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From Sacred Site to Lifeline for Besieged Leningrad and Back

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This article is from a series by the invaluable William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.

Brumfield is the world’s leading historian of Russian architecture.  He makes frequent trips to Russia, often to her remote regions, and records the most unusual examples of surviving architecture with detailed, professional photography.  

His most recent book is a real treasure, Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon).  This truly beautiful book was made possible by the support of a US philanthropist, and its true cost is 3 times its retail price, and we can’t recommend it highly enough.  Here is our 2015 review of it.

Bravo to RBTH for making Brumfield’s work possible, and providing such a great platform for his beautiful photography.  We recommend visiting the RBTH page, which has a slide show for each article with many more pictures than we can fit in here.

Don’t believe in miracles?  Well, we can assure you, Brumfield’s work is undoubtedly just that.  You can find a complete list of his articles on RI here.

The original title of this article was: Tikhvin: From sacred site to lifeline for besieged Leningrad and back


Located some 140 miles to the east of St. Petersburg, the small city of Tikhvin is today considered within the orbit of the northern megapolis, yet it existed as a northern forest settlement centuries before the founding of Peter the Great’s city on the Neva. In the medieval period, it was known as the haven for one of Russia’s most revered icons; later, at a perilous moment in late 1941, the fate of besieged Leningrad hinged on the outcome of battles for Tikhvin.

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The town’s name derives from the small Tikhvinka River, whose name itself is rooted in the word for “quiet” or “still.” The Tikhvinka flows in the direction of Lake Ladoga, and in the early 19th century, it formed the core of a small canal system linking St. Petersburg with the Volga River basin.

The very origins of Tikhvin are founded in a miracle. It is said that in 1383, an icon with an image of the Virgin holding the Christ Child hovered near the Tikhvinka River. The form of the icon was one of the most ancient, the Hodegetria (“the one who shows the way”). In this icon, the Mother of God holds the infant Christ with one arm and points to him with the other hand. The appearance of such an ancient icon at Tikhvin was subsequently interpreted as a sign of the divine favor bestowed on Russia. In 1383, a small log church dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin was built for the eponymous Tikhvin image on the site of its miraculous apparition. A village grew around the church, which held what would become one of the most venerated icons in Russian Orthodoxy.

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In more prosaic terms, the Tikhvin settlement benefited from a location on trade routes from the northeast and south that led toward the Baltic Sea via Lake Ladoga. The abundance of primitive bog iron in the nearby region of Ustiuzhna stimulated the development of metalworking in numerous smithies.

Even as the settlement grew, its center remained the Dormition Church. The wooden structure was destroyed more than once by fire, yet the miraculous icon survived. The icon’s importance only increased after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, after which Moscow saw itself as the ultimate defender of the Orthodox faith.  And with the subjugation of Novgorod by Moscow’s Grand Prince Ivan III, Moscow became the protector of the most sacred Tikhvin Icon.

When the Dormition Church again burned in 1500, Grand Prince Basil III (son of Ivan III) gave funds in 1507 to rebuild the Dormition Church as a greatly enlarged masonry cathedral to protect the icon. Erected in 1510-1515 under the supervision of the Novgorod builder Dmitry Syrkov and with the support of Novgorod’s Archbishop Serapion, the Dormition Cathedral replicated the general form of the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin, with five cupolas and a large icon screen for the interior. Attached to the main structure was a one-story gallery that served as a narthex. In building the cathedral, Syrkov apparently had the services of one of the Italian architects active in Moscow, a certain Ivan Fryazin.

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The white-washed brick cathedral soared above the low wooden structures of the rest of the Tikhvin settlement. A half century later, in 1560, Basil’s son Ivan IV (the Terrible) decided to create a monastery around the cathedral. The design of the new Dormition Monastery was entrusted to Dmitry Syrkov’s son Fyodor, who resettled people living around the cathedral and cleared space for a monastic enclosure defended by a stout log wall. The monastery was intended to perform double duty as a fortification protecting the area against incursions from Sweden, north Russia’s ancient rival.

The monastery’s next brick structure was the Church of the Intercession of the Virgin, built in 1581 on the south flank of the monastery with an attached 2-story refectory and capacious dining hall that has been well preserved. Adjoining the east end of the Intercession Church is a large bell gable completed in 1600 and much modified thereafter. Partially destroyed during fighting in the fall of 1941, the bell gable has been restored to what is thought to have been its original appearance.

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The 1590s also witnessed the reconstruction in brick of the main (Holy) gate, which was surmounted in the usual Russian monastic practice with a church. Dedicated to the Ascension, this gate church was frequently modified and much damaged during the war and has now been reconstructed to resemble its 17th century form.

The beginning of the 17th century brought severe trials to Tikhvin. Following the death of Boris Godunov in 1605, Russia entered a period of destructive chaos known as the Time of Troubles. With no clear successor to the Muscovite throne, various warring factions, including Polish claimants, fanned the flames of a social conflagration that consumed much of European Russia.

In 1609 attempts were made to enlist Sweden as an ally in the struggle with Poland. The alliance soon foundered, and in 1610 Sweden took advantage of the chaos to advance its commercial interests and push Russia farther from the Baltic Sea. Swedish forces led by Jacob de la Gardie seized Novgorod and then Tikhvin, but in late May 1613 the inhabitants of Tikhvin rebelled against the Swedish garrison. When a punitive detachment returned, the townspeople barricaded themselves in the Dormition Monastery, where they withstood several assaults.The heroic defense of Tikhvin in 1613 prevented further erosion of Moscow’s position in the northwest.

As prosperity gradually returned in the 17th century, Tikhvin and the Dormition Monastery benefited. Damaged by fires in the 1620s, the restored Dormition Cathedral gained a towering 6-level icon screen and its interior walls were newly painted with frescoes in the Yaroslavl style. Although the frescoes of the main space were repainted by Login Shustov in 1794-97, 17th-century frescoes have remained in the attached gallery, particularly along the south side with vivid depictions of the Apocalypse.

By the turn of the 18th century, the population of Tikhvin was tired of being subservient to the monastery, and in 1723 Tikhvin was released from monastery governance and obligations. Fifty years later, it was granted formal status as a town.

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During the 19th century Tikhvin experienced modest growth in trade, transportation and cottage industries. A few houses and other buildings from the period have survived in the historic center, most notably the childhood home of the composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,who was  born there in 1844. The house is now preserved as an attractive museum near the Tikhvinka River.

In the 20th century Tikhvin shared the difficult fate of so much of Russia. As the German juggernaut threatened Leningrad in the fall of 1941, Tikhvin became the scene of desperate fighting. During the Tikhvin Defensive Operation (Oct. 16-Nov. 18) the Red Army prevented the enemy from completely surrounding Leningrad, but Tikhvin was seized on Nov. 8.

The subsequent Tikhvin Offensive Operation (Nov. 10-Dec. 30) pushed the enemy back to the Volkhov River and reopened a forest road and spur rail line to Lake Ladoga. On Dec. 9, Tikhvin became one of the first towns to be liberated in the Soviet winter offensive of 1941. Even so, the few weeks of German occupation severely restricted the delivery of food and other supplies via Tikhvin and Lake Ladoga to Leningrad, which experienced catastrophic levels of starvation during the winter of 1941-42.

For the next two years, Tikhvin played a critical role in funneling supplies to the army and civilian population during the epic battles to relieve Leningrad. In recognition of its role during the war, Tikhvin was designated in 2010 as a “City of Military Glory,” one of 45 in Russia.

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The most momentous event so far in Tikhvin’s 21st century history occurred in 2004 with the return of the Tikhvin icon to the Dormition Monastery. The icon had been taken to Pskov during the German occupation and then evacuated through the port of Riga to Germany toward the end of the war. In 1950, it arrived at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago under the care of Archbishop John (Garklavs; 1898-1982). His intention was for the icon to be returned when Russia was free from an atheist ideology.

After much deliberation, this wish was implemented by his adopted son, Father Sergius Garklavs, actively supported by American and Russian Orthodox prelates. In the summer of 2004 the Tikhvin Theotokos Icon was transported with great solemnity via Riga, Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Tikhvin Dormition Cathedral. After six decades, the great treasure again found its place in the monastery that has been so closely linked to Tikhvin.

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Nphet proposes cap on households mixing over Christmas period

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.

Nphet met on Thursday to consider advice for the Government on the latest pandemic situation, at a time when Covid-19 case numbers have stabilised at a high level and further information on the Omicron variant is being awaited.

It last night sent a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which recommends a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and limits on households mixing.

The contents of the letter are expected to be discussed by Ministers and senior officials at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Friday.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government would move “as quickly as it can” to examine the latest recommendations from Nphet and to decide if further restrictions will be introduced. She said the Cabinet would need to be given time to “look at this advice and take it on board”.

During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the Government had to ensure it was clear about about what it would do in terms of restrictions and why before anything was announced.

“Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this…I hope people would agree that we haven’t left people wanting,” she said. “We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won’t be any different.”

Tests for travellers

Separately, the Government has notified airlines that the introduction of a system of PCR and antigen testing for passengers arriving into Ireland has been delayed by 48 hours.





Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU


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The measure was due to come into force on Friday, but Aer Lingus said airlines had been informed on Thursday night that the regulations would now begin on Sunday. All arrivals into the State – whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result from then onwards.

Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test.

No self-administered tests will be accepted under rules approved by Cabinet. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours before arrival. Persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified negative test.

Hospitality sector meeting

Meanwhile, Government members are due to meet representatives of the hospitality industry on Friday. Ministers have said there will be supports for the sector if new pandemic measures will impact on their ability to trade.

Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that people had been asked to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.

“I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it’s not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic,” she said.

The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Government was flip flopping or that there was confusion behind the scenes, saying the State is in a “fluid situation” because of the nature of Covid-19.

“What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself. That wasn’t a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here,” she said.

‘Random and arbitrary’

Earlier, Maynooth University professor of immunology Paul Moynagh said the latest restrictions reportedly proposed by Nphet could lead to some benefits but seem ed “random and arbitrary”.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that “big mistakes” have been made with regard to messaging to the public.

“Back in September contact tracing was stood down the reason being that children were missing too much school. But we had the option of keeping contact tracing and using antigen testing. And there has been a resistance over the last year from Nphet in terms of using antigen testing,” he said.

“We saw over the last number of days the reluctance of Nphet again to impress advice from experts in the area of ventilation and air filtration. There seems to be this reluctance to accept scientific advice from outside.”

Prof Moynagh said there was a need to look at this reluctance and “learn from our mistakes”.

“Whereas at the moment it seems that mistakes are made and that narrative is defended. And again we end up now with new restrictions that I am not convinced are going to be very impactful,” he said.

“We know they are going to be highly impactful in terms of the sectors for example. I am not convinced by the strategy that is being used at the moment.”


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Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says

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Senior figures in United States politics have made it clear that the government of Boris Johnson in the UK will face negative consequences internationally if it attempts to rupture or dispense with the Northern Ireland protocol, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

In a presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday she said the protocol was “necessary, operable and going nowhere, despite what Boris Johnson might wish to believe”.

She said she had met with “people of considerable influence” in the US Congress and in the Biden administration on her visit to the US this week and they all stood four square behind the Belfast Agreement and the protocol.

“I heard yesterday on the Hill the clearest possible articulation across the board that any notion of walking away from the protocol would not be acceptable to the United States.”

Asked about a report in the Financial Timed that Washington had delayed lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminium products amid concerns about threats by the UK to invoke article 16 of the protocol, Ms McDonald said this was a matter for the Biden administration.

However, she said: “There is no doubt where the US stands. If Johnson believes he can walk away from the protocol, he is wrong and there will be consequences for Britain if he chooses that course of action.”

Tariffs

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who was also in Washington DC on Thursday, said if the lifting of tariffs was being delayed due to concerns about the protocol, he would argue at a meeting with the US state department that it had “got it wrong” in its view on what article 16 was about.

“If people say we have to adhere to the protocol and article 16 is part of the protocol then it becomes a legitimate thing you can use.”

“It is not about whether you should or should not use it. It is about how you should use it.

“You should use it in a narrow sense of a particular issue that is causing economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland, for example, medicines .”

“If the medicine issue has not been fixed and is starting to affect the people of Northern Ireland, it would be right to instigate article 16 to focus minds on that issue.”

Ms McDonald also told the press club event that she expected the United States would “be on the right side” on the controversy over British plans for an amnesty in relation to killings during the Troubles.

She said the British government was going to the ultimate point to keep the truth from the people about its war in Ireland.

She said the Johnson government’s plans would mean “in effect no possibility of criminal action, civil actions or even inquests into killings in the past”.

Ms McDonald also forecast that a point was coming over the coming five or 10 years where referenda would be held on the reunification of Ireland. She urged the Irish government to establish a citizen’s assembly to consider preparation for unity.

She also said “there will be need for international support and international intervention to support Ireland as we move to transition from partition to reunification”.

Separately, asked about a recent Sinn Féin golf fundraising event that was held in New York, Ms McDonald said the money that was raised would be spent on campaigning and lobbying in the US.

She described it as a patriotic expression by people in the US who had a deep interest in Ireland and the peace process.

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Drop in cancer diagnoses as high as 14 per cent during pandemic, early data shows

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The drop in the number of cancers detected during the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as 14 per cent, preliminary data has suggested.

A report from the National Cancer Registry said it was still too early to provide “definitive answers” on whether pandemic hospital restrictions last year led to a reduction in the number of cancers diagnosed.

The registry’s annual report said an estimated decrease of 14 per cent in detections pointed to the “potential scale” of Covid-19’s impact on other healthcare.

A separate analysis of data on microscopically verified cancers diagnosed last year showed a reduction of between 10 and 13 per cent, the report said.

The drop in confirmed cancer cases, when compared with previous years, could be partly accounted for by “incomplete registration of cases already diagnosed”, it said.

Prof Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry, said there were “clear signals that, as expected in Ireland, the number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 will be lower than in previous years”.

‘Very worried’

Averil Power, chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, said the organisation was “very worried” over the significant drop in cancers diagnosed last year.

The shortfall in cancers being diagnosed would present a “major challenge” in the coming years, with lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to screening services “all too commonplace” already, she said.

Ms Power said it was frightening to think of the people who were living with cancer but did not know it yet. She added that existing cancer patients were “terrified” of having treatments delayed due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.

The registry’s report said there were about 44,000 tumours identified each year between 2017 and 2019.

Not counting non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnoses were for breast and prostate cancer, which made up almost a third of invasive cancers found in women and men respectively.

For men this was followed by bowel and lung cancer, and melanoma of the skin. Lung cancer was the second most common cancer for women, followed by colorectal cancer and melanoma of skin.

Nearly a third of deaths in 2018 were attributed to cancer, with lung cancer the leading cause of death from cancer, the report said.

The second, third and fourth most common cancers to die from in men were bowel, prostate and oesophagus cancer. For women breast, bowel and ovarian cancers were the most common fatal cancers.

The report said there were almost 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2019, with breast cancer patients making up more than a fifth of the total.

Mortality rates

The research found cancer rates among men had dropped between 2010 and 2019, with mortality rates decreasing or remaining the same across nearly every type of cancer. Rates of cancer detected among women had increased between 2008 and 2019, with mortality rates for most cancers decreasing.

The report said the five-year survival rate from cancer had increased to 65 per cent for the period 2014 to 2018, compared with 42 per cent two decades previous.

There had been “major improvement” in survival rates for most major cancers, however, the research noted the chances of survival varied significantly depending on the type of cancer.

Prostate, melanoma of the skin and testis cancer had survival rates of more than 90 per cent, followed closely by breast and thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Pancreas, liver, oesophagus and lung cancers had much lower five-year survival rates on average, the report said.

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