ON Red Square, a brick-and-mortar apology is rising: the rebuilding of Kazan cathedral, a 300-year-old church razed at the height of communism's war on religion.
From Red Square to the Lenin Hills, Moscow is in a frenzy of painting, plastering, and polishing. Shabby but historic hotels, such as the Metropol, have become five-star, expense-account busters. GUM, a century-old shopping arcade opposite Lenin's Tomb, is recovering pre-revolutionary elegance.
Most of the refurbishment is driven by the new market forces at work in post-Soviet Russia.
But something deeper is at work at Kazan Cathedral and other landmarks: Their rebirth is an attempt to make peace with a defiled past.
``It's a plea for forgiveness,'' Father Vladimir Dimakov, the Russian Orthodox Church official in charge of restoration, says of the city's decision to rebuild the cathedral. ``The government wants an example for the entire country. We destroyed together, now we should rebuild together.''