‘You want a church, we want a park, and that means war’. On the ground for night one of protests in Yekaterinburg against the construction of a new cathedral

A fence appeared overnight on May 13 in October Square in downtown Yekaterinburg, near the regional drama theater. This is the site where the Russian Media Company (RMK) and the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UGMK) intend to build “St. Catherine’s Cathedral” before 2023, when the city celebrates the 300th anniversary of its founding. The project has been approved, and arts patrons at the “St. Catherine’s Cathedral LLC” have leased the land. The construction has the support of the governor, City Hall, and the Russian Orthodox Church’s Yekaterinburg Diocese. Local activists and political oppositionists, however, don’t want to lose public space to the church, and past demonstrations already led to the cancellation of previous plans to build St. Catherine’s Cathedral on an artificial island created in the city pond. The new fence in October Square has provoked a full-scale confrontation, with sit-ins, sieges, and some violence. Meduza journalist Dmitry Andreev spent the night with the protesters, and witnessed the clashes firsthand.