пятница, 31 июля 2009 г.

Patriarch Кirill delivers a sermon in Simferopol

Patriarch Kirill, who is on a 10-day visit of Ukraine, has arrived in the Crimean city of Simferopol. Greeting the patriarch’s motorcade on the streets that ran from the airport to downtown Simferopol were members of the Russian community and the “Russian God” party and representatives of Crimean Cossacks. Dozens of Russian flags flew high along the patriarch’s route and near the St.Trinity Cathedral, where he headed for a short prayer by the relics of Saint Luke.

Sisters from St.Trinity Convent welcomed Patriarch Kirill by laying a carpet of fragrant Crimean herbs and rose petals on all paths on the territory of the convent. A choir of several hundred chanted “Our Patriarch – Kirill” and there were representatives of Crimean authorities present at the welcoming ceremony.

Unity and peace made the core of the patriarch’s speech with which he addressed the congregation on ending the prayer.

"I came to Crimea to pray together with you asking the Lord to grant us all peace and strength of soul, so that He become our hope and so that Our Lady intercede for us and grant us protection".

His Holiness also emphasized the significance of the Orthodox heritage of the Crimea region. In the 9th century AD, the co-inventor of the Slavic alphabet St Cyril was on a missionary visit there. In the 10th century, St Vladimir of Kiev received baptism on Crimean soil.

The Patriarch and the St Trinity Convent exchanged gifts. The Convent received a precious icon, and the Moscow Patriarchate, a fragment of the holy relics of the 20th-century Russian Saint Father Luke Voino-Yasenetski, who combined his role as Archbishop of Crimea with successful work as a surgeon.

The Patriarch sanctified the dome crosses of the Cathedral of St Alexander Nevski, rebuilt in 2003 after 80 years in rubble. The old building was completed in 1881, almost 100 years after being laid down by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

Source:The Voice of Russia

вторник, 28 июля 2009 г.

Patriarch Kirill heads celebrations of the Day of Russia's Baptism in Ukraine

Kiev, July 28, Interfax - Several thousands believers prayed together with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the Kiev Laura on the Caves on St. Vladimir Day.

Addressing the believers after the service, the Patriarch urged to preserve church unity commanded by the Baptist of Russia and reminded that the Church should be the place where people gain experience of love and unity.

"How hypocritical, how terrible it is when divisions for the sake of some allegedly supreme purposes take place in the Church! Divisions that reveal the most horrific thing for a Christian - the lack of love," the Patriarch said.

The Primate urged to pray to St. Vladimir "so that he will give us the power to love a husband, a wife, a sister, children, those who work with us."

"May he give us power to love enemies and prove with experience of our life that meek image of the baptized Kievan Prince is an ideal of the Holy Russia rather than a face transfigured by anger preaching some human truth and this ideal is unconquerable and invincible as it God's word, not a human one," the Patriarch said.


By Father Artemy (Vladimirov) of the Moscow Theological Academy

Each of us feels that our earthly life, full of complexities, pains and passions, puzzles and ambiguities is a mystery, which can hardly be solved by the human mind. Why? Because the drama of the temporal existence in this world becomes transparent and understandable only “sub specie aetertitatis" — that is in the framework of eternity. Saint Providence, God's will combined with the undetermined and free impulse of the human heart form the Mystery of the earthly history of mankind and the miracle of every soul's life. If history is your devotion, if you are eager to resurrect the spiritual portrait of an ancient hero, if, moreover, you have a bold desire to penetrate into the realms of his high and noble soul, you are to take care of your own heart; surely, you are to pray, because it is only the pure in heart, who can see God and cognize the gist of historical events.

Vladimir, the Red Sun-Prince of the epic poems of the Rus¬sian people, was canonized two centuries after his death which occurred in 1015. But pondering over the bright and enigmatic life of the royal saint long before his glorification, Hilarion, the first Russian to be elected metropolitan of Kiev, wrote this in his treatise on law and grace devoted to the praise of the reposed prince:

"What inflamed you with the love of Christ? How did you let yourself be imbued with the highest wisdom of the wise to begin to love what is unseen and to tend towards the things of Heaven? How did you give yourself to Christ? You did not see Him with your eyes, you did not see the apostles appearing in your land to capture your heart. You were the object of a miracle… You came to Christ, guided by good sense and intelligence; you understood that there is only one God the Creator of heaven and earth and that He sent His beloved Son for the salvation of man. What was foolish to others was the God's will to you."

Anyway, the Russian writer of the olden times asks more questions than gives answers, if he gets astonished he does not necessarily provide an explanation; for him the conversion of Vladimir to the Christian faith is rather a miracle than an ordinary political or diplomatic act as some historians taking a superficial stand are prone to think. So we are not wiser than metropolitan Hilarion whose hymn to Saint Vladimir still remains the pearl of Russian spiritual literature. It was not the father of Vladimir who fostered the conversion of his son. Though Svyatoslav, without doubt, was a remarkable man. The Chronicler praises his endurance, sobriety chivalrous spirit and rapidity in making decisions.

At the beginning of a campaign he would always warn his enemies: "I am coming to attack you." On the eve of a decisive battle he gathered his warriors and uttered these famous words which were destined to live through the centuries: "Let us show ourselves worthy of the land of Russia, let us die if necessary, for death is better than shame." But this fearless earthy warrior refused baptism; he would not want to become а warrior of the Heavenly King who preaches forgiveness of the wrongs suffered. Evidently, his heart, unlike the heart of Constantine, was unable to see the divine cross in the sky with the conqueror's scripture: "This will give you victory."

The dark veil of paganism covered the Russian land at the times of Svyatoslav. The religious beliefs of the Russian tribes were confined to veneration of the forces of nature and ancestor worship. None of the pagan divinities possessed temples; it was in open places, mostly on hills, that their ugly images, roughly carved in wood were set up to perform before them certain rites, sometimes even sacrificing humans; magicians, very much like the druids of Gaul, fulfilled the priestly functions.

Vladimir's reign certainly reflected (prior to his baptism) the characteristic features of that dark epoch. In order to seize the throne in Kiev, to which his eldest brother Yaropolk had succeeded, Vladimir did not hesitate to hurriedly cross the Baltic and collected under his colours a group of warriors who helped him to carry out his ambitious plans. Yaropolk was defeated and met his death at the hands of a traitor; his widow went to swell the number of Vladimir's numerous wives. But Vladimir, chosen by God as a precious vessel of His grace, the vessel first unclean but then sacred, was not only the son of his father. The man who Christianized Russia and belonged to that famous race which claimed descent from the legendary Rurik, Prince of Novgorod, was born of Malusha (in Scandinavian Malfreda) who was a Christian. But perhaps even more important was that until he became six years old the little royal offspring was brought up by his saint grandmother, the wise Princess Olga, whose noble soul was filled with the heavenly milk — the grace of the Holy Spirit. Olga remained his confident till her demise. Her lot was to wait and hope. The Byzantine Patriarch's prophecy that he uttered while she was baptized was always alive in her sagacious heart:

"You will be blessed in your descendants for abandoning the darkness and turning your loving heart to the light."

Princess Olga died having given herself up the divine will which was "to show mercy on her house and on the Russian people and kindle in their hearts the faith that was given to her". That's why Vladimir's reign was no darkness at all. It seems to me, that the dawn of his spiritual rebirth as well as Olga's invisible prayers, filled his reign with light, and it compared favourably with the reign of his predecessors. Obviously, this reign was hallmarked with greatness from the outset. The young prince did not confine himself to holding sumptuous banquets with his warriors at the Round Table. Alive to his duties of a sovereign, Vladimir sought to establish order in his territories and bring together the scattered tribes under one central government so as to be able to defend them all against the incessant incursions by jealous neighbours. The Russian people held him in ever higher repute. Even Basil II, Emperor of Byzantium, threatened by the advance of the Bulgarian armies and an uprising in Asia Minor, turned, by God's will, to the powerful prince of Kiev for help. Of course, it was not the tangle of political and social circumstances of the time that determined the religious choice of the prince. These circumstances (being part of God's Providence) could only encourage it, but the cause for final decision was a meeting, which historians can not describe: I mean the meeting with Our Lord Jesus Christ that the Russian prince had in the vast realm of his own heart. Tertullian, a Latin Church Father asserts that every human soul is fundamentally Christian by its very nature. These words apply to Vladimir admirably.

Vladimir, according to the chronicler's accounts, was not one of those men whom the passing fame makes lose their heads. Even less was he interested in drinking spirits or licentiousness. He was by no means blind to the signs of his times; he was well aware of the conversions which were taking place in the neighbouring countries and in the lands of Scandinavia. But his own immortal soul was tortured by the memory of the crimes he had committed. In expiation of his misdeeds, he sacrificed the usual donations to the pagan gods but all this failed to calm down the pangs of remorse. Vladimir continued to seek his way to the Holy Cross because it was only the divine blood of the Son of God that could redeem him from the kingdom of darkness. The mystery of salvation of his soul was tied up with the destiny of his God-given reign as the monk Jacob, author of a Eulogy for Prince Vladimir writes:

"The whole of the land of Russia was then snatched from the devil's claws and brought back to God and the true light."

A glimpse of Vladimir's hesitancy over and the thoughtful preparation for the baptism whose implications went far beyond merely political considerations are witnessed in a picturesque narration by Saint Nestor the Chronicler who tells us about Vladimir's sending envoys to foreign lands to obtain information about their beliefs. The choice was soon made: the Russians were repelled by the self-confidence of the Jews, by the prohibition of wine ("the joy of Russia") with the Muslims; they were not impressed by the sober grandeur of the romanesque cathedrals of the West, but they "thought they were in heaven" when they came to Sancta Sofia at Byzantium where, beneath the great domes with their resplendent mosaics, the clergy officiated in gorgeous vestments amid clouds of incense.

The Russian prince made the decisive step towards baptism following a long and awesome contemplation of a Greek icon depicting the Last Judgement. All his sins and faults were brought back to his memory when Vladimir saw His Creator looking at him sternly but mercifully from the image.

When Saint Vladimir finally made up his mind, God manifested His divine help to him because the Lord's mercy was to wipe out the sin of the Russian people's pagan life.

The warriors of the prince gained a decisive victory in Byzantium under the Emperor's personal leadership who fought his enemies down. The Emperor's consent to the marriage of his august sister with his pagan neighbour was given on condition that Vladimir be converted to the Christian faith, thereby blazing the trail. Prince Vladimir’s sore eyes were healed by God's grace during the baptism as a symbol of the inner light that filled his immortal soul, when he returned to Kiev (probably in 990) he gave himself out as a Christian prince and, like Clovis, "burned what he had adored" tearing down the idols and imposing Christianity on all his subjects.

As the idol Perun, the patron of fire, was dragged along in the mud and the blows rained upon it, the evil entered into it shouting out: "Woe is me, my children!" His worshippers shed tears, but cries of joy were uttered by those who hailed the coming of a new era.

Some days later as he was observing from the hill crowds of people who were receiving baptism in the Dnieper river, Saint Vladimir prayed:

"Oh Almighty Lord living in Heaven! Look at this flock and enlighten their hearts with Your grace so as they could glorify the Holy name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

A miraculous change came about in the soul of this dissolute giant of man, this savage warrior, the moment he turned Christian. Previously Vladimir's excessive hospitality was offered only to his soldiers and boyars; hence forward his generosity was extended to those who lived in dire need. The chronicler Nestor dwells at length on his charitable endeavors:

"He ordered all the poor and sick to come to his Place for food, drink and money. For those who were unable to come he loaded carts with bread, meat, fish and honey and had them taken to the sick and the needy."

This help, inspired by the precepts of the Gospel, was subsequently extended to all the cities, towns and villages in Russia. For pagans it was an unheard of, an astonishing occurrence.

Vladimir also turned to educating the country and made a point of regularly meeting with the bishops who were making their utmost “to establish the faith among men who had only just come to know the Lord." Vladimir bestowed a tenth of his royal revenues on the first of the newly constructed Kiev churches and soon the same measure was applied in the provinces.

Purified by the grace of baptism Vladimir carried his humility and meekness to the point of refusing to condemn brigands and thieves. Нe could bring himself to dealing severely with those people only under pressure from his Byzantine counselors who were amazed at such scruples. Saint Vladimir, the Red Sun-Prince of the epic poems of the Russian people, was revered greatly during his earthly life and under his successor Yaroslav, the metropolitan Hilarion (long before Vladimir had been canonized) was calling on his blessed name the following spiritual innovation:

"Arise from the tomb, noble hero! Arise throw off your sleep, for thou art not dead; thou hast fallen asleep only until that day when all shall awake."

"Arise, for thou art not dead, since believing in Christ you can not die for He is the source of life for the whole world. Throw off your sleep, raise thine eyes and see the honours that the Lord has laid up for you in heaven and the fame that He has given you among your children.

"Look also on the city, shining with glory, the flourishing churches, the progress of Christianity, look on this city, sanctified by the holy icons, radiant and fragrant with incense, resounding with praise and hymns to God.”

Source:The Voice of Russia

суббота, 25 июля 2009 г.

Well-known Russian writer, film director and actor Vasily Shukshin would have turned 80 on July 25th, 2009.

By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

Vasily Shukshin lived a frustratingly short life — just 45 years. But in the incomplete 20 years of intensive creative effort he managed to achieve so much, becoming an acknowledged author, actor and film director.

Shukshin was born in Altai region in 1929, in the old village of Srostki. His father was executed by the Bolsheviks, and his mother was forced to bring her children up all alone. Vasily went off to work when still a teenager, and tried his hand at numerous trades: he served in the Navy, was director of a school in his own native village. So when at 25 Shukshin arrived in Moscow to enter the directing department of the Institute of Cinematography, he boasted quite an impressive life experience. An unprepossessing-looking fellow in an army shirt and boots, he was obviously less versed in the sciences than other applicants, yet one could definitely sense in him a genuine inherent talent, besides the fact that he had his own opinions and outlook on art. The pedagogues of the Cinematography institute were initially fearful of enrolling him: blunt to a fault, he didn’t seem to know what could be said, and what should be kept to oneself. Shukshin attracted the attention of well-known at the time film director Mikhail Romm, who placed his trust in the young man. At the exam he asked Shukshin about Tolstoy's novel "War and Peace". However, it transpired the young fellow hadn't read it! "Too thick a book. I can't seem to get round to reading it," quipped Shukshin.

Romm frowned: «What kind of school director are you!? You are not a cultured man. No… You cannot be a film director." Suddenly Shukshin began yelling at him: “And do you know what it is to be a school director? You need to obtain a decent supply of wood for the winter, then go out and chop it up so the youngsters don't get too cold. Then you need to somehow get all the required textbooks, fix the broken school desks, find lodging for the teachers… hardly time left for book reading…”

Romm's answer was remarkable: “Only a very talented person could espouse such untraditional views. I am giving him a top mark.”

Shukshin was a remarkable actor, a unique film director and a truly writer of the people. All of Shukshin's art was devoted to rural life — the Russian village, which he loved deeply and which he knew inside-out. His “minor homeland” nourished his art, supplying it with characters, story-lines, tableaus and details of daily life. In his early literary works and films Shukshin injected motifs of moral superiority of the peasant environment over the city one. However, there gradually appeared other accents — anguish and concern over the destruction of the peasant mode of life. Indeed, in the second half of the 20th century village youth, tempted by the city life, tended to leave the rural areas en masse. With only the elderly folk staying on, many villages were practically deserted and died out. But that was not the worst of it. A peasant who moved to town, did not become a regular town dweller and ceased to be a villager, too. The entire gallery of Shukshin's character portraits is a manifestation of the human drama of one who finds himself without roots, in other words, without morals, traditions, without a past, and is rendered thus capable of the very worst. This theme was most fully revealed in Shukshin's later films, particularly in the film "Red Snowball Bush", where he doubled as film director and lead actor.

The character of the film is a criminal who, upon being released from prison yet again, finds himself in a situation when he is receives a powerful moral and emotional upheaval, as a result of which he feels deep remorse for all his sins. He had literally wasted 40 years of his life. A desperate attempt to alter the course of his life, change his inner self, is a failure: his own conscience cannot forgive his numerous sins and failings and leads to a tragic finale.

The film “Red Snowball Bush” received the top award of the PanUnion film festival of 1974 and was shown at many international festivals. Italian critics ranked it alongside world cinema masterpieces of the 70s, while the French wrote that "Shukshin's name was worthy of being relegated by experts to the encyclopedias, and by viewers — to their hearts.” Possibly, in this film the author succeeded in full measure to express what in common life he defined by the simple words: "Conscience, conscience, conscience… This is what should never disappear.”

Vasily Shukshin died at the height of his artistic career, during the filming of the movie “They Fought for Their Motherland”. He left behind a rich legacy of books, films, which raise eternal moral problems, and as such — are timeless and always topical…

Vasily Shukshin's story "A top-class driver" is possible to listen here

Source:The Voice of Russia

пятница, 24 июля 2009 г.

Princess Olga Equal-to-the-Apostles July 24 (July 11 old calendar).

Saint Olga, Equal of the Apostles, was the wife of the Kievan Great Prince Igor. The struggle of Christianity with paganism under Igor and Olga, who reigned after Oleg (+ 912), entered into a new phase. The Church of Christ in the years following the reign of Igor (+ 945) became a remarkable spiritual and political force in the Russian realm. The preserved text of a treaty of Igor with the Greeks in the year 944 gives indication of this: it was included by the chronicler in the "Tale of Bygone Years," under the entry recording the events of the year 6453 (945).

The peace treaty had to be sworn to by both the religious communities of Kiev: "Baptized Rus", i.e. the Christian, took place in the cathedral church of the holy Prophet of God Elias (July 20); "Unbaptized Rus", i.e. the pagans, in turn swore their oath on their weapons in the sanctuary of Perun the Thunderer. The fact, that Christians are included in the document in the first place, indicates their significant spiritual influence in the life of Kievan Rus.

Evidently at the moment when the treaty of 944 was being drawn up at Constantinople, there were people in power in Kiev sympathetic to Christianity, who recognized the historical inevitability of involving Rus into the life-creating Christian culture. To this trend possibly belonged even prince Igor himself, whose official position did not permit him personally to go over to the new faith, nor at that time of deciding the issue concerning the Baptism of the whole country with the consequent dispersal throughout it of Orthodox Church hierarchs. The treaty therefore was drawn up in the circumspect manner of expression, which would not hinder the prince to ratify it in either the form of a pagan oath, or in the form of a Christian oath.

But when the Byzantine emissaries arrived in Kiev, conditions along the River Dneipr had essentially changed. A pagan opposition had clearly emerged, at the head of which stood the Varangian voevoda (military-leader) Svenel'd (or Sveinald) and his son Mstislav (Mtsisha) to whom Igor had given holdings in the Drevlyani lands.

Strong also at Kiev was the influence of the Khazar Jews, who could not but be displeased with the thought of the triumph of Orthodoxy in the Russian Land.

Unable to overcome the customary inertia, Igor remained a pagan and he concluded the treaty in the pagan manner, swearing an oath on his sword. He refused the grace of Baptism and was punished for his unbelief. A year later, in 945, rebellious pagans murdered him in the Drevlyanian land, cut down betwixt two trees. But the days of paganism and the lifestyle of the Slavic tribes basic to it were already numbered. The burden of government fell upon the widow of Igor -- the Kiev Great-princess Olga, and her three-year-old son Svyatoslav.

The name of the future enlightener of the Russian Land and of her native region is first to be met with in the "Tale of Bygone Years," in the phrase where it speaks about the marriage of Igor: "and they brought him a wife from Pskov, by the name of Olga." She belonged, so specifies the Joakimov Chronicle, to the lineage of the Izborsk princes, -- one of the obscure ancient-Russian princely dynasties, of which in Rus during the 10th-11th Centuries there numbered no less than twenty, but who were all displaced by the Rurikovichi or merged otherwise with them through marriage. Some of them were of local Slavic descent, others -- Varangian new-comers. It is known, that the Scandinavian Viking "koenigs" (kinglets) called to become princes in the Russian cities -- invariably assimilated to the Russian language, and often, they soon became genuinely Russian with Russian names and lifestyle, world-outlook and even physical appearance of attire.

Thus, Igor's wife also had the Varangian name "Helga," which in Russian is pronounced Olga. The feminine name Olga corresponds to the masculine name "Oleg" (Helgi), which means "holy" [from Germanic "heilig" for "holy"]. Although the pagan understanding of holiness was quite different from the Christian, it also presupposed within a man a particular frame of reference, of chastity and sobriety of mind, and of insight. The fact that people called Oleg the Wise-Seer ("Veschi") and Olga the Wise ("Mudra") shows the spiritual significance of names.

Rather later traditions regard her a native of a village named Vybuta, several kilometers from Pskov up along the River Velika. They still not so long ago used to point out at the river the Olga Bridge, the ancient fording place, Where Olga was met by Igor. The Pskov geographic features have preserved several names connected with this great descendent of Pskov: the village of Ol'zhinets and Ol'gino Pole (Olga Field); the Olga Gateway, one of the branches of the River Velika; Olga Hill and the Olga Cross near Lake Pskov; and the Olga Stone at the village of Vybuta.

The beginning of the independent rule of Princess Olga is connected in the chronicles with the narrative about her terrible revenge on the Drevlyani, who murdered Igor. Having sworn their oaths on their swords and believing "only in their swords", the pagans were doomed by the judgment of God to also perish by the sword (Mt. 26: 52). Worshipping fire among the other primal elements, they found their own doom in the fire. And the Lord chose Olga to fulfill the fiery chastisement.

The struggle for the unity of Rus, for the subordination to the Kievan center of mutually divisive and hostile tribes and principalities paved the way towards the ultimate victory of Christianity in the Russian Land. For Olga, though still a pagan, the Kiev Christian Church and its Heavenly patron saint the holy Prophet of God Elias [in icons depicted upon a fiery chariot] stood as a flaming faith and prayer of a fire come down from the heavens, and her victory over the Drevlyani -- despite the severe harshness of her victory, was a victory of Christian constructive powers in the Russian realm over the powers of a paganism, dark and destructive.

The God-wise Olga entered into history as a great builder of the civil life and culture of Kievan Rus. The chronicles are filled with accounts of her incessant "goings" throughout the Russian land with the aim of the well-being and improvement of the civil and domestic manner of life of her subjects. Having consolidated the inner strengthening of the might of the Kiev great-princely throne, thereby weakening the influence of the hodge-podge of petty local princes in Rus, Olga centralized the whole of state rule with the help of the system of "pogosti" (administrative trade centers). In the year 946 she went with her son and retinue through the Drevlyani land, "imposing tribute and taxes", noting the villages, inns and hunting places, liable for inclusion in the Kiev great-princely holdings. The next year she went to Novgorod, establishing administrative centers along the Rivers Msta and Luga, everywhere leaving visible traces of her activity. "Her lovischa (hunting preserves) were throughout all the land, the boundary signs, her places and administrative centers, wrote the chronicler, and her sleighs stand at Pskov to this very day, as are her directed places for snaring of birds along the Dneipr and the Desna Rivers; and her village of Ol'zhicha stands to the present day."

The "pogosti" established by Olga, as financial-administrative and law-court centers, represented sturdy props of great-princely power in these places.

Being first of all, and in the actual sense of the word, centers of trade and exchange (the merchant as "guest") gathered together and became organized around the settlements (and in place of the "humanly arbitrary" gathering of tribute and taxes, there now existed uniformity and order with the "pogosti" system). Olga's "pogosti" became an important network of the ethnic and cultural unification of the Russian nation.

Later on, when Olga had become a Christian, they began to erect the first churches at the "pogosti"; from the time of the Baptism of Rus the "pogost" and church (parish) became inseparably associated. (It was only afterwards with the existence of cemeteries alongside churches that there developed the current meaning of the Russian word "pogost" to nowadays signify "parish graveyard".)

Princess Olga exerted much effort to fortify the defensive might of the land. The cities were built up and strengthened, Vyshgorod (or Detintsa, Kroma) they enclosed with stone and oak walls (battlements), and they bristled them with ramparts and pallisades. Knowing how hostile many were to the idea of strengthening the princely power and the unification of Rus, the princess herself lived constantly "on the hill" over the Dneipr, behind the trusty battlements of Kievan Vyshgorod ("Verkhna-gorod" or "Upper-city"), surrounded by her faithful retainers. Two thirds of the gathered tribute, as the chroniclers testify, she gave over for the use of the Kiev "veche" (city-council), and the remaining one third went "to Olga, for Vyshgorod" -- for the needs of building fortifications. And to the time period of Olga, historians note the establishment of the first state frontiers of Russia -- to the west, with Poland. Heroic outposts to the south guarded the peaceful fields of the Kievans from the peoples of the Wild Plains. Foreigners hastened to Gardarika ("the land of cities"), as they called Rus, with merchandise and craftwares. Swedes, Danes, Germans all eagerly entered as mercenaries into the Russian army. The foreign connections of Kiev spread. This furthered the developement of construction with stone in the city, the beginnings of which was initiated under Olga. The first stone edifices of Kiev -- the city palace and Olga's upper enclosure -- were discovered by archaeologists only but in this century. (The palace, or more properly its foundations and remains of the walls were found in excavations during the years 1971-1972).

But it was not only the strengthening of the civil realm and the improvement of domestic norms of the manner of life for people that attracted the attention of the wise princess. Even more urgent for her was the fundamental transformation of the religious life of Rus, the spiritual transfiguration of the Russian nation. Rus had become a great power. Only two European realms could compare with it during these years in significance and might: in Eastern Europe -- the ancient Byzantine empire, and in the West the kingdom of Saxony.

The experience of both empires, connected with the exaltation in spirit of Christian teaching, with the religious basis of life, showed clearly, that the way to the future greatness of Rus lay not through military means, but first of all and primarily through spiritual conquering and attainment. Having entrusted Kiev to her teenage son Svyatoslav, and seeking grace and truth, Great-princess Olga in the Summer of 954 set off with a great fleet to Constantinople. This was a peaceful "expedition", combining the tasks of religious pilgrimage and diplomatic mission, but the political considerations demanded that it become simultaneously a display of the military might of Rus on the Black Sea, which would remind the haughty "Romaioi" [Byzantine Greeks] of the victorious campaigns of Askold and Oleg, who in the year 907 advanced in their shields "to the very gates of Constantinople."

The result was attained. The appearance of the Russian fleet in the Bosphorus created the necessary effect for the developing of Russo-Byzantine dialogue. In turn, the southern capital struck the stern daughter of the north with its variety of beauty and grandeur of architecture, and its jumbled mixture of pagans and peoples from all over the world. But a great impression was produced by the wealth of Christian churches and the holy things preserved in them. Constantinople, "the city of the imperial Caesar," the Byzantine Empire, strove in everything to be worthy of the Mother of God, to Whom the city was dedicated by St Constantine the Great (May 21) in 330 (see May 11). The Russian princess attended services in the finest churches of Constantinople: at Hagia Sophia, at Blachernae, and others.

In her heart the wise Olga found the desire for holy Orthodoxy, and she made the decision to become a Christian. The sacrament of Baptism was made over her by the Constantinople Patriarch Theophylactus (933-956), and her godfather was the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (912-959). At Baptism she was given the name Helen in honor of the holy Equal of the Apostles Helen (May 21), the mother of St Constantine, and she also had been the discoverer of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord. In an edifying word spoken at the conclusion of the rite, the Patriarch said: "Blessed are you among Russian women, for you have forsaken the darkness and have loved the Light. The Russian people shall bless you in all the future generations, from your grandson and great-grandson to your furthermost descendants." He instructed her in the truths of the Faith, the churchly rules and the rule of prayer, he explained the commands about fasting, chastity and charity. "She, however," says the Monk Nestor, "bowed her head and stood, literally like a sponge absorbing water, listening to the teaching, and bowing down to the Patriarch, she said, "By your prayers, O Master, let me be preserved from the wiles of enemies".

It is in precisely this way, with a slightly bowed head, that St Olga is depicted on one of the frescoes of the Kiev Sophia cathedral, and likewise on a Byzantine miniature contemporary to her, in a manuscript portrait of the Chronicles of John Scilitius in the Madrid National Library. The Greek inscription, accompanying the miniature, terms Olga "Archontissa (i.e. ruler) of Rus," "a woman, Helga by name, who came to the emperor Constantine and was baptized". The princess is depicted in special head attire, "as a newly-baptized Christian and venerable deaconess of the Russian Church." Beside her in the same attire of the newly-baptized -- is Malusha (+ 1001), the future mother of the Equal of the Apostles St Vladimir (July 15).

For one who had originally so disliked the Russians as did the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos, it was no trivial matter for him to become the godfather to the "Archontissa of Rus". In the Russian chronicles are preserved narratives about this, how resolutely and on an equal footing Olga conversed with the emperor, amazing the Greeks by her spiritual depth and wisdom of governance, and displaying that the Russian nation was quite capable of accepting and assimilating the highest attainments of the Greek religious genius, the finest fruition of Byzantine spirituality and culture. And thus by a peaceful path St Olga succeeded in "taking Constantinople", something which no other military leader before her had ever been able to do. According to the witness of the chronicles, the emperor himself had to admit, that Olga "had given him the slip" (had outwitted him), and the popular mind, jumbling together into one the traditions about Oleg the Wise and Olga the Wise, sealed in its memory this spiritual victory in the bylina or folk-legend entitled "Concerning the Taking of Constantinople by Princess Olga".

In his work "About the Ceremonies of the Byzantine Court," which has survived to the present day in just one copy, Constantine Porphyrigenitos has left us a detailed description of the ceremony surrounding the stay of St Olga at Constantinople. He describes a triumphant reception in the famed Magnaura palace, beneathe the singing of bronze birds and the roars of copper lions, where Olga appeared with an impressive retinue of 108 men (not counting the men of Svyatoslav's company). And there took place negotiations in the narrower confines of the chambers of the empress, and then a state dinner in the hall of Justinian. And here during the course of events, there providentially met together at one table the four "majestic ladies": the grandmother and the mother of holy Equal of the Apostles St Vladimir (St Olga and her companion Malusha), and the grandmother and the mother of St Vladimir's future spouse Anna (the empress Helen and her daughter-in-law Theophano). Slightly more than half a century would pass, and at the Desyatin church of the Most Holy Theotokos at Kiev would stand aside each other the marble tombs of St Olga, St Vladimir and "Blessed Anna".

During the time of one of these receptions, as Constantine Porphyrogenitos relates, the Russian princess was presented a golden plate inset with jewels. St Olga offered it to the vestry of the Sophia cathedral, where at the beginning of the thirteenth century it was seen and described by the Russian diplomat Dobrynya Yadeikovich (who afterwards was to become the Novgorod archbishop Anthony): "The large golden official plate of Olga of Russia, when she took it as tribute, having come to Constantinople; upon the plate be precious stones, and upon it is written in these stones the name Christ".

Moreover, the wily emperor, after reporting such details as would underscore how "Olga had given him the slip", also presents a difficult riddle for historians of the Russian Church. This is it: St Nestor the Chronicler relates in the "Tale of Bygone Years" that the Baptism of Olga took place in the Biblical year 6463 (955 or 954), and this corresponds to the account of the Byzantine chronicles of Kedrinos. Another Russian Church writer of the eleventh century, Yakov Mnikh, in his work "Eulogy and Laudation to Vladimir... and how Vladimir's Grandmother Olga was Baptized", speaks about the death of the holy princess (+ 969) and he notes that she lived as a Christian for fifteen years, and he places the actual date of Baptism as the year 954, which corresponds within several months to the date indicated by Nestor. In contrast to this, describing for us the stay of Olga at Constantinople and providing the precise dates of the receptions given in her honor, Constantine Porphyrogenitos has us to understand in no uncertain terms that all this occurred in the year 957.

To reconcile the cited chronicles, on the one hand, with the testimony of Constantine on the other hand, Russian Church historians are led to suppose one of two things: either St Olga made a second journey to Constantinople in the year 957 to continue negotiations with the emperor, or she was not baptized at Constantinople, having previously been baptized at Kiev in 954, and that she was merely making a pilgrimage to Byzantium, since she was already a Christian. The first supposition is the more credible.

As for the immediate diplomatic outcome of the negotiations, there were basic matters for St Olga that had been left unsettled. She had gained success on questions concerning Russian trade within the territories of the Byzantine Empire, and also the reconfirmation of the peace accord with Byzantium, concluded by Igor in the year 944. But she had not been able to sway the emperor on two issues of importance to Rus: the dynastic marriage of Svyatoslav with a Byzantine princess, and the conditions for restoring an Orthodox metropolitan to Kiev as had existed at the time of Askold. The evidently inadequate outcome of her mission is detected in her answer, when she had already returned home, which was given to emissaries sent out by the emperor. To the emperor's inquiry about promised military aid, StOlga curtly replied through the emissaries: "If you had spent time with me at Pochaina, as I did at the Court, then I would send the soldiers to help you."

Amidst all this, in spite of her failed attempts at establishing the Church hierarchy within Rus, St Olga, after becoming a Christian, zealously devoted herself to efforts of Christian evangelization among the pagans, and also church construction: "demanding the distressing of demons and the beginning of life for Christ Jesus". She built churches: of St Nicholas and the church of the Holy Wisdom at Kiev, of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos at Vytebsk, and of the Holy Life-Creating Trinity at Pskov. Pskov from that period has been called in the chronicles the Domicile of the Holy Trinity. The church, built by Olga at the River Velika at a spot pointed out to her from on high, according to the chronicler, by a "light-beam of the Thrice-Radiant Divinity", stood for more than one and an half centuries. In the year 1137 holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (February 11) replaced this wooden temple with one made of stone, which in turn in 1363 was rebuilt and replaced finally with the presently existing Trinity cathedral.

Another very important monument of Russian "Monument Theology", as Church architecture frequently is termed, connected with the name of St Olga, is the temple of the Wisdom of God at Kiev, which was started soon after her return from Constantinople, and consecrated on May 11, 960. This day was afterwards observed in the Russian Church as a special Church feastday.

In the Mesyatseslov (calendar supplement)of a parchment Epistle-book from 1307, under May 11 is written: "On this day the consecration of St Sophia took place at Kiev in the year 6460." The date is indicated in the so-called "Antiochian" rather than generally-accepted Constantinople chronology, and it corresponds to the year 960 from the Birth of Christ.

It was no mere coincidence that St Olga received in Baptism the name of St Helen, who found the Venerable Wood of the Cross at Jerusalem (March 6). The foremost sacred item in the newly built Kiev Sophia temple was a piece of the Holy Cross, brought by this new Helen from Constantinople, and received by her in blessing from the Constantinople Patriarch. The Cross, by tradition, was hewn out from an entire piece of the Life-Creating Wood of the Lord. Upon the Cross-Wood was inscribed: "The Holy Cross for the Regeneration of the Russian Land, Received by Noble Princess Olga."

St Olga did much to memorialize the first Russian confessors of the Name of Christ: over the grave of Askold the St Nicholas church was built, where according to certain accounts, she herself was afterwards interred. Over the grave of Dir was built the afore-mentioned Sophia cathedral, which stood for half a century and burned in the year 1017. On this spot Yaroslav the Wise later on built a church of St Irene in 1050, but the sacred items of Olga's Sophia temple were transferred into a stone church of the same name now standing as the Kiev Sophia, started in 1017 and consecrated about the year 1030. In the Prologue of the thirteenth century, it says about the Olga Cross: "for It is now at Kiev in St Sophia in the altar on the right side." The plundering of Kiev's holy things, which after the Mongols was continued by the Lithuanians who captured the city in 1341, did not spare even this. Under Jagiello in the period of the Liublin Unia, which in 1384 united Poland and Lithuania into one state, the Olga Cross was snatched from the Sophia cathedral and carried off by the Catholics to Lublin. Its further fate is unknown.

But even in Olga's time there were at Kiev among the nobles and retainers no few people who, in the words of Solomon, "hated Wisdom", and also St Olga, for having built Wisdom's temple. Zealots of the old paganism became all the more emboldened, viewing with hope the coming of age of Svyatoslav, who decidedly spurned the urgings of his mother to accept Christianity, and even becoming angry with her over this. It was necessary to hurry with the intended matter of the Baptism of Rus. The deceit of Byzantium, at the time not wanting to promote Christianity in Rus, played into the hands of the pagans. In search of a solution, St Olga looked to the west. No contradiction here yet existed. St Olga (+ 969) belonged still to the undivided Church (i.e. before the Great Schism of 1054), and she had scant possibility to study the theological points involved between the Greek and Latin Creeds. The opposition of West and East presented itself to her first of all as a political rivalry, of secondary importance in comparison with her task, the establishment of the Russian Church and the Christian enlightenment of Rus.

Under the year 959, the German chronicler named "the Continuant of Reginon," records: "to the king came emissaries of Helen, queen of the Russes, who was baptized in Constantinople, and who sought for their nation to have bishop and prieSts" King Otto, the future founder of the German Empire, willingly acceded to Olga's request, but he urged that the matter not be decided in haste. It was only on Nativity of the following year 960, that there was established a Russian bishop Libutius, from the monastery brethren of Anatolius Alban am Mainz. But he soon died (March 15, 961). In his place was ordained Adalbert of Trier, whom Otto "generously furnishing all needs" finally sent to Russia. It is difficult to say what would have happened, had the king not delayed for so long a while, but when in 962 when Adalbert showed up at Kiev, he "did not succeed in the matter for which he had been sent, and did consider his efforts to be in vain." Furthermore, on the return journey "certain of his companions were murdered, and the bishop himself did not escape mortal danger."

It turned out that after the passage of years, as Olga indeed had foreseen, matters at Kiev had twisted ultimately in favor of paganism, and Rus having become neither Orthodox nor Catholic, had second thoughts about accepting Christianity. The pagan reaction thus produced was so strong, that not only did the German missionaries suffer, but also some of the Kiev Christians who had been baptized with Olga at Constantinople. By order of Svyatoslav, St Olga's nephew Gleb was killed and some of the churches built by her were destroyed. It seems reasonable, that this transpired not without Byzantium's secret diplomacy: given the possibility of a strengthened Rus in alliance with Otto, the Greeks would have preferred to support the pagans, with the consequent intrigues against Olga and various disorders.

The collapse of the mission of Adalbert had providential significance for the future Russian Orthodox Church, escaping papal dominion. St Olga was obliged to accede to the humiliation and to withdraw fully into matters of personal piety, handing over the reigns of governance to her pagan-son Svyatoslav. Because of her former role, all the difficult matters were referred over to her in her wisdom of governance. When Svyatoslav absented himself from Kiev on military campaigns and wars, the governance of the realm was again entrusted to his mother. But the question about the Baptism of Rus was for a while taken off the agenda, and this was ultimately bitter for St Olga, who regarded the good news of the Gospel of Christ as the chief matter in her life.

She meekly endured the sorrow and grief, attempting to help her son in civil and military affairs, and to guide matters with heroic intent. The victories of the Russian army were a consolation for her, particularly the destruction of an old enemy of the Russian state - the Khazar kaganate. Twice, in the years 965 and 969, the armies of Svyatoslav went through the lands of "the foolish Khazars," forever shattering the might of the Jewish rulers of Priazovia and lower Povolzhia. A subsequent powerful blow was struck at the Mahometan Volga Bulgars, and then in turn came the Danube Bulgars. Eighteen years were spent on the Danube with the Kiev military forces. Olga was alone and in worry: it was as though, absorbed by military matters in the Balkans, Svyatoslav had forgotten about Kiev.

In the Spring of 969 the Pechenegs besieged Kiev: "and it was impossible to lead out the horses to water, for the Pechenegs stood at the Lybeda." The Russian army was far away, at the Danube. Having sent off messengers to her son, St Olga herself headed the defense of the capital. When he received the news, Svyatoslav rode quickly to Kiev, and "he hugged his mother and his children and was distressed, with what had happened with them from the Pechenegs." But after routing the nomads, the warrior prince began anew to say to his mother: "It does not please me to sit at Kiev, for I wish to live at Pereslavl' on the Dunaj (Danube) since that is the center of my lands."

Svyatoslav dreamed of creating a vast Russian holding from the Danube to the Volga, which would unite all Rus, Bulgaria, Serbia, the Near Black Sea region and Priazovia (Azov region), and extend his borders to those of Constantinople itself. Olga the Wise understood however, that all the bravery and daring of the Russian companies could not compare against the ancient Byzantine Empire, and that the venture of Svyatoslav would fail. But the son would not heed the admonitions of his mother. St Olga thereupon said, "You see that I am ill. Why do you want to forsake me? After you bury me, then go wherever you wish."

Her days were numbered, and her burdens and sorrows sapped her strength. On July 11, 969 St Olga died: "and with great lament they mourned her, her son and grandsons and all the people." In her final years, amidst the triumph of paganism, she had to have a priest by her secretly, so she would not evoke new outbursts of pagan fanaticism. But before death, having found anew her former firmness and resolve, she forbade them to make over her the pagan celebration of the dead, and she gave final instructions to bury her openly in accord with Orthodox ritual. Presbyter Gregory, who was with her at Constantinople in 957, fulfilled her request.

St Olga lived, died, and was buried as a Christian. "And thus having lived and well having glorified God in Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, having worshipped in the blessed faith, she ended her life in the peace of Christ Jesus, our Lord." As her prophetic testament to succeeding generations, with deep Christian humility she confessed her faith concerning her nation: "God's will be done! If it pleases God to have mercy upon my native Russian Land, then they shall turn their hearts to God, just as I have received this gift."

God glorified the holy toiler of Orthodoxy, the "initiator of faith" in the Russian Land, by means of miracles and incorrupt relics. Yakov Mnikh (+ 1072), a hundred years after her death, wrote in his work "Memory and Laudation to Vladimir": "God has glorified the body of His servant Olga, and her venerable body remains incorrupt to this day."

St Olga glorified God with good deeds in all things, and God glorified her. Under holy Prince Vladimir, ascribed by some as occurring in the year 1007, the relics of St Olga were transferred into the Desyatin church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and placed within a special sarcophagus, such as was customary to enclose the relics of saints in the Orthodox East. "And hear ye concerning a certain miracle about her: the grave of stone is small in the church of the Holy Mother of God, this church built by the blessed Prince Vladimir, and in the grave is the blessed Olga. And an opening was made in the tomb to behold Olga's body lying there whole." But not everyone was given to see this miracle of the incorrupt relics of the saint: "For whoever came with faith, the aperture opened up, and there the venerable body could be seen lying intact, and one would marvel at such a miracle -- the body lying there for so many years without decay. Worthy of all praise is this venerable body: resting in the grave whole, as though sleeping. But for those who did not approach in faith, the grave aperture would not open up, and they would not see this venerable body, but only the grave."

Thus even after death St Olga espoused life eternal and resurrection, filling believers with joy and confounding non-believers. She was, in the words of St Nestor the Chronicler, "a precursor in the Christian land, like the dawn before sunrise or the twilight before the light."

The holy Equal of the Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, himself giving thanks to God on the day of the Baptism of Rus, witnessed before his countrymen concerning Saint Olga with the remarkable words: "The sons of Rus bless you, and also the generations of your descendants."


China, Russia launch large-scale war games

Russian and Chinese military forces are taking part in a five-day joint exercise, one of the biggest of its kind.

The “Peace Mission 2009” drill was officially started on Wednesday in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk by Russian Chief of General Staff Nikolay Makarov and his Chinese counterpart Chen Bingde.

About 3,000 army and air forces personnel, 300 armored vehicles and 45 aircraft will take part in the maneuvers at the Taonan military range in China. The scenario of the exercise says a large group of terrorists have captured a city and provoked massive riots there. The joint force is to defeat the militants and quell the uprising.

Chinese media say the scenario resembles the bloody riots in Xinjiang province earlier this month, even though the plans for the dill had been announced long before that. “To some extent, the July 5 Xinjiang riot pushed forward anti-terrorism cooperation between China and Russia,” the China Daily newspaper quoted Major Wang Haiyun, a former Chinese military attaché to Russia, as saying.

This is the fourth “Peace Mission” exercise. For Russia’s Far Eastern military command it will be the largest movement of troops across the national borders since the campaign against Japan in 1945.

“This is not an act to stick with fashion but a concrete advancement in preparing our military forces for joint countering of security threats in the region,” General Makarov told the media.

He added the drill was even more important in the context of Japan and South Korea taking a militarization course following North Korea’s nuclear test in May and subsequent missile test launches.

According to Makarov, the Russian military will have things to learn from their Chinese partners, who provided security during the Olympic Games in Beijing in August. Their advice will come in handy in 2014, when Russia itself is to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

General Bingde praised the traditional war games and stressed that they “are not directed against a third party and are not a threat to other nations.”


To the Arctic Circle on catamarans

Eight brave souls have set out on a two-week Arctic Circle adventure from Murmansk to Archangelsk. Such expeditions are not unheard-of now, but the men took it up a notch and chose somewhat unusual vessels for the trip.

These courageous men have plans that go far beyond the next two weeks, when they will set sail in their inflatable catamarans in the Arctic Circle. The aim of the trip is to explore the possibility of going through the first segment of a much-longer journey: the Northern Sea route from the Kola Peninsula to Chukotka. That expedition is already scheduled for 2010, and participants plan to complete it non-stop.

The idea to go through the North Sea route was born under the stars on the Equator in the Seychelles, when the explorers crossed the Indian Ocean in the very same inflatable sailing catamarans. It was then that they understood that this craft is perfect for maneuvering through reefs, sandbanks and other difficult coastal sections, due to the vessel's low draft.

To date no one has attempted to sail such a course on an inflatable catamaran, but the voyagers have a humanitarian mission as well.

“The goal of the expedition is to stir up in people the faith in something that’s real,” said traveler Aleksandr Kravtsov. “In this huge territory called Russia, there are great people, incredible scenery, pure untouched land, virgin nature. It’s vital for us to see it with our own eyes and honestly tell the story and share the trophies we find there with other people.”

The expedition is set to last from July 23 until August 8. The date was not picked at random: it is during this time that the water in the Arctic is not entirely covered by ice. Indeed, the polar bears will certainly be in for a big surprise when they see eight Russian daredevils sailing along in small inflatable catamarans.


Medvedev backs plan to start religion courses in schools, assign priests to armed forces

Barvikha, July 22, Interfax - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has supported the idea of introducing a course in religious culture and secular ethics at general schools, and for assigning priests to the army and navy.

Medvedev said at a meeting on Tuesday that he had received letters from the leaders of Russia's main religions, proposing that subjects aimed at the younger generation's spiritual and moral upbringing be introduced at general schools, and priests attached to the army and navy.

"I have made up my mind to support both ideas - the idea of introducing a basic course of religious culture and secular ethics at schools. I also think it worthwhile to assign priests representing Russia's traditional faiths to the armed forces on a permanent basis," Medvedev said.

"I am ready to support both decisions," the president said.

He has offered the teaching of the foundations of religious culture, history of religion, and secular ethics in Russian schools as an experiment.

"I believe it is possible to hold such an experiment in some regions of our country. We are now planning to do it in 18 regions, but this figure may be discussed," Medvedev said.

"Students and their parents should independently choose the subjects," the president said. "It may be the foundations of Orthodox culture or the foundations of Muslim culture, Judaism, or Buddhism. Students and their parents should make independent choices," he said.

"Many people are likely to want to study all religious life in Russia in its entirety. For such students, a general course in the history of major traditional religions represented in our country may be developed," said Medvedev.

The president also said that people who are not religious should have a right to study the foundations of secular ethics.

Photo by the Presidential Press and Information Office

вторник, 21 июля 2009 г.

Kyrgyzstan wants to join trilateral customs union

Kyrgyzstan considers joining a customs union formed by Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Commenting on the issue at a press conference in the Kazakh capital Astana, the Kyrgyz Ambassador to Kazakhstan Dzhanysh Rustembekov, admitted that it wouldn’t be easy as all customs tariffs need to be coordinated. He reiterated his country’s proposal to host bases of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and hopes an agreement to that end will be reached at an upcoming informal CSTO summit on Lake Issyk Kul on August 1-2.


Source:The Voice of Russia

понедельник, 20 июля 2009 г.

The Big Waltz on the banks of the Neva river

From July 10th to July 20th St. Petersburg hosts the Big Waltz Festival. The international music festival is 7 years old. It revived the tradition Johann Strauss gave rise to in the middle of the 19th century – the tradition of summer seasons in the residences and palaces of Russian emperors.

In summer 1856 Johann Strauss for the first time performed in the emperor residence in Pavlovsk. His concerts were huge success and after that throughout the period of 11 years, the “Waltz King” — Johann Strauss – made concert tours to St. Petersburg. Many of his works of the great Austrian composer were for the first time performed in Russia.

This year one of the festival’s concerts is called “Two Waltz Kings”. The Hermitage State Orchestra conducted by Alexei Karabanov performs waltzes by Pyotr Tchaikovsky from ballets “The Sleeping Beauty”. “The Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker” and famous waltzes and polkas by Johann Strauss including “Vienna blood”, “The Pleasure train”, “A life of an artists” and “The Emperor Waltz”. We hear from the artistic director of the festival Yulia Kantor who will tell us how the idea of the concert came about.

“Alexei Karabanov is an inventive conductor, he took part in the festival from the very first one which was 8 years ago. When we discussed the theme of this year’s festival he came up with the idea of a dialogue between of Tchaikovsky and Strauss’ music. Indeed the most popular and frequently performed Russian composer close to the waltz music is Tchaikovsky. A part of the concert will be dedicated to his music and to some extend it will be an anthology of his dance pieces. The second part of the concert is dedicated to Johann Strauss, a favorite Western composer in Russia in the 19th and in the 20th centuries. It is interesting for us to see how these two composers complement each other”.

For more than 20 years Alexei Karabanov had been conductor of the Admiralty Orchestra of the Leningrad Marine base. With this collective he took part in festivals of military orchestras in Europe. Today concerts of maestro Karabanov himself have become part of the cultural life of St. Petersburg. And here is how the Pleasure train polka by Johann Strauss was performed by the Admiralty orchestra. The conductor is Alexei Karabanov.

A. Novosyolov

Source:The Voice of Russia

вторник, 14 июля 2009 г.

First stage of Mars-5 experiment over

An international crew of six men spent 105 days in isolation, imitating a flight to the Red Planet as part of an experiment.

It took place at the Institute of Medical and Biological Studies in Moscow and has just finished.

During the mission, the crew of six volunteers experienced all aspects of a flight to Mars, from the launch to the return journey.

Staying in an isolated capsule, they also had to deal with simulated emergencies, and communication delays of 20 minutes, as this is how long it takes for a signal to travel to Mars and back.

The astronauts said they all became friends and added that, if there was a real expedition to Mars, they’d be ready to take part.

Sergey Ryazansky, the captain, said “the experiment was truly a cooperative effort between many scientists and the crew”.

“We constantly felt they were supporting us. We felt there were no differences between Russian and European astronauts – it was all one crew. I want to thank all the guys for this,” he said.

Along with Sergey, three more Russians – astronaut Oleg Artemyev, oncologist Aleksey Baranov, and sports physiologist Aleksey Shpakov – and two members of the European Space Agency, French civilian pilot Cyrille Fournier and German mechanical engineer Oliver Knickel took part in the simulated flight.

Each of the volunteers will receive 15,000 euros plus bonuses for successful experiments.

The 105-day study precedes a full 520-day simulation of a mission to Mars due to start later this year. It will include all stages of a trip to Mars: a 250-day flight to the planet, a 30-day stay on its surface, and a 240-day return flight.

The crew members’ routine will be similar to that of astronauts on a real space flight. They will even have the same diet.


Russian Orthodox seminary to open near Paris

A Russian Orthodox seminary will open in France in September. The issue was discussed at a meeting in Moscow between the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department Archbishop Illarion and the French Ambassador to Russia Jean de Gliniasti. The seminary will be located at a former Catholic monastery in the town of Epinay-sous-Senar near Paris. Some classes and lectures will be moved to Paris. The seminary will run special courses for anyone keen to learn more about Russian Orthodoxy and its theological and liturgic legacy.


Source:The Voice of Russia

пятница, 10 июля 2009 г.


Воскресенский Ново-Иерусалимский монастырь
«Воскресенский Ново-Иерусалимский монастырь» на Яндекс.Фотках

The New Jerusalem Monastery, designed as an exact replica of the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem proper, was founded on the Istra River not far from Moscow 350 years ago.

The idea of building the Monastery belonged to Patriarch Nikon, who wanted a Russian Jerusalem near Moscow, which would become a center of Orthodoxy, would boost the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian State and would assert the Moscow-Third Rome concept.

Patriarch Nikon selected an elevated place by the Istra River near Moscow which he saw as similar to where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is located in Palestine. Scholastic monk-priest Arseni Sukhanov was dispatched to the Holy Land to collect drawings and plans of the Holy Sepulcher Church. Along with the draughts he brought back a cypress model presented by Patriarch Paisy of Jerusalem. The construction of the monastery began in 1656.

Фрагмент внутреннего убранства Ново Иерусалимского монастыря
«Фрагмент внутреннего убранства Ново Иерусалимского монастыря» на Яндекс.Фотках

Though ordering an exact replica of the church, Patriarch Nikon put no restrictions on the artistic imagination of the architects. Indeed, the resulting church repeated the design and size of the original but was different inside incorporating the Russian perception of heavenly kingdom through a diversity of architectural form, rich ceramic ornaments and stone carving.

Originally the monastery was known as Resurrection Monastery on the Istra. It became the New Jerusalem Monastery after Tsar Alexei called it so in one of his letters to Patriarch Nikon. On Patriarch's orders all surrounding sites were re-named after the Palestinian names linked to the Saviour: the Istra River became the River Jordan and the hill the monastery stood on was now known as Zion.

Воскресенский Ново-Иерусалимский монастырь
«Воскресенский Ново-Иерусалимский монастырь» на Яндекс.Фотках

The building of the monastery came a crucial event ahead of a church reform initiated by Patriarch Nikon. The Patriarch stood at the helm of drastic changes and replaced Tsar Alexei as a ruler during his military campaigns.

In 1658 the Tsar and the Patriarch fell out and the outraged Patriarch quit the patriarchy and retreated to New Jerusalem, where he lived for eight years. The monastery was under intensive construction. After the Church Council of 1666-1667 condemned and deposed the Patriarch, Nikon was exiled into Ferapontov Monastery, where he spent fifteen years. But on God's will the Patriarch on his death was to be buried in the New Jerusalem Monastery he had founded. The white-stone tomb of Patriarch Nikon in the New Jerusalem Monastery has survived to this day.

Above the grave hang the fetters which the Patriarch had worn for twenty-five years. Designed as a sublime example of the grandiose church and government program, the Monastery was now one of many similar ones near Moscow.

Even though it underwent reconstruction in the 18th and 19th centuries, the New Jerusalem stayed largely unchanged. In Soviet days it was shut down to serve an arts and local history museum. During the Second World War it was plundered and partially blown up by the Nazis and it took long to rebuild it. Monks returned to it in 1995 after a 75-year absence. And today, besides being a monastery the New Jerusalem is also a museum.

Source:The Voice of Russia

вторник, 7 июля 2009 г.

Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Nativity of John the Baptist

MOSCOW, July 7 (RIA Novosti, Ivan Korzun) - Russia is marking the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, with the event being commemorated in Orthodox churches throughout the country.

St. John, the last Old Testament prophet, opened the era of the New Testament, preparing people for the coming of Jesus Christ. Also called John the Forerunner, he baptized Jesus in the River Jordan, which marked the beginning of Jesus' ministry.

The Gospel of Luke describes the Lord's baptism in the following way: "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).

St. John is also venerated by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims. Western Christians commemorate him on June 24 due to differences in calendars used by Eastern and Western Christianity.

Ivan Kupala Day: Looking for Fern Flower

by Henryk Siemiradzki (1880)

Day of Ivan Kupala (aka John the Baptist, or Ivan the Herbalist) in the olden days was one of the most sacred, important and the most rackety festivities for the Russian people. All partook in the celebrations: they would gather herbs and flowers, twine wreaths, make bonfires, jump over them and play, bathe in rivers and lakes and perform divinations about one’s intended.

Ivan Kupala Day falls on 24 June, taking into consideration natural and historical factor of the summer solstice. However, many mark it on July 7, i.e. June 24 in the old style.

Ivan Kupala Day was one of the major pagan festivals of the Slavs. After conversion of Rus’ into Christianity it turned out that the old habitual holiday coincided with the nativity of John the Baptist. So the two holidays blended together, just as the name of the holiday came to combine both John (Ivan) the Baptist and the old pagan god Kupala, who the pre-Christian holiday was dedicated to.

According to an old belief, Ivan Kupala personifies the blossoming of powers of nature. The rites are based on worshipping water and the sun. From times immemorial it was customary to make ritual bonfires on banks of rivers and lakes on the Eve of Ivan Kupala.

by Ivan Sokolov (1856)

Purifying bonfires were the major peculiarity of Kupala Eve. They danced around bonfires, of course, to the accompaniment of live music. Young folks would throw wreaths over the bonfires and jump over them. Those who jumped higher were believed to live happier in future. In some places peasants even made their cattle go through this fire to protect it from pestilence. Mothers burned their ill children’s underwear to make all illnesses burn down, too. The youth and kids after jumping over bonfires would arrange boisterous merry games and races with one another. Playing race and catch was invariable on this night. By an old pagan belief on Kupala Eve, which is the shortest night in the year, one should not sleep, since all evil spirits come alive and are quite active.
On the Eve of Ivan Kupala the youth would look for their intended ones and choose their destinies: girls launched wreaths with lit candles on water and boys were to catch them – whose wreath he gets, she will be his wife.

On Ivan Kupala Day they bathed not only in water bodies but in dew as well. It was believed that Ivan’s dew helped against pimples, and if you sprinkled house walls and beds with it, then cockroaches and bedbugs would come to an end. On this day the Sun produces especially vivifying and animating impact on everything, folk beliefs say.
In the days of antiquity it was believed that Nativity of John the Baptist gave magic power to herbs and flowers and on the Eve of Ivan Kupala people gathered various plants, which they later brought to church for consecration, “to be used afterwards against evil suggestion of devilry”.

On this night people were looking for a fern’s flower – the one who is lucky to see it can make one’s innermost wish and it is bound to come true.

There is a number of folk weather sayings about this day, such as “On Ivan Day the Sun plays at sunrise”, “If there is rich dew on Ivan Day expect rich cucumber harvest”, “If the night is starry on the Eve of Ivan Day there will be lots of mushrooms”, “If it rains today then it will be sunny in five days”, etc.

Not only Russian people celebrates Ivan Kupala Day. In Lithuania it is known as Lado, in Poland as Sobotki, and in Ukraine as Kupalo or Kupailo. From the Carpathians and all around Russia people celebrated this mystical and enigmatic, though rackety and merry holiday of Ivan Kupala.


суббота, 4 июля 2009 г.

Patriarch Kirill arrived in Istanbul to meet with patriarch of Constantinople

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill has arrived in Istanbul to meet with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and consecrate the Russian Church in Bosporus. This first foreign visit by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church opens a series of friendly visits to the world’s 15 heads of Orthodox churches. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is ranked as first among equals. Until 15th century present-day Istanbul was named Constantinople and for 11 centuries stayed the capital of Christian empire. It was from this empire that Russian adopted Christianity more than a thousand years ago. During his three-day visit Patriarch Kirill will conduct a joint service with Patriarch Bartholomew, consecrate a church on the compound of the Russian consulate’s country residence and hold meetings with compatriots and government and spiritual leaders of Turkey.

Source:The Voice of Russia

Politicians do not make good historians

среда, 1 июля 2009 г.


By Yelena Bodrova

«Мышкин» на Яндекс.Фотках

Myshkin on the Upper Volga in the Yaroslavl Region is so small you can walk round it in two hours. There’s no public transport except for the route taxi, which was launched only recently. Life is flowing at quiet pace and the old mansions of the nobility on the banks of the Volga built in the style of classicism stay a glaring reminder of the bygone riches and prosperity of the owners. All this adds a particular charm to the town.

The town, which name means ‘a mouse’ in Russian, was founded in the 16th century. As legend has it, a prince who was hunting in the neighbourhood lay down to have a rest and fell asleep. He was suddenly woken up by a mouse just in time to see a snake crawling towards him. The prince deemed his salvation from being stung to death a miracle and built a wooden chapel in the place in honour of Saints Boris and Gleb, for the incident with the mouse happened on Saints Boris and Gleb Day. The prince provided the chapel with a watchman and the man’s hut was the first dwelling of a future town, Myshkin. When Myshkin got the status of a town in 1777, its coat of arms depicted a mouse along with the Yaroslavl bear with the axe.

The Russian author Ivan Aksakov visited Myshkin in 1850 and left the following description of the place:

“Myshkin on the Volga got populated with merchant peasantry, enterprising and hard-working. The merchants are rich, live in beautiful houses like one big family and make donations to the town budget. All are involved in wholesale commerce, there’s practically no trading inside. Up to six million eggs are sent to St.Petersburg from Myshkin, and the peasants here are well-off and engaged in big trade.”

The refusal by merchants to have a railroad built through the town left it with no chances for industrial development but re-established it in the status of laid-back, tranquil town with rich architecture. The merchants saw Myshkin a merchant capital where their dreams of wealth and freedom had come true. Their vast capitals went to adorn the town with cathedrals and mansions and give it a full cultural and scientific life, something which made Myshkin clearly distinguishable from other provincial towns.

With the arrival of the Soviets the cream of townsfolk descending from merchants and the nobility left or were deported. The tiny Myshkin was allotted no room in the far-going plans of the Soviet government, which deemed it unimportant and gave part of it to the Rybinsk water reservoir.

But the town lived on cherishing memories of its past, of the old mansions and vandalized churches, and fighting for a place under the Russian sun. The building of two pipelines and a gas compressor and oil pumping station inspired a new life into Myshkin and provided it with a chance to grow and develop.

As if a small mouse, the town of Myshkin sits huddled up from the bustle of modern life and is enjoying a tranquil life in a Volga hinterland. Occupying a mousy small territory, which you can cross in two hours, and populated by a mere 6,000 residents, the town has nevertheless become a tourist attraction. In the first place, it boasts the world’s only Museum of the Mouse, depicting more than 5,000 exhibits dedicated to the town’s symbol. The museum’s funny slogan calls for mice of all countries to join together in Myshkin, its mouse-devoted exhibits include drawings, embroidery, knitting, coins and items made of faience, clay, furs and other materials and it receives letters, handmade fancies, fairytales and pictures on mousy matters from all over the world.

The local history museum tells of the life of peasants, merchant and nobility on the Volga from the 18th century until now. The rare exhibits include a big writing desk divided into the woman’s and man’s section, with embroidery on the one and newspapers and specs on the other. There is an exposition telling of the Smirnov brothers, who were born in the town and became famous for their brainchild – the Smirnov vodka brand. And in the backyard a boy is making crocks at potter’s wheel.

An open-air museum has collected samples of oil machinery, including an engine. As the story goes, the museum was once visited by a young Japanese with his bride and he liked the engine so much that he wanted to take it home with him. But he was told it was impossible. Several years later the Japanese came to visit again, this time with his daughter, to tell that he had now an identical engine near his house and that he had assembled it himself.

And of course, there is the museum of valenki and linen at the factory producing valenki, the traditionally Russian footwear so indispensable in the Russian North. I couldn’t help buying a pair — mouse-style, with the muzzle, and the nose and the eyes, very elegant and warm. The governor of the Yaroslavl Region keeps his valenki in the museum. He wears them when he comes to visit and he says he’ll take them after he retires. Other exhibits include linen dollies, housewife helpers, who inspire a housewife into good cooking when she isn’t in the mood.

As we strolled through the town we dropped in at a canteen and had the most delicious and cheap by Moscow standards meal. Myshkin fully provides itself with food, natural only. The curds, the sour cream, the milk and the meat and the fish from the Volga, and the smoked bream was just out of this world.

A remote corner of Russia, Myshkin has preserved the atmosphere of a comfy Russian province of which they used to say in the old days that ‘where there is less sin there is more salvation to the soul’.

Source:The Voice of Russia