This Saturday is Russian Christmas and a week after that is Russian New Year. The holidays, the history of the church in Kodiak and why it has endured was discussed on yesterday’s Talk of the Rock.
The church came to Kodiak shortly after the Russian-American Company moved in to the area. The company exploited the Alutiiq people in their operations. Church clergy were opposed to this and worked to protect them. Sven Haakanson is the director of the Alutiiq Museum. He says a combination of oral and written history leads him to the conclusion that the Russian church essentially saved the Alutiiq people from extinction.
— (Russian Holiday 1 :36 "Our shamans said, ‘Go to the men in black because they’re the ones that will help save us.’ The people embraced orthodoxy because it was very close to the traditional beliefs. The embracing of the orthodox faith wasn’t that much of a leap for our people. By being baptized as orthodox people we became citizens of Russia and we had to be treated accordingly. I think that was one of the reasons why we were able to survive. That’s the reason I’m still here and the Native people are still here, because of the priests.")
In modern times the church serves as a reminder of that history.
With Russian Christmas comes the tradition of starring. It’s a practice that mostly stopped in Russia during the era of communism, though it remained in some of the rural areas and in Alaska. Carolers travel from house to house, singing and feasting with parishioners. Father Paisius from St. Innocent’s Academy says that those who are not part of the church are still welcome to participate in the starring.
— (Russian Holiday 2 :14 "Many will think, ‘Oh no, that’s a Russian thing and we’ll watch it from the outside,’ or something like that, but people really are welcome to come along. It’s wonderful to film and to be part of it and see the joy. Really it’s like Christmas caroling only it’s deeply traditional."
More information about when and where the starring procession will take place will soon be available through the Alutiiq Museum’s website.