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Alexander Shumskikh




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        In the late 1990-s a group of young people traveled through the Russian North in search of strange and wild places. They got as far as to Zaonezhye, discovered for themselves Kolodozero and fell in love with this place. They started coming there every summer. Their minds were filled with discontent with their lives and they dreamt of something better. So they decided to start a new life in the place they liked so much. This is how community of Kolodozero got started.
        At its heart there is an aspiration for unalienated existence, when people do what their hearts feel for and not what they have to, in other words, when their earthly and spiritual ways agree. It means that one should give up all extras and focus on the most important things. In this case megapolis turned out to be an unnecessary extra while church and nature became the most important things.
        Simple life in accordance with the nature is an important element of Kolodozero way of life and orthodox faith is, perhaps, the central element of it. Members of the community came to church consciously, when they were quite mature. Extremism of neophytes is uncharacteristic of them. They listen to rock music and watch Bergman's films on DVD. The living spirit of grace spreads above them and not the dead letter of the law.
        It is the fourth year since they started construction of the temple Ц at their own expense and by their own forces. The church of Kolodozero is not only an architectural construction and a place to pray but also a symbol of life the way it should be Ц bright, strong and inspired. Not an earthly life but the one fixed on heaven, not divided but united one.
        At the same time the community is growing, too. As if answering an invisible call, dozens of people come to Kolodozero from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other cities. Some of them decided to move to Kolodozero for good so they prepare the economic basis of life in a new place: they work on projects and develop business plans.
        They do not just think of themselves, they also work on creating work places for local people. It is a difficult task in view of total unemployment and desperate drunkenness, especially since remoteness from trade routes and markets makes production for the outer world unprofitable, and local market orientation is also questionable since economic decline of the region is accompanied by extremely low customer demand.
        Economic decline and social desolation, however, have another side, too. There is almost nothing to get out of this place so there is no much sense in exercising authority here. That is why, according to deacon Nikolai (a pilgrim looking for a quiet place to build a skete and devote himself to prayers), "people live here more freely". Wildness, freedom and opportunity to start something from a scratch Ц this is what such places have to offer to eople fleeing from cities.
        Will inhabitants of Kolodozero manage to put into life their vision of unity of Heaven and Earth? Will they be able to bring the dying village out of coma by leading people by example and showing them possibility of sensible life? Will their experiment become a sprout of the new community driven by freedom and fullness instead of compulsion and lack of something? Time will show.
        At least, they are doing their best.

Yevgeniy Gorny