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A Magical Siberian Village and Its Amazing Wooden Church

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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 headline for this article was: The Church at Barabanovo: Spiritual legacy in a Siberian village


In the vast territory along the Yenisei River, notable for its severe climate and deep forests, there are settlements that seem to exist in another time.

One such place is the small village of Barabanovo, located near the left bank of the Yenisei River some 40 miles to the northwest of the Siberian metropolis of Krasnoyarsk. Although situated near one of Siberia’s most advanced industrial regions, Barabanovo seems in a number of ways to be a relic of the 19th century. To this day, its dominant landmark is a mid-19th century wooden church dedicated to a 3rd-century martyr, Saint Paraskeva.

In a pattern typical of Siberia’s early development, Barabanovo was founded in the mid-17th century as a community of Cossacks, who combined farming skills with the hardiness and bravery needed for life on the Siberian frontier. The name is related to the Russian word for “drum,” but local lore attributes it to the name of one of the original settlers, Vasily Barabanov.

By virtue of its fertile, well-drained soil on elevated land near the river, the village took root, and by the beginning of the 20th century, the Barabanovo parish, which included three nearby hamlets, had a population of over 2,000. Among them were exiles and peasant settlers from the west of Russia, part of an early 20th-century state policy encouraging land-poor peasants to populate the vast territory of Siberia.

During the past century, Barabanovo experienced the fate of so many Russian villages, as labor-intensive agricultural practices faded in a new industrial era. As a result of these demographic shifts, Barabanovo itself now has only 125 residents, but the village club still functions. Good paved roads nearby allow ready access to Krasnoyarsk and its suburbs.

One of the major events in the history of the village was the creation of a parish in 1854. This in turn led to support of the building a large wooden church dedicated to St. Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa, located on a rise overlooking the village and the Yenisei River in the distance. Indeed, the church has maintained a presence that extends far beyond the modest village of Barabanovo.

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Who was Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa?

This renown can be attributed in large part to its dedication to Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa, one of the Russian Orthodox saints most revered by peasants and ordinary people. According to church accounts, Paraskeva was born in the 3rd century to Christian parents in Iconium (present-day Konya in Turkey). Her name, derived from the Greek word for Friday, is said to refer both to the day of her baptism and to the day of Christ’s Passion, or Crucifixion. As a young woman, she actively propagated the Christian faith and was martyred during Diocletian’s relentless persecution of Christians.

Her veneration made its way to the Eastern Slavs through Kievan Rus, where her name became doubled with the addition of “pyatnitsa,” the word for Friday. St. Paraskeva was especially popular in the medieval commercial center of Novgorod the Great, where she was seen as the protector of merchants and markets. (Friday was the traditional market day, before the Sabbath.)

The Paraskeva-Pyatnitsa cult became widespread in the Russian North—originally under the control of Novgorod—and subsequently in Siberia. She became known as a protector of marriage, as well as a healer who protected both people and livestock. The array of her practical duties was comparable to that of St. Nicholas.

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Artistic highlights

The design of the Paraskeva Church shows the evolution of 19th-century wooden architecture under the influence of masonry architecture. The square main structure culminates in an unusually complex roof with eight gables and five decorative cupolas. In a typical pattern, a vestibule leads to a bell tower over what was once the main entrance at the west end.

The interior has been cleaned, but shows the effects of decades of neglect. Nonetheless, a few wall paintings remain, including paintings of the four Evangelists — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Traditionally the Evangelists are on spandrels above the four piers supporting the central dome in a Russian church. This church was constructed without such piers, yet the builders found an ingenious solution: to paint the images on triangular panels at the upper corners of the structure.

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Each evangelist is accompanied by his symbol: Matthew with the angel, Mark with the lion, Luke with the bull and John with the eagle. Painted in a primitive, bold academic style, the faces of the Evangelists display a vigorous expressive power.  At the top of the ceiling is an image of Lord God Sabaoth. As for Paraskeva, her image would have been prominently displayed as an icon, but the church icon screen has not survived.    

The Paraskeva Church was sturdily built to withstand the ravages of time and the fierce winter winds that buffet its exposed site. Films have been made at its location. Pilgrims visit the church with the help of the priest at the restored Church of the Trinity in the neighboring village of Chastoostrovskoe.

Despite this attention and some conservation efforts to maintain the structure, the church at Barabanovo is in obvious need of repair. Finding the resources for such a major undertaking in a small village is a difficult challenge, but hope remains for its preservation.

The village of Barabanovo also has a number of traditional wooden houses that have been well preserved by their owners. Their dark log walls provide a background for painted shutters and decorative window surrounds (nalichniki) that are such an appealing part of traditional Russian culture.

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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds

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Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal

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CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.



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