Каспарова С. Place of power. Land of redemption. Solovetsky islands

21 апреля 2017 г.

If you ask a Russian to describe the mystery of Solovetsky islands, or just Solovki, you will get quite a contradictory vision. One will see the land of saints and hope, the other - torturers and sufferings. Both of them are absolutely right, noting that dark times and miracles used to happen here at the same period…

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself. The words of Mahatma Gandhi perfectly refer to those who start the pilgrimage of inner peace and anchor to the shore of the largest archipelago of Russian North – Solovetsky islands or Solovki. As the boat gently slides over the smooth surface of the White Sea you lose the mainland of Arkhangelsk out of sight and dive into space where time and speed exist no more. Those who enter on a path of enlightenment call Solovetsky islands “Russian India”. Though the region is known as a powerful Orthodox stronghold since 14 century it became available for tourists and cultural seekers about 20 years ago.

It all started when…

In 1429 monks Savvatii and Herman moved to severe Solovetsky islands to start their hermit life. In 7 years brother Zosima joined them with the idea given from up above – to build a monastery, unite the archipelago of six islands as a symbol of monastic exploit. Year by year monks from all over The Tsardom of Russia have been moving to Solovki to lead secluded spiritual life. Despite of cold winds of North and poor soil they managed to create the commonwealth not depending on goods of mainland. It is hard to believe but the triumph of engineering thought started brick manufacture to construct new buildings, learn tanning, pottery and mill craft. Novices acquired knowledge of fishing and even created a unique botanical garden. It all helped them to exchange goods for needed food and at a certain period the monastery became a prosper. Centuries on it magnetized lost souls, people who wanted to believe despite all the obstacles of the regime…

War for peace

For many years inhabitants of Solovetsky monastery and small workers led a quiet life of prayer far from the madding times. But every time their convent was about to become a pawn in the political chess match they used to put the Bible aside and take armor to protect the Holy land. Being a strong fortress the monastery repelled several attacks of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Swedes. The uprising against ecclesiastic reform led to the fall of the monastery but did not break the will and hope. Later on Battles of the Crimean war aimed to break the walls of the stronghold but it managed to survive until 1920 brought the grimmest gloom on the lands. Soviet authorities closed down the monastery and incorporated buildings into forced-labor camps for “enemies of the nation” – scientists, priests, artists, political activists. Historians can hardly count how many people died in the camps. Data could be buried under the ashes of time if it was not for modern Russian government that decided to recompense those innocent who suffered. Locals say that in quiet nights they still hear the voices of people who used to live here and died in the name of their ideals. But one of the most surprising things that symbolizes Solovetsky islands is genuine respect to culture of all times. For instance pagan heritage peacefully exist close to orthodox traditions. When first clergymen landed on the isle they did not destroy the traces of pagan peoples – stone labyrinths and temples. They treated reminders of a vanished civilization with respect and simply installed orthodox crosses nearby. With this slight gesture of faith ever since they give people alternative waiting for the right choice. Even former labor camp buildings centuries later were not destroyed. Solovetsky people now use them for homes and every morning these wooden barracks raise the day as a symbol of human dual nature. In 1990s renovation of Solovetsky monastery finally started and in 1992 the historical-cultural complex obtained the status of the UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage object.

Pagans and orthodox. Paradox of Russian North

As small groups of pilgrims started research expeditions to Solovki in early 90s it became clear that the archipelago is ready to reveal some of its mysteries to those who are ready to see. Men of culture come here for retreats, believers – in search for kingdom of heaven, artists look for inspiration but all of them realize that they will come back home in a totally different state of mind. Even agnostics can hardly resist the spell of the space. It is felt in the air, it is spreading through the ground beneath your feet when you go deeper in the wood, it whirls around the moon of white summer nights. But it takes time to feel this magical place. For the first week you struggle nervousness having no Internet access and poor mobile connection. White nights cannot let you sleep. You miss your morning cappuccino and on-line chats with friends. Endless flow of people visit messes or fill in tour guide buses and you can hardly find personal attitude and state of mind…

And then one day you wake up in the morning and realize that you do not need to run, there are no deadlines, there is no time, there is just space and your only concern is you and you can do whatever you want. Jaded with luxury hotels and spa-resorts, dolce vita and parties you will gladly change it for spiritual revelation, people’s kindness and simple food. It is unbearably hard to listen to inner voice but that is the challenge Solovki gives. To find yourself wandering through “dancing forest” of windswept trees in silence, meeting not a single person for hours. To listen to the monastery bells ringing. To chat with common people fishing and gathering seaweed like their ancestors did. To feed sparrows by the monastery walls. Day by day you become a person with an open mind, absorbing the power of nature and mysterious manifestations of life, travel all around the archipelago, see incredibly sincere and happy people having much more than money – having inner wealth.

When the time to leave the island comes you realize that you have already seen everything but you need two more weeks to understand it, to feel the soul of yours. It’s not the changes the archipelago brings to you – these are the changes you discover being in this place. It takes about 3 hours to fly here from Moscow and months and months to realize what has happened to you in this voyage. For this pilgrimage is a unique, exquisite gift our nature and history can give to understand Russian heart and life through a lens of spiritual discovery.

Источник: Rus-a Channel
Тип: Публикации о Соловках
Издание: Rus-a Channel