Tuesday, 29 May 2018
Translated from the Russian-language memoirs of nun Nina Krygina:
“Before I became a nun I used to be a certified counsellor, I also have a son of my own. My interest in family psychological health started during my secular life, and I came to understand that the most effective and comprehensive answer to almost all family issues can be found only in the Christian Orthodox faith.
As somebody studying counselling I often asked myself why divorce statistics in Tsar Russia was so much lower than in today’s Russia, only 2-2.5% of families registered their divorce back in those times. I know that a real life story is often much more powerful than a theoretical discussion. Could it be that families back in those times had a real-life example of an ideal family? That everybody knew perfectly well who the ideal family was and they were trying to be like them? What was that ideal yet very real family anyway?
Once I was walking in Moscow streets, I was a young student then. Suddenly I saw a picture of Tsar Nicholas’ family in a window of a Moscow publishing house. It was there by some miracle as everything relating to the Tsar was strictly banned in the Soviet Russia. And I saw their eyes… The eyes of the Emperor, his wife Alexandra, their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and little Alexey… That was a pivot moment in my life as I found the answer to my questions. That ideal family who everybody knew as a real family was the Tsar Nicholas’ family. No wonder they were canonized in Orthodox Christianity as a family too!
From then on I have pointed all families who needed my professional advice to the Tsar family. This is an example everybody in Russia can understand and somehow relate to, especially if one wants to have a happy family. Theirs was a very happy family, despite their tragic end and dramatic times they were living through. They often wrote in their private correspondence how they valued each other as people, as parents, and as children.
And then I decided to find the keys to their happiness. I started to study the documents and I realized how little we, Russians, knew about this great Russian Tsar, how many false accusations had been laid upon them. It was extremely sad to see how easily the Russian people had fallen for those completely ungrounded accusations, how eager we were to spread those lies and to think down on the Tsar family. Truly, we see the world through the window glass of our own sins, and the more sinful we are, the dirtier the picture is!
So, I studied the correspondence of the Tsar family, some first-hand accounts of their lives and I gradually found the first key to their happiness. It’s something that I could call integrity. Integrity means unity of soul, body and spirit of all; it stands for such attitude towards life where God is the cornerstone of everything a family does, and the man is the head of the family and the receiver of God’s grace. The woman is his helper and she receives the God’s grace through her husband. The children live in this hierarchy and also receive grace. That’s the law of God.
At this point I am often asked how a contemporary family can be patriarchal if some men cannot be natural leaders, if the wife makes more money, if she does some important responsibilities, etc. Indeed, today these are important factors in any family, and the science has proved that there are actual pain points which can trigger a divorce. They can be boiled down to money matters, decision making, birth of a child, even retirement.
I would reply to all "equalists" and "feminists" with words I once heard when monks were burying a fellow monk who they particularly loved. There was one of them who said that it was only sin that separated people from each other. Without sin all people would be an integral unity dedicated to each other and to God. So, I would repeat this to all today’s families who have marital issues: only your own sin separates you from each other and prevents you from building a strong and loving family. The Tsar family were very aware of this and it helped them deal with their own issues. They wrote a lot about their struggles with their passions, particularly when bringing up the children and especially – the hemophiliac Alexei who was the heir to the throne of Russia.
There is also this issue of being busy or tired today, when parents cannot spend time together with their children as they are so “busy” and "tired". Now think about the Emperor, was he not busy? Was he not tired? He, probably, was the busiest person on the planet ruling the biggest country in the world. Compare that to your “busy” and realize that if the Emperor could find time and energy for his family, so can everybody else. True, he could not spend much time, but what he could he turned into a quality time, more often reading Russian literature to his children, sometimes singing with them. That was one great tradition that can be easily and with great success borrowed in today’s busy families. Another tradition of Nicholas’ family was physical education of the children. Nicholas II was a very physically fit man; he especially liked swimming and rowing. He made a very concerted effort to ensure his children also did physical exercises and spent as much time in the fresh air as possible; that they knew how to take care after themselves, to keep everything clean and in order. As an Emperor he could have everything done by servants but he was wise enough not to let his children get spoiled. What a lesson for all of us today, surrounded with TVs and dishwashers!
The second key to their happiness was humility. Tsarina Alexandra told her son Alexei never to be proud of their wealth and the elevated position. It is wrong to do so because everybody is equal before God. These were not empty words, they were supported with example. When the War broke out Alexandra and her elder daughters went to become nurses in hospitals assisting in bloody operations or simply sitting by the bed and praying for the wounded and the dying. The soldiers were all their children needing attention and prayer, just as the sick Alexei was. Nicholas II never showed off his rank, his regular attire was humble military uniform.
They were a very loving family. They believed in God with all their heart, they were truly Christian Orthodox. We must model them to have at least little of God’s Grace that they had in such abundance”.
Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Friday, 18 May 2018
|Russian Tsar Nicholas II at an aircraft-making factory|
There is truth to the unprecedented economic rise of Russia in the 20th century. After all it was in the Soviet Union where the first sputnik was launched into space in October of 1957, where school education was hailed as the best in the world, where national republics went from medieval state to complex and diverse economies.
However, it should be always remembered that Soviet science and economics stood on the firm foundation that had been laid out during the Russian Tsar Nicholas II time. We can safely say that the USSR economically stood on the “shoulders of the giant” that was the Tsar Russia. To put it shortly, the Soviet economic growth happened on railways and in factories built during the Tsar time. The traditional Russian perseverance and ingenuity helped of course – but Stalin can hardly be “thanked” for that. The bolsheviks also liked to hire the best engineering talent from the US and Great Britain to do the prototype design and to head the construction, as was the case with the huge Dnepro Hydroelectric dam. Thus they dealt with the “brain drain” caused by the revolution. Besides, we should never forget the overwhelming number of Russian people who had been purged to the GULAG and were used as slaves building such Stalin highlights as the White Sea-Baltic Canal (Belomorkanal) which connected Moscow with the White Sea. According to some accounts about a quarter of a million people died there. This is a project built literally on human bones. Nothing of the kind was taking place in the Tsar Russia.
The Russian engineering tradition had lasted for 200 years before 1900s. Many Romanovs were navy and military engineers and had deep appreciation of the trade. Best engineers of the world were trained during the Nicholas II rule. We do not often realize that some of most popular inventions of the 20th century were done by Russians such as Sikorsky (trans-ocean hydroplane, helicopter), Zvorykin (television), Kotelnikov (parachute) who had been trained in the Tsar Russia. They started out in Russia, sometimes showing their inventions to the Tsar as he was keenly interested in the engineering advances. Igor Sikorsky, the inventor of hydroplanes and helicopters, wrote in his memoirs about his meetings with Nicholas II: “The Emperor was among the few people who would not ask questions if they were not correct or thought through. As an engineer he was my equal”. Bolsheviks made this talent leave their home country losing their technical potential to other nations.
While the economic growth was steady in Russia under the Romanovs, it was under Nicholas II when a colossal economic leap took place in Russia. The famous Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest railway network in the world connecting Central Russia with Siberia and the Russian Far East was built 1891-1916 and is still in use now! Textile, electro-technical, chemical, mining, mechanical engineering, ship-making factories were built. There were over 400 huge factories in Russia in 1910s. Russian economy was the fourth biggest in the world after American, British, and German. The typical thing about it (and quite different from Russia today) was that it was not mainly based on extraction of raw materials, like grain, oil, coal, iron, or wood, although trading in these commodities was an important source of revenue. Russian economy was mostly of a more developed, manufacturing type as it was producing a finished, usable product and was heavily involved in construction.
Nicholas II reforms included creation of completely new branches of economy: electrical engineering, radio-frequency engineering, chemical engineering, aircraft engineering. They were based on scientific advances of the last quarter of the 19th century. Most of them had some “Russian” trace in them (for example, think Dmitry Mendeleev’s Periodic Law and his Periodic Table of Elements). Many of those factories were actively working during the Stalin times to produce the Soviet industrialization miracle, while in fact they were the results of Nicholas II strategic plans.
It should be very well understood that Russian Tsar Nicholas II was not only a well-educated politician with successful long-term strategies. He was a deeply religious, Orthodox Christian person. Doing what’s right for the country that he had been mystically anointed to rule was paramount to him. He was very serious about “Loving Thy Enemy” (Mt. 5:44), but this was not “softie” as he has been mocked all those years. It was Christian. He had a vision of a country that was economically advanced and Christian at the same time. The Russian Tsar Nicholas II had it in good balance; he was kind, smart, extremely well educated, strategic thinker, and, most important of all, he was guided by the Spirit.
Looking back at Russia under Nicholas II and then under the bolsheviks we can safely say that the Soviet economic and technological advances came to a grinding halt once the huge potential left by the Nicholas’ II social and economic reforms was exhausted. The country thrived under Nicholas II rule, and even during the First World War it developed quickly, especially its heavy machinery engineering. Unfortunately, this growing process stopped almost immediately after 1917, the year of the revolution. It started to pick up slowly only well after 10 years into the Soviet rule, a significant setback and at a terrible and short-sighted price of abandoning its intended Christian way. This artificial state could not live long, and we all know what has happened to Russia without the pious Tsar and Christianity.
(translation based on Russian-language sources)