Russia’s New Military Mega-Church to Feature Putin, Stalin, Crimea Mosaics in Moscow
The Russian state has always been perceived as a threat by the western world in contrast to China. The result has been to demonize Russia and at the same time go soft on China. This dichotomy is difficult to understand because no way can China be considered a friend of the West. On the contrary, Russia and China are extremely close and all military parades in Beijing have Vladimir Putin as an honored guest.
The Eastern Orthodox Church which remains the bastion of Christianity in Russia gained great importance after the fall of the Communist regime. During the last three decades, the hold of the church on Russian life as well as the Armed Forces has greatly increased.
The Russian military has a close association with the church. There is no country in Europe whose military identifies so closely with the church. Close to Moscow at the military Park, a massive new church will be inaugurated on ninth May this year. This will commemorate the victory of the Soviet Union over Germany.The 95-meter Armed Forces cathedral, a symbol of close defense-church ties in Russia, is expected to open on May 9 — the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II — at a sprawling military-themed park near Moscow. Once completed, the building will become one of the tallest Orthodox churches in the world.
Honoring Russian Greats
The Church will symbolize the close association between the Armed Forces and the church. One is reminded of the integration of the state with the Armed Forces which was enunciated by the Sikh Guru Hargobind who talked of Miri and Piri. Meaning the military and the spiritual.
The walls of Russia’s new Orthodox cathedral dedicated to the Armed Forces will be decorated with the faces of President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
Joseph Stalin led Russia at a critical moment in world history and even Western historians acknowledge that if Stalin had not stood firm against the Reich, a victory for the Allies in Europe would have been very difficult. Stalin has been rehabilitated in Russia and during my visits, I have observed firsthand the deep respect ordinary Russians have for Joseph Stalin. Nobody seems to remember his concentration camps and when asked about them simply say that Stalin either didn't know about them or he did not authorize them. Many Western writers still keep her harping on these camps of Stalin, while I find very few talking of the 20 million Chinese killed by Mao-Tse-Tung during his "Great Leap forward" and "cultural revolution." Millions died of hunger when famine swept China because of the policies of the "great leader."
The church will have a number of mosaics. One of the mosaics shows Putin and Shoigu flanked by prominent politicians of the Russian Federation. These include Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko and State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin as well as security officials like FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov and the head of the Army’s General staff Valery Gerasimov.
Another mural depicts the World War II Victory Day parade of 1945 on Red Square. This is an important parade in Russian military history and the mural shows a crowd of Soviet soldiers marching holding aloft a portrait of Stalin.
Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine is also celebrated, with a mosaic depicting women marching with a sign that reads “our Crimea.”
Archpriest Leonid Kalinin, the chair of the Russian Orthodox Church's council on art, architecture, and restoration have stated, " the Church considers these images to be absolutely appropriate, reflecting historical truth."
The Soviet war time leader Stalin's rehabilitation is now complete and as on date, his popularity among the Russian people is at record high.
There are some in Russia who have a sense of unease at the involvement of the church with the Russian military. One is reminded of a similar involvement by the German Church with the nazi party and the Southern Church in America when it condoned slavery for a hundred years.
Father Roman Ogryzkov the director of the bell center at Moscow's Danilov Monastery, the seat of the Moscow Patriarchate gives his opinion when he states that it will show the church's involvement in a project that may be used to promote militarism and distort the memory of the war. Many pictures have also appeared of Russian Orthodox priests blessing the new weaponry including tanks and rockets being inducted into the Russian army.
One cannot get away from the fact that Russia is veering more and more towards Orthodox christianity and the Russian armed forces are completely indoctrinated in this.