St. Xenia and the Gleaners of Leningrad
Xenia Cherkaev

“This perfect essay is a portrait of a fleeting moment, post-socialist, and pre-monopoly capitalist. It illuminates a very recent time, still present but already shrouded, when excess and desperation held hands and a new economy of faith was born under the benevolent patronage of St. Xenia, who was called by the name Andrey Fedorovich.”

— Claudio Lomnitz, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University


“A both mystical and prosaic story of a city and its protector saint. Cherkaev says Xenia the Blessed was a fool for Christ; she is a fitting sentinel for a people who, in the enduring absence of certainty and security, remain fools for hope.”

— Nina Serova, Researcher, Sydney


This text is, above all, a grateful testament to a local saint’s continued liveliness. It is a new hagiography, a story of a woman who gave away everything—her house, her money, her possessions, and even her name—who wandered homeless, and who has helped people resolve desperate situations ever since. Retelling the fragmented stories of how people asked for her intervention, and of how, through their actions, new mycelia of power grew on the ruins of the Soviet socialist state, I hope that this essay helps opens a loophole: a space between naïve faith and sociological faithlessness in which we might understand today’s miracles without crushing them by the secular objectivist gaze. Looking through this loophole, this essay retells some of stories I heard about the Soviet collapse and about how people survived it: about gleaning the planned economy’s rubble, chance connections, personal ties, Divine Providence, fast fortunes, and the enclosure of fields.

Photographs by Elena Tipikina
Designed by Ruud Ruttens, Ghent
Printed by AC Dominie, Singapore
April 2023

20pp., 100 × 190 mm, softcover
Edition of 500
ISBN 978-0-6453840-4-8
$16.50 AUD