A Note from the Author. My article about the egregore of Russia became so long that I cut it into three posts – The Strange Problems of Russia, Russia Problems Have Deep Roots in the Past, and Exhibition of Sergei Shchukin’s Art Collection in Paris. These posts are not the fruits of a scientific research, rather my deep, or not so deep thoughts about Russia, where I lived 55 years. Then I came to America, and soon noticed that American egregore, despite the opposing features, have some similarities how they impact people who had birthed them with their hopes, fears and lasting, repetitive thoughts and emotions.
Russia Problems Have Deep Roots in the Past
To understand true Nature of the Russian egregore, we need a short excurse at least into two events in Russian history that had cast centuries long shadows on modern life of Russia – it’s hopeless battle with Russian alcoholism, theft, and slavish inertia. Year 1569; Ivan the Terrible is planning to chastise the prosperous and known for his independent spirit cities Novgorod and Pskov by the force of his brainchild — Oprichnina. This was a special division made to suppress any kind of opposition to tsar’s will.
Oprichniks rode black horses with heads of dogs attached to the saddles, and were led by Ivan the Terrible himself. They had “license to kill” — to murder and torture rich and poor, men and women, and children – everyone suspected in disagreement with tsar politics. In nowadays, Ultra Reds demand to rank this tsar to the saints.
Ivan arranged a campaign to punish Novgorod and Pskov for their wish to separate from Moscow and bring their allegiance to King of Poland. Pay attention, how early the separation idea from Moscow was looming on western regions of Russia! Only 300 years will pass, and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, three little states not far away from Novgorod, will be first to leave the Soviet Union on the brink of its collapse.
Tsar sent oprichnik Maluta Skuratov to get the blessing for his undertaking from Phillip II, the Archbishop of the Church of All Russia. The high priest refused to bless this affair, and Maluta Skuratov murdered Philip, Ivan’s childhood friend, by smothering him with a bedroom pillow.
The bloody pogrom of Novgorod, executed by Ivan the Terrible personally, found its place in almost all history text books. The reports of this bacchanalia of cruelty, “the bloody flowers” of Ivan’s sick imagination are hard to read today. People were hunted to be burned alive, fried in hot flour, then cast in winter icy water to die… and this is only the beginning of the long list of tortures! Enough, I stop here! Historians assume that the number of victims of this pogrom was between 5,000 – 15,000, or more out of Novgorod’s population in 30 thousand. Oprichniks plundered the Novgorod’s outskirts, estates, countryside as well, continuing to murder men, women and children, destroying the edible stocks to expand the impact of this punishment. Later, hunger came to cannibalism, an epidemic of plague broke out. This was what Phillip II refused to bless!
His murder was symbolic, it represented many things — end of opposing tsar, end of free thinking, victory of state’s aggressive expansionism, and ironically, start of slow debase of Russian official Orthodox Church. The formation of the obedient, poor and humiliated slave soul of Russia that leads to schism of the Russian church.
Enlightened aristocrat, Phillip II served as the head of Russian Church only two years before being murdered for refusing to bless gone mad tsar’s plan to murder thousands of innocent people, women and children.
Philip was the last archbishop coming from finest family of nobility. The following archbishops allowed the schism to take place. Phillip II was the monk-name of Fedor Kolychev (1507-1569) born into finest Moscow boyar family. Mother taught her son to read and write by Holy Scriptures. Father took care of son’s training in use of combat weapons, horse riding and other military skills. Fedor s three decades the member of court of Grand Prince Vassili III of Russia, the predecessor of Ivan the Terrible.
When in 1537 the Kolychevs’ family fell into tsar’s disfavor, Fedor, secretly left Moscow in the commoner’s clothing and headed north. A year long time he served as a shepherd for a peasant, then became a novice of Solovetsky monastery. After 8 years on monkhood, Philip was elected as the head of the monastery. He showed himself as a competent economic administrator: he arranged a network of canals between lakes on that island, put mills on them, introduced mechanical devises for developing and selling monastic crafts. The Solovetsky Monastery became the area’s industrial and cultural center. He built two cathedrals, new housing and a hospital for the monastery brethren.
The Novgorod massacre and murder of the highest priest Philip II reflected a dark process in progress that can be called the echo of both Spanish Holy Inquisition and Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. The official history attributed the schism to fanaticism and stupid stubbornness of the Old Believers, to a quarrel how to make the sign of the Cross– with two or three fingers. However, the merciless persecution of Old Believers looks more like another episode of punishment of people of Novgorod. It lasted way longer and caused the first wave of massive escape Russians abroad.
Here comes the shortened Wikipedia anonymous article that points to real reasons of the split, and therefore it is worth attention. This article speaks openly about the most cruel persecution of Old Believers up to burning them alive, initiated by Russian official Orthodox Church against the stream of Old Believers called “bespopovtsi”. I noticed that in corresponding articles in English word “bespopovtsi” has been kept untranslated from Russian in English. “Bespopovtsi” were and are to our days Old Believers who did not need priests, popes, churches as “middlemen” between man and God! They believed that person is himself fully responsible for his deeds, and if he had sinned then only his own repentance and prayers and hard work will release his sins in eyes of God! They rejected pope’s guidance and sermons because these were freethinkers. Do I have to continue digging into real reasons of the schism of Russian Orthodox Church? And the Old Believers were punished severely, mercilessly for their independent spirit and capability to think for themselves. The persecution of these free people reached the level of massive burning alive by being locked up in specially prepared sheds or barns. And they were killed and tortured by many other methods lent from the arsenal of Novgorod’s pogrom.
Wikipedia: The article “Mass suicides in the Old Believers.” The most common method of suicide was self-immolation, however, along with it, self-burial, self-sacrifice, death from voluntary hunger. The bishops at the Moscow Cathedral requested torture and executions for Old Believers. This request led to burning old believers’ houses and monasteries. The clergy led the Russian style Inquisition. Soon came the “Twelve Articles” of Princess Sophia, the regent of Russia during the minority of her half-brother Peter the I, or Peter the Great. She stated that if Old Believers do not want to pass to new ceremonies, they will be burned in the wood. Most interrogations were conducted on the ground. All state propaganda was built in such a way as to expose the Old Believers exclusively in a negative light, as heretics, and fanatics. For this purpose, they did not disdain use outright lies, slander, or forgery. Therefore, it is impossible to divide the burning from the self-immolation or from the executioners. All it started the first wave of Russian exodus abroad. More about a bit later. Modest Mussorgsky wrote the libretto and composed opera about the fight of the Old-Believers “Khavanshchina.” In this opera, Old Believers did not win, but a group of them prefer deaf in fire.
The persecution of the Old Believers started from the middle of the 17th century and lasted until the middle of the 18th century, when empress Catherine the Great substituted the persecution with double taxes out of practical observation that Old Believers’ households were better off, and stood out among others. However, the humiliating ban on church marriage continued, and the ban was lifted only in 1905. The Daniil Andreev’s interpretation of the role of this schism in Russian history is completely different, he sees it like sign of the loss souls’ oneness and reflection of split in perception of reality. Developed soul was embracing at once life’s lighter and darker side. I regret that the space of this blog post does not allow to expand Andreev’s most interesting interpretation about the connection of this schism to universal mystical powers. However, it was probably the practical sense of the empress Caterine that saved Old Believers very existence at the time being. She recognized Old Believers capability to bring money into monarchy’s treasury, and she substituted senseless persecution with double taxation in comparison with other people who professed the official religion. Here comes a pre-revolutionary observation of the life of Old Believers by S.E. Krizhanovsky, Comrade of the Minister of the Interior. He wrote in year 1906:
“The Old Believers’ clergy in simple cotton cassocks, with thin, stern faces differed sharply from dominant churches’ well-fed clergy in their silk robes, orders and apparent indifference toward spirituality. The difference between the clergy of the persecuted and the triumphants suggests that the revival of the Orthodox church, which was so often discussed between us, could only come from the persecuted part of Orthodoxy.
A study has been conducted to find out why so many eminent Russian merchants of the 18th century and the first capitalists of the 19th century were stemming from families of Old Believers. In the XVII century, the Old Believers were by no means the most downtrodden Russian people, but, perhaps, the most well-read and active. Due to the need to struggle for their existence, they developed entrepreneurship, trade and production. Their free spirit, independence, belief that person is responsible for his destiny helped them. The unique history of Russian entrepreneurship cannot be ignored anymore. The majority amidst of Russian successful entrepreneurs are Old Believers. Being supported by their original national labor ethic they emerged as the leaders of Russian capitalism.” For instance, well-known Russian entrepreneurs and patrons of arts Savva Morozov and Sergei Shchukin came both amidst Old Believers.
However, in era of Red Terror communists executed and persecuted the best part of the Russian people, including wealthy Old Believers who became “kulaks” and “capitalists, the exploiters of proletarians.” It caused new wave of massive escape of Old Believers abroad. Only two million of Old Believers have been found in Russia today. But before the bloody persecution, the Old Believers made about one third of the total of Russian population. Present day Old Believers can be found only in most deaf corners of vast Russia. The colonies of the Old Believers are scattered all over the globe from Estonia to China, from Turkey to North and South America and Australia. I was looking for the count how many of them live abroad, but I failed to find one. But I found on the Internet traces of suggestions to return home and Old Believers rejection of these offers out of distrust the Russia rulers.
Interestingly, Red Terror’s treated the Old Believers the same as dominant Russian Orthodox Church. It tells only one thing that the quarrel, how to make the cross sign with two, or three fingers, or write Jeesus, were only pretexts for burning them alive in wood or being locked up and tortured in Gulags. The real reason is probably connected, as usual, to money issues. If Old Believers made up one third of population, and many of them did not need priests or church at all to speak to God, the financial losses of the church were huge. And initiating persecution, the Othodox Church was defending its wellbeing at the first place. It is time to cast a closer look at the Russia nation’s egregore, the cosmic force that have control over individuals, groups, movements, religious rituals, political parties, armies and nations. In present case, it will reflect the Church’s fear to be burned financially. As the persecution lasted centuries, the Russian egregore, probably, carries a noticeable trace of this fear.
Comparing the egregor of Orthodoxy with the egregors of Islam and Calvinism, Judaism and the Vatican’s papacy, Daniel Andreev writes: “The egregor of Russian Orthodoxy was inert, amorphous, non-aggressive, weak. Long time ago, the Church got the position of an ally of the state national-militant government, later this position was lowered to a position of the government’s assistant, then – the government’s servant, and finally – the slave of the nationalist government.” Daniil Andreev, “The Rose of the World”, Moscow, Eksmo, 2008, p. 354.
What became of the Orthodox Church in the series of falling from the position of the ally of the tsar to the position of the slave of the aggressive statehood, bitten into heart and mind by the poisonous national chauvinism? The unstoppable formation of the egregore of slave’s mindset and poverty was fueled by this fear that made Russian church debase from the leader of spirituality to a beggar in need of state’s protection. But who likes beggars and needy?
In the fourth book of War and Peace, in the salon of Elena Kuragina, among her guests we see a Polish Catholic prelate, but in this type of social gathering you will never meet a Russian priest. And after murder of Philip II, the post of Archbishop would be never occupied by the representative of enlightened and educated aristocracy. Gradually, the priest would be nicknamed a “pop” and his wife would be called by a mocking name “papadya”. The Russian Orthodox Church would become a church of the poor and disadvantaged, and in return, the growing egregor of slavish poverty began to shape the image of the people, and destructive tendencies — alcoholism, theft and lies and submissiveness become the problems of modern days Russia. Old Believers who paid the price for their independent spirit, may have their set of problems, but they managed to stay independent in spirit and mind and actions!
Vasili Surikov well-known painting “Boyarina Morozova” shows a dishonored noble woman’s trip to be isolated and punished by ruling powers. Pay attention to a detail: on the right corner of this painting, there are two beggars, one is asking alms from the arrested person. The other one supports the Morozova. He looks at her stretched hand with lifted two fingers. The beggar lifts also his two fingers, but does it not so fearlessly as Morozova, still in his heart he admires her courageous gesture. Looking even more carefully, we see a chain on him, he is not so much beggar, as “yurodivoy”, a fool, a jester. Russian jesters shared people’s poverty to the extreme, buying this way right to throw truth in any face he likes, in tsar’s face as well. His support of Morozova expresses the painter’d ideas about Old Believers.