Legislators in St. Petersburg are going to initiate a plebiscite in order to find out whether the city’s residents are ready to support the idea of handing over St. Isaac’s Cathedral back to the Russian Orthodox Church, the head of the commission for culture at the city’s Legislative Assembly, Maksim Reznik, has told TASS. Rumors about the cathedral’s eventual handover to the Russian Orthodox Church as part of the campaign for de-secularization of places of worship emerged last week.
"One can say that a request to the city’s election commission for calling a referendum on St. Isaac’s Cathedral’s return to the Russian Orthodox Church has been filed already," Reznik said. "It is quite obvious that the issue cannot leave the city’s people neutral. Many have their own opinion on that score and we would like to let the people speak their mind."
Earlier, the spokesman for St. Petersburg’s governor, Andrei Kibitov, told TASS that a decision whether the Russian Orthodox Church should have St. Isaac’s Cathedral back will be taken into account with due regard for the interests of all Petersburgers and city guests. City governor Georgy Poltavchenko is currently away on vacation. There has been no comment from him yet. A final decision is to be made by the city’s executive authorities.
In the meantime, experts at the city’s committee for culture are looking into the matter, the committee’s chief, Konstantin Sukhenko, told TASS earlier.
"We have a request from the Russian Orthodox Church for the return of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The governor’s verdict on it says: ‘Please look into the issue and draft a reply.’ It will be ready soon," Sukhenko said. Experts believe that St. Isaac’s Cathedral, alongside the Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood are far more valuable as cultural and historical assets than as worship sites.
Last week, the St. Petersburg diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church confirmed that it had requested the return of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, currently a museum, on disinterested terms.
At present, St. Isaac Cathedral is city property and part of the state museum, also incorporating the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, and St. Sampson’s Cathedral and the Smolny Cathedral. There are plans for handing the latter over to the Russian Orthodox Church. Services inside St. Isaac’s Cathedral resumed in 1990.