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Russian Tsar provided mortgage for Reformed church building

Dutch traders had colony in St. Petersburg

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

VRIEZENVEEN, the Netherlands - The demise of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s has given Western historians access to many Russian archive, shedding new light on previously incomplete histories. A new book details how a Reformed Church for 210 years served traders and merchants in St. Petersburg, Russia's window on the West.

“Hervormd in St. Petersburg” begins with the institution of the Reformed Church in 1717, and explores how the congregation was assisted by a Tsar who provided a mortgage for the construction of the church building and adjoining rental properties.

One controversy since then, involving a minister who was let go had both Classis Amsterdam and the Russian government trying to resolve the dispute. The minister studied medicine and later worked for the Russian authorities.

Following the Revolution of 1917, the communists expropriated the church's rental properties and forced its closure in 1927. The organ since then was removed to a concert hall. The descendents of Dutch trading families - among them many from the eastern Dutch community of Vriezenveen - now want to help restore the organ to former glory.

The book ‘Hervormd in St. Petersburg, 1717-1927’ is more than a church history, it touches, according to one reviewer, on Dutch-Russian diplomatic relationships and the close ties between calvinism and foreign trade.