Myth As If Stalin Met Saint Matrona of Moscow Before the War with Hitler

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Reading Time: 7 minutes


On January 7, 2024, Bondo Mdzinarashvili, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, published a post about the icon of the St. Matrona of Moscow and Stalin displayed in the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. According to Mdzinarashvili, in 1941, Stalin met with Matrona Nikonova, and with her advice, the icon of the Mother of God was taken to the front line, which protected the USSR from the fascists.

matrona Myth As If Stalin Met Saint Matrona of Moscow Before the War with Hitler

In addition, the media union “Obieqtivi” shared a video of Irma Inashvili, the leader of the “Alliance of Patriots of Georgia” party, where she also talks about the meeting between Stalin and Matrona and adds that depicting negative figures on icons is a common practice.

Irma Inashvili: “After that, a conversation between Holy Matrona and Stalin took place, and then the Icon of the Mother of God was displayed, which helped the fighters against fascism in these positional battles, and then the opponents of fascism achieved a number of successes, and this episode is depicted there. Why is Diocletian depicted, for example, on the icon of St. George? Why is the dragon depicted on the icon of St. George, i.e. the devil, and why are real devils depicted on icons? Let’s turn it all around, change the iconography then.”

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Later on, another leader of the “Alliance of Patriots” party, Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, said in a video address that he himself donated the mentioned icon of Matrona to the Holy Trinity Cathedral and that it depicts Stalin, who humbled himself before the holy Matrona because of the persecution of the churches.

The claim that Stalin met the Holy Matrona is false. In fact, the story of their meeting is only a legend and is not confirmed by historical facts. The use of the icon was initially protested in Russia as well, due to which the icon was removed from the church. As for the depiction of negative persons and devils on the icons, they are mostly depicted as degraded and defeated.

  • The legend about the meeting between Stalin and St. Matrona of Moscow

Matrona Nikonova (of Moscow) was born in 1881 in the province of Tula. She was blind at birth, but according to the legend, she received great knowledge from God and could give good advice to people, which is why Matrona of Moscow had many visitors. In 1925, she moved to Moscow. During the anti-religious rule of the Soviet government, Matrona took refuge in different families. Many people were healed by her advice, and some avoided great danger. In 1999, the Russian Synod and Patriarch Alexy II canonized Matrona of Moscow as a saint.

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The icon of St. Matrona of Moscow

The information about the meeting between Matrona and Stalin was initially spread from the diaries of Matrona’s friend Zinaida Zhdanova. Zinaida Zhdanova lived with Matrona in the last years of her life. Her diary about the saint became quite popular and became a symbol of the rise of religion in the post-communist era.

According to the legend, in 1941, when Adolf Hitler declared war on the Soviet Union, Stalin visited Matrona and asked her for advice. Matrona advised Stalin to stay in Moscow, which would help him win the war. According to the legend, Matrona also advised Stalin to bring the icon of the Mother of God around Moscow.

In fact, the meeting between Stalin and Saint Matrona is not historically confirmed and it is only a legend. This is also confirmed by Archimandrite Job Gumerov, who was assigned to find the history of Saint Matrona so that she could be canonized later. The Icon of St. Matrona with the image of Stalin was written by I. Pivnik in 2008. The display of the icon in St. Petersburg caused a protest from the people and the media. According to the St. Petersburg Diocese, the icon was based only on a legend. The head of the church blamed the media for the story surrounding the icon and after the prayer, he sent the icon to Moscow so that the scandal would end and the icon would not be harmed by “liberal extremists.”

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The icon of Stalin and St. Matrona

According to historian Lado Mirianashvili, the icon was criticized in Moscow as well, and finally, the head of the church moved it to his home. The cleric who originally placed the icon in the church resigned.

Head of the press center of the Moscow Patriarchate, Vladimir Vigiliansky: “There was a disciplinary violation: a clergyman has no right to place a non-canonical icon in the church. [Therefore] the conduct of the priest is reviewed by the high priest.”

Diocese of St. Petersburg: “This is an unauthorized (неправомочное) image, because the conversation between St. Matrona and Stalin is only a legend and does not correspond to reality.”

The legend that Saint Matrona advised Stalin to carry the icon of the Mother of God around Moscow was spread in different forms. According to one legend, in 1941, the Mother of God appeared to Metropolitan Ilya of Antioch and told him to advise the Russians to bring her icon around Moscow, Stalingrad, and, at that time, Leningrad. According to another legend, the Mother of God appeared in the sky during the Battle of Königsberg in 1944, and when the Germans saw it, they could no longer use their weapons.

  • Negative figures on icons

Andria Jagmaidze, head of the Public Relations Service of the Georgian Patriarchate, also made a statement about the icon and said that negative people are depicted on other icons as well.

Andria Jagmaidze: “And the fact that such iconography has a place in Russian reality, and I and many others believe that it does not give us anything, this is a secondary issue here, even if we assume that it is called the icon of Matrona and not of Stalin, also that if Diocletian is depicted somewhere on St. George’s icon, it is not the icon of Diocletian.

The attempt of Irma Inashvili, Tarkhan-Mouravi, and Andria Jagmaidze to explain the existence of the icon by the fact that negative people are often depicted on icons is manipulative. Actually, negative figures on icons (historical figures, demons, devils, etc.) are always depicted as defeated or degraded or their depiction describes a specific historical event, which is not the case when it comes to Stalin and Matrona.

According to theologian Beka Mindiashvili, it is indeed possible to depict negative persons on the icon, but it is not allowed for evil to celebrate in them.

Beka Mindiashvili: “Yes, one can depict evil on the icon, but the depiction of evil has its own rules, for example, demons, and devils, as a rule, are depicted as black spots, without drapery, people who commit evil are depicted either with a small volume or profile, and in no case with a veil. Specifically, regarding Diocletian mentioned by Deacon Jagmaidze, – Diocletian and other torturers of Christians are shown as “fallen” on the icons of the saints, as a sign of the victory of faith over them. Diocletian is pitifully thrown under George’s feet and pierced with a spear. It is not allowed for evil to celebrate on the icon.”

St. George and the defeated monster

St. George and the defeated Diocletian

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Negative persons are often depicted as punishers of the saints, and their depiction is related to a specific historical event. An example of this is the icon of the hundred thousand martyrs and the icon of the martyrdom of St. George.

The icon of the hundred thousand martyrs

Saint George’s martyrdom on wheel

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In the case of the icon of St. Matrona and Stalin, the latter is depicted neither negatively nor in a diminished manner, on the contrary, he is glorified. In this regard, theologian Beka Mindiashvili notes:

Beka Mindiashvili: “What do we see in this so-called icon of Matrona? Stalin is standing in the foreground, full body and face, with one hand in his pocket. The hand in the pocket is a gesture that tells us that he does not listen to Matrona, the church, or the word of God, he is not subordinate to her, but he himself is superior to Matrona sitting on the throne in the background; On this “icon,” Stalin is more than Matrona.”

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The icon of Stalin and Matrona, which is displayed in the Holy Trinity Cathedral

The depiction of Stalin on icons is also problematic because of his anti-religious policies. The era of Stalinism in terms of religion is often referred to as a period of militant atheism. It is Stalin’s name that is associated with the destruction of many churches in the Soviet Union and the shooting of Orthodox clergymen. e.g. Before World War II, the number of churches decreased from 37,000 to 4,225. In 1937 alone, 85,000 Orthodox clergymen were executed in the Soviet Union.

For more information on the topic, see the article prepared by “Myth Detector:”

 4 Disinformation about Stalin’s “Georgian Deeds” (In Georgian)

Despite the mentioned facts, myths about Stalin’s faith are being voiced time after time. For more information on this topic, see the article: Did Stalin Belive in God? (in Georgian)

The article has been written in the framework of Facebook’s fact-checking program. You can read more about the restrictions that Facebook may impose based on this article via this link. You can find information about appealing or editing our assessment via this link.

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