The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

The personalities who received this honor had to feel the whole greatness of the moment, true mightiness of a new empress, her ambitions and intentions. It was caused also by unseen grandeur celebration – triumphal arch was built quickly for the empress to enter. Builders wielded axes even at night, by the fire in Tver Street, in Earthen city, in White, in China Town, decorated the houses with fir branches and carpets, the belfry of Ivan the Great was shining with illumination, tables with drinks and food stood in Red Square. The words “the law directs, the sword protects” were written on triumphal arches.

The empress was giving an audience to the dignitaries graciously. She told ataman Peter Kalnishevskiy, who arrived from Ukraine, only some words, but the ataman conversed lively with crown-prince, son Pavel.

“I do my best to protect my country,” seventy-year old ataman told respectfully, his hair was grey, but he was good-looking, one could feel a special power in him who was weather-beaten by all prairie winds, taut and slim as if there weren’t so many crusades and events. “The Serbs, the Volokhs, the Greeks and other unknown people take our land. Your landlords occupied salt-pans in Prognoy…”

The Empress didn’t forget to ask her son about that conversation.

“Did Kosh Otaman ask pay, powder or anything else again as his precursors?” – Sly smile shone in bluish empress’s eyes, she was walking long after her coronation so as if the land underfoot were so flexible that it sagged.

Son shook his head. “No, he said that Crimean Khan threatened with new raids, that Russian landlords took salt pans violently, took many lands with forests and fish through the length and breadth. And he was concerned that an unfair tax on the export of cattle, beasts, and fir and on import of goods was removed… He reminded of March articles written by Khmelnitsky…”

“He can’t be a Kosh Otaman” – the empress’s eyes flashed yellow lights and the land underfoot became firm – “if we need him or not, we’ll tell him.”

She estimated in the mind that could possess such fertile ground, remembered those who helped her in enthronement; she, but not Kalnishevskiy had to think about settlement in those lands. Mentally she connected Arceniy Matsievich with Kosh Otaman not incidentally. They met before the Elizabeth’s death about three years ago accidentally, when Kalnishevskiy, war clerk Artem Kupman and former ataman Pavel Kirillovich came with delegation again to bother. The walls of Petropavlovsk castle are very thick; they keep the smallest secrets in Secret Chancellery very surely, for example the conversation between Matsievich and Kalnishevskiy.

“Peter, in spite of your grey hair, you are still a nice Zaporozhian Cossack” – Arceniy was looking at Kalnishevskiy with a smile – “and the clothes fit you, I see you are from Cossacks’ land.”

“It was Cossacks’ land, but now I don’t know whose land it is,” said Kalnishevskiy darkly. “Foreigners go to our land: Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Armenians, Valahs, Russians-Old Believers who served in Rzeczpospolita. Their numerous settlements appear, in the court they are said to guard the border from the South, but what warders they are… Maybe your soul is calm, because pastor lives under God’s laws.”

“If it were so” – Arceniy couldn’t hide bitterness in his voice – “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but today Caesar needs much more… The empress’s decree demands lands of pontiffs and monasteries to be governed not by monastery servants but by ex-servicemen. They are wandering in monasteries, arrest horses, instruments and other property, as if for treasury, but treasury will never see it… Monastery forests are cut down.”

“Lord, why do you keep silent, why don’t other clerics defend themselves?”

Kalnishevskiy said and stumbled, he was sorry for words which burst involuntarily. But didn’t he keep silent too when they ordered from St. Petersburg to teach Russian in schools and soon eight hundred Ukrainian schools were closed on the Left Bank? Didn’t he keep silent when the history of his land was stolen in Gluhov, when all diplomatic and state documents were taken to Moscow archive of the General Staff?

“Peter, don’t think about it” – Arceniy shook his head as if Kalnishevskiy had uttered his thoughts aloud – “it is written: there is time to cast away stones and there is time to gather stones. God will judge, this means stones will be gathered …”

Arceniy was genuinely glad to meet his fellow countryman, his heart warmed as if he were able to go back to the homeland for a moment. To Golden Domed Kiev, Peter Mogila’s academy, St. Sophia Cathedral in which there is a spirit of Yaroslav the Wise, Bishop Warlaam under the cathedral rang, archbishop of Kiev who in far 1723 dedicated him to monkery. He often thought about return to Ukraine, he filed a petition about it. He wrote angry letter when there were more soldiers than monks in monasteries. The metropolitan confirmed that College Savings wanted to make a slave of the Holy Church and its servants. The College complained to the Senate and the Bishop was summoned to the Moscow Synod office, and they declared him a reprimand.

Indignant metropolitan asked to release him from the leadership of the Diocese of Rostov referring to the disease. Lord Arceniy wrote, “Let me go to Novgorod-Siverskiy, Spassky Monastery in Chernihiv…”

Synod was happy with retirement of Arceniy and prepared a report for the empress. But Elizabeth did not approve of the report in vain.

Meeting with Kalnishevskiy, news from native land warmed the Lord’s heart. But it was the last meeting – not destined to be more…


What the empress should do with Arceniy Matsievich? Should she execute or pardon him? To break him on the wheel or send to his diocese as Elizabeth did, clenching her teeth?

Catherine II saw breaking on the wheel. Criminals are taken to a special penalty on a chariot, riflemen are holding candles in their hands, the closer to the execution site, the greater the crowd of onlookers, who are greedy to the spectacles; and now the high platform on which there is the pillory with chains, gallows, rack, block, pointed stakes on which severed heads will be put, executioner takes whips, branding, curling tearing nostrils, mites and saber blades to cut off noses, ears and tongue; executioner is doing it slowly and with obvious pleasure, because he is the most important here and hundreds of eyes are looking at him. According to the decree about breaking on the wheel criminal was tied to the rings, they hit his backhand on the joints – sentence always ordered to break ribs, hands or legs, and bones cracked as dry branches with groans and shouts of criminals and squeals of delight, and fun of the crowd.

The empress thought that Arceniy Matsievich deserved punishment without doubt. On the other hand, Catherine II was always cautious, she wared of possible unrests among people, and she didn’t want to create a martyr for the faith from this lier, discourteous pastor. Secret expedition did not eat bread from treasury in vain, the empress knew about palms which were thrown under metropolitan’s feet when he was taken to the trial, and there were rumors about a prophetic dream of monk Theophylact: he addressed as if with a prayer to St. Demetrios who answered, “Why do you address to me, humble Theophylact? There is one among you who deserves no less holiness, this is Rostov metropolitan Arceniy…”

The empress was putting her thoughts on invisible balance; scales were rocking and couldn’t stop. And she didn’t have right to make an error at that moment.

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