Attachement IV.

Religion and the State: The vine and Ye Shall live also

The vine

The vine plant is one of the symbols of Jesus Christ. The importance of the vine in Christian rituals is based on the symbolic connection of the vine with the Holy blessing of God the Father for his people. The vine tree was the first plant Noah put in the ground after the great flood: And the Lord said in his heart; I will not again curse the ground anymore (Genesis 8:21) and God said to Noah: I will establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you (Genesis 9:9) and Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). The Old Testament allegorically refers to pious kings who take a good care of their people as to good husbandmen and compare vineyards with nations. Symbolism of the vine for the chosen people of God is particularly evident in Psalm 80:8-19, which gives a summary of the history of Israel: Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land…visit this vine.

To fully understand the meaning of the Biblical vine we need to be aware of many other aspects of this symbol. It is particularly important to remember that the Scripture is a metaphorical blueprint of the Divine plan[26] ; its purpose is to bring up a true child of God entirely immersed in the will of the Lord. In the Bible this child is allegorically named a vine; the vineyard is associated with the group of consecrated people of God. Planting a new vineyard is connected to the hope for growth of a new nation of chosen people. After Noah's unsuccessful attempt was followed by the failure of the Israeli people, the "Divine Husbandman" rejected wild vineyards. Because the Bible is a Divine plan, this was a testimony of Divine efforts and human failures to grow a true vine. Instead, He plants one: He sends His son Jesus. In Isaiah 5:7: For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Visit this vine, prays psalmist Asath, Come back to us, God of Sabaoth! Look down from heaven and see us! Be careful with this vine (Ps.80:14) that you your right hand planted. {The vine is] the son that you made strong for yourself (Ps.80: 15). He repeats several times: God, make us return [to you] (Ps.80: 3,5,7,19); Make your face shine [on us] and make us safe (Ps.80: 2,3,7,19). This psalm is a desperate cry for mercy which was not granted. How was the connection made between this biblical allegory of major failure and progressive charitable educational institutions in imperial Russia?

Catherine the Great of Russia, in pursuing Enlightenment ideals, founded the "Imperial Educational Society of Noble Young Ladies" in 1774. The Smolny Institute became the first educational institution for women in Russia. The first graduates were an object of the Empress' personal pride; for the first time in Europe, the problem of upbringing and education of women was not only placed at the state level, it was successfully solved. The commemorative medal For Merit was struck in 1776 for its inaugural graduates. This serves as a remarkable visual representation of the Russian Empress' ambitious project. We can see on the medal that she deliberately selected the Christian vine symbol for the newly founded Society and transformed this allegorical downfall into a glorious emblem of her own triumphant reign.

On the front side of the medal, a half-length portrait of Catherine the Great is shown as she proudly holds her head up against the sky. On the other side there is a beautiful vineyard bathing in the sun, its rays shining from above. Young vines supported by the stalks already bear fruits. Rows of carefully pruned vines run beyond the horizon and above all the sign unfolds: So they ripen. This image can serve as perfect illustration of words from Isaiah 5:1, King James version[27] : Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill. There is no doubt that the desperate cry of God's children shown on this medal was heard, their wish was granted and the vineyard under the leadership of Catherine the Great, the good other husbandman, is thriving.

Characteristically, a grapevine is dependent on its caretaker. Another trait is its ability to spread. These literal aspects of vine growth created a clear parallel between biblical chosen people and new breed of men and women, both which can prosper under the good care of a pious sovereign.

The biblical vine as a new nation became a perfect symbolic expression of the Russian Empress' Enlightened ideas and her role as a supreme ruler. Catherine the Great carried on a plan to create a new Russia built upon the laws of reason and order to transform an entire society. This new state and society demanded[28] a 'new breed of man', morally enlightened and dutiful citizens, skilled in a variety of important crafts, who would fulfill their roles in society in the place to which God had called them[29]. Such a system of schools was created to facilitate the process of educating the "new breed" of people: hardworking, loyal and obedient to their monarch. Bible parables on the vine, and specifically Psalm 80 became a fine instance of allegory brilliantly interpreted by the Catherine the Great for the purpose of late 18th century Russian state politics.

Her initiative was supported and carried further by other members of the Romanov family through the 19th century until it grew into elaborate system of educational and charitable institutions across all of Russia. Image of the beautiful vineyard thriving under the sun can be found on commemorative medals, uniform buttons and memorabilia associated with the Institutes for the Noble Young Ladies and other organizations under the Office of the Impress Maria that pertained to women's betterment. The inscription So they ripen was substituted by the inscription Visit this vine to establish a direct connection of the image with biblical text and content[30]. This remained the motto for all educational Institutions for Noble Young Ladies associated with Imperial patronage, from Empress Maria Feodorovna, wife of Pavel I, until the end of the Romanov's reign in 1917.

In 1897, the motto Visit this vine and its characteristic engraving of vine fruits took an important place among the constellation of symbols for the Pelican Egg. The image of vine grapes engraved on the very top of the Pelican egg is a modest but meaningful representation of the achievements and successes of the Mariinsky Department and the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna personally; these are the fruits of education over the course of 100 years. It commemorates a well-cultivated vineyard.


Ye Shall Live Also

The words Ye shall live also (St. John 14:19) are preceded by the verse I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (St. John 14:18) placing it within the context of Jesus Christ's final discourse to his disciples (St. John 14)[31]. This discourse is familiar across Christian denominations as The Promise of the Holy Spirit. In it, he promises his disciples and all Christians that he would continue his care of them even though he will not be with them anymore: I will not leave you orphans, or fatherless; for, though I leave you, yet I leave you this comfort, I will come to you[32].

Parallel translations of the St. John 14:18-19 verses of the Gospel[33] offer different wording for verse 18. The King James version of the Bible translates it as I will not leave you comfortless. The American Standard version has it as I will not leave you desolate. The Bible in Basic English interprets it as I will not let you be without a friend, but quite a number of other Bibles such as the New International version (1984, 2008), the New American Standard Bible (1995), the English Standard version (2001) and more translate this phrase directly saying I will not leave you as orphans.

Russian editions of the Scripture always directly say orphans (сиры, or сироты): Неоставлю вас сиры (сиротами), прииду к вам (St. John, 14:18): Еще мало, и мир ктому не увидитъ мене: Вы же увидите мя, яко аз живу, и вы живы будете (St. John 14:19). This includes an 18th century[34] Bible from the reign of Elizabeth I, the daughter of Peter the Great. Catherine the Great chose a small portion of the St. John 14:19 verse as a motto for the Moscow Foundling House, founded on September 1, 1763. It does not mention orphans. Yet she knew well that the small quotation would be understood in the context of the entire 14th chapter of the Gospel of St. John. There were no doubts to her that the Bible orphans mentioned in the verse 18 will be associated with the abandoned children of Russia. The allegory of parentless children saved by the Heavenly Father served perfectly as a symbol of a supreme ruler's care of his or her subjects.

The relationship between children and the Divine Father become even more significant within the context of Russian history. For centuries, Russian people addressed the Russian Tsar as Father (Царь Батюшка) and to Tsarina as to Mother (Царица Матушка). Even to peasants and serfs, the supreme ruler was addressed with the singular You, rather than the formal, or plural You: You, Tsar Father, or You, Tsarina Mother (Ты, Царь Батюшка or, Ты, Царица Матушка). This form of appeal to the tsar was perfectly legitimate even in writing. For example, 1905 manifesto of Russian workers to Tsar Nicholas II, which marked the beginning of the 1905 revolution, repeats several times: You (singular, Thou), Tsar Father Nicholas II (Ты, Царь Батюшка Николай II)[35]. In Russia, the only other case when a person of low birth or upbringing could address to someone above him with the singular You was in prayer to Jesus Christ and to the Heavenly Father. This striking similarity is not a simple coincidence. Every citizen of Russia was brought up to believe that the Russian Tsar is God's anointed king, who has the exclusive provision to lead Orthodox Christians or, in the biblical sense, the true people. As a confirmation of his divine right to rule, the Russian tsar received the Holy sacrament twice[36] : at the ceremony of Chrismation (a ceremony comparable to Confirmation) and at the ruler's coronation on the throne. A Second anointing secured Russian monarchs in a position above all high priests, prophets and kings of the Old Testament who went through the sacred ceremony only once. It is a sign of being set apart for a special task, putting him or her in a position only one step below Jesus Christ, who was anointed three times as a priest, as a prophet and as a king.

Catherine the Great by all means considered herself as God's anointed ruler (Tsarina Mother) who will not leave her subjects comfortless, and as the other husbandman who would take good care of her vineyard. The Old Testament phrase Ye shall live also addressed to Russian orphans was not merely an appropriate quotation from Scripture; it was also a warrant from God's anointed monarch confirming that Jesus Christ's important promise will be fulfilled. At the time of Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Paul I, the phrase Ye shall live also becomes the motto for the charitable institutions and orphanages of the Office of Empress Maria. In 1897, this motto took an honorable place on the commemorative gift from Tsar Nicholas II to his mother – it was placed on the top of the Pelican Egg.