Protests against the construction of a temple in the Yekaterinburg public garden in 2019
In 2019, the authorities of the Sverdlovsk Region made a third attempt to erect the Church of St. Catherine in Yekaterinburg. Initially, the public initiator of the construction of the temple was the governor Alexander Misharin, possibly under the influence of his wife, who stated that Yekaterinburg vitally needed the temple of his heavenly patroness in order to transport the relics of St. Catherine from Egypt to it - supposedly thanks to this, the city would receive a powerful impetus for development.
The first attempt failed in 2010, when the regional authorities, under the governor of Alexander Misharin, proposed to build a temple instead of a fountain. Deputy of the Yekaterinburg Duma, Leonid Volkov, led several thousand protesters to defend the fountain, including among his feats the victory over the governor of the Sverdlovsk region. True, at that time an important role in this victory was played by the Yekaterinburg mayor's office, which fought with Misharin for more mundane reasons, and provided information support to the organization of the rally in order to weaken Misharin's position. For the second time, Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev tried to push through the project to build a temple in the middle of a pond on an embankment island right above the metro line. This time, the main initiators were the copper oligarchs Igor Altushkin (the main shareholder of the Russian Copper Company CJSC) and Andrey Kozitsyn (the general director of the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company OJSC). It was rumored that the main role was again played by a woman - the wife of Igor Altushkin. Yekaterinburg residents went out to hug the pond to protect themselves from the holy army, and after the authorities refused this project, they also wrote it down on the tablets of their achievements. In fact, the project was abandoned, probably under the pressure of convincing evidence that the temple, along with the bulk island, would bring down the subway tunnel. In 2018-2019, a third attempt was made - it was supposed to build a temple in a park in the central part of the city. The apotheosis of the new battle for the saint's favor was the Easter religious procession, in the forefront of which were the presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District Nikolai Tsukanov, Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev, Mayor of Yekaterinburg Alexander Vysokinsky and copper oligarchs Igor Altushkin and Andrey Kozitsyn. Yekaterinburg protesters opposed this rallying of power and money in religious ecstasy only with hugs with trees at the site of the alleged construction of the temple and absurd slogans at the May Day Monstration, in which, God forbid, if they suspect a political protest.
On the night of May 12-13, 2019, workers hired by the St. Catherine Foundation, sponsored by the copper oligarch Igor Altushkin, erected a mesh fence in the park where it was planned to begin construction of the cathedral. The community "Parks and Squares of Yekaterinburg" and Navalny's headquarters in Yekaterinburg invited the townspeople after the end of the working day for another walk in defense of the park. And the townspeople came. Numbering over a thousand people. Some violent heads began to break the flimsy fence. Fighters from the Martial Arts Academy of the Russian Copper Company Altushkin, headed by the president of the Academy, the famous fighter Ivan Shtyrkov, who, as they say, at one time was employed by Igor Altushkin's personal bodyguard, came to the aid of the small guard of the PSC fence of the copper company. The relatively small number of police officers retreated, probably at the direction of high-ranking officials. We can only assume that the police chiefs decided that their employees in this mess can become participants in some scandalous situation, for which the chiefs will have to pay. As a result, the protesting townspeople and the copper guardsmen had to find out who is in power here. I must say that both sides behaved surprisingly restrained for this kind of situation. There were several unpleasant incidents, but the conflict did not escalate into a mass brawl. Then the police returned, and among them there were even officers who did not want to reckon with the political situation and tried to detain one soldier from the holy army, who expelled demons from the protesters against the temple with a gas canister. "Combat academics", out of habit, without hesitation too long, squeezed a comrade-in-arms from the police officers and this, perhaps, became one of the fatal incidents of the first day of the confrontation.
With violence against police officers, the temple fighters dealt a brutal blow to the touching unanimity of business and government demonstrated during the procession. The physiognomy of the defenders of the temple did not arouse religious reverence anyway, and after such a trick they began to be perceived by the brothers from the 90s who came to the showdown. It is interesting that people who know Igor Altushkin himself from personal meetings characterize him as an extremely polite person. I wonder how a very young, polite man in the early 1990s managed to build a metallurgical empire in one of the most criminalized areas of business - the collection of scrap metal? Probably, in the past, in Altushkin's entourage, it was not without brothers who were used to first hitting and then thinking - a very useful skill in some situations, but clearly not in a situation with a temple, where it was not a security official with connections in the criminal environment that had to make decisions, but PR specialist or, at worst, a lawyer.
The weather, despite the changeable Ural climate, favored the protesters. The walk behind the square dragged on long after midnight. And the next day after work, the townspeople gathered at the same time, only this time the conflicting parties were divided by the police cordon. There is more order, although protesters continued to try to break down the fence. Among the protesters there were radical comrades whose fists were clearly itching. There were even small groups of two or three people who were conducting suspicious telephone conversations, very much like receiving instructions from unknown coordinators. But we cannot vouch for this. On the whole, the protest was like a rock festival. Young people were most active, but middle-aged people of both sexes were also represented in the crowd. There was a feeling that people came to hang out. And the fact that the tusovka was united by the idea of opposition to the authorities added to it spice, charm, and meaningfulness.
On the third day, the townspeople began to gather in the park without any calls from the organizers, who by that time had already begun to sly pressure from law enforcement agencies. Every day the number of participants in this festival of civil expression of will increased, amounting to several thousand people. And the builders of the cathedral, in turn, began to install a capital fence, resistant to any devilish intrigues. But it was already too late: the all-seeing eye of the Kremlin turned to Yekaterinburg and with a voice of Vladimir Putin that did not tolerate objections voiced its will - the conflict issue should be resolved in accordance with a poll of the townspeople. Judging by the expressions of Pu-tin, it can be assumed that Putin's advisers were convinced that the majority of the townspeople are for the construction of the cathedral, and an active minority is protesting against the construction. This opinion was probably based on last year's opinion poll data. But since that time, the organizers of the construction of the cathedral have tried their best and turned the majority of the townspeople against the construction, which was convincingly shown by the new polls of the Socium Foundation and VTsIOM. In such a situation, no one dared to cheat brazenly in such a situation, and gradually the main initiators of the construction of the temple agreed on the need to move its construction to another place.
Trying to coordinate positions with the protesters, the mayor's office of Yekaterinburg offered to hold negotiations with representatives of the protesters. But with the choice of these representatives, a tension arose - the protesters could not organize the election of these representatives. As a result, professional shouts, like the lawyer Ivan Volkov, climbed onto the stage, trying to earn political points for themselves on a resonant topic. However, the passivity of the real leaders of the protest could be explained by the activation of law enforcement agencies, which took in the development of those public figures who, in the first days of the protest, participated in negotiations with Yevgeny Kuyvashev. The organizers of the protest actions preferred to pretend that the protest actions were spontaneous and that no one allegedly organized them.
Date of information update: 2019.