Who needs temples in an open field?

The problems of Orthodox construction volunteers were discussed in the house of hierarch Joasaph

Who needs temples in an open field?
Photo: tatmitropolia.ru (prayer house in honour of the Epiphany of the Lord in the village of Shuran)

Participants of the discussion club “Past and present of abandoned temples of Tatarstan” found out why and with whom it is possible restore destroyed churches in the republic within the framework of the Whit Monday festival. This is one of the first events that has taken place in the newly opened house of hierarch Joasaph (Udalov). Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

The House of Joasaph as a place to find solutions

The house was located on Tikhomirnov Street. When it was expanded for the sake of the Universiade Prospekt (the odd side was demolished), thanks to the efforts of the initiative group and the support of the president of Tatarstan, it was possible to save it, and then move it to its current location — 31 Tikhomirnova Street. They say that one of the ancient stoves works here — one can even cook food in it.

The last bishop of Chistopol, vicar of the Kazan diocese, is known, for example, for the fact that during the harsh years of the Soviet terror, he went alone to bury the executed priests of the Zilantov monastery, so as not to incur the wrath of the NKVD on other brethren. He sent the food and clothing that came to him to priests in prisons and exiles. In 1937, Joasaph was shot, and in 2008, he was canonised as a holy martyr.

The main topic of the conversation was the synchronisation of the work of several movements. These are volunteers who are already engaged in abandoned churches, specialists from among architects and restorers, including students of the Kazan State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering, patrons who are ready to allocate funds for work, as well as representatives of dioceses on the territory of which the churches are located.

The house of hierarch Joasaph. Photo: tatmitropolia.ru

As the deputy chairman of the Tatarstan Committee for the Protection of Cultural Heritage Objects, Svetlana Persova, pointed out, the participation of everyone, as well as the district administration, is necessary in the salvation of churches. For example, the village of Derzhavino was mentioned in the conversation — Persova reminded that this place is popular with tourists, it is important for the Laishevsky district:

“They are helping you, aren't they? It is necessary to involve an administrative resource. It is unreasonable not to use it. At least in the help of land registration. There is the tourism committee that is also interested, they could help with PR. There are organisations like the Tatar Special Scientific and Restoration Management PLC — they do not refuse to help. After all, many projects for the restoration of churches were developed back in the Soviet years.”

Vladislav Larkin, a member of the Sviyazhsky Uyezd initiative group, was skeptical:

“I doubt if they can help. Maybe putting a garbage cart...”

“It is important for them to be in the information field," Persova insisted. “Even if they have done nothing — they will have a different attitude in working with them. It is necessary to attract people as widely as possible.”

“We will work and pray," Larkin said. “And help will come.”

He himself says that he got into the group when he was asked to help with construction work at the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the village of Yumatovo: “When I saw these people, I was at the service, I had a spiritual revolution. Now I regret that there are 170 such temples, and, relatively speaking, there are six of us.”

“Give students more temples”

Another necessary part of the movement is the authors of restoration projects. After all, there are often volunteers, and a patron is found, but there are no documents — so it is unclear what to invest money in.

One of these projects was prepared by a graduate of the Kazan State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering, who introduced herself as just Diana: she told about her thesis on the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the Chernyshevka tract.

Now the church of 1855 stands in an open field. However, there is still a linden alley, baronial pond, and manor house. The temple was closed in 1938, its territory was used for agricultural needs, cattle grazed here. At the same time, in 1908, there were 104 yards here. According to the diploma, the church was built according to the standard model of architect Konstantin Ton in the pseudo-Russian style. A lot is required for restoration. For example, to remove the plaster of the Soviet era and restore the original masonry. To lay the floors, put the walls in order — somewhere even the remains of the floor and the colour of the walls were preserved, so here the restorers were able to confirm their theories.

The Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the Chernyshevka tract. Photo: tatmitropolia.ru

“These temples — no one needs them," the organizer of the festival, sociologist Marya Leontyeva, outlined the problem. “Earlier there were no words from the patriarch that it is necessary to restore churches. They stand in an open field. According to one version, if there is no parish, they should collapse. On the other hand, this is architecture. Here is this temple in Chernyshevka… I remember how the guys chopped humus from straw and manure, loaded it into bags. And then we went to the altar part, there is an icon, and behind it, someone built a nest there… The question is what to do next. The church does not bless to do anything there, except for divine services, and they can take place rarely. By and large, we do not know what to do next. But if they are not used, they die.”

Now there is still a fashion to be photographed in the places of destroyed temples. But many people want to come, and this is dangerous for both churches and people. They can also be burned, as it was in Karelia.

The problem is that the priests do not have money for restoration projects, says Leontyeva. If someone gives them money for plastic windows, they will install them, because they need windows. But then the walls begin to mold. But there are no millions for projects. But the process of restoring the destroyed church is long: conservation, restoration project, search for someone who will give money.

In the meantime, the work is being done by volunteers. Larkin recalls that it was “scary to approach” the Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Kosyakovo:

“It seemed that there was nothing we could do. But then we covered the altar, began to restore the parapets, supporting structures. The vault of the refectory completely collapsed near the temple. We had no experience. Last year, we already built the first vault. The masonry of the bell tower was restored. We received a 12-metre survey tower and a pump for overdraft of groundwater from the Presidential Grants Fund.”

Larkin says that in one of the temples they will soon try to remove the dome themselves in order to preserve it. He also asked Persova — give more to students of temples for diplomas! In the meantime, we will do cleaning, conservation:

“We have a lot of questions. Especially for temples that are more than 300 years old. When you are faced, for example, with an asymmetry and do not understand how it was built…

Human foundation

At the same time, if work begins on preservation, then the village itself wakes up, Larkin noted: even if only the foundation remains of the temple, a parish is formed — and this means that you can rely on these people.

Another problem, says Larkin, is the registration of land plots. While there are no official papers, it is necessary to issue electricity every six weeks. Now we have received a letter from Metropolitan Kirill of Kazan and Tatarstan about assistance in this matter, which means that it will probably be possible to register the plots of churches for the diocese, to start electricity and water in them.

Larkin gives an example that some deans at first have doubts about legal procedures but switch to their side when they understand that there are patrons for the payment for utilities.

“Four years ago, when we started, it seemed to us that this was an impossible to do," Larkin summarises. “But now we have managed to visit 28 temples. Somewhere only with cutting or mowing grass, or cutting maple. Somewhere the temple is already completely covered with metal, in the near future they will use the altar part there. The transition from complete ruin to the time when one can serve in Spartan conditions took four years.”

Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Yumatovo village). Photo: tatmitropolia.ru

Artem Garanin, the head of the department of the Kazan Diocese for work with Orthodox youth, suggested trying himself in the volunteer project. On August 1-8, the fourth expedition takes place to ancient temples, to the villages of the Verkhneuslonsky and Tetyushsky districts of the Republic of Tatarstan — Yumatovo, Kainki, Tikhy Ples, Russkoye Makulovo, and Syukeyevo. They will live in tents and work with temples that are 100, 300 years old.

Radif Kashapov
Tatarstan