In the last quarter of the seventeenth century, Maxim Leontiev served as chaplain to a group of five hundred Russian frontiersmen who traveled south on the Amur River from Siberia into China in 1683. They established themselves in a fortified bastion, where they were attacked by Chinese forces, overwhelmed, taken prisoner, and transported to Peking (Beijing). Leontiev had with him all the liturgical items needed for conducting Orthodox worship services. The prisoners were treated well; not only was Leontiev permitted to conduct regular services, including the Divine Liturgy, but the Chinese government also gave an old Buddhist temple to the Russians for use as a church.
Ten years later, Leontiev came in contact with a caravan going to Tobolsk and asked them to convey a request for some needed liturgical items. The return caravan carried with it the requested articles, two additional Orthodox clergy, and a message from the metropolitan bishop of Siberia with words of encouragement regarding the spread of the light of the gospel among the Chinese people. Peter the Great of Russia welcomed the existence of Leontiev’s mission as a political and economic entrance point for Russian imperial policies (a strategy that did not succeed.) Leontiev died in China.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Michael Oleksa, Orthodox Alaska: A Theology of Mission (1992); James J. Stamoolis, Eastern Orthodox Mission Theology Today (1986).