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July 2015, vol 11 no 2

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Jeff Streeby

Revelation: Teplovo Estate


The heart grieves and is glad that life is, strangely,
Vast . . .
                                       Ivan Bunin, “Youth”

“Army Group Centre opened the Taifun offensive today at
05:30” writes Generaloberst Franz Halder in his
Kriegstagebuch entry for October 2, 1941. “Taifun has
started with smashing force and is making excellent progress.”

Znamenskaya Church. Another storm
closing in on its roofless spaces—oratorios
of thunder, a descant of rain.

Hoepner’s Fourth Panzer Group and Kluge’s Fourth Army
are on the move in coordination with Reinhardt’s Third
Panzer Group supported by elements of Strauss’s Ninth
Army. They roll up the Russian defenders and close their
encirclement at Vyazma, trapping four Soviet armies. But
the weather changes—the rasputitsa—and the attack
slows to a crawl.

Summer squall—
in the lee of a ruined wall,
a stand of white birches.

If you’re driving, take the M10 from Moscow to Klin then the A-108 from Klin south toward
Volokolamsk to Nidol village. Take the turn for Vertkovo. You’ll know you’re headed in the right
direction when the blacktop ends and turns into a dirt track by the big barn in the village. The roads are
usually in good shape this time of year, so you should be OK. Soymonovo is the next tiny settlement on
your way. Find that and if you keep on for another km or so, you should be able to see the church.
Sometimes you can drive right up to it, but it’s always an easy walk in and out.

Twenty-eight German divisions work to reduce the pocket,
bleeding off troops needed for von Boch’s faltering assault.

Wind, a censer— its perpetual incense.
Weather, the boat boy. The scents of rain
and earth inspire this air like prayers of
ghosts.

Stalin recalls Zhukov to Moscow. He takes charge of the
city’s defense in the nick of time. He makes brilliant
adjustments. On October 13, Army Group Center resumes
its assault and comes within sight of Moscow on October
16 but can go no further. 2000 sorties by Luftflotte 2 cannot
wear down determined Soviet resistance. Guderian,
Heinrici and the rest have also met with stiffened
opposition in the southern sectors— tanks, fresh infantry
divisions, and a recovering air force arm— and Tula holds.

Our Lady of the Sign —

the timescale of this wild taiga
to trouble us.

Logistical support collapses and Second Army and Second
Panzer Group finally halt. In spite of initial successes from
Mozhaisk to Volokolamsk, the frontal thrust against the city
also fails. On October 31, OKW issues orders to cease
offensive operations.

How things come and go –
each inevitable contour.

July lightning.

Now, just like that, all facts of life topped
off with immaculate light. A temporal canon
crowds an hour with its grace notes to
decay.

The great Teplovo estate was founded by Pyotyr Alexandreovich Soymonov, Senator and Privy
Councilor to Catherine the Great. The church was built in 1797. Its design, strictly embodying the
Vitruvian Virtues, is usually attributed to Nikolay Alexandrovich Lvov. Most of the other main
buildings were constructed at about the same time. The church’s interior appointments and ornaments
were removed by the Soviets after the 1917 Revolution. The church was abandoned in 1937. The entire
estate and its dependent village were completely destroyed in 1941. The church ruin is all that remains.

So, what to make of it—Bolshevik graffiti,
spent brass, standing water, fox tracks. Of
larkspur, mint, these banks of wild
chamomile.

By December 2, for all practical purposes Operation
Typhoon is over. Barbarossa has failed and the weakened
Wehrmacht assumes defensive postures along the battle
line.

Summer. Breathing space.
All the little histories
working themselves out.

Plastered brick, white stone, steeply gabled Tuscan porticos, some partly fallen away. Graceful arches.
Domes and towers. Elaborate bronze poppy heads nearly intact. On an empty doorframe, twisted hinges,
a padlock in a bent hasp. Almost all of the interior spoiled of course, but a few faded grisaille accents. In
the nave, the chain that supported the horos.

Just one more place with a short, dreary
history, an abolished context. But who could
have guessed at this, this endless winding
down?

A time for every purpose,
but darkness in the corners.

And to spare.

On December 5, Zhukov launches his counter-stroke. His
attack drives the German army back 150 miles. The Battle
of Moscow costs the Reich 174,000 killed, wounded and
captured or missing in 14 weeks. Soviet losses are more
than 650,000.

The Pokollonaya Hill exhibits in the Memorial to the Great Patriotic War – all those artillery pieces and
armored vehicles should give you something to think about. The State Museum of the Defense of
Moscow is worth a stop too, if you haven’t been there already.

Clearing skies.

Like the light of afternoon,
thrushes’ songs—their fresh ecstasies.

Must be it’s the same all over— you go
here, you go there, you do this, you do that,
something happens or it doesn’t.

But then what?

All the old controversies have worn themselves down to nothing.

Halder is implicated in von Stauffenberg’s failed coupe
d’état and falls from grace. He spends the last weeks of the
war in Dachau. During the final collapse of the Third
Reich, he is rescued from the SS by Heer troopers.

After his rehabilitation and release from Allied custody, Halder helped to de-Nazify and reconstitute the
post-war Bundeswehr. He died without fanfare in Bavaria in 1972.

Zhukov forces the Germans back, finally encircling Berlin.
On behalf of the Soviet Union, he accepts Germany’s
unconditional surrender in May 1945. Stalin, fearing his
general’s unprecedented popularity, transfers the Victory
Marshal to obscure postings far from the limelight. Briefly
restored to favor after Stalin’s death, Zhukov quarrels with
Khrushchev and is dismissed.

In his retirement, Zhukov spent much time fishing—his rod and tackle, gifts from Eisenhower. He died
of a stroke in 1974. On the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Orthodox Church conducted the panikhida
at his gravesite in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.

Oranta.
These orderly colors of a rainbow—

only more so.

All natural fulfillments—red brick rubble,
the season’s echelons of clouds . . .

Each one’s a testament, a practical gospel.

A quiet place now. Elsewhere, of course, new disputes are brewing, but here, today, right this minute,
only a summer breeze riffling broad expanses of grass, stirring these hardy trees, making the soft noises
a light wind makes when it meets resistance. The sky doing what the sky does. And this old church
facing its slow-motion apocalypse out here in the middle of nowhere. In a spot like this, the heart of one
of those blank spaces on the map where nothing is worth a name, the seasons set the pace for things. It
might be good to keep that in mind.

July 31st,
a blue moon.
The clear arrangement of everything.

Each breath is blunt prophecy— instruction
in common wisdom. And the proverb— it’s
so plain and simple nobody gets it wrong.

Znamenskaya Church—
warmed by sunlight through the broken
dome,
                                       a cat skull.


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