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Sergij Vasilevich (Theodosy) Putilin (1897–1980)

by Elena Govor

This article was published:

Sergij Vasilevich (Theodosy) Putilin (1897-1980), Russian Orthodox archbishop, was born on 18 August 1897 at Voronezh, Central Russia, son of Vasilij Putilin, priest, and his wife Darija, née Putilina (no relation). Sergij graduated from the Voronezh Theological Seminary in 1918. Opposed to Communist ideology and the October 1917 revolution, he joined the White Russians and fought as a volunteer in southern Russia. His toes were frostbitten and later amputated. On 14 October 1921 he married Olga Posen, whom he had met while in hospital; they were to have two daughters Zoja and Ija.

Persuaded that it was too dangerous to be ordained in post-revolutionary Russia, Putilin worked as an accountant in several enterprises while living with his family at Taganrog, on the Sea of Azov. He was imprisoned by the secret police in 1931 and again from 1936 to 1940. During World War II the Putilins were deported to Germany as forced labour. Sergij toiled as a welder. Remaining in the Federal Republic of Germany after the war, he was ordained priest on 14 October 1948 at Wildflecken.

The Putilins emigrated to Western Australia in the Anna Salen, reaching Fremantle on 31 December 1950. Settled in Perth, he became priest for the Orthodox community, which consisted of displaced people of Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian and Latvian origin. A sympathetic, tolerant, eloquent and educated man, he promoted peace and harmony in his parish. He was an able administrator who organized the building of the Orthodox Church of St Peter and St Paul, Meltham. On 18 June 1959 he and his wife were naturalized.

After Olga died in 1968, Putilin made his monastic vows. He was consecrated on 30 November 1969 as bishop of Melbourne, taking the religious name of Theodosy. In the following year he was transferred to Sydney as bishop of Sydney and Australia-New Zealand (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia). On 29 September 1971 he was enthroned as archbishop.

Theodosy took charge of the Russian Church in Australia in troubled times. A long-lasting conflict in the parish of the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, Sydney, had split the community. His firmness of principle, wisdom, kindness and ability to forgive helped him to resolve the situation. Archbishop Theodosy gave his attention to all things great and small. Remaining simple, approachable and just, he was involved in a variety of pastoral duties, such as the education of children, the care of the elderly, and fund-raising for victims of the Darwin cyclone (1974). He personally oversaw the construction of the Orthodox Church of St John the Baptist in Canberra, drawing the whole eparchy into support of the project. Survived by his daughters, he died on 13 August 1980 in his home at Croydon, Sydney, and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery, Perth. His sermons had been recorded and were published in Russian by Fr Michael Protopopov in Archbishop Theodosy Putilin (Melbourne, 1995).

Select Bibliography

  • Edinenie (Unification, Syd), 8 Feb, 22 Aug 1980
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 14, 21 Aug 1980
  • naturalisation files, series PP545/1, item 1969/13569, and series PP181/1, item 1958/10587 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Elena Govor, 'Putilin, Sergij Vasilevich (Theodosy) (1897–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 August, 1897
Voronezh, Russia


13 August, 1980 (aged 82)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.