Robert Moynihan, writing for Inside the Vatican, has a moving report on the world premiere of a “Requiem Concert” in Russia’s largest church, Christ the Savior, in a commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the execution of Czar Nicholas II and his family on the night of July 17, 1918.
The historical texts and music were by Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Vienna, Austria, head of the Russian Church representation to the European Institutions. Alfeyev also participated in the performance, reading Scriptural passages in which the sufferings of Christ seemed to foreshadow the sufferings of Christians in communist Russia. In the article “Requiem for the Romanovs,” Moynihan wrote:
No one can contemplate the bloody murder of four lovely, educated, refined, innocent girls, and their young brother, without a shudder. This sense of horror is multiplied by the sense that the children in some way represented the nation itself. The czar “incarnated” the “essence” of the Russian nation, according to the monarchical thinking of the age, and his children were thus the “future” of the nation. To see them live so vibrantly, and then see their lives snuffed out so brutally, would bring a tear to many Russian, and non-Russian, eyes, and did.
Sound, sight, and moments of silence tonight combined to create a sense of being transported back in time, back to the World War I period, of being “eyewitnesses” to acts of terrific brutality and terrible barbarism. (There were moments in the film footage showing the actual execution of prisoners by pistol shots to the head.)
So this was not simply a musical performance, but a multi-media “tour de force.”
Moynihan says that “in this performance … the Russian Orthodox Church sets forth a powerful, emotionally compelling case for public recognition on Russia of the crimes of the Soviet period.” He quotes a Russian priest, Fr. Vladimir Soloviev:
Russia stands at a crossroads. We are struggling to decide what our national attitude will be toward our communist past. For example, there are some who argue that we should remove Lenin’s body from his mausoleum beneath Red Square, at the center of Russia, and re-name those streets and subway stations in our cities which commemorate communist leaders.
I personally think we should do this. We cannot fully celebrate our great national festivals on Red Square as long as Lenin’s mausoleum stays in Red Square. Let it stay anywhere else, but not in Red Square.
Earlier this month, Fr. Georgy Ryabykh, the acting secretary of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, said Russian authorities should denounce the communist regime, both in word and practice. “For some reason, we are avoiding to give a clear moral estimation of this evil act. But this estimation is needed and should be voiced in public actions and statements. Denouncement of this crime and recognizing the feat committed by the Tsar family would resist any revolutionary intentions in the national mind,” the priest said.