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Sunday, February 18, 2018

St. Isaac’s Cathedral again became a symbol of the sharp turns of Russian history

St. Isaac’s Cathedral by the authorities of St. Petersburg will be transferred to the gratuitous use of the Russian Orthodox Church. So Isaac, once again became a symbol of the sharp turns of Russian history and the most heated public discussions. However, the most important opinion is the opinion of the “silent majority” – remains unknown.

The authorities of St.-Petersburg have confirmed that Isaac’s Cathedral will be handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church for free use. We are talking about transfer to gratuitous use, not in the property (the owner will remain the state). According to the plans it should happen before December 2017, however, according to the Director of the Museum-monument “St. Isaac’s Cathedral”, the real time can be up to three years.

“Stormy public debate, initiated by the city authorities adopted the decision on the transfer of the temple, reflects the complexity and multi-layered themes relations between society and religion in contemporary Russia”

To reflect the UPS and downs of his biography of sharp turns of Russian history and curves of the ideological and political disputes, it seems, has become a trademark and simply the fate of Isaac.

Cathedral since it was built has become one of the most famous Orthodox churches in the world and one of the main landmarks of St. Petersburg. The ruin of the temple after the revolution, then its transformation into anti-religious Museum with a Foucault pendulum, which demonstrates the daily rotation of the Earth, was one of the symbols of militant atheism in the first years of Soviet power. After the great Patriotic war, antireligionist in the Soviet Union has subsided, and in 1948, Isaac was turned into a Museum “St. Isaac’s Cathedral”.

A new stage in the history of the Church-Museum began in the second half of the 1980-ies. In 1986, the famous pendulum was dismantled, and in 1990 the Cathedral was resumed Church services. Now divine services are held there on a daily basis (except Wednesdays).

In fact, the previous two and a half decades, Isaac existed as a “Museum and the temple with it.” Now it is assumed that he will become “the temple and the Museum with it.” But, as in previous historical periods, with St. Isaac’s Cathedral, nothing is simple.

Intense public discussion, initiated by the city authorities adopted the decision on the transfer of the temple, reflects the complexity and multi-layered themes relations between society and religion in modern Russia.

First, scientists (and sympathetic to her), the public is worried about the Museum and scientific loss of the object. The experience of “restitution of Church property” of recent decades has shown that when one area there are scientific and religious structures, the friction between them is almost inevitable. Among the high profile recent stories is enough to remember scandal of 2015 with the appointment of the head of the archaeological reserve “Chersonese” in Sevastopol.

In a situation of return of the Saint Isaac’s Cathedral Church Museum will likely have to make room in their ambitions and plans. In any case, the Director of the Museum Nikolai Burov overtly pessimistic and sharply negative in the assessment of the decision: “I believe that this decision, if adopted, anti – state. Now from the “Museum of four cathedrals” only one left… And of the Savior on Blood “will eat” to follow. We can say that the Museum-monument “St. Isaac’s Cathedral” has ceased to exist as such”.

Second, atheistic public is upset about the next expansion of the Church and increase its influence in a secular state, which under the Constitution is Russia and what is happening with the active support of the authorities, causing further irritation.

Third, a politically active community is concerned a lot of very specific questions the future of the Cathedral: from its accessibility for tourists to the possible loss of the Cathedral due to the fact that the ROC will not be able purely financial to invest the necessary funds in its maintenance and reconstruction. At least to the last question the answer is obvious: as the owner of the Cathedral will remain a state, it will continue to be funding its maintenance and necessary repairs and restoration work.

In the aggregate of public petitions the appeal of the opponents of transfer have already collected 100 thousand signatures. And the Cathedral of the activists was for a few minutes hung the banner “NOT the ROC”.

In turn, the city authorities in the person of the speaker of the legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg Vyacheslav Makarov has reminded that the transfer of the Cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church in this case is the requirement of the law, specifically the Federal law “On transfer to religious organizations property of religious significance owned by the state or municipal property”. And in General St. Petersburg the speaker did not choose expressions against opponents, calling them “provocateurs” and “warmongers”.

In this story is quite a familiar public disputes in recent years – the position of the loudest supporters and opponents of the decision on the transfer of Isaac ROC is quite clear and familiar from numerous previous disputes. However, the more interesting opinion on this issue is the so-called “silent majority”. The majority, which, according to opinion polls, the Russian Orthodox Church is the second (after the Russian army) among public institutions with more than 70 percent approval rating.

Although there is a suspicion that the surprise in this case will not.


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