Protests held for, against church controlling St. Isaac's

Thousands of people in Russia's second-largest city have held competing demonstrations for and against the return of the renowned St. Isaac's Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The cathedral, one of the city's top tourist destinations, was seized by the state after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and became a museum. The city announced last month that it would be returned to church control.

Opponents say they fear that under church control, tours will focus on the cathedral's religious aspects and give short shrift to its architectural and cultural importance.

But proponents say the cathedral is debased by secular control.

The demonstration supporting church control attracted about 1,000 people, and the one in opposition was twice that big.