The Solovetsky Monastery

The Solovki Archipelago (Solovki)

The Solovki Camp (GULAG)

Volume 2. Solovki GULAG

Part 3. The Solovetsky Monastery & The Solovki Concentration Camp

Peter I (Peter the Great) & Solovki

"The Solovetsky Islands (Russian: Соловецкие острова), or Solovki (Соловки), are an archipelago located in the Onega Bay of the White Sea, Russia. Area: 347 square kilometers (134 sq mi). "
( The Solovki Encyclopedia )

Peter I was on Solovki twice. The first visit of the islands took place in 1694, when the young tsar was acquainted with his northern possessions. His second arrival to Solovki became the beginning of radical European changes.

Peter I (Peter The Great)

In spring 1702, there were rumours in Europe about how the Russian tsar Peter was going to spend the summer. Everybody was convinced they knew: his Majesty will wage war. Where war would occur was the topic of different opinions. Some spoke about the tsar's intention to make war against Narva again, where he had already suffered one defeat. Others asserted that Narva is only rumor, and the attack would be on Niyenshants (the weak Swedish fortress, which stood not far from the mouth of the Neva river). Europe was informed from Russia that Peter would be carrying out the summer in amusements, but no one believed this.

Jean-Marc-Nattier. Tsar Peter 1st of Russia. 1717.

In reality, Peter had long ago been preparing for the Arkhangelsk March. By an edict dated January 11, 1702, he required archbishop Kholmogorskiy and Vazhskiy Afanasy to prepare "for the navigation in the future spring of this (1702) year of our, Great Sovereign, military people, and guns, and cannon-balls, and mortars, and bombs; and any military reserves, and bread reserves at the Arkhangelsk city to make; to construct in Vologda one hundred big wooden barges and twenty barks". In addition to this, on February 6 Peter has sent the following edict. Under penalty of death the edict forbid the industrial vessels to put to sea in spring. Prohibition was made because of the damage caused by the attack of Swedish fleet in Arkhangelsk the previous year. In March 9, 1702, Peter wrote to Sheremetiev from Moscow: "when there will be no attack from us, then, I suppose, they will attempt to the city, although it is difficult for them".

April, 19 (according to another source, April, 18), 1702, Peter in the company of 4000 people of "honorable escort" (54 noble families and 5 battalions of tsarist guard) left for Arkhangelsk.

It had taken a month to get to Arkhangelsk. Details of the trip are unclear. Some descriptions note the stop of the tsarist fleet in the village of Topotskoye. Peter presented the first passer-by, peasant Yurinskii, two silver wine glasses, a silver nominal ring, several plates and 50 acres of the land.. In the village Tulgasova, where the company stopped because of a change in wind direction Peter built a small chapel. During the brief stay in Kholmogori he was present at the liturgy and spent one-and-a-half hours in conversation with Afanasy.

May, 16 or May, 18 (there are different versions) Tsar Peter arrived to Arkhangelsk. Officially the tsar had come to organize the defense of this area. In Arkhangelsk he settled in a new house, built for him on the Moseyev Island so Peter could delight in by the view of the Novodvinskaya fortress. May, 24, 1702 was the feast day of Holy Trinity and on this day Peter sang in the choir in church; took a walk along the Dvina river in a captured Swedish frigate and launched two small frigate twins, the Messenger» and the Holy Spirit. May, 27 in the letter to Sheremetiev and to Apraksin Peter wrote: we have arrived here and little by little we are preparing defenses as they pertain to the enemy. The building of a small 26-cannon ship, the Saint Iliya, had begun June, 5. Peter sent this letter to Apraksin, where he wrote: construction of the small ship was begun, but the greatest need for a big ship is impossible to start, there is not enough wood and that only one tank with water. It is also known that the Tsar dealt with the development of artillery batteries in the delta of the Dvina river and blocked the delta using barges with sand.

June, 29 (the feast day of Apostles Peter and Paul also the name-day of Tsar) a new church was consecrated bearing the name of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Services were carried out by archbishop Afanasy. After the consecration of the church, to honor this special moment, canon gun salutes were performed by the military as the Tsar proudly observed from the porch of the church. The feast day lasted and was celebrated for 3 days. The tsar left for Moseyev Island accompanied by officials and military.

July, 8 in a letter to Streshnev, Peter reported the arrival of 50 Dutch and 40 English merchant vessels to Arkhangelsk. Undoubtedly Peter participated in the inspection of the ships and the brought goods. The next letter, addressed to Apraksin, is dated Augus, 5. He wrote about the arrival of another commercial caravan, which consisted of 92 English, Dutch and Hamburg vessels, including 3 ships of military escort. This letter concludes with these words: "this day we have taken the field. Give us happiness, My God". There is an inscription in the log-book: "August, the fifth day, i.e., on Tuesday, we left the city and set out for sea".

The number of ships in the Peter's squadron (according to different sources) was from 10 to 13. Having hired foreign ships on the day of arrival of the commercial fleet, Peter had also strengthened them by his own escort the three masted ship St.Peter, the new small frigates Messenger and Holy Spirit and the yacht Transport Royal, presented by Wilhelm III in 1698). Peter in an urgent order moves his guards to Solovki.

Early around the time of setting sail of (August, 6) Peter wrote a letter to Sheremetiev: "I think, we won't be very late getting to you, but this, please, keep in secret". Sailing was going successfully; but near the Solovetsky Islands the fleet ran into head winds. The first stop of the fleet was on the eastern shore of the archipelago, in the strait between the islands of Anzer and Muksalma. According to legend, Peter ordered to mark this place by a monument By his order three large boulder mounds, one near each of the islands were raised. They consisted of mounds of wild stones with soil so large that distant towns could be seen. Only one mound is preserved till today. The height of this Anzer town is 9 meters. It is arranged so that it is possible to reach it only during the ebb tide. Research in 2002 proved that it was a unique geological phenomenon.

August, 10, 1702 Peter's fleet made it's way around the south of the archipelago and arrived at the monastery. The guns of the monastery saluted their regal guest and Tsar Peter met with archimandrite Feers and the fraternity. Bread and fish, a traditional setting in the north, was presented to the Tsar. During the day the Tsar prayed in the Transfiguration Cathedral, inspected the Treasury and Armory Chamber and had supper with the Father-Superior of the monastery. After that he left to his ship to spend the night.

August 11 Peter arranged an excursion for his son.

August, 12 was devoted to the inspection of the surrounding environment and brick plant. This trip was performed on horseback.

August, 13 Peter remained aboard the ship.

August 14 in the company of his son, took part in the evening service at the cathedral and sang in the choir.

August 15, the feast day of Assumption. The Archimandrite served the liturgy, Peter and his son again prayed and sang. After this he met with old man and hermit, Laurentii. In the evening news arrived that it was possible to sail.

August, 16 the tsar leaves Solovki.

It is worth mentioning that in spite of a severe March, Peter still managed to several times attended The Zayatsky Island. The church of Saint Apostle Andrei was erected there by his order. The church came out small, but beautiful.

According to the legend Andrei's flag of the first northern military Russian fleet was consecrated in the new church of the Big Zayatsky Island. This could have only happened during the night of 15/16 August, or early in the morning of August, 16. In the morning the Peter's fleet was not involved in the raid near the Big Solovetsky Island. Ships sailed southwest along the Zayatsky Islands to the side of Nyukhcha settlement. It is possible that Peter was invited by the way of a letter. Sergeant of the guard, Shchepotev wrote to Peter: "I inform you, Sovereign, that the road is ready; the pier, supplies and vessels on Onega are prepared... 2000 supplies are assembled as of the second of August, and still there will be additional ones arriving; The number of vessels and their measure is included for Your Favor with this letter". In the evening of the same day the fleet had arrived at the pier on the coast of Onega Gulf.

August, 17 (most likely, in the morning) Peter sent the following letter to Sheremetiev: "We, and the transport have arrived yesterday here in the evening and we will hurry as possible".

What had the sergeant of the guard of the Preobrazhensky regiment Shchepotov built? From the end of June 1702 the road from Nyukhcha (southwestern coast of Onega Gulf) to Povenets (Lake Onega), which subsequently would be named "The Sovereign's Road" was constructed under his direction. Five thousand peasants, assembled in different northern districts, built the road through forests, swamps and rivers. This road Peter would serve to not only transfer the guard, but also 2 small frigates: Messenger and Holy Spirit. It is interesting that the width of road had to be not less than 6 meters, because the width of the frigates was 18 Dutch feet (5, 09 m). Moreover the road had to be flat; otherwise it would be impossible to pull the ships. After one-and-a-half months of the construction, 170 km were completed, 6 bridges were established, one of which was about 256 meters. The entire road was planked. It took 10 days to drag the ships and march the guards across.

August 26 the ships were in the Onega Lake. August 28 Tsar Peter wrote a letter while in Povenets to the Polish King Augusts II: "We are now on the march near the hostile boundary".

September 3 1702 the frigates of Peter I enter the Svir' river.

September, 9 Peter enters the Ladoga lake.

October 1 the fortress Noteburg (former Russian fortress Oreshek) standing at the mouth of the Neva river was blockade. Bombardment begins. From land the fortress was surroundeded by the army of the nobleman Sheremetiev.

October 11 the fortress surrenders. Peter re-names it Shlissel'burg (Key-city).

The fortress Niyenshants (former Russian fortress Kanets), also standing at the mouth of the Neva, proved to be the first lock selected for this key. This fortress was seized during four days (April, 26-30, 1703). After the taking Kanets by assault, the military council was held, to decide whether to dig trenches or search for another possible location. It was proposed to search for a new place and in several days a convenient place (island) was found».

May, 16 the fortress Saint Petersburg was founded.

Thus, the history of the base of Saint Petersburg and the history of relations between Russia and Europe cannot be examined separately from the history of Solovki.

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