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Meeting against transfer of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church

Last Sunday, January, 28, about three thousand citizens of Saint Petersburg took part in an action protesting a proposed legal transfer of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, one of the most beautiful architectural monuments of the city and a huge museum, to the Russian Orthodox Church for its free and gratis use.

According to the police sources, the meeting in Marsovo Pole (the Field of Mars) was attended by about two thousand participants, although witnesses and participants insist that this number was much bigger.

The city authorities had refused to authorize the meeting, under the pretext of another action to be held on the same place, and the protest was held in the form of a ‘’meeting with City Hall deputies’’.

The participants had to quit raising posters and party flags, typical for this type of actions. The blue ribbons were seen held by many participants, a new sign of protest in Saint Petersburg.

‘’Today, we are beginning an action of civil disobedience and are about to set up a center for defending Saint Isaac’s Cathedral’’, - Boris Vishnevsky, a City Hall deputy and opposition activist, is quoted as saying. He added that the opponents of the transfer had appealed to both the city courts and prosecutor’s office with a request to abrogate the injunction of the Committee for Property of the City Government from December, 30, 2016, authorizing the Cathedral to be transferred to the Church.

At the same and at the same place another action was held by proponents of the cathedral transfer, which had been sanctioned by the city authorities. Its organizers are activists of the so called Russian National Liberation Movement, pro Putin’s group, who had announced 700 people as potential participants of the meeting, but their action was visibly attended by several dozens of people.

Saint Petersburg’s Government announced in January an upcoming legal transfer of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in favor of Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church proceeding from the Federal Law ‘’On Transfer of Property of Religious Assignment to the Religious Organizations’’ passed earlier by Russian Parliament, with the building of the Cathedral being to remain the City property.

The upcoming transfer procedure has both opponents and proponents. The Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg (City Hall) passed a petition to Vladimir Medinsky, Russian Minister for Culture, requesting that the cathedral and its building be transferred to the church within the shortest time possible.

At the same time, the opponents of the transfer have filed an administrative claim against City Government, contesting the decision of the city authorities. The city court has dismissed their claim.

On January, 13, a people’s gathering was held in the front of the Cathedral with several hundreds of citizens as its participants. The petition against the transfer of Saint Isaac’s Cathedral has been signed on the Internet by more than 200 000 people.

The Cathedral became a museum in 1928, and in 1990 daily orthodox sermons were renewed in the building. Saint Isaac’s Cathedral has been in the custody of the Federal Government and is on the list of UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites.

According to the museum administration, the religious sermons of last year were attended by about 18 000 people. Over the same period of time, the Museum was visited by about 3,9 million tourists.

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