Orthodox cathedral leased for 99 years

  • 2000-11-30
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - The Tallinn city government on Nov. 22 approved an agreement on leasing the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral for 99 years to a pro-Moscow Orthodox congregation for free.

The congregation has been renting the cathedral for 10 years, but this spring the rental agreement expired.

Lease of the cathedral was one of the conditions of the new Tallinn ruling coalition agreement signed in the beginning of November. People's Choice, the City Council's Russian faction, set the lease as a high-priority requirement of the accord.

The Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral, situated in front of the Parliament building in the very heart of Tallinn, was sanctified in 1900 and is one of the architectural highlights of the Estonian capital.

The city government ordered the lease holder to insure the building for 6.7 million kroons ($362,162). The city coalition will supervise all transactions related to church property that belongs to the city.

As Tallinn Mayor Juri Mois said, the city government feels like an arbitrator between the Moscow and Constantinople patriarchs. City Council officials proposed a leasing project for another Orthodox temple to the pro-Constantinople Estonian Apostle Orthodox Church the same day, Nov. 22, and sent it to the government.

The two branches of the Orthodox church in Estonia have been arguing over church property, which includes about 30,000 hectares of land, since 1991. Most of the 50,000 Orthodox believers residing in Estonia belong to the pro-Moscow branch.

The Moscow-subordinated Orthodox congregation presently is not registered in Estonia as its articles of association contradict Estonian laws. People's Choice together with the ruling bloc of Tallinn promised to support the congregation regarding the registration.

Authorized by the city government on Nov. 22, the cathedral lease agreement still has to be approved by the City Council later this year.