Nilus and the Protocols
Towards the end of January, 1909, in my eagerness for religious research, I followed the advice of the late Metropolitan of St. Petersburg, Monseigneur Anthony, and betook myself to the renowned monastery "Optina Pustina."
This monastery is situated about six versts from the town Kozelsk, in the district of Kaluga, between a large pine forest and the left bank of the river Jizdra. Near the monastery were a number of villas in which resided laymen who desired to lead a monastic life. At that time the community comprised about 400 monks who busied themselves with agricultural labors and led a life of religious contemplation under the spiritual guidance of three Elders. In those days, the monastery at Optina was the source of a remarkable influence on Russian thought. It was frequently visited by the great Russian writers, such as Gogol, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevski, the latter of whom took one of the Elders of the Monastery as a model for one of the characters in his "Brothers Karamazoff."
The day following my arrival, the head of the monastery, Archimandrite Xenophon, proposed to introduce me to Mr. S. A. Nilus, a religious writer living near the monastery. In Petersburg I had already heard of Nilus from Mr. W. A. Ternawtseff, in charge of special missions for the Procurator General of the Holy Synod and a member of the Society of Religious Philosophy. He had told me that Nilus was an interesting man, though very eccentric.
After dinner I was introduced to Nilus in the rooms of the Archimandrite. He was a man of about 45, of the true Russian type, big and broad, with a gray beard and deep blue eyes, which, however, seemed to be veiled with a troubled shadow. He wore boots and a Russian blouse, girdled with an embroidered ribbon.
S. A. Nilus spoke French very well, which was very useful to me. We were both very glad to make one anothers acquaintance, and I did not hesitate to accept his invitation to visit him. He lived in a large villa of about ten rooms where formerly lived pensioned priests. Nilus and his family, in all three people, occupied only four rooms. The other rooms formed a sort of asylum paid for by a pension which the minister of the court had granted to Nilus' wife. This asylum sheltered all sorts of degenerates, idiots and lunatics, awaiting miraculous cures.
The ancestors of Nilus were Swiss émigrés who had come to Russia during the reign of Peter I. Nilus assured me that he was a direct descendant of Maliouta Skouratoff, a special executioner under Ivan the Terrible. Nilus himself was a ruined proprietor from the district of Orel. His brother Dimitry Alexandrovitch Nilus was a judge in Moscow. The two brothers were enemies. Sergey Alexandrovitch regarded his brother as an atheist, while the latter looked upon Sergey as a madman.
Nilus was undoubtedly a man of excellent education. He had successfully graduated from the courses of law at the Moscow University. He knew perfectly French, German, and English, and was well acquainted with contemporary European literature. But, as I later learned, Nilus could not get along with anyone. His tumultuous character and capricious temperament had forced him to give up his post at the Ministry of justice which had appointed him judge in Trans Caucasia on the Persian frontier. He was a great admirer of Nietzsches philosophy with its theoretical anarchism and radical negation of actual civilization.
With such a temperament Nilus found it impossible to stay in Russia. He went abroad with a certain Madame K. and lived a long time in France and especially in Biarritz, until he was informed that his property in Orel had become worthless. It was then, about 1900, that Nilus underwent a spiritual crisis which moved him to mysticism.
Nilus presented me to his wife, Helena Alexandrovna Ozerov, a former lady-in-waiting at the court of the Queen Alexandra Fiodorovna. She was the daughter of Ozerov, former Russian minister to Athens. Mme. Nilus was a good-natured and submissive woman subordinate to her husband in every respect. So submissive was she in fact that she was in good relations with the former friend of Nilus, Mme. K. who, also ruined, had been given shelter in their house.
My friendly relations with Nilus lasted during the nine months of my stay at Optina until November 10th, 1909. When I later returned to Russia I again called on Nilus but his intolerance forced me to break off relations with him.
In 1918, Nilus lived in Kiev at the convent known as Protection of the Holy Virgin. I later learned that in the winter of 1918-1919 after the fall of Hetman (Skoropadsky) he escaped to Germany and lived in Berlin. This information was confirmed by Mme. Kartzeva, a nurse at the hospital of the White Cross in Crimea.
From the very beginning, my relations with Nilus were marked with endless discussions on religious questions, in which he made all efforts to convert me to his point of view. On the third or fourth day after our acquaintance, during a discussion on the relationship between civilization and Christianity, Nilus asked me if I was acquainted with the Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion which he was editing. I replied that I knew nothing about them.
Nilus picked up a book and began to translate in French the most remarkable passages of the text and his commentaries on them. At the same time he was watching the expression on my face, imagining that I would be thunderstruck by his revelations. He was very much troubled when I declared that I could see nothing in the document that differed greatly from the pamphlets of Edouard Drumont and the mystifications of Leo Taxil. Nilus objected to this, saying that my knowledge of the Protocols was of a superficial and fragmentary character and that the verbal translation tends to weaken the effect. He said that it would be easy for me to acquaint myself with the Protocols inasmuch as the original was written in French.
Later I learned that the portfolio containing the Protocols was kept until January, 1909, at the home of the monk, Daniel Bolotoff, a portrait painter well known in Petersburg. Nilus did not keep the manuscript of the Protocols with him fearing that the Jews would steal it. I remember my amusement and his fear when a Jewish druggist from Kozelsk had wandered in Nilus' garden in the course of a walk through the forest near the monastery. Nilus was for a long time convinced that this Jewish druggist was a spy sent to watch on his movements.
A few days after our first conversation concerning the Protocols, about four o'clock in the afternoon, I received a note in which Nilus asked me to call at once about important business. I found Nilus alone in his study. His wife and Mme. K. had gone to attend vespers. I noticed on his desk a large envelope of a black material with a large three-branched cross with the inscription "By this sign thou shalt conquer" A small ikon of the Archangel Michael was placed on the envelope. The whole thing bore the character of exorcism.
Nilus, after some signs before a large ikon, opened the envelope and took out a note-book bound in Ieather. I later learned that both the envelope and the leather binding had been prepared in the monastery under the personal supervision of Nilus. The cross and the other symbols had been executed by Mme. Nilus under the direction of her husband.
"This," said Nilus, "is the map of the Kingdorn of the Antichrist."
He opened the note book. On the first page I noticed a large blue spot as if some one had over-turned an inkwell and that the ink had been removed to some extent. The paper was thick and yellowish. The text was written in French in several handwritings and, it seemed to me, even with different inks.
"The reason for this," said Nilus, "is that at the sessions of the Kahal different persons filled cach time the duties of secretary. This accounts for the different handwritings"
Apparently Nilus regarded this detail as a proof that the manuscript was an original text. Yet I remember that he told me another time that the manuscript was only a copy.
After having shown me the manuscript, Nilus placed it before me on the desk, opened the first page and said "Now, read!" In reading the manuscript I was struck by certain peculiarities of the text. There were many mistakes in spelling and especially idioms that were not French. There was no doubt that the manuscript had not been prepared by a Frenchman. I read for two hours and one half. When I had finished, Nilus took the note book, replaced it in its envelope, and locked it in a drawer of his desk. While I was reading Mme. Nilus and Mme. K. returned from church. I did not know whether Mme. K. was a party to the secret of the manuscript. I therefore said nothing about it. Nilus, however, was eager to know my opinion and sceing my discomfiture, guessed exactly the cause of my silence.
"Come, you doubting Thomas," he said laughingly, "do you believe now after you have touched, seen, and read the Protocols? Tell us what you think of them. There are no strangers here. My wife knows all about them and as far as Mme. K. is concerned, it is thanks to her that the schemes of the enemies of Christ have been discovered."
I was greatly interested. Could it be that Nilus obtained the Protocols through Mme. K.? I was wondering how a woman so obese as to be almost immobile and who, moreover, suffered from disease,
could have penetrated the "Secret Kahal of the Wise Men of Zion."
"Yes," said Nilus, "Mme. K. lived abroad for a long time. In Paris, she received from the hands of a Russian General this manuscript which she transmitted to me. This General had removed the manuscript from the archives of the Freemasons."
I asked Nilus whether the name of this General was a secret.
"Not at all," replied Nilus, "it is General Ratchkovsky, a very brave and active man who has done much in his day to counteract the activities of the enemies of Christ."
I recalled that while in France, when I was taking lessons in Russian from a student called Ezopoff, the latter had told me that the Russian political police did not leave Russian political offenders in peace even when the latter had escaped to France. He said that General Ratchkovsky was at the head of this police. I asked Nilus if this General Ratchkovsky was not the head of the Russian political police in France. My question seemed to surprise and displease Nilus. He replied in a vague manner that Ratchkovsky fought against Freemasonry and Satanic sects.
Nilus was anxious to know the impression left on me by the Protocols. I told him plainly that I adhered to my former statement that the Protocols belong to the class of cheap mystifications such as "The Devil Unmasked" and "The Devil During the 19th Century," etc. Nilus' face clouded.
"You are indeed under the influence of the Devil," he said. "The greatest trick of the Devil is that he can make people deny not only his influence on human events but even his very existence. What will you say when I show you how everything contained in the Protocols has come true and how the mysterious sign of the Antichrist appears everywhere as an announcement of his approaching reign?"
Nilus arose and we all followed him into his study. He picked up his book and brought in from his own room a small chest which I later called the museum of the Antichrist. He began to read further in the text and the commentaries which he was preparing for the edition. He then passed on to the "evidence." He opened the chest and I saw amidst indescribable disorder a number of objects made of rubber, some household utensils, insignia of technical schools, even the cipher of the Queen Alexandra Fiodorovna and the cross of the Legion of Honor. On each of these objects his hallucination showed him the "seal of the Antichrist" in the guise of a triangle or a pair of crossed triangles. It was enough for any object to bear on it a figure resembling somewhat a triangle for his inflamed imagination to see in it the sign of the Antichrist and the seal of the Wise Men of Zion. All these observations entered into the edition of the Protocols, published in 1911.
With increasing restlessness under the influence of a sort of mystic terror Nilus explained to me that the sign of the "Son of Iniquity" has contaminated everything, and that it flourishes even amidst the designs and ornaments of churches and in the decorations of the holy ikons. It was midnight. The appearance, the voice, and the weird gestures of Nilus showed that his mind was on the brink of a precipice, and that his reason would at any moment dissolve into madness. I tried to calm Nilus and to show him that even in the Protocols nothing is said of sinister signs. I did my best to convince him that he had discovered nothing new, since the mystic sign of which he spoke has been noted in every work on occultism from those of Hermes Triamegistus and Paracelsus, who surely were not Wise Men of Zion, down to our contemporaries, Papus, Stanislas de Guaita etc., who surely are not Jews. Nilus noted carefully my arguments, but instead of calming him, as I hoped they would, they only aggravated to their utmost limit his morbid sensations.
A few days later, he sent to the bookseller Gautheir at Moscow a large order for all the books on the hermetic sciences which I had mentioned to him. In the third edition of the Protocols which appeared two years later, in 1911, he inserted many extracts and illustrations which he had borrowed from the books which I had mentioned to him. A little later when Generai Ratchkovsky was invoived in some political scandal I asked Nilus, "Don't you believe that your General Ratchkovsky bas been duped by some one and that in taking his Protocols as gospel truth you are following a false trail?
"You know," replied Nilus, "my favorite citation from St. Paul is 'The will of God is accomplished through human weakness.' Let us admit that the Protocols are false, but is it not possible that God should make use of them in order to expose the iniquity which is approaching? Did not the ass of Balaam utter prophecy? Cannot God transform the bones of a dog into sacred miracles? If He can do these things, He can also make the announcement of truth come from the mouth of a liar."
Before exposing the circumstances which brought Nilus into possession of the Protocols, I wish to call to the attention of the reader a peculiarity in the 1917 edition of the Protocols, I refer to the statement by Nilus that the manuscript of the Protocols had been transmitted to him by a nobleman named Alexey Nikolaievitch Soukhotin. This statement is a direct contradiction of what Nilus had previously told me, namely, that the manuscript had been given to him by Mme. K., who had obtained it from General Ratchkovsky.
Being well acquainted with the intimate life of Nilus I can readily understand why, in a public document, he could not speak of Mme. K. I am convinced that this A. N. Soukhotin is not a mythical person but, in all probability, the intermediary between Mme. K., who was then in Paris, and Nilus who was in Russia. For intimate reasons Soukhotin thus became the veil, hiding from the reader the mysterious lady, Mme. K.
The translation of the document took place under the following circumstances:
In 1900 Nilus returned to Russia and wandered in poverty from monastery to monastery. It was then that he wrote "Notes of an Orthodox, or the Great and the Little," a small volume in which he described the conversion of an intellectual atheist to religious mysticism. This booklet elicited some very warm reviews in the Russian religions periodicals which eventually reached the Grand Duchess Elizabeta Fiodorovna who thus became interested in Nilus.
The Grand Duchess had always fought against the adventurers who surrounded the Czar and especially a certain Philipp of Lyons. She was greatly dissatisfied with the confessor of the royal family, Archpriest Yamyscheff, whose duty it was to preserve the Czar from malign influences. The Grand Duchess thought that Nilus, a Russian mystic and orthodox, would exert a favorable influence on the Czar.
Major General Michael Petrovitch Stepanoff was greatly attached to the Grand Duchess, and it was through him that Nilus was sent to Tsarskoye Sielo and there introduced to Helena Alexandrovna Ozerov, who was later to become his wife. This took place in 1901.
When Nilus left France, there remained in Paris a person very dear to him, namely, Mme. K. This woman, who had lost her entire fortune and who was greatly saddened by her separation from Nilus, became interested in mysticism and frequented all the occult circles in Paris. It was thus that she encountered Ratchkovsky who moved in the same circles, and received from him the manuscript of the Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion which she transmitted to Nilus. It is quite possible that Ratchkovsky, who was then intent on removing the influence of Philipp on the Czar, wished to make use of the Protocola in order to gain the good will of Nilus, who he thought would be the successor of Philipp.
Nilus produced a very good impression on Helena Ozerov and the rest of the Court who were opposed to Philipp. Thanks to the aid of these persons, he was enabled to publish in 1902 the first edition of the Protocols with an appendix on his own religions experiences. The book was entitled "The Great in the Little and the Antichrist as a Near Political Possibility." A copy of it was presented to the Czar and Czarina. At the same time the adversaries of Philipp arranged the marriage between Nilus and Mlle. Ozerov and the ordination of Nilus into the priesthood. Arrangements were also being made to establish Nilus as the confessor of the Czar. Things looked so promising that Nilus had already ordered priestly garments.
However, Philipp and his followers trumped up a canonical prohibition against the induction of Nilus into the priesthood. As soon as this prohibition was called to the attention of the ecclesiastical authorities, Nilus fell into disgrace and was forced to leave Tsarskoye Sielo. Again penniless except for the meagre honorarium which he received from the Feuillets de la Trinité, he again wandered from monastery to monastery. Marriage was impossible, for Mlle. Ozerov possessed nothing beyond the pension which she was receiving while at Court and which would have been withdrawn had she married Nilus.
In 1905, however, Philipp had ceased to exert any influence on the Czar. The friends of Nilus obtained the Imperial consent to grant Mlle. Ozerov her pension even if she married. It was also through the influence of Mlle. Ozerov that Nilus was enabled to publish a second edition of the Protocols with new material concerning St. Seraphin de Saroff. I remember that this edition bore a title different from the first and was published in Tsarskoye Sielo under the auspices of the Red Cross.
Nilus married Mlle. Ozerov but the canonical prohibition still held good and it was impossible for him to enter the priesthood or to exert any spiritual influence on the Czar.
The first two editions of the Protocols passed almost unnoticed in Russia. In fact, only one newspaper reviewed the books. The theological reviews did not even mention them, and it is doubtful whether they knew of their existence since the edition was a small one and was bought by very few people. Most of the authorities of the Russian Church with whom I spoke concerning Nilus and his work had a very poor opinion of Nilus whom they regarded as a crazed fanatic. In 1911, Nilus addressed a letter to the patriarchs of the Orient, to the Holy Synod, and to the Pope, asking them to call together the 8th Oecumenical Council in order to take measures to protect Christianity against the coming of the Antichrist. At the same time Nilus preached this doctrine of preparedness to the monks at Optina. The monastic peace was so troubled by Nilus that the authorities asked him never again to appear at the cloister.
The first indications of public interest in the Protocols became apparent in 1918. A new edition of the Protocols was published by Ismailoff, a Moscow lawyer. The Sentinel, a publication marked for its constant pogrom agitation, was advertising the new edition. In February, 1919, however, the Diet of the Don ordered the suppression of this publication. The center of anti-Semitic propaganda was then transferred to Rostoff, the seat of the Department of Propaganda for the army of General Denikine. From Rostoff the Protocols were sent out in great numbers and distributed among the units of the volunteers and among the Cossack troops at Kouban. They served as fuel to a violent agitation in favor of pogroms and brought lurid and pernicious results. This propaganda demoralized the troops and gave them a justification for the pillages which were a cause of their eventual defeat. A circular against this propaganda was sent to all the chaplains at the front by Archpriest George Schavelsky, head of the military clergy, but the effects of this circular were paralyzed by the attitude of the commanding officers.
During the summer of 1918 Malakhoff, formerly a professor at the Moscow Academy, arrived at Rostoff and began a violent anti-Semitic agitation based on the Protocols. The Protocols were of special importance in the pogroms in the Ukraine. One of my friends, Colonel Dzougaeff, told me this characteristic anecdote: He was in Kiev during the fighting between the Hetman Skoropadsky and Petlioura. He escaped in disguise but was later arrested by the soldiers of Petlioura who mistook him for a Jew and wished to shoot him. One of the chiefs whom he asked the reason for this said, "You wish to give us a king with a head of gold. So it was stated at the sessions of your Wise Men of Zion." ...
Crimea, during the régime of General Wrangel, was especially noted for anti-Semitic propaganda based on the Protocols. Professor Malakhoff, the priest Vostokoff and some journalists subsidized by the government, announced at the top of their voices the danger of the Protocols and the universal Judeo-Masonic plot.
"Translation of an article by Count A. M. du Chayla, a Frenchman by birth, who lived many years in Russia and who knew Sergius Nilus intimately. The article appeared in Paris, in 1921." Exhibit G:
The truth about "The protocols of Zion"; a complete exposure, Herman Bernstein (1876-1935).
New York, Covici, Friede [c1935]. xiv, 15-397 p. facsims. 21 cm. pp. 360 - 69. trans. from La Tribune Juive: Paris, 14 May 1921