Chief Mason of Russia: “Our temples are closed, lodges are not meeting — brothers are gathering in Zoom”

The interview with Andrey Bogdanov — about Freemasons in Russia, the popularity of Freemasonry in the coronacrisis and the consequences of the pandemic for humanity

Society is now going through a serious test and will never be the same, and the value of personal communication will be much higher than before, according to Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Russia, candidate for the post of president of Russia in the 2008 elections, Andrey Bogdanov. How has the coronavirus affected masons around the world? Have the ideas of creating a “fraternal union of all people” become more popular against the background of the pandemic? When did Freemasons come to Russia and what difficulties did they have to go through? Bogdanov answered these and other questions in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.

“Up to 200,000 Freemasons died in concentration camps”

This week has been a significant date: 19 years ago, the World Congress of Freemasons was held in Madrid. Almost nothing is known about the event, including no information about the participation of Russian representatives. Do you know anything about this congress?

I can only say that there was such a proclamation — it was another World Conference of the Great Masters of the great regular lodges. Such congresses are held once every 1,5 years.

I have been a Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Russia for 13 years and during this time I have held several such conferences: 2008 — in the USA, 2009 — in Gabon, 2011 — in Colombia, 2012 — in India, 2014 — in Romania, 2015 — in the USA, the 2017 conference was held in London, where the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England was celebrated, and in 2018 the event was held in Panama.

If it wasn't the coronavirus, the conference in Jerusalem would have started this Monday.

By the way, have you and “the world government” already been accused that the coronavirus is part of your evil plan?

I'm already tired of answering about the world government (laughs).

Photo: vk.com/vladimir_zelenskiy95
I have been a Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Russia for 13 years, and several such conferences have been held during this time. If it wasn't the coronavirus, the conference in Jerusalem would have started this Monday

Let's go back to Madrid: the information leaked that at that historic congress, its participants demanded the rehabilitation of their fellow citizens, 12,000 of whom were executed and 40,000 were convicted during the rule of General Franco.

The world conference makes absolutely no decisions, except in which country the next event will be held — as with the Olympics. The function of the congress is to introduce the great masters among each other and that's it.

As for the persecution of Freemasons, this happened not only in Spain. This happened in different countries, at different times. In my opinion, the most serious persecution was in Nazi Germany and Italy. During the Second World war, up to 200,000 Freemasons died in concentration camps.

“It's like Adidas and Chinese Abibas from the markets of the 1990s”

How were Freemasons treated in our country? What happened in pre-revolutionary and then Soviet times?

In Russia, Freemasonry appeared in 1731, and the first great provincial master of the country was John Philips — English General in the Russian service. The heyday of Freemasonry peaked at the end of the 18th century, when the position of the great provincial master was held by Russian statesman Ivan Yelagin.

Masonry was banned in Russia in 1822: then the highest rescript of Alexander I 'On the destruction of Masonic lodges and all secret societies' was sent to Manager of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, count Kochubey. The document stated: “All secret societies under whatever names they may exist, such as Masonic lodges or others, must be closed and their institutions must not be allowed to continue.”

Photo: wikimedia.org
The heyday of Freemasonry peaked at the end of the 18th century, when the position of the great provincial master was held by Russian statesman Ivan Yelagin

In the years 1905-1917, there was a lot of speculation about Freemasonry but they had no foundation. All those who called themselves Freemasons at that time were not real Freemasons, they were impostors. For example, Kerensky (who called himself a Mason) fled to France after the Bolshevik Revolution and wanted to join the Grand Lodge of France. He was rejected and asked to undergo initiation again. He refused.

Freemasonry was revived in our country only in 1995 (I emphasize that we are talking about regular Freemasonry), when the Grand Lodge of Russia was installed. I note that the Grand Lodge of Russia was officially registered with the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.

In general, many famous figures belonged to the Russian Freemasons: Pushkin, Griboyedov, Chaadaev, Kutuzov, Suvorov, Benckendorf, Prince Vorontsov, Shcherbatov, Boltin, Sumarokov, Yelagin, Novikov, Prince Gagarin, Paul I and others.

You put a special emphasis on the fact that regular Freemasonry has been revived in Russia. Are there any other branches?

There is a regular Freemasonry that traces its history back to the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. Its main principles are following: faith in God, only men are accepted, and politics and religion are not discussed in lodges.

In the nineteenth century, the Grand Orient de France moved away from these principles and began to accept atheists. The lodges also encouraged discussion of politics and religion, and at the beginning of the twentieth century allowed women to be admitted. Because of this, all the regular Grand lodges withdrew their recognition from the Grand Orient de France — so there was an irregular 'Freemasonry'. Roughly speaking, it's like Adidas and Chinese Abibas from the markets of the 1990s. If we talk about the number of these groups, the ratio in the world now is following: regular/irregular — 85/15 per cent.

Photo: livejournal.com
There is regular Freemasonry that traces its history back to the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. Its main principles are following: faith in God, only men are accepted, and politics and religion are not discussed in lodges

“During the pandemic, there were many times more hits on our site”

In 2017, the Rising Sun Lodge was recreated in Kazan, which is far not new (it was founded in 1776). Could you tell us what it is today?

There are 22 brothers in the Rising Sun Lodge today. We can say that it is growing and thriving. By the way, a year ago, the Jean-Carlo Sary Lodge in Samara separated from it.

Freemasonry calls its goals “the improvement of man and the unification of mankind”, as well as the creation of a “fraternal union of all people”. Do you see an increasing interest and demand for these ideas? Especially in times of crisis.

Our ideas are always in demand and, of course, now. During the pandemic, there were many times more hits on our site.

How many brothers are there in the Grand Lodge of Russia today? Two years ago, you said that you had a little more than one thousand people in your jurisdiction.

Now there are about 1,200 brothers in the Grand Lodge of Russia.

Photo: vk.com/vladimir_zelenskiy95
Our ideas are always in demand and, of course, now. During the pandemic, there were many times more hits on our site

Do you see the possibility of creating the “fraternal union of all people” in the crisis that the whole world is currently experiencing? Or will society not change?

Society is going through a serious ordeal, just like Freemasonry. Because of the pandemic, the lodges are not meeting, our temples are closed, but the brothers are gathering in Zoom and dreaming of when they will meet in person.

In general, I am sure that society will never be the same, and the value of personal communication will be much more valuable than before.

By Lina Sarimova