Next up, news from Russia. Pskov Oblast has launched the Our Ancient Churches project. The idea is that volunteers, fans of the ancient Russian architecture, will sustain and renovate dozens of masterpieces of Russian architectural art.
Alyona Rogozina with the details.
Megapolises have traffic jams, Pskov has creeks. In the morning, citizens begin crossing the river-divided city's many bridges; lawyers, managers, artists, and bakers; the latter are the most respected professionals in Pskov. The locals say: "Both we and God's will are in charge of our fate."
Mikhail Pasko, baker: "If everyone begins doing something it'll all become better. The city and the oblast have great potential; it's a border city with beautiful scenery. I enjoy living here."
Everyone here seems to know how to run the city. The records say that in 908, Prince Igor married Princess Helga from Pskov. That's why when asked how old Pskov is, the residents still respond, "We don't know, perhaps older than 1,500 years."
Volunteers get their brushes, paint buckets, rakes, spades, and carts. Retired military officer Andrey Kozlovsky lives nearby. He immediately offered his help when his neighbors told him that the church needs a handyman.
Andrey Kozlovsky, volunteer: "I'm doing it for myself and my kids. Why not? I've got time to work."
Part of the funds for the renovation of the ancient churches was gathered by a charity fund. It launched the Our Ancient Churches project.
Nikolay Krutov, project manager: "We clean up churches and the surrounding territories. The project also provides an opportunity for people of various social classes and worldviews to unify through labor, to meet each other, and work together.”
Pskov is a tiny city. It has a population of a little over 200,000 and 40 churches. History and life are so tightly interwoven here that history becomes life itself. In winter, kids slide down this hill on sleds and donut tubes. On top of it, there's a heritage building, the Church of St. Basil. Its bells used to alert the citizens in moments of danger and unrest. Under the guidance of a priest, the volunteers try to recreate the church as accurately as possible.
Archpriest Andrey Bolshanin, rector: "All funds were donated by the parishioners. They paid for the silver, the gold, the fresco. The icons were painted by our parishioner."
- Everybody wants to work. Young people sit idly because they have nothing to do. Somebody needs to call them, give them a push, help them, give them a brush and a thing to clean, and it'll be fine.
- People must realize that there are things that have nothing to do with money. There are things only we can do.
- You take it and throw into the pile.
The renovation of the Trinity Cathedral, the jewel of the Pskov Kremlin, is in full swing. Specialists reinforce the foundation and continue building scaffolds.
“Look at the icon stand. It requires urgent restoration. It has cracks I can fit my finger into. Many of our icons are in similar condition.”
Apart from the icon stand, the crypt and the walls also require major repairs. Soon, all of the heritage churches of Pskov Oblast will be carefully and thoroughly repaired. Twelve billion rubles ($185 million) from the federal budget.
Tikhon, Metropolitan Pskov and Porkhov: "The cathedral requires major repairs. Everybody knows that, we've announced that in Pskov. But nobody is willing to wait until the restoration is finished. Everyone does whatever they can to contribute."
The Pskovo-Pechersky Dormition Monastery, one of Russia's largest male monasteries, a monastery whose history dates back to the 15th century, has never interrupted the monastic tradition. There's no other place like this in Russia.
The Dormition Cathedral is the main sanctuary. The icon stand was a gift from Empress Elizabeth. And here's the thing: thousands of Orthodox believers come here to see the unique miraculous icon of Holy Mother's Dormition. People say that it grants all kinds of wishes.
The cultural face of the city depends on the purity of the historic style. Artist Alexander Bushuyev, who began his career as a member of the Mitki group, is painting a tranquil summer landscape on a square canvas. It's especially nice to discuss the recent changes in Pskov while having a cup of aromatic willow herbal tea.
Alexander Bushuyev, artist: "Right now, if people remember their history and come together to find the mechanisms to achieve their internal objectives, they need to do it together. It'll be the right thing to do. The residents of every city can do great things together if they decide to."
This week, the residents of Pskov were hammering and painting. The smell of paint mixed with the perfume of lilac is likely to linger in the city for a long time. This summer, the Great Pan-Russian Volunteer Camp is opening in Pskov Oblast.