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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Mini-Jerusalem for Worship in Moscow

In a country not renowned for religious tolerance, a plan to build a synagogue, a mosque and a Russian Orthodox church on a single site in a Moscow park has drawn praise from local religious leaders.


"It will be a good opportunity for the religions to pray together instead of fighting each other", said Yury Ryzhkov, director of Almarkaz al-lsiami, the Islamic organization which is building the mosque at the site.


The unusual project proposes a kind of mini-Jerusalem in Victory Park, the World War II memorial located on Kutuzovsky Prospekt in western Moscow.


"We all fought together in the war", Ryzhkov said. "Now we can all pray together in peace".


The three places of worship will be built in a half-moon to the west of the huge, semi-circular war monument that dominates the park. Vladimir Shvedov, the Moscow city government official responsible for the project, said that the city government plans to have the project completed by 1995, in time for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.


"It was decided that this was an appropriate way to honor the war dead of different religions", Shvedov said.


Moscow is full of grandiose building plans that have never been fulfilled, including construction of a large church at the site of the outdoor swimming pool, Moskva, and reconstruction of Red Square's Kazan Cathedral. But with financial support for the synagogue and the mosque coming from abroad, the memorial stands a greater chance of completion than other stalled city projects.


Work on the site of the Russian Orthodox church has already begun, paid for by the Moscow city government, but the Jewish and Moslem organizers are funding the construction themselves.


For Moscow's Moslem community, the building of the mosque would be a significant event. At present, there is only one mosque in operation in the Russian capital despite the fact that over a million Moslems live here, according to Ryzhkov.


Responsibility for the synagogue has been taken on by a Jewish charitable fund, Sedek.


Grigory Perlman, Sedek's director, said that the group became involved last year after hearing that Mayor Yury Luzhkov wanted to include a variety of religions in the Victory Park memorial.


"So we approached him and asked if we could organize the Jewish part of the project", he said.


Sedek received approval last month for the plans. Perlman said he was not worried by the proximity of the churches.


"There will be at least 700 meters between the mosque and the synagogue", he said. "We won't be able to hear or see each other".


The three groups are now in the process of independently developing their own buildings. Though each religious group will work with its own architectural and construction firms, the whole project will be overseen by a city architectural committee.


The mosque is also in the early planning stages. Ryzhkov said that Arab governments have been "very eager" to donate funds.