ORTHODOXY IN KARELIA. The official site of the Petrozavodsk and Karelia diocese

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The history of our territory is connected with the ancestors of the reigning house of the Romanov family, who occupied the throne and ruled the Russian state for three hundred years. The future Great Czarina, nun eldress Martha, in the world Xenia Ivanovna Romanova (or czarina Marfa Ivanovna, as local Tolvuya peasants called her), spent 5 years of imprisonment in Obonezhskaya pyatina, in Vygozersky stan, in Tolvuya.

Zaonezhye is a special area in Karelia. It means the well-known island of Kizhi with its majestic many-domed Preobrazhensky (Transfiguration) cathedral, the big villages: Sennaya Guba (the Hay Bay), Velikaya Guba (the Great Bay), Velikaya Niva, Kosmozero, Foimoguba, Shunga, Tipinitsy, Kuzaranda, Tolvuya and a set of small villages. The inhabitants of this place are descendants of the Novgorod Slavs who moved from Novgorod in the XI XVI centuries. They had been Orthodox since ancient times. From generation to generation old men told the young so called "byvalshchiny" (legends) about how their ancestors had come to these territories: the woods had been endless, animals and wildfowl in them, numberless, one had been able to scoop fish with a basket, there had been multitudes of mushrooms and all kinds of berries. The places being wild, woods had been cut down and burnt out and turned into fields, stones collected and piled into heaps. The nature here is, for northern areas, fertile: rye, wheat, oats and vegetables grew ripe.

There were several country parishes in Zaonezhye. Each of them had its own temple and clergy: a priest, deacon, and a sexton. Two monasteries on Onego islands: Paleostrovski and Klimenetski, date back to the most ancient times; both appear in the old registry books.

Karelian Republic National archive has documents stating that in 1844, under the instruction of Olonets spiritual consistory, a census of the dioceses most ancient temples was carried out. The following ancient temples were found in Zaonezhye, "constructed of pine wood, still firm": the church in the name of the Lords Transformation Preobrazhenskaya (1714) in the parish of Kizhi; in the parish of Yandomozero - Barbara the Great Martyr church (1658), of Velikaya Guba Elijah the Prophet (1658) and the Lords Epiphany (1647) churches, of Foimoguba Assumption of the Virgin church (1631), of Vyrozero - St. Nicholas the Wonderworker church (1670), of Kosmozero Assumption of the Mother of God church(1720). The implements in these churches are ancient, but rather sufficient, informed the census takers, Old Tolvuya residents inform, that in summer 7122 since the creation of the world, and since Christs Birth, in 1601, Great sovereign eldress nun Martha (Marfa) Ivanovna, mother of Great sovereign czar and grand duke Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov, exiled at Boris Godunovs reign, lived in Tolvuya, but nothing ancient since that time has remained". However, much remained in the peoples memory.


The settlement of Tolvuya is first mentioned in the XIVth century documents, in the year 1375 article. It is one of the ancient Russian settlements on the Onego lake shore, located on the Zaonezhye peninsula. Before nun Martha Ivanovna Romanovas exile to Tolvuya, in the beginning of XVII century there were 33 villages around the Tolvuya pogost (country churchyard). The church owned about 60 m? earth in the district. The churchyard had 3 churches. Two of them: Christs martyr Yegory (Saint George the Victorious) with a side-altar of Nikolai the Wonderworker, and the warm church of Life-creating Trinity both of them wooden, stood on the churchyard in Tolvuya, and the third church in the name of the Birth of the Mother of God was built over the Povenetski gulf.

It was almost 1300 km from Moscow to Tolvuya. There were actually no roads, in summer the travelers took the water way, in winter a sleigh way was arranged, and during the inter-season period any communication was extremely inconvenient. That was probably the reason, why czar Boris Godunov choose the Tolvuya churchyard as the place of imprisonment for boyars wife Xenia Ivanovna Romanova (nun Martha).

Xenia was born to the nobleman Shestovs family in about 1570, in Ivan the Terribl's reign, and early became an orphan. The family was notable and rich, and the girl had a good dowry. Xenia was educated and beautiful. In 1590 she was married to the most outstanding and noble young man in Moscow, Feodor Nikitich Romanov, the cousin and godson of czar Feodor Ioannovich, the future patriarch Philaret.

In 1598 czar Feodor Ioannovich died. He was son to Ivan the Terrible and last of the royal clan of Rurikoviches (Ruriks descendants). His brother-in-law Boris Godunov occupied the throne. He did not trust the aristocratic boyars and suspected many of treason. The Romanovs were kin to the royal clan, and their right to the throne was rather well-founded, so they got in disgrace and were sent from Moscow to the far north.

Czar Boris separated the husband with the wife and the mother with the children. Boyar Feodor Nikitich was by force made a monk with the name of Philaret and sent to a monastery near Kholmogory, and Xenia Ivanovna was tonsured nun with the name of Martha and exiled to Zaonezhye. The verdict was announced to the Romanovs on June 30, 1601, and nun Martha arrived to Tolvuyski churchyard in the winter 1601.

According to what old inhabitants of Tolvuya told, "... Martha Ivanovnas house was behind the peasant settlements of the churchyard, almost in the straight line with the church, to the northeast from it. Judging by the size of the foundation, the dwelling of the prisoner was not large. The tower-chamber of the disgraced boyarynya stood on a raised place, with a view of Onego, white in winter, and of green woods of Paleostrov in summer. The thirty-year-old nun Martha Ivanovna was sick, and "the food allowance" was very poor at first.

In the spring of 1602 an imperial decree softened the conditions of the exile. The boyars Romanov got the permission to communicate with the local population. According to a legend, nun Martha went to Kizhi, and to Sennaya Guba, and to Chelmuzhi on the other side of Onego where people treated her and presented white fish to her. There is still a curative spring in Tovuya which is called Tsaritsyn kluch (Queens spring). Local peasants offered its water to the sick czarina as a medicine, and the nearby villages grew to be called the Blizhneye (Near) Czarevo and Dalneye (Distant) Czarevo of the Tolvuya country churchyard.

A great service was rendered to her by the Tolvuya priest, elective of local peasants, Yermolay Gerasimov. He delivered news from the husband and children. Nun Martha learned, that her husband and children, Michael and Tatiana, were alive and healthy. Aunt Martha Nikitichna Cherkasskaya had taken the children and secretly brought them to the village of Klin of the Jur'evsky district (uyezd), the Romanovs ancestral place. The news of the husband and children being alive was the best remedy for the diseased. Having been chosen to the Russian throne, czar Michael Fedorovich Romanov rewarded the services rendered to his mother with letters granting special rights to the Tolvuya priest with children and some other peasant families in Zaonezhye.

Nun Martha made considerable donations to the Tolvuya St. George (Georgievskaya) and Trinity (Troitskaya) churches, as well as to the Saint Apostles Peter and Paul (Petropavlovskaya) church in Chelmuzhi, which was constructed in 1605 and has remained since then. She also made contributions to the chapel in Zagubye, the native village of St. Zosima of Solovets situated three versts (about 3.2 km) from the Tolvuya churchyard, and also to the monasteries: Paleostrovsky on the Onezhskoye lake and Khutynsky not far from Novgorod. Later, by an order of czar Mikhail Fedorovich, some lands were given to the Yashezersky and Spaso-Kargopolsky monasteries, and subsequently to the Alexandr of Svir monastery.

The imprisonment of the future Great Sovereign was finished in 1606, after Boris Godunov's death, when by an order of Lzhedmitri (false-Dmitri) "Boriss traitors" were summoned to Moscow. Philaret Nikitich Romanov, appointed metropolitan of Rostov, was taken prisoner to Lzhedmitri II the impostor. Patriarch Germogen himself guarded the name of the future Patriarch Philaret, calling him a sufferer and a captive. On April 24, 1610 the captivity of Philaret Nikitich came to an end.

In 1611 a hard blow struck Martha Ivanovna and Philaret Nikitich: their daughter Tatyana, then already married, princess Koftyreva-Rostovskaya, died. The autumn of 1612 Martha Ivanovna with son Mikhail left Moscow. They first went to the village of Domnino, and then to Kostroma, to the Ipatyevsky monastery.

On February 21, 1613 a great event in the life of the Romanovs and all Russia took place: Mikhail Fedorovich Romanov was elected to the Russian throne. Becoming Great sovereign, nun Martha did not forget the monastery that "had rendered her hospitality" and her "Tolvuya well-wishers" and rewarded them.

In 1910 the Olonets statistical committee formed a commission of three people aiming to send it to Tolvuya for studying the ancient monuments connected to the name of Great Sovereign nun Martha Ivanovna. The Olonets governor N.V.Protasiev, being the chairman of the Olonets statistical committee, appointed the commission which surveyed the memorable places and witnessed, that the boyar tower and the ancient churches had perished (the churches had burnt down in the fire of the 2nd of June, 1845 caused by a lightning ). Three years later a new Troitskaya (Trinity) church was constructed on the spot, and in 1876 by diligence of the Zakharievs a new stone Georgievskaya (St. George the Martyr) church was erected.

In Chelmuzhi, the ancient Bogoyavlenskaya (Epiphany) church, constructed in 1605, has remained. It was the only contemporary of Great sovereign Marfa Ivanovna. Under an assignment of the Olonets governor N.D.Grjazev the church was photographed. There was an ancient icon with the image of the Savior and the Mother of God in it, donated by czar Mikhail Fedorovich (which is testified by the inscription on it from March 8, 1614). In 1913 the icon was still in the temple. To the 300th anniversary of the reigning house the inhabitants of Chelmuzhi decided to repair the church and make a new icon-case with an oil lamp for the ancient icon.

From the descendants of the Kljucharyov family (priest Ermolay Gerasimov-Klucharyov), the members of the expedition bought two ancient portraits: one of czar Mikhail Fedorovich and the other of nun Martha Ivanovna, represented still young, but already in the monastic attire. This portrait was published in N.S.Shaizhin's book "Zaonezhskaya Zatochnitsa (The Captive of Zaonezhye), published in Petrozavodsk in 1912. The portraits were handed over to the ethnographic museum. Whether the above mentioned relics have been preserved until now, is unknown. Probably, some of them have been handed over to the Local Lore museum and are in its depositories.

Helping the disgraced boyarynya, Tolvuya peasants, unaware of it, rendered direct influence on the history of the Russian state.