It is no exaggeration. It is no curtsey for my home city. It has nothing to do with the desire to exaggerate the role of the home city in order to inflate the pride of its citizens. It is reality one can feel after a walk in the old city. When I receive guests, I always take them for a walk in the streets clad in an aura of centuries-old history. And I tell them stories…
Here is the Soviet Square, which remembers the last Russian tsar. When the royal headquarters were stationed in Mogilev, Nikolai II lived in the governor’s house, which stood exactly where a monument to fighters for the Soviet rule in Mogilev Region was erected. In his free time the emperor liked to take walks in the park nearby (not named after Proletarian writer Maksim Gorky then) and shoot crows from a small-caliber rifle. He also liked to go boating in a specially delivered cutter. In his automobile the emperor would go sightseeing around Mogilev outskirts. He liked places near Shklov a lot.
The city dwellers disliked haughty empress Alexandra Fedorovna, but they were fascinated with emperor’s daughters. The girls walked the city without bodyguards, went shopping. Games with Mogilev kids were arranged for Prince Aleksei. Not just with kids of the rich families, but with those of poor families as well. Once Aleksei won a small bee hive in a charity lottery, which was traditionally arranged not far from the governor’s house.
…It was in the train leaving Mogilev in which Nikolai II abdicated from the Russian empire throne…
If you go just one hundred meters from the Soviet Square along Lenin Street, you will see Archbishop Georgi Konisski’s palace. The archbishop was declared a saint by the Orthodox church. It was the man that Alexander Pushkin named “most worthy of remembrance in the 18th century”. Thanks to the sanctifier the Orthodox belief remained in Belarus in Rzeczpospolita times. If one described Konisski’s life, it would be an adventure story — with assassins and multiple intrigues as well as scoffing he had to face. Georgi Konisski wrote several famous works: notes on Belarus and Ukraine history, “Historical Notes on the Union”. Besides, he furnished a seminary he’d personally created. He set up parish schools to teach laymen kids. He used his money to build George the Victor’s church near Mogilev.
Georgi Konisski died in 1795 and was buried in the Spas Cathedral of Mogilev that he’d sanctified. His body remained imperishable. There are proves dating back to 1812, 1875, and 1915. It is a pity his present burial place is unknown. Spas Cathedral was closed down in 1929. A year later it was turned into a club. According to one version, Komsomol members, who re-profiled the temple, threw away anything related to religion, including the remains of St Georgi. They now may rest in the rampart, where the cathedral once stood, which was named Archbishop rampart in honour of Georgi Konisski.
Walk a little more along Lenin Street. You will see St Stanislav’s cathedral.
Not every Mogilev resident knows that it was the central cathedral in the Russian empire. The catholic diocese with the centre located in Mogilev was the largest in the world — as large as Russia’s borders went! The archbishop was named Archbishop of Mogilev and Metropolitan of the Russian Empire.
In 1935 the building was converted into a historical archive. In 1935–1986 it was the State Archive of Mogilev Region. During the time a unique organ of the cathedral was destroyed. Vatican said it was the second most important organ.
In Lenin Street there was also a men gymnasium (secondary school No.3 today). revolutionary Lepeshinski, academician and Polar traveller Otto Shmidt, revolutionary Nikolai Sudzilovski, who left the country due to police persecution are among its graduates. After a lot of travelling across the globe he arrived in the Hawaii, where he became a senator, and then the president.
Though much is known about Mogilev, the city still has secrets in store.
Influenced by legends as a child and a youth I tried to find underground ways under the city. With no success. I thought it was just my imagination influenced by the legends. But in recent years the city tried to tell us something about its underground. Thoroughfares collapsed in Mogilev: people saw some domes and brickwork in the pits. The last collapse was witnessed several months ago. It revealed a well deeper than a nine-storey building is high! A video camera hung by a rope was put into the well. There were some tunnels running away from the well on the picture. But the well was filled up with sand, with no research carried out. Maybe, all for nothing.
Who knows what sensations one can find in the catacombs?
by Pavel Minchenko.
Postcards from Vladimir Lihodedov’s collection