Top Murmansk church official says ‘dark forces’ are hampering his downtown cathedral project

The Russian Orthodox Church has planned a grand cathedral in Murmansk for more than two decades, but the project has been repeatedly canceled or postponed.

Now Metropolitan Mitrofan, the region’s highest clergy, is determined to build the church house in a downtown park, not far from government buildings and major state institutions. The land on Burkova Street is said to have once been a cemetery for fallen soldiers during World War I. Later it became a popular park.

The projected cathedral located on the hill of Burkova street in Murmansk.

According to the Metropolitan, the cathedral will be built in memory of all Russian soldiers who fell during the 1WW. It was an idea already presented by Tsar Nikolai II when he founded the far northern city in 1916, says Mitrofan.

Metropolitan Mitrofan meets with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko. Photo: mmeparh.cerkov.ru

In November 2020, the high clergy presented their project to Federal Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko. The cathedral is expected to get a special national status similar to the new military cathedral in Moscow’s Patriot Park which is dedicated to World War II, Mitrofan Recount senior government official.

Moreover, according to Mitrofan, Murmansk is now the only regional capital in Russia that does not have a cathedral.

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But the construction project is now facing strong criticism from both the public and politicians. Many consider the park on Burkova Street to be one of the few remaining parks in the city and call for its protection. Others see the area as conducive to real estate development. Since Metropolitan Mitrofan presented his preferred location for the building, local newspapers and social media have given major negative coverage of the project, and this week the former mayor of the city and now a member of the State Duma Alexei Veller allegations dismissed that he is behind the critics. Veller is believed to own several of the critical news outlets.

The dispute is now increasingly heated, and Mitrofan in a recent sermon in church accused the local authorities of siding with the “forces of evil”.

“They have their Dark Lord team, and here are a lot of his compatriots, the city is full of them,” Mitrofan told his congregation, and added that the power was “corrupted.”

“I have in mind what is happening with our desire to build a cathedral,” he explained.

Architectural sketches show a major complex on a hill overlooking the city. The cathedral has a major dome and an adjacent building with a glass roof.

Several regional elected officials support the project. “It will truly be an architectural gem of the city, it will be perfectly visible from the central square and Kola Bay,” said Yevgeny Nikora, former Deputy Governor, now Deputy Chairman of the Regional Duma.

But the level of support is much more mixed in the local municipal assembly.

Previous attempts to build the cathedral failed. Until recently, the planned land for the building was on the hill near Semyenovskoye Lake. For several years, the construction was prepared, donations collected and the foundation stone of the project was even gracefully placed in a ceremony attended by the regional governor and senior church dignitaries in 2013.

The hill by Lake Semyenovskoye has long been the favorite site of the cathedral. Promotional viewing by the Church’s fundraising group

The building was due to be ready for the Murmansk centenary in 2016. However, developers quickly concluded that the land was too small for the cathedral and another site was needed.

According to Metropolitan Mitrofan, Tsar Nikolai II’s original plan was to build the cathedral in the city’s central square, on the site of the current Cultural Palace. However, construction never started until the Communists took over the city in 1920.

Martha J. Finley