Freemasonry in Pre 1917 Russia Research Paper

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Freemasonry in Pre-1917 Russia

Free Masonry in Pre-1917 Russia

The Freemasons were a movement founded in Europe in the 1300's, although freemasonry did not enter Russia until much later. The founding philosophies of the group encompassed ideals including scientific discovery, intellectualism, and deism. Although there have been some unofficial sects that permitted women members, the group has been predominantly male. While most associate the Freemasons with numerous governmental conspiracy theories, the reality is that the group existed to further education, enlightenment, and prosperity among the people. Members of freemasonry across the globe have historically included men from royalty, aristocracy, military, and even occasional tradesmen. While many of the conspiracy theories about the group are simply legend, the Freemasons have been responsible for many changes and advances throughout the course of history.

Unlike other groups at the time, freemasons were neither religious extremists nor enlightenment enthusiasts. As argued in Walter Moss's a History of Russia:

They viewed God not as a personal being who answered daily prayers, but as the great lawmaker or "divine clockmaker," who created a marvelous clock (the universe) that would run perfectly if mankind just discovered and applied its laws… they were critical of intolerance that had often accompanied them and were sympathetic to the secularist idea of separating church and state.

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It was these particular principles along with the group's overall distain for illogical non-progressive ideas that often got them into trouble with various rulers.

Introduction to Russian Society

Research Paper on Freemasonry in Pre 1917 Russia Assignment

Freemasonry did not enter Russia until the seventeenth century as a result of Ivan the Terrible's expansion of trade. Prior to Ivan, Russia had remained a closed and isolated country that did not trade or interact with the rest of the world. During Ivan's rule, the boarders of Russia were expanded and ports opened. While some countries, such as Germany, did not trust the king due to his arrest of some tradesman, he did make much successful progress with England. During his rule, England gained nearly exclusive trade rights with Russia, opening Russian ports to foreign trade and influence. In fact, it was directly the result of the newly opened ports that brought freemasonry into Russia (Hosking, 117). As the ports opened, military and aristocracy from other countries, especially England, entered Russia seeking both asylum and a fresh start (Wolffin, 82). While there are not any known activities that occurred by the hands of the freemasons at this time, it is well-known that there was already an established Freemason membership by the end of Ivan's rule. The reason that this assumption can be made is the influence that the Freemasons had on the next ruler, Peter the Great.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great was a dual successor to the throne of Russia. For the first part of his rule, he ruled alongside his half-brother who was mentally unable to actually rule himself. At his half-brother's death, he took over the throne (Riasonovsky, 214). During his reign, many of his actions offended the aristocracy, but forced the culture to westernize. Some of his more famous actions included requiring that Russian nobility shave their beards and eliminating arranged marriage entirely, arguing that it resulted in domestic violence as the spouses typically distained one another. This desire for westernization is exactly why many historians point out and strongly believe that Peter the Great was an active member of the Freemasons. According to early writings, he was influenced by Sir Christopher Wren of England to join the society and the result was the start of his campaign to educate and instruct the people of Russia. In fact, there are reports that Peter the Great may have given the Masons a building to use for their first official lodge in Russia.

Peter the Great's advancements of his country brought many foreigners to the ports of Russia. According to records found in Moscow,

Accompanied by the advances in commerce and aided by external political events, like the Jacobite rebellions, Peter the Great's reforms (and his trip to Europe) initially, fostered the increase in contacts between Europe and Russia in the first decades of the century and contributed to the influx of foreign population in Russia. At the early stages of the development of Freemasonry in Russia, ports became the first and the main centers of Masonic activity. In fact by 1710, Russia had replaced Sweden along the whole stretch of the Baltic coast from Riga to Vyborg and gained control of the Northern trade. The commercial treaty of 1734 provided a steady flow of northern raw materials to Great Britain from Russia and of Western manufactured goods from Britain to Russia, and Britain became Russia's main trading partner. British Trade Companies Narva. Estimations made by a.V. Demkin. (Moscow: Rossiiskaiia Akademiia Nauk, Institut Rossiiskoi Istorii, 1988)

Through opening up commerce and improving the overall wealth of his people, he was also able to improve their education and knowledge of the world. Along with this influx was an increase in the amount of Masonic activity within Russia. According to historical records of the Masonic order there were at least 3,000 active Mason members under Peter's rule and this time period saw the greatest increase of working Russian citizens to enter the ranks of the Masons.

During the reign of Peter the Great, Russia and Europe was exiting the Enlightenment era. This era, while inviting in new ideas of education and experience, also brought with it new premises within the Church that resulted in much disagreement and conflict among monarchs. This is one issue that the Freemason's fingerprint can be seen in influencing. In fact, according to historians, there are numerous Freemason publications challenging and questioning the church (Wolffin, 82). These publications, are in agreement with the actions of Peter the Great, who during the later part of his reign reformed the Russian Orthodox Church where he even refused to name a successor to the church in order to instead establish what became known as the Holy Synod, a council of ten clergy members who from that point forward ran the church (Dmytryshyn, 18).

Another example of Free Mason influence during Peter's reign was his transformation and modernization of the Russian military. Whereas prior to Peter's reign, the military was entirely Russian based, under Peter the Great, the military became transformed, bringing in leaders from Britain. These influences are especially noted in the Russian Navy:

By recruiting from sixty to as many as five hundred British subjects to enter Russian service as naval captains, lieutenants, bombardiers, shipbuilders, smiths, and gun-founders on his visit to Britain, Peter made a major contribution to the development of the Russian navy, creating the foundations, at the same time, for the beginning of the long-standing tradition of the British presence in the Russian navy, many of whom, were Freemasons. The estimates of how many British navy specialists Peter recruited vary widely. (Cross, 37)

So, once again, Peter the Great saw a need within Russia to modernize and improve his forces. Instead of turning to leaders within Russia, he turns to his fellow Freemasons from Britain and chose to learn from the strongest navy in the world.

This growth and use of the Freemasons continued and their numbers grew even greater thanks in part to the support of political leaders during this time.

In the end Russia greatly benefited from the reverence of Peter III towards Frederick of Prussia, who, as it was widely known at the time, was a Freemason himself. Imitating Frederick the Great, Peter allegedly patronized the brotherhood and gave a house in St. Petersburg as a gift to the lodge of Postoianstva (of Constancy) that worked in St. Petersburg and its suburb Oranienbaum since 1762. It is often assumed that Peter III not only sympathized with Freemasonry but also was a Master at a lodge in Oranienbaum (probably, the lodge of Constancy). This story is indirectly supported by the reference to Peter III's involvement with a lodge in Oranienbaum by Volkov, Freemason and Peter's confidant. Volkov was questioned by Catherine II's orders to find out "who during the reign of the previous monarch was with him in the Masonic lodge and what is the aim of this sect disagreeable with God and where are the printed books and who is known to him as a member of this sect." Andrei Bolotov (1738- I 833) was a naturalist, writer, an educator, and the founder of the Russian agricultural science. Because of his impeccable German, during the Seven Y ears ' War he was sent to Konigsberg to the Chancellery of the Russian Governor of the East Prussia. He worked closely with General Lieutenant Baron Korff, whom he mentions as the connecting link between Friedrich and Peter III in the Masonic affairs. Bolotov stayed in East Prussia from 1758 until 1762. In his memoirs, he repeatedly stressed that his experiences in the Baltic Sea provinces and the interactions with their German inhabitants played decisive role in his lire. Later, during 1776- 1796, he managed the Bogoroditsk region. Active participant… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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