St. Isaac’s Cathedral case

Court rejects complaint against termination of proceedings in St. Isaac’s Cathedral case

The Administrative Division of the St. Petersburg City Court has ruled that the primary court’s decision should remain unchanged

The Administrative Division of the St. Petersburg City Court has rejected a complaint against the primary court’s decision to terminate the proceedings in the case concerning the handover of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church, a TASS correspondent reported.

“The Administrative Division has ruled that the Smolninsky District Court’s decision should remain unchanged, while the complaint should be rejected,” Judge Yulia Ivanova announced.

Plaintiffs’ position

On March 16, the Smolninsky District Court ruled to terminate the proceedings concerning St. Petersburg’s Property Management Committee’s instruction on the use of St. Isaac Cathedral. Judge Tatyana Matusyak cited a ruling that a city court had made earlier in a similar case.

In late January, the Vasileostrovsky District Court refused to initiate proceedings on a claim against the handover of St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church, while on March 2, a complaint against this decision was rejected by the St. Petersburg City Court.

After the Smolninsky District Court announced its decision, the plaintiffs opposing the handover of the cathedral said they would file a complaint against for there actually had been no similar cases since the substantiation of the claims and the claimants were different. The plaintiffs believe the Property Management Committee’s instruction to be unlawful particularly because there were no written statement on the part of the Church concerning the cathedral’s handover, while the Museum Collections Law had been violated. The plaintiffs reiterated their position at Monday’s hearing. Meanwhile, a representative of the Property Management Committee asked the court to reject the claim saying that it did not refer to an actual violation of the plaintiffs’ rights, particularly, their right to access museum collections, while the committee’s instruction did not indicate a final decision but a plan to make preparations for the handover.

St. Isaac Cathedral issue

In January, St. Petersburg’s municipal authorities announced their decision to hand St. Isaac Cathedral over 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.

The cathedral was built in 1818-1858 and was transformed into a museum after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Church services were 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.