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  • Russian Fireball Weirdness, 1663 March 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Really, UFOs are so often so boring. How many times does the mother ship of the Krill turn out to be a dead mosquito smudged on the kitchen window? But every so often a sighting comes along where you think: what on earth (or rather in the sky)… There follows one of the very best dating back to 1663 and the Russian Empire and Robozero (Vologda Province). I’ve included the English and the Russian in the hope that the translation can be improved or at least checked. This letter apparently first appeared in print in 1842 in Akty istoricheskie, sobranye i izdanye 4 1645-1676, 331-332. Subsequently Yury Roszius claims to have found the original letter which was photographed and published in Aura-Z 4 (1994), 10. I have not checked any of these references, they all come from Bullard’s The Myth and Mystery of UFOs (a fine volume that goes into the psychology of sightings): 122-123. A crucial point is the exact date of the letter as opposed to the event: there is some muttering online about early eighteenth century, that would be important and worrying. The translation below with some very few silent changes comes from Ausbeck and Vallee via Wonders in the Sky 215-217. The Russian is the original.

    It would be so great to patronisingly write this off as some Russian hill-billies who had been in their Orthodox church thinking about Mary a little too long. But, the nineteenth-century publication and the original letter suggest that the only real danger is any fantasy prone tendencies of the author of the letter. If we assume that the account is a confused description of a natural phenomenon… Well, you see for yourself.

    To His Highness the Archimandrite Nikita, to His Eminence the Starets Paul, to their Highnesses the Starets of St. Cyril Monastery, Most Venerable lords, salutations from your humble servant Ivachko Rievskoi. The farmer Levka Fedorov, from the village of Mys of Antusheva of your monastery estate Losy, has related to me the following facts: On this Saturday, the 15th day of August of the year 7171 [since creation i.e. 1663], the faithful from the district of Bieloziero, Robozero volost [administrative region], had assembled in great number in the church of the village of Robozero, in the present holyday of Assumption of the Virgin Mary. While they were inside, a great sound arose in the heavens and numerous people came out of God’s house to watch it from the square. There, Levka Fedorov, the farmer in question, was among them and witnessed what follows, which, for him, was a sign from God. At noon, a large ball of fire came down over Robozero, arriving from the clearest part of the cloudless heavens [what would be the clearest part of a cloudless heaven?]. It came from the direction whence winter comes [i.e. north], and it moved toward midday [i.e. south] along the lake passing over water surface. The ball of fire measured some 140 ft from one edge to the other and over the same distance, ahead of it [not behind it?], two ardent (burning?) rays extended. The people seeing the terror of God gathered in the church and prayed to God and the Blessed Virgin, with tears and crying, and the big fire and two smaller ones disappeared. [did they fly away or just vanish?] Less than an hour later, the people again came out to the square and the same fire suddenly reappeared over the same lake, from the same place where it first disappeared. It darted from the south to the west and must have been 1500 ft away when it disappeared [so the ball just vanished rather than going away?]. But it appeared, in a short while, back again, from another place, moving this time to the west; the third time the same fireball appeared more terrific in width [so it grew], and disappeared, having moved to the west, and it had been remaining over Robozero, over water, for an hour and a half. And the length of the lake is about 7000 ft, and the width is 3500 ft. As the fireball was coming over water, peasants who were in their boat on the lake followed it, and the fire burned them by the heat, not allowing them to get closer. The waters of the lake were illuminated to their greatest depth of 30 ft and the fish swam away to the shore, they [the people?] all saw that. And where the fireball came, the water seemed to be covered with rust under the reddish light; it was then scattered by the wind and the water became clean again. And I, your humble servant, sent a message to the priests in Robozero district, exactly for this reason, and they responded to me with a letter confirming that they had such sign in that day. And you, most Venerable lords, would know about this. And this Robozero district is about 6 miles away from Antusheva village of your monastery estate Losa.

    Государю архимандриту Никите, государю старцу Матфею, государю келарю старцу Павлу, и государем старцом соборным Кирилова монастыря, ваш, государи, работничек Ивашко Ржевской, Августа в … день, челом бъет. Вашие, государи, монастырские вотчины Лозы, села Антушева, деревни Мысу крестьянин Левка Федоров сказывал мне: в нынешнем де во 171 году [т.е. в 7171 “от сотворения мира” или в 1663 по современному] Августа в 15 день, в субботу, Белозерского уезду, Робозерския волости, розных поместий и вотчин, стояли де они у обедни у приходцкие церкви в настоящий праздник Успения пречистыя Богородицы, приходцкие тое церкви и околных волостей люди, многой народ; и как де учали молебен петь, и в то время от небеси учинился шум велик, и многие люди из церкви на паперть вышли, а он де Левка стоял тут же на паперти и видел Божие посещение: с зимнюю сторону, от светла небеси, не из облаку, вышел огнь велик на Робозеро и шел на полдень, вдоль озера над водою, во все стороны сажен по двадцати и более, а по сторону того пламени дым синь, а впереди его сажен за двадцать шли два луча огненные ж; и народ де видя страх Божий, собрались в церковь и молились Господу Богу и пречистой его Матери, со слезами и с плачем, и того де великого пламени и двух малых не стало; и минув де мал час, как народ вышел в другой пяд на паперть, то ж де огненное пламя в другой ряд появилось над озером, от того места где сперва скрылось, с полудни на запад с полверсты, тем же образом, да и померкло; и после того в мале ж де времени, от того другого места, столко ж к западу подався, в третье тот же огнь явился страшние перваго широтою, и поник сшед на запад; а стоял де тот огнь над Робозером над водою часа с полтора, а того де озера вдоль две версты, а поперег с версту; а как де тот огнь над водою шел, и за тем огнем невейгласи обстрашились, ехали в лодке крестьяне, и от того де огня пламенем опаляло, близ не подпустило; а в озере де и до дна свет был в болшей глубине, среди озера сажени четыре дно, и рыба от пламени как в берег бежит все они видели; и которым де местом огнь шел, и то место воду палило, аки ржавец поверху воды, и ветром по озеру разнесло, стала де вода по прежнему.

    Of course, the very great value of this is that we have an apparent case of something in the sky long before modern UFO mythology sank its fangs into the west’s overtaxed jugular. Perhaps as interesting is the fact that this description isn’t much good for the Virgin or Peter the Great or Slav emancipation or any other late seventeenth-century Russian obsessions. I would like to say meteorite, but unless there are badly garbled memories here this was not a meteorite. The boat-folk being burnt as they went close to the fiery ball, the size… They are all wrong. My next gambit would be ball lightning but you read the description and just give up. What on earth was happening? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com