The Holy Monks of St. Zosima and St. Savvatii of Solovki


Opening up new frontiers in the Russian North, the monks Savvatii and Zosima set up a hermitage on an uninhabited island in the White Sea, a mere hundred miles from the Arctic Circle. Savvatii came first, in 1429, followed by Zosima and other hermits. In less than a hundred years, the secluded abode became a powerful Solovetsky monastery with stone churches and monstrous stone walls. It was a major center of learning, but it did not retain its peace for long. Ivan the Terrible, the first Tsar of Russia, found the stone cells of this remote monastery to be a well-suited dwelling for his political enemies. Centuries later, the Bolshevik government followed this morbid tradition and in the 1920s, the Solovetsky monastery became one of the main prison labor camps and the model for labor camps of the Soviet Gulag Archipelago. Today, the monastic tradition of Savvatii and Zosima is being revived and the golden crosses on the Solovetsky domes are shining through the milky haze of white northern nights, as they did five hundred years ago.