The light of martyrs shines in Siberia once again

February-March 2014

On 28th February, in the lower church of the Trinity Cathedral in Kemerovo (Siberia), the exhibition “The light shines in the darkness – The witness of the Russian Orthodox Church during the years of the Soviet persecution” was inaugurated, as wished by the metropolitan of Kemerovo and Prokopev, the bishop Aristarkh.

The exhibition was born last year thanks to the effort of professors and students of the St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University in Moscow, in collaboration with Italian and Ukraine students, and was shown for the first time at the Meeting for Friendship among People in Rimini (Italy), in August 2013. The aim of the current travel is to remind people living in Kemerovo of the troubled history the Russian Church went through during the Twentieth century, telling it in a new and unusual way. The opening date was not chosen by chance, because on the very 28th February 1938, 562 people were killed in Butovo: it was the cruelest massacre of the Butovo firing range.

During his opening speech, bishop Aristarkh invited his people not to lose the memory of the those who died during the years of the Soviet persecution: “We should not forget what happened to our Church, to our people. To be interested in martyrs means to be interested in the same core of Christianity, in the witness to Christ.” After Aristarkh’s speech, prof. Lidia Golovkova, professor at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University, (department of Contemporary History), presented the itinerary of the exhibition. Prof. Golovkova underlined the importance of displaying the exhibition in the Kuzbass region (where the city of Kemerovo is), a concentration camp area where a lot of people died confessing their Christian faith. She defined the exhibition as an original guide for those who are looking for the truth and want to look into the ways of the martyrs towards their Golgotha, eventually becoming the “invincible victory” of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Tours were guided both by the creators of the exhibition and by students who came as volunteers to Kemerovo from the St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University. They told us their impressions, first of all the ones provoked by the unusual location of the exhibition: a consecrated church.People coming to pray suddenly discovered the panels, and none went out without having a look at the stories of the martyrs. They crossed themselves, bowed down before photos and icons, copied down quotations. Sometime, you could notice how their faces were actually changing – from skeptical and suspicious, into enthusiastic and moved. What positively surprised most was the fact that boys and girls coming to see our exhibition had a good knowledge of the story of concentration camps and firing ranges in their area.

After the opening ceremony, at the Diocesan Palace of Kemerovo a conference titled “Contemporary school: education, teaching, tradition” took place, where Lidia Golovkova spoke as well. During the conference was said that the martyrs’ Way of the Cross and faces are able to show what the Church is to today’s atheist world better than any speech, and this is the reason why it is important to create this kind of exhibitions.

The exhibition “The light shines in the darkness” will be displayed in the lower church of the Trinity Cathedral in Kemerovo from the beginning of Lent until Easter.