LIVE UPDATES: Pyotr Tolstoy, great grand-son of writer Leo Tolstoy and deputy speaker of parliament, blames the Jews for the campaign to prevent the return of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church.
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Originally Tsar Alexander I ordered the church to be built on St. Isaac’s Square. Construction of the massive building took 40 years and was completed in 1848,. It has been rebuilt multiple times over the centuries.
The St. Isaac’s debate takes place in a context of “monument wars,” regularly chronicled by our syndicated columnist Paul Goble, where Russians of various political persuasions and faiths are vying for the portrayal of Russia’s past, which inevitably affects its present politics. St. Isaac’s is viewed by both older and younger generations of Russians as public property that should not be yielded to the ROC, despite the superficial appropriateness of restoring church buildings to their original religious function, because it will then fall into the hands of not only the most conservative powers in Russian culture, but an institution not only close to, but intermingled with, the Russian state.
“People who are the grandsons and great grandsons of those who destroyed our cathedrals, jumping out of the Pale of Settlement with a Nagan in 1917, and who are today working in various very respected places — at radio stations, in legislative assemblies, continue the cause of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.”
“First, this term is not only relevant to the Jews. Second, it was applied toward forced laborers, so here again is the question of what a person had in mind.”
“We have constant contact with the leadership of the Federation of Jewish Communities, friendly relations with the leadership and with those who represent the community, I believe there is not problem in [having a meeting] in fact.”
“I think in fact it’s those headlines which came out at Ekho Moskvy and Nezavisimaya Gazeta — that’s what in fact is antisemitism. I frankly was quite surprised.”
“Of course this is disappointing, especially in the sense that the level of antisemitism in Russia is much lower than it was in the old days and much lower than in some countries of Western Europe. Therefore, when it is about a speech by an official person of such a rank, it is at best painful and is perceived as much worse.”
He said he was trying to get a meeting with the Volodin to discuss the issue.
“Something in me resists that decision [to return the church]. Intuitively. Our country is one-fourth Muslim, and I doubt that a Muslim and his family will visit an active Russian Orthodox church. They will go to a museum, but hardly to a church. I think we will cut off an entire layer of the population from acquaintance with cultural values. And it’s strange, of course, that a monument of world renown turned out to be the property of the city council, which now decides the fate of the museum.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The ruble is trading at 59.20 to the dollar and 63.67 to the euro. Brent crude is selling for $55.77.
The following stories were taken from 7:40 na perrone, Gazeta, Vesti, RFE/RL, and RBC.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick