Location: Solovetsky island, Archangelsk region Map
6 islands with 300 km2
First settlement: 5000 BC
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Spaso-Preobrazhensky Solovetsky Monastery is a stavropegic
monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church, located in the village of
Solovetsky, Primorsky District, Arkhangelsk Region on Solovetsky
Island in the White Sea.
It arose in the 1420s-1430s, rebuilt in stone by the labors of St. Philip, in pre-Petrine times was listed among the largest landowners of the state. In 1669-1676 it was besieged by the tsarist troops as one of the centers of resistance to the Nikonian reforms.
Under Soviet rule, the country's first special-purpose camp operated on the territory of the monastery, and the Solovetsky Museum-Reserve was also created, which was reorganized in 1974 into the Solovetsky State Historical, Architectural and Natural Museum-Reserve. Monastic life was resumed on October 25, 1990.
In 1992, the complex of monuments of the Solovetsky Museum-Reserve was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, in 1995 - in the State Code of Particularly Valuable Cultural Heritage Sites of the Peoples of the Russian Federation.
The first monastic settlement arose in 1429, when the Monks Savvaty
and Herman settled here and spent six years in seclusion here. In
1436, after the death of Savvaty, Zosima arrived on the island, who
founded here a monastery and two wooden churches - the
Transfiguration of the Lord and Nicholas the Wonderworker. Akhbishop
Jonah sent Abbot Paul here, who was replaced by Abbot Zosima in
1442. In 1485 and 1538 there were strong fires, as a result, in
1552, stone construction of churches began, and in 1590-1594 a
defensive granite wall was rebuilt. In 1651, instead of the abbess,
an archimandry was established. Until March 1682, when the
Kholmogory diocese was established, the monastery was located within
the Novgorod diocese.
The flourishing of the monastery in the 16th century is associated with the activities of the hegumen Philip, who was elected in 1548 by the monastery cathedral and was elevated to the rank of hegumen by the Novgorod Archbishop Theodosius. Hegumen Philip put a lot of work on the internal and external improvement of the monastery. Large monetary contributions from the tsar and other benefactors made it possible to build two large churches: in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and the Transfiguration of the Lord. The relics of the founders of the monastery, Saints Zosima and Savvaty, were transferred to the latter. Thanks to the tsar's right of duty-free trade in salt and exemplary economic activity of Abbot Philip, the monastery became the richest industrial and cultural center of northern Pomorie. Philip arranged a network of canals between the numerous lakes on the Solovetsky Island, installed mills on them, erected a number of new outbuildings, and increased household inventory; On the Pomor lands, the number of salt brewhouses increased, and the first ironmaking weapons factory in the Korel district was organized on the banks of the Pyala River.
With his righteous life, the Solovetsky abbot acquired universal respect, and the fame of him and of his life spread so far that it reached Tsar Ivan the Terrible, who summoned Philip from the Solovetsky monastery and offered to take the chair of the Metropolitan of Moscow.
On August 5, 1621, the Tsar's letter came to the Solovetsky Monastery, which said that since Solovki is a "Ukrainian place" (outskirts), the monastery must be strengthened, stone dwelling houses for service people should be built and there was a need to "a moat near the Solovetsky city, which will be laid out with stone ... dig it out, and cut it out with a stone and beat the garlic. "
The future Patriarch Nikon at the age of 30 was tonsured in 1635 with his own name in the Holy Trinity Anzersky Skete of the Solovetsky Monastery. After some time, the Monk Eleazar of Anzersk, the initial elder of the skete, included in the number of Nikon's duties the celebration of the liturgies and the management of the economic part. But in 1639, having come into conflict with Eleazar, Nikon fled from the skete and was later admitted to the Kozheozersky monastery.
The monastery condemned the church reform of Patriarch Nikon as heresy. The confrontation took the form of a siege (the so-called Solovetsky seat), which lasted from 1668 to 1676. In 1676, the fortress was taken as a result of the betrayal of one of the monks. Almost all of the rebellious monks were killed. Balthazar Coyette, who came to Arkhangelsk in 1675 as part of the Dutch embassy, recorded in his memoirs the story of a pilot that the monastery was besieged by 10 thousand archers and that the monks, having 300 guns and supplies for 30 years, bravely defended themselves. Later, however, the Dutch learned that the monastery had been captured, as most of the monks fled.
Crafts flourished in the monastery: he owned salt pans, smithies; monks and novices caught and raised fish, hunted animals, and grew vegetables. The economy of the monastery reached a particular prosperity under the abbot Irinarkh (1613-1626).
At the same time, the monastery fought for natural resources. In the middle of the 17th century, the monastery took possession of the village of Udor near the Seryogov salt field (770 km from Solovki) on the Vymi River (now the Komi Republic). To establish the salt industry, the leadership of the monastery sent three plenipotentiary representatives to Seryogovo. 170 people arrived with them, including 50 archers. Between the Solovetsky Monastery and the merchant Filatiev (in 1678 he opened a small fishery for salt), on the one hand, and the local salt-maker Pankratyev, on the other hand, a “war” began, described in the petition of the second side as follows: and stabbed with spears and his man Ivashka Yakimov was shot to death, four people were wounded and the workers of 5 yards were burned. " In Moscow, Pankratyev managed to initiate a lawsuit against competitors, succeeded in replacing the Yarensk voivode (Filatyev's patron), hired and sent 20 "his" Ustyug riflemen to Seryogovo. After that, Filatiev's craft fell into decay, and the Solovetsky Monastery abandoned its claims to the extraction of salt. In honor of this victory in the "war" between the owner of the plant Pankratyev and the archers of the Solovetsky Monastery and the people of Filatyev, a cross was erected on the river bank in 1684.
Along with Kemyu, the Solovetsky monastery was an important border fortress with a garrison and artillery. By the 17th century, there were about 350 monks, 600-700 novices and peasants in the monastery. Twice, on July 7, 1694 and on August 10, 1702, Tsar Peter Alekseevich visited the monastery, and in June 1844 - Prince Konstantin Nikolaevich. After visiting the monastery by Peter I, several more monasteries were attributed to Solovetsky, including the Krasnokholmskaya hermitage in the Moscow region. In 1765 the monastery became stavropegic, that is, it came under the direct subordination of the Synod. The monastery had an extensive library, and by the 20th century, its own hydroelectric power station appeared.
In the nineteenth century Solovetsky Monastery unexpectedly becomes a strategic military location. Despite the fact that the cannons were removed from the monastery walls in 1814, the monastery still had enough firepower to repel British attack in 1854 during the Crimean War. Two British warships "Brisk" and "Miranda" failed to break the defenses and had to retreat from the Solovetsky archipelago despite firing over 1800 rounds fired at the monastery. British naval officers didn't dare to venture into the Solovetsky Monastery bay out of fear they might run aground and become easy targets. So they stayed at the far distance firing cannons with little effect. Both ships were forced to retreat.
Just several months later British ships arrived at the doorsteps of the Solovetsky Monastery. The head of the monastery refused to invite foreign soldiers on the sacred grounds. Instead he met their representatives on the shores of the White Sea. The British left without achieving any results. They could force monks to give up their monastery, but the British couldn't take the citadel without significant loss of life. They retreated again. The monks carved an inscription on a rock on a site of the meeting as a dedication to God's grace. This Negotiation Rock as it is known today is still visible.
From the 16th to the beginning of the 20th century, the monastery also served as a political and church prison. The chambers in the monastery towers and the walls of this monastery had the shape of a truncated cone, about three meters long, two meters wide and two meters high, and one meter at the narrow end. According to various estimates, from the time of Ivan the Terrible to 1883, from 500 to 550 prisoners passed through the prison of the Solovetsky Monastery, including such notable personalities as P.A.Tolstoy, V.L.Dolgorukov, P.I. Kalnyshevsky, F.P. Shakhovskoy.
The Solovetsky prison existed until 1883, when the last prisoners were taken out of it, but the guard soldiers were kept in it until 1886. After the official closure of the prison, the Solovetsky Monastery continued to serve as a place of exile for the guilty church ministers.
Solovetsk biological station
In 1881, the abbot of the monastery, Archimandrite Melety (Shergin), who was notable for his interest in nature and sciences, together with the professor of St. Petersburg University Nikolai Wagner, created a biological station at the monastery with a huge aquarium room at that time and a hydrobiological laboratory equipped with the latest technology. In addition to the biological station, Melety created a meteorological station and a geophysical observatory at the monastery. The Solovetsky biological station existed until 1899.
In 1996, the Solovetsky branch of the White Sea Biological Station of Moscow State University was created.
After October Revolution in 1917 Communists started to implement their atheist beliefs. In 1918 first platoon of Red Guards shows up on the island and confiscates part of the food provisions from a monastery. This was followed by complete closure in 1920. The head of Soviet government M.S. Kedrov who arrived on the island ordered execution its abbot Archimandrite Veniamin (Benjamin) (Kononov) along with his personal aid ieromonk Nikifor (Kuchin). Both were closed in a small house and subsequently burned alive near river Lodma. Ironically the date of the death coincided with Russian Orthodox Easter of 1928. Between 1922- 1939 Solovetsky Monastery was turned into concentration camp. It became officially known as Solovetsky Lager' Osobogo Naznachenia, which is translated as the "Solovki Special Purpose Camp". Its Russian acronym SLON, that is also translated as "elephant", became widely known among prisoners and later among common Russians. Later experience of Solovetsky concentration camp or simply Solovki as it became popularly known, was used in establishing a massive Gulag system all across the Soviet Union. It is no surprise that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called SLON "the mother of Gulag".
In 1939 SLON was given to the Northern Military Navy and a school of young officers was established here. On October 25th 1990 the archipelago was transferred to Russian Orthodox Church once again. Soviet stars were removed and Christian crosses were raised to their rightful location. Even though it is an active monastery, it is open to the tourists.
Kremlin is not just a description of military fortifications in Moscow. It is a general term that describes any defended Russian or Ukrainian city. Solovetsky Monastery in this sense is no exception. Main complex of Solovki Monastery was constructed from huge boulder that reach thickness of up to 6 meters. Massive round towers protected the site from all directions. Each tower was intended as a semi- autonomous defense position. If parts of the wall fell, defenders would retreat to these walls and close themselves inside.
This stone is located on the shore just south of Kremlin. It was placed here to commemorate retreat of the British fleet after second failed attempt to take Solovetsky Monastery during the Crimean War.
It is hard to imagine that cold archipelago in the middle of the White Sea could harbor any significant diversity of life. Yet human ingenuity and prowess made it possible. Over 100 plant species of different plants are found on the islands of the Solovetsky Monastery. Many were brought from other parts of the World as a donation to the monastic community. Unfortunately many of the species went extinct during the Soviet period, yet the tradition to grow various plants comes back.
Obviously Botanical Garden is the center of such biodiversity. It is located north of the main Kremlin. The explanation of such unusual growth is actually quite simple. Solovetsky Monastery accepted thousands of pilgrims from all across Russia and abroad annually. Additionally close to 1000 people lived on the island. The need for candles for the churches of the monastery required a local monastic factory that produced thousands of candles. The heat from the this massive production was channeled into small covered farms of the Botanical Garden. Monks of Solovetsky Monastery created a true miracle of the Russian North. They grew many species of flowers and fruits, including pineapple in the midst of unforgiving cold northern climate.
Solovki Island has numerous lakes left from the times of the Ice Age. Tons of ice carved lakes, but it left no rivers. The monks quickly changed this situation by digging canals that cover parts of the island. Starting from the 16th century under leadership of hegumen (head of the monastery) Phillip inhabitants of the monastery connected 52 lakes into one single meshwork of channels. They were used for transport of fish and merchandise. Today it is used by tourists and locals alike.
Sekirnaya Hill is situated north of the main Kremlin complex on the highest mountain on the island. Monks constructed a Church of Ascension here. The church also served as a lighthouse with a lens placed at the base of the cross. During Soviet years, then Solovki were turned into a concentration camp, the church was turned into worst punishment. It was always cold and few prisoners survived here. Among these lucky survivors was Vladimir Stepanovich Gundyaev, a priest who was punished by atheist government for serving masses at his house and also grand father of current Russian Patriarch Cyril. A Commemoration Cross was erected here after fall of Soviet Union. Sekirnaya Hill is also notable for its ancient burials and a religious pagan complex that once stood here. It was abandoned centuries before first Christian monks settled here. This is how it might have looked like. The picture is taken from a map made by Anthony Wood in 1552-55. However it is unknown what was his source for the depiction, whether it was a remains of the previous structures made by pagan tribes or imagination of the traveler who used familiar Russian Orthodox Christian structures.
View from the hill
Anzer Island is situated just North West of the Big Island. It is famous for its mountains that the local monks called Golgotha after a mountain near Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was Crucified. According to a legend three centuries ago two monks Job and Paisy were working on this island then they saw a vision of Holy Mother of God, Mary. She told them to call this mountain a Golgotha and build a church here to honour the Biblical Golgotha. One of the monks was genuinely surprised for such a grim and strange choice for a namesake and asked maybe Holy Virgin a church devoted to herself. Holy Mary responded that this Golgotha is set for the Russian clergy. The monks abided and constructed a church here, named a mountain. Just two centuries later the prophecy came true and Solovetsky islands were turned into a concentration camp. Anzer Island had a hospital and a birth centre. Untold number of prisoners died here. There is no records and the building itself today lies in ruins.
No, this is not a Photoshop. It is an old birch on Golgotha in shape of a cross. By the way the only cross that miraculously survived being destroyed on the orders of political officer Uspensky in the 1920's was a cross that was erected here by brother Efrem on October 25th Julian Calendar or November 7th Western Calendar, 1917. Ironically it was the date of Russian Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power. It stands here on the Anzer Island. Solovetsky Crosses were big and required months of manual work. They marked holy places, graves and other important locations. Slowly, but surely their number on the islands of Solovetsky Archipelago grows.
Sami called their religious megalith structures- Seyda. The most popular is located here on a Zayatsky Island, although there at least 30 such structures on the Solovetsky archipelago. There is no agreement on the purpose of the structure, but discovery of iron objects and burned human bones suggest that it had an important role in the cult of the dead. Age of construction is also uncertain. Most historians date it to 1st and 2nd centuries AD.
Russian Orthodox Church Of Saint Andrew. This seemingly small and unimportant church was created by Russian Emperor Peter the Great and his sailors in the late 17th century. They managed to complete the task just in 6 days. Once they completed they blessed the first Naval Military Flag of Saint Andrew here.
Solovetsky Kamen' (Stone) in Moscow covered by flowers and candles. Behind is the main building of Soviet Secret Police that had different named through its history: CheKa, NKVD, KGB and etc. Soviet Concentration Camp located within walls of the medieval Christian monastery that became widely known as Solovki became a symbol of oppressive totalitarian state. Shortly after a fall of Communism a stone from the monastery was brought here on Lyubyanka Square as a reminder of millions lost in Solovetsky Camp as well as other camps around former Soviet Union.
Professor A.E.Anisimov - art critic
I.P.Antsiferov - historian
Vladimir Artemyev - inventor
V.W.Bakhton - inventor
Vladimir N. Beneshevich - historian, paleographer
A.V.Bobrishev-Pushkin - descendant of Decembrist Pavel Sergeievich Bobrishev-Pushkin
I.E.Braz - artist
Leonid Feodorov - Bishop and Exarch of the Russian Catholic Church.
Pavel Alexandrovich Florensky - priest, scientist, encyclopaedist
G.J.Gordon - historian
A.K.Gorsky - poet
Archimandrite Illarion (Troitsky) - Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy
Academician Dmitry Sergeyevich Likhachov - philologist
Mirjaqip Dulatuli- Kazakh writer
I.V. Popov - Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy
Varlam Shalamov - writer
Vladimir V. Tchernavin - ichthyologist
H.H.Vinogradov - ethnographer
Oleg V. Volkov - writer
M.N.Voronoy - poet
There is no exact list of casualties in this camp. The official number lists them at 8000 people, however many of the prisoners were used in various construction projects in the regions. Their numbers were not officially added to the number of dead. Thus about 8,700 men from the Solovki camp died during construction of Belomor- Baltiysky Channel.
Soviet documentary from 1928- 29 traces a journey from Moscow to Solovetsky Concentration Camp
Renewal of monastic life
On October 25, 1990, the Holy Synod blessed the opening of the Spaso-Preobrazhensky stavropegic monastery; Abbot Herman (Chebotar) was appointed acting governor. In the autumn of the same year, the first novices appeared.
By a decree of February 9, 1992, Patriarch Alexy II appointed Abbot (now Archimandrite) Joseph (Bratishchev) as the abbot of the monastery. Bishop Eulogius of Vladimir and Suzdal was ordained as hegumen in the home church of the monastery.
On August 19-21, 1992 the relics of the Monks Zosima, Savvaty and Herman, the Solovetsky miracle workers, were transferred from St. Petersburg to the monastery. The celebrations were led by Patriarch Alexy II; August 22 (according to the new style) began to be celebrated as the Cathedral of the Solovetsky Saints.
On August 22, 1992, the Patriarch consecrated the gateway church of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, where the relics of the Solovetsky miracle workers were placed. With the blessing of Patriarch Alexy II, since 1993, the celebration of the Second transfer of the holy relics of the Monks Zosima, Savvaty and Herman has been established on August 8 (21), and the next day, August 9 (22), the memory of the Cathedral of the Solovetsky Saints is commemorated.
Archaeological excavations and new construction
In 1997-2003, archaeological excavations were carried out on the territory of the monastery with the aim of discovering the graves of Saints Savvaty, Herman and Archbishop Markell of Vologda - his white-stone tombstone was accidentally discovered near the fortress wall north of the Arkhangelsk Tower. In 2002, the broken grave and part of the relics of the Monk Herman were discovered, the next year the intact grave of Markell was found. It was established that the wooden tomb of 1545 of the Monk Savvaty from 1622 began to be called the Tomb of Herman. In 1663, in its place began the construction of a large wooden chapel of St. Herman, which in 1753 was rebuilt into a stone chapel, and in 1859 a stone church was erected on this site.
“Markelle was buried in a wooden sarcophagus with a lid lined with birch bark and punched along the edges with small iron nails. The garment consisted of a phelonion and an omophorion of gold-woven embroidery. On his head was an embroidered gold-woven cowl with an image on the forehead of the Savior with a halo and cherubs on the temples with the inscription: "Cherub". On the chest lay a panagia made of two carved wooden plates, framed by a silver patterned frame. On the belly there is a copper buckle with the remains of a belt. At the feet are leather sandals. "
In 2015, the museum collection was replenished with 877 items, 64 items were received in the main fund of the museum, 37 of which are items from the collection of stove relief polychrome ceramics, depicting horses and floral ornaments. In 2016, the museum collection was replenished with 1,783 items, of which 63 items were transferred to the main fund of the museum.
In November 2007, Russian Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi announced that a decision had been made to completely remove the museum from the walls of the monastery. The museum complex, 65 m long along the facade and more than 10 m high, is planned to be built right under the walls of the monastery. The total cost of construction exceeds 700 million rubles. After expert protests in the fall of 2015, construction was suspended with the intention of lowering its height by one floor. The director of the Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture admitted the entire project was a mistake.
At the same time, there were reports that the authorities decided to build an airport in the immediate vicinity of the monastery. In 2015, a mission of UNESCO experts, who visited the monastery, stated that “the unceasing urbanization poses a serious threat” to the integrity of the architectural ensemble. In 2016, at the World Heritage Session, UNESCO did not include the monastery in the endangered World Heritage List, but called for the construction of museum buildings and the airport to be moved to a more suitable location.
The memorial cross, carved by the monk Diodorus, a monk of the Holy Ascension Skete, in honor of Saints Anthony and Theodosius, the Pechersk miracle workers, was installed on the Bolshoi Solovetsky Island six miles from the Solovetsky Monastery on the way to the Isaac Skete, on the site of the chapel in honor of Anthony and Theodosius, which was in the number of those lost during the camp. This small wooden chapel, built at the end of the 18th century, has long preserved a carved cross from the 17th century.
In total, about 20 crosses were installed by the Solovetsky Monastery in the late XX - early XXI centuries. According to Archimandrite Joseph (Bratishchev), the governor of the Solovetsky Monastery of the Savior Transfiguration, “the crosses remind of the former greatness of the monastery, as they are installed on the site of lost churches, chapels, and memorial sites”.
Also in the summer, the Association of Northern
Navigation in the Bay of Prosperity installed an 8-meter Orthodox
cross on the stone luda of the Herdy Cape, which existed before 1917
and served as a kind of lighthouse. Also, on the initiative of the
partnership, a memorial cross was erected in 2002 on the site of the
Varvara chapel destroyed in the 1930s on the Solovetsky Islands.
In the summer of 2007, a river procession of the Cross "Way of the Cross: Solovki - Butovo" was organized with the transfer of the Great Poklonniy Cross from Solovki to Butovo, timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the beginning of mass repressions in 1937-1938.
Monastery in philately, bonistics, numismatics
On the back of a Russian 500-ruble note (modifications up to 2010), the Solovetsky Monastery was depicted from the side of the Holy Lake. Contrary to the existing misconception, the gable roof was replaced by “Dutch” pitched roofs before the revolution.
Since September 6, 2011, a 2010 modification note has been put into circulation in Russia, on the reverse of which the image of the Solovetsky Monastery has been significantly changed: a ship that had previously moved along the Holy Lake was removed (this class of ships was never used by monks and local residents), and the angle was changed images of the monastery, based on the modern look of the building.
There are two main ways to reach the Solovetsky Islands: by air from Arkhangelsk, or by boat from Kem'/Belomorsk.
Nordavia Regional Airlines (a subsidiary of Aeroflot) fly the 50minute journey from Solovki to Arkhangelsk up to twice a week. Prices start at approximately RUB5000 one way. The airport is in close proximity to the monastery and the islands' main settlement.
By boat from Kem': Kem' is easily accessible as a stop on the Petersburg-Murmansk mainline. From there, it is 12km to the port settlement of Rabocheostrovsk, a journey that can be done either by bus (regularly from 6am) or by taxi. In the summer season, boats leave three times a day (June-August 2016: 8:00, 12:30, 17:30), take 2 hours, and cost RUB1200 for an adult. Booking the journey out to Solovki is advised, as it regularly books up fully. If, however, you arrive and have not booked, there are boats owned by the monastery that leave at 7am (frequency uncertain), and it has been suggested that they are reluctant to leave people stranded in Rabocheostrovsk. The cost is also RUB1200, and definitely an experience!
By boat from Belomorsk: Belomorsk is also accessible by rail, boats leave daily to Solovki, taking 4 hours and costing RUB1200.
By boat from Arkhangelsk: In the summer months, boats also ply the route between Arkhangelsk and Solovki (up to three times a month) but it is worth consulting a travel agent about this for prices and availibility
There is no paved road.
Hotel Priyut: nice and clean, 1900 roubles for a single with
Peterburgskaya Obshchezhitie (Petersburg Hostel) has beds for as low as RUB450, but booking in advance by phone is essential in peak season. (+88183590375)
Apartment on Primorskaya 9 (Natalya's Apartment) (Walk 7 minutes heading SW from the monastery.), e-mail: email@example.com Natalya has a cute single room for $22 (as of Summer 2018) and a living room that can accommodate up to 4 people for $70 with breakfast included. She also offers home-cooked meals for a reasonable price. You'll want to eat here; she was the former cook at the monastery. There is one shared bathroom with a toilet and shower with hot water. No wifi. Natalya speaks conversational English and normally spends the winters in Moscow. $22-$70.
Sloboda hotel is the only place to access semi-reliable wifi on the island - RUB100 for 24hours access.