Father Karp Tiisik (1843-1922)

“the best representative of all the local clergy”

Father Karp Tiisik

Father Karp Tiisik

Karp Tiisik (1843-1922) was born on 22 February 1843 on the Otsa manor (Jõõpre volost, Pärnu uezd). He studied at the Riga ecclesiastical seminary between 1853 and 1863 and the Moscow Theological Academy between 1866 and 1870, graduating with honours. Upon graduation, he worked as a lecturer in intellectual history and pedagogy at the seminary. Between 1872 and 1879, he served as a priest in Suislepa and Haapsalu: from 1879 to 1918, he was the priest of the Reval cathedral and the prison church in Toompea.

The role of Father Karp in the building of the Aleksandr Nevskii cathedral in Reval is difficult to understate. He was instrumental in overseeing the building project, collecting donations, and reporting back to the authorities. He was a translator of religious literature and laws into Estonian. For example, in 1889 he translated into Estonian the court reforms of Alexander II. In 1917, he was elected as a delegate to the Moscow Church Council. In 1919, he was invited to become the first Estonian professor of Orthodox systematic theology at the theology department of the University of Tartu. He was also elected as the chairman of the Diocesan Council, where he had been a member since 1917. He was involved in the Estonian Statistical committee and taught at various schools as a religious instruction.

The Aleksandr Nevskii cathedral in Tallinn

The Aleksandr Nevskii cathedral in Tallinn

Karp Tiisik’s reputation in independent Estonia was controversial. Some critics regarded Tiisik as a promoter of Russification, stating that his daughter did not speak Estonian. However, others respected him as a defender of Estonian interests. They often cited his speech on the opening of the theatre “Estonia” in 1913, which was delivered in Estonian. This act provoked threats from Governor Korostovtsev: only through the intercession of the bishop was the scandal hushed up. In 1880, the farmers of Harjumaa organised a 200-member strong union, which was quite exceptional at the time. Tiisik was instrumental in soliciting approval for the union from Governor Shakhovskoi and helping to get the statute approved in St Petersburg.

Tiisik’s contribution to the transformation of the Estonian church during the revolution and the early era of Estonian independence was significant. He was actively involved in all congresses and assemblies between 1917 and 1919, providing a balance between the extreme wings of the church. The literary museum of Tartu has preserved six large volumes of Tiisik’s scrap books, which contain newspaper cuttings and notes (in Russian) over a 30-40 year-period. These suggest that he was deeply affected by the violence of the revolution of 1905: every year he commemorated the massacre of January 1905 at the meat market in Tallinn.

Author: Irina Paert.