By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — More than 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg to protest a decision by the city administration to turn the landmark St. Isaac’s Cathedral over to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Protesters said they fear the church will not maintain the public museum status of the cathedral, which is a popular tourist attraction.
“We won’t give St. Isaac’s to the church. We want to save it as a museum,” local official Boris Vishnevsky told protesters on January 28.
“The money earned by the cathedral was the city’s, but now it will be for the church. It’s not fair,” Tatiana Tsenkovskaya said.
Some also expressed concerns about the growing power of the church.
“The church has claimed too much in recent years. Russia is a secular state,” Filipp Gotfrid said.
A few dozen counterprotesters also gathered to support the plans.
St Isaac’s, founded in 1818, is one of the top tourist sites in St. Petersburg and has been a museum since 1917.