Tuesday, July 22, 2008


When we took the American team into St.Petersburg for the day, I left the group to run an errand. When I returned, I met a procession coming towards me head-on down the Griboedova Canal.

I’m not an expert on Orthodox holidays, but I know the main ones, and I couldn’t figure out what could be happening on July 17th. I couldn’t let this opportunity go by, so I stood and watched the Orthodox believers, young and old, as they walked by and chanted prayers, holding icons and other various “holy” relics. They had caught a clearer moment during the rainy day to make their march, beginning and ending at the Church of the Savior on the Spilt Blood.

Sometimes Orthodoxy seems so foreign, irrelevent to my faith. Why do they march with icons? Why do they make the sign of the cross? What do they want to proclaim with these public demonstrations?

When I asked a vendor at the nearby souvenir market, she said that it was the anniversary of the assassination of the royal family. Indeed, Wednesday marked 90 years since that day, and the final remains have only recently been identified. The royal family was canonized in 2000, but perhaps the final identification helps to make their sainthood legitimate.

Sometimes I forget that I live in a famous city. It’s never dull!


  1. I can understand what is beautiful about these processions and images.... perhaps I have a more mystical side than even the Catholic church can satisfy. The procession is an outward sign that we are all processing together, led by Christ and the saints....walking together, through this life into a closer and closer oneness with God the Creator. To me it is beautiful. The outward sign of an invisible truth.

    I would have thought the tsar and family as saints was a bit much, except that one time I idly picked up a book in the bookstore that contained a collection of letters of the Grand Duchesses. I was absolutely amazed at the rich spiritual depth of those girls, and their wisdom, courage and humility - and humor (a sure sign of holiness to me...particularly in their situation) - the letters I was reading were from the time of their imprisonment, when death was always shadowing over them.

  2. Could never understand this one. It's as if Russia has two distinct irreconcilable groups of people THEM and US. I never understood all that stuff about marching and waving the icons. Too me it is the same as having the dead Lenin in the mausoleum. What in the world is that???

  3. My fav. Russian musician:


  4. Annie, I think I know what you mean. Funerals and memorials can (and should) be kept holy, and the death of a tsar is certainly a historical moment. But as Vitali pointed out, there's a very prevalent duality in Russian culture between paganism and Orthodoxy, that I find confusing. In this procession and other events it's so clear that people are earnestly pouring their souls into the ritual, but whom or what exactly is this devotion directed towards? How is it relevant to daily life?

    In American culture people also obsess over a dead famous person like a rock star and collect mementos. But that's seen as more of a secular custom. So is it fair to say that in the U.S. there is more separation of church and state?

    Vitali, thanks for the rock music. What year is it from? ;)

  5. It's from the late 90's or early 00's. I grew up listening to the guy. I just thought maybe your blog's visitors would enjoy the taste of Russian rock music. :) Overall his songs are rather wholesome.

  6. Maybe you should start a Russian rock blog!


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