Controversy surrounds the opening of the new Resurrection of Christ Church in Kubinka near Moscow. The cathedral, designed as the Armed Forces’ main church, is designed to hold 6,000 worshipers and features a military green color and missile-like towers. It was built at a cost of around 6 billion Rubles (roughly 100 billion Korean Won), which church representatives say is the most expensive church building project in modern Russian history. Official opening of the cathedral, Russia’s third largest, was scheduled for May 9 in recognition of the 75th anniversary of Russia’s victory in the World War II but has been delayed due to the Coronavirus.
But according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, it was what was not on display during a special inaugural prayer service that drew the most attention.
Representative Foley says that two controversial mosaics originally planned for inclusion in the cathedral—one depicting former Russian leader Joseph Stalin and another depicting current Russia President Vladimir Putin and other officials—were displayed in a highly altered form that removed the controversial elements. Representative Foley says public concerns may have been the reason for the alterations.
“The banner showing Stalin’s face was changed to one with a victory slogan on it,” says Representative Foley. “The mosaic showing President Putin’s face was changed to a more traditional icon, reportedly in consultation with President Putin.”
Representative Foley says that though the mosaics have been changed, the reported comments of officials who attended the prayer service remain concerning.
“Archpriest Leonid Kalinin, the head of the Experts’ Council for Church Art, Architecture and Restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church, is reported to have spoken in favor of keeping the images of Stalin and President Putin in the church. In conjunction with the inaugural prayer service, Deputy Defense Minister General Andrey Kartapolov is reported to have commented, ‘Stalin restored religion in Russia’. But nearly 90 years ago, in December 1931, it was Stalin who ordered the demolition of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, not far from the dedication of this new cathedral.”
Resurrection of Christ Church in Kubinka near Moscow. It is designed as the Armed Forces’ main church. It features a military green color and missile-like towers. Creative Commons photo.
The Resurrection of Christ Church in Kubinka near Moscow. Construction costs are estimated at 6 billion Rubles (more than 100 billion Korean Won). Creative Commons photo.
Representative Foley notes that the total number of Christian victims under the Soviet regime has been estimated to range around 12 to 20 million.
Representative Foley says, “Buildings are often used to keep the history of military victories alive. But Christians around the world need to raise our voice to ensure that each new generation of Christians learns of the victory of Christian martyrs over Stalin and Communism. Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, the global founder of Voice of the Martyrs, spent 14 years in a Communist prison in Romania. When Communism collapsed in Russia, Wurmbrand declared, ‘By love we have conquered.’”
A view of the sanctuary of Resurrection of Christ Church in Kubinka near Moscow. Creative Commons photo.
This icon including the Stalin banner was originally planned for inclusion in the Resurrection of Christ Church in Kubinka but was not installed amidst controversy. Creative Commons photo.
Representative Foley says the victory of the Christian martyrs can best be remembered not in buildings but through books like Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ, which tells the story of Wurmbrand and other Christian prisoners under Communism. The book has been a bestseller in more than 60 languages. Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s bestselling book is Marx and Satan, in which Rev. Wurmbrand documents the historical connections between Communism and Satanism. Both books are available through the Voice of the Martyrs Korea website, www.vomkorea.com/store, or by calling Voice of the Martyrs Korea at 02-2065-0703.
Representative Foley says that though Rev. Wurmbrand died in 2001, were he alive today he would express strong concern but not surprise about the cathedral’s efforts to honor Stalin.
“He would remind us to overcome through love,” says Representative Foley. “He would have sent General Kartapolov and Archpriest Kalinin a warm, friendly letter and offered to publicly debate the General’s claim that ‘Stalin restored religion in Russia’,” Foley says. “And he would have enclosed copies of Tortured for Christ and Marx and Satan and insisted that they read them and give out free copies of the books at the new cathedral, in remembrance of the millions of Christians who were martyred under Stalin and Communism.”
This icon including the figures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials was originally planned for inclusion in the Resurrection of Christ Church in Kubinka but was not installed amidst controversy. Creative Commons photo.
1931 photo of the destruction of the original Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Public domain photo.