In  the Russian city of Yekaterinburg the local City Council voted to allow the Russian Orthodox Church to build a Church, destroying most of the public garden in the center of the city.

 

To give you some background information, Ekaterinburg (or Yekaterinburg) is a big industrial city, somewhat similar to Greater Boston. It is sometimes called the"third capital of Russia" and has about 1,5M residents. Its major plant, which was the backbone of the Russian tank industry in WW2, is the size of downtown Boston.

 

Similar to residents of Newton, residents of Yekaterinburg cherished their green space. and did not want the Church construction to happen. The former Mayor of Ekaterinburg, Roizman told Matthew Luxmoore from the RadioLiberty (RFE/RL) that "in a city of 1.5 million residents, not one square meter of greenery should be touched. Squares should not be downsized or disappear -- they should not be touched."

Roizman, who resigned from his post earlier this year after Yekaterinburg's legislature voted to scrap direct mayoral elections, was expressing opinions of the residents. However, neither the city government nor the Russian Orthodox Church listened to them. So the residents revolted. Per RadioLiberty,  when a metal fence was placed around the planned construction site on May  13, 2019, the residents smashed through the construction fence and stopped the construction. The following day a 10-hour standoff ensued between the security guards placed along its perimeter and the hundreds of activists demanding its removal.Protesters toppled the metal fence and entered the construction site, sticking to trees posters reading "Hands off the square!" and "Church of strife!"

Dozens of people were beaten by the police and arrested. A number of local activists were charged with offensive behavior towards the police. Police made almost 100 arrests, and 33 people were jailed for up to 15 days (RNS).The protesters started to demand resignation of the new mayor, Vysokinsky. The situation became a political standoff and a nation-wide scandal. At that moment Vladimir Putin interfered and "suggested" to poll for resident's opinions. In spite of pressure by the local government, the VTsIOM poll found that 58% of residents did not want St Catherine's Cathedral in the park. The governor of the Region of Sverdlovsk (the old name of Ekaterinburg) had no choice but to declare that the church would not be built as a result of a survey conducted by an opinion pollster.

Residents of Russia's 3rd capital and fourth-largest city, Ekaterinburg, have rejected plans to build a church in a popular park, at least for now. The Religious News Service (RNS) summarized: Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church suffered a rare setback as authorities in Yekaterinburg, the country’s fourth-largest city, backtracked on plans for a new cathedral.

Many in Russia believe the conflict that has engulfed Yekaterinburg is about much more than the Orthodox Church and opposition to its post-Soviet building spree."The basic political mechanism here is a demand for participation in decision-making," says Yekaterina Schulmann, a Moscow-based political scientist and member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. "People are angry that that decisions are being made for them." (RadioLiberty)

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