The Russian Orthodox Church's bid to secure the restitution of the landmark St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg is creating a controversy, the Big News Network website reports today (August 2, 2015).
The Orthodox Church has wielded increasing clout in Russia and has successfully won restitution cases involving many historic churches since the Soviet collapse in 1991, but it is facing significant opposition in St. Petersburg, where activists are pushing for a referendum on the takeover.
St. Isaac's -- built over 40 years from 1818 to 1858 -- is one of the world's biggest cathedrals. Erected under the orders of Tsar Alexander I, it survived the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 mostly unscathed while other historic churches were demolished.
It is the third most-visited cultural site in St. Petersburg and has served as a museum, with the Orthodox Church using it only periodically for services.