MOSCOW, July 11. /TASS/. The Turkish government’s decision to convert the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque will trigger a negative response in the Christian world, a Russian senator said on Friday.
"The cathedral will again be used as a mosque, and, certainly, this will trigger an extremely negative response throughout the entire Christian world," said Konstantin Kosachev, who heads the Foreign Affairs committee at the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.
The senator said in a Facebook post that Hagia Sophia was "an important holy place for global Christianity, directly related to its history." Therefore, the assumption that the fate of an architectural monument is an internal affair of a country that houses it is not applicable in this case, he added.
"Domestic policy matters were predominant in this case," Kosachev said, adding that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was seeking to gain support among political forces that favor the Islamization of Turkey.
"Talks of an early parliamentary election continue to circulate, and changing the status of Hagia Sophia might play into the hands of the ruling forces. Here’s the explanation - but not a justification - to a fact that a unique historical building with Christian and Islamic decorations, which for many years served as a symbol of religious accord in Turkey and beyond, will lose its neutral status of a museum," he added.
"I believe that from now on Ankara will be seen as a violator of religious balance in the eyes of the whole world and will lose its clout as an important regional player. Too bad," Kosachev said.
On Friday, the Turkish Council of State cancelled the Turkish government’s decree on assigning the museum status to Hagia Sophia. Later in the day, President Recept Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree allowing Moslems to perform prayers in Hagia Sophia, which now enjoys the status of a mosque.
The Hagia Sophia is a Byzantine architectural monument. The cathedral was constructed between 532 and 537 AD by a decree from then Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.
After the fall of Byzantine Empire in 1453, the cathedral was converted into a mosque. In 1935, under the decree of the Turkish government signed by the founder of the modern Turkish state Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the building was transformed into a museum. White plaster covering Christian mosaics and murals were removed. In 1985, the building was included on the UNESCO World Heritage’s list of monuments.