National Geographic : 1991 Feb
mmwwwmmm ON A NEW COURSE By MIKE EDWARDS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SENIOR WRITER Photographs by STEVE RAYMER NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHER We are sick and tired of such a way of living, sick and tired of being afraid. -ANTIGOVERNMENT MARCHER, JULY 1990 N AN ISLAND in the far Russian north stands a monastery, old and sturdy but crying for repair. It survives as a symbol of salvation and sacrilege, of hope and hopelessness. In it are mingled the lega cies of great forces-religion, the tsars, communism-that fig ured the Russian landscape and shaped the Russian soul. To my mind the Solovetskiy Monastery is Russia in a capsule of brick and boulder, a monument to the vicissitudes of her history. Monks founded it in the 1400s in an elbow of the White Sea. Though far from Moscow, it grew into a vital center of the Russian Orthodox Church, with scribes issuing holy tracts and smiths sheathing icons in silver and gold. In the late 1500s it became simultaneously a jail. The first tsar to banish enemies to the cold Solovetskiy cells was Ivan IV, "the Terrible," who also murdered his son and a prelate of the church-among others. The communists copied a page of Ivan's grisly history soon after taking power; to Solovetskiy in the early 1920s went some of their first political pris oners. In the gulag era inaugurated by the dictator Joseph Stalin in the 1930s, boat after boat plied the White Sea with victims. Few returned. Today tourists walk the smooth cobbles and (Continued on page 11) "Predatel! Traitor!"Bitter words fly as aflag-waving retired Russian colonel confronts one of the thousands of demonstrators who showed up at lastyear's May Day celebration in Red Square to demand an end to communism.