Russian bishop proposes renaming “communist” islands of northern archipelago

Moscow, January 24, 2018

Photo: Union of Orthodox Journalists Photo: Union of Orthodox Journalists

A bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church has proposed to rename the “communist” islands of Severnaya Zemlya for the centenary of the July 1918 martyrdom of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. The islands were opened in 1913 by an expedition sent by Tsar Nicholas, Bishop James of Naryan-Mar and Mezen, the head of the patriarchal Russian Arctic Project, which aims to missionize and sanctify the Arctic, told RIA-Novosti.

Severnaya Zemlya is a 14,286-square-mile archipelago in the Russian high Arctic, off of Siberia's Taymyr Peninsula. The archipelago is separated from the mainland by the Vilkitsky Strait, and itself separates the Kara Sea in the west and the Laptev Sea in the east.

The Severnaya Zemlya (“Northern Land”) Archipelago was opened on September 4, 1913 by the expedition of Boris Vilkitsky and was named The Land of Emperor Nicholas II, with one of the islands being named in honor of the Tsarevich Alexei. The archipelago was renamed in Soviet times, and its islands were named Pioneer, Komsomol, Bolshevik, and October Revolution.

“We must follow the path of historical and Divine truth… Geography and the naming of lands should record the path of creation, not of destruction. It’s comical to see these names in the Russian Arctic: Komsomol, Bolshevik, Pioneer. We must have a more serious attitude towards our own history, and respect and love our land. Do we have so few heroes-explorers that we can be proud of?” Bp. Jacob said.

There was already an attempt to return the name of Tsar St. Nicholas II to the archipelago in 2006, and to rename the islands in honor of the murdered daughters of the last tsar. However, in order to escape from the imposed collision of the “whites” and the “reds,” it is now being proposed to give new names to the islands to immortalize deeds done for the good of the Fatherland, Bp. Jacob noted.

“I even think, let it remain as the Severnaya Zemlya. We must approach this question prudently. I don’t totally like the attempts to give all the islands only the names of the royal family—they don’t have any special accomplishment here. It’s another thing that the Emperor Nicholas II decided whether this expedition would happen or not. Perhaps, the main island could be named for Nicholas II, but the rest in honor of the Arctic explorers,” the bishop added.

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