Saturday, November 12, 2005

Moscow's Temple of Christ the Savior: Destruction and Rebirth

Ryszard Kapuscinski's Imperium describes in detail how Stalin schemed to destroy Moscow's venerable Temple of Christ the Savior in 1931. Dedicated in 1883, the building required 45 years to complete (40 million bricks), was more than 30 stories tall and had walls of marble 3.2 meters thick. Stalin had decided to replace the building (after robbing it) with a Palace of the Soviets -a building larger than the Empire State Building (150 floors, 415 meters) with a 100 meter statue of Lenin on top (think 3x higher than the Statue of Liberty).

To Kapuscinski, this scenario is comparable to a French leader deciding secretly raze the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Yet, the city's inhabitants passively continue on with daily business. Fortunately, Stalin's paranoia, attendance to purges, and distraction with annexation and war leaves the project on the back burner. After his death, the remaining base of the cathedral is used as a swimming pool. The author does not yet realize that in 2 years after publishing his book the Patriarch will begin to reconstruct the Cathedral to look much like it once did. above link) does an excellent job detailing the Temple's history.

Vladimir Soloviev's comments

An interesting comment from the late 19th century Russian Philosopher Vladimir Soloviev: "The opposition between the two cultures-the eastern and the western- was already sharply delineated at the dawn of human history. If the East built the foundations of its culture on the ruthless subordination of man to a higher power, the supernatural, then in the West it was the opposite, man was left to his own invention, which allowed for a broad, self-generated creativity"

While I cannot really speak to his concept of 'Santa Sophia', he appears to write frequently about the Orthodox Church's development (and in relation with the Western Church as well)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Russia's Ethnic Groups

For ethnic group scholars, The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire can readily serve online reference needs. The online text details over 80 ethnic habitat, population, origin, language, writing, & anthropological characteristics. Very impressive for online. Keep clicking map to get to the text.

New National Holiday?

Not sure that Putin's Unity Day, a new national holiday (Nov 4) will really catch on. The date marks liberation from Polish occupation of Moscow in 1612, but I would guess its a poor substitute to replace Nov 7, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution holiday. Some interesting comments on Putin's attachment to statism and (Russian Orthodox) Patriarch Alexei II's negative view of 17th century 'elites' as treasonous. The author asserts that Putin maybe reemphasizing stability and patriotism to ward off any emerging 'color revolutions'.

Bury the man

In the news today- What To Do With Lenin, from Voice of America. Shall he forever remain unburied?-the question seems so symbolic for Russia- shall they go forward or be held captive by their past (or is this simply 'patriotism'). Another article by the International Herald Tribune speaks about this and other posthumous moves (Denikin, Ivan Ilyin, and Maria Feodorovna - Czar Nicholas's mother).

Catherine Merridale's book Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia appears to have much to say on Russian bereavement and perceptions of death.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wasn't this Condi's Major?

Not terribly surprising but unfortunate that Slavic Studies face an Uncertain Future. Indeed, I had intended to finish my Ph.D in this field. I remember how intrigued I was to see Perestroika progress in the late 80s. Certainly, for those younger than 30, they may find it hard to comprehend how the Soviet Union was once perceived.

The Russian Imperial Navy

For naval buffs, the Imperial Russian Navy site is quite interesting (despite the awful backgrounds). Lots of small b & w pics and brief summaries on how Russia's navy played out Russo-Japanese war, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Crimean War. Also biographies of Russian Naval Commanders and a good summary of how actions the pacific (Korea, Japan, and China) affected Russia's foreign policy in general (see Associated and Related Documents) .

I was not aware that in the Russo-Japanese War, Russia "was the first country in modern times to attempt to utilize submarines in an offensive role". Apparently, Russia purchased American-built Holland submersibles back then. How interesting also that debate over the Kuril Islands has not ceased for nearly 200 years.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ryszard Kapuscinski's Imperium

Currently reading Imperium (1994) by Ryszard Kapuscinski. The first few chapters focus on his perspective as a child growing up during Stalin's purges near the current Polish border. The commentary is chilling though not surprising (a more complete view of Stalin's purges is found in Anne Applebaum's Gulag: A History). Even his observations on the asiatic republics are interesting (esp as to how the locals relate to their Russian residents).

What's also interesting is just how much has changed in the last 16 years.

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