Your monumental Majesty

Why Nicholas II has grown popular with Kraisk villagers

Why is Nicholas II popular with Kraisk villagers and why didn’t they install a bust of the Russian Tsar in Mogilev?

Kraisk, a village in Logoisk district, is unique in its own way. Here, the residents of Belarusian backwoods pray to Nicholas II and name their children in honour of the tsar’s family. The sovereign frequents their dreams and helps them in all matters. In 2009, just as a frantic debate went on in Mogilev, once the Russian army’s general headquarters, on whether to install the emperor’s bust, Kraisk had already had one erected for a year. It was the first and remains the only monument to Nicholas throughout the country. The villagers are well aware of the epithet “bloody”, which has long been attributed to the last Russian autocrat’s name in history-books, but apparently have their own opinion in this respect.

“For the long-term heavenly care”

Kraisk, a village with a population of 340, fully justifies its name, meaning “the edge”, in that it is situated 40 km from the district centre, and transportation is more than inconvenient. However, the geography of parishioners of the St Nicholas church, which features the bust of the monarch, canonized in Russia, has exceeded Minsk region long ago.

I come up to the monument. The tsar is presented in full dress and regalia. The bust looks almost like the one given as a gift to Mogilev citizens by the Mount Falcon Board of Eastern Administrative District of Moscow. But the latter has only become part of a museum exhibition. “This bust is our gratitude to the saint regal martyrs for the long-term heavenly care about us, faithful Christians, and our Orthodox Kraisk parish”, reads an inscription on the pedestal.

- I was very worried if the tsar family would accept me. First, I was born on November 7, and second, me and my husband got married in this temple only on the third attempt, - Parishioner Nadezhda Trudnova says, standing next to me. - I prayed to God for a sign. Finally, I saw a dream, as if it was our wedding here, and we drank from a cup with red stones, and the tsar-father stood in the coir and sang to us. All my doubts quickly disappeared, because the royal family for me was the light and way to follow, and an example of pure relation between spouses.

“This is not a coincidence but the language of heaven”

I enter the temple. As long as 17 years ago this place was made into a village club with disco dance parties regularly held. It has been returned to the faithful only through the efforts of rector Sergius Podolsky.

- We ask the tsar for help, and he gives it to us, - Reverend Sergius says. – For example, let us remember, how the struggle for this temple went. Everyone laughed at us. Even priests kept saying we would never get it. The district authorities wouldn’t give in, we had to appeal to the Presidential Administration twice. And then, in 1996, on the eve of November 3, the day of the Emperor’s accession to the throne, I had a dream. As if I was standing in the neighboring St Alexis Church and Nicholas II came in dressed in military uniform. He was on his way to the front passing through. The Emperor smiled, raised his right hand, showed four fingers and said: “Four”. Exactly 4 years later, on October 27, having gone through all seemingly insurmountable difficulties, we consecrated the temple. To cap it all, this date coincided with the date of its first consecration, which took place 123 years ago.

Such coincidences that have occurred over the past 15 years, reverend Sergius have counted about 300. All important events for the Kraisk parish tally with the dates associated with the tsar family. In 1998, on July 17, the day of the tsar family execution, “Keramin” plant donated 9000 bricks for the construction of the temple. Same year, on June 11, Princess Tatiana’s birthday, two long-awaited cranes arrived from Logoisk and Pleschenitsy to Kraisk…

I venture a remark, that the “royal” dates are too plentiful.

- This is not a coincidence, but the language of heaven communicating with us. For example, you called me on March 15, Nicolas II dethronement day. So, your visit is not accidental.

As a representative of laity, I ask him to tell me about the tsar family. But reverend Sergius confines himself to a couple of words about them being deeply religious people, leading righteous life yet facing a lot of suffering.

- To get to know them one need more than one conversation, - says he as we come out to the threshold of the church. - They had a fund of 4 million ruble, and when the war broke out, they spent all the money on hospitals and almshouses, helping the wounded. The tsar wore patched trousers and said about himself that he was a small man. There are too many lies about them, and we need to wash it off.

“The Bloody Sunday” has not been cancelled”

Communists were the main opponents to the Russian tsar’s monument installation in Mogilev. In Kraisk, communist Konstantin Kovalenya, ex-chairman of the village council, informs from the first minutes of the talk, that he isn’t a church-goer and believes in himself only.

- Today I am still a communist, though frankly speaking, a baptized one, - admits Konstantin Ivanovich. - There were 9 children in our family, I was the eldest. Our father lined us up in a file and took a position alongside with his belt in hands. Those were Soviet times and I was naturally against baptizing, so I pushed the cross away. But the priest hit me with it on a forehead and so I was baptized. What for the church, I think, the village needs it because most of the people find there salvation from drink and other misfortunes.

I ask the communist’s opinion on the bust in the village.

- I think it was a cruelty to shoot the tsar’s family. What could those women and that boy, the tsarevich, be blamed for? They might well be placed among the martyrs. Therefore I don’t feel wounded neither by the bust nor by the church consecration to his name. But the Bloody Sunday has never been cancelled and I believe the guilt lies at Nicholas’ door.

Reverend Sergius has his own opinion about this.

- When they speak about the Bloody Sunday, nobody mentions there was a provocation on the demonstrators’ side. They were first who began shooting at the soldiers. Plus at that moment the tsar was not in St Petersburg, he was in Tsarskoye Selo, more than 30 km away.

I don’t wait for the end of the talk and visit the local school, meeting Alexander Tsalabanov, a math and physics teacher.

- It’s terrible to remember, but we really danced in the church. When I came to Kraisk in 1984, nobody told me that the building had been a temple. I was a Komsomol member, and frankly speaking the first time I ever crossed myself was in 1995, the day of St Alexis Church consecration, celebrated by Filaret, Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk. So when reverend Sergius told that money came up to put up a bust, I was confronted with the inner struggle. We have been educated that it was the Bloody Sunday and bloody tsar too. On the other hand, his renunciation of the throne to avert civil war was a real feat. So if the bust was erected, let it be erected. May be it really is helping us.

The tsar family was large so I find the like family in Kraisk and visit Svetlana Savitskaya, a mother of 6 children.

- Yes, indeed, we hold the tsar family in esteem. Our children were born on the “tsar” dates and called in royal family honour. Aleksei, Olga and the eldest Nikolai serve in the temple. My first husband was a religious man, once he had a vision of tsar Nicholas, who gave him a blessing. The husband died shortly after. I was bearing the third child and it was a hard time. But I always asked the sovereign for help and always got it. Now I’m marrid for the second time, and my second husband loves children too.

Whoever lives in Kraisk – communists, ex-komsomol members or truly religious people – all of them have been witnesses to the event, which nobody even tries to deny. 12 years ago on the day of St Nicholas church consecration, the icon of the tsar was seen exuding myrrh. A great miracle according to all Christian canons. A sign of God’s will fulfillment.

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