St. Petersburg swaps heritage for elite housing

A court in St. Petersburg has ruled the demolition of 31 historical sites in the city illegal, with even more lawsuits to come.

Mass demolition of Petersburg’s historic buildings was part of the policy developed by the city’s ex-mayor, Valentina Matvienko, who is currently the speaker in Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.

The ex-mayor reduced the list of the protected buildings having a historic value, which was drawn by the State Control Committee. As a result, the historic quarters were torn down, making way for elite housing.

Matvienko even proposed to exclude St. Petersburg from the list of historical settlements. In her opinion, the status hampered the progress of development within the city. The historic center of St. Petersburg and related groups of monuments was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1990, along with Russia’s Kizhi Pogost on Lake Onega, Karelia, and Moscow’s Kremlin and Red Square.

In order to prevent such cases in future, St. Petersburg’s new governor announced a 10-year program aimed at preservation of the city’s historic center. In total, $10 million will be allocated for this purpose from the city’s budget. All Petersburg’s residents are invited to submit their suggestions on the development of the city.

St. Petersburg is not the only Russian city experiencing serious problems with preserving its architectural heritage.

In the last 10 years, over 300 historic building have been demolished in Moscow, among them 50 protected by the state. A recent audit showed that at least 43 per cent of Moscow’s landmark sites are not being looked after properly; out of a total of roughly 4,000 monuments in Moscow, only 593 are fully protected.

International week for Petersburg’s Metro commuters

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg’s Metro is going international. For the next few days, an English translation will accompany the native voiceover on the city’s green line.

At the end of the week, the Metro service will assess the results of the experiment. A survey of commuters will be carried out, defining the future of the English-language voiceover.

This is part of Petersburg’s drive to appear more hospitable and welcoming to tourists.

Leave a comment