj 1892 - 1984
Exarch of Russia and Siberia
1939 - 194. Clement Sheptytskyj (possibly
also for the Russian Catholics
since 1935) 1869 - 1951
Exarch of Volhynia-Polissia-Podlachia-Chelm
1939 - 194. Mykhola Charnetskyj 1884 - 1959
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