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Vladimir II Freed Russia From Jewish Oppression in 1113, Banned Usury Crippling the Nation, Founded a Christian Empire

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The author is a well-known academic historian of Russia and Ukraine, which he approaches from a Christian (Russian Orthodox) and nationalist perspective, arguing that nationalism and Christian Orthodoxy are inseparable. He also writes widely on current affairs. Rare for contemporary Western historians of Russia, he sources original materials in Russian, pulling back the veil on much misunderstanding, ranging from modern history back to Russia’s very beginnings in the Middle Ages.

His latest book, Ukrainian Nationalism (2019), (Amazon), is the definitive treatment of this topic and is essential reading to understand the current political turmoil in Ukraine. It argues that Ukrainian nationalism is real and legitimate, but needn’t be Anti-Russian, and that Russia and Ukraine are in fact natural allies. Here is his article on Russia Insider explaining some of the ideas in the book. There is no other scholar writing today about Russia and the Ukraine with this extraordinary command of historical detail and meaning. Johnson is a national treasure, and his works are highly recommended. For a fascinating audio podcast discussion of the book by Johnson and Andrew Carrington Hitchcock, see here

If you are so inclined, please rate the book on Amazon, as this increases sales greatly. It is a great way to support the author and help spread the ideas in the book. If Amazon blocks you from leaving a review, please let us know in the comments section below, and/or send an email to [email protected]


“The Jews were forwarding money to separatist princes in an effort to permanently divide Russia.  … Jewish usury was a revolutionary development that required rapid intervention.”

“… the Jews had been given permission to enslave the Russians in exchange for a regular subsidy. Very soon, Jewish usury had much of the country in debt …”

” … the Jewish moneylenders received protection from Kiev and shared their cash with the prince. In turn, he would use this to maintain the army and keep all anti-Jewish forces at bay …”

“Jewish slave dealers had a special hatred for Slavic slaves. St. Eustratii (was) sold to a “ferocious Jew” on Korsun. Trying to force him to renounce Orthodoxy, he was tortured to death by the Jewish slave traders. All told, 50 Russians died this way from this same raid.”


In Old Kiev, prince Sviatopolk II Izyaslavich ruled the city through his dependence on Jewish usury. It was proof of illegitimacy in that this was his major prop of financial support. The Chronicles state that the invasion of the Polovtsy from the south were God’s punishment on this excoriable policy.

Upon the death of Yaroslav the Wise in 1054, his successor was Izyaslav. The prince of the powerful and increasingly independent Turov, Vyslav, challenged him and drove him from the city. Kiev was pillaged while the population demanded the return of Izyaslav. In the meantime, the city had disintegrated. Izyaslav was then challenged by Sviatoslav, who in the meantime had gone to the Germans. In response, Izyaslav went to Rome in 1076.

Detail from one of the most extraordinary monuments in Russia, “The Millenium of Russia” (1862), in Novgorod. For more details see this excellent Wikipedia entry)


Once Sviatoslav died, four princes vied for power: Vsevolod, Sviatopolk II, Vladimir Monomakh and Izyaslav. The coalition of Vsevolod and Sviatopolk II defeated the endlessly embattled Izyaslav, who died soon afterwards. Vsevolod and Sviatopolk II then ruled the state. The context then was an era of constant violence from local princes and several foreign powers, including the steppe nomads (the Polovtsy), Germans and Poles. The formerly strong, law-bound economy was gone and the rule of the strongest was the norm. Society was demoralized. This gave rise to the dominance of money lending.

Given that this prince gave the usurers free rein, a powerful oligarchy developed on the backs of rural communes. Slavery resurfaced as debt-bondage was the only recourse for many. As more and more land became forfeit due to debt, this oligarchy grew fangs. One manifestation of this was salty speculation during the embargo created by Galicia, the major salt exporter of Central Europe. The Caves Monastery released its stores, thereby reducing the price to manageable levels. The result was that Sviatopolk ordered the confiscation of all salt held by monastic institutions. The population had other plans, and a mob quickly reversed that policy. The mob was not stupid – they marched straight to the Jewish quarter where the salt was found.

Both the Caves Paterikon and the Chronicles state clearly that the oligarchy was aware of its illegitimacy and that it ruled solely by deceit and usury. It also stated baldly that they were very nervous. The death of the prince unleashed a revolt of the population explicitly and clearly dedicated to ending usury and debt bondage in 1113. It was an agrarian revolt against rentier income: income that is unearned, based on one’s commanding position economically or politically. It was not directed against the “feudal elite” as most history books in both English and Russian will state. It was aimed at oligarchy. Soviet era historian MN Tikhomirov writes:

It was directed against exploitation in all its forms, and clearly usury and the resultant bankruptcy and forfeiture of its victims. The collection of compounding interest became a tool for the enrichment of the boyars, merchants and upper clergy. Although religious canons always insisted that “rezoimanie” (usury) is a sinful thing, all church decisions in this regard were of a purely declaratory nature. During the second half of the 12th century, Ilya, the bishop of Novgorod bishop threatened severe punishment for clergy engaging in this practice. Monastic usury was widespread and carried out under various pretexts. . .(Tikhomirov, 2013)

This historical analysis is deeply flawed. There is little evidence of systematic usury among clergy and monasteries in an economy largely non-monetized. Jews controlled banking in the country and hence, made themselves easy targets of the riots they engendered. Church prohibitions against usury are well known, but since no such concept as “centralized, bureaucratic power” existed at the time (nor could it have), there is no organized way to haul sinners into court. All canons are “declaratory” in this sense.

In Novgorod, the boyar class was deeply usurious and so were all who functioned within her walls. Her “republican” government was like all others of its ilk, a shoddy cover for oligarchy that would (and was) ditched at the moment it ceased to assist them. The entire economy was based on usury, the merchant class and exploitation. When a power threatened her elite no value was too sacred to be thrown overboard. The elite maintained regular ties with Poland, the Grand Duchy and elsewhere so their political allegiances could be altered at a moment’s notice. This is why Moscow needed to act so quickly against them. It was from Novgorod that the Strigolniki and Judaizer heresies spread, both of which justified and ritualized usury.

Further, the problem with Tikhomirov’s view is that these were never systematic. Only the Jewish banking regime was a system of relations that had global connections. The later network spanning the great capitals of Europe was far into the future, but its outlines could clearly be seen. While the system’s text-books speak of the “rebellion against feudalism,” the fact remains that Jews had monopolized usury by the 12th century. Tikhomirov is simply incorrect.

Sviatopolk tolerated the Jewish trade in Russian slaves. The governor of Crimea was a Jew at the time of severe weakness in the Byzantine empire. While formally a Christian, this ma immediately permitted Jewish trade in slaves. While the Khazar state had been smashed a century prior, the domination of Jewish traders in the area had not abated. In this case, Sviatopolk brought them into Kiev as a means to ensure an income against his relatives.

The Jews used the Polovtsian raiders to obtain slaves. The Turkic hordes now had Jewish patronage. By 1092 or so, these raids increased markedly. They were then sold to the Jews on Crimea. By all accounts, Jewish slave dealers had a special hatred for Slavic slaves. St. Eustratii the Faster of the Kiev Caves, according to the Paterik of the Kiev Caves, was taken in a Polovtsy raid along with 20 or 30 others and sold to a “ferocious Jew” on Korsun. Trying to force him to renounce Orthodoxy, he was tortured to death by the Jewish slave traders. All told, 50 Russians died this way from this same raid.

St. Vladimir had five sons. Upon his death, Sviatoslav attempted to form his own state with Turov. Yaroslav fought against this and the former was killed in the fighting. In Novgorod, Yaroslav then had to fight Sviatopolk, seeking to take Kiev. Soon, outmatched at home, he went to Poland. The rape of Kiev with Polish soldiers made their paymaster very unpopular. With broad support, Yaroslav defeated Sviatopolk, but the resulting power was too much for Mstislav, a grandson of Vladimir.

The next generation saw Izyaslav, son of Yaroslav the Wise, defeated for Kiev by Vesvolod of Polotsk. Izyaslav went to Rome and converted to the Roman church in Poland. At Sviatoslav’s death, Vsevolod and Izyaslav mad peace, but this was not to last: a coalition of Vsevolod and Monomakh defeated him, and he died in 1078, Vsevolod died in 1093. The Liubech Code was partly the result of this chaos. 

The first Kievan synagogue was built under Sviatopolk. His father Izyaslav, during one of the many civil wars that plagued old Kiev, fled to Poland for assistance. While living there, he became quite the Judeophile. Later, he ran to the Germans, promising to make Kiev a tributary of the German state if an army were given him. He was even willing to accept papal rule over Kiev as well. It is from the Jewish influx under Izyaslav that Jews first penetrated Russia.

Both rulers knew the Jews had been given permission to enslave the Russians in exchange for a regular subsidy. They quickly became unpopular, but Svyatopolk’s police protected them diligently. As always, the synagogue, contrary to popular belief, was never meant as a prayer house. It was a fortress for protection and a center for military and ideological mobilization. While protected, the Jews never quite needed it. They had a martial tradition of their own. Very soon, Jewish usury had much of the country in debt, and, especially when facing unrest among princes, foreign occupation and defeats from the Polovtsy, the population had enough.

The mob looted the Jewish quarter in that same year of unrest. Since it was an urban movement, it could not have been a rebellion against “feudal exploitation” but, since no such conceptual objected existed at the time, it was directed against those that did: merchants, Jews and those profiting from them. These were foreigners, those who had no connection to the soil and hence, used human material as the “soil” to grow their profit.

The power of the boyar class at the time was as obnoxious as ever. Its faction fighting destroyed the property of Galicia as nobles, caring only for property and profit, used Turks, Cumans, Poles, Hungarians or Tartars to invade the territory of their rivals. The surplus of the promising Galician economy was decimated. The Jews were singled out, again, because of the systematic and deceitful means used that set them apart.Importantly, it was under the rule of Sviatopolk where the Jews, invited and encouraged, first made their agenda obnoxiously known.

Thus, it was a fairly new phenomenon.

The riot in 1113 was very popular, aimed at Jews and the gentiles that had business relationships with them. These were well known and were anything but arbitrary. It was the nobility, fearing for their money, that sent for Monomakh to restore “law and order.” They stated that, if left unchecked, they might even “rape your daughter and family.” This was a lie, since the targets of the mob were very clear. They wrote to Vladimir saying: “Come, prince, to Kiev so as to stop the violence; the Jews will attack the nobles, the monasteries and even the royal family itself. They will plunder if you do not come.” A meeting of princes concluded that Jews needed to be expelled from Kiev. He did so, and anti-usury legislation was immediately drawn up.

First, interest could not be compounded. He did make a distinction between the charge for the use of money and usury. The interest charged could not be more than the principle. If the lender tried to charge more than the principle over time, the debtor was freed from the obligation of paying the principle at all. The maximum rate of interest could not exceed 20% a year. The Bankrutsky Statute protected the property of smallholders and artisans from confiscation.

Debt slavery was outlawed. Repayment could be done on a installment plan of up to five years if the debtor had a regular income. Interest could not be collected for longer than two years. After that, the loan was no longer interest bearing. When a debtor had to work off a loan, he had the rights of any Russian and was not a slave. The only time slavery was permitted is if the debtor tried to defraud the creditor.

The Testament of the metropolitan of Kiev Nikifor states that “if you take the wealth of your brother though usury, it will do you no good and provide no security or virtue. If you eat meat, you are not eating the meat of sheep or other animals, but the flesh of your brothers, cutting into his flesh though the evil methods of extortion, bribery and unjust debt collections.” This shows that the practices of the Khazars were well known and that many were aware that the mind of that empire has not gone away.

Ancient Khazaria is essential to understanding the Jewish mind. By the early 8th century, it reached from the west Caucasus to the Sea of Azov and took most of the Crimean steppe. To show its commercial nature, its capital lay at the mouth of the Volga. In the work of Lev Gumilev and Tatiana Gradev, the Khazar civil war of 810-820 led to the total Judaization of the elites. The war was between Islam and Judaism, two social views very similar, but ultimately, it concerned the orientation of this commercial parasite.

The empire was a “chimera” in Gumilev’s view defined as any x having two distinct rhythms or functions, creating a cacophony understood only subconsciously. This consists of a state without any real ethnic or racial basis, merely a gaggle of people held together by force. The ethnic mix was chaotic, maintaining the Jewish ruling class secure. From this time forward, “Gog and Magog” were exclusively used in reference to Khazaria. Only during the Crimean war did the English propaganda machine equate “Ros” or “Rosh” with “Rus.” In reality, it refers to the chief prince rather than a people. In a letter from Hisday ibn Sharput in 9th century Spain, the Khazar king is referred to as “Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” The testimony of the church fathers of both east and west was that Antichrist is Khazaria.

The Pecheneg and Polovtsy forces that harassed Kiev through much of its existence were popularly associated with the Jewish control over the slave trade. The profit for the nomads was to sell the Slavs to the Jews. Klyuchevskii argues that short-term loans were extremely expensive and not regulated by law at all. He further suggests that the real agenda of Jewish moneylenders at the time was not so much the quick payoff, but the destruction of Russian capital. Default meant that the property went to the Jews and its debtors became slaves.

Once the Khazar Khanate was destroyed, the Jews moved to Tmutarakan, from which they orchestrated the nomadic attacks on Russia. From there, they moved north to Kiev. Since the Jews had great experience in banking, they were easily able to dominate their gentile competitors. This served as a convenient midpoint between Byzantium and Kiev and was at one time the capital of St. Vladimir himself.

Rather than making war on the nomads, rulers such as Izyaslav would much rather hire them out than fight them. For the first time – specifically in 1068, the veche became a powerful voice in Russia. If the ruling class and pagan aristocracy were planning on working with the Poles, Jews and nomads, then the most patriotic of the elite organized into the veche. Izyaslav took his revenge on the urban poor the veche were advocating for.

Similarly for 1113, Sviatopolk II, rather than go to the nomads, made an alliance with the Jews. Each ruler and faction was trying to discover which alien group would give them the best advantage over the others. At the end of the 11th century, there were three factions in Kiev: the old nobility, the pro-western associates of Sviatopolk II and the veche. Sviatopolk threw in his lot with the Jews. The result was that Jews were able to rule at will.

The westernized nobles along with the prince and Jews eased out both the church and the old nobles, permitting the Jews to absorb the capital of the area in exchange for financial support. Lev Gumilev writes:

The control mechanism was extremely simple: the Jewish moneylenders received protection from Kiev and shared their cash with the prince. In turn, he would use this to maintain the army and keep all anti-Jewish forces at bay (Gumilev, 2014).

It was the death of this prince that permitted the old nobles and the people to fight back. The collapse of the older tribal system and the rise of the state separated the people from the traditional sources of morals. The church was not as yet firmly in control, so chaos demoralized most people. As the factions fought it out for control of the state, money and finance became very important. Hence, the Jews were as well.

The destruction of Jewish usury and their removal from power by Vladimir Monomakh was significant largely because it restored the power of the church and assisted greatly in the Christianization of the country. The importance of this cannot be overstated: The Russian empire was to be the very opposite of the Khazar mind and this was made explicit in document after document.

Vladimir Monomakh was the first “gatherer of the Russian lands.” The Jews were forwarding money to separatist princes in an effort to permanently divide Russia. The warfare among princes had debased the population. Jewish usury was a revolutionary development that required the rapid intervention of a legitimate prince.


Bibliography

Kalyuk, E. (2012) Bankrotstvo fizicheskikh lits: dolzhnikov bit’ ne planiruyetsya. The Journal of

Ros-Business Consulting

http://top.rbc.ru/economics/06/08/2012/663195.shtml

Pakhmonov, S. (2014) The Reality of Debt and the Civilization of Ancient Russia. «Бюджетный учет» October http://b-uchet.ru/article/263334.php

Golb N., O. Pritsak Khazar-Jewish documents of the X century. M., 2003, pp 21-22, 30-31.

2 Richard Pipes. Russia Under the Old Regime. NY, 1974. P. 28-31.

Kulisher IM History of the Russian economy. 2nd ed. Chelyabinsk Society, 2004

Russian legislation X-XX centuries. The 9 tons. Ed. OI Chistyakov. Legislation ancient.

Tatishchev VN Russian history. The 7-ton. T. 2. M., L., 1963. S. 129

Tikhomirov, MN (1955) Ancient Russia. Reprinted Online at the Journal of Alexander Nevsky

Froyanov, I. (2012) Ancient Rus IX-XIII centuries. Popular movements. Princely power and Veche. Reprinted Online at the Journal of Alexander Nevsky

LN Gumilev (2014) Ancient Rus and the Great Steppe. Aris Press

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Lou Reed: The Velvet Underground: an inside look at the band that gave a voice to the outsiders | USA

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The importance of The Velvet Underground has been endlessly discussed. They are, with a nod to The Beatles, the modern rock group par excellence. Formed by Lou Reed and John Cale in New York in 1965, the band was immediately endorsed by Andy Warhol, with whom they would collaborate until 1967, although his influence would never leave them. The Velvet Underground were a sixties group that, during its five years of existence, failed to fit into their era for a single day. While others sung of love and good vibrations, they designed a revolutionary and perverse alternative for rock.

It was an alternative that remains valid to this day, half a century after the group was mortally wounded by the departure of Reed in August 1970. To corroborate this, Apple TV will premiere The Velvet Underground in October. Directed by Todd Haynes, the documentary is full of never-before-seen footage and interviews with people who were in the thick of it at the time, more than compensating for a dearth of movies about a band that can be described as legendary without fear of slipping into musical nepotism.

Lou Reed in ‘The Velvet Underground’ documentary.
Lou Reed in ‘The Velvet Underground’ documentary.

The documentary arrives in good company. At the end of September I’ll be your mirror: A tribute to The Velvet Underground & Nico was released, an album of cover versions of the group’s influential debut album when the line-up consisted of Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker. A posthumous work by producer Hal Willner, who died of Covid-19 in 2020, it features contributions by Thurston Moore, Sharon van Etten, Iggy Pop, Kurt Vile, Courtney Barnett and Michael Stipe, among others.

Speaking about the original The Velvet Underground & Nico, released in 1967, Haynes said in an interview with Uncut magazine earlier this year that it is music that makes you think about how fragile identity is, and also about life. The journalist Susana Monteagudo concurs with Haynes. “The Velvet Underground were the first punk group in terms of transgression of codes and creative freedom,” says the author of books including Illustrated History of Rock and Amy Winehouse. Stranger than her. “As well as practicing the philosophy of do-it-yourself and rejecting the commercial course of the music industry, they subverted the establishment by making dissidence visible on every level, not just in artistic terms. They embraced the marginal and they were too nihilistic, cynical and sinister for the Flower Power era.”

The Velvet Underground did not belong to their time, but to the future. Cale wanted to fuse rock and roll with experimental music. Reed’s lyrics were open to the influence of writers like Burroughs, Delmore Schwartz and John Rechy. They were a loud and screeching band, but they also composed melodic songs. This contrast is most evident on The Velvet Underground & Nico, which contains some of the group’s most beautiful songs. I’ll be your mirror and Femme Fatale are sung by Nico (who also provides vocals on the chorus of Sunday morning, originally written for her but eventually sung by Reed), one of the most conflicting elements of the band.

For trans artist Roberta Marrero, Nico, the German model and singer who died in 1988, was an “icon of undisputable beauty, as well as being a pioneer who opened the door for other greats like Siouxsie.” In spite of her beauty, Nico did not fit the prevailing pop girl model of the time. Her singing style was far removed from traditional rock and openly reflected her Germanic and Gothic roots. Her inscrutable personality was married to a talent that after she left the Velvet Underground would manifest itself in unclassifiable works such as The marble index (1969), whose idiosyncrasy – tearing up the blueprint of pop music and exploring musical latitudes reserved for men – would inspire Kate Bush and Björk, as well as more contemporary artists such as Julia Holter, St Vincent and Anohni.

The Velvet Underground, clockwise from top left: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Moe Tucker and Nico.
The Velvet Underground, clockwise from top left: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Moe Tucker and Nico.

The Velvet Underground also broke with the heterosexual tradition of rock music. In Monteagudo’s view, in addition to creating a literary imagery “where there was room for homosexuals, trans women, prostitutes, junkies and outsiders in general,” they were also “a band not exclusively made up of males, and men who at the same time did not identify with a heteronormative masculinity, especially in the case of Lou Reed. They integrated and normalized diversity in their sphere because their way of life was linked to this concept. It was also the dawning of the ambiguous, the queer.” Marrero believes that “they brought non-normative sexualities to the forefront, such as sadism, more so than homosexuality. Although when I think about it, I’m waiting for my man could be talking about a gigolo and not a drug-dealer. In reality, it’s very ambiguous.”

This divorce from the prevailing canons also had a lot do with the presence of Maureen “Moe” Tucker. Her drum work with the band anticipated a trend that would not take hold until 1977, with the explosion of punk. From that point on, the female role in groups ceased to be principally pigeon-holed into certain instruments and roles. In Monteagudo’s opinion, Tucker is “a key element of this breaking of stereotypes and, as such, a figure to be held up by feminism. Her playing style, as unorthodox as it was influential, is one of those achievements that should be emphasized by the movement. Furthermore, her androgynous image and her discretion made her a counterpoint to Nico’s glamour.”

Revered by bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain, who dedicated a song to her, and as Marrero asserts, a precursor to drummers such as Hannah Billie, formerly of Gossip, Tucker is, along with Cale, one of the survivors of the Velvet Underground’s original line-up. Due to her social media stance on Donald Trump and gun ownership, Tucker has also become the band’s least popular member.

Warhol’s influence was a determining factor behind The Velvet Underground developing such a peculiar personality. In the strictly musical sense, the band projected through their instruments some of the ideas on repetition, improvisation and saturation that the artist applied to his experimental movies. On the literary side, the people who frequented Warhol’s Factory left their mark on songs including That’s the story of my life (inspired by Billy Name, the Factory’s archivist) Femme fatale (inspired by the ‘it’ girl Edie Sedgwick) or the Reed-penned Candy says, which is about Candy Darling, an icon of the trans community.

“When Candy says was released in 1969 nothing changed,” says Marrero, “but I think it was a marvelous celebration of trans culture on the part of the group. It is one of my favorite songs. You have to read the lyrics in a historical context because all that stuff about being trans and hating your body is a discourse that is now quite outdated in our community.” Marrero also notes that, years later, Reed was in a relationship with a trans colleague, Rachel Humphries, the two sharing a “romantic relationship that was utterly silenced by the hetero-ciscentric music press.”

When he started his solo career Reed would again talk about Candy Darling and other trans actresses on Walk on the wild side, one of the hits on his acclaimed 1972 album Transformer, a record that finally delivered many of The Velvet Underground’s artistic ideas to a wider audience. By that time, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Suicide, Modern Lovers and New York Dolls we ready to do the group’s legacy justice.

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A Treasure of Old Christian Paintings in a Russian Church in a Remote Forest

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One of the editors of RI actually visited this church this summer, and we can assure you, it is REMOTE!  Brumfield, in his understated way, doesn’t describe the condition of the road leading to this village, but it is barely passable at times.  The number of remarkable architectural and other treasures hiding in the Russian hinterlands, especially in the north, is rather extraordinary.


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 Korovye: Abandoned Treasure of Russian Art


The turbulence of the past century has left many abandoned architectural monuments in Russia’s regions — parish churches, former estate houses, log houses and churches in villages where no one lives. However modest, they all reflect the history of their area, and some of them are — or were — masterpieces of creativity.

One of these monuments is located in the tiny village of Korovye near the Viga River just off the road to Chukhloma. Although the village name is modestly derived from the word for “cow,” its church has the imposing and unusual dedication to the Convocation of the Mother of God. Within the abandoned church is one of the most unusual displays of religious art in all Russia. On the walls of the main structure, the artist in effect created a miniature Renaissance palazzo for the display of the sacred images.

The village of Korovye was originally known as Verkhniaia pustyn (“Upper wilderness”), a reference to one of the three monastic retreats founded in the Chukhloma area by St. Avraamy Gorodetsky. Dissolved in the middle of the 18th century, the small monastery’s two wooden churches — dedicated to the Convocation of the Virgin and to Elijah the Prophet — were converted to use as parish churches. In 1797, parishioners provided resources to rebuild the former as a large brick church that would serve a group of 34 villages (most of which no longer exist).

Attributed to the noted Kostroma architect Stepan A. Vorotilov (1741-1792), the design reveals a professional mastery unusual for a rural church. Whereas typical parish churches had a sprawling refectory with additional altars that pushed the main structure away from the bell tower, here all the components are tightly integrated.

Image iconsnimok_ekrana_2016-08-12_v_13.12.42.png

The structure rests on a ground floor that contained secondary altars and was used for worship in the winter months. Above the ground floor rise the essential components of a parish church: the main worship space with two rows of windows and five cupolas, a rectangular apse for the primary altar at the east end and on the west, a compact refectory and magnificent bell tower over the main entrance.

This sophisticated, technically demanding design created a coherent visual tie between the primary components of the church: the bell tower and the core structure with five cupolas. The main interior space on the upper floor was dominated by an elegant neoclassical iconostasis. 

The majestic character of this design was demonstrated when the Convocation Church was chosen for a visit by Emperor Alexander I and his wife Empress Elizabeth on their way back from a visit to the Urals territory in the fall of 1824. Indeed, during the first half of the 19th century, this church could claim to be the most imposing in the Chukhloma region, surpassing even those in Chukhloma itself.

A fire in the late 1890s damaged much of the interior and led to a major renovation that extended from 1903 to 1906. On the ground floor, a refectory (containing altars to Elijah the Prophet, St. Nicholas and St. Avraamy Gorodetsky) was expanded on the north and south sides. The expansion was artfully hidden by a grand staircase that curved upward from both sides to the main portal on the second level of the bell tower. This skillful renovation — and particularly the stairway — gave the church a still more imposing appearance as it soared above the two main streets of the village.

Yet the great miracle occurred on the interior, whose walls were repainted under the direction of a Moscow artist identified as Anufry A. Bakhvalov, a native of this area. Although the work of Anufry Bakhvalov is little known, the scope of imagination represented by these wall paintings is extraordinary, even daring. The artist did not simply depict the religious subjects in a Renaissance-based style typical of academic painting, he painted the subjects within imposing Renaissance frames situated between neoclassical columns with lavish composite capitals — and all of this in trompe l’oeil (on a flat, two-dimensional surface). At some points, Bakhvalov even painted the shadows cast by the illusory frames. The interior space had become a miniature Renaissance art gallery.

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Surviving fragments of the paintings on the north and south walls include full-length figures of St. Vladimir, St. Catherine, St. Nicetas and St Macarius on the lower level between the windows. The upper level of the north and south walls is devoted primarily to a portrayal of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with their symbols — another unusual artistic decision. (The Evangelists are often depicted on spandrels beneath the main dome, but spandrels are absent in this structure.) On the south wall are John (now effaced) with the eagle, and Mark with an endearingly vivid depiction of a guardian lion. On the north wall are Matthew, compelling in his concentration and assisted by an adoring angel; and Luke with the bull (both largely destroyed). The north wall also contains a depiction of Christ with Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus — one of the most moving episodes in the Gospel account of the life of Christ.

Equal to the Evangelists in their artistry are the three scenes above the arch in the west wall: the Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes (Christ feeding the Multitudes) on the left side; Pentecost (Mary and the Apostles) in the center; and a vivid depiction of Balthazar’s Feast on the north side of the west wall. Throughout, there is evidence of the artist’s knowledge of Renaissance art, particularly in Balthazar’s Feast, which depicts armed horsemen storming through the gate of the burning city. On the east, the apse contained a depiction of the Last Supper, now almost effaced.

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The ceiling vaults in their height represented a culmination of the visual program. Although much has been lost, fragments remain of the august display of the Synaxis (Gathering) of the Archangels, part of the larger concept of the Convocation of the Virgin. Crowned archangels and angels gather on the north and south flanks, while the east flank was devoted to the cartouche with the Crucifixion (destroyed). The west flank presumably had a depiction of the Mother of God enthroned.

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Unfortunately, the Convocation Church’s glory days were soon eclipsed by the rise to power of an avowedly atheistic regime. Although it survived longer than many other churches, the Convocation Church was closed in 1937 during a renewed wave of terror against religion. Subsequently the icons were removed, and the ground level was used as a storehouse for various purposes. The cupolas were destroyed, and in the 1980s, the area of the church was apparently used as a detention center for juvenile delinquents.

Unprotected and exposed to the elements as well as vandalism, the artwork of the upper level began to collapse. Recently, the roof of the church was replaced and the arch in the upper west wall was reinforced with a firm wooden brace. The upper level has been swept of debris, but the interior is still exposed and under threat of further deterioration. The fate of the remains of this extraordinary artistic creation is still in question.

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Munster grind it out to shatter Connacht hearts at the death

Voice Of EU

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Munster 20 Connacht 18

In time-honoured fashion, Munster dug deep and needed their 16th man to overcome their own faultlines and a smart, hugely motivated Connacht to ensure they marked the fifth anniversary of Anthony Foley’s passing with a win.

Somehow, because of the day that was in it, you sensed they would do so in the end, and in dramatic fashion as well. Their skillset and execution, especially in the opposite 22, was flawed albeit they rolled their sleeves up and threatened to bludgeon Connacht into submission.

Save for the pre-ordained tactic of Joey Carbery cross-kicking for Andrew Conway and Mike Haley’s fine counter-attacking into the first-half wind, their outside backs hardly featured. Simon Zebo hardly saw the ball.

It was hard luck on Connacht, who weren’t remotely in the mood to be sacrificial lambs, with the width of the upright and two questionable decisions heavily influencing the outcome.

Their launch plays were better, they opportunistically took their scores and were defiant in the midst of Munster’s second-half storm and Thomond Park’s traditional fervour when the going gets tough for their team.

Connacht’s defeat came at a cost too, with their outstanding flanker Cian Prendergast wheeled off the pitch with his leg in a brace. Encouragingly he didn’t look in much pain, but he’s a tough young player.

Prior to the game, in a classy touch, the visiting captain Jack Carty presented a Connacht jersey inscribed with the number 8 and Axel on the back to Peter O’Mahony.

Closer to kick-off, the date was formerly acknowledged over the PA system, with mention for his wife Olive and kids Tony and Dan (all of whom had been invited to the game along with the extended family) as an image of Foley in that familiar ball-carrying gait was displayed on the big screen.

A tribute on the big screen before the game on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley’s passing. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
A tribute on the big screen before the game on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley’s passing. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

This prompted a minute-long standing ovation as the Munster players completed their traditional lap after their warm-up.

Heavy rain up until an hour before kick-off ensured the pitch was very greasy before there was that rarity, a clean break with a strike move off the game’s first lineout.

Even in defeat last week, Connacht’s launch plays were well executed and off Niall Murray’s take at the front, Carty used the decoy run of ex-Munsterman Sammy Arnold to hit Mack Hansen up the middle before he linked with Bundee Aki who had Conor Oliver, also returning to his old haunt, on his inside. When Tadhg Beirne went off his feet, Carty opened the scoring.

Connacht’s scrum, not unexpectedly, was in difficulty from the off, but Paul Boyle adroitly scooped the ball from between his feet and, but for Zebo racing back and diving full-length, Carty would have executed a 50-22 from inside his own 22.

As it was, he soon did manage the feat, although Munster survived thanks to Gavin Coombes’ strength over the ball.

As expected it soon became a feisty affair. When Peter O’Mahony took exception to Boyle trying to retrieve the ball from Niall Scannell after Arnold had won a penalty in the jackal it prompted the first two bouts of scuffling.

Peter O’Mahony catches a ball. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Peter O’Mahony catches a ball. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Aki wouldn’t have been alone in thinking the penalty against him for holding on was ridiculous but, when he came charging again, Cloete was pinged for not releasing, although not for the first or last time in the match Chris Busby showed no inclination to wait for an advantage.

Connacht went to the corner and after the maul was held up and Aki carried up, Tiernan O’Halloran cleverly palmed a loose ball out to Hansen for a finish in the corner, but replays showed the ball had gone forward.

Only Munster’s work over the ball, Cloete winning another turnover penalty, was keeping them above water. Cue a big maul and the option to go to the corner, only for Scannell’s overthrow to be gathered by Oliver.

It was very stop-start.

Prendergast also thought he had scored from 45 metres but there had been a preceding knock-on, before Arnold was harshly binned for going in higher in a double hit with Aki and clashing heads with Haley. Not even the home crowd could summon much in the way of complaint when the incident was replayed.

Indicative of a patchy first-half performance, initially Munster couldn’t translate their numerical advantage into anything tangible. There was a clean break by Conway from Craig Casey’s sumptuously disguised left-handed behind-the-back flick, but Carty made the covering tackle and Carbery couldn’t gather the low offload.

But the best feature of Munster’s game had been Haley’s counter-attack, and he ran Crossfield to link with Conway for a trademark grubber.

When a sliding O’Halloran couldn’t gather the slippery pill, Munster recycled it and Rory Scannell crosskicked to four unmarked teammates on the left. Beirne tried to trap the ball on the volley before hacking on for Cloete to win the touchdown.

Surprisingly, TMO Brian MacNeice and Busby overlooked the still replay which clearly showed, with the help of the 10 metre line, that Beirne had been in front of the ball when Scannell kick-passed.

Carbery converted to give Munster a flattering 7-6 interval lead, and Connacht could feel rightly aggrieved with the Arnold yellow card and the award of the try.

On the resumption, Munster sought to maximise their advantage by going to the corner but Cloete was held up over the line by Carty, Matthew Burke and John Porch.

From a Coombes charge and offload to Beirne, Munster resorted to a route one, pick-and-jam assault, but when Cloete burrowed toward the line, Boyle won a penalty in the jackal.

However, Dave Heffernan’s overthrow went straight to Scannell and a penalty for offside enabled Carbery to make it 10-6.

Connacht weren’t done though, going up the line and stretching Munster on both edges after another clever launch saw Heffernan wrap around and hit Blade on an out-and-in line.

Boyle tapped a close-range penalty and when Jean Kleyn and Cloete both went low, he simply dived over them to score but, crucially, Carty’s conversion drifted onto the outside of the post.

Connacht’s Paul Boyle celebrates scoring his side’s first try. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Connacht’s Paul Boyle celebrates scoring his side’s first try. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht mucked up the restart and Munster mucked up another attack before a maul penalty lead to Carbery restoring the home lead.

In one of the season’s more unusual entries, Shane Delahunt came on, immediately gathered a Munster overthrow inside his own half, hoofed upfield, saw the ball squirm away from Conway for a 50-22 and punched the air in celebration. Alas, his ensuing throw was crooked.

Even so, Connacht kept coming, Abraham Papali’i putting them on the front foot from turnover ball as they went through the phases up to the Munster 22 before he knocked on.

Whereupon, out of nothing, Carbery took too long in winding up for a downfield punt which was charged down by the alert Carty. He gathered and scored gleefully under the posts before adding a conversion.

Crucially, the referee awarded Fineen Wycherley a turnover scrum when seeming to continue playing the ball on the deck after Ultan Dillane’s take.

Coombes tapped one penalty before Munster opted for a five metres and then tapped another after an exhaustive pick-and-jam before, by way of variety, Jack O’Donoghue popped the ball for Diarmuid Barron to plunge over.

Carbery calmly nailed the conversion to nudge Munster in front at the last.

Scoring sequence: 2 mins Carty pen 0-3; 10 mins Carty pen 0-6; 39 mins Cloete try, Carbery con 7-6; (half-time 7-6); 49 mins Carbery pen 10-6; 53 mins Boyle try 10-11; 59 mins Carbery pen 13-11; 69 mins Carty try and con 13-18; 78 mins Barron try, Carbery con 20-18.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes. Replacements: Diarmuid Barron for N Scannell, Jeremy Loughman for Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer for Ryan (all 54 mins), Dan Goggin for R Scannell (57 mins), Fineen Wycherley for Kleyn (60 mins), Jack O’Donoghue for Cloete (68 mins). Not used: Neil Cronin, Jake Flannery.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Caolin Blade; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle. Replacements: Jarrad Butler for Prendergast (47 mins), Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Abraham Papali’i for Boyle (59 mins), Kieran Marmion for Blade (61 mins), Jack Aungier for Bealham (64 mins), Greg McGrath for Burke, Eoghan Masterson for Dillane (74 mins). Not used: Tom Daly.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

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