The premiere broadcast on Russia 1 TV channel is a documentary by Andrey Kondrashov "Valaam".
It's about an archipelago in Ladoga Lake where the monks of the Valaam Stauropegial Monastery have lived for centuries in the harsh northern conditions. It's a sacred place for all Orthodox Christians, a spiritual center, attracting pilgrims from all over the world.
Valaam is called the Northern Athos for a reason. The history of the ancient monastery is intertwined with the history of Russia. The monks on the island were sometimes persecuted, only to be revived every time. The last time it was in decline was in the Soviet era, and it was especially difficult in the 90s. Now Valaam is prospering.
So, the documentary will follow Vesti — News of the Week. Right now we'll show an extract.
Winter, frost and snow, there are almost no pilgrims, tourists can hardly get here at all, but, as Bishop Pankraty admits, this is the most precious and beautiful time on Valaam. One never gets bored as the monk's consolation is prayer and spiritual merriment.
The hidden energy of Valaam is such that people who have once been here can not forget it, dreaming of coming back. Monks jokingly call these people infected with Valaam. You can't either cure or understand it. Often even those who, like the Valaam monks, devoted their lives to the service of the Lord, can't.
Bishop Pankraty: "The brothers who come, the fathers from Athos, mainly speak about 2 subjects. The first one is Putin, like, we're lucky to have such a President, they're jealous. For them, Putin is a kind of a hero. A role model. He's a believer, and so strong. And the second subject is ice".
Valaam is really not as warm as Greek Athos. And Ladoga is not the Mediterranean Sea. This huge northern lake can be ice-bound even at the end of March. And in the fall it is instantly covered with razor-sharp hummocks which cut the air cushions of the boats. Only heavier ships can break the ice.
But the difficulties are secondary if people come here for Christmas, which is felt on Valaam not like in other places. The Valaam Monastery built not at the outskirts, but at the crossing of many trade routes, in the center of the lively region where it was repeatedly devastated by enemy invasions. The buildings were destroyed, documents and chronicles were burnt, objects of worship were destroyed, and still the monastery was always restored, rebuilt to regain greatness and power. Just like Russia itself.
But even in the most difficult times, the monks prayed and looked forward, not forgetting the lessons of the past. On March 18, 1940, when the Monastery Bay was ice-bound for some reason for an unprecedentedly long time, the bell began ringing. Like now. Everyone is calculating the number of times. And the bell beat the signal of trouble. 24 strokes announce the closing of the monastery. The brothers hastily took all the Valaam shrines with them and left the island on foot for as long as 49 years. The New Valaam monastery arose in Finland at a stone's throw, less than 100 kilometers away from here. And the old island of St. Valaam was doomed to extinction.
However, everything was not as disastrous as the monks expected and prepared for, knowing what the clergy suffered in the Soviet Union right after the revolution. Times changed. Soviet officers were extremely correct, they were not at all up for atrocities or sacrilege.
President Putin: "The Patriarch has told that when the Soviet troops were ready to enter the island, the archipelago, for some reason they stayed on the shore and invited clergymen from the monastery. One of them accepted the invitation. Suddenly a Soviet officer said to him: "How much time do you need to pack and leave?" They asked for several days, packed all the most precious — all the holy things, left and took everything with them.
You know, it made me think about the following. Of course, in those hardest days of the Civil War and the militant atheism, when the seeds of discord in the Russian community were sown, the seeds of accord always remained with us, primarily thanks to the Russian Orthodox Church. The fact that the officers allowed the monks to leave and take the shrines with them is the best evidence that the seeds of accord never left us".
In addition, the Red Army officers allowed the monks to bid farewell to the holy land without fuss and haste. Under the gloomy sky of the Russian North, they got underway with a prayer on the ice which thawed a little.
Back then, few people understood the importance of faith in people's lives. And Valaam as a true mirror of Russia fully reflected it.
Following the Great Patriotic War, the monastery buildings hosted a boarding school for the physically challenged, where those who could not earn their living, who had nobody to take care of them, were taken from all over the country.
Andrey Kondrashov: "How much do you think we changed morally over the time when the Valaam Monastery and the whole country were in ruins? Does faith, not necessarily Orthodox, have any role?"
President Putin: "Maybe some won't like what I'm going to say, but I'll say what I think. First, this faith has always accompanied us. It strengthened when our country, our people faced hardships. There were very tough years of militant atheism when priests were destroyed, temples were ruined. But at the same time, a new religion was created.
In fact, the communist ideology is very similar to Christianity. Freedom, brotherhood, equality, justice — it's all enshrined in the Holy Writ. And what about the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism? This is a primitive excerpt from the Bible, nothing new was invented.
Look, Lenin was put in a mausoleum. In what way is it different from the relics of saints for Orthodox Christians, just for Christians? When I am told that there is no such tradition in the Christian world, I ask: How come? Go to Athos and see holy relics. And we also have here the holy relics of Sergius and Herman.
In fact, the then government did not invent anything new. They only adapted to their ideology what humanity had already invented".
Finally, it returned to the original religion settled on the Russian land, Orthodoxy, when it became clear that the ideas of building communism, to put it mildly, were not enough to weld the nation in the face of the enemy that came close to the capital.
And the mirror of Valaam, broken by fools and vandals, still clearly reflected what was happening in the country.
Watch "Valaam" today right after Vesti — News of the Week.