05/17/2019, 11.44
RUSSIA
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Yekaterinburg, people defend park and against the Orthodox Church

by Vladimir Rozanskij

For days there have been protests because the Orthodox Church wants to build a sacred building in the city park. Police violence against demonstrators. Putin calls for attention to the population: "The churches must unite, not divide". It is the first case of opposition to the project of Patriarch Kirill to build "200 churches a year". The nemesis of the Bolshevik state which in the past destroyed churches; now it builds them.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The population of Yekaterinburg has risen against the Orthodox Church for the decision to build a church in the city park, eliminating the public green. Since May 13, the protests have taken on an intense nature, which have led to the arrest of over 70 people, including some minors.

People destroyed the railings that protected the construction site of the new church building, and began to clash with building workers. The following day the authorities interrupted construction, but the demonstrations did not stop: the "defenders of the park" occupy the area while walking, singing songs and doing carousels around the construction site.

The city's deputy mayor, Ekaterina Kuzemka, has promised to conduct a population survey to decide on the project's continuation. President Putin himself suggested hearing the citizens of Yekaterinburg about the need to build the new cathedral, stating that "churches must unite, not divide, better rely on the opinion of the majority of the local population; and if you really have to build the church, then they  must re-build the park in another place".

The protests against the construction site are joined by those for police violence, who wounded the arrested protesters with broken wrists, to force them to sign an admission of guilt. Even a journalist, Vladislav Postnikov of Otkrytaja Rossija, was arrested and then released with the obligation to appear; Postnikov said he had not broken any laws, but had been arrested after filming some members of the security services, mingles among the crowd.

The construction of new churches is one of the most important projects of the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev), which set important goals for the opening of "200 churches a year", to make the services of the Orthodox liturgy accessible to all Russians. The churches are built both in historic centers and in the suburbs, with the help of local authorities and private citizens, especially the wealthier entrepreneurs, the so-called "oligarchs". The Yekaterinburg protest is the first sensational case of opposition to this widespread diffusion of ecclesiastical influence in the country, and of its connection with the power elites.

The city of the Ural mountains has a high symbolic value, being the place where the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and his family took place in July 1918. The construction of the new cathedral was decided last year, on the centenary of the commemorations of the martyrdom of the tsar, when the entire Synod of Russian bishops met in Yekaterinburg. Among other things, the city is also the birthplace of Boris Yeltsyn, the first president of post-communist Russia.

 In fact, in other situations protests had already taken place, again due to the occupation of public green spaces to build churches, as had happened in Moscow in the summer of 2015 at the “Torfjanka” park in the Losinoostrovskij district, but the bad mood returned.

At that time Patriarch Kirill had tried to quell the spirits, thanking the supporters of the construction of the new churches, but "only when the support is expressed in peaceful and legal forms". In Moscow, in fact, the members of the Sorok Sorokov movement protested. Their name "Forty quarantine", an name that recalls the ancient "quarantine" bells of the churches of Moscow, later destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The group is a kind of team of orthodox fundamentalists, who often use rather violent means, as had happened two years ago for the protests against the "sacrilegious" anti-Tsarist film Matilda, even bombing cinemas to when in order to prevent the screening .

The paradox is that to suppress the protests of the citizens, methods typical of the repression of Soviet dissent are used, when instead the churches were closed or destroyed. The Orthodox Church risks being seen as a continuation of its own denial, that is to say as an instrument of denial of human rights.

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