After years of legal conflicts, the Russian Cathedral in Nice is finally open to the public once more. It’s one of the biggest tourist attractions of the French Riviera, with 273,000 visitors in 2010. Now the Russian state has taken control, putting an end to eighty years of White Russian control. In this, the centenary year of the Cathedral’s consecration, it’s fascinating to look at the story of this beautiful building and the tragedy, politics and passion running through its history.
At the recent Nice book festival, one of the Russian authors made a comment that he feared the rise of the Russian Orthodox Church and its links with the State. It seems that the post-communist Russian government is looking for a new national identity, and wants to make the Orthodox Church a key part. And the process is extending into the West, as Russia looks to take back control of the Russian Churches dotted around Europe, and use them as cultural centres.