solovetsky-monastery view from north.Solovetsky Archipelago (Solovki) in the White Sea
View from north of the Solovetsky monastery. Summer 2010. View from north of the Solovetsky monastery. Summer 2010.
The Spaso-Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) Monastery and its numerous hermitages are situated on the islands of the Solovetsky Archipelago in the White Sea. The first monks to inhabit this place were the Reverend Gherman and Savvaty, who came here in 1429. Their cause was continued by the Reverend Zosima who was the first to settle in the place of the monastery to be. The Solovki Cloister soon became the centre of missionary work and the stronghold of the Russian Orthodox Church in the northern lands, as well as the stronghold of the Russian State being a mighty fortress in the way of Swedish, Finnish and other foreign conquerors.
The flourishing of the Monastery was due to the labours of the brethren directed by Father Superior Philip (Kolychev), the future Metropolitan and Martyr. At the times of the Hegumen Philip canals were dug out to connect numerous fresh-water lakes, grand monastery building were erected, the Spaso-Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) Cathedral among them.
At the end of the 16th century, at the times of the Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, impregnable walls and towers of the Cloister were built; they repeatedly beat off enemies’ assaults. The last time when the Monastery defended itself was the attack of the British Squadron which suddenly appeared in the White Sea in 1854. Under the heavy bombardment the Monastery buildings suffered enormously, but luckily not one of its defenders was injured. The enemy had to retreat.
At the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th centuries the Solovetsky Monastery was an acclaimed holy place where pilgrims from all over Russia used to come. The Monastery economy of the time was excellent. Monks were busy fishing, bone and wood carving, gardening. There was an icon painting workshop in the Monastery. They built an electric power station (one of the first in Russia) and a biological research station. The Monastery vestry treasured the contributions of the Russian sovereigns and other distinguished donators.
In 1920 the Cloister was closed, and in 1923 its buildings were used by the Solovetsky Concentration Camp of Special Designation (In Russian the abbreviated form of the Camp title was ‘SLON’, if treated as a word, it means ‘elephant’). In 1923-1939 the Solovki became the Russian Golgotha, place of martyrdom and deaths for thousands and thousands of professors of Christ. At the end of the 1980s there appeared a movement for revival of spiritual life on the Solovki. The first Russian Orthodox parish then appeared, and soon the monastery life was restored here. In 1992 the relics of the holy founders of the Monastery were translated to the Solovki.
Just in case you mistakenly heard that it was all ice and snow in Russia, take a peek at the Big Bikini Exposition. This is right on the river Moskva in Moscow!
Moscow has been the capital of Russia for almost its entire history. The exception is during the period of the Russian Empire, which lasted from 1721 until the Russian Revolution 1917. For these two centuries the capital was St. Petersburg. The Russian Empire was the second largest contiguous Empire in world memory; only the Mongol Empire had been greater.
Check out what's happening north of Mongolia these days, in Chita
Although you may not have heard of Sochi, on the Black Sea, they're building up quickly and hope to host the 2014 Olympics.
Other periods of Russian history include the Tsardom of Russia, from Ivan IV to Peter the Great, and the Grand Duchy (14th-16th centuries).
The earliest period of Russian history was ruled by the Novgorod Republic and Kievan Rus, which was the first Russian state dating back to 800AD in Kiev.
Modern Russia remains one of the world's superpowers. They launched the earth's second satellite, called Sputnik 1, and were the first country to put a human being into orbit around earth. (The first one is called the Moon.)
After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia became a federal republic of 83 states.
Text by Steve Smith.