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A Monastic Revival: The Russian Orthodox Church

Stella Rock sees a renaissance of religious traditions at what was one of Russia’s most vibrant monasteries before the Soviet purge.

The Russian Orthodox Church has played a powerful role in post-Soviet society’s efforts to reassess and reclaim the pre-revolutionary past – it has canonised Tsar Nicholas II, rebuilt ruined monuments, researched and commemorated Christians persecuted by the Soviet regime. The revival of its monasteries is one of the most astonishing aspects of this process. While Western convents are closing and selling their property, the reverse is happening in Russia: monasteries and convents are reclaiming – or recreating – the physical and spiritual fabric of their pasts.

For over 70 years the Ekaterinburg Novo-Tikhvin convent existed only in local memories, and in the walls of various institutions among whom its buildings were redistributed. Once one of Russia’s most significant monastic institutions and home to over a thousand women, Novo-Tikhvin reopened in 1994 with just a handful of sisters and a 25-year-old mother superior. Since a state hospital continues to occupy much of the main convent complex, the first sisters slept in the convent church. Today, most of its 150 nuns and novices live in a former Soviet holiday home: conditions are cramped, but on average the convent accepts ten novices a year.

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