One of the reasons you have to love a place like Russia is due to stories like the one I'm about to relay to you. This is the Christ the Savior Cathedral in downtown Moscow, not far from the Kremlin. It was begun following the defeat of Napoleon in the early 1800s, but not completed until nearly 1860, thus as Russian churches go this is a relative newcomer. However, the story gets interesting when in the early days after the revolution the site was chosen by the young Soviet Government as the site for the Palace of the Soviets. The idea was to build a huge skyscraper and administrative building to be the new figurehead of Moscow and the new Communist State. The building would be taller than the Empire State Building, and capped with a statue of Lenin taller than the Statue of Liberty! It would of course demonstrate the power of new Soviet Union in real and concrete terms. Here is a draft of one of the designs...
So, accordingly the Cathedral was dynamited in 1931, a few precious reliefs rescued to a local monastery, with rubble clearing taking an entire year.
However, the Palace as intended immediately ran into problems as it was quickly realized that the site, located right next to the Moscow river, had serious flooding problems, and a lack of stable bedrock to support a building of the magnitude intended; something common in the Moscow region. Thus, delays continued, and by 1941 and the outbreak of war with Germany, only a huge hole and limited foundation were completed. With a shortage of steel and supplies during the war, construction was halted, metal taken from the site to build anti-tank traps, and construction never restarted. Finally, in the late 50s Nikta Khrushchev decided what to do with the huge flooded hole...making the obvious choice to turn it into the World's Largest Outdoor Swimming Pool! Picture of the huge pool below, which from what I hear caused tremendous damage to local buildings due to waves of chlorine wafting upwards year round:
So it remained during the rest of the USSR, until the early 1990s, when the then and still current Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, decided to authorize the rebuilding of the Cathedral anew, at tremendous cost to a nearly bankrupt 1990s Post-Soviet Russia. Of course the Mayor's wife happens to run and dominate the Moscow construction business, so I'm sure that played no significant role in his newfound zeal to sanctify this much disputed location. In my mind, this story is one of the all time Soviet/Russian classics, and a perfect example of the forces that have competed for power in this country for the last 100 years....here are a few shots of the "new-old" Cathedral of Christ the Savior taken this Spring...enjoy!