07/20/2004 | | Aschermann Email | Return to Russia Pages
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The Church in Russia
is the story of its churches. The church in Russia is
the story of Russia.
Photo 1, 2 and 3 is St. Basil's which is on the east end of Red Square. St. Basil's Church is one of the distinctive features of Russia. It is located a the east end of Red Square. On the west end is the tomb of Lenin. Stalin ordered that the church be destroyed but for some reason it was left standing.
When we study "The Church in Russia" the first thing that will come to mind will be the Russian Orthodox Church. Christianity became the religion of Russia in 988 AD. This was the official or state recognized church: The Russian Orthodox Church. The Orthodox church was the church of the czars.
Because of of it size and the multi-faceted nature of the Czar's empire many of the world's religions can be found within the country: Buddhist, Islam, Jewish, Catholic, pagan and shamanic, and Orthodox.
The followers of Karl Marx [communists] in Russia believed that religion was the opiate for the masses of people. The early Soviet leaders did not want to have competition during the process of converting the people to "true communism." Therefore, to consolidate their territorial holdings, many churches were destroyed or they were converted to some other use.
So-- my surprise.... I was surprised at the total number of churches that were not destroyed. [Some churches were destroyed... but remaining are many churches that were built before 1900 and back to earlier centuries.
Observation of mine--- which may not be accurate as I have not done any formal study. If a Russian is asked about his/her religion today most likely the person would say Orthodox. On Sunday, however, we would see few Russian people attending formal religious services.
I am reminded of what most people would say is the most Catholic country in Europe: Italy. "Most" of the people living in Italy will say that they are Catholic. The Catholic Church has a very strict policy about birth control. There could be several reasons for the major decline in the birthrate in Italy. The country has almost a negative birth growth.
So, if Italy is a country that has some good Catholics, why is it that the birth rate is so low. Italians will profess to be Catholic but many are not formal worshipers. The same for Russia: many people will say that they are Russian Orthodox but do nor formally practice it on Sunday. It is my understanding that when the Orthodox people attend church they stand rather than sit.
Russia has many beautiful churches. It is evident that the people over the centuries always answered the call when funds were necessary to build religious structures. Still remaining in Moscow and surrounding communities are religious buildings. The followers of Marx did not destroy what is the cultural heritage of Russia.
As in other societies, the Russia's level of "being civilized" is seen by the religious construction that occurred over about 1000 years.
The photo on the right shows the dress of the Orthodox priests. Traditionally the priest will be dressed in black with a hat and with a full beard.
To learn more about the Russian Orthodox church the following are provided:
In many respects the theology of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church are very similar. The Russian church is an off-shoot of the "Eastern" or the Byzantine church that was created early in Christian history. The headquarters for the Byzantine church is in the country of Turkey. Very noticeable will be the fact that the Orthodox clergy are not required to be celibate. The clerical dress also will be different.
Look at the three photos above. Each picture is depicting another difference. What is the difference?
Associated with the Russian Orthodox practices is that of the "icon." While it is a terrible webpage, the following will give an overview of the importance of the icon. What is an icon? Unfortunately many of the historical icons were destroyed during the Stalin era in Russia. Russian Icon
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow is not a very old church but it requires that the story be given. The church is within easy walking distance from Red Square. The above hyperlink will provide a brief history of the church. Another interesting web page The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - has some interesting hyperlinks with some collector's motion pictures.
The Christ the Savior Cathedral was destroyed in December 5th, 1931 - during the Stalin's time, because communists decided to build "Soviet Palace" for their meetings. The intent was to build it 415 meters high with 80 meters Lenin on the top.
After the destruction of the older cathedral the Soviet planners noticed that the structure of the earth below where they had planned on building the "Palace" was not stable enough to sustain a building as large as they had planned. So, now they had a hole in the ground where the earlier church had been. What could a hole in the ground be used for? As if Karl Marx was speaking the committee ultimately decided to build a massive swimming pool.
The links above will tell the story of the change in the Soviet government in 1989. After '89 we now have the "Russian government." One of the first things that the people of Moscow wanted was a church were the swimming pool was located. Having a church here was a symbol of the change in politics in Moscow. The above links will tell the story of how in less than ten years the current Cathedral of Christ the Savior was built.
This was a remarkable achievement, especially considering the slothful movement of Russian workers. The rapid building of the church told the world that "changes have come to Russian." The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - Read about the various steps that were used to rebuild the cathedral.
Unfortunately I cannot find good pictures to present visually the Cathedral. Ten years was a very short time to build what we can see. There were so many steps that had to be taken. For example, the floor is of various colors of marble stone. "They" had to know how much marble would be necessary. Someone had to draw the patterns. Someone had to decide upon the color of the rock. The rock then had to processed. Someone [many some ones] had to cut the stone the exact shape to fit into something that we might say is very similar to a jig-saw puzzle.
Definitely the rebuilding of the Cathedral became symbolic for the new Russia. It served notice to the people that changes were coming to Russia.
Notice that the monastery is built as a fortress.
Pilgrims at the sacred spring.
Scroll down to the bottom of this webpage to see better photos of the
Orthodox Icons | Describes Icons
Scroll down to see a hundred Orthodox icons.
Outstanding photographs at the bottom of the page
Attempts to Repair Church