Between 1917 and 1941, 600 bishops, 40.000 priests, 120.000 monks and more than one million believers were exterminated in the goulag and 75.000 churches destroyed ; at a time when Russia seems to be going through a phase of cultural amnesia, could the Orthodox religion be the only link between the past and the future ?
Through the moving testimony of young Natasha explaining to us how her church was built on the very place where hundreds of priests had been shot down, we will be made to feel the absolute horror of the persecution undertaken by the communist régime against the religious authorities and ordinary believers. This young woman ; the gigantic factory of Sofrino which produces books, candles and icons according to 19th century models ; and, above all, the fervour shown by these crowds of believers in the recently reopened and constantly full orthodox churches, are the symbols of a people long deprived of its religion who rediscovers the Church after the collapse of the communist ‘utopia’.
Our journey into the orthodox religion will not make do with the usual representation of a Church outside time, only versed in contemplation, with the liturgical ballet of priests in the light of candles, gold and incense. The certainties expressed by the young priest Constantin Polskov and his wife ; the portrait of the preacher Alexander Men, murdered in 1991 ; our visit to former dissident Alexander Ogorodnikov, another victim of the hostile political authorities ; or Patriarch Alexis ; as well as new archive images showing the massive destruction of churches and the arrest of priets will shed light on the specifically Orthodox relationship to history and culture.
How did Orthodox Christianity, which numbers some 250 million believers, survive the annihilation to which marxism in the USSR destined it. What about its rebirth today ? What relationship between memory and the future emanates from a city where the present is closely mingled with the reconstruction of a past that has been eradicated ?
Bearer of a different memory, of a different Christianity, but also of the stigmata of an unprecedented experience of totalitarianism, Russian Orthodox Church can be seen as a laboratory to which the West – faced with similar questions on the nature of its dechristianization, the enigma of evil and the assumptions of a possible rebirth – pays careful attention.
Wedged in-between the temptations of extreme traditionalism and those of absolute modernity, the fate of tomorrow’s eastern Christianity is being enacted today in Moscow.