The son of a provincial priest, Ivan Nikolaevich Stragorodsky graduated from the St. Petersburg Theological Academy. He became the monk Sergei in 1890 and was consecrated bishop in 1901. He presided over the famous religious-philosophical seminars in St. Petersburg (1901–1903) before becoming archbishop of Finland (1905–1917). After 1917, he wielded great influence as a metropolitan while causing controversy with his willingness to seek political compromise. Sergei recognized the schismatic Living Church Movement in June 1922, although he later publicly repented to Patriarch Tikhon for this error in judgment. The Soviet government prevented election of a new patriarch when Tikhon died in 1925. Metropolitan Peter Poliansky served as the locum tenens (guardian of the patriarchate) and chose Sergei as his deputy. Sergei became de facto leader of the church after Peter's arrest. Under pressure from the state and rival bishops, Sergei issued a declaration in July 1927 that proclaimed the church's loyalty to the Soviet government and brought a temporary halt to religious persecution. Orthodox leaders in the USSR and abroad condemned Sergei's declaration, however, and renounced his authority.
The fractured Orthodox Church declined under renewed persecution in the 1930s but experienced rebirth during World War II. The day of the German invasion (June 22, 1941), Sergei issued a message asking all believers to rally to the defense of the nation. He subsequently encouraged large-scale offerings by Orthodox parishes for the war effort. In September 1943, Josef Stalin met with Sergei and two other metropolitans for the purpose of reestablishing the church's national organization. That month, a council of bishops elected Sergei as patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. He served until his death on May 15, 1944.
See also: living church movement; patriarchate; russian orthodox church; tikhon, patriarch
Curtiss, John S. (1952). The Russian Church and the Soviet State, 1917–1950. Boston: Little, Brown.
Innokentii, Hegumen. (1993). "Metropolitan Sergii's Declaration and Today's Church." Russian Studies in History 32(2):82–88.
Edward E. Roslof