понедельник, 28 сентября 2009 г.

XL Report: The Khakassians

The Khakassia Republic is a part of Russia. It is situated in central Asia in the Altai-Sayan Mountains. Different tribes who lived on this land have worshipped their gods for centuries. The Khakass people have kept the polytheistic faith of their forefathers. Shamans have passed it through generations. In the Khakass language, shaman means person who knows and it is only these shamans who know how to talk to the spirits. Find out more about the Khakassians on RT.

вторник, 22 сентября 2009 г.

Franz Lefort

By Alexei Glukhov

There is a giant granite boulder still lying at Moscow's "German Cemetery". In the year 1699 Tsar Peter the Great ordered that the rock should be placed on the grave of his friend Franz Lefort, Swiss by nationality, Muscovite by residence and the first Russian Admiral.

Franz Lefort was buried with great pomp and fanfare with three army regiments leading the procession with lowered banners and cannons trailing behind. Slowly marching behind the funeral carriage, driven by 16 jet-black horses, were officers holding the deceased Admiral's hat, sword and spurs placed on black cushions. There was a horseman resplendent in black armor and feathers, followed by foreign ambassadors dressed in mourning attire with a nearly thousand-strong crowd of Moscow nobility trailing closely behind tо the somber beat of the drum.

The funeral procession was led by the Tsar himself followed by the first company of the elite Preobrazhensky regiment. Franz Lefort died at the relatively young age of 43 and there is not much that we know about his life, especially his younger days and the reasons why he decided to settle down in Moscow. And still, we do have something to tell you about this outstanding man.

As far as we know, Franz Lefort was born in the year 1656 in the family of a Geneva-based owner of a shop. A fairly well-educated man, he still opted for a military career later serving in the French and Dutch armies.

In a dramatic change of mind, the 19-year old officer, accompanied by his friend, Colonel Frosten, suddenly surfaced in Moscow in February 1675 only to be denied service with the Russian army. Russia was then ruled by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, the father of the would-be Emperor Peter the Great, who was only 3 years old at the time.

After spending three fruitless years in the Russian capital, Franz Lefort was finally allowed to serve in the army as Captain, following a plea to the Russian authorities made by the Geneva legislature.

Soon the young officer learned the Russian language, got married and became a Russian citizen. Much liked by the all-powerful favorite, Prince Vasily Golitsin, he took part in two military campaigns in the Crimea and fought in the Russo-Turkish war. His close friendship with Peter the Great was a powerful boost to his military career. Historians are still divided on both the time this friendship began and the scope of Lefort’s influence on the Russian ruler. Some say it all began early in his career while others insist it happened at the very peak of the young Tsar's struggle for power with his sister, Princess Sofia. When the situation came to a head, Franz Lefort was the first foreigner to visit the Monastery of the Holy Trinity Saint Sergius Monastery where the Tsar was hiding at the time.

The historians' attitude towards the great Tsar's favorite is equally ambiguous with some of them saying he was a good advisor to the Tsar, some insisting he was a bad influence and still others denying he ever had any sway over the fiercely independent minded Peter. I personally have more faith in the Great Russian historian Sergey Solovyev who said the Tsar was very close to Franz Lefort. Hard-working and well-educated for his time, Lefort was a close aide and adviser to his patron. Sergey Solovyev described him as "a man of the world, bristling with energy, good-natured, open-hearted and likable person, a veritable heart of the society with a strong liking for organizing sumptuous feasts, so much liked by his master. Only a man like Franz Lefort could have so much influence on the young Tsar eventually becoming one of his closest friends. This influence was not so much visible in managing the сcountry’s internal affairs as it was in foreign policy matters with the all-powerful favorite prodding the young Tsar to send troops to the city of Azov join a Russian diplomatic mission abroad and allow foreigners to freely enter and leave the country."

That was a historian's view, however. Let's see how this relationship was described by the great author and connoisseur of Russian history, Alexei Tolstoy in his famous novel, Peter the Great:

“Day after day, Franz Lefort was increasingly becoming indispensable to the Tsar, just like a clever mother is to a child: he was quick on the uptake, always on his master's guard, teaching him to keep his eyes open to what was good and bad and, eventually developing a personal affection for the man he served. He was always by his patron's side, not for the sake of asking for more villages and peasants, like the boyars who were never tired of doing so, but only for the sake of promoting their common goals and eagerly sharing merry-making. Always dressed up, garrulous and good-natured, like a morning sun shining in the window, he appeared, always bowing and smiling, in Peter's bedroom filling the air with joyful expectations for the rest of the day. Peter saw in Lefort a reflection of his sweet dreams about faraway countries, beautiful cities and harbors lined up by ships and daredevil skippers all smelling of tobacco and rum — things he thought about when looking at the pictures and printed sheets brought in from other countries."

Franz Lefort played a major role in the reorganization and retraining of the Russian armed forces, largely modeled on the armies they had in the West. It all started with the so-called "funny regiments" and, when it was time for some real fighting, the Tsar's favorite was already a Major General and was later promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General.

Franz Lefort is believed to be largely behind the Tsar's decision to send troops down to the city of Azov in order to get access to the Black Sea. Of course it's an oversimplification because the decision was actually dictated by the need to economically and culturally upgrade the country and establish closer trading ties with the European countries. It so happened that, by end of the 17th century the gigantic country had no access to the Baltic and Black Seas, having neither sea ports nor ships to sail the seas. Russia had long been locked in a desperate struggle to win access to the Black Sea cutting deeper and deeper into the south. Peter's father, Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, and his sister, Princess Sofia, made repeated attempts to gain access to the sea, but their military expeditions all ended in failure. At the very start of 1695, the young Tsar ordered a new campaign, later known as the First Azov Expedition. Franz Lefort was one of the commanders of the military campaign he personally inspired.

At this point I would like to make a brief recourse and tell you more about the role he played in the numerous military campaigns undertaken by Peter the Great.

It took the 30,000-strong Russian army a whole two months to reach the city of Azov that appeared where Greeks and Romans once used to settle along the Sea of Azov thousands of years ago. Between the 8th and 12th centuries A.D., the city was controlled by the Khazar Empire, and then ancient Russians took over only to cede control of the city to the nomads late in the 12th century. From the 13th century on the city became part of the Golden Horde position on the main trading route into China. In the 14th century the city became home to a host of Venetian and Genoan colonies. Destroyed by Tamerlane's hordes at the very close of the 14th century, the city rose up again rebuilt by the Genoans in a matter of only five years. At the end of the 15th century the city fell to the Turks who turned it into a formidable fortress blocking entrance to the Sea of Azov. The city was surrounded by impregnable ramparts and a wide moat with a stone-walled fortress rising 5 meters up in the air immediately behind the earthen bulwark. In front of the fortress, there were smaller fortifications built on both sides of the Don River.

Peter and his men anticipated an easy victory, but their expectations were dashed after three attempts to overrun the heavily fortified city in the summer of 1695 were all beaten back by the enemy. One reason for the failure was that each Russian commander acted on his own resulting in a hopeless lack of coordination on the part of their forces. The main problem, however, was that the besieged Turkish garrison was getting all reinforcements, food and ammunition needed by sea, while the non-possessing fleet Russians were just standing there unable to intervene. After another bungled attempt to break the enemy defenses failed in September, the Russian command decided to end the siege and beat a retreat during which many people drowned in the Don River or starved and froze to death when the ill-dressed Russian army was crossing the desert gripped by winter that struck very early that year.

Undaunted, Peter decided to make another try and, without losing time, he got down to work. The first thing was to build a navy and Voronezh, a small town lost in the southern woods, seemed to be the best choice of place for the would-be fleet…

Tsar Peter also needed the fleet to put into practice his longstanding dream of some day winning access to both the Black and Baltic Seas. The latter was then fully in the hands of Swedes… Another ambition was the Caspian Sea, so convenient for trade relations with the rich Asian countries.

In a letter addressed to his Geneva friends back in 1694, Lefort wrote that “They are talking about a trip to Kazan and Astrakhan a couple of years from now. Maybe this never happens, but, anyway, I'm always ready to do my bit. There are plans to build several warships and sail into the Baltic Sea". In that same letter, he also said they were going to elevate him to the rank of Admiral to command all His Majesty's ships. "That's the wish of our great Tsar, Pyotr Alexeyevich", he wrote.

In another letter sent in the autumn of that same year, Lefort said they were going to build five big ships and two galleys next summer and, two years later would sail, with God’s permission, down to the city of Astrakhan to sign major agreements with Persia".

Although the decision was to build the fleet in Voronezh, Moscow was also actively involved in the project with all the decisions originating there and all the resources and manpower needed for the upcoming war concentrated in the capital. While in Voronezh they were building transport ships, naval galleys were being put together at the village of Preobazhenskoye just outside Moscow. The construction of a galley shipyard and later a number of sawmills turned this once peaceful suburb into a busy workshop that was also turning out a wide array of sails, ropes and cables. The finished galley parts were then assembled at the Voronezh shipyard. Meanwhile, instructors were hard at work in Moscow training Russia's first naval crews.

Franz Lefort was working day and night both in Voronezh and in Moscow. Feeling sick, he still accompanied the Tsar on an inspection trip tо Voronezh. The character оf this man is very much evident from the letter he wrote to the Tsar shortly before they both set out on a trip to Voronezh. Here is an excerpt from the letter that was written on March 23, 1696:

"It's going to be a hell of a trip with ice-cold weather and winds blowing away, and, still I'll be on my way already next week… I'll take my medicine and, without waiting any longer, will hit the road. I hear Your Majesty is short of good beer. Stay rested, My Lord, I'm bringing some very good beer for you. We've also sent you a good deal of wood planks along with ropes and cables". Well, quite a tell-tale picture, isn't it?

By the spring of 1696 the fleet was already there comprising 2 warships, 23 galleys, 4 fire-ships all adding up to dozens of big barges, dinghies and small boats. Admiral Franz Lefort was assigned to command the fleet.

The great effort bent to build the fleet was more than compensated with the Russian troops taking the Azov stronghold in the first major victory won by the new-born Russian navy.

The capital gave a warm welcome tо the victorious Russian troops who entered the city marching under a triumphal arc, especially erected for the grand occasion. The structure was supported by the giant statues of Hercules and Mars with the figures of the enslaved Turkish warriors and the commander of thee vanquished Azov stronghold pictured underneath all bewailing the loss of the theretofore impregnable fortress.

The procession was led by the victorious Russian generals, among them Franz Lefort, all comfortably seated in carriages. It was the finest hour of his life. In one of his letters abroad, he wrote: "Never before had this city seen a ceremony like the one we had that day…" He was right. Trailing closely behind the generals' carriages was a "sailors’ caravan" led by Tsar Peter himself resplendent in jet-black German suit, a white-feathered hat and a gold-plated spear in hand. He had walked all the way from the village of Preobazhenskoye with soldiers trailing behind dragging the 16 Turkish banners captured by the victorious Russian army after the fall of the besieged Azov stronghold. The procession continued all day with soldiers, placed on both sides of the street, happily firing their guns in the air.

Six months later Peter the Great sent to Europe the so-called "great diplomatic mission" led by three high-ranking officials, among them Franz Lefort. Tsar Peter was also traveling with the mission without disclosing his true identity. The mission was charged with efforts to cement Russia's relations with a number of European countries with a view to fighting the Turks in the northern Black Sea region, recruiting foreign experts for service in Russia and purchasing arms and ammunition Russia desperately needed to continue the war. All told, as many as 250 people, including servants and security guards, had been assigned to serve on the mission. The Great Ambassadors worked day and night to ensure the mission's success, especially in Holland and Britain. From Vienna Peter was going to make a trip to Venice, but, learning about a military revolt in Moscow, he urgently returned to Russia. Shortly after the successful crushing of the Moscow revolt, Franz Lefort died on Mach 2, 1699.

Lefort's magnificent palace has lived up to these days.

Surrounded by the so-called Lefortovsky Park, the palace can still be seen overlooking the Yauza River. The place, one of the most attractive in Moscow, is still called Lefortovo while the palace itself is an architectural masterpiece artfully executed in the tradition of the so-called Moscow baroque style.

Shortly before his death, Peter the Great was going to erect a monument commemorating his friend and comrade-in-arms who spent most of his life selflessly serving the interests of this country. For some reason, the monument was never erected, but the name of this outstanding man has forever gone down in the history of Moscow and Russia.

Source:The Voice of Russia

понедельник, 21 сентября 2009 г.

The Suvorov’s memorial — a part of Russia in Switzerland

Оn September 21 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev arrives in Switzerland. This will be the first of the Russian president to the country in the history of Russian-Swiss relations. Dmitry Medvedev arrives to the Swiss capital of Bern on a remarkable day. On this very day 210 years ago the Russian Army led by legendary field marshal Alexander Suvorov began its historical crossing of the Swiss Alps.

The name of Suvorov is highly esteemed among Swiss people. Two centuries have past since the Russian army crossed the Alps and for two centuries Swiss people have been living without wars remembering that Suvorov saved their country from the invasion of Napoleon, Urs Sulzer, a military attaché of the Swiss embassy in Moscow says.

In the Alps Suvorov bravely fought against the French army in very difficult conditions. Annually near the Devils Bridge in the Alps celebrations are held to commemorate of Suvorov and all Russian soldiers who died there. The monument is officially is considered a part of the Russian territory. This humanitarian component is very important for Swiss people, the diplomat says. Suvorov did not use a stick policy to lead his soldiers. He led them with his own example and that is why soldiers loved him. To remember his greatness as a commander and a person we mark the anniversary of his Swiss campaign.

Vasily Surikov.Russian Troops under Suvorov Crossing the Alps.
1899. Oil on canvas. 495 x 373.The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

The legendary Swiss campaign with the Alps crossing lasted from September 21 till October, 8 1799. At that time Europe was horrified by the victorious march of Napoleon and the Western monarchs believed the only one who could stop him was Suvorov. They decided to put him in charge of the allies’ army. Alexander Suvorov was a really great commander he had not had a single defeat in his career. Though by the time of the Swiss campaign he was quite old he was the only hope of Europe.

Suvorov’s troops freed Northern Italy and were ready to advance to France. Therefore his army was to join with additional Russian units and Austrian troops. Suvorov decided to meet them as quickly as possible and chose the shortest way across the Swiss Alps. Crossing the Alps was a very difficult task to do. The soldiers had to climb mountains pushing the French troops from there t the same time, Irina Bystrova from the Institute of the Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences says.

It was a unique and very difficult operation in the mountains. It was unique because Suvorov moved very fast and applied unique tactics combining frontal attacks with bypassing the mountains. And he managed to force a number of hard to reach mountain passes. Nobody expected him to use that route. In particular the troops led by Suvorov took Saint Gothhard pass and the famous Devil’s Bridge. Guarded by the enemy troops this bridge was considered to be impossible to cross.

In fact the French army almost destroyed the bridge and the Russian soldiers had to tie up bridge blocks with their scarves. People died falling down precipice and drowning in icy waters of the Royce River but the army stood fire. It is hard to imagine how Suvorov’s army with horses and wagon trains without any special equipment climbed the Alps. And Suvorov who was already 70 years old by that time shared all hardships with his soldiers during that unprecedented crossing. But the troops Suvorov was to meet had been beaten by the French, Bystrova says.

Suvorov with his units stayed without ammunition and food facing the enemy who was three times stronger. And Suvorov had to go forward without any support. Despite this the Russian troops managed to force a number of other hard to reach passes to bypass the enemy and to defeat him.

That was an unprecedented mountains crossing in the war history. The losses of Suvorov’s army exceeded 4000 people the enemy lost 16000 people. Suvorov’s tactics enabled the Russian army to win despite smaller number of servicemen and less ammunition. Also during the Swiss campaign the legendary Russian commander showed new methods of war in the mountains.

On the day of the 210th of the Swiss campaign President Dmitry Medvedev will visit St. Gothhard Pass. A burial service will be served near the cross cut in the mountains and wreaths will be laid in the memory of soldiers died during the campaign and their glorious commander Alexander Suvorov. The Swiss campaign was Suvorov’s last glorious campaign. He died soon after that in 1800.

Elena Kovacic

Source:The Voice of Russia,www.tanais.info

Dmitry Medvedev to hold talks on cooperation in Switzerland

In Switzerland Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is due to hold talks on cooperation and mark the 210 years since the legendary crossing of the Alps by the Russian Army under Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov. Medvedev arrived at his residence near Bern to meet his Swiss counterpart Hans-Rudolph Merz to take up Russia’s proposal for concluding a treaty on Euroepan security, ways to settle the world crisis, boosting mutual investment and financial interaction. This is the first time ever that a Russian leader has paid a visit to Switzerland, a visit that is timed for the 210 years since the Russian Army’s unprecedented crossing of the Alps under the command of Alexander Suvorov in 1799 and the subsequent defeat of French Emperor Napoleon’s troops. Medvedev is due to visit the St. Gothard pass and lay flowers at the memorial to the Russian soldiers. A package of agreements is due to be signed in the wake of the visit, including one on making the visa regime easier.

Source:The Voice of Russia


By Andrei Ptashnikov

Посмотреть на Яндекс.Фотках

Today we'll take you to Ingushetiya, one of the most ancient and beautiful republics of the Russian Federation. It is often referred to as “the gem of Northern Caucasus”, and “the land of stone towers”.

Situated at the foothills of the Big Caucasian Range, Ingushetiya is considered the youngest republic of Russia, as a constituent member of the federation as well as in terms of the average age of its population which is less than 30 years. That despite the fact that there are numerous cases of remarkable longevity there, mortality rate is lower and birth rate as well as life expectancy are quite a bit higher than the statistical average for Russia.

It is hardly surprising, as Nature has lavished these parts with generous gifts: snow-capped mountains and wooded slopes, stunningly beautiful and strikingly shaped rocks, cliffs and gorges. Rivers and brooks with crystal-clear, pure water. Valleys carpeted with motley flowers, lush green pastures, and mineral springs. And, of course, the clean and life-giving mountainous air! Could there be a better place to live long and procreate?

The history of the Ingush people is twenty centuries old. They, or rather their distant ancestors Vainakhs, are first mentioned in ancient chronicles as early as the first century B.C. The Caucasian mountains have drawn people to them from time immemorial. They used to be a crossroads of sorts where east to west and north to south migratory routes converged. The Great Silk Way too ran across them. This land has often witnessed bloodshed, inter-ethnic conflicts, and foreign invasions. The land was invaded by the Hun tribes in the 5th century and by the Tatars and Mongols in the 14th century.

But all invaders failed to stay too long in the Caucasus and enslave its indigenous inhabitants. Mountain-dwellers always preferred a tribal way of life and did all they could to preserve it, secure its prosperity, and protect it from the enemies. The Ingush people were no exception. In the early centuries they devised a unique warning and defense system to prevent an enemy invasion.

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One of the basic elements of that system were stone towers. In a local dialect the word “Ingush” means “tower dweller”. The towers were built on high rocks and cliffs, at entrances to and exits from mountainous gorges. They varied according to their purpose and intended functionality. There were three main types: residential towers, signal towers, and battle towers. The names are quite descriptive, so we’ll talk about the towers’ general characteristics.

The most crucial stage of the construction project was finding a suitable site that had to meet most stringent requirements. To begin with, it had to be located high enough. The chosen site would then be checked and re-checked for suitability. The first test would be to pour milk on the site. If the milk quickly became absorbed, it meant that the soil was too soft and not adequate for supporting a heavy stone tower. If the milk stayed on the surface, it was an indication that the soil was rocky and it could serve as a reliable foundation. There was yet another reason why construction on soft soils was not practiced. The mountainous areas were short of fertile soils, and every arable plot of land, however small, was used for agricultural purposes.

Башня, горная Ингушетия
«Башня, горная Ингушетия» на Яндекс.Фотках

The testing of the tower construction site didn’t end there. Even if the soil was hard, the chosen site was further tested — a bull or a sheep was brought onto it at nightfall. If the animal felt comfortable enough there and fell asleep, the site was deemed suitable for a residential area where the entire clan would feel at home. If that was not the case, a new site was searched for. One more factor was taken into account — the access to the tower was to be tricky and complicated to minimize a possibility of an unexpected attack.

The entire clan took part in the construction project. The work was usually supervised by the more experienced builder-superintendent. Occasionally he was hired from outside the family. A tower was to be built within one year. Otherwise, the neighbours could conclude that the clan in question was too weak and the tower defective.

Construction was hard work. Not only the huge and heavy stones had to be found, they had to be hoisted to a considerable height and then fitted to one another lest the tower would collapse. The builders invented special devices that helped them manage the task. The towers were usually 3 to 4 stories, up to 30 meters tall. Different floors housed cattle, residential quarters, stocks of foodstuffs and drinking water, and even guest rooms.

External ladders were used to climb up and down the floors.

There was always a secret underground tunnel that allowed the residents to escape the tower unnoticed. The tallest floor equipped with small gun-slots in the walls was intended for storage of ammunition and for defense. It was also used to send signals to other towers to warn about the imminent danger. A bonfire usually served as such a warning signal. Sometimes signal and battle towers were built alongside a residential tower. That reduced the risk of an unexpected attack and made the life of the clan much safer. Wealthy families erected virtual castles up in the mountains with massive fortifications around them turning them into impregnable fortresses.

Not far from the towers underground family crypts were built, where the dead of that particular clan alone were buried. Even when a highly respected guest died, he was never buried in the family crypt. The body in a casket would be transported to his own village, regardless of the distance. The Ingush people, just like many others, believe in life after death and consider it to be the next stage of their earthly life. The only difference being that the sun shines by day for the living and by night for the dead.

Ancient places of worship of mountain-dwellers are considered the most enigmatic. Not too many of them have survived to this day. They used to be magnificent pagan temples and sanctuaries built into the rocks. Not only were they the venues of religious rites and ceremonies, disputes between neighbours were settled there as well. Passing judgment were the elders — the most respected and experienced senior members of various clans.

About a hundred stone structures still stand in Ingushetia, mostly towers. No one lives there anymore, but, much like sentries, they continue to guard the mountain gorges. The entire territory of the republic has been declared a national historical and architectural reserve. It is stunningly beautiful in all seasons. Thousands of tourists come there not only to marvel at the fairytale nature of this land, but also to see with their own eyes the unique guards of the Big Caucasian Range, as if grown into the soaring rocks.

Source:The Voice of Russia,wikipedia

воскресенье, 20 сентября 2009 г.

South Ossetia marks Republic Day

A year after the August 2008 nightmare, people in South Ossetia are marking Republic Day. Already the 19th such celebration since the region declared its independence from Georgia in 1990, this is the first time the south Caucasus republic is marking its de-jure independence it paid so dearly for last year and which has since been recognized by Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The capital Tskhinval is visibly recovering from the destruction wrought by Georgian artillery with new apartment houses rising up and new parks laid and children’s playgrounds opening in every courtyard. The city is sprucing up with festive illumination, colorful streamers and air balloons carried around by the kids as their parents are busily laying out huge tables to accommodate relatives, friends and just about everyone who joins in the celebration. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity says that, happy as everyone is today, memory of those who died in the terrible month of August 2008 will live on forever.

This is really a day of joy and tears… It’s been almost 20 years since we, here in South Ossetia, declared our independence and today I see how our people are getting back to life after the tragedy that visited us in August 2008… Really, you can see smiles on our kids’ faces, which is really inspiring, the President said.

In the morning President Kokoity, joined by official delegations from Russia and Abkhazia, lay wreaths at the Monument to the Defenders of the Motherland. This was followed by a military parade on the city’s main square where the South Ossetian national anthem was played for the first time by a military band sent in by the Russian Defense Ministry. The celebrations will continue well into the night with music, dancing and fireworks lighting up the skies…

Source:The Voice of Russia

The mystery and controversy of Alexander I

Emperor Alexander I was one of the most enigmatic and controversial characters in Russian history.

Alexander Pavlovich Romanov, or Emperor Alexander I, was born on December 12, 1777. His grandmother, the Dowager Empress Catherine II named him after Alexander Nevsky, the heavenly patron of St. Petersburg. Pinning high hopes on her beloved grandson, Catherine spared no time and effort to bring him up as a future Emperor and someone who would pick up where Peter the Great had left off… The imperious and iron-willed Catherine proved a doting and sentimental grandmother to Alexander finding very special enjoyment in washing the boy’s clothes, caring for the boy, making sure he was getting the very best education money and power could buy, and even writing textbooks for Alexander. In private life Alexander displayed many loveable qualities, was affable, disciplined and very artistic too. He also displayed an enviable penchant for languages learning to speak English even before he did Russian.

Catherine wanted to pass on the throne to her eldest grandson, not the Heir Apparent Pavel whom she dismissed as too glum and unfit for power. The 10-year-old Alexander told Pavel about Catherine’s intensions and pledged allegiance to his father. Another whim of Fate… On March 11 1801 Emperor Pavel I was assassinated in a conspiracy. Alexander knew about the plot and even helped prepare it. Many historians assert that Alexander did not actually want his father killed, only to remove him from power to end the reign of tyranny and whip-cracking in Russia. Pavel’s death left his successor in a state of deep shock and forever tormented by stinging qualms of conscience…

Many of Alexander’s contemporaries who got to known him from an early age all attested to his controversial character: intelligent and well educated, Alexander shirked his stately duties which he thought were too difficult for him to perform. At the same time, dealing with political matters, he could be firm, flexible and sometimes even cunning using for the purpose his inborn artistic talent. Always suffering from an inferiority complex, Alexander tried hard to get rid of it asserting himself as a statesman and a war captain. He just couldn’t help looking up at Napoleon’s overarching persona and all the happier he felt winning occasional victories against the larger than life military genius of his French counterpart. Alexander’s private life was equally problematic. He justifiably considered himself a decent man when dealing with women. Really, given his high official status, handsome presence and the affability and charm of his address, the Emperor was a real heartthrob ladies invariably fell in love with, even against his will. They even fell for Alexander when he was nearing 50, getting shortsighted and going deaf. For his part, the Emperor remained largely indifferent to the attentions heaped on him by members of the fair sex keeping their intercourse down to benign pleasantries, nothing more. That’s in a nutshell, the man who was destined by Fate to lead a great nation like Russia.

The new Emperor differed very favorably from his late father. All authorities combine in praising the certain simplicity of his ways and tastes, his accessibility and seemingly genuine sincerity. Never before had the Petersburgers seen their Emperor walking in the streets all by himself politely returning the greetings of his subjects instead of whizzing past in a gilded carriage in the company of a posse of rigged out courtiers.

Strange as it may seem, deep inside, the young Emperor was a republican and a zealous proponent of the French Revolution, which he hailed as a sign of the changing times and a symbol of human progress. During his coronation which was held in Moscow on September 15 of 1801 Alexander, a liberal and a Jacobin, felt ill at ease about all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the grand ceremony, his thoughts being all about the much-needed reconstruction of the Russian Empire which he wanted to emulate the political system they had in Europe. He ordered a detailed action plan to be drawn up and in late 1809 the draft was already in place. Approving the blueprint, Alexander never implemented it though apparently scared off by what he saw as a too radical reform plan. Still, a raft of domestic and foreign policy changes he authorized were directly or indirectly aimed at strengthening the Russian state.

After the victorious war against Napoleon however, Alexander’s political priorities changed dramatically and the Russian Emperor, in his new capacity of the head of the Holy Alliance of leading European powers, was now working flat out to stave off the growing revolutionary movement in Europe.

Alexander I spent the last months of his life as a crestfallen and conscience-bitten man trying desperately to sort out his controversial sociopolitical agenda. Never too eager to take up the throne, he later had the heady feeling of being Europe’s foremost leader who, at the very same time, never managed to abolish that curse of Russia – serfdom.

On November 19, 1825 the Tsar of all the Russians died in the city of Taganrog. Soon after it was rumored that a monk in Siberia was really the former Emperor and that someone else had actually been buried in his stead. Whatever the truth, these recurrent rumors fully reflect the controversial nature of the man who ruled Russia for nearly a quarter century…

Source:The Voice of Russia

суббота, 19 сентября 2009 г.

Literary monuments of Moscow principality Afanasy Nikitin's voyage beyond the three seas

By Tatyana Shvetsova

We will acquaint you with literary monuments of Moscow principality, relating to the end of the 15th — the beginning of the 16th century. In this way you'll learn what educated people in Moscow read at that time.

We offer you a fragment of the story well-known at those distant times. It is called "Voyage Beyond Three Seas" and is written by the Russian merchant Afanasy Nikitin. It was screened in the 1950’s and had tremendous success in the USSR and abroad. In fact, "Voyage Beyond Three Seas" is a diary of a traveler. And because of this it is particularly interesting.

It all happened at the end of the 15th century. One day Hasan Beg, Ambassador of the ruler of the Khanate of Shirvan, arrived at the court of Ivan III, Grand Prince of Moscow Principality. He brought valuable gifts with him. Ivan III sent his own ambassador, Vasily Papin of Tver, to the court of Shirvan. Hearing of this, Afanasy Nikitin and some other merchants from Tver set out for Shirvan to trade there. They sailed down the Volga River on two ships. And thus began a great voyage, which took several years.

During that voyage Afanasy Nikitin made notes in a diary, which has become known to us under the title "The Voyage Beyond Three Seas".

After many dramatic adventures Nikitin found himself in Persia. He crossed the whole of Persia for the seaport town of Hormuz, one of the biggest trading centers of the East. While in Persia, Nikitin heard that no horses were bred in India and that they were therefore very expensive in that country. This led him to decide on a voyage to India. He bought a horse and with it boarded a small sea-going ship. He sailed to the coast of Hindustan, hoping to sell his horse there and to buy goods that were sought after in Rus.

Only a man of courage could venture on a voyage across the stormy Indian Ocean aboard so frail a craft. Six weeks later the ship carrying Nikitin put in at Chaul, on the Malabar coast of India.

Nikitin's description of what he saw in India is striking evidence of his gift of keen observation and his ability to discern the typical aspects of the way of life of a people he had never known before. He not only kept a strict account of facts, but also analyzed them, drawing interesting parallels…

Nikitin spent almost three years in India. But his love for Homeland urged him back to Rus, to his own people.


"…And I, a sinful man, brought a stallion to the land of India. Thank God, I reached Junnar in good health — the passage cost me a hundred rubles. The winter there set in on Trinity Sunday, and we spent it at Junnar, where lived for two months; four months there was water and mud everywhere, both by day and at night. That is the season of ploughing and of sowing wheat and rice and pulse, and all the other foods. Wine is made in big coconuts and beer is brewed from tatna. Horses are fed with pulse and khichri, an Indian dish of rice, with sugar and ghee: early in the morning they are also fed with rice and cakes. No horses are bred in India, but oxen and bulls are. They are used for carrying persons and sometimes goods — they serve all purposes.

The town of Junnar lies on a rocky island not built by man but created by God. It takes a whole day's uphill walk to go there, the path is narrow and two people cannot pass.

In India strangers put up at inns and the food is cooked for them by women, who also make the guests’ beds. In winter people there wear a dhoti round their loins, another about their shoulders, and a third round their heads. As for the princes and boyars, in that season they put on trousers, a shirt, and a caftan; they also wrap a dhoti about their shoulders, girdle themselves with another, and wind a third round their heads.

And there at Junnar the Khan took away my stallion. But when he learnt that I was Russian and not Moslem, he said: "I shall give thee back thy stallion and pay thee a thousand pieces of gold, if only thou wilt adopt our Mohammedan faith. But shouldst thou not adopt our Mohammedan faith, I shall keep the stallion and exact a ransom of a thousand pieces of gold from thee." And he gave me four days — till Our Redeemer's Day, during the Fast of the Holy Mother of God. And the Lord had mercy upon me on His holy day, He kept not His mercy from me, miserable sinner. Khoja Muhammad of Khorassan arrived on the eve of Our Redeemer's Day, and I humbly begged him to plead for me. And he rode to the Khan in town, and persuaded him not to convert me to his faith; he also took back my stallion. Such was the wonder wrought by the Lord on Our Redeemer's Day. And so, my Christian brothers of Rus, those of you who want to go to the land of India must leave their faith in Rus and invoke Mohammed before setting out for the land of Hindustan.

I was deceived by Moslems; they had told me of an abundance of goods, but I found that there was nothing for our land.

We left Junnar on the Day of the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God for the big city of Bidar, and it took us a month to arrive there…

At Bidar, horses and various goods are sold: brocade, silk and all kinds of other goods; black people, too, are on sale there. Nothing else is sold. And all the goods come from Hindustan. As for food, nothing is sold but vegetables. There are no goods for the land of Rus.

All the Indian princes come of Khorassan, and so do all the boyars. And all the people of Hindustan go on foot and walk fast, and are all naked and barefoot; they carry a shield in one hand and a sword in the other. Some of the servants have long, straight bows and arrows. And they always fight mounted on elephants, sending the footmen forward, while the Khorassanis ride on horseback, both they and their horses being in armor. As for the elephants, long hammered swords are tied to their trunks and tusks, each weighing a kantar; they wear steel amour, and carry special shelters upon their backs; and on in each one there are twelve men in armor, with cannons and arrows.

There is a place — the tomb of Sheik Ala-uddin at Аlland — where a fair is held once a year, and whither people from all over the Indian country come to trade for ten days. It is twelve kos from Bidar. Horses are brought thither for sale, as many as 20,000 head, and all kinds of other goods, too. It is the best fair in the land of Hindustan; all wares are sold or bought there in memory of Sheik Ala-uddin, during the Russian Feast of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God.

At Alland there lives the ghuggu, a bird; it flies at night, crying "ghuggu" whenever it settles on a house-top, someone dies in the house; and when anyone tries to kill it, it begins to spit fire. As for monkeys, they live in the woods; and they have a monkey prince who leads an army. And when anyone harms them, they complain to their prince, who sets his army upon the offender. Then the monkeys fall upon that town and destroy the houses and kill the people. They are said to have a very large army and to speak a tongue of their own; they give birth to many young, but the young that are not like their father or mother are left on the roads. Then people of Hindustan pick them up and teach them sundry handicrafts, but some of them they sell, doing it at night lest they should flee back, and some they teach how to imitate players.

Spring came with the Feast of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God; it is in spring, a fortnight after Intercession, that an eight-day feast is kept to honor the memory of Sheik Ala-uddin. Spring, summer, winter, and autumn last three months each.

And Bidar is the capital of Moslem Hindustan. It is a large city, and many people live in it. The Sultan is young – only twenty years old — and those who govern are princes and boyars of Khorassan; those who fight in wars are Khorassanis too…

A thousand men posted by the Governor guard the city of Bidar by night; they are mounted, wear armor, and carry torches. I sold my stallion at Bidar; I had been keeping it for a year, and had spent sixty-eight fanams on it. Snakes, fourteen feet long crawl along the streets of Bidar. I arrived at Bidar from Kulungir during the Past of Advent, and sold my stallion on Christmas Day.

And I stayed at Bidar till Lent. There I came to know many Hindus and told them that I was a Christian and not a Moslem, and that my name was Afanasy, or Khoja Yusuf Khorassani in the Moslem tongue. They did not hide from me when eating, trading, praying, or doing something else; nor did they conceal their wives.

I asked them questions about their faith, and they said to me: "We believe in Adam, and the buts, they say, are Adam and his whole kin." Altogether there are eighty-four faiths in India, and everyone believes in But. People of different faith do not eat or drink together, nor do they intermarry; some eat mutton, fowl, fish, and eggs, but of no faith do the people eat beef.

I spent four months in Bidar, and agreed with some Indians to go to Parvat, their Jerusalem, or Mecca in the Moslem tongue, where stands their chief Butkhanah (or idol-house). It took us a month to reach the Butkhanah.

The market by the butkhanah lasts for five days. And the Butkhanah is very large — half the size of Tver — and is built of stone in which the deeds of But are carved; in all there are twelve tiers of carvings that show But working wonders, or appearing before Indians in many shapes: first, in the shape of a man; second, of a man with an elephant's trunk; third, of an ape-like man; fourth, of a man having the form of a ferocious beast. He has always appeared before them with a tail, and his tail, which is carved in stone, is seven feet long. People from all over the land of India come together at the butkhanah to see But's miracles. Near the butkhanah, old wives and young maidens shave all their hair; beards and heads are shaved too. Thereupon they go to the butkhanah; each has to pay a feel of two sheshkanis for the benefit of But, and horses are charged four fanams each. The number of those who gather at the butkhanah is 20,000, and sometimes even 100,000. In the Butkhanah, But is carved in stone, and is very big indeed; his tail is slung over his shoulder, and his right arm is raised high and stretched out like the Emperor Justinian's at Constantinople, while in his left hand he holds a spear; and he wears no clothing, save that his buttocks are wrapped in a cloth; his face is that of an ape. And the other buts are stark naked, they wear nothing, and their buttocks are uncovered; and But's wives are carved naked, in all their shame, and with children. And before But stands a huge ox carved in black stone and gilt all over. They kiss the ox on the hoof and strew flowers upon it; But, too, is strewn with flowers.

The Indians eat no flesh at all — no beef, mutton, fowl, fish, or pork, although they have a great many pigs. They have two meals a day, and eat nothing at night; they drink neither wine nor mead. They do not eat or drink with Moslems. Their food is poor, and they do not eat or drink with one another, not even with their wives. They eat rice and khichri with ghee and various herbs, which they boil in ghee and milk. And they eat everything with their right hand, never touching any food with their left; they never use a knife, and have no spoons. When journeying, each carries a pot to boil food in. And they hide from Moslems lest they should look into the pot or at the food. And should a Moslem look at the food, the Indian will not eat it. When eating, some cover themselves with a kerchief, so that no one may see them.

And they pray facing eastwards, in the Russian manner; they raise high both hands and put them on their crown, and lie face downwards on the ground and stretch out on it — that is how they worship. And when they sit down to take a meal, some wash their hands and feet, and also rinse their mouths. Their butkhanahs have no doors, and face eastwards; but buts, too, stand facing eastwards. And when someone dies, they burn him and scatter the ashes over water. And when a woman gives birth to a child, it is her husband who receives it; a son is named by the father, and a daughter by the mother. In coming or going, they bow after a fashion of monks, touching the ground with both hands and saying nothing.

They go to Parvat at Lent to worship their But; that is their Jerusalem or Mecca in the Moslem tongue.

From Parvat I came to Bidar a fortnight before Ulu Bayram, the great Moslem feast. And I know not when Easter Sunday, the great day of the Resurrection of Christ, occurs, so I try to guess by signs: with the Christians, Easter comes nine or ten days before the Moslem Bayram, I have nothing with me — no book; we took books with us from Rus, but when I was robbed the books were seized too. And I have forgotten all that I knew of the Christian faith and all the Christian feasts; I know not when Easter occurs, or Christmas, or Wednesday or Friday. And surrounded by other faiths, I pray to God that He may protect me: "O Lord God, O God of Truth, O Thou that art merciful, God my Creator, Thou art my Lord. There is one God, the Prince of Glory, Maker of heaven and earth."

And I am going back to Rus thinking that my faith is dead, for I have fasted with the Moslems. The month of March has passed, and for a month I have not been eating any meat, fasting with the Moslems and eating nothing fat, no Moslem food, and taking two meals a day — nothing but bread and water. And I have prayed to God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and have invoked none but His name: the God who made us, the Merciful God, God Almighty.

In the month of May, I kept Easter at Moslem Bidar, in Hindustan… And there I shed many tears for the Christian faith.

Melik the Moslem pressed me for a long time to adopt the Moslem faith. But I answered him: "My lord, you perform your prayers, and I perform mine; you say five prayers, and I say three; I am a stranger, but you are not." But he said to me: "Indeed, albeit thou professest not to be a Moslem, neither dost thou know the Christian faith." And then I thought over it a great deal, and said to myself: "Woe to me, miserable sinner, for I have strayed from the true path and knowing no other, must go my ways. Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth, turn not Thy face from Thy servant who sorrows. Shelter me and have mercy upon me, O God who created me; lead me not away, O Lord, from the path of righteousness, but keep me in Thy true ways, for I have of necessity done nothing virtuous for Thy sake in my distress, and have lived all my days in evil. Four Easter Sundays have already passed in the Moslem land, but I have not forsaken the Christian faith; and God knows what mау yet happen. In Thee I trust, O Lord, save me, O God!"

In Moslem India, at great Bidar, I watched the heavens on Easter night; the Pleiades and Orion stood low at Easter, and the Great Bear was headed eastwards.

At Bidar, the full moon lasts for three days. And there are no sweet vegetables there. The heat is not strong in Hindustan; it is strong at Hormuz and in Bahrein, where pearls are found, and also in Jidda and Baku and Egypt and Arabia and Lar. It is hot in the land of Khorassan, too, but not so hot. And it is very hot in Jagatai. And it is hot in Shiraz and Yezd and Kashan, but a wind blows there at times. And in the land of Georgia everything is most plentiful. And the Turkish land is very plentiful. Walachia is plentiful too, and all food is cheap there. The land of Podolia, too, abounds, in everything. May God protect the Russian land! There is no land in the world like it, although the boyars in the Russian land are unjust. May the Russian land be well-ordered, and may there be justice there. Allah, Khuda, O God, Tanri!

In Thee I trust, O God, save me, O Lord! I know not my way. Whither shall I go from Hindustan? If I go to Hormuz, there is no passage from Hormuz to Khorassan, Jagatai, Bahrein, or Yezd. There is strife everywhere. The princes have been overthrown everywhere. Mirza Jahan Shah was slain by Uzun Hasan Beg, and Sultan Abu Said was poisoned; Uzun Hasan Beg tried to rule in Shiraz, but that land would not recognize him. And Yadigar Muhammad will not join him, for he is afraid. And there is no other way. And to go by way of Mecca would mean to take the Moslem faith; it is because of their faith that Christians do not go to Mecca, for there they would be converted to Islam. And to live in Hindustan would mean to spend all that I have, because everything is expensive here…”

It seems, God has heard Afanasy Nikitin’s prayers, since the merchant, to his great joy, returned to Rus. He crossed "three seas" as he put it — the Caspian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Black Sea. And that voyage cost him not only health but also his life. Having returned to Russia, Afanasy Nikitin did not manage to get to his native town of Tver. He died not far from the town of Smolensk…

Source:The Voice of Russia,www.geo.1september.ru

пятница, 18 сентября 2009 г.


For the entire three centuries of the history of St.Petersburg Sennaya Square has been associated with Sennoy Market, which used to occupy the place. For fear of fires the territory was cleared of thinly growing trees and the resulting space was designated for trading in hay (hence the name of the square and the market – “hay” is “seno” in Russian) and also straw and timber. Over the years Sennoy Market expanded to acquire a tremendous popularity. Rightfully called the “Gut” of St.Petersburg, it offered an ample variety of goods, so people went there for all sorts of things.

Originally farmers were selling right from the carts thereby making it possible for the residents to buy fresh products cheap, both wholesale and retail. Over the years, however, such direct trade underwent changes and consumers and producers came to deal with one another through intermediaries who profiteered at the expense of St.Petersburg residents.

Every day, after 1 a.m., milkmen and greengrocers from all over the city headed for Nikolskaya Square. At 2 a.m. the flag went up signaling the start of the trading. Sennoy Market vendors were the first to rush to the loaded carts and in as much as half an hour bought up the goods delivered and were stacking them in their stalls two hours later. Built of stone and iron in the 19th century Sennoy Market comprised three spacious glass-roofed buildings. It had up to five hundred stalls and four lanes. Each stall had a number with the vendor’s name above it.

Sennoy Market was famous for meat, fish and greenery stalls. As it opened at 6 a.m. one could see the finest varieties of vegetable — cauliflower, cabbage, turnip, salad, asparagus, onion and beans stashed into huge baskets and sacks. In July the Market was heaped up with cucumbers from near Moscow that the vendors sold for ridiculously small prices. Berries and fruits were available both at the Market and from the street vendors.

The walls in the meat sector were zinc-paneled for sanitary considerations and the floor, covered in sawdust, absorbed streaks of blood from hanging carcasses of animals. The carcasses hang everywhere hooked by the hinder legs. Arranged on the counters were lungs and liver glittering in dark red colours. Hundreds of frozen hares hang head down, peasants brought them from Novgorod. By the thousands and bunches of dead game lay on the shelves. Every morning the meat stalls were packed to capacity with a milling crowd. Women with big baskets stocked up on provisions, and as the dusk fell Sennoy Market was visited by the owners of all sorts of eateries and restaurants.

The fish stalls were a sight, especially in wintertime. Dwellers of rivers, lakes and seas of Russia, now frozen, were stored in baskets with ice on the floor. Stacked on the shelves were smoked white-fish and silvery salmon, bowels removed, so the bright red cut was clearly visible. And there were special reservoirs with swimming perches, pikes, ruffs and even crayfish. Sennoy Market had the so-called “Gluttony Stalls”, which offered cheap meals for visitors from the provinces.

In June 1831, Sennaya Square was shaken by so-called “cholera riots” that started with the brutal murder of medical personnel in a cholera hospital in immediate proximity to the Market. For lack of effective anti-cholera medication the police had to pack all people suspected of having contracted cholera into special barracks. That gave rise to rumours that the people thus isolated were poisoned deliberately to check the spread of the disease. The sporadic riots that followed had to be suppressed with the help of a regular army. Legend has it that Emperor Nicholas I traveling in an open carriage rode right into the rampaging crowd unguarded and in the rumbling voice of his ordered the rioters to their knees. The crowd, taken by surprise and therefore totally disoriented, obeyed and was thus pacified.

Though Sennoy Market has long gone, and Sennaya Square serves a living reminder of the once biggest city bazaar. Another reminder is the metro station Sennaya Square.

Source:The Voice of Russia

четверг, 17 сентября 2009 г.

The legends of russian rock-"DDT"

Yuri Shevchuk-vocals,guitar

"Let’s Fill the Sky with Kindness"

O, as insignificant as you and I
Before our imminent fate.
And we are alive, while our friends
Always stand behind our wall.

And what can we do? We can live,
And we can certainly also love.
Friend, put down your stone,
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.

The sea of debates is noise and clatter.
One shouts: “I will not give!”
Another groans: “We won’t begin...”
And we have lived forty years like this.

Yes, there are too many rough words
About who is sick and who is healthy.
Don’t ruin another in peace,
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.

Hey there, on the roof, you and I,
As they say, one family.
Remove your finger from the button,
It will cost us too much.

Our God will always understand us all,
He’ll release our sins, take away our pain.
Go on, Christ, we are with you.
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.
Let’s fill the sky with kindness.

"Наполним небо добротой"

О, как ничтожны ты и я
Перед нависшею судьбой.
И живы мы, пока друзья
Стоят всегда за нас стеной.

И что мы можем? Можем жить,
Еще, конечно же, любить.
Приятель, выбрось камень свой,
Наполним небо добротой.
Наполним небо добротой.
Наполним небо добротой.

Дебатов море - шум и гам.
Один кричит: "Я не отдам!"
Другой кряхтит: "Не мы начнем..."
Вот так уж сорок лет живем.

Да, слишком много бурных слов
О том, кто болен, кто здоров.
Не загреметь бы в мир иной,
Наполним небо добротой.
Наполним небо добротой.
Наполним небо добротой.

Эй, там, на крыше, вы и я,
Как говорят, одна семья.
Снимите с кнопки пальчик свой,
Для нас он слишком дорогой.

Наш Бог всегда всех нас поймет,
Грехи отпустит, боль возьмет.
Вперед, Христос, мы за тобой
Наполним небо добротой.
Наполним небо добротой.
Наполним небо добротой.

Source: english translation from www.russmus.net


The great Russian saint, Reverend Sergius, baptized Varfolomei or Bartholomew, was born of noble parents in the city of Rostov, South Russia, in 1320. His mother, Maria, was a very religious woman. Definitely, that had a deep effect on the boy. One day, when Maria stood in front of the altar during the divine liturgy, the baby in her womb cried out thrice — the first time, before the Gospel began to be read, the second — when the Cherubic hymn was being sung, and the third Holy Trinity St.Sergius Monasterytime — at the end of the service. That was something unheard of. Maria for a long time kept in her heart that sign indicating her son was a chosen one.

When Maria was safely delivered of the child, it was not the mother who taught her son piety, but the boy who taught his mother. Other members of the family noticed, that one of those days when the mother ate meat, the baby rejected the breast. In a little while Maria — she would become a nun later — started living a monastic life, long before taking the vows. On Wednesdays and Fridays — the days of fast — the newly-born baby refused to take the mother's milk. Naturally, his parents took note of all that and kept praying to God asking Him to protect Varfolomei from vice and temptation in the future.

When he was still a little boy, Varfolomei became fond of the prayer to Jesus Christ: "Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me!" He used that prayer, which he liked more than any other, to get anything he asked for.

His faith in God Almighty kept growing during private prayers… At first, the boy had great difficulty in learning to read and write. Other pupils read Holy books far better than he did. The boy was very upset, however, he never got desperate and relied on God's help.

One day, in search of lost horses the boy strayed far away from home to have a miraculous vision under a big green oak. God granted him a meeting with a very old, kind-looking man. The old man was deep in thought, his fingers busy with the rosary. Varfolomei at that minute was very sad, because his teachers became even more angry about his failures in class. The very thought of it made him cry. The old man raised his prophetic eyes, handed the boy the wafer (or the altar bread) and said: “Hence forth God gives you the gift of learning, little boy. The altar bread is small, but may its size not confuse you; it will taste so sweet as soon as you try it.”

As soon as the boy tasted the altar bread, he saw divine light and joy filled his entire being.

The boy's father and mother — Kirill and Maria — were greatly surprised, when their son opened the Psalm-Book as soon as he got home and started reading it calmly and fluently. God himself opened the mind of the future monk and his soul tasted the sweet of divine reading.

Varfolomei’s body matured. So did his soul. His pure young heart experienced no temptations. Childish whims and games were alien to him. When Varfolomei turned fifteen, his parents moved from Rostov to the Moscow princedom, to a small town of Radonezh. At the age of twenty Varfolomei came to his parents to ask for their blessing to retire to a monastery. However, God kept putting the chosen one to test more than once and it was not before he closed the eyes of his parents and buried them, that his wish came true. After that he and his elder brother, Stephan retired to a hermitage in the center of an impenetrable forest — a hill not far from Moscow.

Holy-Trinity St.Sergius Lavra

At the age of twenty-three Varfolomei took the habit on the day of St. Martyr Sergius. The Hegumen who performed the ritual, presented the young monk with a rosary and told him to recall the name of God day and night.

Sergius displayed great patience and courage, for he lived in a dreadful place, surrounded by wild beasts and having not enough bread or water. He dedicated St. Sergius of Radonezh. Iconhimself entirely to the labor of praying and to perfecting his soul. He was never in a hurry nor was he negligent when he recited the prayer to Jesus Christ. He sought to understand each word of it. Very soon the holy monk learned how sweet the words of the prayer to Jesus Christ were.

In his spiritual labor Sergius often encountered various temptations. More than once his log cabin was surrounded by strange creatures during the night. The creatures looked like wild beasts or villains wearing tall caps. They were the demons. They yelled at him: “Go away! Why have you come to live here in the woods? Aren't you afraid of death by famine or at the hands of villains?"

The cabin seemed to collapse, break in two and the floor seemed to go from under his feet. However, Sergius kept standing in front of an icon of Jesus Christ upright, as a candle, made signs of the cross and kept repeating with his whole might: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me!”

If only today's Christians knew what kind of infallible weapon there is in the name of Jesus which they can use against evil, filthy designs.

The demons would disappear as suddenly as they had appeared. Sergius would then give thanks to Almighty God.

Even the speechless creatures, the animals of the woods felt the blessing coming from Sergius. Wild and violent by nature, they became quiet and humble, when they came to the log cabin where the monk lived. The bear was the most frequent visitor. Sergius invariably treated him to a loaf of bread.

A town standing at the top of a mountain can’t escape people's attention. And the fame of Sergius's hermitage travelled far and wide. Many pilgrims came to him in search of secluded, pious life. However, Sergius was never quick to accept new-comers. He told future monks:

“Make your hearts ready not for calm careless life, but for great patience to cope with any temptation and any labour. Make yourself ready for fasts, hard spiritual labour and many sorrows.”

A total of twelve monks gathered at the hermitage of Radonezh. They founded a monastery that would later be named the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

The old wisdom in Latin says: “Ore et labore”, that is — pray and work! The Prayer to Jesus Christ cannot be conducted by the one who is idle. If our soul can be likened to a boat sailing to the harbour of impassionedness, prayers and earthly labours can be likened to the oars that keep it going. St. Sergius never stayed idle. He could do any kind of job — build a home, bake bread, make clothes, carry water and make all preparations the divine liturgy. Whatever he did, he did with prayer: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on me!” And the life of Reverend Sergius was a miraculous evidence of the power of that prayer.

One day the monastery had a misfortune — it ran out of wheat and famine ensued. In view of the risk of death from hunger there began the murmur of discontent among the monks. Sergius tried to reason them, but his brethren turned a deaf ear on the voice of reason or faith. Sergius prayed for them in private: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on us, your sinful children, feed us somehow!”

And it so happened that soon the gates of the monastery opened and the inhabitants saw a cartful of freshly-baked breads…

With the same prayer to Jesus Christ Reverend Sergius brought into being a water spring on Makovets hill. Before that the monks had to go a long way to quench their thirst.

At first monks contemplated calling the spring of water after Sergius, but the humble Hegumen forbade…

The Saviour says that only the ones pure in heart can see Him. The wise teachers of spiritual life testify that no one can make one's heart pure without the prayer of Jesus. That prayer is the water that washes away filth from our souls — vanity, self-esteem, pride, impatience and others. Reverend Sergius, who since childhood observed the oath of virginity acquired the purity of his heart by walking up the ladder of the prayer of Jesus step by step. One day, when he left his cell, he chanced to have a miraculous, divine vision showing how close he was to God. He heard the voice: “Sergius, you pray for your flock. Your prayer has been heard. Look — there are the monks gathering under your leadership in the name of the Holy Trinity.”

Sergius looked up and saw the sky open and white birds come down to the meadow in front of his cell. Then he heard the voice again:

“So shall multiply the number of your disciples. When you pass away their number will not grow smaller, if they follow in your footsteps.”

The Gospel by Mark says: "Demons will be excercized and sick people cured in my name.” Reverend Sergius learned the true meaning of these words. One day a desperate peasant brought his sick boy to him. The boy died in front of the gates of the hermitage. Sergius then ordered to bring the boy’s body to his cell and remained there all alone. He prayed: “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, resurrect this boy, if you will!”

In a little while the desperate father was beside himself with joy to see his son restored to life.

Reverend Sergius was reluctant to disclose the gift of working miracles he had from God. So he told the man: “The boy just felt dizzy. Now he has come round.”

Who of us, proud and self-loving children of the 21st century have achieved Christian humbleness and through it the wonderful calm of our soul?.. Isn't it the reason why we know no peace of mind or body that we have neglected the heavenly piety? However, through the prayer of Jesus it makes its way to the human heart, slowly but surely.

One night Reverend Sergius was praying in his cell. With the name of God, he sat down to pause for a while, and then said suddenly to his disciple Mikhail: “Stay awake, child! We are going to have a visitor!” The boy froze with fear.
Suddenly there was a voice in the night: “There comes the Virgin!”

There was a light in the cell, brighter than the Sun. Reverend Sergius saw the Mother of God radiating wonderful light. She was followed by Apostle Peter and Apostle John, the Theologian. Sergius fell to his knees in front of the Queen of Heaven. St.Mary touched Reverend Sergius with her hand and said mercifully: “Fear not, the chosen one. I have come because your prayers for your disciples have reached me. Don't worry anymore about the hermitage. From now on there will be an abundance of every¬thing during your lifetime and when you ascend to heavens I will never neglect this place.”

With the help of the prayer of Jesus Reverend Sergius became a powerful defender of the Russian land. He chanced to protect Holy Russia from the Hordes of Khan Mamai in 1380. He did not take part in the famous battle on Kulikovo field. However, with the name of God he blessed the weapons of St. Dmitri of the Don, a faithful prince. With the name of God at his lips Sergius kept praying in his cell throughout the battle. The prayer of Jesus helped Sergius see everything what was going on on the Kulikovo field. The Lord himself gave him the power to see everything and know everything. St.Prince Dmitri of the Don, in a move of gratitude to Sergius of Radonezh for his prayers, instituted a special memorial service in honour of those who died in that battle. The Russian Orthodox Church has conducted the service ever since.

The death of Reverend Sergius was quick and calm. When he passed away on September 25, 1392, his face shone like the face of an angel. The church regards death as an act of parting with the misfortunes and hardships of earthly life to the kingdom of eternal blessing.

Thirty years after his death, Sergius of Radonezh was seen in a dream by some pious layman. He told the man: “Go and ask the Hegumen and the brothers, why do they keep me for so long in the coffin and underground, where water surrounds my body?”

In 1422 the coffin was recovered and opened — and the body of Reverend Sergius was found intact. The garments were not spoiled either… Sergius manifested his close bonds with the monastery, where he had spent so many years in the troubled days of Russian history.

In the year of 1608, when the army of Poles led by Dmitri the Imposter, besieged the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, the monks more than once saw Sergius walking along the walls and asperse the land around. Reverend Sergius came to the Hegumen of the monastery and urged him and the brothers to defend the monastery with courage.

The Russian people remember particularly well that Reverend Sergius helped gather the army that would liberate Russia from the Polish invaders. On three occasions he was seen in a dream by Kuzma Minin, a citizen of Nizhni Novgorod. On the third night he addressed Minin with a threat in his voice: “Didn't I tell you to gather armed people? Merciful God wishes to relieve the Orthodox Christians of disorder and trouble and to give them peace and calm. So I told you to go and fight for the liberation of the Russian land from the enemy. Don't hesitate if your superiors fail to follow you. Your own subordinates will do that eagerly and a good cause will have a good outcome!?

On October 22, 1612, when the Moscow Kremlin was stormed and the Poles driven out of the city, Reverend Sergius came to one of the bishops the Poles had kept prisoner in the Kremlin. He told the bishop that the Russian land would be saved that day.

Today, as in the past, the Holy Trinity Monastery, founded by Sergius of Radonezh, is the heart of Russian soil. These days, there is great confusion in people's minds. Troubled times are experienced by our country and the reason for that are our sins. The country is being torn apart by selfish and greedy people. And when we come to the Holy Trinity Monastery and when we light a candle in front of the icons of Sergius of Radonezh and near his relics, our hearts are filled with blessing… “Oh, Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy on us!”

Source: The Voice of Russia

среда, 16 сентября 2009 г.

Schismatics seize one more church in Ukraine, priests and parishioners brutally beaten

Moscow, September 15, Interfax – The so called “Kiev Patriarchate” schismatics have seized one more church of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

The incident took place in the village of Zhuklia of the Chernigov Region. About 60 people including local and neighboring priests stood up to defend the church, official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has reported on Tuesday.

First, twenty schismatics came to the church, but then a certain Dmitry Protsik who introduces himself as “Bishop Hilarion” came to the village. “Militants of the fascist nationalistic organizations” accompanied him in coaches. “Policemen gave way to them and silently watched the fight,” the message further reads.

“People were punched with fists, beaten with legs and heavy things, gas was splashed into their faces. Four priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were hospitalized in a grave condition,” the website informs.

One of them, Archimandrite Bartholomew, Father Superior of the Monastery of the Nativity of Our Lady, “was taken by his spiritual children to a Kiev hospital with open head injury: militant took off his cross and used it to beat him on the head.”

Two more priests turned to hospitals and were diagnosed “brain concussion.” Press secretary of the Chernigov Diocese Archpriest Zakhary Kerstyuk received most serious injuries. He was hospitalized in a grave condition and diagnosed “closed craniocerebral injury, brain concussion, numerous injuries of soft tissues, chest and diametrical section of the spinal column.”

50 years after: what did Khrushchev show America?

Igor Siletsky

Thirteen days in September 1959 went down in history as a visit to the United States by then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. 50 years after, newspapers are awash with articles about that trip, most of them giving detailed descriptions of Khrushchev’s encounters with farmer Roswell Garst, whose corn-raising experience he repeatedly praised while touring Soviet rural regions or addressing the Presidium of the Communist Party Central Committee. But what many seem to forget is that Khrushchev’s trans-Atlantic visit was not entirely about agriculture. There were other important highlights. Thus, he had four meetings with President Dwight Eisenhower, focused on the “German issue”. Khrushchev proposed a five-year delay in signing a peace treaty with both German states, thus enabling the Soviet Union’s allies in the anti-Hitler coalition to keep their occupational rights for another five years. In case of refusal, Moscow intended to sign a unilateral peace treaty with the German Democratic Republic, which would automatically strip the allies of their occupational rights to part of Berlin.

The proposal was rejected. Eisenhower had nothing against the Soviets signing a peace treaty with Germany but insisted that allied troops stay in Berlin. Khrushchev’s efforts to strike a compromise gave no result. The Voice of Russia observer Valentin Zorin recalls:

“Khrushchev, who himself fought on the battlefront during WWII, treated Eisenhower with great respect as a war hero. The Wall Street Journal newspaper recently slammed our May Victory Parade. But if they search through their archives, they would find a photograph showing Eisenhower on the tribune of Lenin’s Mausoleum during that parade. Incidentally, he was among the few foreigners awarded our top military order – the Order of Victory. That was also taken into account by Khrushchev, and that too was a serious factor which had its implications, both positive and negative”.

Addressing U.S. audiences, Khrushchev sought to convey two main messages: the need to improve Soviet-American relations and the rising economic and military might of Moscow. The latter was illustrated by Soviet aerospace achievements. On the eve of Khrushchev’s departure to the U.S., a Soviet interplanetary station reached the Moon. Also, the Soviet leader made his non-stop trans-Atlantic flight from Moscow to Washington aboard a new TU-114 airliner. That in itself was incredible.

Even though the visit failed to solve all problems, it became a landmark event in the history of Russian-U.S. relations. Moscow’s call for a compromise that could have prevented the “cold war” went unheeded, but one thing Khrushchev did manage to achieve was to make Americans take a different look at the Soviet Union and that was probably the main result of his visit.

Source:The Voice of Russia

Anna Yaroslavna - the Queen of France

(circa 1024-1075)
Image from www.rulex.ru

History books remember her as a golden-haired girl from an exotic land who became queen consort and, later, regent of France. Anna was born to Yaroslav the Wise – grand duke of Kiev and the initiator of the “golden age” of Rus – and his wife Ingegerd. Her parents insisted on giving her a good education and, by the age of 18, under the supervision of her mother, she had mastered Latin, Ancient Greek and the basics of medicine.

In 1048, the French embassage, led by the Bishop of the city of Maux Gautier and minister of the French Court Gasseline de Chalignac, arrived in Kiev with a mission to arrange a marriage between the king of France, Henry I, and Anna. Rumours of Anna's exquisite beauty, literacy and wisdom reached many corners of Europe. Historians still debate the reasoning behind Henry's choice of a second wife: France did not have any diplomatic or trade links with Rus at the time. However, the general consensus is that Henry couldn't find a suitable princess-bride in Europe – all the eligible young women were related to him within illegal degrees of kinship.

Apart from the king's best regards, the entourage brought exquisite swords, broadcloths and silver dishes to demonstrate their serious yet friendly intentions to woo. Being a prolific father as well as a wise ruler, Yaroslav sought to consolidate his leadership of Kiev and to give a comfortable future to his children. Profitable marriages would kill two birds with one stone. And Anna's marriage to Henry I was the most successful one of them all.

Painting by Shchrilyov (image from www.artlib.ru)

The king was more than 40 at the time of the couple's first meeting; he suffered from obesity and became spiteful, even with his concubines. However when he saw Anna, he softened and even smiled, leaning in to kiss her. After this passionate introduction, Anna is quoted to have pulled back, blushed and said: “I suppose it is you who is king…”

Their wedding – as well as Anna's coronation as Queen of France – took place in May 1049, Holy Trinity Day, in the Cathedral of the city of Rheims, long-established as the site of the coronation of French kings. On the marriage contract, Anna gracefully signed her name and patronymic whilst the king of France simply put down a cross. At her coronation, the newly-wed queen broke with tradition: instead of conforming to tradition and taking her royal vows with her hand placed on a Latin Bible, she used a Slavic Gospel, which she brought from Kiev with her.

Her letters of the period show that she wasn't fond of her new homeland, thinking it was too provincial in comparison to Kiev. In 1050 she writes to her father: “What a barbarous country you sent me to – the dwellings are somber, the churches horrendous and the morals – terrible”.

There is little information regarding how Anna was received at the French court. She was, however, quick to learn the French language and keenly participated in government affairs, despite having a merely decorative post. Her name can be found on official documents, next to the king's ever-present X. The signatures read “by the approval of my spouse Anna” or “in the presence of Queen Anna”.

However, the young queen couldn't produce an heir for a long time, which probably created tension and sparked unwanted rumours. She is said to have spent long hours in prayer, pledging to found a monastery if she would successfully give birth to a prince. Finally, either thanks to her active spirituality, or more likely to the untiring efforts of her 45-year-old husband in 1053, she gave birth to her first-born son, christened Philip. Henry and Anna had two more children: Robert who died in adolescence as a highwayman, and Hugh (Hugues), who joined the first Crusades.

In 1060 Henry died, leaving the French throne to Philip, who was only seven years old at the time. Anna became the regent ruling the country in the name of her son. True to her word, she founded a monastery dedicated to St Vincent in Senlisse, not far from Paris. Only a chapel has survived. A monument to Anne of Rus still stands next to the chapel. Like his father before him, Philip took Anna's advice seriously, and her signature can be found on official documents next to his.

However, such a beautiful and wise woman was unlikely to remain alone for a long time. Raul III Peronn, Count of Crepis and Valois succumbed to the charms of the young queen from the moment she stepped on French soil. However, his feelings remained hidden until the death of the king. He kidnapped her while she was hunting and wed her in secret at his estate.

The pope refused to recognise this new union, demanding that Raul revalidate his marriage with Agnes de Barban and that Anna resume her spiritual role in the French state. However, the newly-eloped couple were so open in their displays of affections and seemed to care so little about public opinion, that their union was soon accepted. According to some sources, the couple were excommunicated by the pope for “not returning to the bosom of the family”.

There is, of course, a more prosaic version of the same story. Traditionally, a widowed queen, especially a young one, was not allowed to stay without a husband. And so, once more, the most favourable candidate was chosen – Count Raul was one of the most powerful landowners in the kingdom at the time. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is known that Anna remained with Raul until his death in 1074.

It is not known when Anna died or where she is buried. According to some historians she returned to Kiev to die; others claim that she died in France and was buried in the Vilier Abbey not far from Forte-Aleps.

Her last years were probably a lonely time: she had lost two husbands, her son and most of her family from Kiev, leaving her somewhat isolated at the French court. Phillip felt abandoned after his mother's second marriage and Anna probably spent her final years travelling around Europe in an attempt to find acceptance.


вторник, 15 сентября 2009 г.

Fort Ross in California was founded by Vologodians

During the eighteenth century, Vologdians showed remarkable enterprise in exploring distant territories, and, by the end of the century, a number of expeditions to Alaska were funded in Tot'ma (214 km (133 miles) north-east of Vologda). Merchants from Tot'ma took over the pioneering role. They set out on long journeys to Ťexportť salt mined from the areas around the town which was rich in salt mines. Salt, being highly valued in Siberia and the Pacific Islands, was exchanged there for furs which were much priced in European Russia. Since that time the town has been adorned with graceful churches resembling the silhouettes of ships and a black Alaska fox was added to the town emblem of Tot'ma. Russian merchants, involved in fur trade with America, founded the Russian-American Company, the biggest in Alaska. The company was allowed to have its own flag and issue its own money, it has a big fleet of trade ships.

On 15 May (Old Style), 1812 in California a native of Tot'ma Ivan Kuskov laid the foundation of the first house of the Russian fortress - Fort Ross, that became the most southern Russian settlement on North American coast of the then existing Russian-American Company. The efforts of Nikolay Rokityansky, a professor of history from California have made it possible to restore the fortress to its original form. Recently a granite bust of Ivan Kuskov has been erected in Russia in front of the house where the first commandant of Fort Ross spent his last years.

The strong influence of representatives from the Vologda province on properties in the Pacific Ocean continued until the sale of Alaska to the USA.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Mikhail Buldakov, a merchant from Veliky Ustyug was, using the modern terminology, the chairman of the Board of directors of Russian-American Company. At the very end of the twentieth century Stanislav Zaitsev, a student of local lore from Tot'ma, managed to repeat many nautical exploits of his fellow-town's men. As a member of the crew of Russian enthusiasts Zaitsev sailed along the coast of North America from Alaska to Vancouver.

The magazine Russian Life in its issue of July 1997 briefs the history and present development of Fort Ross:

"Some 185 years ago, the Russian-American Company founded Fort Ross, its southern-most settlement in North America. The fort's site, which is located near the Russian River (then the Slavyanka), about one hundred miles north of San Francisco, was acquired from local Kashaya Pomo Indians for "three blankets, three pairs of breeches, two axes, three hoes, and some beads." It was formally dedicated on August 13, 1812. Just a month later, on the other side of the world, Russian forces would face Napoleon at the Battle of Borodino.
The fort was founded to support trade in sea otter pelts, which were extraordinarily valuable in trade with China. Most of the hunting (ranging the entire coast of present-day California and Oregon) was done by native Alaskans from Kodiak island, who were in the service of the Russian-American Company (and lived in a village just outside the fort's walls). Within eight years, however, the sea otter population was so depleted that the main economic activities at the fort became agriculture and animal husbandry. Unfortunately, climate, location and the flagging desire of hunters-turned-farmers led to failure.

By the late 1830s, the Russian-American Company was starting to pull back from the Pacific Northwest. In December 1841 the fort was sold to John Sutter, of Sutter's Fort. There was a succession of owners and, in 1906, the site was turned over to the State of California for preservation and renovation as a historic monument.

he majority of the fort's structures are built of local redwood, using joinery techniques typical of the 19th century maritime carpentry. The Chapel was the first Russian Orthodox structure in North America (outside Alaska). The fort's buildings have suffered from the ravages of time, earthquakes and fire, and most have been rebuilt during this century.

Very few Russians actually lived at the fort, and intermarriage between Russians and Alaskan and Californian natives was common. Thus, 185 years on, the region retains a bit of its Russian heritage. Not only are there many Russian surnames in the area, but there is also a local farming community named Sebastopol, the Russian River, and numerous Orthodox Russian churches.

The last weekend in July, Fort Ross hosts Living History Days, when volunteers and park personnel dress in attire of the early 19th century, cook Russian dishes, do carpentry, spin wool and perform Russian music. At the high point of the day, a trading ship arrives in the little harbour as if from China. Cannon salutes are exchanged with the fort and the captain is welcomed with toasting all around. Typically, some 1000 visitors come to the fort over these two days (which is when photographer R.C. Hall took these shots). The site is also a draw for travelling Russians. Park managers report that hardly a day goes by without a group of Russian tourists passing through. The fort is open year round. The Chapel is used for Orthodox Services on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Kuskov's log house in Tot'ma
has been turned into a modest, but attractive museum