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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Savior Church Soaring at Mayoral Speed

On Victory Day, while the eyes of the world were transfixed by parades at Poklonnaya Gora, the floodlights were also on at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

But it wasn't for world leaders. The 2,500 construction workers just kept laying concrete, working the 12-hour shifts they have been working since January. Although the first cathedral took 40 years to build, this one will only take five, and during the last four months, while the city has focused on other sites, the cathedral's foundation has crept toward the 40-meter mark at a pace that astounds the most hardened Muscovites.

"I was here only a year ago and this was a swimming pool. When they want to, they can really work," marveled Edik, a retired engineer, wedging his face between the slats in the construction site's fence. "They aren't drinking. They aren't playing cards." He shook his head in disbelief. "They never stop working."

As if on cue, Mayor Yury Luzhkov's phalanx of black Volgas pulled up beside the main administrative building, for what one worker said was his second visit in as many days. As became clear when Poklonnaya Gora materialized seemingly overnight, the mayor has a talent for motivating construction workers, through a combined technique of brutal dressing-down and the occasional well-placed incentive.

Case in point: kvas. In keeping with his penchant for nationalist cuisine, Luzhkov recently decreed that the construction workers be furnished with a bottomless supply of kvas. The traditional fermented-yeast drink is to be decanted, along with a form of honeyed mead, from a stand on the site.

"You can't compare this project with anything else," said Lev Skepner, a historian at the Museum of City Planning. "What makes it different is the attention of the mayor. He goes to the site two or three times a week. Other projects he visits once a month. If that much."

In fact, construction is going so quickly that in some cases, builders have overtaken planners. The patriarchate and the city government have butted heads sporadically over plans for the cathedral, which resulted in the sacking of the project's original chief planner.

Mosproyekt's planners caused a "big delay" by not supplying interior plans for the garage until Thursday, forcing construction to halt for weeks, said Valery Gorbunov, chief engineer for Inpredstroi, which is handling interior construction. Margarita Strelchuk of Carrier, another would-be subcontractor, told The Moscow Times that the winner "will have to deal with an unusual situation in which design and construction are running simultaneously."

The project's timeline is unaffected: Construction of the building should be finished by 1997, in time for the 850th anniversary of the founding of Moscow. By 2000, the cathedral will be fully outfitted and decorated. To date, there is no information about the cathedral's massive iconostasis, which was rumored to have been given to the Vatican by Elea-nor Roosevelt in the mid-1930s after Stalin ordered the cathedral to be razed.

All through the summer months, builders plan to maintain their pace of erecting about 12 meters a month -- although in May they logged only 11.56 meters -- said Yury Mamoshin, assistant director of the construction project.

Mainly finished are the garage, the hall of assemblies and two ramps running from street level into the garage. After four more meters, builders will turn their attention to the foundation of the first tier of the choral stands. Sometime in mid-July, the cathedral should reach the height of 40 meters, and work will begin on the cupola, he said.

"In the epoch of communism, they could never build like this, and it's good to see them working this way," said passer-by Nikolai Sbitnev, 20. "It's thanks to God. And thanks to Yury Luzhkov."