Thursday, May 15, 2014

Getting an Education . . .

Today we will focus on learning. Already, Dan and I have attended an on-board lecture focusing on the political and cultural situation in Russia. The current president, Putin, is from the "United Russia" party, which is termed a Social Democratic Party. The second most popular is the Communist Party.

I learned something about the Communist Party that surprised me, once it was explained. The folks that are voting for this party are elderly. They are the ones who survived communism, and transitioned to relative freedom. But, they say their pensions are not enough to live on, so they don't feel secure. Under communism, they had what they needed, and knew what to expect. So, they want to go back. 

I also discovered that when Russia was under communism, the leaders had their own "Ten Commandments" for rule. Although I wasn't told what they were, there would have been a sense of order, no matter how severe, which came from those rules. After communism, the people felt insecure with freedom, and turned (thankfully) to God and the church. That is why there is such focus on churches in our tours.

One of our staff guides, Anna, told us of her mother and grandmother's experience in Soviet Russia. Education was free, and after graduation, you were guaranteed a job. But the government specified where you would work for the next two years. You had no choice until your term was over, and then you had the freedom to work where you wanted. To me, that sounded like a good trade off for a free education. In America, we do the same in the military, do we not? They pay for the education but soldiers are required to stay in the military for a number of years.

"Now", Anna went on to say, "we can go to university where we like, but we must pay for it. And there is no guarantee that we will get a job when we graduate. We have freedom, but no security. My parents had little freedom, but felt secure." Hmmmm . . . what would you choose?

Is there a perfect situation? A benevolent ruler with structure and rules seems like the best scenario. I was reminded of a future time when Christ will rule for 1,000 years on earth. I'm sure that will be the ideal government for all. Except of course, for the lawless!

After lunch, we took a two hour tour in Goritsy, known for St. Cyril's (not the one who developed Cyrillic letters) Monastery. Dan chose to tour this complex. The kids and I chose to visit the school in Kirillov, a nearby town.

The building was plain, but you could tell much learning was going on there. We saw the photos of future Olympic athletes, and those who had won academic awards. 

And we enjoyed a short concert in the arts and crafts room, which also displayed beautiful works of art. It was obvious that they valued all skills, not just athletics.

The girl who told us about the arts spoke fluent English; and she was only in tenth grade! Next year, she will take the most difficult exam for the English language. I'm sure she will pass with flying colors, and become a tour guide some day!

Young Pioneers outfit displayed in classroom. They are similar to Hitler's Youth, but not as militant.

Here is the library:

And photos of all the teachers who served in WW2. Most did not return from the war.

Next, we visited a Restoration Center, where students are taught to restore ancient wooden churches and homes from the 18th and 19th century, using the original tools which they have uncovered. 

We saw some of those buildings in Suzdal, near Vladimir, where Tania took us before heading back to Moscow. It is certainly an art! 

In this town is a nunnery where princes and tzars exile wives who don't behave, the tzars don't like for some reason, or because their wives want their own son to take over the throne (and thus possibly desire to eliminate their husbands.)

As I listen to the tour guides, I am gradually realizing that everyone has their own version of history. In Moscow, we were told that Ivan the Terrible's seven wives died mysteriously. Another said he had six wives. And our tour guide today said that Ivan loved his first wife dearly, and she was the one who was poisoned. Evidently, he must of been suspicious of his other wives, because the second and fifth wives were exiled to Goritsy Convent below:

We had a lovely Russian tea ceremony this afternoon when we returned. The tea brewing process was explained, along with etiquette concerning the drinking of tea . . . from the saucer, supported with only four fingers. And the more slurping, the better! 

Olivia is asked to demonstrate . . . 

The samovar (large decorated urn) holds the hot water, and the teapot sits on top of the samovar as it brews to keep warm.

It's been a delightful day of learning. No matter what we do or where we go in life, there is always a chance to learn, if our minds are open to it. 

This was the verse I read today: 

For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. Proverbs 8:11


  1. Great information! Very interesting about the freedom vs security.

    1. Isn't it? I'm finding much to ponder here in Russia, Tina!


I would love to have you comment...thanks!

Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel