Thursday, 4 February 2016

Russian Orthodox Church demonstrating its presence

English: Cathedral of Christ the Saviour over ...
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour over Moscow River. Moscow (Russia).  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When we see documentaries about the ex-Soviet states we are confronted with the quantity and size of Russian churches and the holy images on buses and taxis.

On the buses and taxis people at first after the end of the Soviet Union could find adverts for all sorts of human pleasures.  The dashboard standard in the 1990s was soft porn which as the 2000s wore on, got superseded by "holy images" as a visible sign of social change in post-Soviet Russia.
Sometimes we have the impression that the Russians have found back religion and that the churches are getting enough visitors. But from people who recently went to Russia this may be an incorrect picture.
With the exceptions of major holy days, however, churches are not full. One of the curious characteristics of resurgent Orthodox Christianity is that, while the vast majority of citizens of the Russian Federation identify themselves as Orthodox, this is not reflected in church attendance. {In Search of Believers}
The end of communism has allowed the church to demonstrate its presence in a way that the Soviet authorities would never have permitted. Mühling’s interest in the story of an icon painter shot by the Soviets leads him to the New Martyrs’ Church at Butovo, just beyond the southern edge of Moscow’s urban sprawl. During the purges of the 1930s, it was here that in 14 months, some 20,000 people were shot and buried for crimes against Soviet power. Mühling’s encounter with the church’s priest, whose own grandfather had been among those killed, is a fascinating piece of personal and social history. {In Search of Believers}
 In 2007, as BBC Moscow correspondent, James Rodgers, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at City University London, where he lectures on the History of Journalism and the Reporting of Armed Conflict, visited the church to report on the ceremonies, which were held to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the killings.
Among the impressions gathered that day, two remain with me above all. Firstly, given that this was such a traumatic period in the country’s past, how few people were actually there: hundreds only, just a stone’s throw from a city of some ten million. Secondly, that no senior officials were present. Mr Medvedev, then prime minister, was not among the crowd nor was President Putin. Mühling’s telling of what unfolded there, and the links between past and present – there is also an encounter with an elderly resident of a nearby dacha settlement, who dismisses the deaths at Butovo as ‘a few priests’ – could have been even better had he reflected a little on the way that wider Russian society today seems not to pay much attention. {In Search of Believers}
journey into russia pbk
> Continue reading:  In Search of Believers,
concerning James Rodgers 's review of A Journey into Russia (Haus Publishing, 2015) by Jens Mühling 

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