There is a lot known about Freemasonry in Russia. Academic researchers keep introducing new scientific archive sources, revealing unknown facts, publishing works on Masonry, but nevertheless many fields of Freemasons' life remain a mystery.
That concerns lodge rites mostly. Both average public and specialists know very little about material evidence of brethren's life. Unfortunately this is quite natural: while in Europe there are wonderfully illustrated and annotated catalogues of Masonic museums and meetings published regularly and available to everyone, Russian readers cannot enjoy any of these books to satisfy their interest (1*). No wonder that museum workers and unique collectors are often confused by the maze of Masonic symbolism.
Thus the publication of the rarity book - the collection of symbolic attributes of Russian Freemasons by the late 18 - early 19th century from the archive of the Nijni Novgorod Lodge of the Newly Lit Lamp by the Three Columns - is undoubtedly a very important event. It is the first catalogue of the kind in Russian. At the same time we cannot but mention the uniqueness of the collection itself because of its wholeness and complexity.
It is known that each Masonic "workshop" had its own "archive" for keeping various documents and symbolic ritual objects, but the archives of the kind we possess at the moment are not complete (2*). The reason for that - the dramatic relations both within the Masonic society itself and between Freemasons and the Russian autocracy, repeating prohibitions on lodges' work and as a result the destruction of the majority of Masonic papers and things.
At the same time Freemasonry could not but influenced Russian politics and culture because almost every educated person in Russia was a Mason. Very important for the study of this movement are complex collections consisting of both documents and objects being closely connected in their meaning and purpose.
1*) Descriptions of Masonic collections of the early 20th century with several black and white photos have become bibliographic rarities (see. Sokolovskaya T.O. The Catalogue of D.G.Burylin's Masonic Collection. Russian Department. M. 1912; Vikentjev V.I. the Collection of Masonic Objects of the Russian Historical Museum. M., 1918). The luxuriously-published two-volume book "Freemasonry in its Past and Present" (M., 1914-1915), full of colourful photos of objects is lacking in information. Its publishers admitted that "to understand Masonic properties one should not only know the exact definitions but also dispose of a variety of illustrations" and thus the purpose of a number of objects illustrated in the book is explained very foggily. The reprint of the book (M., 1991) is made in black and white and thus the quality of pictures is rather poor. The book by V.I. Sakharov "Freemasons' Hieroglyphs. Masonry and Russian Literature of the 18th - early 19th century" (M., 2000) contains colourful pictures of Masonic utensils to offer much visual information. The reference book by D.D. Lotareva "The Signs of the Masonic Lodges of the Russian Empire" (M., 1994) contains information on the insignia of lodges only but they cannot be treated as the only material manifestation of Masonic culture.
2*) At present the remaining Masonic utensils are kept in private collections and the largest state vaults - in the State Historical Museum, the State Hermitage, the State Literature Museum, the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, etc. The permanent expositions of the above mentioned museums contain almost no Masonic objects and those of them belonging to private collectors are available to a very limited circle of scientists. Besides written works usually lack their "material" part: documents and objects are kept in different departments or even different museums.
So is the collection of the Nijni Novgorod Lodge belongings. For more than half a century the relics it contains were kept as a family relic. They make up a single complex which can give the idea of the way certain Freemasons lived. Who of them kept the evidence of friendship will obviously remain a mystery. Most likely the collection was put together during a very difficult period of life of the owners of the Freemasonic items.
As far as it is known the work of Masonic lodges was cancelled in 1822 by Alexandr I who had at first favoured them (3*). Brethren had strict instructions to follow if their "workshop" was closed (whatever the reasons for that were) or if there was any danger of the Order's secrets been revealed. The rules demanded that in situations like that all the documents and things Masons had were handed on to the lodge they were subordinate to, and the lodges passed their archives to the Chief Grand Leading "Workshops". This demanded peculiar precautions and naturally Freemasons did not trust the post. The archives were sealed and kept in caches of village and city estates till there appeared the safe opportunity.
3*) This prohibition was the result of different circumstances including the struggle of different Masonic groupings. See: Gordin J.A. "Mystics and Guards. The Case of the Masonic Plot" St.Petersburg, 1999 and other researches.
One might suppose that the trustee could not come and thus the cherished things were left with the members of the lodge and then inherited by their children till the 20th century. Obviously that was the case with the objects from the Nijni Novgorod collection: the owners could not pass them to the Masonic administration and they were kept by one family during all the events which took place in Russia (4*).
4*) From scientific point of view the collection is very valuable because it offers information about such a complex subject as Masonic rituals and systems of rites - see. Notes.
On the one hand the history of the Lodge of the Newly Lit Lamp by the Three Columns is very closely connected with the Decembrist movement members of which tried to make use of the organized structure of lodges and the system of "recruiting" new members (especially it concerns the ones who had to do with M.A. Dmitriyev-Mamonov's Order of Russian Knights (since 1818 - the Prosperity Union. The tactics of Decembrist leaders was to create their provincial "administrations" (resembling "workshops") to influence the positions of the noble in the peasants' question. For that reason in 1917 there was constituted the Nijni Novgorod Lodge.
The "workshop" worked according to the Swedish system and consisted of St. Petersburg and Nijni Novgorod officials working at the Ministry of Finance, the Department of Mining and Salt Affairs mostly. Some of them were initiated into high degrees. As the work was not allowed officially (5), till 1827 meetings were held secretly in the house of Grand Master (leader) Andrey Vasilievich Sverchkov.
At the same time the work of Freemasons in Nijni Novgorod was not limited to the Decembrists' influence only.
The name of the lodge shows that it appeared thanks to such famous people as the man of letters Savva Andreyevich Moskotilnikov (1768-1852), member of the Lodge of the Upcoming Luminary working in the late 18th century in Kazan and Fyodor Fyodorovich Franken (the 1st Supervisor in 1817) who participated in the foundation of the Petersburg Lodge of the Three Luminaries in 1816 (he became a Freemason in 1787 in the lodge Ghigheya in Petersburg).
In Nijni Novgorod there also "worked" another famous Freemason of the "early initiation" - Dmitry Yegorovich Polocheninov who joined the Lodge of Neptune in Kronstadt in 1780. It should be mentioned that in the Petersburg Lodge of Modesty in the late 1780s there worked Georg Frank and Georg Ludwig Evenius whose children - Carl Yegorovich Frank and brothers Georg, Ivan and Christian Evenius were members of the Nijni Novgorod Lodge. The Lodge Ghigheya was member of the union of the Lodge of Modesty.
Obviously the development of Masonry in Nijni Novgorod was stimulated by the two events: French immigration at the time of the Revolution and the evacuation of people from Moscow and Petersburg during Napoleon's invasion.
Speaking about Frenchmen we cannot but mention the nobleman Franz Osipovich Massary (Majary Foramuz) had fled to Russia between 1799 and 1804 (the period of Napoleon's consulate). He was granted Russian citizenship and the title of a nobleman, and till 1812 was a guberniya attorney (procurator). He was famous for his mysticism and belief in dreams coming true, introduced circus hunt; he was considered a liberal and was extremely popular in the Nijni Novgorod society. In 1819 was a director of the Nijni Novgorod Office of the Fair Court, had the title of the collegiate counselor.
During the war of 1812 many scientists and artists fled to Nijni Novgorod from the capital. Among them there were N.M. Karamzin and Professors of the Moscow University who were very active in spreading the theory of the Freemasonic Order in Russia. At the place of the nobleman and Freemason Averkiyev (who was a relative of the Eveniuses) there were held meetings of the society of the men of letters initiated in Moscow (among them there were V.L. Pushkin, J.A. Neledinsky-Meletsky). Probably this also played an important role in the Nijni Novgorod inhabitants getting interested in the search of truth and striving for self-development. It should also be said that almost all the members of the Lodge of the Newly Lit Lamp by the Three Columns participated in the "work" of various Petersburg "workshops", i.e. were bound together both by work and ideas of Freemasonry.
Unfortunately no all of the documents were kept safe. At present they are kept at the State Archive of the Nijni Novgorod region (they were seriously damaged by fire). For that reason Averkiyevs - Eveniuses' letters are a very important supplement to the objects themselves because they let us learn more about Freemasons' lives.
5*) Members of the lodge sent a request for the official opening to the Grand Provincial Lodge on 24.02.1817 but it was declined on 11.03.1819; in 1820 it was sent to the Directorial (Grand) Lodge Astrea (in 1821 the discussion was postponed).
MEMBERS OF THE LODGE OF THE NEWLY LIT LAMP BY THE THREE COLUMNS
2. Belyayevsky Maxim Potapovich. Deputy Grand Master in 1817. Worked since 1784. In 1804 was granted the title of a nobleman. Carried out commissions at the Department of Mining and Salt Affairs of the Ministry of Finance. In 1816 - a retired major, in 1817-1819 - Court Counsellor and Councillor of the State.
3. Franken Fyodor Fyodorovich. The 1st Supervisor in 1817. In 1813-1816 - titular counsellor; in 1821-1823 - collegiate counsellor, councilor of the Accounts Department of the Nijni Novgorod Salt Commission.
4. Belavin Boris Ivanovich. The 2nd Supervisor in 1817. A son of the Nijni Novgorod Military Governor. Born in 1790 (891) - died in the Caucasus. Came from a family of noblemen of the Nijni Novgorod guberniya; a soldier, participated in the war of 1812. Lived in the city of Tchernukh, Makarjevsk uyezd. In 1821-22 - Marshal of the Nobility of the Makarjevsk uyesd. Had two brothers one of whom was a Decembrist.
5. De Viado Akim Akimovich. The 1st Stuart in 1817.
6. Pogulyayev Timfey Gordeyevich. Rhetorician in 1817. In 1823 - official of the 9th grade, councilor of the Distributing Department of the Nijni Novgorod Salt Conveyance Commission. In 1833 - Court Counsellor, Councilor of the Nijni Novgorod Salt Administration.
7. Motyl Danilo. Secretary in 1817. In 1818-1821 -secretary of the guberniya (in Nijni Novgorod?).
8. Gressan Andrey Leontjevich. In 1812-1814 - senior assistant of the head of the 3rd Department of the Home Office, served under I.N. Beloklokov (active Freemason). In 1821 worked at the Home Office, was granted the title of the titular counsellor. In 1817-1823 - titular counsellor, was the treasurer of the department of the Nijni Novgorod and Rybinsk main salt stock. After 1823 retired and lived in Balakhna. His brother Pyotr (a mason too) in 1822 - lieutenant, manager of the Balakhna uyezd Public Duty Administration.
9. Massary Franz Osipovich (Mojary Foramuz). His son Nikolay (a Freemason as well) was a police chief of the Court of the Land in Balakhna.
10. Moskotilnikov (Moskotelnikov) savva Andreyevich (?).
11. Polocheninov Dmitry Yegorovich. Served in the NAVY (studied at the military school, naval cadet) since 1767. Since 1780 quitted, since 1781 lived in Nijni Novgorod. In 1803 - counsellor of the Nijni Novgorod salt office, in 1806-1810 - counsellor of the salt stock dispatch office, Councilor of the State. Lived not far from Arzamas, landowner.
12. Frank Carl Yegorovich (28.09.1793-17.03.1872). In 1808 joined the service. In 1816 - official of the 12th grade. In 1817 - secretary of the guberniya. In 1819 - the chief assistant of the head of the Board of the Department for Spiritual Affairs. In 1820-22 - titular counsellor, head of a 'desk' of the 1st department for Spiritual Affairs. Quitted as the vice-director of the office of the chief procurator of Holy Synod, since 1841 - nobleman, then Privy Counsellor. Buried at the catholic cemetery in St. Petersburg.
13. Evenius Georg (? - after 1839). Doctor of Medicine of the 8th grade. In 1823-26 - operator of the Nijni Novgorod medical administration. Since September 1, 1828 - director of the trade school in Kazan.
14. Evenius Ivan Yegorovich (appr. 1790 - not earlier than in 1844). Studied at the Moscow University. Served at the Board of directors of the Communications, in 1814-1826 - in the Council of Communications. In 1819 - chief of the archive of the Council of Communications. In 1820-21 lived in Nijni Novgorod. In 1819-1822 - titular Counsellor. In 1821-22 - assistant of the secretary of the special office of the main Administration of Communications. Retired in 1843.
15. Evenius Christian Yegorovich (appr. 1786 - ?). A Lutheran, pharmaceutical chemist, chemist. In 1819-23 - member of the St. Petersburg pharmaceutical society in Nijni Novgorod.
INFORMATION ON RUSSIAN FREEMASONRY:
HISTORY OF SOME MASONIC LODGES, PECULIARITIES OF MASONIC SYSTEMS AND ORGANISATION OF BRETHREN'S WORK
1. HISTORY OF THE LODGE OF THE UNITED FRIENDS (Often called in French "Les Amis Reunis")
The "workshop" left the union of GPL on December 11, 1816 and since March 1817 turned to the Union of the Grand Lodge Astrea and in this connection some brethren who wished to stay in the former union constituted the Lodge of the Northern Friends.
At first the lodge worked in French, then - since 1817 in Russian. Since then it adhered to the Swedish system which contradicted the ideas of the brethren united under the Union of Astrea. Obviously that was the reason for the Lodge of the United Friends to become dormant.
At first the lodge meetings took place in the cellar of the church of Malta and then moved to the 'Large house in Fontanka street by the Anichkov bridge'.
2. HISTORY OF THE LODGE OF THE NORTHERN FRIENDS (as a variant "the Lodge of the friends of the North" and "Les Amis du Nord")
The reason for the foundation of the "workshop" is rather interesting. As it is known Masonic systems differ in philosophy of "works" and the amount of degrees a brother can be initiated in. Till 1815 in Russia there were a lot of lodges that worked in accordance with the so-called "Swedish" and "French" systems with a lot of degrees. They were united under the Grand Provincial Lodge.
Later on however a considerable amount of brethren turned down such complicated works and accepted the Old-English system with only three degrees. As an alien lodge there appeared the Grand Lodge Astrea which attracted attention of many workshops of the GPL. The Lodge of the United Friends joined it in 1817. In 1816 the members who wished to work as they used to constituted the Lodge of the Northern Friends.
That did not solve all the problems and in July 1818 the Lodge of the Northern Friends left the GPL and registered as ¹ 19 in the Union of Astrea. Soon after that it closed down.
3. HISTORY OF THE GRAND DIRECTORIAL LODGE OF ST. PRINCE VLADIMIR OF ORDER
The opening of the lodge put an end to the complicated organizational period in the history of several Russian Masonic lodges of the early 19th century. At that time their structure was determined and there were constituted the main (allied) lodges unifying ordinary workshops. From 1805 to 1810 Russian Masonic lodges resumed their work after they were forbidden by Katherine the Great in 1792.
Thus the Lodge of Pelican that had worked in the 1770s in Petersburg resumed its work as the Lodge of Charity for the Pelican in 1803-1805 and in 1805 it was officially opened as the Lodge of Alexander of Charity for the Crowned Pelican. This particular lodge was mentioned in the "Appeal of the lodge of Elisabeth of Virtue to other lodges in 1818". It was said there: "The Lodge of the Pelican was divided into three lodges, i.e. the Lodge of Elisabeth of Virtue, the Lodge of Alexander of Charity for the Crowned Pelican (the renewed lodge of the Pelican), the Lodge of Peter of Truth".
In 1811 the Three United Lodges were transformed into the Grand Directorial Lodge of St. Prince Vladimir of Order. Since September 19, 1816 it became the Grand Provincial Lodge of Russia. All those years till it was closed down in 1821 the lodge adhered to the Swedish system, i.e. admitted high degrees. Its members formed the Supreme Directorial which was considered the higher administration of the system in Russia.
The position of the lodge was reflected by its sign bearing the image of the knot as a symbol of the lodges' unity.
4. HISTORY OF THE LODGE OF PETER OF TRUTH
Most of its members were doctors, chemists, medical attendants - German Lutherans mainly although there were also tradesmen and owners of small enterprises among them). For that reason the lodge usually worked in German and the sign bore German letters and the typical Masonic symbol of eternity and wisdom - a snake biting its tale - resembling that of medicine - a snake winding round a cup.
The philosophic search of members of the Lodge of Peter of Truth was rather complicated. At first they admitted not only the three main degrees - a Masonic apprentice, grand master's assistant and grand master, but also high degrees and adhered to the so-called Swedish system. Later on the brethren (the first in Russia) turned down all the higher Masonic degrees trying to expel "any mysticism" from the Order.
The members of the lodge preferred to perform the function of "civilizing" in its broadest sense, i.e. they gave paid charity concerts, founded the Committee of Aid for the wounded during the Patriotic War of 1812, etc.
The meetings of the lodge took place at Maasa's in Kirpichny lane, Petersburg. The room was registered by the Count Fyodor Tolstoy who later became Vice-President of the Art Academy. He was not just a talented painter and medal-maker but also a brilliant interior designer as his daughter remembers it.
5. HISTORY OF THE LODGE OF THE THREE LUMINARIES
The installation of the lodge was held on December 4, 1816. It worked in alliance with the Grand Provincial Lodge (GPL). Among its founders there was Fyodor Fyodorovich Franken (the member of the lodge of the 7th degree, Treasurer till September 1817, absent since October 23, 1818 - perhaps at the time he was in Nijni Novgorod).
The meetings were held once a week at the GPL's.
6. PECULIARITIES OF MASONIC CERTIFICATES
There are two types of documents issued to Freemasons: the Grand Master's Diploma (the certificate of the brother's initiation) and the certificate according to which the lodge Doorman determined if the Freemason could attend the meeting to this or that extend.
There were also working patents issued to ordinary lodges by the Grand "Workshops".
7. PECULIARITIES OF MASONIC SYSTEMS (RITES). ST. JOHN'S MASONRY.
The main content of Masonic "works" is to understand certain spiritual truths codified in symbols. Freemasons are gradually absorbed into the mysteries of the Masonic Order, each step is marked by the initiating of the brother into a certain degree. These degrees (their number differs from system to system and sometimes reaches 90) are conventionally divided into three types: first there are St. John's degrees named after Saint John the Baptist which are basic for all Masonic rites (1--3), then there come the highest degrees which have different (but close) content in different systems (Swedish, French, Old and Accepted Scottish Charter, etc.). On the whole there are approximately 50 systems.
It should be mentioned that foreign Masons preferred not to disclose all degrees of their systems to the Russian brethren at once, and therefore the works in Russian lodges were not thorough.
There are three St. John's degrees - Apprentice, Assistant and Master. These degrees originate from medieval trade guilds; philosophically and spiritually they are based on the legend of Solomon's Cathedral building. In the lodges of the first three degrees Freemasons had to work over the development, improvement and purification of their souls - that was believed to call forth the "Golden Age" of Astrea (wisdom) they waited for.
Brethren-apprentices wore unpolished silver shovels, plain white aprons and white gloves. Assistants had polished shovels and white aprons with three white rosettes. Grand masters wore white aprons with three blue rosettes, gilded shovels and white keys made of bone.
8. PECULIARITIES OF THE MASONIC SWEDISH SYSTEM (RITE).
In Sweden where there appeared the Swedish system the highest degrees were the so-called "knightly" ones (or "templers") which revived the traditions of the Order of the Knights of the Temple. They were divided into those ones named after St. Andrew (4-6) and the highest, knightly degrees proper (7-14). In Russia the Swedish system spread since 1780.
St. Andrew's lodges were managed by the special Scottish Directory subordinate to the Chapter that headed the work of the highest degrees of the Swedish system. In organizational terms "Scottish" brethren were responsible for engaging new members. From ideological point of view St. Andrew's degrees had to do with the idea of death for the ideals of the Masonic Order as well as with the development of personal spiritual traits.
The 4th degree had to do with the idea of death for the ideals of the Masonic Order. That was the reason for the usual "robe of the Select Brother or Apprentice (Select Comrade) to consist of black and white apron with a dead head, the insignia of the dead head on the black and white band worn on the neck as well as a black and white shoulder band with a sharp from all sides three-edged dagger.
Perhaps at the beginning Russian Masons knew not all degrees of the Swedish system. In their descriptions there were missing the degree of a Scottish Comrade (5th) and therefore the sequence was broken. Later on the gap was obviously filled - the evidence of this is the collection of subjects left from the Nijni Novgorod Lodge of the Newly Lit Lamp by the Three Columns. Thus the 5th degree Mason - the Scottish Master's Assistant - wore an apron with a pentagram as well as the insignia of the "flaming pentagram".
The usual robe of the 6th degree Scottish Master besides the corresponding apron included a green band worn over the neck with the St. Andrew cross; red shoulder band with green borders (was worn over the right shoulder to the left) bearing the hexagram with the letter "G". This hexagon represented "the fight of the light of the spirit against the dark of the matter".
The degree of the Scottish Master could be granted only to those who could serve the native land "either by talent or property". The advancement of the kind gave a Mason the important right of "holding a secret lodge and in the presence of another Scottish Grand Master accept strangers (i.e. the ones who were not initiated yet) and initiate them into one of the following degrees - Apprentice, Comrade or Grand Master - absolutely free of charge".
9. INFORMATION ON THE OFFICE OF THE GIFT GIVER OF THE CHAPTER OF THE SWEDISH SYSTEM.
Any Masonic lodge had so-called officers (officials) who managed the lodge and at the same time took part in the rituals as leading figures. For example in the ritual of initiating into the higher knightly degrees in the Chapter of the Swedish system there took part the Grand Prefect, two chiefs of the rite, a prior, a secretary, two grand keepers of the temple, a standard, crowns, lamps, sward and square keepers and the grand gift-giver. The latter was considered the higher ecclesiastic of the Chapter and hence of the Swedish system on the whole. He played the main part in the ritual of the Last Supper with bread and wine to clear oneself from sins.
This office was granted to the oldest and wisest member of the Chapter and if there was none it could be temporarily conducted by the worthiest "knight" of the lodge.
10. PECULIARITIES OF THE MASONIC FRENCH SYSTEM (RITE)
The French system appeared in this country at the end of the 18th century under the influence of the Old-English system. Thus to the basic St. John's degrees there was added the 4th one (of the Royal Arch) which was with time considered "transitional" to the 5-7th ones. In France the 7-degree system though modified in different lodges was very popular. Its degrees were as follows: St. John's (1-3), the Selected Master (4), the Scottish Master (5), the Knight of the East (6), the Rosenkreutzer (7).
By 1801 in France there appeared a new ritual called "the French Renewal" but in Russia freemasons kept working according to the old "French system" - the evidence of this is the Masonic certificate issued (obviously in 1810) to Ivan Vorontsov by the Lodge of the United Friends. It was signed by the following members of the lodge: Vasili Pushkin with the degree of the Chosen One (4th) and Sergey Lanskoy initiated into the 5th degree (of the Great Scotsman / Scottish Master (6), the Knight of the East (7). The last degree was the one of the Rosenkreutzer.
11. PECULIARITIES OF FOUNDATION AND OFFICIAL OPENING (INSTALLATION) OF LODGES
The process of constituting a lodge was rather long. At first a few freemasons who had decided to constitute a new "workshop" gathered together and conducted the spade-work (i.e. fund raising, ritual utensils manufacture, etc.). Then there was a special request sent to one of the Grand (United) Lodges asking for the permission to join the Masonic Union. If the request was satisfied the newly constituted lodge was given a number and an approved insignia. Then there was held the ritual of its official opening (using the 19th century terminology - installation). Thus the dates of the foundation and opening of the lodge did not coincide.
12. PECULIARITIES OF THE MASONIC CALENDAR
Freemasons supposed that the world was created 40000 years before Christ and since that particular moment reckoned the time of "the true world".
Besides at the beginning of the 19th century the Masonic New Year was celebrated on March 1. Months had no names but numbers - the figures did not differ from usual ones.
Thus the year 5815 in the Masonic calendar corresponds to the year 1815 of the usual calendar; the third month is May, etc.
13. PECULIARITIES OF THE MASONIC MEETINGS
The regular freemasonic works were as follows:
14. PRINCIPLES OF MASONIC WORK IN DIFFERENT DEGREES
Secret knowledge was revealed to initiated Freemasons not at once: all the new edges were studied by the adept gradually; he passed on from one degree to another, i.e. from the "St. John's Masonry" to higher degrees. Thus an apprentice could not attend the meetings of comrades or masters. At the same time the lodge of St. John's masters could be headed only by a brother having a degree of the Scottish Master. One and the same workshop could unite Freemasons of both low and high degrees. In this connection the insignia of the President of the lodge could differ according to the fact how much work was revealed.
15. INFORMATION ON LODGE OFFICIALS
Each lodge had certain "administrative staff" responsible for its work. The main figure of each lodge was the Manager / Grand Master (President, Master of the Chair) who took care of the Bible, acts, constitution and lows of the lodge. Then the hierarchy of the lodge went as follows:
If there was no Master of the Chair the lodge was headed by the Deputy Grand Master and the 1st Supervisor.