Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Institution of Military Chaplains Shall Help to Reduce the Number of Suicides amongst Servicemen according to the Moscow Patriarchate


Moscow Patriarchate sources believe that the institution of military chaplains is the most effective measure that the army can take to avert suicides amongst servicemen. “It is not possible for the Church to solve this problem completely, but, it can help the army to reduce it. If clergy are present in military units, soldiers shall be able to turn to them for help. Indeed, since priests deal chiefly with questions concerning the interior life of people, they would be able to find the right words to say to a soldier who was on the brink of suicide”, Fr Dmitri Smirnov, the head of the MP Department for Cooperation with the Armed Forces, said to Interfax on Thursday.

He said this in the context of comments on data concerning the number of non-combatant deaths in the forces. In 2007, according to official figures from the Ministry of Defence, 410 servicemen died on active service from non-combat causes. More than half of this number consisted of suicides. However, Fr Dmitri noted that in the Church there are now many priests who have worked with the forces, and these men have accumulated much experience in averting suicides and in how to aid soldiers who are undergoing a mental crisis. “Quite often, it is much easier for a soldier in crisis to turn to a priest rather than to one of his officers. In addition, the moral atmosphere in the unit is better if clergy are attached, and the soldiers acquire a spiritual spirit”, he emphasised.

7 February 2008




Ivan Turchaninov: A Russian General in the Union Army

Filed under: biography,inspirational,patriotic,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

Russian-born Brigadier General Ivan Turchin of the Union Army

The civil war between the industrially advanced northern states and the breakaway slave states is one of the most dramatic pages of the relatively short history of the United States. It decided whether the young nation was to remain united. Many European-born volunteers, including Russians, fought in the ranks of the Northern army, but we remember few of their names today. We know, however, that Colonel of the General Staff of the Russian Army Ivan Turchaninov resigned, and he left Russia for good to fight in America.

What made him do what he did? Did he see America as a country of free men and unlimited possibilities? Perhaps, he did. We know no more than we do. We know that Ivan Turchaninov and his young wife Nadezhda arrived in New York in 1856, and they settled on a farm on Long Island. A year later, they lost everything they had in an economic crisis, and moved, with a view to turn over a new leaf in their lives, to Philadelphia. Ivan entered engineering school and Nadezhda took up medicine. The Americans found their last name a tongue twister, so they shortened it to Turchin. The vast expanses of the Wild West held out a promise of a better life. The Turchins left Philadelphia for Chicago. Ivan Turchin joined the engineering staff of a railroad company. He showed interest in politics and joined the Republican Party. His wife started a medical practise. They felt at home in America.

Of course, there were things Turchin disliked in America. Some of his ventures were failures, and some things made him feel cheated. However, here is what he wrote in a letter to Russia, “I thank America for one thing, it helped me get rid of my aristocratic prejudices, and it reduced me to the rank of a mere mortal. I have been reborn. I fear no work; no sphere of business scares me away, and no social position will put me down; it makes no difference whether I plough and cart manure or sit in a richly decorated room and discuss astronomy with the great scholars of the New World. I want to earn the right to call myself a citizen of the United States of America”.

When the civil war broke out in 1861, Turchin volunteered for the Union Army. His superiors knew he was an experienced soldier, and ordered him to form and train a regiment. Turchin did what he was told to do, and was commissioned to command a four-regiment brigade. He became a Colonel in the Union Army. His wife became a nurse and went to the front.

Ivan Turchin proved he was a good soldier. Many times his brigade saved the day for the Union. The commander-in-chief appreciated his efforts and Turchin expected a promotion. However, a new development impeded his career. Other officers were envious and started plotting against Turchin. They needed a pretext for lashing out against him. They found one. One of the regiments in his brigade was protecting the small city of Athens. Confederate forces attacked it and killed almost all its men. Turchin hurried to Athens, only to find out that the local residents had helped the southerners to butcher his troops. No one knows exactly what Turchin did, but we know one thing, he took action against Athens. His detractors accused him of cruelty, and took his case to court. Colonel Turchin was expelled from the Union army.

Northern newspaper editors raised a ruckus. They demanded that Turchin be reinstated in the army. The case was submitted for President Lincoln’s decision. It took Lincoln little time to figure out who was right and who was wrong. He reinstated Turchin in the army, and made him a Brigadier General. Ivan Turchin became the first foreign-born General of the US army. The war was almost over when Turchin contracted a serious case of sunstroke that ended his military career. He returned to Chicago, and he held a civilian job at the Grand Central Train Station. He hardly made both ends meet. When they learned of this, his wartime comrades appealed to Congress, which granted the retired Brigadier General a pension of fifty dollars a month.

Ivan Turchin died at the age of 79. He was buried with military honours at the military cemetery of Mount City, Illinois. One of his comrades-in-arms said what would have made an appropriate epitaph on his plain tombstone. “He was one of the best-educated and knowledgeable soldiers of the United States. He loved this country more than many American-born citizens did”.

9 March 2007

Lyubov Tsarevskaya

This is Russia

Voice of Russia World Service


Editor’s Note:

A comment from one of my cyberfriends regarding the Russian support of the Union during the American Civil War led me to pull this article out of my files. It should be noted as an aside that the later-famous composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was a junior officer on the frigate Almaz that visited the US in 1862 as a gesture of support from Russia to America.


Dr Ivan Pavlov

Filed under: biography,inspirational,intellectual,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

Dr Pavlov in the Operating Theatre (Ilya Repin, 1888)

The prominent Russian scholar and physiologist Ivan Pavlov was born on 26 September 1848 into the family of a village priest. Pavlov attended theological seminary, and planned to assume his father’s role. However, a book on cerebrum reflexes that he read quite by chance radically changed his life. Ivan Pavlov abandoned his religious career and enrolled in the physics and mathematics faculty of St Petersburg University. He became a brilliant physiologist and devoted his life to science.

As he carried out research on the physiology of digestion, he conducted experiments on dogs that led him to conclude that the nervous system governs the digestive system. Experiments in the field brought Pavlov world acclaim and the Nobel Prize. At the height of his success, all of a sudden, Pavlov made a sharp turn from the research on digestion to studies of the psychic activity of animals. He had long been wondering, why dogs secrete saliva as soon as they hear their food bowl clink, and what organ is responsible. Based on his experiments, Pavlov differentiated between the existence of conditioned, or acquired, and unconditioned, innate, reflexes.

In further experiments, he discovered that the cortex of the great hemispheres is the receptacle of conditioned reflexes and the sub-cortex area of unconditioned ones. Similarly, human beings harbour two sources that can be either in harmony or in conflict. The upper part of the cerebrum, the home of our life experience, hinders the activity of the lower part, a source of hereditary properties. Temporary ties dominate the inborn ones. It does happen sometimes that we have to exert so much effort to stifle excessive discretion or unrestrained passion that it can lead to a tragic ending. The discovery of reflexes had a great importance for studies of the higher nervous activity of animals and human beings, and this theory was used widely in psychiatry, biology, psychology, and pedagogy.

Pavlov was an indefatigable researcher. His mind was occupied with work all the time. When Newton was asked how he discovered the laws governing the movement of heavenly bodies, the scientist replied that it was all very simple; he just never stopped thinking about them. Neither did Pavlov. All his conversation boiled down to scientific ideas. He was also an outstandingly talented lecturer. One of his foreign colleagues said he might have made an excellent actor. Indeed, his speech and manners were highly emotional and saturated with humour. Speaking at congresses in Europe and America Pavlov voiced strikingly daring ideas, which he insisted upon, and he compelled the scientific community to accept them.

Pavlov often received criticism for slaughtering hundreds of dogs in the course of his experiments. To this, he replied that when he started an experiment that will end with the death of the animal, he felt sorry about that, being a slaughterer cutting short a life in its prime. However, he had to step over it, he said, in the interests of truth and for the good of mankind. Pavlov liked his laboratory dogs, and he granted a “pension” to the most distinguished ones, as he put it, feeding them until they died. In appreciation for the contribution the dogs made to science, Pavlov built a memorial in front of his clinic.

Ivan Pavlov continued his scientific work regardless of the events occurring in the country. The First World War and the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which changed Russia beyond recognition, had no influence on his studies. He did not accept the Soviets, and was about to leave the country.  Nevertheless, Lenin’s government desired that the world-renowned scientist stay in the new USSR. Therefore, they granted him the best possible conditions for his work.

Scientific experiments required tremendous effort, and to keep up with his schedule Pavlov divided the year into ten months of brainwork and two months of rest, which he spent working at his dacha. He carefully planned his time and saved his energy and health. He was lively and energetic at 60, 70, and 80, loved open-air outings, gorodki, a game similar to skittles, which he called “a joy for the muscles”, and growing flowers. He died in 1934 at 86, leaving a legacy that sustains humanity to this day.

Editor’s Note:

Aren’t you glad that surgical technique has advanced a bit since the time of Dr Pavlov? Or has it?… they DO knock you out prior to commencement…. hmm… (will you still love me, Dr Matt?)


28 September 2005

Russia in Personalities

Voice of Russia World Service


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