US embassy cable - 91MOSCOW146

ROLL OVER LENIN: KAZAN CATHEDRAL TO BE REBUILT ON RED SQUARE

Identifier: 91MOSCOW146
Wikileaks: View 91MOSCOW146 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Moscow
Created: 1991-01-02 16:29:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PHUM PGOV PINS UR
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 021629Z JAN 91
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9846
INFO RUEHLN/AMCONSUL LENINGRAD
MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 00146 
 
 
AMEMBASSY ROME PLEASE PASS TO VATICAN 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL:OADR 
TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, PINS, UR 
SUBJECT:  ROLL OVER LENIN: KAZAN CATHEDRAL TO BE 
          REBUILT ON RED SQUARE 
 
REFS: A)  90 MOSCOW 20019  B)  90 MOSCOW 41463 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT 
 
 
SUMMARY 
------ 
 
2.  RED SQUARE'S KAZAN CATHEDRAL, A POWERFUL RUSSIAN 
PATRIOTIC SYMBOL BLOWN UP BY STALIN, IS TO BE 
REBUILT.  CONSERVATVE RUSSIENS CHEER WHILE LIBERAL 
ORTHODOX BELIEVERS FRET THAT THE REBUILDING MAY PLAY 
INTO THE HANDS OF THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO USE THE 
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH (ROC) FOR RUSSIAN NATIONALIST 
AS OPPOSED TO SPIRITUAL ENDS.  THE ROC'S FOREIGN 
MINISTER UNDERSTANDS THESE CONCERNS; NEVERTHELESS, HE 
IS GAMBLING THAT CONSERVATIVES' INTEREST IN THE 
REBUILDING WILL EVENTUALLY LEAD THEM TO BELIEVE IN 
THE ROC INSTEAD OF SIMPLY WANTING TO USE IT.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
3.  THE KAZAN CATHEDRAL ON MOSCOW'S RED SQUARE USED 
TO BE ONE OF RUSSIA'S MOST REVERED RELIGIOUS AND 
HISTORIC SHRINES.  IT WAS BUILT DURING THE REIGN OF 
THE FIRST ROMANOV TSAR.  PTER THE GREAT LATER 
INSPECTED TROOPS UPON THEIR RETURN FROM THE POLTAVA 
BATTLE IN FRONT OF IT AND CELEBRATIONS WERE HELD 
THERE AFTER NAPOLEON'S RETREAT FROM MOSCOW.  AFTER 
1917, THE CATHEDRAL WAS FORCEFULLY TAKEN AWAY FROM 
THE ROC AND FELL INTO DISREPAIR.  TOUSANDS OF RUBLES 
WERE SPENT RESTORING IT IN THE 1920S -- UNTIL ITS 
CHIEF RESTORER WAS PACKED OFF TO SIBERIA AND THE 
CATHEDRAL WAS BLOWN UP BY STALIN.  THE CATHEDRAL'S 
FOUNDATIONS WERE LATER GRACED FOR A TIME BY PUBLIC 
TOILETS AND NOW STAND EMPTY. 
 
4.  ON JUNE 5, 1990 THE NEW MOSCOW CITY GOVERNMENT 
ANNOUNCED THAT THE CATHEDRAL WOULD BE REBUILT ON ITS 
ORIGINAL FOUNDATIONS BY THE MOSCOW DIVISION OF THE 
ALL-RUSSIA SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF HISTORICAL 
MONUMENTS AND CULTURE (SEE REF A).  THE COST IS 
EXPECTED TO TOTAL ONE MILLION RUBLES.  MONEY FOR THE 
REBUILDING IS ALREADY BEING COLLECTED FROM PRIVATE 
INDIVIDUALS.  THE CATHEDRAL IS SCHEDULED TO BE READY 
IN TIME FOR MOSCOW'S 850TH ANNIVERSARY IN 1995. 
 
5.  THIS DEVELOPMENT OBVIOUSLY DID NOT ESCAPE THE 
NOTICE OF THE ROC'S NEWLY-ELECTED PATRIARCH, ALEXEI 
II, WHO RECENTLY WEIGHED IN IN SUPPORT OF THIS 
INITIATIVE.  ON NOVEMBER 4, ALEXEI II ORGANIZED A 
TRIUMPHAL MARCH FROM THE KREMLIN'S USPENSKIY 
CATHEDRAL (RECENTLY RECLAIMED FOR OCCASIONAL ROC 
RELIGIOUS SERVICES) TO THE KAZAN CATHEDRAL'S EMPTY 
LOT, WHERE HE LED RELIGIOUS SERVICES, BLESSED THE 
REBUILDING'S FIRST STONE, AND ADDRESSED THE ATTENDING 
FAITHFUL, FOLLOWED BY A SPEECH BY MOSCOW MAYOR 
GAVRIIL POPOV. 
 
6.  VISITING AMERICAN SCHOLARS WHO ATTENDED THE 
CEREMONY TOLD POLOFF LATER THAT FIVE TO SIX THOUSAND 
MUSCOVITES WERE ALSO PRESENT.  THEIR IMPRESSION WAS 
THAT ALEXEI II HAD EXCELLENT CONTACT WITH THE CROWD, 
WHO LISTENED ATTENTIVELY TO HIS ADDRESS.  HEARING HIM 
WAS NOT A PROBLEM, AS AN "AMERICAN QUALITY" SOUND 
SYSTEM BOOMED HIS WORDS, THE RELIGIOUS SERVICE AND 
ACCOMPANYING BELL CHIMES ALL OVER RED SQUARE.  THE 
AMERICANS' COMMENT: "LENIN MUST HAVE BEEN ROLLING 
OVER IN HIS GLASS BOX A FEW FEET AWAY." 
 
7.  DISCUSSIONS AMONG VARIOUS ROC ACTIVISTS AND OTHER 
OPINION LEADERS HAVE RESULTED IN A CONSENSUS THAT THE 
KAZAN CATHEDRAL WILL INDEED BE REBUILT IN SOME FORM 
BUT MIXED FEELINGS AS TO THE USEFULNESS OF THIS 
ENDEAVOR.  STRONGLY IN THE PRO-REBUILDING CAMP ARE A 
NUMBER OF CONSERVATIVE AND RUSSIAN NATIONALIST 
FIGURES, SUCH AS "LITERATURNAYA ROSSIYA" JOURNALISTS 
AND "NASH SOVREMENNIK" EDITOR AND WRITER STANISLAV 
KUNYAYEV (SEE REF B).  THE FACT THAT SOME OF THESE 
FIGURES ARE AGNOSTICS OR ATHEISTS DOES NOT AFFECT 
THEIR SUPPORT, WHICH IS BASED ON THE DESIRE TO REVIVE 
RUSSIA'S GLORIOUS PAST (SYMBOLIZED BY THE CATHEDRAL), 
REGARDLESS OF HOW THIS AFFECTS THE FORTUNES OF THE 
ROC. 
 
8.  IN THE OTHER CAMP, LIBERAL ROC LEADERS SUCH AS 
HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST VIKTOR POPKOV STRONGLY OPPOSE 
THE REBUILDING.  ONE OF THEIR REASONS IS PRECISELY 
THAT THE KAZAN CATHEDRAL HAS BECOME MORE OF A 
NATIONALISTIC THAN A RELIGIOUS SYMBOL.  THEY ARE 
CONVINCED THAT ITS REBUILDING WOULD ENCOURAGE THE 
TENDENCY TO HAVE ORTHODOXY SERVE NATIONALIST AS 
OPPOSED TO MORAL ENDS.  POPKOV SPOKE FOR MANY LIBERAL 
ROC BELIEVERS WHEN HE TOLD POLOFF: "THE ORTHODOX 
CHURCH SPENT ENOUGH TIME SERVING THE STATE UNDER THE 
TSARS.  IF ANY GOOD AT ALL COULD STILL COME OUT OF 
THE REVOLUTION IT WOULD BE TO CREATE A TRUE DIVISION 
BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE IN THIS COUNTRY."  ANOTHER 
REASON IS MORE PROSAIC.  WITH THOUSANDS OF BADLY 
DILAPIDATED CHURCHES NOW BEING HANDED OVER TO THE ROC 
ALL OVER THE USSR, LIBERALS BELIEVE THAT ONE MILLION 
RUBLES COULD BE MUCH BETTER SPENT REVIVING WORSHIP 
THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY INSTEAD OF TYING IT UP IN ONE 
MORE CHURCH IN MOSCOW. 
 
9.  AS HAS BECOME HIS CUSTOM, ROC FOREIGN MINISTER 
ARCHBISHOP KIRILL -- REPUTED TO BE THE SMARTEST MAN 
IN THE ROC -- HAS STAKED OUT A POSITION SOMEWHERE IN 
THE MIDDLE.  HE RECENTLY TOLD POLOFF THAT HE WAS WELL 
AWARE OF THE VARIOUS CONCERNS SURROUNDING PROPOSALS 
TO REBUILD THE KAZAN CATHEDRAL (AND THE SIMILAR 
SITUATION OF THE CHRIST THE SAVIOR CATHEDRAL, BLOWN 
UP AND REPLACED BY AN OUTDOOR PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL). 
HE ADDED THAT HE TOOK THESE CONCERNS SO SERIOUSLY 
THAT HE HAD DELAYED RECOMMENDING OPEN SUPPORT FOR THE 
REBUILDINGS TO PATRIARCH ALEXEI II WHILE HE MET WITH 
A NUMBER OF PEOPLE ON THE SUBJECT AND WEIGHED THE 
PROS AND CONS. 
 
10.  ARCHBISHOP KIRILL EXPLAINED WHY HE HAD 
EVENTUALLY COME OUT IN FAVOR OF ROC SUPPORT FOR THE 
ENDEAVORS.  FINANCIALLY, HE REALIZED IT MADE SENSE. 
AFTER CANVASSING WOULD-BE DONORS, HE BECAME CONVINCED 
THAT IF THIS OPTION WERE NOT AVAILABLE THEY WOULD 
SIMPLY NOT GIVE ANY MONEY AT ALL TO THE ROC: "WE'RE 
NOT TAKING ONE MILLION RUBLES AWAY FROM STARVING 
PARISHES; WE'RE EITHER ACCEPTING OR REJECTING ONE 
MILLION RUBLES."  AS FOR THE MORE DELICATE 
NATIONALISM ASPECT, THE ARCHBISHOP SAID THAT HE HAD 
COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT IT WAS STILL AN OPEN 
QUESTION OF WHO WOULD INFLUENCE WHOM: "IGNORING THEM 
(CONSERVATIVES AND NATIONALISTS) IS NOT THE ANSWER -- 
BY GETTING INVOLVED, THEY MAY COME TO BELIEVE IN US 
INSTEAD OF WANTING TO USE US." 
 
11.  LENINGRAD MINIMIZE CONSIDERED. 
 
MATLOCK 
 
 
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