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January-2023: Excursions and Coffeehouses

In these 3 weeks I taught a lot, visited a museum, had numerous meetings with friends and colleagues, and did three excursions in my favourite part of Moscow.

I visited several temples, including a synagogue and a Lutheran cathedral, and discovered several new cafés and restaurants. I walked through GUM twice and had a meal and a coffee at BURO.TsUM.

And now I’m working on launching my community for studying languages and humanities. 2023 promises to become a tremendous year.

The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy was built between 1688 and 1701. It can be accessed from Pokrovka St, close to the Kremlin.

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy was built between 1688 and 1701. However, a church used to exist here as early as the 15th century. It belonged to Andronikov monastery until the tsar Ivan III granted it the lands beyond the Yauza River in exchange of this church. It can be accessed from Pokrovka St and is therefore located fairly close to Red Square and the Kremlin.

Barashy was a special area, a sloboda, where lived the tsar’s servants who accompanied him on his journeys and campaigns. They carried the so called “soft stuff”, or tents, which they put up and took down. The Russian word “barakhlo” is evidently related.

The church that we can presently see was built and decorated in the style of the Moscow Baroque. Its splendid architecture includes corniches, entablements and archivolts, columns and “kokoshniks”. The bell-tower was added during a restoration of 1741. Another round of restorative works took place between 1815 and 1837 when the church was slightly enlarged and a new iconostasis was consecrated.

The church’s two chapels are dedicated to Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion and St Elijah the Prophet. As a matter of fact, close to the church there was lyinskaya sloboda (the sloboda of Elijah) that belonged to Russian tsars.

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy stands in the Bely Gorod, or the White City, a historical part of Moscow where resided the aristocracy and the tsar’s (later – the emperor’s) servants.

In the Soviet times the church was to be demolished, and so several icons were saved by the Tretyakov Gallery. Miraculously, it was not destroyed although it first housed a hostel for workers and then – an electric plant. The restoration works began in 1976, and the sermons resumed in 1993. Between 2015 and 2021 here resided the Metropolis of Chișinău and All Moldova.

Wikipedia: Russian, French.

The church’s official website.

More photos.

More posts in Moscow churches.

Epiphany 2022

January 19th is a fixed date in the Russian Orthodox calendar. On this day we celebrate Epiphany – the moment when Jesus came to be baptised by St John in the waters of the Jordan River.

You have likely seen the reports of people bathing in the cold water on Epiphany. Bearing in mind Russia’s climate and severe wintery frosts this bathing ritual is more of a popular tradition rather than a requirement endorsed by the Church. In other words, if one doesn’t bathe on Epiphany, there will be no negative implications for their soul.

I have never gone to a designated bathing place but I did take a shower at home at midnight on January 19th. Yet this year I chose to skip doing so, and turned out so did President Putin!

What I did do as usual was to go to my local church for the so-called holy water. This is your regular water that was blessed by the priest. There are usually crowds of people standing in long queues, so I tend to go there late in the evening.

This is what my parish church of St Nicholas looked like on the evening of Epiphany. I’ve just caught myself on a thought that, while I was studying the Tudor period, I was quite fascinated by the terms “parish” and “parishioners”. Even though I was quite irreligious in those days I evidently loved the idea of a community where a church was a perfect gathering place, where people sang hymns and attended sermons. And see, two decades later I’m a parishioner myself…

World War One Memorial Park In Moscow

Until recently Russia celebrated the victory in the Patriotic War against Napoleon in 1812 and in the Great Patriotic War against Hitler in 1945. I spent 7 years in the country that faithfully celebrates the Armistice Day on November 11 that marks the end of one of the most tragic conflicts in world history in the 20th c., the First World War.

Although the Second World War was by many accounts more devastating, it is generally regarded as the outcome of the World War One and as such it was not unexpected. World War One also did not come out of the blue, being the consequence of the collapse of the Viennese system established in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. And yet, whereas the nations tried to prevent the Second World War, the World War One was received with cheers, as if Europe was one huge playground where kids with rifles were going to enjoy themselves. Sadly, it immediately became obvious that there would be no quick results, and Europe slid down into one long killing spree.

European, British in paritcular, cities and towns are planted with cenotaphs commemorating the war effort, the victims, and the eventual victory of the Entente powers in the World War One. The victory was ridden with ambiguity, as all countries, France in particular, attempted to get the better out of Germany to solve their own post-war problems – forgetting along the way that Germany was just as penniless and devasted by war, as the rest of Europe. Nonetheless, Germany remained to be seen as an aggressor and a war-wager, and the  World War One continues to be regarded as a glorious page in European history, rather than a story of human folly.

Russia withdrew from the war following the Bolshevik Revolution, with a separate peace treaty signed by Russia and Germany in Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Since the World War One was imperialist by nature, it is little wonder that in Soviet times it was given by a passing mention. The novels like And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov detailed the Russian part in the war, along with the growing disdain for the imperial power and the obligation to fight. But even then ordinary soldiers who fought in the war were barely remembered, as the war belonged to the tsarist, pre-Socialist part that had to be forgotten, and the sooner the better.

Now the situation has changed. The park dedicated to World War One in Moscow is located in the territory of 11,5 hectares in a walking distance from Sokol metro station. Presently there are many green stretches, and commemorative monuments have been pleasantly incorporated into the landscape. There is a small chapel on a hill and a few cenotaphs. A monument at the park’s entry (from Sokol metro station) reminds us that in the park’s grounds the first common cemetery to the soldiers and medical sisters who died in the war had been created as early  as 1915. Those graves had been subsequently moved to another cemetery, but the present park is located in the cemetery grounds. It is a peaceful and solemn place where one can’t help but meditate on life and death, war and peace.

World War One Park in Moscow – Entry Memorial


World War One Park in Moscow –
To the Victims of the World War 1914-1919


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Memorial Close-Up


World War One Park in Moscow –
Aviators Memorial
World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs


World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs


World War One Park in Moscow – A Chapel


World War One Park in Moscow –
Moscow To the Dead Russian Soldiers


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Second World War Memorial


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Church Monument


World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs, featuring the symbols
of principal military awards
World War One Park in Moscow –
A commemorative stone on the former location
of the common cemetery for soldiers and
medical sisters from Moscow communities
who died in the World War One

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Winter

St. Basil’s Cathedral and Minin and Pozharsky Monument

For those hungry for St. Basil’s Cathedral images, here are a few more photos, this time you can see the magnificent 16th c. church on a January evening. As you will notice in one of the photos, the weather being quite cold, even the air was frosty.

You are surely wondering about the small monument that stands in front of the cathedral. This is a group monument depicting a popular leader Kuzma Minin and the Prince Dmitry Pozharsky at the moment when they decided to lead the Russians against the Polish-Lithuanian intervents during the so-called Mutiny Time in the first half of the 17th c. 2012 celebrates the 400th anniversary of the victory of the volunteer army, funded by the Russian people, in the Battle of Moscow (1612). The monument was conceived and executed by the sculptor Ivan Martos and unveiled in the Red Square in 1818. It initially stood right opposite the current site of the Mausoleum, but by 1931 the Government had found it to be obstructing the passage for military parades, and so the monument was relocated to the courtyard of St. Basil’s Cathedral. In 2005 a smaller copy of the monument, cast by the celebrated Zurab Tsereteli, was erected in Nizhny Novgorod in front of the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

GUM Xmas Tree, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Mausoleum, and Spasskaya Tower
GUM ice-skating rink, GUM shoppin mall, GUM Xmas Tree, and St. Basil’s Cathedral
GUM Christmas Tree and Saint Basil’s Cathedral

St Basil’s Cathedral Protects You at Night

by F. T.

This is the kind of jewellery that I think is designed to be worn on a night out, so that when you are leaving a bar at quarter to four in the morning you don’t have to worry about anyone attacking you. With a ring like that on your finger, you’re well armed, in the proper sense of the word.

I have a couple of huge rings that I’m very fond of, but none of them is similar to the one designed by the French jeweller… sadly I didn’t take down his name, so I only remember his initials: F. T. This is a spectacular and impressive, if not massive, nod to the famous St. Basil’s cathedral in Red Square that celebrated its 450th anniversary in 2011.

Our Lady Cincture and Moscow Traffic Disaster

VIP anytime pass for 2 persons

Moscow traffic has positively collapsed this week, and for a godly reason: the sash of Our Lady was brought to Russia from the Mount of Athos in Greece. This is an unprecedented event, since the sash could never have been taken anywhere. The cynics argue this is how Greece attempted to coil Russia into offering financial help at the time of the global crisis.

Although Russians are renowned for their piety and adherence to rites, I believe many of my countrypeople surprised themselves with this massive craze. Add to this that the sash arrived a week before the State Duma elections, amidst the Iran and anti-missile system talks, and you may see why this furore became possible in the first place.

Field kitchen near the Cathedral (Chaskor.ru)

The news agencies have reported that people were spending 15 hours in a queue; they were provided with hot food from field kitchens. By Wednesday over 700 people have been given medical help. It emerged later that 58 people get past the shrine in 1 hour, and that VIP passes for 2 persons were distributed between the high-ranking officials and members of their families. (As if anyone actually expected Mr President or Mr Prime Minister to queue up along with all the disabled and young). And the amount of policemen in the streets is spellbinding.

Some bloggers have already called this “the orthodoxy of the brain“, implying a similarity to a kind of disease that makes people abandon every reason in favour of religion.

I made a few videos today in the city centre, displayed in the post below. In one, you will see small queues of people on Frunzenskaya Embankment, the queues being separated by barriers to avoid any accidents. In another, there is a queue in Ostozhenka St, full of parents with children and disabled people. You will hear kids crying because none of them has yet got the point of standing in the cold weather to touch a piece of cloth. The exclusive Vanille restaurant that stands across the road from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour looks besieged by the traffic and people. And the Cathedral itself (the last video) makes a strange impression: as if a bargain fair is being held inside.


Moscow: October Rain in Vorobyovy Gory

St. Trinity Church

I try to take regular walks in Vorobyovy Gory, one of my all-time favourite places in Moscow. In fact, I would love to live close enough to be able to go there every other day. This is where the Moscow State University is, and where my late teens and early twenties passed. Autumn has been fairly dry so far, although the Meteorology Centre predicts rains next week. So, this is my Moscow, Vorobyovy Gory between the spells of rain.

Moscow State University



La Vie en Jaune: Ivan Bunin’s Cursed Days and the Christ Saviour Cathedral in Moscow

Christ the Saviour Cathedral


Christ the Saviour Cathedral

I am reading Cursed Days by Ivan Bunin, the Russian 1933 Nobel Laureate in Literature. In the 1917-18 Diary that precedes the narrative there are many remarks about the advance of autumn season. First, Bunin notes the slight chill of August mornings. As September wears on, he painstakingly jots down the changes in colour: maple burn red, while many more trees turn different shades of yellow. “Life in the yellow colour“, he says at one point.

As someone who’s always loved autumn, I was touched by this sentence – all the more so that it could so perfectly be translated into French and to become a paraphrase of a famous song by Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose.

A chapel by the cathedral

Жизнь в желтом цвете. Life in the yellow colour. La vie en jaune. Naturally, when I was walking from one venue of the Moscow Design Week to another, passing the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the cathedral’s dome seen through the leaves was something I instantly knew I had to photograph.


Moscow Churches: The Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue

A Synagogue and Jewish Cultural Centre
When I decided to write about Moscow churches, the last thing I wanted was to focus the entire feature on Orthodox churches. After all, there are Old Orthodox churches in Moscow, and that’s somewhat different from the “mainstream” Orthodox tradition. Likewise, there are Catholic and Protestant churches, mosques, synagogues and the churches of other denominations, so it would be unfair on my part to only write about “Russian” churches.
The other day I had a walk in the city centre, and while strolling down Bolshaya Bronnaya St I and my friend-guide came across the building of the oldest synagogue in Moscow. I’ve never been to a synagogue before, so I couldn’t resist walking in.
The current building incorporates the older establishment, which explains why the frontal view looks so contemporary. Because the same building houses a Jewish cultural centre, you have to have your bag scanned. The “chapel” itself is very small, and we were surprised that the air conditioner was working too loudly. This didn’t stop an old Jew from sitting in the chapel, reading his Tora. Tora editions stand everywhere on the shelves, pretty much like the Bibles in Protestant cathedrals. What would be an altar wall in a Christian church and would either be decorated with stained glass or iconostasis appears as a replica of the Wall of Tears in Jerusalem. The inside of the chapel’s dome is decorated with a gigantic David’s Star.
As we went in at the time when there was no service, nobody stopped us, noticed us, paid attention to us. However, the sensation of immersing oneself into a mysterious experience which traces go back to A.D. times is palpable. Later we were studying the book titles in the bookcase in the hall, and one book had this rather lengthy name: “You may put a Jew into a prison and surround him with bricks, but he will never be broken, for his God is always with him“.
A Russian Doll: a Jew

“The Jewish question” has been a cornerstone subject of discussion in Russia for years, if not centuries. I’m writing this post on 19 August, exactly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. God knows, both the origin and the death of this historic state were credited to the Jews. And even now, when Russia is painstakingly building its democracy, a lot of failures are explained by the “Jewish factor”.

Being Russian, I cannot help but marvel at people’s shortsightedness in such matters. Indeed, the longer we find the Jewish people repulsive and conspiring, the longer we will not be able to get out of our conundrum. Personally, I agree with Maxim Gorky who argued that Russians have a lot to learn from the Jews, including smart work, dedication, and being money-savvy.
In fact, I don’t think it’s just the Russians who can learn this from the Jews. And it’s not only the Jews who display these wonderful skills. Last year I had the pleasure to learn the same things from the Indian and Pakistani guys. Some of these “Eastern” guys, including Jews, seem to have innate “money” and “sales” skills.
By the way, I have learnt recently that someone was looking for a matryoshka painted as a Jew. There were two at the synagogue’s shop, but only one picture came out well.
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