Angels hover over artillery, Kalashnikovs are adorned with religious images, and the Virgin Mary is mostly reminiscent of Soviet-era World War II posters. The huge cathedral of the Russian armed forces in the Patriotic Park mixes militarism, patriotism and the Orthodox religion into a breathtaking and strange whole, writes The Guardian.
An hour’s drive, about 55 kilometers from Moscow, the exterior of the cathedral in Kubinka is metallic and khaki green. It has golden domes and crosses that rise to a height of 95 meters.
The cathedral is divided into four different sections, each dedicated to different units of the armed forces: ground, air, naval, and missile forces. From the outside, the cathedral is most reminiscent of a war machine.
No mosaic has been spared inside the church. In fact, no church on the planet has that much. Much of the mosaic work adorning the walls of the church praises the battles fought by the army, and especially the battles of the Soviet armed forces during World War II, and the victory over Nazi Germany.
The sanctuary of the victorious war?
World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as it is still called in Russia, has become the cornerstone of a new Russian national identity during the reign of President Vladimir Putin.
Now the victorious war has even got its own religious sanctuary. The dimensions of the cathedral have symbolic meanings – for example, the diameter of the main dome is 19.45 meters. 1945 is the year when the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany and World War II ended.
The cathedral was once Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigun intelligence. It was scheduled to open as early as May, 75 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany.
However, the coronavirus forced postponement of the opening ceremonies until June 22nd. Nazi Germany at that time began its invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The ceremonies were glorious and were attended by the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill, President Putin and, of course, Shoigu.
– Only a God-loving nation can build such a huge cathedral, the Bishop of Klin Stefan says in the Guardian.
He heads the department that cooperates with the army of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The 59-year-old bishop, who served in the Soviet and later Russian missile defense forces before his priestly career, defends the use of Soviet symbols in the church. However, for many priests who were young in the 1970s and 1980s and who were subjected to the Soviet machinery, the symbolism of the Church is too much.
– This is not a real Orthodox church, but a cathedral of the new post-Soviet civilian religion, theologian Sergei Chapnin says.
Some priests even call the cathedral a pagan temple.
The church has had to make some alterations to the mosaics that caused the uproar. For example, the mosaic praising the annexation of Crimea to Russia was originally described by Putin and Shoigu.
– Removing that mosaic was our president’s idea. He is so modest that it should not have been right to be represented in the mosaic, Stefan says.
Now there is no more Putin in the mosaic, but those famous little green men did – that is, the Russian special forces, which appeared without symbols, led the operation to annex Crimea to Russia in violation of all international laws and whose presence was initially denied by the Kremlin.
Also Josif Stalin rubberized from a mosaic depicting a World War II victory parade on the Red Square.
The cathedral is located in the Patriotic Park, “Disneyland” opened by Putin five years ago. The place is historically significant, as it was here that the Battle of Moscow took place in 1941. It ended in the defeat of Nazi Germany and was a kind of milestone on the way to the final defeat of Nazi Germany.
Now that the cathedral has opened, there is more to do in the area for Russians spending their holidays. On weekends, the park is visited by up to 20,000 guests, and even on weekdays the cathedral attracts the public.
The park admits an interactive museum called 1418 Steps to Victory, which opened at the same time as the cathedral. The museum has several rooms with game-type scenes from the war.
Children can pose with a doll representing a surrendering Nazi soldier. Puzzles, mugs and war toys are available. The show has also been used as a booty Adolf Hitler overcoat.