The cinema that turned into a church

In an attempt to do away with religion, Soviet Russia turned its churches into swimming pools, warehouses and sobering-up clinics. Now, the trend is being reversed - schools, cinemas and hotels are being transformed into churches by Orthodox parishioners.

This is, or was, the Shakhter cinema in the city of Safonovo, Smolensk region (east).

When the buidling was still functioning as a cinema in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Russia Today.

During the building's transformation (2001/ 2002). Image posted on the Smolensk Council website.

And in 2008, as the "Nativity Church". Photo posted by "yardkeeper" on Livejournal.


“If someone wants to transform a building into a church, the authorities aren't going to stop them”

Vladimir Paperny is a Russian-American designer and a researcher into Soviet architecture.

The Soviet regime started with the mass transformation of churches into warehouses, factories and museums in following Karl Marx's principle that ‘religion is the opium of the masses'. What was surprising is how little resistance the Russian people demonstrated. The Kazan Temple in Saint Petersburg became a museum of anti-religious propaganda, Danilov Monastery in Moscow became a juvenile prison camp, Novospassky Monastery was turned into a sobering-up station. Alekseevsky Monastery became a Young Pioneers [USSR mass youth organisation] Palace, in which I visited a drawing class in 1978. And the Church of Serafim Sarovsky and Anna Kashinskaya was rebuilt into a crematorium.

It's no surprise that we are witnessing a reverse process nowadays. United Russia and others who run the country rely a lot on the Orthodox Church, because it provides them with the symbolism which was destroyed by Gorbachev and Yeltsin during the Perestroika period of time, when the old Soviet symbols were gotten rid of. They see the church as a replacement, a new symbol of unity. If someone wants to transform a particular building into a church, then the authorities certainly aren't going to stop them.

Strangely enough, the formerly rejected symbolism of the Soviet past is now merging with the symbolism of the church. Both the Orthodox Church and nostalgia for Stalin are growing in popularity. The way it's going, maybe it's time to have church bells ringing on the Kremlin."

Other victims of transformation

Russia: former USSR committee building

This building in Magadan (far east), was a Communist Party Regional Committee base in Soviet times. Today it's home to the very religion they tried to outlaw. Photo by Segrey Lelenko.

Russia: former kindergarten

This infant school in Severodvinsk (north) originally let out a prayer room for Orthodox followers, but in 2006 after the school went bankrupt, it was taken over entirely and renamed the Saint-Nicolas Church. Photo by Alexey Schekinov.

Russia: former school

Now called the Church of Nativity. Rozhdestveno village, Tver region (north-west of Moscow). Photo posted here by Elena Filippova.

Ukraine: former library

Now Luke the Evangelist Church in Novy Svet, Krimea, Ukraine. Photo by Leonid Mach.

Ukraine: former "palace of culture"

Palaces of culture, former Soviet institutions, are often victim to the Orthodox seizures. This one is now the Saint Andrew First-Called Church, Zaporozhie, Ukraine. Photo by Varandej on Livejournal.


the revival

I,m thrilled to read that the popularity of the church is growing stronger in the former soviet republics ,this can only be a good thing in a nation such as Russia where corruption is a way of life and the rule of law is applied to those with money and influence.
I,m rather sceptical of anny moves by the powers that be there to promote themselves through the church.
If I was a devout orthadox priest I would be doing everrything in my power to distance myself from the Kremlin and all those who keep the power there .
P Gilgenberg

God is also in Russia

When i read "The cinema that turned into church" and see the photo's from the contributors, i feel great and to become faithfully and to better understand that God is everywhere. "God so loved the w o r l d that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.

God loves people of Russia and the world, words of the bible come true in these days. "God promises that "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord." When we dream of a world where God is known by all, we know that those dreams will be fulfilled. Nations may conspire and people may protest, but the knowledge of God's glory - the good news of Jesus Christ - will spread throughout the earth."(the upper room,january-february 2001,D. Daniel Sathiaraj, hyderabad, india)... and at last in Russia it's time to have church bells ringing on the Kremlin ... and anywhere.


interesting quote -- Praise the LORD.