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MOSCOW, January 26. /TASS/. St. Isaac’s Cathedral, one of St. Petersburg's prominent landmarks and a UNESCO World Heritage site, should remain open to all tourists after its handover to the Russian Orthodox Church, Yelena Gagarina, Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, told TASS on Thursday.
"All tourists who come to St. Petersburg always visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral," Gagarina said, adding that after the handover, the Culture Ministry, the Orthodox Church and the cathedral’s museum should establish rules allowing all people to visit St. Isaac’s.
She said that the Moscow Kremlin museums had worked in close cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church for many years.
"We prepare everything for church services from restoration works to arranging and maintaining the site. Each December the patriarchy sends us a list of services to be held next year," Gagarina stated.
"We have certain rules, allowing, for instance, the presence of no more than 200 people in one cathedral. These rules have been observed for many years and we haven’t had any conflicts," she added.
The plans by the St. Petersburg government to hand over St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Orthodox Church have stirred up a lot of public controversy. The announcement was followed by protests throughout the city. More than 200,000 people have signed a petition against the handover of the cathedral, one of Russia’s most popular museums visited by some 3.5 mln tourists annually.
Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum, has asked Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill to revoke the handover request to stop public protests.
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.
However, St. Isaac’s was not property of the Orthodox Church even prior to the revolution since its maintenance was very expensive. The cathedral was managed by the Imperial Ministry of Communication Routes and Public Buildings until 1871 and was then turned over to the Interior Ministry of the Russian Empire.