Divine Liturgy performed on the Imperial cruiser ‘Aurora’ for the first time in 100 years

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Cruiser Aurora is now berthed at Petrogradskaya Embankment in St Petersburg

This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

On 15th April 2018, an historic event took place on the cruiser Aurora, where a Divine Liturgy was perfomed in the ship’s church for the first time in 100 years.

The head of the service was the rector of the Church of St. Nicholas of Myra in St. Petersburg, the head of the Commission of the Public Chamber of Russia for Charity, Protopriest Alexander Tkachenko. Taking part in the Divine Liturgy were the pupils of the Nakhimov Naval School, as well members of the ship’s crew and command.

According to Father Alexander, liturgies in the cruiser Aurora church will continue to be held in the historic cruiser of the Imperial Russian Navy on a regular basis.

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Protopriest Alexander Tkachenko

“These people have a strong Christian Orthodox world view, and they came to the service, because prayer to God is an important part of their inner spiritual life,” Father Alexander noted on the day of the service.

“This, of course, is not a parish church, and thus not open to local residents. This is a church, which is on board a combat ship of the Baltic Fleet. Members of the ship’s crew and command, as well as students of the Nakhimov Naval School, will take part in the services,” explained the priest.

According to Father Alexander Tkachenko, the Divine Liturgy was an act of historical reconciliation, since it is the Aurora, “was associated with the beginning of the revolution and the beginning of the terrible era of our country.”

“During the Liturgy, a prayer of commemoration was held for all – including those who were on the side of the Reds, and those who were on the side of Whites, and those who saw the future of the country in the continuation of the old order, and those who wanted to change the system. Probably, for Orthodox people this is an act of historical reconciliation of people of different views and different classes,” the priest concluded.

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Early 20th century watercolour depicting Divine Liturgy in the cruiser Aurora church

The cruiser Aurora was constructed at the Admiralty Shipyard in St Petersburg, and launched on 11 May 1900, commissioned on 29 July 1903.  She served during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), and survived the Battle of Tsushima (27–28 May 1905). During the battle her captain, Captain 1st rank Eugene R. Yegoryev (1854-1905), and 14 crewmen were killed. The Aurora managed to reach neutral Manila, Philippines, where she was interned under US protection from 6 June 1905 until the end of the war. In 1906 Aurora returned to the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Imperial Navy and became a cadet training ship. From 1906 until 1912 the cruiser visited a number of other countries; in November 1911 she was in Bangkok as part of the celebrations in honour of the coronation of the new King of Siam, Rama VI (1880-1925). 

During the First World War Aurora operated in the Baltic Sea. At the end of 1916, she was moved to Petrograd for a major repair. The city was brimming with revolutionary ferment and part of her crew joined the 1917 February Revolution.

The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Mikhail Nikolsky, was killed when he tried to suppress the revolt. A revolutionary committee was created on the ship, with Aleksandr Belyshev elected as captain. Most of the crew joined the Bolsheviks,, who were preparing for a Communist revolution.

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Cruiser Aurora 1909-1910

At 9.40pm on 7th November (O.S. 25th October) 1917, a blank shot from her forecastle gun signaled the start of the assault on the Winter Palace, which was to be the beginning of the October Revolution. In the summer 1918, she was relocated to Kronstadt and placed into reserve.

During the Second World War, the guns were taken from the ship and used in the land defence of Leningrad. The ship herself was docked in Oranienbaum port, and was repeatedly shelled and bombed. On 30 September 1941 she was damaged and sunk in the harbour.

After extensive repairs from 1945 to 1947, Aurora was permanently anchored on the Neva in Leningrad as a monument to the Great October Socialist Revolution. In 1957 she became a museum-ship. 

Having long served as a museum ship, from 1984 to 1987 the cruiser was once again placed in her construction yard, the Admiralty Shipyard, for capital restoration. During the restoration revealed that some of the ship parts, including the armour plates, were originally made in Britain.

Aurora is the oldest commissioned ship of the Russian Navy, still flying the naval ensign under which she was commissioned, but now under the care of the Central Naval Museum. She is still manned by an active service crew commanded by a Captain of the 1st Rank.

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The cruiser Aurora docked in Kronstadt for overhauling in 2014

In January 2013 Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu announced plans to recommission Aurora and make her the flagship of the Russian Navy due to her historical and cultural importance. On 21 September 2014 the ship was towed to the Admiralty Shipyard in Kronstadt to be overhauled, to return in 2016.

On 16 July 2016 she returned to her home harbour in Saint Petersburg. Unlike the Soviet years when the ship was used for propaganda purposes, the newly restored Aurora will be the venue of a new historical exposition, which will open late in July. It will include nine rooms devoted to the cruiser’s participation in three wars – the 1904-1905 Russian-Japanese war; the First World War and WWII.

Click HERE to watch a VIDEO of the legendary Imperial Russian Cruiser Aurora being towed to Kronstadt for repairs on 21 September 2014.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 April 2018