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Volga Manor is a country park located in the eastern suburbs of Harbin featuring many rebuilt Russian-style buildings that were once known to everybody before disappearing.
Old-fashioned churches, restaurants and clubs help seniors reminisce about the days when they were young, and to curious youngsters, the splendid buildings are historical monuments that preserve stories of the city and its residents.
St. Nicholas Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral was the first such building to be reconstructed, and now it is the most popular structure in the park.
Ground was broken for the original church in 1899. After the launch of construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway in 1896, Tzar Nicholas II decided to build an orthodox cathedral for Russian expatriates in Harbin. He promoted a special cathedral design contest in St. Petersburg, and appointed well-known Russian architects and painters to design the church as well as paint its indoor frescos. The icons and bells were all transported from Moscow. Although construction consumed considerable funds, the magnificently decorated wooden structure provided returns on the investment with its high artistic value.
After the beautiful cathedral began towering over Hongbo Square, it became the center of the city. Passengers exiting Harbin railway station couldn’t miss it. For many locals, it served as a reminder of their youth.
It stood there silently for more than six decades until 1966, when the “cultural revolution” broke out and China’s relationship with the Soviet Union went sour. The cathedral was torn down and most of its cultural relics were lost or destroyed.
In the 1990s, when the municipal government of Harbin began restoring Central Street and St. Sophia Cathedral, locals began calling for St. Nicholas to be rebuilt as well.
After consensus to rebuild it was reached, some suggested moving it to a new location, while others insisted it remain on the original site. Ultimately, the former camp prevailed. Rather than a religious venue, today, the cathedral serves as a museum exhibiting local culture and arts.
A wooden gate within a wall of thick, closely-connected vertical logs serves as the main entrance to the manor. It was modeled after castle gates seen in suburbs of the northern Russian city, Irkutsk.
A road paralleling a small river leads to the central square where an elegant, kaleidoscopic building stands ¨C the visitor’s center. The wooden structure atop a stone foundation features a pink roof and wooden lattice, and its front is topped with a tower. This building was modeled after the exhibition hall in the weaving mill which was built in 1896 and damaged in 1925 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russian writer Maxim Gorky’s hometown.