I know the Pussy Riot story is just about played out, but I wanted to thank Roberto for sending a link to this Philip Jenkins column, which is the best thing I’ve seen yet explaining how very, very different PR’s desecration of Christ the Saviour Cathedral looks through Russian eyes. Excerpt:

Look, above all, at the site of the demonstration. Historically, Christ the Saviour was a central shrine both of the Orthodox faith and of Russian national pride, and for that reason, the Bolsheviks targeted it for destruction. In 1931, in a notorious act of cultural vandalism, the Soviet government dynamited the old building, levelling it to the ground, and replacing it with a public swimming pool. Not until 1990 did a new regime permit a rebuilding, funded largely by ordinary believers, and the vast new structure was consecrated in 2000. The cathedral is thus a primary memorial to the restoration of Russia’s Christianity after a savage persecution.

It’s difficult, perhaps, for Westerners to realize how bloodthirsty that government assault was. Russia in 1917 was overwhelmingly Orthodox, and in fact was undergoing a widespread religious revival. Rooting out that faith demanded forceful action by the new Bolshevik government, which had no scruples about imposing its will on the wishes of a vast majority. Government leaders like Alexandra Kollontai – the self-proclaimed Female Antichrist – illegally seized historic churches and monasteries, and used soldiers to suppress the resulting demonstration. Hundreds were killed in those actions alone.

Through the 1920s, the Bolsheviks systematically wiped out the church’s leaders. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev perished in 1918, shot outside the historic Monastery of the Caves, while Bishop Hermogenes of Tobolsk was drowned in a Siberian river. Archbishop Andronicus of Perm was killed the following year, followed by most of his clergy. In 1920, Bishop Joachim of Nizhni Novgorod was crucified upside down from the iconostasis in his cathedral. In 1922, a firing squad executed the powerful Benjamin, Metropolitan of Petrograd/St Petersburg. The repression was indiscriminate, paying no attention to the victims’ records as critics of Tsarist injustice and anti-Semitism.

Persecution claimed many lives at lower levels of the church, among ordinary monks and priests. We hear of clergy shot in their hundreds, buried alive, mutilated, or fed to wild animals. Local Red officials hunted down priests as enthusiastically as their aristocratic predecessors had pursued wolves and wild boar. The number of clergy killed for their faith ran at least into the tens of thousands, with perhaps millions more lay believers.

The regime also rooted up the churches and monasteries that were the heart of Russian culture and spiritual life. Officials wandered the country, vandalizing churches, desecrating saints’ shrines and seizing church goods, and murdering those who protested the acts. Militant atheist groups used sacred objects to stage anti-religious skits and processions. Between 1927 and 1940, active Orthodox churches all but vanished from the Russian Republic, as their numbers fell from 30,000 to just 500.

In the process of dechristianization, the crowning act came in 1931 with the obliteration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Read the whole thing. You tell me how sympathetic the West would be if far-right provocateurs staged an anti-Israeli protest inside a rebuilt synagogue in Berlin.

Jenkins calls PR the modern-day heirs of Alexandra Kollontai, a prominent Bolshevik feminist loony. Kollontai despised marriage and the family, and the idea of love. Kollontai wrote:

Love with its many disappointments, with its tragedies and eternal demands for perfect happiness still played a very great role in my life. An all-too-great role! It was an expenditure of precious time and energy, fruitless and, in the final analysis, utterly worthless. We, the women of the past generation, did not yet understand how to be free. The whole thing was an absolutely incredible squandering of our mental energy, a diminution of our labor power which was dissipated in barren emotional experiences. It is certainly true that we, myself as well as many other activists, militants and working women contemporaries, were able to understand that love was not the main goal of our life and that we knew how to place work at its center. Nevertheless we would have been able to create and achieve much more had our energies not been fragmentized in the eternal struggle with our egos and with our feelings for another. It was, in fact, an eternal defensive war against the intervention of the male into our ego, a struggle revolving around the problem-complex: work or marriage and love? We, the older generation, did not yet understand, as most men do and as young women are learning today, that work and the longing for love can be harmoniously combined so that work remains as the main goal of existence. Our mistake was that each time we succumbed to the belief that we had finally found the one and only in the man we loved, the person with whom we believed we could blend our soul, one who was ready fully to recognize us as a spiritual-physical force.

Kollontai left her husband and her child to work full-time for the Revolution. It’s interesting to see how much staying power her ideas have had.