Ok, summer break is over and I’ll be posting updates again. I arrived late on Friday and have been settling in, working on getting my registration, orienting to my new neighborhood and so on. And behold, what do we see in the English-language news?
Exciting stuff for sure. I’m developing some thoughts and will try to have a post up tomorrow about the media coverage, as well as some ideas about what the Pussy Riot affair shows about politics in Russia. For now, a few photos to establish a sense of place.
If you’ve followed the coverage, you may have noticed that news articles almost always feature a photo of the costumed members of the group. Certainly a valid choice–the costumes are striking, much-imitated, and were certainly chosen deliberately. But no less deliberate was the choice of location for the now-infamous concert: the Church of Christ the Savior (in Russian, Храм Христа Спасителя, or XXC).
XXC isn’t just any old church, but a major site and sight in the very center of Moscow.
It dominates the landscape as much as any other landmark, if not more. Its golden domes tower over most other buildings in sight and are visible from a distance. It sits along the Moscow River between the walls of the Kremlin and this (rather awful) monument by Tsereteli. Especially in good weather, tourists flock to the place, along with locals, taking photos and admiring the building. On the grounds, the Church sells icons and maps; nearby, vendors sell drinks and ice cream.
By the way: it’s a massive structure. I’d say it loomed over visitors, if it weren’t such a bright white and so very shiny!
Inside are some lovely icons and an elaborate altar. Services are held regularly, though this has only been the case in recent years: the entire building was demolished in the 1930s, then eventually turned into a massive swimming pool. In the 1990s, it was rebuilt, not without some controversy, including a change of architect (to Tsereteli himself, who just happened to be close friends with the former mayor of Moscow, Luzhkov). It may not be surprising, then, that Orthodox Church officials have sometimes viewed the Church as a symbol of the status of religion in Russia: threatened almost to extinction in the Soviet period, and only recently restored to legality and legitimacy.
One final note: there’s also space available to rent out for conferences and banquets. This is a point made by some opposition members to suggest that the Church is being hypocritical when it claims XXC is a sacred place. But more on this to follow!