Conference Report: “Rus’ and Mount Athos: a Millennium of Spiritual and Cultural Ties”

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From Vera Tchentsova:

The international conference “Rus’ and Mount Athos: a Millennium of Spiritual and Cultural Ties” took place in Chernihiv

The international conference “Rus’ and Mount Athos: a Millennium of Spiritual and Cultural Ties” took place on the 28 and 29 November 2014 in Chernihiv in Ukraine. It was dedicated to the millennium of Russian Athonite monasticism and to the 220th anniversary of the falling asleep in Christ of St. Paisy Velichkovsky (☩ 28 November 1794), the prominent Athonite ascetic and public figure, who left an indelible imprint on the spiritual and cultural life of peoples of the Christian East (Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia and Ukraine).

The initiative to organise the conference belongs to The International Institute of the Athonite Legacy in Ukraine (Director of the Institute: Sergij V. Shumilo) in collaboration with the Chernihiv Taras Shevchenko State Pedagogical University, web portal for information on Athos “Afonit.Info” (, Shevchenko Institute of Literature of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the UNESCO chair in comparative studies of spiritual traditions, their specific cultures and interreligious dialogue (521) established at the Russian Institute for Cultural Research, Byzantine history and civilization Research Center (UMR 8167 Orient et Méditerranée / Collège de France, Paris), International Society “Friends of Mount Athos” (Oxford), Association “Insieme per Athos” (Italy), History of religions and of the Church Research Center “Lazar Baranovich” (Chernihiv, Ukraine), Theology and History Research Center (Mukachevo, Ukraine).

The choice of the place for the event was not accidental. St. Anthony of the Caves (c. 983-1073), the founder of the monastic tradition in the Kievan Rus’ thousand years ago originated from Chernihiv region. Being formed spiritually on Mount Athos, Anthony in order to translate his monastic experience returned to Chernihiv, where he founded the monastery of Our Lady of the Caves in Boldinskije Gory (Caves of St. Anthony) and then the monastery of the Assumption in Elets. For centuries ancient monasteries of Chernihiv as genuine spiritual centres and connecting links between the Holy Mountain and Kievan Rus’ contributed to the further widespread of Orthodox monasticism, of Athonite patrimony and of spiritual education in Ancient Rus’.

About 80 historians from various countries participated in the event, including researchers from Ukraine, as well as from Germany, Great Britain, Greece, France, Moldavia, Poland, Romania, Russia and the United States of America. The possibility, offered to those contributors who could not attend the meeting personally, to present their papers as poster communications, permitted more than 30 other specialists to take part in the conference. The official languages of the conference were Ukrainian, Russian and English. The sessions took place in one of the buildings of Chernihiv Taras Shevchenko State Pedagogical University. The International Society “Friends of Mount Athos” (Great Britain) was represented at the conference by Dr Nicholas Fennell, research fellow of the University of Winchester, who during the opening ceremony read the greetings of His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales, Honorary President of the International Society “Friends of Mount Athos” and of the President of the Society, His Eminence the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia.

A presentation of the perspective editorial projects and of the latest publications of the Athonite St. Panteleimon’s monastery, dedicated to the Millennium of presence of Rus’ monks on the Holy Mountain, was offered to the participants at the plenary session by the Reverend Father Ermolai (Chezia), the monastery’s archivist, librarian and curator of the museum. He presented the most important books of the series, actually in print or in preparation, among which are catalogues and publications of archival materials.

The conference was structured in eight sections: 1) Athonite cultural and artistic traditions; 2) Athos beyond the Athonite borders: relations of the Holy Mountain with the Orthodox oecumene; 3) Athos in monastic life and history; 4) Influence of Athos on the literary production and creation; 5) Life and work of St. Paisy Velichkovsky; 6) Athos in the history of Ukraine; 7) The contribution of Athos to theology and philosophy; 8) Traditions of pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain. The complete program of the international conference “Rus’ and Mount Athos: a Millennium of Spiritual and Cultural Ties” with the names of all the participants and the titles of their papers is available on the website  >>>

The actual aim of the organisers of the conference is to transform it into a springboard for the sharing of experience, for systematic and varied discussion, for the study and propagation of the legacy, history and influence of Mount Athos on the spiritual growth, culture, philosophy, art and literature of peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. The papers presented during the conference will be subject to scientific publication.

The International Institute of the Athonite Legacy in Ukraine (Международный институт афонского наследия в Украине : МИАНУ) is a public research non-profit organisation, uniting Ukrainian and foreign researchers, public figures and politicians who are sharing their interest in Athos, its history and its rich cultural-spiritual patrimony. The objective of the Institute (IIALU) is the study of spiritual and cultural influence of the Holy Mountain on the history and culture of Ukraine and of the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe in order to contribute to the revival and propagation of the spiritual and cultural Orthodox legacy of Athos and to the development of long-standing relations with religious and cultural centres on the Holy Mountain, as well as with all kinds of scientific and public organisations whose main objective is spiritual instruction, education and scholarly research work. The IIALU participate in the international scientific cooperation and rapprochement of researchers, public figures and businessmen in order to stimulate the study and dissemination of the cultural and historical patrimony of Athos in Ukraine. One of the main purposes of the IIALU lies in the collection of surviving documents from Ukrainian and foreign archives shedding light on the history of contacts between the territories actually within the borders of Ukraine with Mount Athos, in order to offer the scientific community a modern and efficient research instrument and new information on this theme via all types of editorial activities and diffusion of such publications.

The honorary president of the International Institute of the Athonite Legacy in Ukraine is Professor Antony-Emile N. Tachiaos (Thessaloniki, Greece), member-correspondent of the Academy of Athens, Professor Emeritus of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, foreign member of the Academies of Serbia and Bulgaria, Honorary President of the Association of Slavists of Greece, President of the Scientific Society “Saints Cyril et Methodius”, author of many publications about Athos and Athonite spiritual heritage.

The Scientific Council of the Institute unites Ukrainian and foreign specialists who are involved in the ongoing research related to the history and culture of the Holy Mountain. The organisation has representatives in Great Britain, Greece, France, Italy and Russia and collaborates in a directly with several Athonite monasteries. Relevant information concerning the activities of the Institute and its future projects is also available on the Athos information portal.

The Institute supports the organisation of regular international conferences and the development of various educational and cultural projects. We invite all individuals and institutions who are interested in collaboration to send their proposals, suggestions and remarks to the e-mail address: