Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Perestroika, physical and spiritual

Perestroika: The literal translation is "rebuilding."
The word you really hear all the time is remont -- it means "repair" or "remodel."
And it's going on everywhere you look in Moscow. Including here:

Hram Hristos Cpasitel (Church of Christ the Savior) is the largest Orthodox church in the world.

It was built in Moscow in the 1800s and destroyed by Stalin in 1931 to make way for an enormous Soviet Palace topped by a colossal statue of Lenin, designed to be the tallest building in the world. But the palace was never built, and the foundation of the cathedral became a huge swimming pool. (Yes, everything is huge, colossal, enormous, mammoth – we’re in Russia, and bigger is always better!)

In 1994, after nearly five years of petitioning, the Russian Orthdox Church was granted permission to rebuild the cathedral on it’s original site, and in 2000 the new building -- an exact replica of the original church -- was consecrated.

From the guidebook I bought there:

A tragedy for Russian Christians, the attempt of the Communists to put up the Palace of Councils in place of the cathedral revealed the struggle between God who had become man to save humanity and man who was trying in vain to become God.
The gigantic “Babylon Tower” … was a symbolic antithesis of the Saviour cathedral, its anti-reflection. … Many elements of the palace were devised as antipodes of the cathedral’s elements -- the huge statue of Lenin instead of the cross crowning the cathedral, the representation of a five-pointed star on the ceiling of the Grand Hall, and articles of the Stalin Constitution carved on the walls of the foyer.

And then this symbolism of resurrection and repentance, which I found especially moving:

Many Muscovites who watched the [groundbreaking] ceremony [for the new building] on TV in 1994 could not believe their eyes: the miracle did occur. The main national sanctuary was being resurrected from its ashes, like a mythological bird Phoenix. ...

Today it is primarily a place of repentance, a personification of the country’s conversion from atheistic theories to the Law of God, to Christian doctrines of eternity and the City of God, to the traditional roots of the Russian Orthodox civilization. The cathedral, regarded as a martyr for Christ, has been resurrected on the site to show gratitude to God for saving Russia and overthrowing the utopian theory of the earthly paradise. It is a sort of memorial to Russia’s history, heroism and sufferings. It is the national Orthodox idea embodied in stone.

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