Main content

Free Thinking Essay: Russia's Sacred Ruins

Victoria Donovan on the dilemmas of post-war reconstruction in Soviet Russia where the atheist Communist regime spent millions on the restoration of religious architecture.

New Generation Thinker Victoria Donovan from the University of St Andrews explores the dilemmas of post-war reconstruction in Soviet Russia and asks why the atheist Communist regime was prepared to spend millions on the restoration of religious architecture.
On encountering the war-charred ruins of historic Novgorod in 1944, the Soviet historian Dmitry Likhachev mourned Russia’s transformation into a ‘graveyard without headstones’. Yet, just 20 years later, the town had risen from the ashes; even the onion-domed churches had been restored. How did this happen?

Recorded as part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival in front of an audience at Sage Gateshead.
New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to select 10 academics each year who work with us to turn their research into radio.

Producer: Luke Mulhall

Release date:

Available now

20 minutes

Podcast