ST. PETERSBURG, March 18. /TASS/. About 2,000 people have rallied in downtown St. Petersburg protesting against transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church, an official with the St. Petersburg authorities told TASS on Saturday.
"About 2,000 people took part in the rally," he said.
The city and regional police said that no violations were reported during the event named March for St. Petersburg Protection.
After the rally, protesters adopted a resolution demanding that a status of museum be preserved for St. Isaac’s Cathedral, an alleged merger of the country’s two biggest libraries - the Russian National Library (in St. Petersburg) and the Russian State Library (in Moscow) - be abandoned along with plans to construct housing in the three-kilometer conservation zone around the Pulkovo Observatory.
"Critical situation" in culture
Earlier, the organizers, who include the Party of Growth, Yabloko and Parnas opposition parties and some public movements, told TASS that event was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary since the Hotel Angleterre was pulled down in the city in 1987. By marking this date, the organizers express their concern over "an absolutely critical" situation with culture and science in the Russian second largest city.
"There are lots of sore points but the situation around the St. Isaac’s Cathedral has mirrored them," Maksim Reznik, head of the city legislature’s education, culture and science commission, told TASS.
St. Isaac Cathedral issue
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.