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Russian Orthodox Church can hardly afford to maintain St. Isaac’s Cathedral — opinion

July 29, 2015, 13:13 UTC+3 ST. PETERSBURG
The museum’s current budget stands at $10.8 million, restoration work included
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© ITAR-TASS/Ruslan Shamukov

ST. PETERSBURG, July 29. /TASS/. The Russian Orthodox Church will encounter great problems with keeping St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg (currently enjoying the status of a city-owned museum) in proper condition, should its request for having the historical place of worship back is sustained, the museum’s director, Nikolay Burov has told TASS.

"The museum’s current budget stands at $10.8 million, restoration work included. True, the Church may devise a way of raising the money, but why should it carry this burden? Restoration and other work will be stalled and it will turn to the government for assistance in twelve to eighteen months’ time," Burov said.

As an example he recalled the handover of the Kazan Cathedral (previously the building housed a museum of the history of religion) in the centre of St. Petersburg. Currently it is an ordinary parish church, but to a large extent it is maintained at the government expense. Burov warns that the historical building needs daily restoration efforts. For instance, at the moment the building’s ventilation system is being overhauled (the costs are estimated at 47 million rubles or roughly $800,000). The restoration of the Angel Balustrade has required another 250 million or roughly $4.2 million.

Burov recalled that by an arrangement with the Church St. Isaac’s Cathedral was open for free during church services and available to the public at large several times a week. He also said that on the premises of all four cathedrals affiliated with the museum complex the Russian Orthodox Church had retail trade outlets immune to lease payments.

"For 25 years we have been proud of having a balanced relationship with the Church. Now new people have taken over and a sort of commotion began," Burov said. He expressed the hope the Union of Russia’s Museums will come out in support of St. Isaac’s status of a museum. He recalled that the museum had a skilled staff of about 400 under retirement age. The Church plans to cut these jobs.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest Orthodox church in St. Petersburg. It enjoys the status of a state-run museum and monument. Last year it attracted 3.2 million tourists.

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