On the night of November 6, 1917 armed workers allied with the Bolshevik party began an insurrection that resulted in the overthrow of the Russian provisional government. Today marks the 96th anniversary of the Bolsheviks taking power and instituting Communism in Russia. In August 2003 I was standing in Moscow, Russia’s Red Square just outside the Kremlin, Moscow’s seat of government. I had just snapped a few pictures of one of Moscow’s numerous street dogs when I saw a group of men in religious outfits walking my way. They were obviously monks of some sort. I immediately recognized the photographic potential of these guys so I moved quickly to a spot a few yards away where I could frame the men as they passed just under the Spasskaya Tower. I plopped down on the large paving stones of Red Square and snapped three photos with my old Nikon FM2 film camera. The monks didn’t veer off course and my calculations for the spot were correct and I made a pretty cool photo. I later learned that these men were Russian Orthodox monks. After the Bolshevik Revolution the Soviets declared a separation of church and state and officially claimed atheism as the only scientific truth. They began destroying churches and persecuting the faithful. In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed. But in the late 1930s, under the brutal hand of Joseph Stalin, is when the real killing began. In 1937 eighty-five thousand three-hundred Orthodox clerics were rounded up across Russia and shot dead; in 1938, 21,500 shot dead; in 1939 nine-hundred were shot dead; in 1940 one-thousand one-hundred shot dead. Just about the only thing that saved the Russian Orthodox Church was World War II. In an effort to increase patriotic fervor for the war Stalin lifted the persecutions and allowed the citizens of Moscow to worship in public just as the Nazi's were knocking on Moscow's door. Now I look at the men in this photo as a group of rare birds flitting across Red Square. Incidentally, in 1935 the Russian government placed a Soviet Star atop the Spasskaya Tower, which was built in the year 1491.
Michael E. Palmer is a writer and photographer based in Alabama.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org