In this city of determinedly western style the Church of the Saviour is a sudden shock of medieval romanticism. Built on the site of Alexander the second’s assassination, the church embodies an inherent contradiction it’s a resolutely backwards facing shrine to the most effective, and pragmatic, reformist tsar since Peter the Great.
Unfortunately for Alexander II’s program of reform both his son Alexander the third, and grandson Nicholas the second, witnessed his death. Even more unfortunately was their simple conclusion that reform was bad and could kill you. So the assassination led to the stagnation of Alexander II’s reforms, stifling repression, and eventually to the failure of the Tsarist regime*. See I always new that studying 18th and 19th century Russian history would come in useful. 🙂
If you’re thinking it looks a bit like St Basil’s in Moscow you’d be right, this was Alexander the thirds way of sticking his fingers up at the western reformist tradition embodied in so much of St Petersburg’s architecture. Outside the church is a 19th century fantasy of a 17th century Russian church, and inside? Well Inside the church is one giant mind-groggling mosaic. The best analogy I can muster to describe it is that this is what walking around inside a Faberge egg must feel like.
*Somewhat ironically you could say that the anarchists eventually achieved what they set out to do, so maybe a better memorial for Alexander would have been the continuation of his reforms however difficult that might be. One could also draw some parallels here with current events…