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ST. PETERSBURG, January 11. /TASS/. The handover of the St. Isaac’s Cathedral museum, one of St. Petersburg's landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage site, to the Russian Orthodox Church, may take at least two to three years, the museum’s director, Nikolay Burov, told TASS on Wednesday.
Burov said that time is needed to determine the future of St. Isaac’s full-time staff totaling 393 members and of several thousand museum items, which are currently part of the state’s property, and to outline plans for refurbishment.
"The restoration should continue," he said. "We have a renovation plan until 2028 but we should take into account that this professional work is costly."
Many items adorn the cathedral’s interior and exterior, Burov said, adding that "the current law on state museum funds does not regulate this matter."
Burov said the museum at St. Isaac’s Cathedral will definitely cease to exist after its handover to the Church.
According to Burov, St. Isaac’s is one of Russia’s most popular museums visited by some 3.5 mln tourists annually.
The director said St. Isaac’s would continue working as museum until the end of 2017.
St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko told TASS earlier that St. Isaac’s would keep its museum functions after becoming property of the Russian Orthodox Church and will be open to people of all religions.
The St. Petersburg diocese asked the city government to hand the cathedral back to the Church in 2015 but the request was rejected. A year later new requests were sent to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Governor Poltavchenko.
The cathedral was built in 1818-1858 and transformed into a museum after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Church services were resumed at St. Isaac’s in 1990.
Nonetheless, St. Isaac’s was not property of the Orthodox Church even prior to the revolution as its maintenance was very expensive. The cathedral was managed by the Imperial Ministry of Communication Routes and Public Buildings until 1871 and was then handed over to the Interior Ministry of the Russian Empire.