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Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Poltevo (Balashikha)

Poltevo Village, Balashikha Town, tel.: +7 495 504-00-62.

The Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Poltevo is the oldest in Balashikha Archdeaconry.

The village of Poltevo has been known since the 16th century; at that time, it was called Sushchevo or Agafonovo.

After the Polish-Lithuanian intervention of the early 17th century, the hamlet of Sushchevo was granted by the tsar to one of his generals, Duke Dmitry Lopata-Pozharsky.

In the second half of the 17th century, Sushchevo went to the ownership of Duma Nobleman Fyodor Poltev, from whose surname the settlement received its current name, Poltevo.

In 1660, the first, wooden Church, with the altar in the honour of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas the Wonderworker, was built. Because of that, the settlement containing the new Church was renamed the village of Nikolskoye. Documents have preserved for us the name of this Church's first dean, the priest Averkiy Fedot.

The Poltevs owned the village of Nikolskoye until the early 18th century, when the last owner, Yakov Poltev mortgaged Nikolskoye in 1703 to a prominent figure of the Petrine epoch, a general admiral, Count Fyodor Apraksin.

An associate of Emperor Peter the Great, having participated in many naval and land battles, Count Aprkasin was considered to be a great figure in the Russian navy.

After buying Nikolskoye-Poltevo, Count Apraksin laid out there an estate and park ensemble, with its significant part occupied by a new, stone St. Nicholas Church, which was erected with the blessing of the Patriarchal locum tenens, Metropolitan Stephan (Yavorsky). A charter for building the new, stone Church was granted to, as it was put, "an Admiralty man, Count Fyodor Apraksin" in April 1706. The new Church was erected in Nikolskoye close to the stone palace.

The estate ensemble consisted of a stone manor house, two wooden bright-rooms, servants' log-houses, a wooden kitchen and wooden cellars. The estate's utility yard consisted of the wooden complexes of a stable-yard and a cattle-yard. The entire estate was enclosed with a wooden fence featuring towers. The estate also sported a fruit garden and an artificial pond.

According to experts in Russian architecture, it is most likely that the Poltevo stone Church was designed by a European architect. This suggestion is based on the Church's distinctive features related to space and composition, which are typical of Western European Baroque. Built in accordance with the new tastes of Petrine times in the spirit of Naryshkin Baroque, the white-stone Church of St. Nicholas was a remarkable monument of late-17th- and early-18th- century Russian architecture.

It is interesting that a Western European influence may also be traced in other church buildings by Pyotr, Fyodor and Andrey Apraksin in Moscow Diocese, such as the Dormition Church in the village of Vyazemskoye, Zvenigorod District (the 1700s), the Dormition Church in the village of Tabolovo (1705) and St. Nicholas Church in the village of Strelkovo, Moscow (later Podolsk) District (1702).

It is likely that the construction works on St. Nicholas Church were done by peasants belonging to the Apraksins in the proper sense (among others, peasants from the village of Tabolovo) and by Yaroslavl stonemasons, the Apraksins' patrimonial peasants from the hamlet of Rybnitsy, Yaroslavl District. There exist surviving contractor records (as of 1702) concerning the construction of Pantler A. Apraksin's church in the village of Strelkovo by Ivan Kupreyanov, a peasant from the village of Rybnitsy; the records tell us that the construction was done "against a sketch given to the contractor". In the village of Tabolovo, the work contracts for masonry construction were given to the peasant Simeon Semlevtsov. In Moscow, in Znamenka Street, in 1701–1702, for Okolnichy (a high court rank) P. Apraksin, a stone palace was under construction, of the famous Myachkovo limestone (known as "white stone" in Russia); in parallel, a stone mansion was under construction in an estate in the area around Moscow. The same construction material, white stone, procured by a contractor, was also used to build St. Nicholas Church in Poltevo.

After Fyodor Apraksin died in 1728, according to his will, part of his immovable property, including the village of Poltevo, Moscow District, was to be used to pay ransom for prisoners of war, to be given to the destitute and to those who had fallen into debt to the state.

In 1729, the village of Nikolskoye, together with all its land, was bought by Actual Privy Counsellor Heinrich Ostermann (1686–1747), a vice-chancellor. There exists a surviving inventory of the buildings in the Apraksins' estate in Nikolskoye-Poltevo; the inventory tells us that the estate's economy was neglected, most of the buildings, including the stone palace, were dilapidated and required renovation, because, as the inventory says, "the roof have got rotten and the walls have been damaged by a water leak".

The acquired estate required urgent improvement and rebuilding. Apparently, the estate was redeveloped at the same time; we may see it on a beaded carpet dating from the mid-18th century (the Hermitage's collection).

In 1741, Ostermann's estate was seized by the state.

However, in a year, in 1742, the village of Nikolskoye with the surrounding villages was handed back to the chancellor's sons, Fyodor and Johann Ostermann.

According to the registers of St Nicholas Church, in 1766 it underwent repair and restoration works.

In 1771, at the request of Count Fyodor Ostermann, who at the time was Moscow's military chief and a lieutenant general, due to the frailty and the old age of Countess Marfa Osterman, Heinrich Ostermann's widow, Archbishop Ambrose (Zeptis-Kamensky) of Moscow permitted setting up at the Poltevo estate's mansion a house church in the name of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God, with a portable antimins. The newly built church was consecrated in 1722.

Upon the establishment of Moscow Governorate in 1782, the village of Nikolskoye-Poltevo, Vokhna Archdeaconry, Moscow Diocese, geographically became part of Bogorodsk District. At that time, the population of the parish of Nikolskoye Village numbered 455.

In the 1790s, Count Fyodor Ostermann handed his title, name and property over to Aleksandr Tolstoy, a relative of his wife Anna, born Countess Tolstaya; on the eve of the 1812 Napoleonic invasion of Russia, Tolstoy-Ostermann became the owner of the village of Nikolskoye-Poltevo with the surrounding villages.

After retiring in 1817, Count Tolstoy-Ostermann lived outside Russia till his dying day. He did not visit his Nikolskoye-Poltevo estate, and the estate's economy was managed by his Moscow office. For instance, in 1823, the office submitted to Archbishop Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow and Kolomna a request, asking permission to repair the roof and the dome of St. Nicholas Church in the village of Poltevo. In the village, two churches existed as before: after Marfa Ostermann died, the Nativity Church, the house church, was not shut down, but handed over to Count Fyodor Ostermann for hosting church services.

In the course of the 1840s, both St. Nicholas Church and the Nativity Church were renovated many times. The funds that the landowner allocated for maintaining the churches being scarce, the minor repair works that they paid for were not enough for preserving the remarkable monument of Petrine architecture. For example, in 1844, the archpriest secretly informed the Consistory that the walls and vaults of St. Nicholas Church were covered with cracks, which "sometimes spread up to the very floor".

In March 1845, the governorate's official architect D. Borisov arrived in Nikolskoye-Poltevo to inspect the churches. In his report, he stated that the cracks had been caused by the batten roof that had been there since long ago, which was subsequently replaced with a metal roof. Since the cracks were not getting larger, the architect suggested repairing the white-stone plinth and the damaged stones of the porches. However, these works had never been done. Church services were prohibited in the Nativity Church, with the antimins taken away by the metropolitan.

In 1854, some improvements were done in the Nativity Church, it being converted into a heated parish church, with the blessing of Metropolitan Philaret.

After Count Ostermann-Tolstoy died in 1857, childless and having permanently lived in Geneva, the estate in the village of Nikolskoye-Poltevo was owned by his steward, Duke Valerian Golitsyn, receiving, together with the property, the name of Ostermann. It was his funds that were used in 1858 to set up a new holy door and to refresh the icon in the iconostasis at the St Nicholas Church.

When the clergy of the parish attempted to alter the old, five-tier iconostasis, in 1880, the landowner of the village of Nikolskoye, the son of Valeryan Golitsyn, Duke Mstislav Golitsyn, Count Ostermann, prohibited these works, in the future trying not to spoil the Church with alterations. The minor damage to the carving of the columns of the lower tier was repaired. The same year, the landowner ordered to transfer the clergy house (and its utility buildings), built using funds of the estate owners, to the ownership of the Church.

In 1884, the whitewashed walls of St. Nicholas church were covered with murals depicting Biblical scenes and with decorative patterns.

In 1884, at the request of Mikhail Sirotkin, the priest of St. Nicholas Church, the Imperial Moscow Archaeological Society allowed doing the following works on the Church: to make two stoves, to replace the wooden floors with tiled ones, the doors, to paint the windows, to repair the white-stone porch, to paint the Church, and to cover the crack on the parvis's wall.

In 1896, the Construction Department of Moscow Governorate Government approved the design of a new stone fence, featuring the Holy Gate, for St. Nicholas Church in the village of Poltevo, 2nd Archdeaconry, Bogorodsky District.

After Duke Mstrislav Golitsin-Ostermann died in France in 1902, the estate in the village of Nikolskoye was inherited by his son, Duke Aleksandr Golitsyn-Ostermann.

Up until the 1917 Russian Revolution, the village of Nikolskoye-Poltevo belonged to the 2nd Archdeaconry, Bogorodsky District, Moscow Diocese.

According to surviving records, the priest Vasily Kholmogorov served as the dean of St. Nicholas Church from 1911; he was appointed by the Holy Martyr Vladimir (Bogoyavlensky), the metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomna.

From 1916, the position of the parish clerk was occupied by Panteleimon Protodyakonov. In 1916, Andrey Schelkov, a peasant from the village of Poltevo, was elected to the position of the churchwarden.

Using the funds of the owner of the Poltevo Village estate, the Moscow merchant Nikolay Sokov, a parish school was opened at St. Nicholas Church; the school occupied a separate wooden building and was maintained by the curator. In 1916, there were 22 boys and 18 girls studying at the school. Father Vasily Kholmogorov, the local priest, served as the headteacher and the teacher of religious education. The Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God, the former house church of the Golitsyn dukes, remained assigned to St. Nicholas Church.

During the years of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the civil war that followed, the St. Nicholas Church in Poltevo lost all its savings invested in perpetual government bonds. The buildings of the parish-school and the watchman's house, both owned by the Church, were seized. Amounting to 36 desyatinas and 2100 sazhens (almost 48.9 hectares or 12.1 acres) in 1916, the land plot assigned to the Church and the parish clergy was cut down significantly.

In the 1920s, Vasily Kholmogorov, the dean of St. Nicholas Church, received the title of protopriest. His name is mentioned in the documents related to the 1933 election of the council of the Poltevo church. By 1922, the position of the churchwarden was occupied by Dmitry Gorokhov, a peasant from the village of Rusavkino.

During the political repressions against the Church and the believers, during the period of the first "Godless five-year plan" when churches were being shut down on a mass scale, the Church of St. Nicholas the Holy Hierarch in the village of Poltevo, Reutov District, Moscow Region, survived many attempts to shut it down. Finally, despite the protests by the believers, a 1935 decision of the Executive Committee of Moscow Region Council shut the Church down, and its building was subsequently used as a warehouse for grain and food.

In 1950, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (then part of the USSR) listed the building of St. Nicholas Church as a monument of early-18th-century Russian architecture. The official list of the architectural monuments of Moscow Region described St. Nicholas Church in Poltevo as possessing high artistic merits and being of exceptional historic and architectural value.

In 1990, an Orthodox Church community was founded at St. Nicholas Church; it was that community that the Church's building was handed over to. Protopriest Vladimir Mokrenko was appointed the Church's dean. Meticulous work on restoring the Church and improving its precincts started. The foundation was reinforced, the limestone blocks were replaced and reinforced and the cracks in the walls were repaired. A porcelain iconostasis was acquired. The community's funds were used to build a tempory belfry and a watchman's house containing a refectory and a boiler-room.

On 7 July 1994, the Church was consecrated by a priest.

Among the Church's honoured sacred objects are the icon of the Venerable Elders of Optina, the icons of the Holy Hieromartyrs Alexander and Theodore of Vyshgorod and the icon of the Venerable Job of Pochayev, with bits of relics.

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Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Poltevo