A. A. KRYUKOV
Head of the Representative Office of Rossotrudnichestvo in Israel
For many decades, the phenomenon of "Russian Palestine" - the scientific, cultural and spiritual presence of Russia-has been firmly established in the public consciousness in Israel.
Considerable credit for this belongs to the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IPPO). This charity organization, which was influential in the 19th century, was renamed the Russian Palestine Society in the 20th century and began to operate under the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1992, the organization was restored to its former name. Both in the 19th and 20th centuries, the IPPO united major Russian orientalists.
The initiator of the organization of an official mission from Russia to Palestine was at one time the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice-Chancellor Karl Nesselrode. It was after Count Nesselrode's report to Emperor Nicholas I, which described the oppression of Orthodox Christians in Palestine by both Muslims and Catholics and Protestants, that Archimandrite Porfiry (Uspensky), head of the first Russian ecclesiastical mission in Jerusalem, was sent to the Middle East. One of these missions was later led by the equally famous Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin). After Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, a charitable organization, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, was established in St. Petersburg in 1882 by the will of Tsar Alexander III. It was headed by the Emperor's brother, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, after whose death the baton was taken over by his wife, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. Her remains are buried in Jerusalem under the arch of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (belongs to the Russian "white", i.e. the Church abroad) in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The soul and actual manager of the IPPO was a Russian writer and public figure, a brilliant financier Vasily Nikolaevich Khitrovo. The IPPO included the highest nobility, major civil officials, church leaders, and the academic elite. Until the October Revolution of 1917, IPPO owned land plots of more than 270 hectares in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. In the cities of Hebron and Jaffa, on the Mount of Olives, in Gethsemane, in Canna of Galilee, monasteries, metochias, churches, hermitages, schools, colleges, seminaries, hospitals were built - up to 70 objects in total.
In Soviet times, the possessions of Russian Palestine were squandered: some God-pleasing institutions came under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, and some were sold to Israel during the time of Khrushchev. We are talking about the infamous so-called "orange deal". In 1964, the Soviet government sold most of the Russian real estate to Israel for the symbolic sum of $4.5 million, much of which went to the USSR in oranges. The cultural and political presence of the Russian state in Palestine has sharply decreased.
The Russian presence in Palestine is not only a history of pilgrimage to holy places, but also a diplomatic, educational and scientific presence.
This was largely facilitated by the Palestinian society. In particular, in addition to helping pilgrims, it performed the tasks of supporting scientific research.
Archimandrite Porphyry (Uspensky) laid the foundation for such research long before the Society was founded. He was widely known in scientific circles as a researcher of the history of early Christianity and a collector of ancient written monuments and relics. Its library is a unique collection of books, manuscripts and documents on the history of Orthodoxy and Russian Palestinian studies.
Later, Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) contributed to a great scientific work in the Holy Land. He was one of the first to organize archaeological excavations in different areas of Pales-
mud, including on the territory adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem. Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin) immortalized his name by discovering during these excavations the threshold of the Doomsday Gate, through which, according to the biblical legend, Jesus Christ went to the crucifixion to Golgotha. Today, the site is occupied by the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia.
IPPO's educational activities are widely known. A year after its formation, four schools were opened for children of Orthodox Arabs, and by 1907 there were more than a hundred such schools, they were attended by about 12 thousand students. At the end of the 19th century, "Russian" women's and men's seminaries were working in Palestine to train school teachers - Arab youth were willing to go there. The best seminary graduates were sent to continue their studies in Russia. Many generations of orientalists have studied Arabic from the textbook of one of the graduates of the female seminary of the Palestinian Society, Kulsum Ode-Vasilyeva.
After the October Revolution, Palestinian society virtually ceased to exist. Its revival took place after the Great Patriotic War within the framework of the USSR Academy of Sciences thanks to scientists. The re-establishment of Russian Orthodox Society meant the revival of scientific research in the Middle East in Russia. It was in those years that he was given the spirit of a serious scientific school with a wide range of research. There were no representatives of the Church in this society during the Soviet period.
In the spring of 2008, there was another political incident related to the statements of Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem, who did not speak very favorably about the role of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and, first of all, the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society in Palestine. Patriarch Theophilos III is dissatisfied with the active support of the Arab population, that is, the Palestinians, by Orthodox Russians. Patriarch Theophilus III is a Greek (in Palestine, the main hierarchs of the Orthodox Church have always been and still are Greeks). The IPPO really supported the Orthodox Arabs in their struggle with the Greeks for primacy in the church, because Arab priests were not given parishes. Since the time of Porphyry (Uspensky) and Antonin (Kapustin), Russian missionaries have been organizing schools for Arab children, teaching the population literacy and crafts. This continued during the Soviet period.
Orthodox Arab identity is a very important factor. Unfortunately, at present the Christian element in the Arab world is weakening, being replaced by a powerful Islamic influence. In recent years, oppressed Christian Arabs have been leaving Palestine and Lebanon.
After the "orange deal", only the Trinity Cathedral and the building of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission remained under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in Jerusalem, part of which was leased by Israel for the Jerusalem World Court.
In 2005, during his first and only visit to Israel, President Vladimir Putin raised the issue of returning the Sergiev Metochion (part of the former Russian compound in the center of Jerusalem) to Russia, addressing the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
St. Sergius ' farmstead was built in 1886-1890. This is one of the most beautiful buildings in Jerusalem. The building was registered in the name of the Grand Duke, Moscow Governor-General Sergei Romanov, who in 1905 would be killed by a Socialist-Revolutionary bomber. In those years, Orthodox pilgrims from Russia came to the Holy Land by the tens of thousands, and Moscow built hotels, monasteries, and hospitals in Jerusalem and its environs. St. Sergius Metochion was designed to accommodate thousands of pilgrims at a time. During the Easter holidays, tents were pitched in the courtyard of the compound to accommodate as many Russians as possible who came to the Holy Land. Russia lost control of the compound during the years of post-revolutionary anarchy, and Israel placed units of several ministries there after 1948.
In October 2008, the Israeli government, at the initiative of then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, approved the transfer of the metochion to the jurisdiction of Russia. The Israelis showed good will and finally handed over to Russia at the end of December 2008 the Sergiev Metochion as an object that was not included in the list of the "orange deal" of 1964. 10 million rubles were allocated from the presidential reserve fund for the repair of this unique historical and archival structure. After the legal registration of the transfer of the metochion, it housed the Jerusalem branch of the IPPO. In May 2010, an international conference was held there, which was attended by Russian diplomats and scientists from the University of Nizhny Novgorod.
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