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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brides galore in Russia

V.V.Pukirev (1832-1890), The Unequal Marriage (1862), acquired by P.M. Tretyakov, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow/Patricia Leslie

Brides are everywhere in Russia.  The one above, tying the knot with what appears to be her great-great-grandfather while her lover waits in the background, is the only unhappy bride we saw.  (And she's got reason, no?)

A wedding party heads to Peter the Great at Senate Square, St. Petersburg/Patricia Leslie

A bride at the Catherine Palace, Tsarskoe Selo, near St. Petersburg/Patricia Leslie
On a Wednesday we saw five bridal parties on the streets, but our Russian tour guide said it was nothing special since Russians typically get married every day of the week, and we saw them every day of the week. Some brides, very pregnant in their wedding attire. ("That's all right, Mama.")
"I'll drink to that!" A wedding party near St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow/Patricia Leslie
The wedding car/Patricia Leslie

The wedding parties added gaiety to the festive streets and sidewalks in Moscow and St. Petersburg, filled with smiling, laughing residents, day and night. Quite a contrast to American stereotypes of Russians and to the dour and not-so-happy residents who walk in downtown D.C.

Repressed?  In one shop I found a refrigerator magnet which features a moving head of President Vladimir Putin when you turn it to the right and then, when you turn it to the left, a moving head of  Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev.  A “double-edged sword,” said a Russian who fully expects "Putin for life." (I bought two.)

Of course, there was the recent story about the artist who was forced to flee St. Petersburg because he drew Putin in lingerie so maybe not all is forgiven, but we did have CNN and the BBC in our hotel rooms, and a show about the coming American revolution was fascinating. (The U.S. government is secretly inserting HIV vaccine in all vaccines. Would anyone be surprised? Now?)

Two gay members of my mostly Brits' tour group were ignored in Russia, and the guidebooks list gay bars in Moscow and St Petersburg. It seems that the anti-gay talk in Russia stems from its leadership, not the “grass roots.”

The day we stopped at St. Nicholas' Cathedral in St. Petersburg we saw two funerals on the first level (bodies in open caskets) and a wedding on the upper level, following the Russian tradition of two churches within the cathedral.  (For the first time it struck me how similar funerals and weddings are:  the flowers, the liturgy, the colors (black and white), the location, the unions, the words, the music.  Wait!  They had no music.  The lack of music.)

St. Nicholas' Cathedral, St. Petersburg/Patricia Leslie

Known as the “sailor’s church” due to the sailors living in the neighborhood and named after the patron saint of sailors, St. Nicholas was built between 1753 and 1762.  According to our guide, it was the only church the Soviets allowed to be used as a church after the Russian Revolution (1917). The other churches and cathedrals were turned into store houses for vegetables, and it's only in the last two decades they've been permitted to re-open as places of worship.

St. Catherine’s, the oldest Catholic church in Russia, located on the most famous street in St. Petersburg and probably in Russia, Nevsky Prospekt, is evidence. 
St. Catherine's, Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg/Patricia Leslie

At its entrance a framed timeline on the wall reveals the church was founded (on another site) in 1710. The first entry in the parish books records Peter the Great as godfather to a child born to the church's first architect, Domenico Tresini.

Taking pictures inside St. Catherine's is forbidden, but, Wikimedia Commons has this photograph of a church altar at St. Catherine's which has been preserved in the neglected and damaged state it was found.

By 1917, 32,000 were on St. Catherine's  rolls, and it was one of 10 Catholic churches in St. Petersburg.  On Easter Sunday in 1923 in Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, Constantine Budkiewicz, the parish priest who began serving the church in 1905, was executed by the Soviets.  Presently, he is "under investigation for possible Sainthood."
The view of an art show from the steps of St. Catherine's looking towards Nevsky Prospekt/Patricia Leslie

The art show and sale at St. Catherine's/Patricia Leslie

St. Catherine's remained open until 1938 when the Soviets turned it into a storage house for vegetables, books, and motor bikes.  It re-opened as a church in 1992.  Donations for the church's restoration are sought.

The tour guide said 80 percent of Russians who attend church do not believe in God, but they still get married a lot. As a matter of fact, President Putin has offered couples cash incentives to have more children. Russia’s birth rate last year exceeded the mortality rate for the first time in a long time, according to the Russian president, and it exceeded the U.S. birth rate for the first time in years. At one time the U.S. rate was 75 percent higher than Russia’s, Forbes says. What does this mean? A lot for the economy.

But back to what makes the world go round: Many newlyweds in Moscow “seal” their eternal love in a padlock on a metal tree and throw the key in the Vodootvodny Canal. "Love locks" they are called. Unfortunately, it only works about half the time (or less) for Russia has a high divorce rate which varies from 51% to 63%, depending upon which Web source you check and how you define the term.

"Love locks" in Moscow at the Vodootvodny Canal/Patricia Leslie

"Love locks" in Moscow/Patricia Leslie

More "love locks" in Moscow/Patricia Leslie
However, without "love locks," the U.S divorce rate  is practically no better (between 49% and 53%). Better to be safe than sorry, I suppose. I suppose.

More true love on the streets of St. Petersburg.  Wait!  Is it possible a Tom Brady fan (on the right) accompanies the happy couple while listening to a game?  Shame/Patricia Leslie

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