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More about Freemasonry in Russia

The Light of Freemasonry Spreads East

by MWB John H. Grainger and Bro. Ben M. Angel

"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world reamins and is immortal." - Albert Pike

The raising of a Vladivostok importer-exporter to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on Saturday, Sept. 11, 1999, marked the opening of a new chapter in Russian Masonic history.

Pacific Rim Lodge, UD, of Vladivostok, Russia, authorized by the Grand Lodge of Russia, met for the very first time in Palmer, Alaska, for the purpose of initiating Nikolay Luzganov on Friday, Sept. 10. It again met the following day for the purpose of passing and raising the new Russian Mason.

Masons from several Alaska lodges performed the courtesy degree work for the new Brother Luzganov in ceremonies attended by 35 Masons, including MWB Raymond Beaver, Grand Master of Alaska, and four past Grand Masters of the same jurisdiction.

On Oct. 15, eight Master Masons from Alaska followed up on this historic event by flying to Vladivostok and conferring all three degrees on eight other candidates from the Russian Far East. Lodge was opened by MWB John Grainger, Senior Grand Warden of the Alaska RWB Charles Corbin, and soon-to-be-Worshipful Bro. Luzganov. Alaska degree team members included MWB James Griffith, Bro. Donald Witsoe, WB William Goodwin, WB Terry Quarton, VWB Robert Fulton, and Bro. Larry Wright.

Officers of the new lodge were installed three days later in an open ceremony. All eight Alaskan sojourners petitioned the new lodge for membership as charter members.

The history of these events began in 1993, when MWB Grainger, then Grand Master of Alaska, formed the Grand Lodge's Russian Relation's Committee. The raising of Russian candidates stands as a major milestone in spreading the light of Freemasonry to the Russian Far East.

THE RETURN OF MASONRY TO EUROPEAN RUSSIA

Russian Masonry underwent its most recent period of dormancy following the Russian Revolution. Masonry was prohibited during the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in November 1922. This dormancy came to an end when on Jan. 14, 1992, the Grand Lodge Nationale Francais chartered Harmonie Lodge #698 in Neuilly, near Paris. Less than a year later, on Sept. 8, the installation of officers in Moscow under Worshipful Master Georgi Borisovich Dergachov, marked the physical return of Masonry to Russia.

On the first anniversary of this event, three additional lodges were constituted by the GLNF:

  • Lotus (in Moscow),
  • Novaya Astrea (in St. Petersburg), and
  • Gamaioun (in the southern city of Voronezh).

These four lodges formed the modern Grand Lodge of Russia, under the auspices of the GLNF, and the direction of MWB Dergachov as its first Grand Master, on June 24, 1995.

The Russian Grand Lodge today has 12 lodges in Russia:

  • Polar Star (in Arkhangelsk),
  • Alexander Pushkin (in Moscow),
  • Jupiter (in Zvenigorod),
  • Aurora (an English-speaking lodge in Moscow),
  • The Northern Lights (an Armenian Sojournal Lodge in Moscow),
  • Fraternal Love (a traveling lodge that meets in Turkey, France, Lebanon, and Russia, held in Moscow when in Russia),
  • and the new Pacific Rim Lodge, UD (in Vladivostok).

MWB Dergachov has chosen to proceed slowly with creating new lodges "so that we may be certain those who we do accept as candidates are worthy, and not those desiring to use the craft for their own purposes."

THE EMERGENCE OF MASONRY IN THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST

In June 1994, MWB Grainger, accompanied by VWB Mitchell Miller, VWB Richard L. Owen, and Bro. Roger Barnstead, visited the port of Magadan, which sits on the northern part of the coastline of the Russian Far East. This exploratory trip ascertained the prospects of spreading Masonic light in this region.

VWB Owen observed: "The Russian people were gracious hosts, and we were treated to the best they could provide. The Russian people have strong family values. They have many problems, with high inflation, high taxes, high prices, and low wages. They are unable to afford many of the things we take for granted. Russia faces many problems as they change from a socialist to a capitalist economy. They look to the United States as a model, and are eager to learn English and develop American friendships. There should be many opportunities for Masonry and enterprise if both they and we can develop a mutual trust between our people."

The group of returning brothers concluded that Russians were interested in, but not familiar with the fraternity. They determined that a comprehensive educational program, together with much personal contact and support, was needed to establish a viable Masonic presence in the area.

In 1998, MWB Grainger, accompanied by Bro. John Richardson, visited the Fourth Session of the Russian Grand Lodge in Moscow. While there, full cooperation was agreed upon in establishing Russian lodges in the Far East, by the Alaska Grand Lodge, as a courtesy for the new jurisdiction.

In August 1999, MWB Grainger and RWB Corbin, co-chairs of the Alaska Russian Relation's Committee, visited the Far Eastern cities of Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Blagoveshchensk, and the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. The two discussed Masonry with men of high character, ages generally between 35 and 45, who were perceived to make good candidates. Petitions for initiation were received from Vladivostok, and one from Blagoveshchensk. Prospects today look bright for additional lodges east of the Ural Mountains in the new millenium.

Freemasonry is an international brotherhood united in building a better world. The Russian Far East offers a unique opportunity to establish the fraternity in an area where its precepts and tenants are unknown. Only by enlightening the public about its true purposes and principles, and dispelling their misconceptions, will Freemasonry be able to grow.

With its traditions of Brotherhood and caring, Masonry can be a vital force for good in Eastern Russia.

For further information, the Russian Relations Committee of the Grand Lodge of Alaska may be contacted at P.O. Box 5326, Ketchikan, AK 99901, or by fax at 907-225-5554.


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