Author`s name Michael Simpson

Fireworks Disastrous for St.Basil's Cathedral

Today's life of Russia's main souvenir symbol is very hard
A complex examination of Russia's St.Basil's Cathedral lasted for about three years, now it is over. The history of the cathedral is almost 500 years; the recent examination of Moscow's main symbol became the most thorough over the whole of its history. Researchers drilled dozens of perforations, worked on the walls, the domes and the basement of the cathedral with laser and determined that there were cracks in the construction. They say the building is no longer a monolithic construction, but has split into several separate parts. The bell tower isn't vertical any longer; the tilt of the tower is already evident. The researchers say that nevertheless the cathedral has already adapted to the aggressive environment. There are only two things that may be ruinous for the building. If there is no money for reconstruction of St.Basil's Cathedral or some other building site opens close to the cathedral, condition of the cathedral may seriously suffer.

When tourists get inside of St.Basil's Cathedral they are slightly disappointed with the modest interior of the church. The traces of the time are also obvious, although the owner of the Cathedral (St.Basil's Cathedral is a branch office of the State Historical Museum) is doing its best to conceal the traces of the history.

The Chief Architect of St.Basil's Cathedral's reconstruction project Tatyana Nikitina says that last restoration was held in 1979. It was during the 1979 restoration that specialists discovered that the original color of the domes was grey and the colored print we can see now appeared much later. The restoration works were rash: it was obligatory to complete the works by the 1980 Olympic Games. Closer to the end of the century the cathedral’s condition got worse.

The first blow was delivered against the condition of St.Basil's Cathedral several centuries ago when a ditch separating the church from the Kremlin wall was filled up with soil and the Red Square was cobbled. This shattered the water balance of the territory on which the cathedral stood. The cathedral's condition also suffered in Stalin's epoch when the headwall was covered with concrete and the territory encircled with the wall was paved with asphalt. Military parades with participation of heavy technique and thousands of servicemen shook the area which in its turn caused damage to the cathedral. As it turned out in the 1980s, fireworks that are traditionally fired on Red Square are the most ruinous for the cathedral's construction. Musical concerts that are often held near the Kremlin now are also risk factors for St.Basil's Cathedral.

A complete diagnostics, the first one over the whole history of the building, was started on St.Basil's Cathedral in 2000 by request of the Central Research Restoration Workshop. The diagnostics covered not only the construction itself, but also the slope on which the church stands, the headwall and the basement. The building was studied with the help of laser, ultrasound, electromagnetic field and other methods that caused no damage to the construction.

In the framework of the examination specialists found out that some cracks in the cathedral's walls were so deep that the building was no longer monolithic. Metal constructions inside of the cathedral's walls are partially broken. The headwall got rot through and mouldered away. Nevertheless, the researchers are rather optimistic about the condition of St.Basil's cathedral.

They say the condition is stable; the cathedral has adapted to its difficult life. The ancestors were genius constructors. The examination unveiled that the verticals of the columns didn't coincide with the verticals of the basement. At first, the researchers thought that constructors had done the work carelessly. However, when computer programs were applied to study the construction, it turned out that the centers of gravity coincided exactly! It is still not clear how this construction was made five centuries ago. For the time being, main objective of the restorers is to restore the building accurately: it is necessary to fortify the basemen, the grounds and construct a drain hole system.
The fate of the main Russian souvenir symbol is rather hard now. Some time ago the Culture Ministry appropriated 30 million rubles for restoration of the cathedral. The restoration works were started on the top and on the southern side of the building. Now we already see some of the domes shining with new gilding, restored tiles and polished copper furnishing.

There are just few sponsors who help restore the cathedral. The church, the icons and the shrine with the relics of St.Basil were restored thanks to the Bank of Moscow before the 850th anniversary of Moscow. One of the cathedral's churches, the small one, was restored with the help of the Inteco Company. To continue the restoration, the Historical Museum needs 120 million rubles more. The Museum is trying to hunt up money from its budget. On the other hand, Deputy Director of the Historical Museum Igor Mitichkin says that slow financing is to the cathedral's good: there are no fixed terms and emergency rush. It allows examining the whole of the process in detail. At the same time, the restoration works cannot be stopped otherwise the cathedral may be lost.

The very fact that the cathedral is situated close to the Kremlin makes all restoration works rather complicated; it takes time to get a permission to carry out any kind of construction and restoration works in the nearest vicinity of the Kremlin. However, this doesn't seem to be a really serious problem as compared with the plans to launch large-scale construction on Red Square. A building situated quite close to St.Basil's cathedral will be soon reconstructed into a commercial entertainment complex. It is planned that the new complex will include a 5-star first class hotel, one more high-class hotel, a Russian auction (participation of Sotheby's and Christie's in the project is being negotiated now), a jewelry and gem center, offices, cafes and restaurants. The complex will have an underground four-level parking. There will be a commercial street going through the building of the complex; it is to join Red Square with Gostiny Dvor. The construction works are to be finished in 2.5-3 years.

It’s a pity sums appropriated for restoration of St.Basil's cathedral make up only 30 million rubles while investments attracted for construction of the new commercial complex make up 300 million euro.

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