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Antonieff, Valentin Andreevich (1877–1962)

by David A. Gibson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Valentin Antonieff, n.d.

Valentin Antonieff, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 110252

Valentin Andreevich Antonieff (1877-1962), Russian Orthodox priest, was born on 4 March 1877 in the Ekaterinoslav region of southern Russia (Dnepropetrovsk region, Ukrainian Soviet Republic), son of Andrei Zahar Antonieff, priest, and his wife Alexandra Grigorievna, née Stadnitzky. A brilliant student, Antonieff attended Mariupol Church Seminary and the Ekaterinoslav and Ardon theological seminaries; he graduated from Ardon as dux in 1905. He won a scholarship to the Caucasus Theological Academy, but in 1908 he was obliged to discontinue his studies there.

Antonieff had joined the Imperial Russian army in 1899 and in World War I, as chaplain to the 1st Siberian Infantry Division, was twice wounded and three times decorated, once by the Tsar. On the outbreak of the civil war in 1918, he joined the White Russian army and was appointed dean of Steppe Corps (3rd Division) under General Verzhbitsky. Later, as principal chaplain to the 2nd Siberian army, he had command over 108 priests and 4 deans. He left Russia through Vladivostok in 1922 and, after a year in Shanghai, sailed for Australia in the St Albans, landing in Townsville, Queensland, on 20 November 1923. He worked briefly as a labourer on construction of the Cairns-Innisfail railway, then in the mines at Mount Mulligan for three and a half years.

Antonieff had married Maria Mikhailovna Mikhaelsky at Ekaterinoslav in 1907. She and their four children stayed in Russia until he was able to bring them to Australia in December 1924. The family moved in 1927 to Brisbane, and for a time Antonieff served as a stoker on the coastal steamer, Canberra.

The 1920s had seen a great influx of Russian immigrants to Queensland, and the work of the Russian Orthodox Church had to be expanded. Father A. Shabasheff had established the Church in 1921 among Brisbane families and, when newcomers settled in the rural areas, particularly in the Callide valley and the Childers district, another priest was clearly needed. Antonieff resumed his ministry, and the successful establishment of the Church outside Brisbane was due largely to his missionary zeal.

When Shabasheff departed for the United States of America in 1929, Antonieff became acting head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Queensland for three years. In 1932 he was confirmed in the appointment of archpriest and incumbent of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Brisbane. As archpriest he travelled extensively throughout Queensland, visiting Russian communities. A bearded patriarchal figure, he consolidated the rather sparse foundations left for him by his predecessor, and founded Sunday schools and a library. He was naturalized in 1939. Faced with a further post-war increase of Russian migrants, the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad appointed Antonieff protopresbyter of the Church in Australia on 17 December 1951. This position, equivalent to monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church, gave him the primacy of his Church. He held it until a bishop was appointed from overseas, then ministered in Queensland until ill health forced him to retire from full-time duty in 1961. Survived by five children, he died at his Brisbane home on 26 August 1962 and was buried in Toowong cemetery.

A portrait of Antonieff, painted by A. J. Martin in 1970, is held by the Antonieff family. His private papers, including a number of treatises on aspects of the Russian Orthodox faith, were transferred to the mother church in the United States.

Select Bibliography

  • Brisbane Courier, 27 Aug 1962
  • Russian Truth (Melbourne), 28 Aug 1962
  • Unification, 7 Sept 1962
  • A659-40/1/289 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

David A. Gibson, 'Antonieff, Valentin Andreevich (1877–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/antonieff-valentin-andreevich-5041/text8395, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 15 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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