Category Archives: Moscow Churches

World War One Memorial Park In Moscow

Until recently Russia celebrated the victory in the Patriotic War against Napoleon in 1812 and in the Great Patriotic War against Hitler in 1945. I spent 7 years in the country that faithfully celebrates the Armistice Day on November 11 that marks the end of one of the most tragic conflicts in world history in the 20th c., the First World War.

Although the Second World War was by many accounts more devastating, it is generally regarded as the outcome of the World War One and as such it was not unexpected. World War One also did not come out of the blue, being the consequence of the collapse of the Viennese system established in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. And yet, whereas the nations tried to prevent the Second World War, the World War One was received with cheers, as if Europe was one huge playground where kids with rifles were going to enjoy themselves. Sadly, it immediately became obvious that there would be no quick results, and Europe slid down into one long killing spree.

European, British in paritcular, cities and towns are planted with cenotaphs commemorating the war effort, the victims, and the eventual victory of the Entente powers in the World War One. The victory was ridden with ambiguity, as all countries, France in particular, attempted to get the better out of Germany to solve their own post-war problems – forgetting along the way that Germany was just as penniless and devasted by war, as the rest of Europe. Nonetheless, Germany remained to be seen as an aggressor and a war-wager, and the  World War One continues to be regarded as a glorious page in European history, rather than a story of human folly.

Russia withdrew from the war following the Bolshevik Revolution, with a separate peace treaty signed by Russia and Germany in Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Since the World War One was imperialist by nature, it is little wonder that in Soviet times it was given by a passing mention. The novels like And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov detailed the Russian part in the war, along with the growing disdain for the imperial power and the obligation to fight. But even then ordinary soldiers who fought in the war were barely remembered, as the war belonged to the tsarist, pre-Socialist part that had to be forgotten, and the sooner the better.

Now the situation has changed. The park dedicated to World War One in Moscow is located in the territory of 11,5 hectares in a walking distance from Sokol metro station. Presently there are many green stretches, and commemorative monuments have been pleasantly incorporated into the landscape. There is a small chapel on a hill and a few cenotaphs. A monument at the park’s entry (from Sokol metro station) reminds us that in the park’s grounds the first common cemetery to the soldiers and medical sisters who died in the war had been created as early  as 1915. Those graves had been subsequently moved to another cemetery, but the present park is located in the cemetery grounds. It is a peaceful and solemn place where one can’t help but meditate on life and death, war and peace.

World War One Park in Moscow – Entry Memorial


World War One Park in Moscow –
To the Victims of the World War 1914-1919


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Memorial Close-Up


World War One Park in Moscow –
Aviators Memorial
World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs


World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs


World War One Park in Moscow – A Chapel


World War One Park in Moscow –
Moscow To the Dead Russian Soldiers


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Second World War Memorial


World War One Park in Moscow –
A Church Monument


World War One Park in Moscow –
One of the cenotaphs, featuring the symbols
of principal military awards
World War One Park in Moscow –
A commemorative stone on the former location
of the common cemetery for soldiers and
medical sisters from Moscow communities
who died in the World War One

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Winter

St. Basil’s Cathedral and Minin and Pozharsky Monument

For those hungry for St. Basil’s Cathedral images, here are a few more photos, this time you can see the magnificent 16th c. church on a January evening. As you will notice in one of the photos, the weather being quite cold, even the air was frosty.

You are surely wondering about the small monument that stands in front of the cathedral. This is a group monument depicting a popular leader Kuzma Minin and the Prince Dmitry Pozharsky at the moment when they decided to lead the Russians against the Polish-Lithuanian intervents during the so-called Mutiny Time in the first half of the 17th c. 2012 celebrates the 400th anniversary of the victory of the volunteer army, funded by the Russian people, in the Battle of Moscow (1612). The monument was conceived and executed by the sculptor Ivan Martos and unveiled in the Red Square in 1818. It initially stood right opposite the current site of the Mausoleum, but by 1931 the Government had found it to be obstructing the passage for military parades, and so the monument was relocated to the courtyard of St. Basil’s Cathedral. In 2005 a smaller copy of the monument, cast by the celebrated Zurab Tsereteli, was erected in Nizhny Novgorod in front of the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

GUM Xmas Tree, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Mausoleum, and Spasskaya Tower
GUM ice-skating rink, GUM shoppin mall, GUM Xmas Tree, and St. Basil’s Cathedral
GUM Christmas Tree and Saint Basil’s Cathedral

St Basil’s Cathedral Protects You at Night

by F. T.

This is the kind of jewellery that I think is designed to be worn on a night out, so that when you are leaving a bar at quarter to four in the morning you don’t have to worry about anyone attacking you. With a ring like that on your finger, you’re well armed, in the proper sense of the word.

I have a couple of huge rings that I’m very fond of, but none of them is similar to the one designed by the French jeweller… sadly I didn’t take down his name, so I only remember his initials: F. T. This is a spectacular and impressive, if not massive, nod to the famous St. Basil’s cathedral in Red Square that celebrated its 450th anniversary in 2011.

Our Lady Cincture and Moscow Traffic Disaster

VIP anytime pass for 2 persons

Moscow traffic has positively collapsed this week, and for a godly reason: the sash of Our Lady was brought to Russia from the Mount of Athos in Greece. This is an unprecedented event, since the sash could never have been taken anywhere. The cynics argue this is how Greece attempted to coil Russia into offering financial help at the time of the global crisis.

Although Russians are renowned for their piety and adherence to rites, I believe many of my countrypeople surprised themselves with this massive craze. Add to this that the sash arrived a week before the State Duma elections, amidst the Iran and anti-missile system talks, and you may see why this furore became possible in the first place.

Field kitchen near the Cathedral (

The news agencies have reported that people were spending 15 hours in a queue; they were provided with hot food from field kitchens. By Wednesday over 700 people have been given medical help. It emerged later that 58 people get past the shrine in 1 hour, and that VIP passes for 2 persons were distributed between the high-ranking officials and members of their families. (As if anyone actually expected Mr President or Mr Prime Minister to queue up along with all the disabled and young). And the amount of policemen in the streets is spellbinding.

Some bloggers have already called this “the orthodoxy of the brain“, implying a similarity to a kind of disease that makes people abandon every reason in favour of religion.

I made a few videos today in the city centre, displayed in the post below. In one, you will see small queues of people on Frunzenskaya Embankment, the queues being separated by barriers to avoid any accidents. In another, there is a queue in Ostozhenka St, full of parents with children and disabled people. You will hear kids crying because none of them has yet got the point of standing in the cold weather to touch a piece of cloth. The exclusive Vanille restaurant that stands across the road from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour looks besieged by the traffic and people. And the Cathedral itself (the last video) makes a strange impression: as if a bargain fair is being held inside.


Moscow: October Rain in Vorobyovy Gory

St. Trinity Church

I try to take regular walks in Vorobyovy Gory, one of my all-time favourite places in Moscow. In fact, I would love to live close enough to be able to go there every other day. This is where the Moscow State University is, and where my late teens and early twenties passed. Autumn has been fairly dry so far, although the Meteorology Centre predicts rains next week. So, this is my Moscow, Vorobyovy Gory between the spells of rain.

Moscow State University



La Vie en Jaune: Ivan Bunin’s Cursed Days and the Christ Saviour Cathedral in Moscow

Christ the Saviour Cathedral


Christ the Saviour Cathedral

I am reading Cursed Days by Ivan Bunin, the Russian 1933 Nobel Laureate in Literature. In the 1917-18 Diary that precedes the narrative there are many remarks about the advance of autumn season. First, Bunin notes the slight chill of August mornings. As September wears on, he painstakingly jots down the changes in colour: maple burn red, while many more trees turn different shades of yellow. “Life in the yellow colour“, he says at one point.

As someone who’s always loved autumn, I was touched by this sentence – all the more so that it could so perfectly be translated into French and to become a paraphrase of a famous song by Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose.

A chapel by the cathedral

Жизнь в желтом цвете. Life in the yellow colour. La vie en jaune. Naturally, when I was walking from one venue of the Moscow Design Week to another, passing the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the cathedral’s dome seen through the leaves was something I instantly knew I had to photograph.


Moscow Churches: The Bolshaya Bronnaya Synagogue

A Synagogue and Jewish Cultural Centre
When I decided to write about Moscow churches, the last thing I wanted was to focus the entire feature on Orthodox churches. After all, there are Old Orthodox churches in Moscow, and that’s somewhat different from the “mainstream” Orthodox tradition. Likewise, there are Catholic and Protestant churches, mosques, synagogues and the churches of other denominations, so it would be unfair on my part to only write about “Russian” churches.
The other day I had a walk in the city centre, and while strolling down Bolshaya Bronnaya St I and my friend-guide came across the building of the oldest synagogue in Moscow. I’ve never been to a synagogue before, so I couldn’t resist walking in.
The current building incorporates the older establishment, which explains why the frontal view looks so contemporary. Because the same building houses a Jewish cultural centre, you have to have your bag scanned. The “chapel” itself is very small, and we were surprised that the air conditioner was working too loudly. This didn’t stop an old Jew from sitting in the chapel, reading his Tora. Tora editions stand everywhere on the shelves, pretty much like the Bibles in Protestant cathedrals. What would be an altar wall in a Christian church and would either be decorated with stained glass or iconostasis appears as a replica of the Wall of Tears in Jerusalem. The inside of the chapel’s dome is decorated with a gigantic David’s Star.
As we went in at the time when there was no service, nobody stopped us, noticed us, paid attention to us. However, the sensation of immersing oneself into a mysterious experience which traces go back to A.D. times is palpable. Later we were studying the book titles in the bookcase in the hall, and one book had this rather lengthy name: “You may put a Jew into a prison and surround him with bricks, but he will never be broken, for his God is always with him“.
A Russian Doll: a Jew

“The Jewish question” has been a cornerstone subject of discussion in Russia for years, if not centuries. I’m writing this post on 19 August, exactly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. God knows, both the origin and the death of this historic state were credited to the Jews. And even now, when Russia is painstakingly building its democracy, a lot of failures are explained by the “Jewish factor”.

Being Russian, I cannot help but marvel at people’s shortsightedness in such matters. Indeed, the longer we find the Jewish people repulsive and conspiring, the longer we will not be able to get out of our conundrum. Personally, I agree with Maxim Gorky who argued that Russians have a lot to learn from the Jews, including smart work, dedication, and being money-savvy.
In fact, I don’t think it’s just the Russians who can learn this from the Jews. And it’s not only the Jews who display these wonderful skills. Last year I had the pleasure to learn the same things from the Indian and Pakistani guys. Some of these “Eastern” guys, including Jews, seem to have innate “money” and “sales” skills.
By the way, I have learnt recently that someone was looking for a matryoshka painted as a Jew. There were two at the synagogue’s shop, but only one picture came out well.

Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral Is 450

Moscow's Saint Basil's Cathedral Is 450
St Basil Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral Is 450



One of the iconic Russian monument, the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat, popularly known as St. Basil’s Cathedral, is celebrating its 450th anniversary in 2011.

The unique church was commissioned by Tsar Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the victory over Kazan in 1552. The building took some 9 years, and in 1561 the church was solemnly opened. The 450-years old Cathedral was erected on the place of the Trinity Cathedral where Moscow’s “holy fool”, Vassily, had been buried.

The names of the master masons who worked on the construction were only discovered in the state documents in the 19th c. – Barma and Postnik Yakovlev. The popular legend has it that the architects were blinded by Ivan’s order for fear that they would later design something that could surpass the beauty of the Cathedral. Although it is assumed to be untrue, the legend clearly refers to the well-known cruelty of the Russian Tsar.

In its 450 years, the Cathedral saw mutinies, protests, and military parades in the Red Square. The monument to the Prince Pozharsky and Dmitry Minin, the heroes of the Russian war against the Polish Intervention of the 17th c., marks the spot in front of the Cathedral. In a short distance is another landmark – Lobnoye Mesto where the documents were read to the crowd. In 1966, 7 Soviet protesters against the invasion of Czech Republic gathered there with boards for a short peaceful demonstration. Joan Baez subsequently commemorated one of the participants, Natalia Gorbanevskaya, in the eponymous song. The Cathedral stands close to the famous Spasskaya Tower (a kind of Russian Big Ben, thanks to its clock) and the no-less-famous GUM – the building packed with boutiques of luxury brands.

The Cathedral had known several renovations, the one in 1860s being the most considerable to date. Between mid-2000s and 2011 the cathedral was once again undergoing reconstruction that cost $14mln in state and sponsor funding.

In its long history, the Cathedral was at least twice under the threat of extinction. In the Soviet times, the Government had shortly considered its demolition, to “free” the space for military parades. The architect Pyotr Baranovsky vehemently protested, thus saving the monument. Only recently, in July 2011, an unknown man threw a smoke bomb into the cathedral. The building did not suffer in the attack.

The recognisable unique and exquisite exterior design is fairly modern: it was only introduced in the second half of the 19th c. The original structure is likely to have been less complex and definitely white, not red, to match the then white Kremlin walls. One cannot fail to notice a similarity in design between St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and the Cathedral of Our Saviour on the Blood in St. Petersburg. The latter was built on the place where the Emperor Alexander II was assasinated in 1881. It clearly takes the inspiration from St Basil’s Cathedral, but one should not forget that the Moscow cathedral’s design had also undergone changes in the 19th c. One may remember the deep interest in folklore and medieval Russian art and culture that marked the most of Russia’s 19th c. Most likely, it was this interest that dictated the colouring and outside decor of both cathedrals.

Since 1928, St Basil’s has been a branch of the State Historical Museum. Although the services are held at the church on Sundays, some parts of the building are also available for exhibitions. Some 10 years ago, for instance, the Cathedral housed an exhibition of English medieval armour.

Being one of the most popular and best-known Russian landmarks, St Basil’s Cathedral is a must spot for posing for photos both for the Muscovites and tourists alike. Its 450th anniversary will be celebrated until October 14, the Russian Day of the Intercession of Our Lady. Celebrations include a memorial virtual tour of the cathedral and several programmes prepared especially by one of Russian TV channels.


Moscow Summer: St Basil’s Cathedral from the Moskva River

St Basil Cathedral seen from the Moskva River, Moscow, Russia

Moscow Summer 10, originally uploaded by loscuadernosdejulia.

I took the picture two weeks ago when I went on a Moskva River cruise. St. Basil’s Cathedral that is celebrating its 450th anniversary in 2011 and has already been a subject to an attack in July, was standing solemnly amidst the tourist buses and tourists themselves, eager to take a photo in front of one of the wonders of Russian medieval architecture.

The popular legend has it that Ivan the Terrible ordered the master masons who designed and built the cathedral to be blinded, so they could not produce anything similar or better than the cathedral. While the story is now generally held to be untrue, it stresses the importance this edifice has played in how Russian cultural heritage is perceived and estimated. Not even a French king, as far as we know, ever thought of killing or mutilating Leonardo, lest the great artist painted another masterpiece for another master. And yet in Russia, in the time of Michelangelo, another Titan of Renaissance, two architects were reportedly most cruelly denied the opportunity to practise their art and trade…

St Basil’s Cathedral Marks 450th Anniversary

One of Moscow’s celebrated monuments, The Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat, otherwise known as St Basil’s Cathedral, marks its 450th anniversary today. The celebrations will be held until October 14, the Russian holiday of Intercession.

The cathedral was built by two Russian master-masons whose names were only discovered in the 19th c. The cathedral commemorated the victory over Kazan in 1552 and was finished by 1561. The legend states that Ivan had ordered the masons to be blinded, lest they created anything similarly beautiful.

The cathedral indeed stands on the site where St Basil (Vassily), the ‘holy fool’, was buried, and hence bears his name as an alternative. In front of the cathedral, as well, is a statue to the heroes of the Civil War against the Polish invaders of the 17th c. – Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky.

Amazing as it may sound, the cathedral nearly perished during the Soviet times when its location interfered with Stalin’s plans for military parades. The architect Pyotr Baranovsky categorically stood up for this gem of Russian architecture and saved it.