The Holy Place


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Architecture, Ideology, and History in Russia

Konstantin Akinsha and Grigorij Kozlov, with Sylvia Hochfield

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The history of a building site in Moscow where Russian rulers since Alexander I have planned, constructed, and destroyed monuments of colossal proportions

This book surveys two centuries of Russian history through a succession of ambitious architectural projects designed for a single construction site in central Moscow. Czars, Bolshevik rulers, and contemporary Russian leaders alike have dreamed of glorious monuments to themselves and their ideologies on this site. The history of their efforts reflects the story of the nation itself and its repeated attempts to construct or reconstruct its identity and to repudiate or resuscitate emblems of the past.

In the nineteenth century Czar Alexander I began to construct the largest cathedral (and the largest building) in the world at the time. His successor, Nicholas I, changed both the site and the project. Completed by Alexander III, the cathedral was demolished by Stalin in the 1930s to make way for the tallest building in the world, the Palace of Soviets, but that project was ended by the war. During the Khrushchev years the excavation pit was transformed into an outdoor heated swimming pool—the world’s largest, of course—and under Yeltsin’s direction the pool was replaced with a reconstruction of the destroyed cathedral. The book explores each project intended for this ideologically-charged site and documents with 60 illustrations the grand projects that were built as well as those that were only dreamed.

Konstantin Akinsha is an independent scholar in Washington, D.C., and a contributing editor to ARTnews magazine. Grigorij Kozlov is a freelance art historian in Germany and a contributing editor to ARTnews magazine. Sylvia Hochfield lives in New York City and is editor at large for ARTnews magazine. Akinsha and Kozlov are the authors of Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe's Art Treasures.

"The authors present, for the first time, the extraordinary story of construction, destruction, and then reconstruction of the central Moscow cathedral, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, effectively exploring the relationship between power and art in Russia and the Soviet Union. Full of vivid images and daring comparisons, they provide a valuable perspective on Russia today and in-depth insight that even the most serious analytical reports on Russia’s political, social, and cultural development under Putin do not offer." —Vlad Zubok, Temple University

"The authors present, for the first time, the extraordinary story of construction, destruction, and then reconstruction of the central Moscow cathedral, effectively exploring the relationship between power and art in Russia and the Soviet Union." —Vlad Zubok, Temple University

"This is an epic story that traces the evolution and continuity of powerful ideas in Russian history over two centuries through the microcosm of a single monument and site. It is a book that every traveler to Russia will read with pleasure, both a page-turner and an eye-opener."—Wendy Salmond, author of Arts and Crafts in Late Imperial Russia  

"A fascinating story, meticulously researched, and told with style and verve. Against a sweeping historical backdrop Akinsha and Kozlov paint not only a vivid portrait of the efforts by Russia's rulers and architects to enshrine official nationalism, but of the public reaction to their grandiose projects."—Priscilla Roosevelt, author of Life on the Russian Country Estate

"No other building in the history of Russian architecture has been the subject of so much controversy, over such an extended period of time, as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. . . . This volume successfully examines questions ranging from state and church politics to competing architectural and artistic programs. . . . Recommended."—Choice

"Nuanced and intriguing. . . . The fifty-nine illustrations and short, well-organized chapters make this book entertaining reading for anyone interested in the relationship among art, architecture, and politics—whatever their regional focus—and anyone interested in Russian history."—Marie Alice L'Heureux, The Russian Review

“… a learned, multi-faceted and incisive account that throws light on numerous questions while it raises many others … Holy Place is significant … it is well researched and tells its story engagingly … richly illustrated, with materials drawn from archives, libraries and private collections … dramatically narrated, this is a work that will be of much interest to students of art, history, politics and religion, as well as to travellers looking for a first-rate guide to one of Moscow’s most important landmarks.” - Wallace L. Daniel, Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 60

"The Holy Place: Architecture, Ideology, and History in Russia is the first English-language publication to recount the history behind the Cathedral of Christ the Savior."—Scott W. Plamer, Slavic and East European Journal
ISBN: 9780300110272
Publication Date: October 27, 2007
224 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
60 color illus.