Charity has a long history in Russia. Since the ancient times Russians honored the unwritten rules of hospitality and mercy, like feeding the pilgrim, visiting a prisoner, making a public donation for fire victims.
At first, monasteries were the centers of charity - they gave shelter and medical help to sick and needy people. Monks were usually the ones who taught children to read and write. From the 11 to the 17th century, the major form of poor relief was almsgiving. Russian donors followed the teachings of St John Chrysostom, the Byzantine thinker highly respected in Russia, who had called for wealth to be used for purposes of almsgiving and philanthropy
Public philanthropy and voluntarism took its rise during the reign of Alexis I of Russia. The outstanding figure of that period was Feodor Alekseyevich Rtishchev, a boyar and an intimate friend of the tsar. During the great famine in Vologda (1650), Rtischev sold much of his property, including clothes and house utensils, in order to raise funds for the famine-stricken city. He took care for all the wounded in the Russo-Polish wars, notwithstanding their nationality, and established several alms-houses in Moscow. He also founded one of the first schools in Moscow and Andreevsky monastery.
In the early 17th century Peter the Great set up hospitals for invalids and the elderly, orphanages for illegitimate children and helped soldiers.
Starting from the final third of the 18th century, when Russian society came under the influence of the ideas of European Enlightenment, secular poor relief and charity also began to develop in Russia. By the 1763 decree of Empress Catherine the Great, foundling homes were created in Moscow (1764) and St Petersburg (1772).
In accordance with Empress Catherine's 1775 Statute on Provincial Administration, Social Welfare Boards (prikazy obshchestvennogo prizreniaia) were established in 49 guberniias (provinces). Within the framework of those boards, individuals and associations were permitted to create specialized charitable institutions, including almshouses, insane almshouses, orphanages, workhouses, etc. Quite soon, there emerged a number of charitable institutions, such as the boarding schools for children of needy nobles in the provincial centers of Vologda (1784), Kaluga (1793), and Kostroma (1797) funded by donations provided by the nobility.
19th century witnesses the boost in charitable activities, traditionally headed by the members of royal family.
Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna) (1759 - 1828), the second wife of Tsar Paul I of Russia was called the "minister of charity".
She contributed to the development of public education, health services and charity. She founded the Mariinsky and the Midwife Institutes, the Gatchina House of Education, the first Russian Deaf-Mute School (in Pavlovsk)
She was in charge of the largest charitable organization - the Department of the Institutions of Empress Maria (Vedomstvo uchrezhdenii Imperatritsy Marii, 1797) And greatly influenced the development of another major charitable organization - the Imperial Philanthropic Society (Imperatorskoe Chelovekoliubivoe obshchestvo founded in by her son, Tsar Alexander I in 1802.
Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia (1784-1803) became a patroness of several charity organizations.
Grand Duchess organised many hospitals, orphanages, the St Petersburg Clinical Institute which bears her name now. Elena Pavlovna established and organized Krestovozdvizhenskaya community of nurses. Krestovozdvizhenskaya community of medical nurses was the 1st community of the sisters of mercy to care for the wounded at the battlefield and military hospitals. Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna invited a famous surgeon N.I. Pirogov to organize woman's care for the wounded and sick on the field . Pirogov accepted her offer and in October 1855 the first section of 28 nurses headed to Sevastopol.
The first public organization of women involved in charitable activity was St. Petersburg Women's Patriotic Society.
It was founded on decree of Russian empress Elizabeth Alexeievna in 1812 to help the victims of war with Napoleon.
To take care of the junior orphans of Russian army officers, the college, later known as Elizavetinskij College was created.
Since 1816 the Patriotic Society extended their help and provided help to families suffered after the war: either widows, orphans, disabled or refugees.
Russian women - members of St-Petersburg society each were responsible for a particular part of the city. Taking care of homeless children was a start of private boarding schools named after the city districts.
Princess Tatiana Vasilevna Golitsyna (Vasilchikova, wife of Prince Dmitriy Vladimirovich Golitsyn, a Russian cavalry general, was one of the first members who joined the society.
She was concerned of the idea of female education in Russia and took part in foundation of a free college for daughters of junior rank officers and civil servants. The college existed till 1825 to 1917. In 1837 Tatiana Golitsyna arranged hand-made schools for girls. And later, at her family estate she founded a Basket weaving workshops.
Another famous Russian woman - philanthropist was Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia (1864- 1918), wife of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich.
After the death of her husband, Elizabeth Feodorovna sold off her magnificent collection of jewels and other luxurious possessions. With the proceeds she opened the Convent of Sts. Martha and Mary and became its abbess. She soon opened a hospital, a chapel, a pharmacy and an orphanage on its grounds. Elizabeth and her nuns worked tirelessly among the poor and the sick of Moscow. She often visited Moscow's worst slums and did all she could to help alleviate the suffering of the poor. Her sisters took care of the sick and wounded during the First World War.
For many years, Elizabeth's institution helped the poor and the orphans in Moscow by fostering the prayer and charity of devout women. After the revolution, the princess refused to leave Russia and was arrested in the spring of 1918. The next day after the shooting of the royal family, July 18, 1918, Elizabeth Feodorovna, along with his loyal associate of the nun Varvara and other martyrs were dumped alive into the Lower Selim mine near Alapaevsk (Sverdlovsk region).
In 1981 Elizabeth was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and in 1992 by the Moscow Patriarchate.
Russian history knows more examples of commitment to charitable work of Russian women. Mother Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945) known as, Saint Mary (or Mother Maria) of Paris devoted her life to the service to the poor. Countess Sofia Panina was a progressive philanthropist, chairwoman of many charitable communitis in St-Petersburg.
Not only the Russian royal family, but also merchants and intelligentsia were also known for their charity. Museums, libraries, schools, picture galleries, and expositions all received money from Russian patrons: Tretyakov, Mamontov, Bakhrushin, Morozov, Prokhorov, Shchukin.
A prominent Russian female industrialist Varvara Morozova (1848-1917), mother of the world-known Morozov collectors was famous for her charitable activities. Varvara Morozova was a wife of Abram Morozov, a wealthy textile merchant.
After his death Varvara Alexeevna became responsible for managing Tverskaya textile manufactory. Varvara Morozova built a public mental asylum in Moscow, a primary school; arranged classes for the children form the poor families - famous Prechistenskie courses.
Varvara Alexeevna set up a free library and reading room near Chistiye Prudy (Turgenev library). She donated money to universities, public institutions, arranges field hospitals for wounded solders, helped peasants that suffered from flooding. Morozova considerably donated to the cancer institute in Moscow, later named Hertzen Cancer Research Institute. Varvara Alexeevna was the first philanthropist who supported female classes and scientific laboratories. She founded and supported schools in various provinces of Russia.
In the end of the 19th century Russian women involvement in all aspects of social life, as well as charitable activities was very high. By the beginning of the 20th century there were more then 40 female charities in Moscow.
In the end of the 19th century Russian women involvement in all aspects of social life, as well as charitable activities was very high. By the beginning of the 20th century there were more then 40 female charities.
October Revolution of 1917 and the Soviet regime practically liquidated all charitable activities. The government took full responsibility for the social welfare of the people.
Starting from the 1950th Russian charity had a form of Shefstvo - (patronage or sponsorship). This institution meant that one worthy social organization would become the shef (patron) of another worthy organization. The basic difference of shefstvo and public charity is that the forst was strictly regulated by the government and the Communist party.
The form of charity changed in 1987, when Lenin Soviet children's fund (now "Russian Children's Fund") was arranged. It was focused on volunteer help to child protection activities.
Russian charity started to revitalize in 1990th, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the post-Soviet years business, banks, commercial companies, even church charity that had been banned for long time became more active.
Many contemporary Russian women-actresses, artists and musicians are involved in charitable activities.
Famous Russian soprano opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya and her husband Mstislav Rostropovich, the world-renowned Russian cellist founded Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation. This is a non-profit organization that supports programs to improve the health of children worldwide. It was founded in 1991 and to date, the programs of the foundation have reached over 10 million children and young adults
A Ukrainian politician and journalist, the author of the book about Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Alla Yaroshinskaya was President of the Ecological Charity Fund. It is one of the first Russian ecological funds that finances studying the effects of ecological disasters, information collecting programs, helps victims of ecological disasters
A world famous Russian opera Diva Anna Netrebko takes part in many charitable programs both in Russia and abroad. One of the most serious programs is SOS-KinderDorf project which functions in 104 countries of the world.
A Russian Cinderella, supermodel Natalia Vodianova is also a dedicated philanthropist. She is a founder and the president of the Naked Heart Foundation, a philanthropic organisation that strives to provide a safe and inspiring environment in which to play for every child living in urban Russia.
There are not only celebrities that re involved in charitable activities. Almost every city is Russia has public communities and non-governmental organizations that aim at helping boarding houses, orphanages and hospices which lack everyday necessary things. The volunteers start campaigns at local internet forums to help individuals coping with cancer or other serious diseases, suffered in car incidents, lost homes and possession in fires, war veterans and just elderly people, many of whom are driven into poverty-stricken life as benefits fall and prices rise in Russia. A number of charity initiatives are focused on homeless animals, which is an alarming problem in Russia and animals, which have been abused by people. There are foundations and individuals that not only promote safe and humane treatment of all animals but collect homeless animals from the streets, have them provided veterinary help and sterilization at own expense as well as raise funds to support the stray animals. Some veterinary clinics make charitable contributions and support to such foundations and groups of people.
Natural disasters, technological catastrophes, natural cataclysms and catastrophes have always increased the charitable activities among the Russian population. There were was non-profit, non-governmental charities organized to aid the victims of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident in 1986 and charity activities started after the devastating earthquake in Armenia's town of Spitak in 1988. Global temperature anomalies in June 2010 caused several hundred wildfires that broke out across Russia. A number of territories, primarily in the west were declared in the state of emergency. It boosted the rise of info and help portals that arranged charitable aid to victims of fires in Russia. Volunteers took part in fire fighting and helping those affected by the fires. Volunteers bought and transported equipment such as fire suppression materials, chainsaws, engine-driven water pumps, respirators, food for firemen and volunteers, soap, and drinking water. Volunteer coordination was via LiveJournal communities, the main one being pozar_ru. A website Russian-fires.ru was also launched to coordinate volunteers.
A problem of missing people especially children needs the help of volunteer organization because of the scope of this problem due to big territory and many uninhabited areas in Russia. One of them is Liza Alert - Internet-based Volunteer Network that appeared in September 2010 when 4-year-old Liza and her aunt disappeared in a forest area outside of Moscow. The volunteers were the first to respond, however it was too late - Liza and her aunt died alone in a forest. Liza's disappearance and a number of similar cases triggered the creation of a more organized volunteer community - a network whose members would engage immediately once a child was lost to prevent the death of the missing. Liza Alert Rescue Team continues to work in Russia with missing children as their main target.
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