This article is from a series by the invaluable William Brumfield, (Wikipedia), Professor of Slavic Studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, USA.
Brumfield is the world’s leading historian of Russian architecture. He makes frequent trips to Russia, often to her remote regions, and records the most unusual examples of surviving architecture with detailed, professional photography.
His most recent book is a real treasure, Architecture At The End Of The Earth, Photographing The Russian North (2015). (Amazon). This truly beautiful book was made possible by the support of a US philanthropist, and its true cost is 3 times its retail price, and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Here is our 2015 review of it.
Bravo to RBTH for making Brumfield’s work possible, and providing such a great platform for his beautiful photography. We recommend visiting the RBTH page, which has a slide show for each article with many more pictures than we can fit in here.
Don’t believe in miracles? Well, we can assure you, Brumfield’s work is undoubtedly just that. You can find a complete list of his articles on RI here.
The original headline for this article was: The Prokhorovka Memorial Complex: Bearing witness to sacrifice and faith. All photos are by the author.
In the middle of the rich agricultural lands of Belgorod Region lies the small town of Prokhorovka (population 9,000). At the beginning of World War II, it was little more than a railroad whistle stop near a collective farm, but events in summer 1943 conspired to make it one of the most important places on the planet. It was at Prokhorovka that the German army’s final offensive effort on the eastern front was stopped for good.
The origins of Prokhorovka date to the late 17th century, when a settlement known as Ilinskaya Sloboda was established by Polish settler Kirill Ilinsky, who moved to the Belgorod lands following the Russo-Polish war of 1654-1667. In addition to its rich soil, the area was located near the origins of the Psyol River, making it an ideal site for farming.
After 1860, the village bore the name of Alexandrovskoye in honor of the reigning Tsar, Alexander II. The name Prokhorovka appeared in the 1880s on a nearby station on the newly opened Kursk-Kharkov-Azov Railroad, one of whose engineers was V. I. Prokhorov. Alexandrovskoye absorbed the station into its territory after World War II, and the town was renamed Prokhorovka in 1968 in a recognition of the fame of the Prokhorovka battlefield.
Prokhorovka at war
The epic clash that occurred at Prokhorovka on July 12, 1943 was part of the much larger Battle of Kursk, which lasted from July 5 to August 23 and is recognized as the biggest tank battle of all time. The Battle of Kursk began when the German army launched Operation Citadel, an attempt to use a pincer formation to smash a large bulge at the center of the eastern front created by the sporadic fighting following the Soviet victory at Stalingrad.
The north side of the bulge formed as a result of Soviet gains during the Kharkov Offensive in February and early March 1943. This part of the offensive also led to the German evacuation of the Rzhev salient, a bloody stalemate that had cost hundreds of thousands of casualties in 1942. In the south, however, a German counteroffensive retook Kharkov and Belgorod in the middle of March, thus denting the Soviet line and creating the south flank of the bulge. At that point, both sides consolidated positions in anticipation of more favorable conditions in the summer.
Lacking the sweep of summer operations the preceding two years, Operation Citadel was Hitler’s last attempt to achieve a major tactical victory on Soviet territory. On the north flank, Soviet forces led by Konstantin Rokossovsky held the Wehrmacht to modest gains despite a massive assault. On the south flank, German forces led by Erich von Manstein had greater success against the Voronezh Front commanded by Nikolai Vatutin and posed a threat to Kursk and its vital rail junction. In order to blunt the German armored thrust developing toward Prokhorovka, on July 10, Ivan Konev, commander of the newly created Steppe Front, rushed forward the Fifth Tank Army, led by Pavel Rotmistrov.
The approach of Rotmistrov’s tanks on the morning of July 12 brought a massive concentration of military hardware in a relatively confined space. The rapid movements of armored vehicles combined with the dust and smoke over broad fields created the proverbial fog of war, and to this day historians argue about the details of the battle, including the actual strength of the opposing forces and their losses.
It is now accepted that the Soviet losses in armor were much larger than the German. Soviet aviation was more active on the northern flank, and Rotmistrov’s exposed, lighter tanks were outgunned by SS armored formations. Nonetheless, the desperate Soviet effort succeeded in its main task of halting von Manstein.
Shortly thereafter, Hitler halted Operation Citadel and began withdrawing forces to deal with the threat to Italy posed by the Allied invasion of Sicily. The Red Army in turn launched offensives that culminated in the march to Berlin in spring 1945. In the interests of boosting war morale, the clash at Prokhorovka was proclaimed not just a critical part of an overall strategic victory (which it was) but also a tactical victory over SS divisions (now considered a debatable assertion).
Remembering the sacrifice
After the war, the Prokhorovka battlefield was enshrined as a memorial to Soviet resistance against the Nazi invaders. Pavel Rotmistrov returned to the site for a commemoration 25 years after the battle, yet many felt that not enough had been done to mark this extraordinary event. Regional public efforts advocating a higher level of commemoration found a major ally in 1993 when the prominent politician Nikolai Ryzhkov actively supported the construction of a major memorial complex at Prokhorovka. The site was now designated Russia’s Third Battlefield (Tretye ratnoye polye), following Kulikov polye (Snipe Field), where Dmitry Donskoy defeated the Tatars in 1380, and the Borodino battlefield, where the Russians fought the French on their approach to Moscow in early September 1812.
This memorialization campaign resulted not only in a new museum but also in the creation of a narrative that placed the struggle in religious, and specifically Russian Orthodox, terms. As Ryzhkov proclaimed in a widely distributed article in November 1993, “We will build a temple at Prokhorovka.” The realization of this campaign, which found enormous public and state support, is readily evident in the ascending tower of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, visible on the approaches to Prokhorovka. Completed in the spring of 1995, the shrine was consecrated on May 3, 1995 by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.
The towering form of the church, designed by the architect Dmitry Sokolov, bears a strong resemblance to a Russian memorial designed by Vladimir Pokrovsky and erected in Leipzig in 1912-1913 to commemorate the joint Russian and German victory over Napoleon a century earlier. Other prototypes include 16th-century Muscovite tower churches such as the Ascension at Kolomenskoye. The design also corresponds to the medieval Russian concept of a “church beneath a bell tower.”
The interior of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul is richly decorated with frescoes, mosaics and icons. It also includes the names inscribed on marble tablets of some 7,000 Soviet soldiers who died in the days surrounding the Prokhorovka battle.
The territory around the cathedral includes the more modest parish Church of St. Nicholas, a parish house and a center for war veterans. To the southwest of the cathedral is an arched monument containing the “Bell of Unity of Three Fraternal Slavic Peoples” — Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian — who made the essential contribution to the victory. This monument, surmounted with an Orthodox cross, was dedicated on May 3, 2000, in the presence of the three presidents of the respective countries — Vladimir Putin, Leonid Kuchma and Alexander Lukashenko — as well as Patriarch Alexy II.
Beyond the cathedral memorial complex is a large museum built during the same period. Its several interior halls present the military history of Prokhorovka and the Kursk Battle, as well as the larger context of the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is known in Russia. In the center of the main atrium is an example of the legendary T-34 tank, the workhorse of Soviet armored forces.
The memorial complex, located in the center of Prokhorovka, is complemented by a monumental bell tower 59 meters in height. Designed by Vyacheslav Klykov and dedicated on May 3, 1995, the tower consists of four sides with relief panels devoted to the sacrifices and the religious faith that led to victory.
All you need to know on getting the Moderna vaccine as a booster
People due to receive their Covid-19 booster vaccine in coming weeks will primarily be offered the Moderna dose at HSE vaccination centres.
The HSE is reported to have large supplies of Moderna due to expire next month, so that will be the main vaccine administered over coming weeks to the over-60s, over-50s, healthcare workers, and younger people in vulnerable groups – though it will be restricted to people over 30.
Anecdotally there are indications some people may be reluctant to take the Moderna vaccine. This may be due to Irish stocks about to expire shortly and/or confusion about its efficacy. This follows the company’s chief executive Stéphane Bancel warning last week the Moderna jab may not be as effective against Omicron as it had been with the Delta variant.
The HSE has confirmed recipients will have no choice on what vaccine they are given.
What type of coronavirus vaccine is the Moderna jab?
It is a new kind of synthetic “mRNA vaccine” – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is from the same stable. They provide excellent protection against severe illness and hospitalisation – and have played a critical role in reducing Covid-19 deaths since being approved. A downside, however, is that the Moderna version must be kept at -20 degrees.
Should people be worried about receiving a soon to be out-of-date vaccine?
|Total doses distributed to Ireland||Total doses administered in Ireland|
In short no, as they retain the ability to boost antibody production within currently approved time spans – though inevitably potency wanes over time. The Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen (Johnson&Johnson) vaccines were put on the market with emergency use authorisation of up to six months.
This compares with a shelf life of two to three years for most vaccines and other medicines. This is an “inevitable consequence of getting the vaccines out of the door as quickly as possible”, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Gino Martini told the journal BMJ.
Months later, these “emergency” expiry dates remain in force for these vaccines. For approved Covid-19 vaccines, the initial shelf lives were based on data available at the time of submission for regulatory approval.
The long-term shelf life has not been extended for any of the vaccines. A shelf life extension would require supporting evidence from relevant stability studies. Vaccine manufacturers are monitoring batches of vaccines with the aim of providing a longer shelf life; probably the usual two years.
What about the Omicron threat?
While Moderna said existing vaccines including its mRNA version will probably be less effective against the Omicron variant, most experts believe they will continue to provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisation. It should be stressed, however, definitive indication has yet to emerge. That will be a matter of weeks, if not days.
Moderna has confirmed it is developing an Omicron-specific booster though manufacturing the new vaccine would take time. Tens of millions of doses could be available in the first quarter of 2022, but scale-up would not happen until the second quarter – provided it is shown such boosters are required.
What is the latest indication on the benefits of mixing vaccines?
Evidence supporting a mixing of vaccine doses has hardened over recent months. A study this week shows combining a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a second dose of either the Moderna or the Novavax jabs results in far higher levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells compared with two doses of the AstraZeneca jab.
This finding also has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.
The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.
It follows separate data published last week suggesting the Pfizer and Moderna booster jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.
Woman (90s) dies following single-vehicle crash in Co Clare
A woman in her 90s has died following a single-vehicle crash in Co Clare in the early hours of Tuesday.
The incident occurred at about 12.30am at Annagh, Miltown Malbay. The woman, who was the driver and sole occupant of the car involved in the crash, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her body was removed to Limerick University Hospital, where gardaí say a postmortem will take place at a later date.
The road has been closed to facilitate an exam by Garda forensic collision investigators, and local diversions are in place.
Gardaí have appealed for witnesses – particularly road users who may have camera footage – to come forward. Anyone with information can contact Kilrush Garda station (065 908 0550), the confidential line (1800 666 111), or any Garda station.
What areas will be worst hit and what is closing?
Just how serious is Storm Barra?
Storm Barra is set to hit Ireland fully on Tuesday morning, with Met Éireann warning that the severe weather could pose a threat to life.
The storm will rapidly deepen over the west and south coast on Monday evening, bringing very strong winds and heavy rain on Tuesday and into Wednesday.
Met Éireann have also warned that there is a risk of snow, as well as coastal flooding, due to the combination of high waves, storm surges and high tide.
Southwesterly winds, which will later veer northwesterly, will reach mean speeds in excess of 80 km/h.
Severe or damaging gusts may reach speeds in excess of 130km/h.
Power and travel may be disrupted across the country.
What are the areas most affected?
There is a status red wind warning in place for counties Cork, Kerry and Clare. Cork and Kerry’s warning starts at 6am on Tuesday and lasts until 9pm that evening.
Clare will be under a red alert from 4pm on Tuesday until 1am on Wednesday.
Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Mayo, Wexford, Dublin, Louth, Wicklow and Meath are also under an orange wind warning.
However, Met Éireann have advised that there is a strong possibility that the status orange alerts will escalate to status red.
A red marine storm warning will also be in effect for Irish coastal waters from north Mayo to Cork city.
The rest of the country will be under a status yellow wind and rain warning, with Met Éireann saying that heavy rain may result in surface flooding.
There is also a risk of snow over the entire country, and flooding in coastal areas.
Is it okay to go out in the storm?
People in the affected areas are being advised to avoid all unnecessary journeys, meaning you should stay indoors if possible.
People on motorbikes, cyclists, and pedestrians should take extra care if they have to travel, and they should avoid coastal areas.
Motorists are also advised to be more wary while driving, and to look out for fallen trees and debris on the road.
The charity Alone urged older people to take extra care and called on members of the public to “check in with their older neighbours and relatives and assist them if they need to travel to the local shop, post office or medical appointments during the bad weather”.
What has been cancelled or closed?
The Department of Education, which oversees primary and secondary schools, has advised schools in red and orange alert counties to close.
The Department of Higher Education, which governs colleges, universities and further education institutes, has issued a similar statement, saying education institutions in red and orange alert counties should close also.
Creches, early learning and school-age childcare services in the 12 counties should not open tomorrow, according to the Department of Children. Services that close will receive Force Majeure funding, according to the department.
Bus Éireann services in Co Cork and Co Kerry will be suspended for the full day. Services in Co Clare will be suspended from 4pm on Tuesday until 1am on Wednesday. This cancellation will also apply to all routes operating into or out of the status red warning area including Expressway Route 51.
Some hospital appointments have been cancelled, and Covid-19 testing and vaccination centres in status red and orange counties have also been forced to close due to the storm. A list of the affected health services can be found here. The National Ambulance Service will prioritise emergency calls during this weather event but is urging the general public to think carefully before calling 999/112.
The Courts Service has also confirmed that all sittings in red alert counties have been cancelled.
The Department of Local Government said a large number of national parks and reserves including Killarney National Park and Muckross House would close on Tuesday and Wednesday. Powerscourt Estate in Co Wicklow will close from 8am until 1pm on Tuesday.
Aldi has also said its stores in Cork and Kerry will be closed all day Tuesday, and their Clare stores will shut at 3pm on Tuesday.
Lidl and Tesco stores in Cork and Kerry will also be closed all day.
How long is the storm expected to last?
According to Met Éireann, Storm Barra will gradually clear Ireland later on Wednesday and winds will slowly ease, with a more settled few days to end the week.
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