Russia - especially rural Russia - is depopulating at a tremendous rate. There are literally thousands of villages that have been abandoned in the last 50 years. There is an interesting article on the Russian demographic crisis in a recent issue of the London Review of Books.
It makes me so sad to see those churches stripped of their icons. I am a Customs officer and on a couple of occasions (more than ten years ago) I have come across what I have reckoned to be pillaged icons only to be overruled by my superiors
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