Captain John Phillips was appointed in 1731 Provincial Grand Master of Russia by Lord Lovel, Grand Master of England (Constitutions, 1738, page 194) but it does not follow that there were any Lodges in Russia at that time. General Lord James I(eith arrived in Russia in 1728 and he probably founded the Lodge there of which he beeame Worshipful Master, and in 1740 he was appointed Provincial Granal Master. However, the first notiee that we have of Lodges meeting openly is that of Silence, established at St. Petersburg, and the North Star at Riga, both in 1750. Thory says that Freemasonry made little progress in Russia until 1763 when the Empress Catherine II deelared herself Proteetress of the Order.
The Rite of Melesino was introduced by a Greek of that name in 1765, and there were also the York, Swedish and Strict Observance Rites practised by Lodges. Twelve of these Lodges united and formed the National Grand Lodge on September 3, 1776. There was also a Swedish Provincial Grand Lodge in 1779.
For a time Freemasonry flourished but about the year 1794 the Empress alarmed at the political eondition of France, persuaded that members of some Lodges were opposed to the Government, withdrew her protection from the Order. She did not direct the Lodges to close but most of them ceased to meet. The few that continued to work were under police supervision and languished, holding their eommunications only at long intervals. Paul I, 1797, instigated by the Jesuits whom he had recalled, forbade the meetings of secret societies and especially in Masonic Lodges.
Johann V. Boeber, Counselor of State and Director of the School of Cadets at St. Petersburg, obtained an audience of the Emperor in 1803 and sueeeeded in removing his prejudices against Freemasonry. The edict was revoked, the Emperor himself was initiated in one of the revived Lodges, and the Grand Orient of all the Russias was established, of which Brother Boeber was deservedly elected Grand Master (Acta Latomomm i, page 218). Pelican Lodge was revived in 1804 as Alexander of the Crowned Pelican and divided into three parts and elected a Grand Master. Internal dissensions, however, were the cause of its downfall.
Another Grand Lodge, Astrea, controlled the first three Decrees and by 1815 claimed jurisdiction over 24 Lodges. A Grand Chapter was set up to control the remaining degrees in 1818, and there was also a Provincial Grand Body working under the Swedish System. A curious incident brought to an end Freemasonry in Russia. The Emperor Alexander, instigated in part it is said by the political condition of Poland, received at this time two communications, one from Egor Andrevich Kushelev of the Grand Lodge Astrea, and the other from a Prussian Freemason, Count Gaugwitz, the latter heartily in favor of elosing all the Lodges, both agreeing that the spirit of the times would not permit of secret organizations, sand therefore on August 1, 1822, an Imperial Edic decreed the Closing of all secret societies (Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Loclge, volume xxxviii, pages 35-50). The order was quietly obeyed by the Freemasons of Russia (see Doctor Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry, also Freemasonry in Russia, Dr. Ernest Friedrichs, Berlin, 1904, and Berne, 1903).
A prominent member of the group of Russian Masonic Bodies on the Continent, exiles from Russia, has prepared for us some particulars of the development of Russian Freemasonry from which we make the following extract:
There is a well-established tradition that the first Russian Freemason was Peter the Great and that he was initiated by Sir Christopher Wren in an English Lodge at Amsterdam. There are, however no documents to prove this. The history of Russian Freemasonry may be divided into three periods. First, 1731-71. Membership confined to foreigners residing in Russia; a few officers, the guard, and a few statesmen. The tendency is mystical and the influence negligible . Second, 1772-94. There are three Masonie Bodies at work.
1. Yelaguine's group at St. Petersburg. Work; self preservation, moral uplift, struggle against the ideas of Voltaire. This organization disappears about 1780.
2. Swedish Rite at St. Petersburg headed by Prince Gagarine as Grand Master. This Body Unites with the preceding one and shares its fate.
3. The National Grand Lodge at Moseow, lead by Novickoff and Schwarz working under a strong influence of the Moscow Rosy Cross Fraternity and of the Order of the Martinists. This group exercised a powerful influence during this period and for the future in Russian Freemasonry, and was a potent and intellectual factor in contemporary society. This group chiefly engaged in educational and charitable work and carried these on freely until it fell under the general ban on Freemasonry imposed by Catherine II in 1794.
Third, 1801-22. An irregular Russian Grand Lodge named Vladimir to Order which in 1810 became subject to Swedish Jurisdiction. This Grand Lodge had little influence but counted many prominent persons amongst its members.
As a reaction against the influence of higher Degrees there was founded in 1814 at Paris, under the auspices of the Grand Orient of France and out of the federation of five military Lodges, a New Grand Lodge Astrea. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars and with the return of the army to Russia this Masonic Body grew to the extent of having forty Lodges under their jurisdiction. These Lodges under French influence turned their attention to polities, and ended their career in the turmoil of the attempted Revolution in December, 1825.
During the whole of the nineteenth century, Russian Freemasonry if not dormant was at least hidden and entirely negligible. The revival of interest in spiritual matters which coincided with the beginning of the twentieth century brought about a revival of interest in Freenlasonry. A few prominent Russian intellectuals joined French Lodges. Professor Bajenoff joined at Paris the Scottish Rite Lodge Les Amis Reunis. Paul Jablochkov, world-famous electricians founded the Lodge Cosmos under the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite at Paris where in 1906 about fifteen Russian publicists joined French Lodges. These Brethren on their return to Russia organized two Lodges. one in St Petersburg, the Polar Star, and a Lodge at Moscow These Lodges were instituted with great ceremony in May, 1908, by two representatives of the Grand Orient of France and up to 1909 six Lodges were organized There was an interval in their activity over poliee restrictions and then these Lodges were reopened in 1911, working under the Grand Orient of France, with practically no ritual and having an avowedly political aim in view, namely, that of the overthrow of autoeraey There was what was known
as a Supreme Couneil, an exclusively administrative Body whose members were elected for three years. This organization had no regularity and enjoyed no recognition abroad. In 1913 and 1914 the organization nevertheless had about fortytwo Lodges chiefly composed of members of the cadet party. The first Revolution in March 1917 is said to have been inspired and operated from these Lodges and all the members of Kerensky's Government belonged to them. After the Bolshevik Revolution most members of these Lodges emigrated, and after a long inactivity they were successful in forming under the auspices of the Grand Orient of France a new Polar Star Lodge at Paris. Four other Lodges working in Russia have been organized under the Grand Lodge of France, and there is also a Lodge of Perfection and a Rose Croix (chapter working in Russian at Paris the rituals of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite finder the Supreme Council.
The volume of the Sacred Law is always on the altar at the meetings of these four Lodges and the work is said to be usually a study of the deeper meanings of Freemasonry. The four Craft Lodges work with a committee which in fact represents what the Brethren believe to be the future Grand Lodge of Russia The Supreme Council has sanctioned a temporary committee in the higher Degrees which represents the nucleus of the future Supreme Couneil for Russia of the Aneient and Aeeepted Scottish Rite. On February 10, 1927, a Russian Consistory, caned Rossia, wan formed.
Russian Brethren have freely written upon Freemasonry. Brother Boris Telepneff has published pamphlets on Freemasonry in Russia, Rosicrucians in Russia, Some Aspects of Russian Freemasonry during the Reign of Emperor Alexander I (Transaclions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, volume xxxvui, page 6) and essays as in the Masonic Record, 1925.
The Ashlar Company is Owned & Operated Exclusively by Past Masters
Tradition, Integrity, Trust.
© 2017 The Ashlar Company
“the ring turned up yesterday. I cannot say how impressed I am with it. I don't have the words that can describe how happy I am with it.
thanks so much for your assistance.”
Brother Simon, London, England