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Thread: St. Petersburg: Name's Back, Soon Its Luster

  1. #1

    Default St. Petersburg: Name's Back, Soon Its Luster

    November 22, 2002
    St. Petersburg: Name's Back, Soon Its Luster

    ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Nearly 300 years ago, this city began to rise from the Neva's boggy delta. Thousands of workers labored in a monumental effort against time and the elements to satisfy the autocratic will of one man: Peter the Great.

    Today, thousands of workers are involved in an endeavor nearly as monumental: to restore the city's elegance and Baroque grandeur. Once again, they are laboring against time, as well as a bureaucracy and corruption. Once again, they are doing so largely to satisfy the will of one man: President Vladimir V. Putin.

    In time for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg's founding next May, the city has embarked on its largest reconstruction and restoration project since the German siege of Leningrad — as it was known during Soviet times — was broken near the end of World War II.

    Eager to showcase St. Petersburg as Russia's window to Europe and the world, as Peter originally intended it, Mr. Putin earlier this year decreed the reconstruction of dozens of historical and cultural landmarks. Among the projects is the reconstruction of the 1,000-room, 18th-century Konstantinovsky Palace, begun by Peter but never completed. Under Mr. Putin's plans, it will be a presidential residence and center for international meetings.

    The results are obvious. The city is fenced off, scaffolded and dug up. Deep into the long winter nights, work drones on at many famous sites: St. Isaac's Cathedral, Aleksandr's Column and the Peter and Paul Fortress, with its golden, spire-peaked cathedral where czars are buried.

    St. Petersburg today is like an aging beauty in the middle of a facelift, one desperately needed after decades of neglect during the Soviet era, which saw revolution, war and the shift of Russia's political power to Moscow.

    "The officials are paying for the neglect of St. Petersburg in previous years," said Olga V. Taratynova, deputy chairwoman of the city's monuments committee.

    With the prodding of Mr. Putin, himself a St. Petersburger and former deputy mayor, the federal government has budgeted nearly $400 million this year for the effort. The city itself has appealed for corporate and private donations, and recently spent the last of a $31 million loan from the World Bank to reconstruct Nevsky Prospekt, the main thoroughfare.

    While the anniversary celebrations are only six months away, officials vow that the bulk of the work will be completed and the city will once again bathe in its lost glory.

  2. #2

    Default St. Petersburg: Name's Back, Soon Its Luster

    Celebration of St. Petersburg's 300th Anniversary Planned for U.S.
    Verena Dobnik

    NEW YORK (AP) - The 300th anniversary of Russia's grandest city, St. Petersburg, will be celebrated in the United States with hundreds of art, music, dance and lecture events.

    "St. Petersburg is a young city — only 300 years old — and in that way, it has a lot in common with the United States," said Mikhail Piotrovski, director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, who spoke at a luncheon Tuesday to announce the plans.

    Exhibits and performances related to St. Petersburg's heritage are planned in 2003 throughout the United States, including New York City, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ann Harbor, Michigan, and New Haven, Connecticut.

    In New York, events include a spring exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a July visit by the Kirov Opera and its music director, Valery Gergiev, to the Metropolitan Opera, where Gergiev is principal guest conductor. A conference at Columbia University is also scheduled.

    The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is preparing an exhibit on the great dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, and the main branch of the library on Fifth Avenue will stage a fall show called "Russia Engages the World, 1453–1825."

    In Washington, conductor Mstislav Rostropovich will appear with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, where Gergiev will conduct the Kirov.

    The Smithsonian Institution will offer performances, lectures and courses about St. Petersburg, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor will hold a lecture series, an art show and performances by the Kirov ballet and orchestra.

    St. Petersburg, known as Venice of the North, was founded on May 27, 1703, according to a meticulous urban plan envisioned by Czar Peter the Great. Its palaces, parks and boulevards surround the Neva River and a labyrinth of canals.

    Under the Soviets, it was renamed Leningrad after the Bolshevik leader but got back its historic name after the fall of communism in 1991.

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