Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Valaam Monastery, Russia

Let's see whether I'll be able to update today.. the internet has been playing up quite a bit yesterday and today, really annoying although thankfully I don't need it *that* urgently as I'm not working on a translation assignment at the moment. Even without these disruptions, I'm getting a little behind with this blog.. I don't know how some people are able to update so often..?! I'm a little jealous sometimes :P

Anyway... This card arrived in a swap back in January. I had an envelope full of absolutely gorgeous postcards from Russia, thanks to Natalia. I thought I'd post about this particular card as it's a little closer to home than the rest, and also because the name of this place is so familiar. Some of my relatives have visited the Valaam Monastery (Valamo in Finnish) and it always sounded quite fascinating. I hadn't realised it's this pretty and colourful, though!

The Valaam Monastery is a stauropegic Orthodox monastery in Russian Karelia, located on Valaam, the largest island in Lake Ladoga, the largest lake in Europe. It is not clear when the monastery was founded. As the cloister is not mentioned in documents before the 16th century, different dates - from 10th to 15th centuries - have been expounded.

The Valaam monastery was a northern outpost of Eastern Orthodoxy against the heathens and, later, a western outpost against Catholic Christianity from Tavastia, Savonia and (Swedish) Karelia. The power struggle between Russians and Swedes pushed the border eastwards in the 16th century; in 1578 the monastery was attacked and numerous monks and novices were killed by the Lutheran Swedes. The monastery was desolate between 1611 and 1715 after another attack of the Swedes, the buildings being burnt to the ground and the Karelian border between Russia and Sweden being drawn through Lake Ladoga. In the 18th century the monastery was magnificently restored, and in 1812 it came under the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland.

In 1917, Finland became independent, and the Finnish Orthodox Church became autonomous under the Orthodox Church of Constantinople, as previously it had been a part of the Russian Orthodox Church. Valaam (Valamo) was the most important monastery of the Finnish Orthodox Church. The liturgic language was changed from Church Slavonic to Finnish, and the liturgic calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. These changes led to bitter decade-long disputes in the monastic community of Valaam.

The territory was fought over by the Soviet Union and Finland during World War II. Due to the Winter War, the monastery was evacuated in 1940, when 150 monks settled in Heinävesi in Finland. This community still exists as New Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi. Having received evacuees from the Konevitsa monastery and Petsamo monastery, it is now the only monastery of the Finnish Orthodox Church.

From 1941 to 1944, during the Continuation War, an attempt was made to restore the monastery buildings at Old Valaam, but later the island served as a Soviet military base.

Since the original Valaam Monastery was bequeathed back to the Orthodox Church in 1989, it has been enjoying the personal patronage of Patriarch Alexey II. The monastery, whose buildings have been meticulously restored, has gained significant legal power over the island, in a push to return to a state of spiritual seclusion. After years of fruitless legal proceedings with the monastery, many residents of the island chose to leave, though a few still remain.

..and here's another reason why I wanted to post this card: the envelope was cancelled on 11/1/11! :D It makes for a pretty cool cancellation if you ask me. The big stamp on the left was issued in 2009 and commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the Birth of U.A. Gagarin (1934-1968), first Astronaut in the World. The other stamps are definitives. The one on the left was issued in 2008 in a set of 15 stamps, this one representing a Fox. The ones on the right are from a set of 12 definitives issued in 2009, depicting Russian Kremlins. The ones here show the Moscow Kremlin (top) and the Rostov Kremlin (bottom).

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