Foundation of the Pühtitsa Convent


By the late nineteenth century, monasticism had become one of the defining characteristics of imperial Russian Orthodoxy. However, Riga diocese had virtually no monasteries or convents. As such, the Church, in league with the governors-general and the imperial government, undertook a campaign of monastery construction: by 1902, there were three convents and one monastery in the Baltic. The most renowned of these institutions was the Pühtitsa convent, located in the countryside of eastern Estonia. Here we provide an anonymous note submitted to the Russian government in 1885 about the establishment of the new convent.

Following the ancient customs of progressing Orthodoxy among a non-Russian population, it would be desirable to found a monastery among the Estonians who have recently converted to Orthodoxy.

A convent that starts as a cenobitic community (and which over time develops into a full monastic institution) would be the most convenient for these aims.

Taking as a model the Kostroma [Bogoiavlensko-Anastasiin] convent, it will be possible to quickly give this community an education aim for the rural population, which is in extreme need of girls schools that are separate from schools for boys (according to the reviews of Mr Kapustin, Father Ianson, and others).

A folk clinic would serve as the second such connection between the convent and the people.

Thirdly, the convent will be the most appropriate place for a sanctuary for the families of new converts, so often subjected to persecution (in the form of sudden deprivation of rented land or simply…) under the current order of relations to the people in Estland.

Splendid liturgies, regardless of how humble they are initially, would also have a great influence on the people. Estonians very much love harmony singing and the celebratory atmosphere of church services; they value the fervour and god-fearing character of church servitors. In order to fully show the significance of a convent in the desirable church-cultural development of newly converted Estonians, we could list the various connections of the convent with the people in general as a consequence of the familial influence of nuns drawn from the people, the close participation of the convent in all personal or social sorrows, deprivations, losses, and woes of the people, its sympathy with popular ideals and its striving to satisfy them. Who himself has experienced, who himself has seen the closeness of a true monastery to the needs of an Orthodox person, will surely be convinced that its existence is desirable in the midst of the Orthodox flock, especially one which is surrounded by a population alien and hostile in spirit, as is indisputably the case of the newly converted Estonians among Lutherans.

Source: RGIA, f. 812, op. 1, d. 225; V. Sorokin, ‘Materialy po istorii Piukhtitskogo Sviato-Uspenskogo zhenskogo monastyria’ in Iz istorii pravoslaviia k severu i zapadu ot Velikogo Novgoroda (Leningrad, 1989), pp. 9-10.