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The Holy Place

The Holy Place: Architecture, Ideology, and History in Russia

Konstantin Akinsha
Grigorij Kozlov
with Sylvia Hochfield
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Holy Place
    Book Description:

    This book surveys two centuries of Russian history through a succession of ambitious architectural projects designed for a single construction site in central Moscow. Czars, Bolshevik rulers, and contemporary Russian leaders alike have dreamed of glorious monuments to themselves and their ideologies on this site. The history of their efforts reflects the story of the nation itself and its repeated attempts to construct or reconstruct its identity and to repudiate or resuscitate emblems of the past.

    In the nineteenth century Czar Alexander I began to construct the largest cathedral (and the largest building) in the world at the time. His successor, Nicholas I, changed both the site and the project. Completed by Alexander III, the cathedral was demolished by Stalin in the 1930s to make way for the tallest building in the world, the Palace of Soviets, but that project was ended by the war. During the Khrushchev years the excavation pit was transformed into an outdoor heated swimming pool-the world's largest, of course-and under Yeltsin's direction the pool was replaced with a reconstruction of the destroyed cathedral. The book explores each project intended for this ideologically-charged site and documents with 60 illustrations the grand projects that were built as well as those that were only dreamed.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14497-0
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    A sleek black Mercedes glides past the red brick wall of the Kremlin. The evening summer sun rippling on the surface of the Moscow River gives the scene a festive air, undampened even by the immense gray hulk of the House on the Embankment across the river. The Mercedes logo—a gigantic aluminum circle divided into three segments, similar to the small steel version on the car’s hood—rotates on the roof of the building where Stalin’s commissars once lived. The limo dives under the bridge, passing a few old mansions, and then glides out to the Cathedral of Christ...

  5. PART ONE Vitberg’s Cathedral
    (pp. 1-42)

    The morning of October 12, 1817, was cold and blustery, but the weather did not discourage the throngs of Muscovites who had gathered at the Sparrow Hills, southwest of the city, to take part in a solemn ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of Napoleon’s flight from Moscow. At the summit of a hill overlooking the ancient capital, Emperor Alexander I would lay the cornerstone of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the monument designed to commemorate the Russian victory over the Antichrist and destined to become a symbol of the nation’s greatness and its tragedy.

    At 10 o’clock, theRussian...

  6. PART TWO Ton’s Cathedral
    (pp. 43-92)

    On September 10, 1839, at another celebration a generation later, a procession filed slowly through the Kremlin gates. In the vanguard, wearing their tattered uniforms and marching as proudly as age and infirmity allowed, were veterans of the 1812 campaign. Behind them corpulent priests in gem-studded vestments carried two venerated icons, the Virgins of Vladimir and Iver. Next came the generals who had taken part in the war, church leaders, and high officials. Nicholas I, with his family and entourage, brought up the rear. This was the sort of gesture the czar loved: yielding pride of place to the simple...

  7. PART THREE The Last Days of the Cathedral
    (pp. 93-108)

    On March 11, 1918, an unusually solemn service took place in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Since the previous August, church dignitaries from all over the former empire had been gathered in the cathedral for a synod. Their original aim had been to reform the ancient institution, which had been released from state control by the provisional government. But with the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power, the church had entered a time of severe trouble.

    Metropolitan Anthony of Kharkov summed up the situation in a sermon. The Orthodox Church, he lamented, had fallen into even worse slavery than it had...

  8. PART FOUR The Tower of Babel
    (pp. 109-142)

    In 1919, as a tribute to the revolution, the Visual Arts Department of the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment commissioned Vladimir Tatlin to design a monument to the Third International. The location was not specified, because the future capital of the dictatorship of the proletariat had yet to be determined. This commission reflected the importance Lenin gave to the Comintern (the Communist International), which had been founded in Moscow in March 1919.¹ The delegates who gathered in the Kremlin to hear Lenin speak about the glorious new era were certain that the worldwide triumph of Communism was inevitable, if not in...

  9. PART FIVE The Concrete Cathedral
    (pp. 143-166)

    A member of the Moscow intelligentsia recently commented that during the Communist era intellectuals passing the Moscow swimming pool would whisper to each other, “There was once a famous cathedral here, but the government destroyed it and built the swimming pool.” Now they tell each other, “There was once a famous swimming pool here, but the government destroyed it and built the cathedral.”¹

    He was right. Our generation remembers the swimming pool that took the place of the old Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It was the largest in the world, a blue-green lake thirteen thousand meters square that sparkled...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 167-186)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-202)
  12. Photo Credits
    (pp. 203-204)
  13. Index
    (pp. 205-212)