Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Mystery Monasteries Volume 50 Number 4, July/August 1997
by Leonid Beliaev

[image]The facade of the Church of St. Daniel before restoration in 1984. (Nicole Prevost-Logan) [LARGER IMAGE]

In the atheist Moscow of my youth, monasteries were mysterious and incomprehensible. Taken from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1920s and 1930s, many of them had been transformed into state factories or prisons. The spires and bell towers looming above crumbling walls surrounded by barbed wire inspired a curiosity in me that would be amply rewarded years later when, as a young archaeologist, I would excavate three of these ancient religious complexes. This work took place between 1983 and 1993, when the government was relaxing its restrictive attitudes towards religious institutions but before the church began reclaiming its property. Unfortunately in the early 1990s the church began barring archaeologists from excavating and restoring monasteries, arguing that such work was a religious matter of concern only to the church. It launched a renovation and rebuilding program without archaeological supervision, despite protests from both the academic community and the general public.

* Abstract of companion article: "Moscow Reclaims Its Past," by Nicole Prevost-Logan
* Abstract of companion article: "The Manege Dig," by Alexander G. Veksler

© 1997 by the Archaeological Institute of America