ST. PETERSBURG, March 18. /TASS/.A multitude of people have flocked to downtown St. Petersburg to demonstrate their opposition to the transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church, a TASS correspondent reported from the site on Saturday.
A sea of demonstrators were carrying slogans demanding a halt to the transfer procedure, but among them, the most popular slogan is "For the Protection of St. Petersburg." The event is free from political slogans or symbols. Even though the rally began at 14:00, people continue to gather, many of them come with their children. No incidents have been recorded, and the situation remains calm.
The rally’s participants are also voicing their support to protect the Pulkovo Observatory against plans for housing construction next to it, and against a merger of the country’s two biggest libraries - the Russian National Library (in St. Petersburg) and the Russian State Library (in Moscow).
In January, St. Petersburg’s municipal authorities announced its decision to hand over St. Isaac Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church in accordance with the 2010 law on dispensing religion-related property to religious organizations. However, the building will remain the property of the city of St. Petersburg.
Opponents of this decision filed an appeal, but it was dismissed. A petition initiated on the Internet against the handover was signed by more than 200,000 people. Several rallies were held in St. Petersburg to protest against turning over the Cathedral to the Church, the latest rally, held on January 28, drew about 2,000.
The cathedral was built in 1818-1858 and was transformed into a museum after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Church services resumed at St. Isaac’s in 1990. The Cathedral is protected by the federal government and it is also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.
According to the museum’s authorities, in 2016, about 18,000 people attended services at the St Isaac’s, including the major Christmas service and the special remembrance services for the victims the Russian A-321 jet crash over the Sinai Peninsula. In addition, around 3,900,000 tourists visited the Cathedral during the same period of time.