Orthodox Russia

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Learn about Russia's 1000 years old history, the building of its empire stretching across the largest continent in the world. Discover the richness of Orthodox religious art, the magnificient historical cities of the Golden Ring: Novgorod, Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Suzdal, Sergeyev Posad.

Visit Saint Petersburg and the Tsar palaces of the Hermitage and Tsarskoye Selo. Moscow and the people of modern day Russia.

Texts and photographs by
Andre Beriault & Natalya Bronzova

Legal deposit
Bibliothèque et archives nationale du Québec

ISBN: 978-2-923931-02-9

Available in French
ISBN: 978-2-923931-01-2 | Click here!
Русская версия
ISBN: 978-2-923931-03-6 |

In 1968, very early in my teenager years, I dreamed of visiting Russia. In those days, very few people advocated visiting the birthplace of communism and the land of the comrades. These words, especially in the eyes of the religious educators of my college in the Gatineau, were considered taboo. And yet, after more than fifty years of Soviet domination, the very same fathers were still calling it "Holy Russia"; probably in memory of its Christian Orthodox past that survived the soviets. Having a very open mind for having been dragged worldwide by my parents at a very tender age, I persisted in visiting and learning more about the famous "determined" country and the "red demon" that ruled it with such an iron hand. Was it my artistic inclinations already taking hold of me? Was it a humanist or socialist curiosity? I don't know, even today, but I do know that it finally took me well over thirty years to get there; and when I did set foot in Russia, the "red devil" had already been chased away and little was left of the vision that should have changed the world. But Russian people are strong, and even more, they are very stubborn; so beyond wars and politics, they managed to protect their heritage, the memories of their illustrious Russian Empire past, and their over flowing Orthodox Christian beliefs and traditions. Much was to be studied and photographed there; three visits would not be enough for sure!

Through my Russian peregrinations I have thus brought back my own views on Moscow, Saint Petersburg and several unique cities in between. Cities that history books tie to the foundation of Russia, its growth to an immense empire, and its religious and military defenses against ever-present invaders taunting her borders for well over a thousand years. To name just a few cities that marked history: the most ancient and holy Novgorod, the Golden Ring cities of Vladimir, Suzdal, Yaroslavl, and above all, Sergiyev Posad, where is located one of Orthodox Russia's oldest and holiest monasteries, The Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius.

Russian people, their religious fervor, their history and their art. I cherish this nation, so rich with culture and historical achievements, yet displaying such a disconcerting simplicity in manners. They are honest and true people, strongly attached to their humanist values, which survived centuries of wars, oppressions and cataclysms, notwithstanding centuries of Tatar, Polish, Swedish and other outsider invasions. Thus they have endured, in spite of the religious order of the Teutonic Knights, or the barbarian Hordes of Genghis Khan, in spite of Napoleon's or even Hitler's insatiable thirst for an empire spanning across Europe and Asia, or even, in spite of their own tsars or dictators. The Russian people remained true to their Slavic identity and worked to make their nation thrive on a territory far larger than all of North America, populated with over one hundred different nationalities.

After several years and several trips to Russia I finally decoded the fundamental attachment of Russians for the creative values that shape the spirit and the soul. It is quite obvious for them, that the symbol of any achievement, that which you might be judged on, is not so much what you possess, but what you create, since money other than that of the church or the state is mostly viewed as suspect. What they respect the most is what you bring of yourself to the world and the so much better if it serves the good of all; this is a far cry from dominating capitalist values of always more possessions. I suspect this unique trait of their character is a direct consequence of having to defend, over and over again, their country, language and religion, from invading neighbors, almost non-stop for well over a thousand years. One needs solid beliefs and strong character to subsist for so long against such odds and still hold a total confidence in the power of their tightly woven nation. As historical facts can attest, it is their attachment to the nation, their submission to authority, not the richness of a privileged few, that carried them across so many enduring times to the nation Russia is now today.

Having leafed through my modest writings and photographic contribution, the reader will surely view under a new light the literary works of a Dostoyevsky, Pasternak, Gogol or Bulgakov, or the grand bronze sculptures of a Pototsky or Tsereteli.

For now then, why not follow me on my Orthodox Russia peregrinations? I am sure you will be charmed.

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