The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

The hierarchs were changing on Tobolsk pulpit, had been visiting frozen Siberian land for twenty springs, but the metropolitan’s decree was invisible defence for local clergy.

…The orchestra sounded, the sun shone on the musicians’ trumpets, on medals and ornamentals of courtier people who gathered from across the empire, the flowers were falling under the empress’s feet – they were celebrating the coronation of new Mistress Elizabeth.

New empress had already signed the decree about an appointment of Arceniy Matsievich as Rostov metropolitan; it was his turn to swear to the present Mistress of the throne.

“Your Majesty, I can’t,” the metropolitan bowed.

“I have signed the decree and you don’t want to swear me!” – Wrinkles on the Empress’s face appeared quickly and spoiled the work of all hairdressers.

“I can’t swear according to this text,” the metropolitan answered quietly but firm. “Empress Majesty can’t be the highest judge as it is said here, because only our Lord Jesus Christ has this right.”

The empress didn’t want even the smallest cloud to spoil such populous celebration, triumph of her life, and she made efforts to remove her wrinkles.

“So is it,” she tried to smile. “Go to your eparchy but prepare the project of an oath yourself.”

Then the document prepared by Matsievich was put on her table, “I confess to an oath God and our Lord Jesus Christ is the Highest Judge of this Church Government, powerful header of Church and Great Priest and czar who domineers and can judge everybody – alive and dead…”

Much time would pass and Rostov metropolitan would have to protest again for once against the robbery of churches, because the decree about the secularization of glebes was given to Empress Elizabeth to sign.

“Even the Tatar khans were hesitant at this,” lord Arceniy would forewarn.

But the empress would say, laying the pen aside, “No, I won’t sign and after me – as you like.”

…In a short break between trials the metropolitan Arceniy couldn’t reproach himself with imprudence in his serious reflections. He is a simple Christian and he doesn’t defend recusancy of the Church to the lay clerks and the state, otherwise –his faith is vain. The Church belongs to Christ, not to these people who call themselves senators, Privy Councillors or empresses. He was taught so by his father, Ivan Matsievich who was serving God honestly and people in far Volyn, in Ukraine, he was taught so in Lviv Theological Academy, in unforgettable Kiev-Mogila Academy, he told so as a preacher in Novgorod-Siversk, in Spassky Monastery in Chernihiv, in other towns and villages where the fate threw him. Because if the Church is under the heel of the official, of the state, there will be much evil in the world: the states, especially Russia, will make war and make dependent pastors bless blood. And this means betrayal of Christ, the state always makes outrageous (sometimes it repents hindsight, but only it’s always too late) and a pastor will be a companion in all crimes and enormities. And if the murderess of her husband is on the throne, stray from unknown countries that doesn’t have any rights to that throne, she will lose ecclesiastical estates at cards, estates collected sacrificially by our fathers, she will simply give them to her numerous lovers…

The metropolitan thought that he would stay the course.


Empress Catherine took a dislike to Arceniy Matsievich long before the meeting – feed the wolf or not but he looks at his way, so complained she to Orlov before the trial. Feed a Ukrainian or not but he looks at his steppe. Only Kalnishevskiy is worth…

After her coronation, after solemn service when it seemed that church choirs offered up her name to September skies, the empress was giving an audience to the highest dignitaries of the empire.

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.”

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