3 WEIRDEST things the Soviets did with churches (PHOTOS)

Legion Media; Stolbovsky (CC BY)
The Bolsheviks closed churches all over the country and then converted them for various needs, sometimes quite unbelievable.

As part of the anti-religious campaign in the USSR, many churches were destroyed. But, some were preserved and transformed into facilities for various purposes of the new state, including economic ones.

Warehouses and factories department were most often located in churches. Some were more "lucky" and were used as museums, libraries or houses of culture. Lutheran churches with excellent acoustics were converted into philharmonic halls, puppet theaters or recording studios.

But, there were also some completely unexpected cases of how the churches were used in the USSR.

1/ A swimming pool

The Church of Our Lady of Mercy in St. Petersburg was turned into a swimming pool for military divers during the Soviet era! Authorities closed the church in 1932 and, the following year, a diving chamber was installed under the dome of the tall church. At the same time, a giant 40-meter-long pipe was erected in the middle of the building and filled with water for deep diving. A swimming pool, meanwhile, appeared in place of the altar.

In 2015, a reconstruction of the church began and it continues to this day. The giant diving chamber, wrapped with a metal ladder, became the biggest problem: there were fears that if it was removed, the structure of the building would not hold and the dome would collapse. But, in the end, it was successfully dismantled.

Read more here.

The Lutheran Church of St. Paul and St. Peter in St. Petersburg was also modified into a swimming pool, but a regular one, open to the public. Citizens could swim there from 1962 to 1993. It was also convenient for installing diving chambers in the building, as it had high ceilings.

2/ Animation studio

The Moscow Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Novaya Sloboda was closed by the Soviet authorities in the 1930s. The main part of the church was then rebuilt into a five-story apartment building in the Stalinist style (while the bell tower remained). In 1945, the church was given to ‘Soyuzmultfilm’, the main studio for animation production in the USSR. Artists were engaged in drawing animation in the former church building. Moreover, the studio remained there until 2017.

Another branch of ‘Soyuzmultfilm’ was located in the Moscow Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior on Peski. It was not reconstructed, because it was recognized as an architectural monument. From 1956 to 1991, puppet movies were produced there.

Read more about the history of ‘Soyuzmultfilm’ here

3/ Planetarium

In 1962, in honor of the anniversary of the pioneering Yury Gagarin space flight, a planetarium was opened in the Saint Nicholas Church in the Vladimir Kremlin.

A new plastic dome was installed under the church's real dome, on which celestial luminaries were displayed. The planetarium’s projector was one of the first in the country.

It still operates in the church today and has a very active program of events and full-dome movie sessions.

The church also hosts an exposition devoted to space: models of artificial satellites of Earth, fragments of meteorites and even tubes with space nutrition.

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