This is the first UK postcard I’ve found that shows a Moskvich, a son of Moscow. Of course in Moscow they use the Cyrillic script so they write it as Москвич. Converting this into Latin Script has resulted in some people spelling it Moskvich and others Moskvitch. Even the Russians weren’t quite sure whether to throw in that T.

A large proportion of the output of the Moscow factory was earmarked for export to bring in some foreign capital to the Soviet Union, but they were only imported into the UK in small numbers from 1970 to 1975. Small numbers to meet small demand. The estates, vans and pickups were the most popular, presumably because they were bought for utilitarian reasons and not by people concerned with image, status, performance or safety.

This one is a the Moskvich 427 estate. Actually ‘estate’ is superfluous since all 427s were estates. If it had a boot then it was 15 less. A Moskvich 412. They might have been agricultural and may have looked ten years older than they were, they might only have had old fashioned leaf spring suspension at the back and drum brakes all round, but they did have an overhead cam 1500cc engine copied from BMW and cost the same as a new Mini. Ideal for some. Perhaps ideal for the visitor to the Minster in our postcard.

Out of curiosity I consulted How Many Left to see how many are still on the road in the UK. No saloons, not one! And estates? Three. Not quite as rugged as we were led to believe, though I’m sure there’ll be quite a few still earning their keep in what used to be the Soviet Union.

The one in the video below is probably one of the three. It’s a 1972 Moskvich 427 sold new on 6th Jan 1973, “retired” in about 1990 and bought in 1997 by Youtuber Tavriadriver and restored, returning to the road in 2000. (A Tavria is a Ukrainian car made by ZAZ so this Youtuber might be worth following I think!).

But we’re drifting away from York now. Let’s get back to the York Minster as this fine building is linked to Russia by more than an old Moskvich.

In 2011 Dimitry Nedostupenko became the priest for the newly formed Community of the Russian Orthodox Church in York called, in English (I know not what in Russian), ‘The Community of St Constantine and St Helen’.

Constantine and Helen are revered in the Orthodox Church, indeed they are known as Equals to the Apostles, but there is another more specific reason for choosing them as patron saints of the York Church.

Back in 306 AD (or as we are encouraged to say in the current era, 306 CE) St Constantine, then plain old Constantine, was in York with his father the Roman Emperor Constantius I keeping us all under control when the old man died. Constantine then became emperor of the Western Roman Empire.

Helen, his mother, had been estranged from his father, but on assuming the mantle of emperor, Constantine brought her back to the Imperial Court. Helen was a Greek Christian and she was instrumental in shaping her son’s thinking about Christianity and encouraging him to decriminalise the religion in the Western part of the Empire.

Constantine went on to unify West and East parts of the Empire and encouraged the spread of Christianity. Which is why the Russian Orthodox Church revers mother and son, why the York fellowship is called The Community of St Constantine and St Helen and why there is the statue of him in the grounds of York Minster.

The link with York also explains why, a year after taking on the church, Dimitry Nedostupenko was able to celebrate the first ever Russian Orthodox Liturgy in York Minster. They held it in the crypt, which is, apparently, where Constantine was declared Emperor back in 306. This was obviously before the present church was built atop.

I wonder whether the owner of that 427 knew any of this, had any affinity with Russia or the Russian Orthodox Church, or just fancied a cheap no nonsense motor.

Let’s finish with a Trivia question. How is the car below linked to Constantine the Great?

Go on, leave a comment!