San Francisco Glacier in Chile

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Russian Churches


Church on Spilled Blood.  St. Petersburg, Russia.  Took 24 years to build (completed 1907).  It was built as a memorial to Tsar Alexander II, who was assassinated by a bomb on the very site.  During Soviet times and after WWII, it fell into disrepair.  However, unlike some churches and religious sites in the Soviet Union, it was carefully protected from destruction, and then was completely restored in the late 70's. 
 
 
St. Basil's Cathedral.  Moscow.  Built by Tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1555 in order to commemorate the Russian victory of the Tatars (Mongols) who had ruled Russian lands for almost three centuries.
 

Christ the Savior Cathedral.  Moscow.  Largest Orthodox Church in the World. 

To commemorate Napoleon's only military defeat, Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow was built over 40 years in 1800's.  To see it under construction, click here.  Later it was demolished by Stalin in order to construct a Palace of the Soviets.  The Palace of the Soviets never got off the ground due to the start of WWII and then re-shifting priorities after the war.  Once Khrushchev came to power, this prime piece of real estate along the river became the home of a gigantic outdoor public swimming pool that survived until the early 90's.  Then, an exact replica of the original Cathedral was built in its exact spot at a whopping cost of $300 million US.  This time, with newer technology, it took only a few years to rebuild.  The murals and religious icons and "trappings" inside and outside the cathedral would make your head spin.  Personally, i see it as a further example of man's need to make statements (religious/political).

 rural church, 14th century - source
 
new church - source
 
I got e-mail questions several years ago from a cousin.  I gave my best response.

Q:  I've always been a bit confused by Christianity in Russia.  Under the Communist regime, wasn't Christianity outlawed?  I'm assuming the orthodox church had a strong presence  there pre-communism.  so after atheistic communism took over, what happened?  What was the standing of the Christian church?  I noticed Yeltsin had a large cross and crucifix on his tombstone. 
 
A;  Before the 1917 October Revolution, which led to the overthrow of the monarchy, the Russian Orthodox Church was extremely powerful in the minds of ordinary Russians, especially peasants.  And the Czars were considered to be agents or emissaries of god.  Many believed they held supernatural powers.  These "beliefs" helped prop up the royals and were used by the rulers of Russia to expand its empire.  The symbols and icons of the Orthodox church were sources of inspiration that soldiers had when going into battle.  So, "Onward Christian Soldiers" is very truthful.  The rituals/ceremonies that the Czars took part in were intricately meshed with the Orthodox Church practices.  And, much like Catholicism, Islam, and Eastern faiths of various kinds, great horrors were done with the consent of the church or under the nose of the church.  I could see how Marx - and then later Lenin and some of the early dissenters in Europe - saw the church as the "opium of the masses" and something that should be dismantled.  The trouble is, what followed was also appalling in many respects.  Certainly Stalin, much like Hitler, created his own legions of followers - a cult of personality.  And, with that power, he led the masses the way an ancient god would, with all the adoration and horror one can imagine.

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