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Still standing tall: Russia’s incredible Ryazan Kremlin seen through 100 years of photographs

The iconic structure has survived through the ages despite centuries of upheaval

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We are very pleased to present an article from the great Professor William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.

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Professor William Brumfield is among the world’s foremost experts on Russian architecture, and he has a genuine heartfelt love for the Russian culture and people. His work in photographing some of Russia’s most famous, and obscure sites has gone a long way in preserving these parts of Russia’s national heritage, by drawing attention to their beauty and need for preservation.

One of the Professor’s photographs of Dormition Cathedral in Vladimir, Russia

This earned him the respect of Russians, and an honorary fellowship in the illustrious Russian Academy of the Arts founded in 1757.

His most recent masterpiece takes the readers to the farthest reaches of the world: “Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon). The Amazon copy is quite affordable. and a must for any lover of Russian architecture, as his classic “A History of Russian Architecture” provides a great overview of Russia’s glorious culture as portrayed in her monumental works.

Russia Beyond the Headlines has happily joined in at making Professor Brumfield’s available.

Hats off to William Brumfield; we wish him a heartfelt Многая Лета – Monohaya Leta (Many Years) for all his work in preserving Russia’s ancient culture!

Professor Brumfield’s work has opened a portal into Holy Russia. May all those who wish to see therein, and be amazed at what beauty she has to offer the world.

And so it was that “Beauty will save the world.” ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The following material originally appeared at Russia Beyond the Headlines:

Still standing tall: Russia’s incredible Ryazan Kremlin

The iconic structure has survived through the ages despite centuries of upheaval.
Ryazan Kremlin, south view. Background: Cathedral bell tower, Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery with West Gate&Church of St. John, Transfiguration Cathedral (right). Aug. 28, 2005.

Ryazan Kremlin, south view. Background: Cathedral bell tower, Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery with West Gate&Church of St. John, Transfiguration Cathedral (right). Aug. 28, 2005. William Brumfield

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky developed a complex process for vivid color photography (see box text below). His vision of photography as a form of education and enlightenment was demonstrated with special clarity through his images of architectural monuments in the historic sites throughout the Russian heartland.

In summer 1910, Prokudin-Gorsky made a series of journeys along the Oka River, a major tributary of the Volga. During these trips, he took numerous photographs in Ryazan, 190 km southeast of Moscow. My photographs of the town were taken over an extended period from 1984-2006.

Ryazan Kremlin. Background: Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery, Transfiguration Cathedral (far right). Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin. Background: Dormition Cathedral. Foreground: wall of Transfiguration Monastery, Transfiguration Cathedral (far right). Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

At the time of Prokudin-Gorsky’s visit, Ryazan had a population of around 45,000. Today it is a growing city with a population of over half a million. Known for its historic monuments, the Ryazan kremlin has one of Russia’s most imposing cathedrals at its center.

A turbulent history

Few of the ancient cities of the Russian heartland have endured a more turbulent history than Ryazan. Already an important town in the 11th century, by the middle of the 12th century Ryazan had become the center of a major principality that held sway over extensive territory in the Oka River basin. It had massive earthen-wall fortifications, portions of which have survived to the present as one of the largest archeological sites in Russia.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Archbishop's Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

In 1237, Ryazan was devastated by the Mongols, and attempts to re-establish settlements in the immediate area were undercut by Tatar raids over the following decades. By the 14th century, the local church and political leadership decided to re-establish Ryazan at the better-defended settlement of Pereyaslavl, 55 km northwest at the point where the small Trubezh River empties into the Oka.

For centuries, the town was known as Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky. By the beginning of the 15th century, Pereyaslavl-Ryazansky had a large fortress (kremlin) whose earthen ramparts are well preserved. Prokudin-Gorsky and I both photographed the kremlin from the northwest, but his view – available only in a contact print – shows the Trubezh River more clearly.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Church of Holy Spirit, Archbishop's Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Archangel Cathedral, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin, northwest view. From left: Church of Holy Spirit, Archbishop’s Palace, Cathedral of Nativity of Christ, Archangel Cathedral, Dormition Cathedral, Epiphany Church, Transfiguration Cathedral, bell tower. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

Although the threat of Tatar raids eventually waned, the region was afflicted by famine and disease at the end of the 16th century and wracked by violent disorders in the early 17th century during the dynastic interregnum known as the Time of Troubles. In 1778, the town was designated simply Ryazan.

A cathedral’s construction, collapse and resurrection

The city’s greatest monument is the Cathedral of the Dormition, whose name derived from the 12th centurycathedral of the same dedication in Old Ryazan. At the turn of the 15th century, a masonry cathedral dedicated to the Dormition was erected in Ryazan. In the early 1680s, Metropolitan Pavel of Ryazan (served from 1681 to 1686) undertook to build a much larger cathedral to meet the needs of an expanded diocese. Work began in 1684, but the completed structure, poorly built, collapsed on an April night in 1692.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

After the initial debacle, the project was entrusted by the next metropolitan, Avraamy (who served from 1687 to 1700), to the renowned architect Yakov Bukhvostov. Like his hapless predecessors, Bukhvostov faced serious challenges with the foundations and the roof vaulting for the immense structure. He was also involved in other projects at the time and faced court litigation on one of them.

Nonetheless, with the assistance of local master builders, the structure was completed in 1699. Another three years were spent on its interior, including the construction of a large icon screen. In August 1702, the cathedral was consecrated by a third metropolitan, Stefan Yavorsky (1658-1722), who became one of the leading prelates of the Russian Church during Peter the Great’s reign.

But the travails of the building were not over. Thanks to its exposed location and height, the roof and cupolas, as well as the upper windows, were frequently damaged. The structure itself seemed under threat because of leakage and resulting cracks in the walls. In 1800, the Holy Synod in St. Petersburg issued a directive stating that the structure should be demolished and rebuilt.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

Fortunately, Metropolitan Simon of Ryazan (bishop from 1778 to 1804) decided to consult with the local council and, with the support of wealthy merchants, marshaled the resources to undertake fundamental repairs. Russia’s architectural heritage benefited immeasurably from the wisdom and diplomacy of an experienced bishop. Alas, Simon died in January 1804, a few months before the reconsecration of the cathedral in August.

A unique building

The Ryazan Dormition Cathedral represents one of the most distinctive designs in the history of Russian church architecture. Over 40 meters tall with five large drums and cupolas as well as extensive window space, the structure is balanced on a complex system of cellar vaults, which also support a terrace platform for the cathedral. The cathedral’s roofline was designed as a horizontal cornice with decorative brick patterns.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, north facade. Carved limestone columns. Summer 1912.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, north facade. Carved limestone columns. Summer 1912. Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky

The tall windows were framed with carved limestone columns and pediments. The 5,000 blocks comprising the limestone details were standardized, thus enabling the architect to complete the structure within six years, a relatively short period in view of the complexity of the project. Although preserved only in a contact print, Prokudin-Gorsky’s direct frontal view from the west conveys with striking clarity the segmented facade design.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade with main portal. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade with main portal. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

The window surrounds and the paired brick columns (painted white) that vertically divide the brick facades provide a palatial ambience to one of the largest churches of the 17th century – larger, in fact, than the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin. Prokudin-Gorsky’s detailed photographs and mine convey the vivid contrast between the white ornamental trim and the red brick background.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Main portal. May 13, 1984.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, west facade. Main portal. May 13, 1984. William Brumfield

Closed in 1929, the Dormition Cathedral was used for archival storage and in the 1960s began to function as a museum. Services resumed in 1993, and in 2008 the cathedral was formally returned to the Ryazan Diocese.

To the west of the cathedral at the edge of the kremlin stands the enormous bell tower, built over a half-century from 1789 to 1840. At least three architects were involved in its construction, including Andrey Voronikhin, one of the major architects of St. Petersburg at the beginning of the 19th century.

Prokudin-Gorsky’s contact print – and my photographs – give an idea of the scale of the bell tower in relation to other kremlin structures. The contrast between the Neoclassical bell tower and the decorative mannerism of the Dormition Cathedral provides an exemplary view of the dramatic changes in Russian architecture over the long 18th century.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, east view. August 28, 2005.

Ryazan Kremlin. Dormition Cathedral, east view. August 28, 2005. William Brumfield

In the early 20th century the Russian photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky devised a complex process for color photography. Between 1903 and 1916 he traveled through the Russian Empire and took over 2,000 photographs with the process, which involved three exposures on a glass plate. In August 1918, he left Russia and ultimately resettled in France with a large part of his collection of glass negatives. After his death in Paris in 1944, his heirs sold the collection to the Library of Congress.

In the early 21st century the Library digitized the Prokudin-Gorsky Collection and made it freely available to the global public. Many Russian websites now have versions of the collection. In 1986 the architectural historian and photographer William Brumfield organized the first exhibit of Prokudin-Gorsky photographs at the Library of Congress.

Over a period of work in Russia beginning in 1970, Brumfield has photographed most of the sites visited by Prokudin-Gorsky. This series of articles will juxtapose Prokudin-Gorsky’s views of architectural monuments with photographs taken by Brumfield decades later.

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops occupying Idlib will take control over that land, and have responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet.

Eric Zuesse

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As I recommended in a post on September 10th, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan jointly announced on September 17th, “We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15-20km wide,” which compares to the Korean DMZ’s 4-km width. I had had in mind the Korean experience, but obviously Putin and Erdogan are much better-informed about the situation than I am, and they have chosen a DMZ that’s four to five times wider. In any case, the consequences of such a decision will be momentous, unless U.S. President Donald Trump is so determined for there to be World War III as to stop at nothing in order to force it to happen no matter what Russia does or doesn’t do.

What the Putin-Erdogan DMZ decision means is that the 50,000 Turkish troops who now are occupying Idlib province of Syria will take control over that land, and will thus have the responsibility over the largest concentration of jihadists anywhere on the planet: Idlib. It contains the surviving Syrian Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters, including all of the ones throughout Syria who surrendered to the Syrian Army rather than be shot dead on the spot by Government forces.

For its part, the U.S. Government, backed by its allies and supported in this by high officials of the United Nations, had repeatedly threatened that if there occurs any chemical-weapons attack, or even any claimed chemical-weapons attack, inside Idlib, the U.S. and its allies will instantaneously blame the Syrian Government and bomb Syria, and will shoot down the planes of Syria and of Russia that oppose this bombing-campaign to conquer or ‘liberate’ Syria from its Government. The U.S. has announced its determination to protect what one high U.S. official — who is endorsing what Trump is doing there — “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11.” He admits it, but he wants to protect them from being bombed by Syria and by Russia.

During recent weeks, the U.S. military has increasingly said that even if the jihadists they’ve been assisting to assemble the materials for a chemical-weapons attack fail to carry it out or to stage one, any attempt by Syrian and Russian forces to destroy the jihadists (which the U.S. side calls ‘rebels’) in Idlib will be met with overwhelming U.S.-and-allied firepower. That would spark WW III, because whichever side — Russia or U.S. — loses in the Syrian battlefield will nuclear-blitz-attack the other side so as to have the lesser damage from the nuclear war and thus (in military terms) ‘win’ WW III, because the blitz-attack will destroy many of the opposite side’s retaliatory weapons. In a nuclear war, the first side to attack will have a considerable advantage — reducing the number of weapons the other side can launch.

If, on the other hand, the DMZ-plan works, then Turkey’s forces will be responsible for vetting any of Idlib’s residents who try to leave, in order to prohibit jihadists and their supporters from leaving. Once that task (filtering out the non-dangerous inhabitants and retaining in Idlib only the jihadists and their supporters) is done, the entire world might be consulted on whether to exterminate the remaining residents or to set them free to return to the countries from which they came or to other countries. Presumably, no country would want those ‘refugees’. That would answer the question.

America’s Arab allies, the oil monarchies such as the Sauds who own Saudi Arabia and the Thanis who own Qatar, and which have funded Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, would then be put on a spot, because if they say “Exterminate them!” then their clergy who have provided the moral imprimatur upon those families’ ownership of those nations, will either be in rebellion or else will themselves become overthrown either by their own followers or else by their monarch — overthrown from below or from above.

Alternatively, after Turkey’s forces in Idlib will have allowed release from Idlib of all who will be allowed out, Syria’s and Russia’s bombers will simply go in and slaughter the then-surrounded jihadists and take upon themselves the responsibility for that, regardless of what the leaders of the U.S. and its allied governments might say.

On the night of September 17th in Syria, there were missile-attacks “from the sea” against several Syrian cities; and those attacks could have come from either Israel’s or America’s ships, or from other U.S.-allied ships. Russian Television bannered, “Russian plane disappears from radars during Israeli attack on Syria’s Latakia – MoD” and reported:

A Russian military Il-20 aircraft with 14 service members on board went off the radars during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Air traffic controllers at the Khmeimim Air Base “lost contact” with the aircraft on Wednesday evening, during the attack of Israeli F-16 fighters on Latakia, said the MOD.Russian radars also registered the launch of missiles from a French frigate in the Mediterranean on the evening of September 17. …
The attack on Latakia came just hours after Russia and Turkey negotiated a partial demilitarization of the Idlib province

If the missiles were authorized by President Trump, then WW III has already begun in its pre-nuclear stage. However, if the attacks were launched by Israel’s Netanyahu, and/or by France’s Macron, without U.S. authorization, then the U.S. President might respond to them by siding against that aggressor(s) (and also against what he used to call “Radical Islamic Terrorists”), so as to prevent a nuclear war.

Late on September 17th, Al Masdar News bannered “NATO warships move towards Syrian coast” and reported “The NATO flotilla cruising off the Syrian coast reportedly consists of a Dutch frigate, the De Ruyter, a Canadian frigate, the Ville de Quebec, and a Greek cruiser, the Elli.” Al Qaeda and ISIS have influential protectors.

Ultimately, the decision will be U.S. President Trump’s as to whether he is willing to subject the planet to WW III and to its following nuclear winter and consequent die-off of agriculture and of everyone, in order to ‘win’ a nuclear war, such as America’s aristocracy has especially championed since the year 2006. The nuclear-victory concept is called “Nuclear Primacy” — the use of nuclear weapons so as to win a nuclear war against Russia, instead of to prevent a nuclear war. That concept’s predecessor, the “Mutually Assured Destruction” or “M.A.D.” meta-strategy, predominated even in the U.S. until 2006. Trump will have to decide whether the purpose of America’s nuclear-weapons stockpiles is to prevent WW III, or is to win WW III.

In Russia, the purpose has always been to have nuclear weapons in order to prevent WW III. But America’s President will be the person who will make the ultimate decision on this. And Idlib might be the spark. Netanyahu or Macron might be wanting to drag the U.S. into war even against Russia, but the final decision will be Trump’s.

The ultimate question is: How far will the U.S. go in order to continue the U.S. dollar as being the overwhelmingly dominant global currency?

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Russian MoD: Il-20 downed by Syrian missile after attacking Israel’s F-16s used it as cover

Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces.

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Russia has stated that it “reserves right to response” after claiming that Israel’s actions led to downing of Il-20 by Syrian S-200 missiles.

The Russian military accused their Israeli counterparts for causing the downing of a Russian Il-20 plane by the Syrian air defense forces, which were responding to an Israeli air raid on Latakia.

Via RT


The Russian military say the Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events, which led to the shooting down of a Russian Il-20 plane by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

On Monday evening four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean, a statement by the Russian defense ministry said on Tuesday. The Israeli warplanes came at a small altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region”, it said.

The military said the French Navy’s frigate “Auvergne” as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area of the Israeli operation.

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” the statement said.

The Russian ministry stressed that the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, which didn’t stop them from “the provocation”. Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,” the statement said.

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