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Sight Magazine – Essay: What a cathedral and huge military parade show about Putin’s Russia

May 9, 2022 marks the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. VE Day is traditionally a day to honor veterans and hold a huge parade in Moscow to show off the country’s military prowess.

Under President Vladimir Putin, May 9 has become one of Russia’s most revered holidays. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov described it as “our country’s holiest holiday. It has been and will remain the holiest holiday for all Russians,” he added. according to the Defense Blog.

Russian servicemen march during a rehearsal for a military parade marking the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, May 7. PHOTO: Reuters/Maxim Shemeto.

Many scholars have sought how WWII became a cornerstone of Russian nationalism of Putin’s time in power. This is also reflected in the Russian rhetoric on his war in Ukraine. Russian leaders described the invasion as a fight against the “neo-Nazis”“, and one the holy war.

This fusion of World War II, religion and Russian nationalism is embodied in an unusual building: the Main Church of the Russian Armed Forces, on the outskirts of Moscow. The massive khaki colored cathedral in a military theme park was dedicated in June 2020 and celebrates Russian power. The inauguration was supposed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, but it was delayed due to the pandemic.

“This fusion of World War II, religion and Russian nationalism is embodied in an unusual building: the main church of the Russian armed forces, on the outskirts of Moscow. The massive khaki-colored cathedral in a theme park military was inaugurated in June , 2020, and celebrates Russian might. The inauguration was supposed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, but was delayed due to the pandemic.

Designed by the Russian Minister of Defense after the country illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the cathedral embodies the powerful ideology defended by Putin, with the support of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Like a specialist in nationalismI see this militant religious nationalism as one of the key elements in Putin’s motivation for the invasion of ukraine, my native country. It also largely explains Moscow’s behavior toward the collective “West” and the post-Cold War world order.

Angels and guns
The bell tower of the Church of the Armed Forces is 75 meters high, symbolizing the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The diameter of its dome is 19.45 meters, marking the year of victory: 1945. A smaller dome measures 14.18 meters, representing the 1,418 days that the war lasted. Trophy weapons are melted into the ground so that every step is a blow to the defeated Nazis.

Murals celebrate Russian military might throughout history, from medieval battles to modern wars in Georgia and Syria. Archangels lead heavenly and earthly armies, Christ wields a sword and the Blessed Mother, portrayed as the Fatherland, lends her support.



“Cradles” of Christianity
The frescoes also celebrate the occupation of Crimea which began in 2014, with cheering people holding a banner that read “We are together“.

When Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine in 2014, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated, calling Crimea the “cradle” of Russian Christianity. This mythology is based on medieval history of prince Vladimir, converted to Christianity in the 10th century and baptized in the Crimea. The prince then imposed the faith on his subjects in kyiv, and it spread from there.

The Russian Orthodox Church, also called the Moscow Patriarchate, has long claimed this event as its fundamental history. The Russian Empire, which tied itself to the Church, also adopted this foundational story.

“Russian World”
Putin and the head of the Russian church, Patriarch Cyrilhave resurrected these ideas about empire for the 21st century in the form of the so-called “Russian world” – giving new meaning to a phrase that dates back to medieval times.

In 2007, Putin created a Russian World Foundationresponsible for the promotion of the Russian language and culture in the world, such as a cultural project preserving interpretations of history approved by the Kremlin.

For Church and State, the idea of ​​“Russian World” encompasses the mission to make Russia a spiritual, cultural and political place. center of civilization, to counter what they see as the liberal, secular western ideology. This vision has been used to justify domestic policies and abroad.

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The Great Patriotic War
Another planned mosaic depicts celebrations of the defeat of Soviet forces against Nazi Germany – the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is called in Russia. The image included soldiers holding a portrait of Josef Stalin, the dictator who led the USSR during the war, among a crowd of decorated veterans. This mosaic would have been deleted before the opening of the church.

The Great Patriotic War occupies a special, even sacred, place in the Russian view of history. The soviet union suffered immense losses – 26 million lives is a conservative estimate. Besides the devastation, many Russians ultimately see the war as a saintin which the Soviets defended their homeland and the whole world against the evil of Nazism.

Under Putin, glorification of war and Stalin’s role in victory have achieved epic proportions. Nazism, for very good reasons, is seen as a manifestation of ultimate evil.

The rhetoric of this militant nationalism was on display when Russia threatened to invade Ukraine and eventually did. Putin constantly claimed that the Ukrainian government is run by Nazis, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov even compared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – who is Jewish – to Adolf Hitler.

These claims are absurd. However, portraying the kyiv government as evil helps the Kremlin paint the war in Ukraine in black and white.

Putin also spoke of brotherly relations between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples and denied the existence of the Ukrainian state. In his opinion, Ukraine’s sovereignty is an example of extreme and chauvinistic nationalism.

Patriarchs and Parades
Patriarch Kirill, who called Putin’s rule “miracle of god“said the Church of the Russian Armed Forces” has the hope that future generations will take over spiritually from past generations and save the homeland from internal and external enemies.”

From the start of the invasion, Kirill has defended it, portraying the conflict as one with “metaphysical significance”, as he said in a sermon shortly after the start of the war.

This religious nationalism will be displayed on May 9. However, the realities of war forced parade organizers to reduce this year’s celebrations in Moscow, where the biggest Victory Day ceremonies traditionally take place. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials quoted in Western media claimed that the Russian military plans to hold celebrations in Mariupol.

US officials have suggested that Russian forces are under pressure to declare victories before May 9. But the war has been going on for more than two months, with heavy lossesprompting us and British officials to wonder if the Kremlin could announce an escalationwhile Ukrainians wonder what’s next.

The conversation

Lena Surzhko Harnedis a lecturer in political science at Penn State. This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.


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