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 87 million USD), 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 it was what was not on display during a special inaugural prayer service that drew the most attention.
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. 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. The mosaic showing President Putin’s face was changed to a more traditional icon, reportedly in consultation with President Putin.
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.
The total number of Christian victims under the Soviet regime has been estimated to range around 12 to 20 million.
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.”
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. At Voice of the Martyrs Korea, our 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.
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. 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”. 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.