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Thousands of citizens of the Russia's fourth-largest city of Yekaterinburg protested against plans to construct a new cathedral in a popular park. The proposed cathedral was supposed to be an exact replica of St. Catherine's Cathedral, which was located on a different site in Yekaterinburg, where the Bolsheviks murdered Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918. This Cathedral was destroyed in 1930 as part of the Communist state's anti-religion drive and only a small chapel stands at that spot today. Construction of the replica in the city's park created a conflict between protestors and The Russian Orthodox Church which is a key ally of the government. The conflict grew big and finally the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, intervened suggesting that the decision should be made by a poll.
According to The BBC, the poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), asked 3,000 residents their opinions about the cathedral project. While a majority (58%) opposed plans to build it in the park, only 18% of respondents wanted the project to be scrapped completely. Only 7% wanted the project to continue unchanged. In response to another question, 74% described the planned location as "mostly inappropriate," while only 10% called it "mostly appropriate." The result is that the city's authorities backtracked on plans for construction of the cathedral.
The construction site was the main reason for the protests. A popular park is a rare piece of green space in the city and, according to those locals who objected the construction, construction of the church would deprive them of it. Yevgeny Roizman, an outspoken government critic who served as Yekaterinburg’s mayor from 2013 until stepping down last year, was among those opposed to the cathedral. “We need to fight for every green space and square,” Roizman told fellow protesters, as Religion News Service reports. “Nobody is against a church but everyone is against building one here,” one protester told Radio Free Europe. “There are lots of churches here. But not much green space is left in the city.”
Protests in Yekaterinburg and a conflict with The Russian Orthodox Church policy is just the latest in a series of demonstrations all around the country. Moscow has experienced a number of similar protests in recent years against the construction of churches in parks and other green spaces, while thousands rallied in St. Petersburg in 2017 against the planned transfer of the city’s landmark St Isaac’s Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church. In Russia there is a strong connection between the church and the state; protests against the church are perceived as protests against the state itself.