The Origins of Freemasonry in Russia
Masonic tradition has it that the Freemasons first came to Russia with Emperor Peter I’s blessing. The new capital of the empire - St. Petersburg became the cradle of Russian Freemasonry. To the new port city at the invitation of Peter I came a variety of experts from Europe: craftsmen and artisans, architects and painters, sailors, and army men. Among them were a significant number of freemasons. According to some sources, the first regular lodge was founded in St. Petersburg - the capital of the Russian Empire in 1731.
By the beginning of the reign of Empress Catherine II (1762), hundreds of aristocrats, officers, officials, as well as people from other estates of the empire became freemasons. Representatives of the aristocratic families of the Gagarins, Golitsins, Vorontsovs, Naryshkins, Razumovsky, Trubetskoy entered the ranks of Russian freemasons. The recognized leader of the Order was then the Grand Master of the Grand Provincial Lodge of Russia Ivan Yelagin, who enjoyed the full confidence of Catherine II. During his leadership, Russian Freemasonry was experiencing its Golden Age. The ranks of the Order of Freemasons included generals A. Suvorov and N. Repnin, poets A. Sumarokov and M. Kheraskov, architects V. Bazhenov and M. Kazakov, artists K. Bryulov, V. Borovikovsky and many other outstanding people of Russia. Freemasonry became even more popular in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the 19th century during the reign of Emperors Paul I and his son Alexander I, who were also members of the Order. The great Russian poet A. Pushkin, the diplomat, composer and writer A. Griboyedov, the father of the Russian bureaucracy M. Speransky, the creator of the secret police A. Benkendorf, the founder of the Moscow University and the Academy of Arts I. Shuvalov had been initiated to freemasonry.
Perhaps due to the political activities of some freemasons, the Order was banned in Russia from 1822. Freemasonry was also banned by the Bolsheviks. It was only in the 1920s that Russian lodges were recreated in Paris by that part of the Russian emigration that received its shelter in France.
On the initiative of the Russian freemasons who lived in Paris, the Grand National Lodge of France installed the first regular Masonic lodges in modern Russia in 1992-1993. Among them was a lodge in St. Petersburg, which received the name «New Astrea». With the participation of the first four lodges («Harmony», «Lotos», «New Astrea» and «Gamayun»), the Grand Lodge of Russia was created in 1995. Today the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Russia is Andrey Bogdanov. Under his leadership, more than 40 lodges were created to date.