Russian President Vladimir Putin raised eyebrows when he dubbed a Crimean archaeological site the “Temple Mount of Orthodox Christians”. He made the comments during last year’s state of the nation address.
According to Vatican Radio, this week Putin placed a major archaeological site in Crimea, which Russia annexed from the Ukraine, under federal control. The ancient Greek city of Chersonesus is located just outside Sevastopol, Crimea’s major port city. It is home to a museum which recently saw the appointment of a Russian Orthodox priest as director, a move deemed controversial as he is not a professional curator. Now, the federal government is set to determine who will run the site.
Last year, Putin said the site had “huge civilizational and sacred meaning” for the Russian Orthodox Christians, just as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem does for Jews and Muslims, comments which the current decision brought to light.
Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehudah Glick took issue with Putin’s statement. He told Breaking Israel News, “There is only one Temple Mount. The one chosen by God to rest His Divine Presence in this world. It is sacred to all those who believe in His word as appears in the Tanach (Jewish Bible). No other place in the universe chosen by any human compares to it. This is the site that will unite all mankind to call in His name ‘Shalom’. He is One and His Name is One.”
The Chersonesus site is historically significant as the location where the Kievan Rus ruler, Prince Vladimir, was baptised in 988 CE. He then established Christianity as the religion of the region. On the 1,000th anniversary of Vladimir’s passing, Putin addressed a crowd of religious representatives, saying, “The entire Orthodox world celebrates the baptism of Rus. The significance of this event, of the moment when people found faith and spiritual support, cannot be overemphasised. It is obvious that the baptism became the key turning [point] in Russian history, statehood and our culture.”
Rabbi Tuly Weisz, publisher of Breaking Israel News, added, “The site where King Solomon built the Temple is meant to be a source of worldwide peace, so it is particularly saddening that it is being associated with Russian regional conflict.”