Putin puts "Temple Mount of Orthodox Christians" under federal control

2015-08-02 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed a major archaeological site in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine, under federal control. The move comes amid turmoil over the appointment of a director over what Putin views as the Temple Mount of Orthodox Christians.     

The Kremlin said the president ordered the area in the ancient Greek city of Chersonesus to be placed under federal oversight. The site is located just outside Sevastopol, the main port city in Crimea, the Black Sea Peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine last year.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Putin's order followed the Sevastopol governor's decision last month to appoint a Russian Orthodox priest as director of the Chersonesus museum. That move angered its keepers and fueled public criticism that the appointee lacked education and experience.

Putin's adviser for cultural issues, Vladimir Tolstoy, a descendant of novelist Leo Tolstoy, was among those who criticized the governor's decision, saying the museum chief should be a professional.

Tolstoy was quoted by Russian media as saying that the Culture Ministry will now be in charge of Chersonesus and choose its new director.

WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Excavations in Chersonesus, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, began in 1827.

Historians say the city was founded by Greek colonists about 2,500 years ago, and later became part of the Byzantine Empire. The Kievan Rus ruler, Prince Vladimir, was baptized there in 988 before bringing Christianity as a religion to the region.

Last week president Putin hosted Patriarch Kirill and hundreds of other religious representatives to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of the passing of Prince Vladimir. “The entire Orthodox world celebrates the baptism of Rus,” Putin said. “The significance of this event, of the moment when people found faith and spiritual support, cannot be overemphasised. It is obvious that the baptism became the key turning [point] in Russian history, statehood and our culture.” 

That's why Putin has hailed the spiritual importance of Chersonesus for Russia. He said in last year's state-of-the nation address that the site has a "huge civilizational and sacred meaning" for the Russian Orthodox Christians, just as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is to Jews and Muslims.

(from Vatican Radio)