The history of the Tabynsk
icon of Mother of God totals more than four hundred year history. In 1597, 12 km
from the village of Tabynsk (Southern Urals Mountains), founded by Tsar Ivan the
Terrible, the hermitage of Prechistenskaya was situated. The magnificent,
fairytale like nature, surrounded the 30 inhabitants of the hermitage, who used
to work on the fields and boiled down salt. One of them, Hierodeacon Amvrosy,
passing by a salty source, heard the voice of the Most Pure Mother of God: "Take
up my icon". Afraid of possibly being deluded, he did not pay any attention to
it. But on the third day, having again heard the same voice, he saw the
wonder-working icon of the Mother of God. He immediately hastened to the
brotherhood. And by having a litany, they accepted this holy icon. Then they put
it inside the church and a supplication service was served in front of it.
Afterwards they closed the church, but the next morning the icon was not to be
found there. It was later discovered on the monastery doorstep. Soon a chapel
was built on that spot; exactly as in the past was done in the case of "Iviron"
photo from Georgy Arutyunov
The image on the icon,
which was discovered in Tabynsk, is similar to the image on the Kazan icon of
the Mother of God, but itís much darker. The size of the Tabynsk icon exceeds
that of Kazan icon: the height from one side is 107 cm, but from the other is a
bit shorter (105 cm), and its width is 72 cm and the thickness is 4.4cm.
Right after its appearance,
numerous miracles happened through the icon, and because of this, it was taken
to Kazan and Ufa for confirmation. From Ufa this holy icon suddenly disappeared,
only to be found again in a miraculous way at the salty spring near the village
The hermitage of
Prechistenskaya was finally destroyed in 1663, and from then on there werenít
any records of the icon. It was unknown whether the icon stayed under the
wreckage of the demolished church or in some other place. But 100 years from
then its second appearance happened.
In 1765-68, while three
Bashkir shepherds grazed their cattle at Salty Springs, suddenly they saw the
icon of the Mother of God standing by itself on a huge rock. The tradition says
that they rushed to cut it down, but went blind. One of them, the youngest (who
had been at the time 14-15 year old) began to pray and thus came to see clearly
again. But then he tried to run away and so he again went blind. For the second
time he started to pray, and called his friends to do the same. They gathered in
front of the icon, desperately crying: "we shall not leave, until the Russian
God cures us". Subsequently the youngest of them was later christened and lived
for 130 years, all his life going barefooted to the Tabyn icon whether in winter
or in summer, clothed only in one mantle and a cap. He died near Chelyabinsk,
praying in front of the icon.
The icon had been brought
in the Protection of the Mother of God church at the plant of Bogoyavlensk (the
settlement of Krasnousolsk). The next morning the icon was not to be found in
the church, but later they discovered the holy icon in the village of Tabynsk.
Since then the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God was referred to as - of
The icon of the Tabynsk
Mother of God- is considered as patroness of all of Urals area: Bashkiria,
Orenburg region, the Volga region, Siberia, Kazakhstan. After its appearance in
these lands, religious processions started to be performed, which were
accompanied by many miracles.
The icon has rescued, as
the written records testify, Orenburg, where an epidemic of cholera, which
started in 1848, has destroyed about half of the population (in five years died
29 807 people). Only in 1853 Christians remembered their Protectoress, and by
bringing her icon the cholera at last receded. "The Sovereign Emperor was
pleased to arrange to transfer annually the icon of the Kazan Mother of God from
the church in Tabynsk Village of Stelitamsk County to the city of Orenburg every
September and to Sterlitamak on the 9th Friday after Pascha (Orthodox Easter) accompanied by a
litany. The local police is assigned with the duty of supervising over the order
and safeguarding the people during the service" (Ministry of Interior, file №
250, 12 XII 1856). On the day of transmission of the holy Icon that was
performed annually on September 7, a mass of people used to flock in Orenburg from its immediate countryside
and the nearby settlements, as well
as from the more distant towns of Buzuluksk district of the Samara province. The
arrival of the Tabynsk icon of the Mother of God was met in by all the city
clergy, the provincial authorities and the local armies with their orchestras of
regimental musicians. The bringing in of the Icon into the city was accompanied
by a celebratory peal of the church bells, by the fine singing of the diocesan
chorus which merged with sounds of the military band music playing "How glorious
is… ". The presence of parading armies with banners, the collective singing of
the troparion "Assiduous Protectress…" and the procession of numerous clergy
with banners and icons - all this together produced the involuntary exclamation:
"No, the Faith in the Russian people has not yet become scarce".
The litany with the Tabynsk
icon in 1861 was the longest in history of Russia. In the summer of that year a
terrible drought struck Ufa province. In spite of the fact that in each church
people prayed, as well as on the fields and the sources of water, the Lord
seemingly did not respond to their prayers. But a rumor has spread that rain
will fall wherever the Tabyn icon is. People of Sterlitamak, a city which has
half burned down, in crowds left to meet their Rescuer, the Mother of God,
asking for vivifying dew. During the prayer a thunder struck and for five
consecutive days rain poured down. The drought stopped. The city and the
neighboring lands have been saved at last. In the Orenburg steppes the Icon was
as though "left loose to freedom". Every settlement and town tried to accept the
Great Guest to themselves, a litany began to proceed, passing already 4000
versts (4267 km), visiting at the request of its inhabitants, such remote cities, as
Chelyabinsk, Tobolsk and Qostanay. This orthodox relic was visited both by
schismatics, and Mohammedans. The
Bashkirs did not allow anyone else to carry the holy icon on their land, since
they reserved that privilege only to themselves. The plentiful grace proceeding
from the wonder-working icon cured a multitude of blind and lame, who were
waiting for a consolation from Christ.
Under the established
order, the icon of the Mother of God was carried out from Tabynsk village after
the 9th Friday following Pascha and brought to the nearby areas of the Orenburg
diocese and then was taken on to Upper Urals district. But, if Pascha fell
earlier, and, hence, more time was available, the icon was brought to the city
of Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Qostanay. The icon entered Orenburg on Nativity of
the Virgin (on September 22 according to the Old Calendar) feast. Then, it was
taken up to Uralsk, and from there it went to the Samara province and from the
town of Buzuluk was sent back in Tabynsk where it stayed till next year and
remained in its place till the 9th Friday after Pascha when a mass of people
from the bordering areas flocked there. V. V. Dal recollected: "This
miraculously discovered icon of the Mother of God passes through half of the
province after the 9th Friday after Pascha, and to this procession a
mass of people comes, and every inhabited place with its population escorts it".
The holy Tabynsk icon of
the Mother of God was carried in a special cart with five central boards, and
during the travel, temporarily appointed priests and deacons served at the icon.
On the carriage only horses upon which no one has sat were harnessed. "Go not
into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not"
(Mathew 10, 5). Frequently it happened that the icon stopped, and nobody could
move it. Then it would be discovered that on the spot in question a killed baby
was buried or some other evil deeds were done. The icon refused to come into
some settlements. The Mother of God as though called those people to repentance.
Believing in the wonderful force, the well-known icon from Bashkiria till the
onset of the revolution of 1917 was carried in a carriage to many Russian
provinces - to Samara, Qostanay, Tobolsk, Uralsk, Chelyabinsk, Orenburg.
The last Litany, which took
place in 1918, was carried on around Orenburg. Suddenly the procession was
attacked by the Reds, who broke the gold and silver Orenburg copes, and then
threw the holy icon on the road. They had no need of it. The icon has been
picked up by Cossacks of ataman Dutov. During the Civil war, in the time of the
greatest tribulations for the Cossacks, the ataman of Orenburg Cossack army,
Dutov, in order to hoist the fighting spirit and the moral among the Cossacks,
took out to the armies the image of their sacred Patroness, the Tabynsk icon of
the Mother of God.
But ataman Dutov in the end
had to make his retreat. He used to pray quite often in front of the Tabynsk
icon, contemplating the fate of Russia. But the Mother of God did not provide
any help in the fratricidal war. Moreover, during the retreat of the Cossacks
from Russia, on the coast of Amur River near Blagoveshchensk the Tabynsk icon
just stopped, as if it did not want to leave Russia! But with the encroachment
of the Reds, all were threatened to die. Then a chapel was constructed above the
icon. Archbishop of Orenburg, Methodius, Archbishop of Tomsk, Meletius, and the
bishop of Kamchatka, Nestor, accompanied by many priests fasted and prayed for
three days, asking the Patroness for favor. After that, the holy icon was moved
through the border to China.
On the border between
Russia and China there were difficult mountain tracks and narrow passes. Here
neither vehicles, nor horses could pass. What ataman Dutov has taken on this
difficult road? In the diary of the ataman it is recorded: "… We have taken
through only the weapons, cartridges and the icon".
St Nicholas Cathedral
In China the icon was kept in an Orthodox
monastery in Harbin down to 1948. On foreign land too the Tabynsk icon became
famous for its miracles, so even the Chinese used to pray to it, speaking: "The
Tabynsk icon brings success". After 1948 the icon has been taken out by
archimandrite Filaret (the future head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of
Russia) first to Australia, and then to the USA in San Francisco. Further traces
of it are lost, and where it is at the moment - it is not known.
Nowadays, the rector of the
church dedicated to the Tabynsk icon of the Mother of God, priest Vladimir
Sergeev, helped by a group of assistants is engaged in data gathering concerning
the icon as well as in endeavors to find this lost treasure.
According to all the latest
information, which were passed to me, the Tabynsk icon ostensibly was not taken
out from China, but has been hidden in Urumchi, the capital of Xinjiang-Uigur
autonomous region, whether by Russian or by Chinese. They have written:
"Recently at the Bashkir Academy of Sciences (city of Ufa) a recorded report was
heard made by a man trying to find the Tabynsk icon in China… To find this
report and the person in question was apparently beyond our possibilities…".
Further on, they asked to be
involved in the search through Chinese channels. But this did not took place,
for I live in Shanghai, and Urumchi is the most northwest corner of People's
Republic of China, inhabited, for the most part, by Mohammedan peoples.
Nevertheless, if any opportunity comes forth, Iíll try to find people who are
To tell the truth, I donít
really believe that Russian immigrants leaving Shanghai and Harbin in 1948,
could have left behind the icon in a foreign speaking, religiously and
culturally alien environment. I believe that Russian Orthodox Church Outside
Russia can help to find or at least to throw some light on the problem of
locating the Tabynsk icon. The question is not about returning the icon to
Russia, but - rediscovering a national Relic.
However, I managed to find
the person who was leading searches for the Tabynsk icon in China, or to be more
correct, he found me. The man in question is Vladimir Vladimirovich Simonov, who
worked in China for some years, but simultaneously being engaged in searches for
the icon. He has visited Dalian, Harbin and in Xinjiang, but the quests he
undertook were not crowned with success.
The Tabynsk icon was
located in Harbin down to 1948, and after that it had been forwarded either to
Shanghai, or to Urumchi. There is a version about existence of two icons: an
original and a copy.
We ask everyone who could
know something about the existence of the Tabynsk icon, or its copy, or has any
data referring to it, to contact
"Russian Club in