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From the Del'vig House to the Gas-Scraper: the fight to preserve St. Petersburg.

I am not the director of a museum but the mayor of a city.

--Valentina Matvienko, mayor of Petersburg

A person who does not love the historical monuments of his country does not love his country.

--Dmitrii Likhachev, activist and scholar of Old Russian literature

On 19 October 1986, demonstrators in Leningrad converged on the home of the Russian poet Anton Del'vig (1798-1831) to protest its imminent destruction. City authorities had decided to remove it to build a new subway station. Though little known abroad, Anton Del 'vig is a much beloved cultural figure in Russia. He stood at the center of a literary circle that included the greatest poet of the era, Aleksandr Pushkin, and was Pushkin's classmate at the famous Tsarskoe Selo Lycee that spawned several writers of Russia's literary Golden Age. Del'vig had lived in the building at 1 Zagorodnyi Prospekt in the heart of the city for little more than a year, from late 1829 until his untimely death in early 1831, but it was there that he founded Russia's most important literary journal, Literaturnaia gazeta, and hosted gatherings of the city's most dazzling writers and thinkers. By some miracle the building had survived the wars and revolutions of the 20th century and become the focus of what would be the first successful mass protest against a government decision in late Soviet times.

Behind the effort stood a group of young historians, archeologists, and journalists who just a month earlier had formed a preservationist organization called the Rescue Squad (Gruppa spaseniia). (1) The initiative for their first action came from a recent graduate of Leningrad University's School of Journalism, Tat'iana Likhanova. While working as a secretary at the Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, she learned of plans to raze Del'vig House and asked the archeologist and writer Sergei Vasil'ev to do something about it. Vasil'ev got together with his friend Aleksei Kovalev, a recent archeology graduate of Leningrad University, and they cofounded the Rescue Squad, mobilized its membership to gather signatures from scholars and found sympathetic journalists who placed stories in newspapers about the threat to the building. A street protest began on the anniversary of the founding in 1811 of theTsarskoe Selo Lycee to remind people of the illustrious writers associated with Del'vig House. Though riskier than a signature campaign, the street action had some official cover, as the organizers had exploited a split, typical of the perestroika era, between the Communist Youth League (Komsomol) in the city and provincial party leaders. So long as a recognized party body "guided" an action, it was considered legal, and the Komsomol decided, against the wishes of higher-ups, to endorse the demonstration and persuaded party leaders at the provincial level not to ban the action and risk provoking a bigger disturbance. As Tat'iana Likhanova, who had since become a prominent journalist specializing in historic preservation, explained to me in 2012, this and later demonstrations also benefited from street theater performances organized by the Petersburg Interior Theater, directed by Nikolai Beliak. For the Del'vig House action, Beliak stationed trumpeters dressed all in white on the roofs of nearby buildings, and they sounded their horns to attract the support of residents and passers-by. An actor appeared on the balcony of the Del'vig House and read a speech by Aleksandr Kunitsyn, a liberal professor of law who had taught at the Tsarskoe Selo Lycee when Pushkin and Del'vig studied there. The demonstrators sang the farewell anthem of the Lycee, written by Del'vig. The protest continued for a month until the local authorities relented and agreed to relocate the subway station. (2)

If this successful action by the Rescue Squad marked a new stage in popular efforts at historic preservation, it was not without precedent. (3) This new generation of activists was building on a revival in the late 1950s of the Russian tradition of local history (kraevedenie), which under a variety of labels had started as early as the late 18th century, steadily expanded in the 19th, and reached a high point in the 1920s. (4) In Petersburg itself, a society for historic preservation had started early in the 20th century in response to the construction of the Singer Sewing Machine (later Dom knigi) and the Eliseev Emporium buildings on Nevskii Prospekt. (5) Another historical society, Staryi Peterburg, was founded in 1921 by Alexander Benois and other prominent artists and architects for the study and preservation of historical landmarks. (6) Unfortunately for the participants in local history societies, communist leaders at the time of the industrialization drive decided that this area of independent civic action was a threat, and in the late 1920s the Party began shuttering societies of local history and culture and arresting their leaders and supporters. (7) When persecution ended after the death of Stalin, it did not take long for interest in historic preservation to reemerge, boosted by the nationalist feelings that accompanied the war. The ensuing "Khrushchev thaw" of the late 1950s and early 1960s facilitated a renewal of activism on behalf of local history and culture. Although Khrushchev himself was no fan of preservation (many churches were destroyed in his antireligion campaign), his fight against the Stalinist old guard opened a space in public discourse to advocate for the protection of national culture. (8) The popularity of works by the Village Prose writers of that era helped. These nationalistic writers brought attention to the sorry state of historic preservation and demanded protection for the emblems of Russia's national heritage. The Palekh master and activist Pavel Korin likewise played a key role in advocating for preservation of Russia's traditional arts and religious landmarks. (9) Societies of local history began to form and engage enthusiasts in the discovery and preservation of their cultural heritage. Interest grew to the point that the Communist Party sought to coopt it by establishing in 1966 the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Monuments of History and Culture (VOOPIiK). (10) This move was initially welcomed by the cultural nationalists and its membership grew rapidly, though VOOPIiK's effectiveness has been questioned. Some have argued that VOOPIiK was quickly packed with compliant bureaucrats and remained politically "impotent." (11) Others, including the journalist Tat Tana Likhanova and a restoration contractor I interviewed in 2012, reported that the VOOPIiK played a useful role by restraining development and insisting on standards of quality in the Soviet period, though less so in the immediate post-Soviet era. (12) Finally, Gorbachev's policy of "openness" (glasnost*) gave new scope to the supporters of historic preservation. In Leningrad, as seen in the Del'vig House protests, the new spirit encouraged preservationists to move beyond the bounds of officially sanctioned organizations like VOOPIiK and act independently. Indeed, if the historic center of the city were to remain unaltered, a new activism was necessary, for the freedom of the perestroika era likewise created lucrative prospects for urban development, first by local officials eager to share in joint enterprise profits and, after 1991, by investors, contractors, and their political allies. People who wanted to preserve the historic look of the city realized that they would have to join together to resist its transformation.

The Rescue Squad's next big action was less successful than the Del'vig House protest in its immediate objective but more so in its ambition of creating an active, enduring civil society movement that could defend the city's heritage against real-estate developers and their political allies. This new action followed the Del'vig House protest by just a few months and was focused on one of the iconic sites of Petersburg, St. Isaac's Square, named for the enormous domed cathedral of St. Isaac (built 1818-58) that stands on its north side. Opposite the cathedral is the Palace of Grand Duchess Maria (built 1839-44), which now houses the city's legislative assembly. On the east side are two famous hotels: the Astoria, built in 1912, the most luxurious in the city during the 20th century; and the much older Hotel Angleterre (known under a variety of names during the Soviet era). The Angleterre first opened in 1840 and hosted many famous visitors, such as the beloved young lyric poet Sergei Esenin, who committed suicide there in 1925 shortly after composing a final poem in his own blood. Eclipsed by the Astoria, the Angleterre was scheduled for demolition, and in early March 1987 a construction fence was thrown up around it. (13) The Rescue Squad, despite its weekly meetings devoted to popular education and review of threatened sites, learned about the Angleterre demolition only at the last minute and had to improvise resistance. At 6 am on 16 March, members of the group, joined by a few protesters from another recently formed civic action association named Outpost (Forpost), linked hands and formed a human chain in front of the site to prevent entry of the demolition machinery and trucks. A call went out to others, and in the next hours hundreds more people showed up to join the original handful, creating the first unsanctioned protest demonstration by a civic organization in Soviet times. The action continued for three days as thousands of demonstrators filled the square and stood vigil day and night. But the Communist Party was not yet ready to cave in to an unsanctioned protest. On the third day, the police drove off the demonstrators, and minutes later the walls of the Angleterre came tumbling down.

Despite the loss of this building in its original form (a modern Hotel Angleterre stands at the site today), the protest action gave powerful impetus to the preservationist movement in the city. It awakened the populace to its threatened heritage and spawned a number of additional organizations committed to cultural preservation--including ERA (which stands for the ecology of ordinary architecture), Angleter, and Peterburg, all of which eventually operated under the aegis of a Council on the Ecology of Culture. The magnitude of the Angleterre protest also prompted special meetings of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Moscow, while the Leningrad Oblast Party Executive Committee decided to review in the future all decisions to raze historical and cultural buildings in the province. The following year, the authorities confirmed new zones of preservation in the historic center of the city. Consequently, a founder of the Rescue Squad, Aleksei Kovalev, was able to claim that his movement exerted a substantial impact on the decision in 1990 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to include the St. Petersburg historic center and associated outlying palace grounds in its list of World Heritage sites. Kovalev reported that the movement also acquired allies within the system who divulged the identity of officials responsible for decisions to destroy heritage objects. By posting this information, he claimed, the Rescue Squad caused the "bureaucratic mafia" no end of headaches. (14)

Soon Kovalev himself entered the political arena and began to play an insider role. After the introduction of multicandidate elections in 1989 Kovalev won a seat on the Leningrad City Council and became active on committees to save the city center. He was even able to maneuver himself into becoming chair of a council office called the Inspectorate for the Preservation of Monuments and for three years managed to command a separate budget for the office to assure its independence from the people it was monitoring. Kovalev reported that this arrangement "evoked the inveterate hatred of Mayor Sobchak, who would tolerate no hindrances to his actions." (15) This was the energetic Anatolii Sobchak, a Leningrad University law professor who played a key role in the birth of Russian democracy. Sobchak strongly supported the Gorbachev reforms and oversaw the drafting of the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation. He also mentored and nurtured the careers of later Russian presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitrii Medvedev. Although Mayor Sobchak was voted out of office in 1996, the new city administration likewise resented the tireless preservationist work of Kovalev and his allies. Subject to a strategy that later became common, Kovalev was charged in 1998 with embezzlement of city funds, a case similar to that later brought against the political dissident Aleksei Naval'nyi. Although Kovalev's case dragged on and led to his brief arrest in 2002, the indictment ultimately failed to stand up on procedural grounds, and Kovalev has been able to continue his work on the city council, to which he has been elected in each successive new two-year term. (16)

A noteworthy casualty of the Angleterre protests in 1987 was an ambitious young Communist Party official, Valentina Matvienko. At that time she was serving in the Leningrad City Executive Council as deputy in the Cultural Affairs Section, which handled preservation questions, and the outcry set off by the demolition of the Angleterre led to Matvienko's dismissal. (17) It did not, however, derail her career. She had well-placed political patrons and was able to move to another career track that 20 years later brought her back to Petersburg in the powerful position of mayor (governor, in the Russian usage). Her partiality to transformative building projects had not changed, and her support for construction in violation of preservationist norms again ignited major protests.

The efforts to save Leningrad's historic appearance were aided by the broader perestroika movement to align the country with international standards, which led in 1988 to the Soviet Union's ratification of the 1972 UN Convention on World Cultural and Natural Heritage (administered by UNESCO). Initially, three sites in Russia received the world heritage designation: the Moscow Kremlin with Red Square, the Kizhi assemblage of Russian wooden architecture on the north shore of Lake Onega, and the Leningrad historic center. In June 1989, the USSR Council of Ministers asked Leningrad authorities to identify the entities that composed the historic center and its extensions, and they responded with a list of 150 sites, including suburban fortresses and palaces. UNESCO accepted the plan in December 1990 and thereby provided an international sanction to which preservationists appealed time and again in the battles that followed. (18)

First, however, they had to make it through the hungry 1990s, when the Russian economy collapsed and civil society organizations, along with the rest of the populace, struggled for survival. Schemes to revive the economy of the city abounded. During Soviet times, Leningrad had been a center of defense industries, but this sector was left: without needed support in a period of national budgetary crisis. Mayor Anatolii Sobchak proposed remaking the city into a financial center for the country, but this gambit had little chance of success: money naturally preferred to headquarter in the political center, Moscow. Another proposal, to strengthen the city (renamed St. Petersburg in a 1991 referendum) as a major port, could work only if the national economy were strong. For their part, preservationists pointed out that an obvious solution--tourism--was staring the authorities in the face. By advertising the special character, beauty, and history of the city, which had recently been bolstered by UNESCO recognition, the city could attract a large number of tourists and conventioneers. This approach would necessitate improvements to the infrastructure of hotels, transport, museums, and parks. Corporate investments in large structures that would damage the historic look of the city would have to be avoided. (19) While the idea of boosting tourism took hold--for example, Mayor Sobchak launched an International Philanthropic Fund for the Rescue of Petersburg, whose board of directors included the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksei II, the eminent scholar Dmitrii Likhachev, and a number of distinguished foreigners--restraining building projects proved more difficult. (20)

When it came to creating new housing and office space, Petersburg at first escaped high-rise structures of the kind that were proliferating in Moscow. The vigilance of the preservation movement and the UNESCO world heritage designation of the historic center tempered impulses in this direction. And, as noted, Petersburg initially lacked the big money interests that had converged on Moscow. But as the economy picked up after the collapse of the ruble in 1998 (which made domestic products more competitive) and world oil prices began a rapid ascent, demand for new office space, hotels, and elite housing in Petersburg grew, and developers were eager to satisfy this demand. It was not long before new structures began to disturb what preservationists regarded as the harmony of the existing built environment. One of the first appeared in a prominent spot with little warning. Once again St. Isaac's Square was affected. A contractor received permission to build a luxury hotel, the Hotel Renaissance, close to the west side of the square. A well-known architect designed a structure that would maintain the look and size of the historic ensemble, whose structures were mostly five stories in height. But the contractor decided that the look was not as impressive as desired and topped off the hotel with a large steel and glass dome. This shiny protrusion above the low skyline was easily visible from the square defined by the dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral. The contractor had made the change without the required approval of either the architect or the Committee on State Control, Implementation, and Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments.21

Hotel Renaissance was but one of many breaches of the height limit on buildings in the historic center, a limit that had first been enacted in the early 19th century and observed for many decades afterward.22 Now, however, contractors and their allies in the city bureaucracy were routinely ignoring the rule or granting variances that resulted in a proliferation of structures that threatened to ruin the baroque charm that drew tourists to the city. As tall steel and glass buildings started to go up in the early 2000s along the Pirogovskaia Embankment on the northeast edge of the city center, defenders of the city's cultural heritage realized that their top priority had to be reassertion of the height restriction. In the historic center the limit was then 32 meters.

Investors and builders had methods of their own to get around preservation laws. When builders wished to remove a historically recognized property, they would begin by asking their allies in local government to condemn the building as unfit for habitation and schedule it for demolition. This is what happened in the case of the Hotel Angleterre. If this option were blocked, investors would obtain permission to renovate the structure with a commitment to maintain the building's external and internal features. The "renovation" would, however, begin with removal of the roof, at which point the builder would find an excuse to delay further efforts until the weather so degraded the structure that it had to be condemned and removed. Arson was a method of last resort. (23)

Small cleared areas left over from structures bombed out during the war also furnished sites of contention, attractive to investors who looked for alternative building sites. Here they faced resistance of another kind. Residents of the neighborhoods in which such cleared areas existed had over time turned these spaces into pocket parks and come to cherish them as places of relaxation, social interaction and greenery. When officials offered the sites to developers, local residents organized to defend their parks from takeovers. These neighborhood organizations then added foot soldiers to the larger preservationist cause. (24)

A particularly bitter conflict erupted in 2003 over the sudden revival of a plan for a Stock Exchange Business Center on Vasilevskii Island. This project had been on the drawing boards since the mid-1990s, first approved by Mayor Sobchak in his effort to make the city into a financial center. But problems in assembling and holding investors delayed the effort again and again. Finally, the plan got off the ground soon after the election in 2003 of Valentina Matvienko as mayor. After losing her job in the cultural bureaucracy of the city at the time of the Angleterre protests, Matvienko had retooled by attending an institute for training diplomats. She spent the 1990s in the diplomatic service, where she quickly rose to the posts of ambassador to Malta (1991-95) and then to Greece (1997-98). An enthusiastic supporter of Vladimir Putin's presidential run in 2000, Matvienko was repaid by appointment in 2003 as presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, which included Petersburg. Soon after, Putin eased her into the post of mayor of Petersburg by summoning the current mayor, Vladimir Iakovlev, to Moscow to serve as deputy prime minister and then publicly supporting Matvienko's mayoral run in the special election to replace Iakovlev. Three years later, Putin was able simply to appoint Matvienko to a second term, thanks to new laws making heads of provincial administration subject to presidential appointment.

Matvienko was not a native Feningrader. Born in Ukraine, she became a Komsomol activist in school and went on to university studies in Leningrad, where she became a Komsomol leader. After finishing her degree, she stayed in the city and moved up the ranks of the Party rapidly, becoming at age 35 the first secretary of the Krasnogvardeiskii District Communist Party from 1984 to 1986. On her return to the city as mayor in 2003 Matvienko arrived with an ambitious agenda for economic development, relying on the help of her powerful patrons, the "Moscow Petersburgers," who headed the federal government. During her tenure as mayor, Matvienko increased the city budget fivefold, facilitated the construction of automobile factories, and attracted large inflows of foreign investment capital. These and other successes in the economic realm did not, however, compensate for what many citizens and journalists considered her political blunders. (25) Her first term started out on a poor footing when she right away had her opponent, Anna Makarova, indicted for slander. Another of Matvienko's early acts was to clear commercial kiosks from the city center, despite her claims to be a champion of small business. Her efficiency led people to complain about not being able to buy cigarettes, or anything else except expensive souvenirs. (26) What finally mobilized large segments of the population in opposition, however, was her determination to transform the city into a dynamic center of economic development with what her opponents thought was little regard for its unique architectural legacy. She razed a large number of historical buildings, including the barracks of the Artillery Horse Guards on Valenskii Lane, the Assay Office on Griboedov Canal, the Artillery Life-Guard Brigade building on Korolenko Street, and the rectory of St. Isaac's Cathedral on Galernaia Street, along with other structures under state protection. (27) While these demolitions angered citizens interested in preservation, even more disturbing was the mayor's promotion of new construction that clashed with the historic center's style and low profile. (28)

The Stock Exchange Business Center on Vasilevskii Island was one of a number of big projects that the ambitious Matvienko threw her support behind. In this case, the building complex had been approved for 16 stories, which was already well over the 48-meter limit adopted for the property by the city council in 2004, yet somehow the structure ended up at 18 stories. Even though the business center stood 4 kilometers from the city's iconic Strelka promontory and commodity exchange square on the Neva River, it loomed over this picture postcard scene. Preservationists were outraged and mounted a major campaign against the center's violation of the height limit. (29) Although officials tried to deflect the protest with claims that the project was approved before the law went into effect, experts working for the preservationists showed these claims to be based on falsified evidence. After extended protests, the city authorities finally conceded and agreed to ask the contractor to remove the top two stories and a protruding turret, at a cost of 6 million dollars to the developer. This still left the structure at 63 meters, well over the new 48-meter limit and nearly twice the 32-meter limit in force when the structure was originally approved, but it reduced the damage to views of the Strelka and--an important point--scored a partial victory for the advocates of historical and cultural preservation. (30)

Another breach of the height limit appeared in a plan to build luxury apartments on Moskovskii Prospekt, the main thoroughfare running south through the city. The buildings on the southern reaches of the street--briefly named Stalin Prospekt in the 1950s--were designed after World War II in the Stalinist neoclassical style. These were not unusually high and did not dominate the skyline like the wedding cake structures of Moscow, while buildings on the thoroughfare closer to the center dated from an earlier period. Included among them are the beautiful Resurrection Convent and its accompanying church and graveyard--federally protected cultural zones where many famous scholars, writers, and artists, plus heroes of the battles against Napoleon in 1812, are interred. It was here, next to the convent and cemetery, that the construction firm LEK decided to erect an apartment complex known as the Imperial, composed of four towers 73 meters high. News of LEK's plans sparked protests from residents of the neighborhood, who were soon joined by the city's preservationist societies. One of these was the International Philanthropic Fund for the Rescue of Petersburg, the organization founded by Mayor Sobchak in 1991. The general director, Aleksandr Margolis, a historian and later chairman of Petersburg VOOPIiK, declared that the "Imperial would be visible from other parts of the city and dominate the area vertically as it would the [Resurrection] convent on Moskovskii Prospekt. If the complex is built everything will be oriented toward its towers. Any such barbarous vertical structure alters the look of the city, and this one will also do that." The chair of the Union of Architects Committee on Heritage, Dmitrii Butyrin, stated that the "Imperial was only a small part of the architectural catastrophe afflicting Moskovskii Prospekt, which following the center was being turned into a tasty morsel for construction companies," adding that the thoroughfare had been included in the protected sections of the city and should therefore be subject to the rules on cultural landmarks. "Otherwise, it will be plundered!" (31)

LEK not only ignored these protests in beginning to build the towers but also went beyond its permitted activity, and the city eventually threatened LEK with fines if it did not halt construction. (32) Only when the city actually levied a million-ruble fine, however, did the company halt construction for a time, while it nevertheless continued to advertise and sell the apartments planned at the Imperial. The fix was obviously in, and the contractors knew it. They were working with their friends in the city administration to obtain permission for towers of 70 meters (again, a supposed compromise). In the meantime, the city council passed a new law, no longer a temporary regulation, on construction and land use, which included regulations on the height of all new buildings. But somehow one hitch after another delayed the mayor's signature. This or that detail had to be worked on. Then, to no one's surprise, a few days before the mayor signed the law into effect, LEK received permission to proceed with the luxury apartment complex at the 70m height. (33)

Why was it so difficult to maintain the look of the historic center when arguments of national identity and pride, plus the UNESCO designation and a profitable tourist business, all spoke in favor of doing so? The explanation lies in the nexus of investor profits, exploitable legal loopholes, and bureaucratic corruption. Any major building project in the city--whether for infrastructure, housing, or offices--required a number of approvals by government officials. Officials almost invariably expected a payoff, in some cases a large payoff. The payments came in a variety of forms, for which a new vocabulary had emerged. The customary term for bribe, vziatka, had fallen out of favor. Now people spoke of otkat, best translated as "kickback," and a few associated terms such as raspil, referring to a saw cut, and zanos, which is something carried away. So, in any government project, including those financed in partnership with private funders, portions of the budget could be "sawn off' and "carried away" to the officials in charge of approving or managing the work. On contracts offered to builders the term otkat was most often used. (34) Depending on the type and location of a project, the kickbacks could amount to 30-50 percent of the cost. Some observers stated that kickbacks ran as high as 70 percent or more, though such claims are hard to pin down. Such high transaction costs would drive away investors, were officials not in a position to arrange matters so that they could take their cut while giving investors and contractors an opportunity to profit from their enterprise. Aleksei Kovalev, a founder of the Rescue Squad, explained how this was done. The officials who approved the release of a building site to a contractor, he pointed out, did so for far less than the sites were worth: "The officials are not fools. They know the value of a structure placed at that location and therefore the true value of the land. If they were honest, they would charge the contractor the market rate and transfer that sum to the city budget." But that's not how it worked. The officials expected to get a portion of the income that the property would generate. The construction firm got the land at bargain basement prices and then had to "saw off' large chunks of money from its investors to pay kickbacks to the officials. The contractors therefore ended up building not what they initially planned but a structure that would allow investors to make up the cost of the kickbacks and then some. The investors pressured the builder to scrap any architectural details that would enhance the historic look of the building and add to the cost of construction. (35) Most of all, investors avoided adherence to limits on height so that they could add as many apartment or office units as possible to the building. Consequently, the preservationists realized that the fight to preserve the city's historic integrity had to focus first of all on enforcement of height limits.

After their many and partially successful battles to define and enforce height limits on buildings preservationists were shocked to learn in 2006 that the giant energy company Gazprom had decided to "help" St. Petersburg by headquartering its subsidiary, Gazpromneft', an oil company, there and to house it in a tower that would provide a new architectural focal point for the city. Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller announced his intention to build a large business center called Gazprom City and to cap it with a needle tower stretching at least 300 meters into the sky. To make matters worse for those concerned about historic preservation, Miller planned to site the business complex just behind the exquisite 18th-century Smolnyi Convent and Cathedral and on top of the ruins of the Swedish fortress Nyenskans (Russian: Nienshants) that had guarded the delta of the Neva River until Peter the Great subdued it and began the construction of Petersburg. In an effort to gain public support Gazprom sweetened the deal with an offer to build a new stadium for the local soccer team, Zenith.

Mayor Matvienko immediately got out in front of the effort. She pointed out that the project would bring needed tax revenues and revitalize a depressed area of the city, the Okhta industrial region. (36) Gazprom CEO Miller was effusive about the positive transformation that the new complex would symbolize. It would create a dominant architectural feature that affirmed Petersburg as the country's new energy capital. The building, he added, would resonate (pereklikat 'sia) perfectly with the other famous landmarks of the city. (37)

Gazprom announced an international competition for design of the business center and recruited famous foreign architects to serve on the jury, including Kisho Kurokawa from Japan, who had already been chosen to design the new Zenith soccer stadium, Rafael Vinoly from the United States, and Norman Foster from England. Co-chairs of the judging committee were Matvienko and Miller. On 1 December 2006, they declared the winner to be a British firm, RMJM London Ltd. The chief architect, Filipp Nikandrov, was a graduate of the Leningrad Civil Engineering Institute who now worked in England, and the design featured a tower that would compete with the highest in the world. Yet it soon became known that Kurokawa, Vinoly, and Foster had quit the jury for the competition in protest because Gazprom and its allies on the city administration had ignored their opinions about the need to restrict the height of structures in the historic center. On 26 November 2006, the three architects had sent a letter to Mayor Matvienko and to the general director of Gazpromneft'invest, Nikolai Tanaev, expressing their fears that a large tower might mar the "silhouette of such a beautiful historic city" and declaring that "we cannot support the competition and regard the construction of a tower of such size as the wrong choice for that property." (38) Kurokawa explained in an interview at the time that he had presented Aleksei Miller with a memo to this effect, noting that at a bit of a distance from the center planners could permit buildings of 50-100 meters high and then gradually as they moved farther out heights could be increased. Miller replied that, before the arrival of the foreign specialists on the jury, members of the committee had whittled down the competition to five projects, all of which proposed towers of at least 300 meters, some even of 400 meters. (39)

When the results of the competition became known, people began to speak out, polls were taken, and committees were formed to discuss the merits of the project. As plans for the tower became better known, experts and the public began to voice opposition and to question the necessity of such a giant structure. The tower designed by Nikandrov was intended to simulate a tongue of flaming gas. Critics asked what that had to do with Petersburg, which had never been a producer of natural gas. More derisively, some claimed that it resembled an ear of corn or a dildo. More popularly, it became known as the "gas-scraper" (gazoskreb), exchanging "sky" for "gas" in the Russian word for skyscraper (neboskreb), (40)

A frequent specter at the protests and meetings was a man who had been dead for several years, the beloved literary scholar and Petersburg native Dmitrii Likhachev. He was respected not just for his important writings on Russian literature and language but also for his persecution during Stalin's time and his independence of mind: Likhachev refused requests of the Communist Party to sign letters of condemnation of the famous dissidents Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. He was first arrested in 1928 for anti-Soviet activities and spent the next years in prison and exile in the Russian Far North. During World War II, he and his family were caught in the siege of Leningrad and survived thanks only to another exile, this time to the city of Kazan, 500 miles east of Moscow. After Stalin's death, Likhachev took on a more public role as a defender of Russian historical monuments and culture. He started a movement to preserve the wooden churches of northern Russia and led efforts to protect library and archival materials. He helped establish museums in the homes of famous writers and spoke insistently and cogently of the need to preserve the historical look of Russian urban centers. In 1996, Likhachev had reached his 90th birthday and was the best-known and most admired literary scholar in Russia. He was also thought of as the spiritual father of Petersburg. Active and influential in the protests against the oversized Stock Exchange Business Center on Vasilevskii Island, he died in 1999 and did not live to participate in the Gazprom tower controversy. Even so, the great respect that Petersburgers and educated Russians everywhere held for him made invocations of his words and memory an effective tool in the protest meetings and letters opposing the project. Likhachev's comment on the Stock Exchange Center was particularly apt and often quoted: "If we love our city, we should preserve its look, which was to a significant degree created at its founding by Peter the Great. Above all, we should not build high buildings." In response to Matvienko and her allies, who contended that the city needed a new architecture to reflect modern times, he stressed that Petersburg did not need to be remade:
   If we want Petersburg to remain the city that has developed on the
   basis of Peter's design, we should not radically alter its
   conception. The city has its "genetic code" established by Peter,
   namely, horizontal construction. Horizontals dominate and create
   the beauty of our city. The steeples of churches and the Admiralty
   spire that rise above the horizontal lines bear a specific
   ideological meaning. St. Isaac's Cathedral, as the highest
   building, at least so far, signifies the primacy of the spiritual.
   Why should the [Stock Exchange] business center be higher than St.
   Isaac's? What would that signify? After all, architecture cannot be
   merely imposing [znachitel 'nyi], it must also be meaningful
   [znachimyi]. In the 19th century, the era of capitalism, the banks
   were not built higher than the churches. Why should they be the
   highest in the city today? (41)

By June 2007, when the Petersburg Architectural Committee met to discuss the Gazprom tower project, the sponsors had already renamed it the Okhta Center, evidently to stress its importance for revitalizing that section of the city and to remove the label of a powerful corporation associated with Kremlin insiders. At this time the height of the proposed tower had grown to 396 meters. One by one, the committee members spoke out against the project. Although none questioned the need to develop Okhta, they advised construction of a more appropriately sized building there. The critics argued that the tower merely indicated desire to show off and that Gazprom could express its vaulting ambition at other sites, outside the city, without destroying the historic appearance of Petersburg. The president of the Petersburg Union of Architects, Vladimir Popov, pointed out that public discussions showed that people throughout Russia were opposed to the skyscraper, even if it were not directly in their view. He reminded them of Likhachev's comment opposing another project farther up the Neva River. Likhachev had said that people feel their city with their spines. They feel the disharmony produced by such buildings, whether or not they can see them. To the objection by the proponents of the tower that each new generation should mark the landscape with its own special contribution, Popov replied that refraining from wrecking the city would be contribution enough. (42)

The meeting of the Architectural Committee ended with a vote in which the majority of architects opposed the construction of a 400m tower. Yet less than an hour later, the Gazpromneft' Press Office announced that the committee had approved the idea for the Okhta Center tower. The chief architect of the city, Aleksandr Viktorov, had signed a decision to that effect on behalf of the Architectural Committee. The authorities reminded opponents of the project that the committee's role was merely consultative. The chief architect had the final say. (43) Chief Architect Viktorov, an appointee of the mayor, was not foolish enough to oppose her commitment to the Gazprom project.

The public response was led initially by a new organization for cultural preservation, Living City (Zhivoi go rod), formed in 2006 as a successor of the Rescue Squad by three women in their mid-20s: Elizaveta Nikonova, an architect; Elena Minchenok, a translator; and Iuliia Minutina, a literature teacher. Minutina acted as the principal coordinator. (44) One of its first public events was a theatricalized performance at an exhibition of the Okhta Center project held at the Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. Living City used a UNESCO conference held in Petersburg in early 2007 to raise awareness about the project and the destruction of buildings in the city center. Through demonstrations, public forums, picketing, letter-writing campaigns, and efforts to disrupt public hearings, its activists aimed to gain the attention of the media and mobilize public opinion. (45) The political party Yabloko and preservationist groups filed a judicial suit on height limits; prominent artists and intellectuals wrote letters; yet none of these efforts seemed to shake the commitment of Gazpromneft' and its allies to their skyscraper. The protests nevertheless affected the tactics of the project's promoters. While their intention remained fixed on a 400m tower, their glitzy public relations campaign shifted its arguments in an effort to placate the growing public opposition. At first, they spoke of creating a new defining feature for the city that would mark its revitalization and emergence as a dynamic, 21st-century urban center. At least once every century, they contended, a need arose to denote a new era, and the time had come "to construct a new dominating feature whose scale would symbolize not merely the Gazprom century but also the ambitions of Russia and the current state of Russian society and arts." (46) When this approach ignited cries of horror and loss, the authors of the project began to speak of the ethereal nature of the tower. It would be a delicately crafted glass structure, spiraled in ways that made it virtually transparent. The design and high-quality glass of the skyscraper would allow it seemingly to dissolve into the air. It soon became clear that the proponents, confident of the support of the political leaders, had no interest in modifying the design to accommodate its critics. Nikandrov, the winning architect, even sneered at the idea of Petersburg's unique low skyline. When challenged on this point, he replied: "What is this skyline? Besides church crosses and angels, the sky of Petersburg is littered with antennas, smoke stacks, and water towers." (47)

The conflict was bitter in large part because Matvienko and her allies in the city administration and business community saw their task as development that would avoid the costs of maintaining the historic look of the built environment. As the mayor said more than once, she did not sign up to be the director of a museum, and it was impossible to live in a museum. The city needed to grow. And as she told the City Council on 23 April 2008, she did not need a bunch of "bawling" preservationists to alert her to the importance of the historic look of the city. In her view, the critics were inventing reasons for civic unrest among otherwise satisfied citizens who supported her efforts to improve the city. Her opponents pointed out that respected intellectual and artistic leaders like the writer Daniil Granin, the filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov, the famous actor Oleg Bailashvili, the director of the Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovskii, and many other well-known cultural figures hardly fit the description of "bawling" critics. They were not, they stressed, asking that development be halted but that it be achieved with a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer. It was fine to renovate historic structures and bring them up to the technical standards of the day, they agreed, but it should be done while preserving the harmony of the inherited ensembles. (48)

Promoters of the Okhta Center project had another hurdle to clear. The site chosen for the tower building was a promontory of the Neva River that enjoyed state protection as a cultural monument, and therefore any new construction had to be preceded by archeological investigations and be approved by cultural authorities. The site had been examined in the 1990s and again from 2006 to 2009 by a team of researchers led by Petr Sorokin, a senior specialist at the Institute of the History of Material Culture of the Academy of Sciences. The team found that the site contained ruins of great historical interest. In addition to the Swedish fortress Nyenskans, they found the remains of Neolithic encampments, an early Russian fortification, and the Swedish medieval fortress Landskrona. (49) Following the latest archeological approaches, Sorokin's team examined and plotted the remains found in their digs and then left them in place, preserving as much of the landscape as possible. Sorokin wanted to bring the entire site under stricter government protection, a goal that did not interest Gazprom and its allies in the city administration. They took the approach, typical of many developers, that a sampling of archeological objects should be dug up and placed in storage or a museum, after which construction could proceed unimpeded. Accordingly, at the end of 2009 the Okhta Center hired a different archeologist, Natal'ia Solov'eva, a specialist on the Neolithic era in Turkmenistan and not on north Russian archeology. This transparently manipulative choice created a split within the archeological community between specialists who adhered to principles of cultural preservation and those willing to do Gazprom's bidding. The dispute became heated in early 2011, when scholars learned that Solov'eva had emptied the site of precious artifacts. Oleg Ioannisian, head of the Hermitage archeological department, reported that while "Sorokin had preserved objects in the cultural layer such as trenches, walls, fortress bastions, of Nienshants and Landskrona, Solov'eva had for all intents and purposes dug up and hauled away these objects." The site had been closed off, Ioannisian complained, meaning that he and his colleagues did not learn of this destruction until it was too late. In view of the fact that the promontory lay within the area of UNESCO protection as a world heritage site, scholars turned to a government-sponsored ombudsman organization, the Civic Chamber (Obshchestvennaia palata), which urged the authorities to review what had happened on the site. But the damage had been done. When the news reached wider scholarly circles in January 2010, a large number of leading specialists and heads of Academy of Sciences institutes wrote in protest to the federal Minister of Culture Aleksandr Avdeev. (50)

By this time, however, the fate of the project was being decided elsewhere. Fears that UNESCO might exclude Petersburg from its list of world heritage sites, a drumbeat of court cases against the breach of height limits, and the continuing protests by preservationists and their citizen allies had convinced authorities in Moscow to back off. (51) In December 2010, Valentina Matvienko announced that the Okhta Center did not necessarily have to be sited on the Neva River behind the Smolnyi complex. The Petersburg city administration, in cooperation with Gazprom, she reported, had made a decision to relocate the tower project. The mayor subsequently announced that the tower and office complex would be built northwest of the city in the suburb Lakhta, located along the Gulf of Finland. Matvienko added that in view of the extensive archeological work completed by Gazprom at the original site in Okhta, that location would be available for development of another Gazprom project.

It is not clear when and where the decision to relocate the tower complex was made. A Petersburg City Council deputy for the liberal Yabloko Party, Boris Vishnevskii, a supporter of historical preservation, told me in 2014 that the tipping point was probably sometime near the end of 2009, when it became obvious that the protests were not going to stop, despite enormous propaganda efforts by Gazprom and the city administration. (52) He pointed out that Dmitrii Medvedev, then president of the Russian Federation, was being questioned on his visits to foreign countries about the Gazprom tower project and the damage it would do to Petersburg. Some other preservationists thought that the decisive moment came in October 2010, when the wellknown filmmaker and historic preservation activist for several years, Aleksandr Sokurov, confronted Matvienko at an awards ceremony for a newly created Skyline Prize to honor persons who spared no effort to preserve the historical legacy of the city. The name for the prize was taken from Dmitrii Likhachev's often-repeated admonition to save the city skyline. Sokurov and the other two laureates honored at this first round of awards were cultural leaders selected not by the city government or its approved stand-ins but by a ballot of the people of Petersburg. Valentina Matvienko attended and was treated to an earful of criticism from prominent members of the city's intelligentsia. Aleksandr Kononov, deputy director of the Petersburg office of the All-Russian Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, told me that Sokurov turned his acceptance speech into an insistence that Matvienko finally start direct and honest negotiations with representatives of civic societies. (53) The journalist Tat Tana Likhanova likewise mentioned this in my 2012 interview as a key turning point: "The filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov proposed that it was high time they put an end to open confrontation and to start to engage in negotiations to consider problems. Matvienko then agreed to meet us halfway. This led to the creation of a group of negotiators, headed by Sokurov and including the folks [rebiata] from the Living City movement and the Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments. They began to work very closely with special committees of 'Smolnyi'--the city administration."

The activists and their political allies, like Vishnevskii, naturally interpreted their protests and refusal to crack in the face of the city administration's and Gazprom's barrage of positive publicity for the tower project as the key to blocking its construction near the historic center. But given the structure of power in Russia, the decisive break most likely came from Moscow. Signs of the shifting winds were appearing as early as May 2010 after the UNESCO Committee on World Heritage Sites raised concerns about the project. A news bulletin at the time mentioned that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had reported to President Medvedev that the UNESCO committee asked that the tower project be halted and consideration be given to alternative choices for its height. (54) The authorities in Petersburg seemed at first to ignore this hint and even a second one from the federal minister of culture, Aleksandr Avdeev, who declared that the variance granted by the Petersburg administration for the tower should be "reconsidered and annulled." "The decision," he continued, "was made in blatant disregard of federal legislation." (55) Even so, nothing changed in the city administration's attitude, at least outwardly. Indeed, the chief architect on the project, Nikandrov, though worried, said that he hoped to convince UNESCO of the soundness and creativity of the project. (56)

But as Valerii Zavorotnyi, author of a book on the preservationist movement, noted, the Petersburg bureaucrats had a delicate feel for any breezes wafting their way from Moscow, and they began to understand that Moscow's support for the project seemed to be dissolving. (57) By the fall of 2010, this became undeniable: in early October, President Medvedev held a wide-ranging discussion with rock musicians at the Moscow cafe Rhythm & Blues. Asked about the Okhta Center tower, Medvedev said that he was aware of the heated opinions swirling about the project, and he offered an opinion: "It is extremely important that Piter [Petersburg] have some new centers of development and new architectural centerpieces or, if you will, a new downtown. But do you have to do that right next to Smolnyi? That's a big question, a very big question. Off the top of my head I can suggest a dozen other places that would be enhanced by that tower." (58) A short time later, the Skyline prize ceremony took place, after which Matvienko agreed to negotiate with opponents.

This defeat weakened Matvienko's authority in Petersburg, and her protectors in Moscow arranged a dignified exit. In August 2011, she resigned from her mayoral post and a month later was elected chair of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, in Moscow. The newly appointed mayor, Sergei Poltavchenko, was a former KGB agent and during much of the Putin-Medvedev rule served as presidential plenipotentiary in the Central Federal Region. Poltavchenko started off by clamping down on the unchecked bribery characteristic of the previous era. Tat'iana Likhanova told me that business people were actually complaining that "we can't take our bribes there." They had been able to get their permits quickly this way. "Before, we would bring our money, and [the officials] would sign off on our agreements," Likhanova reported them as saying. "But now they refuse our inducements."

These complaints ring a bit hollow in view of continuing evidence of insider influence. A Petersburg cultural official gave me a stunning account in 2012 of the multiples that kickbacks added to his and his colleagues' meager salaries, joking when I asked him about the problems of earning a living that "the verb to earn' in Russian is a synonym for the verb 'to steal.'" (59)

The struggle of the preservationists continues. The defeat of the Gazprom tower project and agreement of the authorities to consult with their critics began what people now refer to as a period of dialogue. Aleksandr Kononov explained in our recent interview that it had produced much better results than demonstrations and picketing, because civic organizations like his Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments had teams of experts who could argue with the city government and contractors on the basis of hard data and analysis. For a venerable organization like Kononov's, it is clear, the negotiating table was more comfortable than street protests. (60) Likhanova, the journalist covering the protest groups, was less sanguine about the prospects of cooperation, although she agreed that they had achieved a few successes among their continuing losses. Kononov, too, admitted that dialogue could be challenging because of pressure from powerful lobbies. Even so, he stated, after the government agreed to dialogue, law-abiding business people started to participate in the process. They saw some advantages in negotiating with civic organizations, because willingness to compromise helped avoid protests and delays in their building projects. "But, of course, there are unfortunately other businesses," Kononov explained, "some of which are very aggressive.... Their attitude is: what do you mean 'the law'?! These include very many business people with connections to highly placed figures in the administration, and they naturally feel different and don't care to do any research [on the historic background of sites] or make compromises, although occasionally they do have to make a few concessions." "So, this is the world of kickbacks?" I asked. "Yes, unfortunately, it is altogether obvious that's what it is." "And this is what happened in the case of the Imperial apartment and office complex?" "Yes, there have been, sadly, a number of such buildings that have very markedly disfigured the city's landscape."

When I asked the city councilman Boris Vishnevskii what level of cooperation existed between the preservationists and the political parties, he replied that this was not a big part of what political parties did, although some individual council members like him and Aleksei Kovalev were active in the preservationist movement. His own party, Yabloko, and a couple of others tried to be helpful legislatively when they could and supported court challenges to variances on height limits and other breaches of preservationist norms. By contrast, the governing party of United Russia and its parasitical sidekick, the Liberal Democratic Party (led nationally by Vladimir Zhirinovskii), could not be counted on to support cultural preservation because doing so would displease key party constituents.

Vishnevskii emphasized dialogue with builders more than with the government. I asked if dialogue could realistically reconcile the aims of cultural preservationists and the commercial interests of developers. "Yes, of course," Vishnevskii answered. "Here is what I always say to developers.... I say, let's stick with the law. The law is, after all, an instrument for achieving compromise and cooperation.... If what you want to do conforms to the law..., then I will explain to the citizens that your demands are legitimate." He went on to say, however, that this rarely happened. "In the overwhelming majority of conflicted cases the ambitions of the developers fail in some respects to conform to the law. I then urge them to change their plans ... and the path to achieving such a compromise and cooperation is primarily dialogue. Dialogue is absolutely essential. There can't just be demonstrations, picketing, protests, and the like. It is necessary to meet together." "And you have gotten results with this approach?" I asked. "Yes, in not a few cases we have seen positive results. We have succeeded in organizing such a dialogue and reached some solutions by way of convincing a developer to amend his plans."

While it is well and good to talk about following the law, a question remains about the courts' ability to enforce the law. I asked if the rule of law could be counted on in Russia. Vishnevskii answered: "You couldn't call Russia today a state governed by the rule of law. But practice shows that if you intelligently compose a judicial claim and intelligently base it on the law, you can achieve impartial judicial decisions. We won the last court case against the Okhta Center--that is, Yabloko together with other preservation activists did--and we managed ... to overturn decisions that allowed a tower 400 meters high on the Okhta promontory." Then he mentioned a more recent case: "Today, for example, defenders of buildings at Shpalernaia Street no. 51 have with my support won more than one court case and prevented the demolition of two historic buildings there. (61) And there are other examples. Of course, the courts very often do decide for the authorities, but not in every case. And if we fight back, if we intelligently compose our lawsuits... and insist on our rights, we can achieve results. In short, we can win judgments in court. It is difficult, but it happens."

Aleksandr Kononov, too, described the current situation hopefully:
   Here matters changed greatly after the change of administration in
   recent years. Under the previous [Matvienko] administration we
   really had no possibility of winning a court case against our
   officials. The best we could do would be to obtain certain
   documents in the course of the legal proceedings and present our
   take on public opinion, or in any case to fight back and insist on
   our views. To win would have been almost unthinkable. In the last
   five years, however, the situation has softened a lot, and now we
   can count quite a few successes. This demonstrates that the legal
   system is after all not totally subordinated to the government's
   power. There are honest judges who really try to examine cases and,
   in spite of the interests of the government and big business, act
   in accordance with the law, strictly within the bounds of the law.

Even so, he confessed, "many problems remain in the judicial system, and conditions are far from ideal."

Despite some positive steps under the Poltavchenko administration, the new mayor also came with an agenda of his own. A religious man, he preferred to see efforts toward restoration focused on rebuilding all the destroyed churches in the city, Likhanova reported. But what is the point, she asked, of rebuilding a church that was destroyed in the 1930s? It will be a plaster cast done with today's materials and not by skilled artisans of the kind that built the original: "So, it will be a kind of souvenir, a fake." She offered the example of the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, which was rebuilt on the cheap with frescos done as decals rather than with proper methods. Her primary concern went to the many authentic architectural monuments that are in poor condition and need merely to be restored, not rebuilt. They should come first. In short, with Mayor Poltavchenko the struggle of the preservationists continues on somewhat new ground. The pressure from real estate developers also continues, while the position of civic organizations becomes daily more precarious. In particular, those that receive foreign assistance are steadily being threatened and closed down under the 2012 law that requires that they register as foreign agents.

In this connection, finally, I asked Likhanova about the growing anti-Americanism in Russia and the government's effort to tar independent civic groups with the brush of foreign influence. She allowed that Russians were fearful of the larger forces of world capitalism and its homogenization of culture. Like people elsewhere, Russians worried about losing their cultural heritage, their sense of authenticity, but this was not connected so much to America as to the larger processes of globalization: "I can say that if, for instance, we talk about the look of Petersburg, our business people behave no better than outsiders. The construction projects here are run for the most part by our own people." She seemed to take a page from Anton Chekhov's novella The Peasants, in which at the end Chekhov asks who it is that afflicts the peasantry with cheap vodka, arson, graft, and embezzlement of communal and school monies--and answers that it is other peasants. They oppress and cheat their own neighbors. "I don't know of a single American construction project in Petersburg," Likhanova declared. "These real estate developments are not done by Americans. It is we who are doing them. That's altogether obvious. Look at all the buildings that our authorities now admit to having been urban planning blunders. These were done by our compatriots. It's not as if someone came down from Mars or from America. Our own officials signed off on them. And our developers built them."

(1) Its full name was Gruppa spaseniia pamiatnikov arkhitektury. See Aleksandr Sungurov, Grazhdanskoe obshchestvo i ego razvitie v Rossii (St. Petersburg: Higher School of Economics,

2007), 34 (; unless noted otherwise, site addresses accessed 9 March 2016).

(2) For a survey of the struggles beginning in the late 1980s I have been guided by Valerii Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg (St. Petersburg: Norma, 2011). Information on this incident and some others in this essay is based in pan on a lengthy interview, conducted at the offices of the Regional Press Institute in Petersburg on 7 June 2012 with Tat'iana Ivanovna Likhanova, a correspondent for Novaia gazeta, and subsequent communications with her. I want to thank Anna Arkad'evna Sharogradskaia, director of the institute, for arranging the interview and allowing us the use of her offices. Other interviews that inform the essay took place in 2012 and 2014 with a Petersburg cultural official whose name is withheld for his protection, with a building contractor in Sergiev Posad, and in 2014 with Petersburg City Council member Boris Lazarevich Vishnevskij and with the director of a preservationist organization, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Kononov. See notes on specifics where the interviews are first quoted.

(3) But see the remarks on the great departure the Rescue Squads actions represented from earlier efforts in Sungurov, Grazhdanskoe obshchestvo, 34.

(4) Emily D. Johnson, How St. Petersburg Learned to Study Itself: The Russian Idea of Kraevedenie (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 163-65.

(5) Steven Maddox, "These Monuments Must Be Protected! The Stalinist Turn to the Past and Historic Preservation during the Blockade of Leningrad," Russian Review 70, 4 (2011): 610.

(6) Sankt-Peterburg: Entsiklopediia ( 76&lc=ru, accessed 27 April 2015). The society was closed down in 1938. Also see Katerina Clark, Petersburg: Crucible of Cultural Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 58-65. A summary of preservation efforts before World War II can be found in Steven Maddox, Saving Stalins Imperial City: Historic Preservation in Leningrad, 1930-1950 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015), chap. 1.

(7) I. A. Avduevskaia, "Kraevedenie: Vvedenie," ed. M. A. Kasatkina (Vladivostokskii gosudarstvennyi universitet ekonomiki i servisa, pageOOOl.asp, accessed 21 April 2015); Johnson, How St. Petersburg Learned, 172-75. Further comment and detail in Clark, Petersburg: Crucible of Cultural Revolution, 58-65.

(8) By 1957, thousands of letters were being sent to newspapers, calling for protection of cultural landmarks. See John Patrick Farrell, "If These Stories Could Only Speak: Historical and Cultural Preservation in a Soviet Context, 1955-1966" (PhD diss., University of California, Davis, 2004), esp. chaps. 3 and 5. Farrell focuses primarily on the administrative response prompted by the awakening public interest.

(9) Andrew L. Jenks, Russia in a Box: Art and Identity in an Age of Revolution (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005), 184-89.

(10) YitshakM. Brudny, Reinventing Russia: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-1991 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), chap. 3. Farrell, "If These Stories," chap. 6 tells of the founding conference of VOOPIiK. Its creation was part of a wider postwar effort to save threatened national landmarks. For example, 1965 saw the enactment of New York City's law on historic preservation ("The New York City Landmark Law Over the Years," http://www. r=0, accessed 18 April 15).

(11) As argued by the author of an important study of village prose writers and nationalism after the war (Brudny, Reinventing Russia, 69-70, 139-42). Brudny (70) does nevertheless credit VOOPIiK as providing a useful forum for discussing issues of historic preservation, even if it could not exert political influence.

(12) The retired contractor angrily asked: "There used to be this organization for preservation of monuments, VOOPIiK. Where is it? What happened to it? ... Before you couldn't take a step without it ... everything required permission. Now there's none of that. The priests hire Tajiks and Uzbeks. Nothing is required. You don't need any kind of permission" (interview with Nikolai Kurliasov, Sergiev Posad, 26 May 2012). Likhanova believed that conditions were better for preservation under socialism: "ft was easier to find a common language with the Communists than with the capitalists we have today. The power of money proved quite a bit stronger" (Interview with Tat'iana Likhanova at the Regional Press Institute in Petersburg, 7 June 2012). The journalist Valerii Zavorotnyi likewise credited VOOPIiK with playing a positive and effective role in the Soviet period (Spasti Peterburg, 40-41).

(13) The project was a joint venture with the Finnish construction firm YIT. In 2015, Tat Tana Likhanova told me that Leningrad officials, in their eagerness to skim inducements from the project, ignored an order from the Ministry of Culture in Moscow to halt the demolition of the Angleterre.

(14) A. Kovalev, "Istinnaia istoriia gruppy spaseniia," Pchela, no. 10 (1997).

(15) Ibid.

(16) See the biography and sources cited in "Kovalev, Aleksei Antonovich," Vikipediia (https://[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], accessed 5 May 2015). Another Rescue Squad activist, Nikolai Zhuravskii, was also elected to the city council in 1990 and assisted Kovalev in protecting cultural monuments. Zhuravskii died in 2009 at the age of 56.

(17) She was accused of having concealed an order from the Federal Ministry of Culture to halt the Angleterre project. See "Angleter: Sut' politiki Matvienko," Livejournal, 18 March 2009 (

(18) For the background and the problem of the inexact definition ofthe protected areas, see Iu. V. Novikov, "Tendentsii i dinamika vziatiia pod gosudarstvennuiu okhranu ob'ektov istorikokul'turnogo naslediia," in Prostranstvo Sankt-Peterburga: Pamiatniki kul'turnogo naslediia i sovremennaia gorodskaia sreda. Materialy nauchno-prakticheskoi konferentsii Sankt-Peterburg 18-19 noiabria 2002 g. (St. Petersburg: Filologicheskii fakul'tet Sankt-Peterburgskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 2003), 27-36; andTodor Krestev, "Iz IuNESKO o Peterburge: Chastnyi vzgliad na obshchuiu problemu," in Sankt-Peterburg: Nasledie pod ugrozoi (Moscow: MAPS, 2012), 168-75.

(19) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 70-72.

(20) On the founding of the International Philanthropic Fund, see "Fond spaseniia Peterburga," in the online biography of Anatolii Sobchak, the section "Obshchestvennaia deiatel'nost'" (, accessed 25 March 2015).

(21) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 93-94. The architect, Evgenii Podgornov, decided to deny his authorship (Pavel Nikonov, "Narusheniia okhrannogo zakonodatel'stva: XXI vek," in Sankt-Peterburg: Nasledie pod ugrozoi, 161).

(22) For the background, see B. M. Matveev, "Reglamentatsiia novogo stroitel'stva v Peterburge iz opyta XVIII-XIX stoletii," in Prostranstvo Sankt-Peterburga, 226-36. Aleksandr Margolis, ("Istoriia arkhitekturnogo oblika Peterburga," in Sankt-Peterburg: Nasledie pod ugrozoi, 46), notes that the limit was then 23.5 meters, the height of the cornice of the Winter Palace.

(23) Novaia gazeta v Sankt-Peterburge, 11 November 2008.

(24) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 106-8.

(25) Anna Pushkarskaia, "Za sosuli pered otechestvom," Kommersant-vlast', 4 July 2011 (http://, accessed 3 April 2015).

(26) "Matvienko Valentina Ivanovna," in Komitet narodnogo kontrolia (from comnarcon. com/504, accessed 28 April 2015). As for the indictment, when Makarova countersued, the two came to an accommodation and ended the conflict. For more detail on this postelection scandal, see Liudi: (, accessed 30 April 2015).

(27) "Matvienko Valentina Ivanovna"; this biographer claims that people debate whether Matvienko or the World War II Siege of Leningrad did more damage to the historic center. Novaia gazeta v Sankt-Peterburge, 10 August 2007, interestingly, reported that only two buildings on Nevskii Prospekt were destroyed during the siege, whereas six had recently been taken down, and soon the number would be ten.

(28) For a short list of the "scandalous objects" permitted during Matvienko's administration, see Nikonov, "Narusheniia okhrannogo zakonodatel'stva," 160.

(29) The law, which established a 48m limit in the historic center, was a work in progress, and the 2004 version was called temporary while a more detailed regulation was developed and finally adopted in 2009 ("O Pravilakh zemlepol'zovaniia i zastroiki Sankt-Peterburga ot 16 fevralia 2009,", accessed 7 May 2015). Along the way, votes were taken by apparently irregular means to adjust the rules to accommodate builders or allow for variances. See discussions and protest of the changes and the proposed final law in "Reglament vysot v Peterburge ne na vysote," (16 June 2008, http://rway. ru/publicadon/publication71-1391.aspx, accessed 7 May 2015); and Tat Tana Likhanova and Nikita Pavlov in Novaia gazeta v Peterburge, 24 July 2008.

(30) "Biznes-tsentr 'Birzha' torzhestvenno otkryt," press release from Etalon Group, February 2010 (, accessed 27 March 2015); Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 114-16; "Birzha vziala vysotu," Nevskoe vremia, 16 June 2008, via Peterburgskii pravovoi portal (, accessed 5 May 2015); "Vysota birzhevogo kompleksa v Peterburge budet snizhena,", 20 June 2008 (http://www., accessed 5 May 2015).

(31) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 117-18. On Margolis, see "Biografiia: Margolis Aleksandr Davidovich," (, accessed 4 May 2015).

(32) "Spornaiavysotnost': Liubaia mnogoetazhka Peterburga stala razdrazhat' obshchestvennykh aktivistov," Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, 22 September 2008, via Peterburgskii pravovoi portal (, accessed 5 May 2015).

(33) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 117-18; Nikonov, "Narusheniia okhrannogo zakonodatel'stva." 161.

(34) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 87-88. My interview with a city cultural official in Petersburg, 7 June 2012. For more on this general problem, see Alena V. Ledeneva, How Russia Really Works: Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006).

(35) Kovalev, "Istinnaia istoriia gruppy spaseniia."

(36) The question of the project's financing deserves a separate study. The critics' first line of attack included analyses showing that Gazprom was more a parasite than an investor, as it would finance the project in large part with city taxes. Matvienko made adjustments supposedly in the city's favor, but information later suggested that Gazprom would finance the project by underpaying its promised taxes (Novaia gazeta, 10 January 2008, 13 November 2008; Novaia gazeta v Sankt-Peterburge, 9 July 2009).

(37) Roman Maidachenko, "Na Neve postroiat 'obelisk-kukuruzu,'" Utro Peterburga, 4 December 2006 (, accessed 4 June 2015).

(38) "Zodchie podlozhili bombu pod Gazprom-siti: Zvezdy mirovoi arkhitektury, zaiavlennye v zhiuri konkursa proektov neboskreba," Vash tainyi sovetnik, 11 December 2006, via Peterburgskii pravovoi portal (, accessed 5 May 2015).

(39) Quoted from interview by Tat'iana Likhanova with Kurokawa in Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 129-30.

(40) Boris Vishnevskii, ed., Bashne--net! Peterburgprotiv "Gazoskreba" (St. Petersburg: Poliarnaia zvezda, 2011), 134-35, 235. This source contains a convenient compilation of the reportage on the project, starting in 2006 and drawn from Novaia gazeta. Updates since its publication and some of the history can be found at This site was also the place where nearly 50,000 signatures were collected in opposition to the Gazprom tower project.

(41) Interview in Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, 1994, reprinted in "Akademik Likhachev protiv neboskreba," Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, 1 September 2009 ( article.htm?id=10260771@SV_ArticIes, accessed 27 March 2015).

(42) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 138.

(43) Ibid., 135-39.

(44) "Iuliia Minutina, koordinator dvizheniia 'Zhivoi gorod,"' Zolotoi chelovek, s Alekseem Lysenkovym ( 168696, accessed 1 May 2015). See the organization's website at, which includes a running list of its activities and of historic structures under threat. Among other things, in 2007 Living City set up an exhibit of destroyed buildings with models of the buildings forming an entire street (Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 165). Minutina herself describes actions by the group and provides pictures of posters and street actions in "Rukovodstvo k deistviiu," Sankt-Peterburg: Nasledie pod ugrozoi, 220-27.

(45) Much of the reportage compiled in Bashne--net! focuses on these activities in opposition to the project.

(46) Anna Pushkarskaia, "Posledniaia versiia neboskreba 'Gazproma v Peterburge," RusAdvice. Org, 24 April 2007 ( neboskreba_gazproma_v_peterburge.html, accessed 27 March 2015).

(47) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 145. For more on Nikandrovs response and that of the promoters of the project, see "Arkhitektory 'Gazprom-siti' protiv izmeneniia mesta stroitel'stva i vysoty,", 22 February 2007 (, accessed 27 March 2015).

(48) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 156-60.

(49) P. E. Sorokin, Landskrona, Nevskoe ust'e, Nienshants: 700 Let poseleniiu na Neve (St. Petersburg: Litera, 2001). See for historical renderings of the fortresses.

(50) "Arkheologicheskii skandal razoraetsia vokrug 'Okhta tsentra,'" Poslednie novosti, Zerkalo v Livejournal (, accessed 26 April 2011); "Arkheologiia Okhtinskogo mysa: Obrashchenie Fonda 'Nasledie,' " Nasledie ( asp?idcategory=77&id=77&iditem=778, accessed 11 December 2014); "Bunt akademikov," Novaia gazeta v Sankt-Peterburge, 1 February 2010. See also the interview with the leading archeologist Anatolii Kirpichnikov in Novaia gazeta v Sankt-Peterburge, 15 October 2009, 2 February 2010.

(51) Starting in early 2008, UNESCO indicated that Petersburg was in danger of losing its status as a world heritage site if it went ahead with the gigantic tower. When Petersburg officials denied any such danger, UNESCO repeated its warning more strongly in 2009 ("'Severnuiu Pal'miru iskliuchat iz spiska Vsemirnogo naslediia IuNESKO za liubov' k Gazoskrebu," in Bashne--net! 57-59). See also related reports in Novaia gazeta v Sankt-Peterburge, 2 July 2009, 14 August 2009; Novaia gazeta, 6 July 2010; and Krestev, "Iz IuNESKO," 169.

(52) The interview with Boris Lazarevich Vishnevskii was conducted on 28 May 2014 at his office in the City Council building, the Palace of Grand Duchess Maria.

(53) The interview with Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Kononov was conducted on 28 May 2014 in the Petersburg offices of the Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments.

(54) "'Okhta-tsentru' veleli ne vysovyvat'sia," Gazeta Kommersant, 21 May 2010 (http://www., accessed 31 March 2015).

(55) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 231.

(56) Nikandrov also, unconvincingly according to his critics, claimed that his design harmonized well with the prevailing baroque style of the city (Novaia gazeta, 12 January 2009).

(57) Zavorotnyi, Spasti Peterburg, 230-31.

(58) "Medvedev otvetil na ostrye voprosy rossiiskikh rokerov,", 12 October 2010 (, accessed 26 February 2015).

(59) Interviews conducted 7 June and 9 June 2012 in St. Petersburg.

(60) VOOPIiK in Petersburg has, it should be noted, been playing a more active role in recent times in support of court challenges and in publishing. See, for example, its beautifully produced book Ischezaiushchii Peterburg (St. Petersburg: NP-Print, 2008), containing photographic and artistic renderings from an exhibition of lost structures in the city.

(61) For a summary of the legal actions and decisions on this current conflict, see "Shpalernaia ul., d. 51: Istoriia ob'ekta," GradPetra: Istoriia, foto, nedvizhimost' Peterburga (http://history., accessed 7 May 2015).
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Author:Ransel, David L.
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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