National monuments typically serve as aesthetic manifestations of dominant visions of history and collective identity, but they can also generate a contestation of the past they are intended to cement. Defending this two-pronged interpretive approach, this essay attends to the changing symbolic power of a unique national monument-the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The study traces the cathedral's historic role in Russia's national self-definition during the last two centuries. The cathedral's construction under tsars, destruction under Stalin, and the postcommunist rebuilding accompanied and justified a particular version of national identity. The role of the cathedral as a magnet for competing versions of Russia's traumatic past is illustrated by the controversy over its rebuilding after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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