Alexander Bulatovich

Alexander Bulatovich

Alexander Ksaverievich Bulatovich (Russian: Алекса́ндр Ксаве́рьевич Булато́вич; 26 September 1870 – 5 December 1919) tonsured Father Antony (отец Антоний) was a Russian military officer, explorer of Africa, writer, hieromonk and the leader of the imiaslavie movement in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.


Alexander was born to a family of Oryol nobility. He studied in Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum, then served in the Hussar Leib Guard regiment.

In 1896 he was a member of the Russian mission of the Red Cross in Ethiopia, where he became a confidant of Negus Menelek II of Ethiopia. He begins arrival to Ethiopia with phenomenal showy courier's marathon by reason of record speed with the use of camel, during this courier's march the Nikolay Leontiev meets him to give help. In 1896 - 1899 he became a military aide of Menelek II in his war with Italy and the southern tribes. Bulatovich joined the expedition of Ras Wolde Giyorgis and became the first European to provide a scientific description of the Kaffa province (conquered by Menelek II with Bulatovich's help). He was the first European to reach the mouth of the Omo River. Among the places named by Bulatovich is the Nicholas II Mountain range. He had to ask permission from the Emperor himself to name the range in his honour.

After Bulatovich returned to Russia he received a Silver Medal from the Russian Geographical Society for his work in Ethiopia and the military rank of a poruchik (later rotmistr) of the Leib Guard Hussars. He served in Saint Petersburg. In 1903 after his talks with Saint John of Kronstadt he resigned from the Army and became a monk (later hiero-schema-monk) of the Russian Skete of Saint Andrew, near the much larger St. Panteleimon Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. He also visited Ethiopia again trying to establish a Russian Orthodox Monastery there. He was tonsured as Father Antony and became known as Hieromonk Antony Bulatovich.

In 1907 after reading the book On Caucasus Mountains by the schema-monk Ilarion, he became one of the leaders of the imiaslavie movement within the Russian Orthodox Church. When the movement was proclaimed a heresy and disbanded by a Russian military force in 1913, he was in St. Petersburg pleading the cause of monks.

He continued his fight for the recognition of imiaslavie, published many theological books proving its dogmas, obtained an audience with the Tsar and eventually managed to secure some sort of rehabilitation for himself and his imiaslavtsy comrades. They were allowed to return to their positions in the Church without repentance "since there is nothing to repent about". On August 28, 1914 Antony Bulatovich received permission to join the Russian Army as an Army priest. During World War I Father Antony not only served as a priest but on "many occasions led soldiers to attack" and was awarded the Cross of St. George.

After returning from the war he took part in the discussion about the imiaslavie. In October 1918 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church canceled the decision allowing imyaslavtsy to participate in church services provided they repent. The decision was signed by Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow. In January 1919 Anthony Bulatovich stopped any relations with the Holy Synod and Tikhon and returned to his family estate in Lebedinka, where he started a small skete and lived the life of a hermit. He was the spiritual opponent of any civil war. On the night from 5 to 6 December 1919 he was murdered. There are conflicting accounts if the killers were deserters of White Army or Red Army or some unaffiliated robbers, but more relevant is he protected an unknown woman in fact.


Other Russians in Ethiopia

Bulatovich in Russian literature

Antony Bulatovich was most probably the original for the grotesque Schema-Hussar Alexei Bulanovich from the novel The Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov. He is also the hero of Valentin Pikul's story "The Hussar on a Camel". In addition he is the hero of the novel "The Name of Hero" by Richard Seltzer (published by Houghton Mifflin in 1981).


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