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Moscow turns ownership of public monasteries over to Orthodox Church , and this has upset the museum establishment. The latest building to be returned to the Church after being stolen by the Bolsheviks 80 or 90 years ago is “the stunning 16th-century fortified convent of Novodevichy, a pearl of Russian architecture.”

“Novodevichy is an outstanding historical monument, and it should be left to professionals to preserve it,” says Alexei Lebedev, with the Institute of Cultural Studies in Moscow, which is run by the Ministry of Culture. “This process of ‘demuseumification’ that’s going on now is a sign of serious social illness. The church is not an institution dedicated to preserving the heritage of history and culture, it has a different mission. It’s not going to be their keeper, and that’s a potential tragedy.”

The Church has an advantage, for the moment. “Russia lacks fully developed institutions, and people don’t fully trust the state, but they do believe the church can be relied on,” says “a pro-Kremlin member of the State Duma’s committee on religious affairs” at the end of the story.

Smart Russians. What institution did most to preserve Russian’s history and culture through the years of Communist rule? Was it the  state? Maybe monks praying in a monastery that’s been there for centuries is part of that heritage, and part of preserving it?

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