Mosaic glorifying Crimea annexation ditched from new Russian cathedral

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Kremlin distances itself from artwork of Putin and other officials after leaked photographs prompt ridicule

A mosaic depicting Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials will not be mounted in the Russian military’s new megachurch, a senior church official has said, after leaked photos of the artwork prompted public ridicule and received little Kremlin support.

Photographs of the mosaic, leaked by the MBKh News website last week, showed Putin, his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, and other politicians and top brass in a crowd of people rallying in support of the 2014 annexation of Crimea. A missing panel, photographed separately, shows several women in front of a sign that reads “Crimea is ours”.

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World news | The Guardian

A mosaic depicting Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials will not be mounted in the Russian military’s new megachurch, a senior church official has said, after leaked photos of the artwork prompted public ridicule and received little Kremlin support.

Photographs of the mosaic, leaked by the MBKh News website last week, showed Putin, his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, and other politicians and top brass in a crowd of people rallying in support of the 2014 annexation of Crimea. A missing panel, photographed separately, shows several women in front of a sign that reads “Crimea is ours”.

The mammoth building, one of the world’s tallest Orthodox cathedrals, is situated in the military’s Patriot Park outside Moscow.

One church commentator called it a “guilty plea to The Hague”.

The Kremlin has distanced itself from the exhibit, with a spokesman saying: “Someday our thankful descendants will appreciate our merits, but it’s too early to do so now.’”

A battle scene set inside the new cathedral.
A battle scene set inside the new cathedral. Photograph: Sergei Kiselev/AP

On Friday, the senior priest of the Russian defence ministry’s new cathedral, the Resurrection of Christ, which will be one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world when opens, said its arts committee had decided against installing the artwork.

“Consistent with the wish of the chief of state, the arts council decided against installing it,” Bishop Stefan, a church official, told the Interfax news service on Friday.

He said the artwork had been photographed in a workshop and never been mounted in the church, which was due to open on 9 May, Victory Day, which this year marks the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The opening has been delayed because of the coronavirus epidemic.

Asked if the mosaic would be preserved, Bishop Stefan indicated it would be destroyed. “Why keep it if there is no use for it? You should ask mosaicists. They may install it somewhere if they need it,” he said.

The cathedral is likely still to feature mosaics supporting the annexation of Crimea and depicting the image of Stalin on a banner at the 1945 victory parade It is a rare image of the Soviet leader on a state building in Russia since he was denounced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956.

Bishop Stefan and other church officials had defended the mosaic by saying that images of historical events, and of contemporary leaders, had featured in past artworks displayed in cathedrals.


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