The Dynasty

3ee2c2820ff61cfd86012647b234512b Archpriest Pyotr Ivanovich Chulkov is one of the most extraordinary priests in our days. His biography is really impressive. Descended from a family of jewelers, he has become a brilliant and gifted representative of this difficult profession. In 1974 Pyotr Ivanovich was awarded the title of "Distinguished Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic". Some of his works have become masterpieces of jewelery. For example, the "Spring" vase manufactured in accordance with filigree technique is now exhibited in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Being a senior artist of the Krasnoselsk jewelry factory, in 1985 he changes his job and occupies a position in the Kostroma Department of the Union of Artists of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. In six years he goes into the ministry and becomes a clergyman of the Kostroma eparchy.


 – Father Pyotr, we know that You became a priest during middle age. And before that you lead a long path of being a gifted artist. How did you become a clergyman of the Kostroma eparchy?

– From the very beginning I had one path – a master of decorative and applied arts. I wanted to find beauty and came to God. I have not done it myself – the God has led me. That's why we say "The ways of God are inscrutable".

– Has your family predetermined the profession of a jewelry master and artist?

– The village of Krasnoye where I was born is one of the most unique villages in our Motherland where jewelry trade was practiced starting from the XV-th century. From olden times its inhabitants worked with silver and traveled from Moscow and Kiev to Central Asia selling their goods. My ancestors practiced jewelry too. My great grandfather Andrey Fyodorovich Chulkov owned a workshop. It was a separate building similar to a country bathhouse. In the village of Krasnoye family traditions of craftsmanship were passed from one generation to another, from fathers to their sons, as it usually happens in real life. That's how Krasnoselsk jewelry trade has been taking shape and developing over the centuries. That's why family traditions have been developing in our kin of the Chulkovs.

– Did your parents come from the village of Krasnoye-na-Volge?

– My mother is from the village of Kobanye in Omsk Region, and my father is a native of Krasnoye-na-Volge. My parents got acquainted in Moscow. They lived in Siberia for some time in a native village of my mother and later moved to Krasnoye. Here my father, Ivan Andreevich Chulkov, worked at power supply network at first. Then he became a galvanizer at the "Metalist" jewelry artel. Later in the 1950s he taught galvanoplastics and galvanostegy (electrochemical methods of metalwork – ed. note). to the students of the Krasnoselsk Metal Art Technical School. After leaving a seven-year school in 1951 I entered this educational institution, graduated it in four years and was call up for military service in the Soviet army.

– Let's speak about faith. In former times it was difficult to express your religious beliefs. Often it was dangerous. Your family was Christian. How did you find a way out?

– In Soviet time relationships with faith were difficult indeed. I always wore a cross pendant. I remember as in the fifth grade I took my shirt off at a medical inspection and everybody saw my cross: "What's this? Take it off immediately!" I took it off and put into my pocket. "Give it to me!" - the teacher said. I was silent, but kept the cross in my pocket and did not give it away. Then my father was called to school. He was reprimanded and warned of possible outcomes up to deprivation of parental rights, as we would say today. Therefore I first started wearing my cross consciously after visiting the Pskov Monastery of the Caves in 1977. Then we together with Father Aleksey Rogozin, the priest from the village of Zdemirovo (located one kilometer away from Krasnoye), and with writer and poet Vyacheslav Ivanovich Shaposhnikov, a friend of mine, visited this holy cloister and met with Father John Krestyankin. There we got acquainted with a monk casting cross pendants, and I shared the secrets of Krasnoye's craftsmanship with him. He presented crosses of his own manufacture to me and Vyacheslav Shaposhnikov. Since then I've been wearing it as blessing from elderly monk John Krestyankin.

– Did you find your pastoral path at that time?

– The time has come, and I started regularly visiting the All Hallows Church located in Krasnoye. Its Father superior John Kovalskiy introduced me to His Grace Alexander (Mogilev), Bishop for Kostroma and Galich. After some time he asked me: "Pyotr Ivanovich, have you ever thought of becoming a priest?" "No, Your Grace, I haven't", – I answered. "Think about it!" – His Grace Alexander suggested. In several weeks I, seemingly by accident, met His Grace Alexander in Kostroma. And while asking a blessing I heard a question:

– Have you thought about it, Pyotr Ivanovich?

– Yes, Your Grace, I have." – Well, what do you think about it?"

– As you tell me, Your Grace. – I answered.

– Good for you… Come to the eparchial confessor, Father Vladimir Stepanov, he'll tell you what to do.

That's how I took the path to serve our Lord. In 1990 His Grace ordained me as a deacon, and in 1991 at the Patron Saint's Day of the All Hallows Church – as a priest. In a year following his ordinance I took the position of Father Superior of the Epiphany Temple in Krasnoye and started restoring this ancient sacred place. This steepled temple founded in the XVI century was closed in Soviet time and used as a warehouse for grain storage by a local collective farm. At that time it was considered a "monument of architecture" remaining in a miserable state of a profaned orthodox sacred place. In 1993 on Saturday on the eve of the All Hallows' Day visitors of the church heard the priest speaking after the temple had been closed for more than half a century: "Glory to the Holy, Coessential, Vivifying and Inseparable Trinity!" Divine Service started on the ground floor and were kept for seven years. The upper part of the temple was being restored until its red-letter opening day in 2000. Contemplating on the years that have already passed and become history of the village of Krasnoye you involuntarily think that it is the temple's quadricentennial (1992) when this ancient building newly recovers its status of an orthodox church. From this day parochial life is starting to recover, so that in the first year of a new millennium marvelous deeds of our Lord Jesus Christ reveal them in our infirmities. It is said for a good reason: "God's power is made perfect in our weakness". "Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory forever!"

o_petr-3 – Was there any event in your life that showed you to lead a path of an artist?

– After leaving the seventh grade (it was a graduation one at that time) me and my friends carelessly took a swim in the Volga river. I did not think about my mission at that time. But approximately starting from the fifth grade I used to draw. I copied some still life or landscape pictures that I liked from the "Ogonek" magazine. By the seventh grade I tried to paint in oil. I took parcel boxes, disassembled and primed them with an ordinary white paint and then I covered them with decorative paint. Of course, the pictures were primitive. 

While we were swimming a guy approached to us. Later we found out that he was a student of out technical school. After learning that we had just left the school he asked: "Where are you going to study?" When it was my turn to answer, I told that I did not know, and one of my friends said: "He can draw!» After hearing that a young man said: "Let's go. I want to have a look". I found out that he came to finish his studies in our Krasnoselsk Technical School after his military service. I took him to a bathhouse where we used to live. Its walls were covered with my paintings. My parents' icon were beneath the ceiling and my pictures were located lower. Having a look at the results of my childhood hobby Ivan Basanov (it was his name) summed it up: "You should study only in our school!" This opinion expressed for the first time conquered my mind. That year I became a freshman of the Krasnoselsk Metal Art Technical School.

– It was Ivan who helped you to determine your profession. What did your parents think about your choice?

– When I told them about my desire to enter our technical school later in the evening, they supported me. My mom was glad that I would not enter the nautical college suggested to my by Oleg, my older friend who was studying there. And my father reasonably noted: "We had jewelers in our family, and you'll make your living with this profession". So with my parents' full consent I entered the Krasnoselsk Technical School. I graduated from it in 1955, and in autumn I was called up for military service in the Soviet army that I left in a year in autumn.


Father Superior of the Rev. Tikhon Lukhovskiy Temple in the town of Volgorechensk, Father Pyotr's son

– Father John, you used to live in the times when one had to be fearful to speak about faith. Did you experience situations when you had to protect your beliefs?

– I did military service in Germany. It was an ordinary Soviet military unit with all the attributes of that time. Once during citizenship training our political instructor suddenly started discussing religious issues. "There is faith, but now it is considered to be a thing of the past. Now nobody believes it. Is that right, guys? Well, tell me who believes in God?" My guys from the fourth platoon were sitting somewhere in the back rows. As a rule, you could hear nothing there. Everybody was having rest: some people were sleeping, some were communicating with each other. I stood up automatically (it was a big surprise even for myself) and said: "I do". The major's confusion was a sight to behold! He awkwardly skipped the subject and gave no answer to me. My fellow soldiers turned their heads to me. Later they came to me and seriously (without any irony) asked me various questions about faith.

– How did it happen that you followed in your father's footsteps?

– Once I was talking with my father and asked: "Don't you regret leaving your workshop, your colleagues and your jobs?" He answered to me: "You know, this steepled temple is like a vase for me, like the last and the most important mission…" And it was when I suddenly understood my father's profound idea. Orthodoxy correlates well with various kinds of human creativity. You can compare it with pedagogics, as it includes teaching. You can compare it with military service, as it deals with patience, obedience and discipline. You can compare it with medicine, as we heal our souls' ailments. Orthodoxy is both poetry of soul and seeking for the eternal and the beautiful. That's all that true Russians should stick to.


– Grigoriy, please tell us if you hesitated about choosing your profession.

No, I did not: from my very childhood I knew that I want to be a jeweler. I wanted to work with metal at school. As a child I used to visit my father's workshop and helped in jewelry shops as a maker of blanks or a diamond cutter. I could not resist this desire. It had nothing to do with finance or a boy's wish to make some money – I enjoyed handicraft. After leaving my school I entered the University of Technology to receive a completely new major "Artistic design of jewelry". Studying was OK for me, but frankly speaking I often skipped classes and showed up only at my credits and exams. But the University gave me more than a diploma: I met my future wife there. We used to study in the same group. It was love at the first sight.

– Grigoriy, now you manage a large workshop. What is it like? How was it founded?

– Many people think that if you are from the family of jewelers, you don't have to do anything. Of course, it's not the case. My path was a difficult one, as the surname of Chulkov-Sinenkos has always been a household name. I could not let my family down and earn a great reputation among numerous jewelers.

As a student I used to manufacture jewelry items on my own: I mounted and fixed precious stones. Together with my wife we were obtaining valuable experience. Then we started working at churchware, as well call it in Krasnoye, that us making orders for the Church. It was not a conscious decision, but a spiritual desire: people are kinder, purer and more honest in the Church. But it was very boring for me to manufacture standard Krasnoselsk models. I produced a couple of unique craftworks for myself and for my soul's sake. Our friends and clients saw them. They told that they had never seen anything like this before and order them. Believe me, it's difficult to surprise them! Iordani, our orthodox jewelry manufacture, is only a couple years old. We are a young and creative company. However, we've been developing step by step: first we designed models and later needed new materials, technologies and masters to implement them. We were seeking for some people, and some people were looking for us. When we were launching the stove enameling section, we had no specialists. We were teaching our employees from the scratch. Olga, my spouse, asked some churchwomen of the Krasnoselsk temple to become our students. In this way we have formed a team of like-minded colleagues who know that they manufacture more than just adornments We think that our workshop appeared and functions by Divine Providence.