Join Professor Sean Griffin:
In mid-2020, Patriarch Kirill (Gundiaev) consecrated a new church known as the Main Cathedral of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The cathedral was dedicated to the Soviet Union’s “Great Victory” over Nazi Germany, and its interior was covered with grandiose mosaics depicting Soviet glory on the battlefields of World War II. In this version of the past, however, Soviet soldiers were shown to have supernatural help from Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. This merging of Orthodoxy and Communism shocked many observers, who viewed the two ideologies as bitter enemies, dating back the Russian Civil War. Yet on the walls of the new military shrine, the lions and the lambs had laid down together. Angels shielded Orthodox Whites and atheist Reds alike, and the Virgin gazed down on both tsars and commissars. Two implacable foes, on different sides of the greatest rupture in Russian history, had been sutured together into a single and uncontradictory version of the past. But where had this sacred synthesis come from? Who was responsible for the politics of memory preached on the walls of the Main Cathedral? And what role did these sacred memory politics later play in the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Originally published at cslc.nd.edu.