Author`s name Michael Simpson

St.Petersburg Opens Its Main Gate

Vladimir Putin: It is necessary to remind Russia and the whole of Europe about the importance of St.Petersburg
Choir singing has been sounding over the great Russian city of St.Petersburg: newly built and reconstructed churches, chapels and palaces are being consecrated to God. And this prayer first of all cares about the city and the people living there. Now it seems that the air in St.Petersburg is saturated with the singing of the church choir. 

On May 27, on the day of the 300th anniversary of St.Petersburg, the Hermitage opened its central gates for the first time after a long break. Until recently, several generations of St.Petersburg citizens had to enter the world's largest museum through the basement quarters only.

According to the information provided by the Russian Finance Ministry, about 40 billion rubles have been appropriated from the federal budget to St.Petersburg within the past two years especially for organization of the anniversary festivities. The largest projects realized on the eve of the anniversary celebration are the ring road construction (9.7 billion rubles have been appropriated from the federal budget for realization of the project in 2001-2002), construction of the Ladoga railway station (over 9 billion rubles), liquidation of the damage on the Kirovskaya-Vyborgskaya branch of the St.Petersburg metro (500 million rubles) and reconstruction of about 30 historic and cultural monuments in the city. About 1.8 billion rubles were appropriated for reconstruction works in 2002.

Reconstruction of the Konstantinovsky Palace complex is the largest and unprecedented off-budget project dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the city; after the reconstruction the complex has been handed over to the jurisdiction of the RF Presidential administrative department. The palace has been conferred the status of a Congress Hall. In the words of Vladimir Putin, construction of the Congress Hall costs about $300 million.

In the network of activities dedicated to the St.Petersburg anniversary, it was also planned to complete the long-lasting construction of a dam that had been started in the Soviet era. But the project frustrated as only about 400 million rubles have been appropriated within the past two years; but the money was spent on maintenance of the unfinished construction. Almost all of the federal programs realized on the eve of the anniversary became the initial phase of other long-term projects.

Although the amount of financing was considerable enough, the money appropriated for restoration in the network of preparation for the festivities, professionalism and time were enough to put only the front sides of architectural monuments in order. Meanwhile, specialists say that absolutely all architectural monuments of St.Petersburg require damp course works to be held in their basements; in many of the buildings the foundation and bearings must be fortified. If money is available, through reconstruction of St.Petersburg architectural monuments can be started later. In this connection, it will be interesting to watch what will be the scale of financing of the federal programs after the anniversary festivities.  

The RF State Construction Committee was one of the first organizations that unveiled its projects that were supposed to be launched after the anniversary festivities in St.Petersburg. Committee Chairman Nikolay Koshman said at the 3rd International Construction Congress: "St.Petersburg is the concern of the whole of Russia, not only of the city administration." He promised that right after the festivities thorough examination and fortification of the palaces would be started.

Deputy Chairman of the RF State Construction Committee Anatoly Petrakov explained what will be financing for programs to be carried out in the nearest months and next year. In his words, financing that is expected to be appropriated for realization of the program "Preservation and development of St.Petersburg's historic center" will make up about 610 million rubles (last year, the federal center appropriated 520 million rubles for realization of the project). The State Construction Committee will ask for financing to the sum of 700-800 million rubles especially for this program next year.

Statement of President Vladimir Putin about his projects he planned to carry out in St.Petersburg became the most remarkable fact in the network of the anniversary celebration. The President told journalists: "The city has been paid little attention recently. My opinion is that it was financed less than it should have been. The 300th anniversary is an occasion to remind Russia and the whole of Europe the importance of St.Petersburg. It is a rare instance that the State Duma and the federal authorities have been persuaded that Petersburg deserves that amount of financing that it requires."
When the President was asked whether the large-scale projects would be continued in the city after the anniversary celebration, Vladimir Putin said that large-scale projects that have been started and can be carried out only with financing appropriated from the federal budget will be continued. The President promised to take measures so that the projects were successfully realized. At that, he stressed that city authorities mustn't relax, as a great part of responsibility is still under the jurisdiction of the city administration and deputies.

On the day of St.Petersburg's 300th anniversary, May 27, RF Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy participated in the unveiling ceremony of one of the most beautiful palaces of the city, Mikhailovsky Palace. The minister said it was a remarkable event that the building of the palace had been turned from a block of communal flats into a real palace.

One may say it is not of priority importance through what gates entrance to palaces and museums is allowed. On the other hand, it is rather symbolic that St.Petersburg has finally opened its main gates. Let's hope the time of communal flats, basement quarters and back doors has sunk into oblivion.

Irina Kravtsova

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