09/15/2021, 09.22
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Patriarch Kirill leads procession for St. Aleksandr Nevsky

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The 800th anniversary of the birth of the "protector" prince of Orthodox Russia was celebrated. Speaker of the Senate: "A figure that unifies the epochs of Russian and Soviet history".  80 years since the beginning of the Nazi siege of St. Petersburg also commemorated. History exploited to preserve the Putin power system.




Moscow (AsiaNews) - Patriarch Kirill (Gundjaev) of Moscow presided over a solemn liturgy in his hometown of St. Petersburg in honor of the holy prince Aleksandr Nevsky (1221-1263), the "protector of Russia" under the Tatars, whose 800th feast day falls on the day of his birth.

The rite, celebrated on September 12, was reduced to the essentials to maintain precautions against the pandemic, which is still claiming lives in Russia. The patriarch recited the Moleben (litanic prayer) together with many bishops and priests, and then led a symbolic procession, attended by about 1,000 people.

The prayer began at the Lavra of St. Aleksandr Nevsky, the monastery that stands at the end of Nevsky Prospect, the great central street of St. Petersburg. The celebrants carried the splendid ark with the saint's relics, comissioned in 1700 by Tsar Peter the Great.

The precious reliquary leaves the monastic seat only once a year on the occasion of this feast, established in 1724 precisely for the occasion of the translation of the relics. The ceremony was attended by the speaker of the Senate, Valentina Matvienko, a loyalist of President Putin who has long ruled the region of St. Petersburg, the current governor Aleksandr Drozdenko, the mayor Aleksandr Beglov and the representative of the presidency Aleksandr Gutsan. Also present was a delegation from Serbia, an Orthodox country where Aleksandr Nevsky is highly venerated, led by the mayor of Belgrade, Zoran Radojčič.

The feast crowns the year dedicated to the prince of the north, who had assumed the titles of Kiev, Novgorod and Vladimir, the capitals of the ancient Rus', when Moscow was still a simple posting station. The saint is also celebrated by Belarusians, and various monuments, churches, books and publications, even artistic competitions and other events have been dedicated to him. His canonization took place in 1547, during the heyday of the political theory of "Moscow-Third Rome" under Tsar Ivan the Terrible.

As Matvienko recalled, the saint is a figure who unifies the eras of Russian and Soviet history, "a great leader, diplomat, politician and great patriot, whom they rightly call the forefather of the revival of the ancient Rus'." Russians jealously preserved his relics even during the years of Soviet atheism.  In 1989 Gorbačev returned them to the Russian Orthodox Church, following the celebrations for the millennium of the Baptism of Kiev in 1988, which marked the beginning of the religious revival in Russia. 

Along with the glory of the victorious saint, St. Petersburg also marked the 80th anniversary of the Nazi siege of the city that began on Sept. 8, 1941. The Germans held the city in check for over 900 days, with the local population setting an example of supreme heroism and sacrifice. Matvienko urged those present "not to falsify our historical memory of the various eras, as many try to do today. We must transmit authentic memory to future generations." The preservation of historical truth is the content of a special law passed this year by the Russian Parliament, following  special constitutional amendments.

The day before the feast, Patriarch Kirill joined Putin for the opening of a memorial complex, with a large bronze composition dedicated to "Saint Aleksandr Nevsky and his company" on the banks of the Čudskoe (Peipus for Prussians). This is the lake where in 1242 the much celebrated "battle of the ice" took place, in which the prince defeated the Livonian armies of the Teutonic Knights, intent on conquering Russia for the benefit of the Latin West.

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