“Many historians have suggested that Stalin was responsible for a death total of around 20 million, citing much higher victim totals from executions, Gulag camps, deportations and other causes. Simon Sebastian Montefiore suggested that Stalin was ultimately responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 25 million people ...
The dangers to journalists in Russia have been well known since the early 1990s but concern at the number of unsolved killings soared after Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in Moscow on 7 October 2006. While international monitors spoke of several dozen deaths, some sources within Russia talked of over two hundred fatalities...(and you can actually read this long list of names) The evidence has been examined and documented in two reports, published in Russian and English, by international organizations...The Remembrance Day Of Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty is observed on 15 December every year.”
(From the Wikipedia article on the list of journalists killed in Russia and deaths under Josef Stalin)
During my first year as an apprentice to the Russian American Master iconographer, Friar Robert Lentz, I was approached by a friend who suffered from haemophilia, to paint for him a patron he designated as, Alexei Romanov. I had been introduced to Russia in a way, by my Father who as governor had traveled to Russia in 1959 and met, and sparred with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He brought home stories of Soviet Russia I will never forget. In November 1981, the Romanov Family was canonized as the first martyrs of the Revolution, along the servants who died with them and 860 other martyrs, as confessors and passion bearers of the faith. If you watch the 1971 film “Nicholas and Alexandria” and follow it with the 1965 classic “Dr Zhivago,” you get a cinematic history of Russia, before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution. I myself traveled to Magadan, Far East Russia in 1995. I was commissioned by Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage to paint an icon honoring the thousands of deaths in the death camp in Magadan, which was finally closed by Kruschev in 1955. This visit so haunting, beautiful and frightening has never left me. To prepare to do the icon of Our Lady of Magadan I read a most unique and unforgettable book by Nathaniel Davis, called “A Long Walk To Church.” It is a history of the Russian Orthodox Church during the most desperate and fearful times. Google Books has this to say, “Making use of the formerly secret archives of the Soviet government, and first-hand personal experiences, Nathaniel Davis describes how the Russian Orthodox Church hung on the brink of institutional extinction twice in the past sixty-five years. In 1939, only a few score widely scattered priests were still functioning openly...”
I think to see and feel the soul of Russia, I would suggest watching Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, “Andrei Rublev” who is the patron of iconographers and whose feast In Russia is celebrated tomorrow, July 4th. The original film was so threatening to the soviets that it was cut dramatically, so that it didn’t make much sense, but was still considered a great film. The new restored version is 206 minutes, and you cannot help but see how Tarkovsky was trying to wake up the soul of Russia. It is a long,black and white, (lots of snow) contemplative view of medieval life in Russia for the first 200 minutes ! Then the last few minutes it bursts into color as Tarkovsky’s camera slowly, lovingly pores over Rublev’s Trinity and other icons.
A blessed 4th of July and feast of St Andrei Rublev!
Fr Bill McNichols
3 July 2018