Has Petersburg City Hall Made a Shambles of New Hospital Construction?

Part of the old facilities at the Botkin Infectious Diseases Hospital in Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Dima Tsyrencshikov/The Village
Part of the old facilities at the Botkin Infectious Diseases Hospital in Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Dima Tsyrencshikov/The Village

Petersburg Municipal Hospital and Clinic Construction Program on the Skids
Svetlana Zobova
Delovoi Peterburg
February 3, 2017

Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko has botched ex-Governor Valentina Matviyenko’s ambitious program of building 32 healthcare facilities at a cost of upwards of 30 billion rubles. The city lacks a force that could consolidate physicians and builders to campaign against construction delays.

DP has audited all the municipal healthcare facilities that have been built, are under currently construction or are in the planning stages. The circumstances surrounding them are far from ideal. In each specific case, we can speak of certain objective causes as to why a particular clinic has not been completed or is not yet treating patients. But if we look at the issue as a whole, it becomes clear our city has no system for overseeing and managing the sector. Accountability is split between two committees whose specialists, to put it mildly, are not very happy with each other.

Both doctors and builders tell obscene jokes about each other behind each other’s backs and complain of their opponents’ extreme incompetence and their unwillingness to compromise. They cannot work together to finish nearly any of the projects. But no one is ready for a showdown that could reverse the situation and establish new, functioning rules of the game.

The few examples when new hospitals and clinics have been successfully opened either conceal sad stories of protracted construction delays or were overseen by federal officials, and the degree of oversight and accountability were thus on a completely different level. Aside from federal facilities, this study did not take into account facilities that merely underwent renovations, only those that were slated for complete makeovers or new facilities.

DP received quite detailed replies from the city’s Construction Committee and Healthcare Committee about the causes of the delays at dozens of facilities and the complications with bringing operating facilities online. However, there was no answer as to why these processes have been implemented so poorly, with so much anguish and pain.

Good Intentions

To equip the city with the three dozen modern medical facilities it so badly needed, the Matviyenko administration allocated around 30 billion rubles. However, under the current administration, construction companies have been paid less than 10 billion rubles from the budget, completing only a few facilities in fits and starts. Our sources in the Health Committee say the sector’s underfunding has been due to delays in construction.

In some cases, the quality of their work has caught the eye of the prosecutor’s office, while in other cases, expensive medical equipment has been ruined due to mistakes and miscalculations. Deadline overruns have been ubiquitous. It would be wrong to say that the only cause has been poor work on the part of builders and designers. The city authorities have kept on awarding new contracts even to those contractors who have attempted to turn over blatantly shoddy facilities to doctors and brazenly lied.

DP discussed the problem with a dozen head physicians and their deputies, as well as well as contractors and city officials. We got the impression Petersburg has not become Russia’s northern healthcare capital less because of the economic crisis and a lack of financing, and more because of bureaucracy and the complete absence of a genuinely efficient system for managing municipal construction projects. In several instances, it is obvious that if city officials had done nothing at all, it would have been much better, as was the case, for example, with the closure of the maternity hospital on Vavilovykh Street.

Petersburg’s Hospitals

When she departed from Petersburg, Valentina Matviyenko left a legacy of numerous ambitious construction projects, including healthcare facilities. She had planned for the construction or reconstruction of 32 medical facilities by 2016, including new hospital wings, outpatient clinics for children and adults, dentistry clinics, ambulance stations, and specialized early treatment and prevention centers (as per Petersburg Government Decree No. 149, dated 10 February 2011).

As of late 2016, city authorities had built and opened only six facilities on the list. Another four facilities have been built, but their directors, the Construction Committee, and contractors have been bogged down in fierce arguments as to the quality of the construction. The other projected facilities have either been frozen or not assigned a contractor, and their designs are now outdated.

Initially, Governor Poltavchenko seemed inclined to keep improving healthcare in Petersburg. In 2012, he added several dozen future facilities to Matviyenko’s list. Design and construction work on the facilities was to have been completed in 2013–2014.

For example, the new governor promised to rebuild the morgue at the Bureau of Forensic Medicine, design a hospice, build several antenatal clinics, design new wings for the Kashchenko Mental Hospital, and build a TB prevention and treatment clinic in Kolpino.

A little later, Matviyenko and Poltavchenko’s plans were drafted as a program for the healthcare sector. The document originally promised that city officials would arrange for the construction or reconstruction of 29 ambulance stations and medical facilities capable of taking in 36,000 patients a day by 2015.

In reality, the healthcare facilities construction program has been the most disastrous line item in the city’s targeted investment program for several years running.  In 2016, none of the medical facilities under construction used 100% of the funds allocated to them in the budget. Certain facilities did not touch literally any of the funds allocated to them.

The prosecutor’s office and the Audit Chamber have highlighted construction delays. The city’s vice-governors for construction policy and Construction Committee chairs have come and gone, but federal officials are still asking the same questions.

At our request, the Construction Committee listed all the medical facilities that have been either built or constructed in the last ten years. According to the officials there, from 2009 to 2011, the three years before Poltavchenko took office, eleven major facilities were brought online. After he arrived in the governor’s office, from 2012 to 2016, another eleven facilities were completed, according to officials, although two are still closed, and the others opened considerably later than they were completed.

The city’s Health Committee provided us with different information. Officials there calculated that 28 facilities had been completed between 2006 and 2016, although Poltavchenko’s program had stipulated either renovating or building 63 facilities from scratch. The difference in figures is due to the fact that officials from the two committees used different timespans. In reality, both lists show outright that the city has got worse at building medical facilities since Poltavchenko’s team came on board.

As health professionals who were well versed in the issues told us, city officials would always ask contractors the same questions during regular on-site debriefings. Why is the facility not under construction?  You’ve been working here for five years, but you’re still at stage one. How much of your advance have you gone through? Who produced such a bad design?

Subordinates would be reprimanded, and contractors would be fined and have their contracts torn up, but nothing would change. Construction completion dates would be postponed, and cost estimates would be increased.

By 2016, the list of construction projects had been greatly reduced. Currently, the target invested program lists 14 medical facilities, almost all of them projects from the Matviyenko period that have been subjected to protracted delays.

The construction sector professionals we surveyed estimated that, on average, one and half years are needed to design a large medical facility, while it would take another three years to build the facility.  A small ambulance station could be built in a year. In Petersburg, however, actual times to completion are many times longer. It takes five to 15 years to build many facilities.

The Causes Are Plain to See

The Smolny believes that the virtual breakdown of its grand social policy plans has been due to insufficient funding. Thus, in 2017, Petersburg’s most renowned delay-plagued construction project, the Zenit Arena, gobbled up nearly a billion rubles. But this is fibbing, for, in reality, line items for financing the building of facilities that have obviously been abandoned were simply stricken from the budget, because no one was spending any money on them.

In addition, according to the city hall officials we talked to, careless contractors are to blame for construction delays and poorly designed projects, and for not calculating their risks. As you might guess, in this way of seeing the world, officials bear no blame for the fact they are surrounded by bunglers and swindlers.

But there is a more complex view of the issue. A source at one of the city’s largest hospitals told us that the ceremonial communiques and press releases issued by city officials belie the serious friction between the Construction Committee and the Healthcare Committee, as well as between the relevant vice-governors. For while hospitals and clinics are still under construction, the Construction Committee’s budget is replenished. They even purchase medical equipment. But when hospitals start treating patients, the money for that is allocated via the Healthcare Committee. This does not mean, of course, that the Construction Committee deliberately delays building projects. Of course, they want to get delay-plagued facilities off their hands as quickly as possible. But Construction Committee staffers bear no personal accountability for missed deadlines and the poor quality of construction.

A senior official, who has worked in the Healthcare Committee since the Matviyenko administration, says during the past four or five years he and Vice-Governor Olga Kazanskaya have had to wage a “quite serious fight” with the construction bloc in the Smolny. Describing the state of affairs in the Construction Committee, the official spoke of confusion and complained about the frequent change of leadership.

A telling example occurred when we asked Igor Albin, vice-governor for construction, to explain why the Botkin Infectious Diseases Hospital, whichas far back as 2015 he had publicly promised would soon reopen, was still not treating patients. However, he gave us no explanation, shifting the blame for the situation on Healthcare Committee staffers. In turn, they said it was the Construction Committee who was responsible for construction at the Botkin. Off the record [sic], they told us about a long list of defects and unfinished work to which contractors wanted doctors to turn a blind eye, making them sign off on the facility even though it was unfinished. Of course, a dispute like this could go on indefinitely until someone takes responsibility for the entire project.

No Accountability

Our source in the medical community, who spoke out about the construction community in a somewhat biased way, argued that no one except medical professionals had any interest in bringing facilities online. As a consequence, officials failed to make purchase requests for equipment, did not calculate the costs of logistics, and fined the medical facilities.

“There is way too much politicking and money at each stage. Everything is bureaucratized and corrupt in the extreme. What matters is that everything looks right on paper,” said our source.

He was surprised that, under Poltavchenko, the Construction Committee did not “tremble” for failing to execute the annual budget. Under Matviyenko, he claimed, failing to spend funds allocated under the yearly budget was considered an extremely grave offense for officials to commit.

Another senior medical administrator sees the root of the trouble not in corruption per se, but, rather, in the overall “muddle” and the fact that “the system doesn’t function.”

“Every staffer needs to know his function and the consequences that await him in case of failure. Step left, step right, and you can step on a land mine and blow up. Now, though, there is basically no accountability for mistakes, and no one feels personally to blame.”

The Construction Committee has no specific department or expert responsible for medical facilities. A personal curator is usually appointed to oversee each of them. A considerable part of the work is overseen by the Fund for Capital Construction and Reconstruction, which is controlled by the committee. Its longtime head was Andrei Molotkov. It was Molotkov who was criticized by Igor Albin for the numerous missed deadlines and unscrupulous contractors. Ultimately, in April 2016, Molotkov resigned his post, a job that is still vacant.

The Healthcare Committee employs one senior professional builder, Igor Gonchar, head of the Office for Medical Facilities Development. However, he deals with repairing and rebuilding the facilities his committee oversees. Since 2014, the Healthcare Committee has also been tasked with designing healthcare facilities. It was a seemingly reasonable step, meant to reduce the risk of drafting projects that were not suitable for physicians and had to be redone on the fly. In the last three years, however, the Healthcare Committee has not spent nearly 40% of the money allocated to it for design, i.e., 158 million of the 250 million rubles allocated in its budget for survey and design work.

Gonchar gave detailed answers to our questions, explaining that, out of eight planned facilities, the design work had been completed for six of them. Problems had arisen around a large project, estimated to cost 100 million rubles: new wings for Children’s Hospital No. 1. Due to the fact that, last year, changes were made to the law on historic preservation, the specs for facilities adjacent to historic Pozhelayev Park had to be redrafted. Similar difficulties have arisen with another problematic facility, the Dunes Children’s Rehabilitation Center. However, the difficulties having to do with historic preservation were in that case aggravated by the bankruptcy of the design subcontractor, Oboronmedstroy.

A view of the new campus of the Botkin Infectious Diseases Hospital in Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Dima Tsyrencshikov/The Village
A view of the new campus of the Botkin Infectious Diseases Hospital in Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Dima Tsyrencshikov/The Village

Sabotage

One of the most unpleasant consequences of delaying when medical facilities are brought on line is the premature purchase of expensive medical equipment. For when a senior official says a hospital or clinic is about to open, his underlings will willy-nilly have to purchase CT scanners and MRI machines. But then no one is responsible for the fact they have to spend several years in a warehouse, where they are not only of no use to patients but also run through their warranties and sometimes even are damaged due to improper storage conditions.

According to medical professionals, premature equipment purchases are also part of a cynical calculation by officials. They can report the city has already purchased everything a hospital in the midst of construction needs and demand its administrators move into a poorly constructed building.

“In my opinion, the people running the city are not very interested in healthcare, because it involves more political questions,” says Lev Averbakh, executive director of CORIS Assistance LLC (Saint Petersburg) [a private ambulance company]. “I think there no political will for it. No one says, ‘Let’s finish them!’ as with the stadium, for example. Besides, they have begun reducing the number of hospital beds available while changing the regulations. Under the new rules, not as many beds are needed in Petersburg as were required under the old rules.”

Another professional from the field of private medicine argues that Olga Kazanskaya, now the ex-vice-governor for social policy, and Healthcare Committee Chair Valery Kolabutin lack medical training.

Sergei Furmanchuk, co-founder of Hosser [a Petersburg-based company specializing in the design and construction of medical facilities], argues that problems arise when design work is done by people who have never done design work, and they do the construction work as well. He believes that each case has to be examined individually. However, it has to be acknowledged that having a lot of experience and even medical training, unfortunately, is no guarantee of impeccable work, as, for example, in the case of Rosstroyinvest and the Botkin Hospital, Petrokom or Oboronmedstroy, which is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, abandoning several large healthcare facilities unfinished.

Translated by the Russian Reader

P.S. This article, its author, and Delovoy Peterburg obviously have a heavy axe to grind more against one faction of Petersburg city hall (still referred to as “the Smolny,” the headquarters of the Bolsheviks during the 1917 October Revolution). Normally, I would not translate and post this kind of potential journalistic hit job, although it does describe an urgent problem—the collapse of Russia’s post-socialist free healthcare system—more or less objectively, a problem I have touched on elsewhere in my translations of less dodgy printed matter.

But the author does signally fail to point out the role of Putin’s infamous “power vertical” in encouraging the lack of accountability among local officials, whether in Petersburg or Vladivostok.

Petersburg’s current governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, was first appointed outright by President Putin after the latter “upmoted” the city’s previous governor, Valentina Matviyenko, to the Federation Council, which she now chairs, after she had become deeply unpopular for, among other things, trying to ram Gazprom’s infamous Okhta Center skyscraper down the throat of Petersburgers, and flagrantly failing to clean snow from streets and rooftops during one particularly snowy winter, leading to massive residential property damage and a cityscape described by many locals as resembling what the city looked like during the 900-day WWII Nazi Siege.

Poltavchenko was later “freely” “re-elected” to the governorship in an election marked, as usual, by irregularities, running against a field of sock puppets that had been preemptively purged of any real competition.

From the get-go he has seemed more concerned with the matters spiritual and ecclesiastical than really running the city, which has looked especially dingy this winter, when it has become apparent that the previous street maintenance and cleaning system has collapsed altogether, possibly for a lack of poorly paid Central Asian migrant workers to keep it “affordable.”

Is is fair, though, to blame all local failings on the almighty power vertical? Probably not, and that is why I devote so much of this blog to Russians doing it for themselves at the grassroots, often against daunting odds and in the face of outright police repression. But their efforts won’t make a dent in all the issues they are tackling until the country becomes a real federation and power is devolved maximally to the regions, cities, towns, and neighorhoods.

In this light, it amounts to cynical mockery to repeatedly refer to President Putin as a “strong leader,” as the new Fascist Pig in the Poke did during his campaign and now after he has occupied the White Pride House in Washington, DC. Putin is not a strong leader in any sense, but his weakness has been especially apparent in the myriad ways his regime has disempowered Russians at all levels, making it increasingly difficult for them not only to solve but also even discuss the problems that concern them most.

Finally, I should point out that the original article in Russian features a map of the city marked with all the hospitals and other medical facilities built, currently under construction or abandoned under the municipal program described, above, as well as a table with more detailed information about each of these real, abandoned or planned facilities. I was not able to include the map or table in this translation. TRR

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St. Isaac’s Cathedral Belongs to All Petersburgers

Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Winter View of the Bronze Horseman with St. Isaac's Cathedral in the Background. Image courtesy of Artnet
Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Winter View of the Bronze Horseman with St. Isaac’s Cathedral in the Background. Image courtesy of Artnet

Natalia Vvedenskaya
Facebook
January 14, 2017

I realize everyone is already sick to death of the topic of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and that today is a weekend day to boot. But I’ve been mulling this text over in my head for three days and struggling with the desire to write it down. I’ve been persuading myself there are lots of smart people aroiund who will write what needs to be written. But I can’t get the arguments out of my head, so I’ve given in to my desire.

***

Folks, especially non-Petersburgers, who note melancholically, “Just give it back to the Church. Can’t you spare it?” really amuse me.

Well, no, we can’t spare it.

1. The ROC [Russian Orthodox Church] is not the Vatican, and all comparisons of St. Isaac’s Cathedral with St. Peter’s Basilica are irrelevant in this context. The ROC not only doesn’t know how to preserve architectural landmarks. It doesn’t want to preserve them. It wants to use them, and it preserves them the same way you maintain your apartment, for example. Imagine you’ve decided to put in parquet floors or throw out old furniture. Who is going to stop you? It’s your own business. You can figure out yourself what’s best for you: the new parquet or the old linoleum. This is basically how many church leaders and believers look at it. They believe an icon, however timeworn and whatever the destructive effects shifts in humidity, vibrations, etc., have on it, it should be in a church, not in a museum. Yes, it is has to be handled carefully and respectfully, yet it can be carried in a outdoor religious procession and venerated by parishioners kissing it. If something has happened to it, it means it was God’s will. A new copy of the icon will have to be ordered. I’m not exaggerating. I’m trying to explain that notions of “humanity’s heritage” and “universal value” are empty phrases for most members of the church community. They don’t understand how church property can be the business of unbelievers. Moreover, from their perspective, the right government should be Orthodox. It should maintain churches the way it maintains hospitals and schools.

The problem is not that we know of numerous cases in which the ROC has treated architectural landmarks and museum communities barbarically. The problem is the Church’s leadership has not publicly condemned any of these incidents. It doesn’t condemn them, because it doesn’t consider them important or it even approves them. So it will happen again and again, and heritage preservation authorities are basically powerless.

This is an answer to the exclamation, “Give back to the Church what was taken from it in 1917!”

Parents are given the right to raise their children. But if they treat them irresponsibly, hit them, don’t get them medical care when they’re ill, don’t feed them, etc., society acknowledges the need to restrict the rights of such parents. A hundred years ago, however, this would not have occurred to anyone. But our notions of violence, the value of human life, and children’s rights have changed. Our notions of culture and its right to protection have also changed. The ROC does not guarantee the safety and security of architectural landmarks in the sense regarded as normal in modern society. We cannot hand architectural landmarks over to the Church, at least not until the Church changes.

2. Why should the ROC be the main user of St. Isaac’s Cathedral? If we leave aside money and “historical justice,” the only reason could be to hold services on a full scale—not in the chapel, but in the central nave, for example, with the museum closed on feast days and so on. But think about it. Since the Patriarch can force [Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko] to give back a church, then of course the Patriarch could also obtain the best conditions for church services. Meaning this is not the issue.

The issue, of course, is money and “status.”

So we have a public museum. We know everything about it: how much money it earns, how much money it spends and what it spends its money on, and how much it pays in taxes. And we have the Church. We don’t know anything about it, and that will go on being the case. No, we do know one thing: it doesn’t pay taxes. So we won’t be able to find out whether the Church has the money for routine repairs and restoration work or not. Going back to my first point, the Church might not think that restoration is necessary. So the city will always have to have the necessary sum of money for repairs on hand. Plus there are the taxes, the taxes the cathedral museum pays now and won’t be paying in the same amount after the cathedral’s transfer to the Church. All this means that the “free” entrance with which the church community has been tempting us, will be free for everyone except Petersburgers. Every Petersburger will pay (via the city’s budget), regardless of whether he or she has visited the cathedral or not.

It would be nifty, beautiful, and right if entry to St. Isaac’s Cathedral were free to everyone. But we can’t afford it. A normal family doesn’t sell its only home to buy a Mercedes to show off to the neighbors, but drives a car it can afford or takes public transport. Similarly, Petersburgers cannot afford, for the time being, We should recognize this and live within our means.

P.S. I’ve come across a reference to Clamoring Stones: The Russian Church and Russian Culture Heritage at the Turn of the Millennium (2006), a book by the archaeologist and art historian Alexander Musin. It is about how restitution of church property has taken place and the consequences this has had for Russia’s cultural heritage. I haven’t read it yet. I haven’t even found where I can buy it. But I think it’s a must read. (Here’s a review.)

Translated by the Russian Reader

__________

Hundreds Protest Giving St. Isaac Cathedral To Russian Orthodox Church
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
January 14, 2017

Several hundred people rallied outside a St. Petersburg landmark cathedral on January 13 to protest plans to give it to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The local governor this week announced the city was transferring the iconic St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Orthodox Church, sparking a rash of protests in the former imperial city.

Protesters flocked to Isaakiyevskaya Square near St. Isaac’s to protest the move on the evening of January 13. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been an important museum since Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. More than 3.5 million tourists visit it every year.

“The Church should know its place!” one placard read.

Police confiscated one poster but did not otherwise block the protest.

TASS reported that activists have gathered as many as 160,000 signatures on a petition to revoke the local government’s decision to give away the cathedral.

The signatures include people from Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Krasnodar as well as St. Petersburg, TASS said.

The church takeover of the landmark is part of a growing trend toward social conservatism in Russia. President Vladimir Putin has appealed to traditional values and urged citizens to eschew Western liberalism.

 

History Hysteria Architecture

On July 1, Petersburg developers and architects held a round table to discuss how to eliminate the alleged threat to their happiness and livelihood posed by historical preservationists and local grassroots NIMBY and housing activists, as recounted here by journalist Dmitry Ratnikov.

According to Ratnikov, Elena Smotrova, head of Tellus Group developers, compared the activists to the infamous mafia protection rackets that shook down honest businessmen in the 1990s. Architect Yevgeny Gerasimov recommended calling the police when activists showed up, while Igor Vodopyanov, head of development and management company Teorema, claimed that activists had driven developers from Petersburg. What lay in store for the city, he argued, was a “Cuban historical preservation” scenario, where houses are propped up on wooden stilts (sic), and there is no business.

In fact, pace the anti-populist hysteria of Gerasimov, Vodopyanov, Smotrova and Co., literally everything that has been built and developed in Petersburg in the past fifteen years has been utter garbage by even the most minimal and indulgent international standards.

This is not to mention the ruinous effects of such pseudo-architecture on the historic built environment, but these refined ladies and gentlemen passing themselves off as developers and architects have had the gall to blame the so-called gradozashchitniki (“city defenders”) for their woes. What chutzpah.

So the pushback on the part of local people of good will, had it not happened in the face of such an assault on the city, would have been more mystifying. In fact, practically the only thing worthwhile, in terms of grassroots politics, to come out of Petersburg in the last ten years has been this relatively strong movement of historical preservationists and just plain folk out in the Soviet new estates defending their turf (and the relatively decent Soviet planning therein) from bad developments and even worse architecture.

Given their lack of talent at developing and designing buildings that would complement and enhance one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and their hostility towards the much more refined aesthetical and legal sensibilities of the amateurs who mostly populate the ranks of the activists, it is not surprising that Petersburg’s architects and developers often resort to facile evocations of history to cover up their crimes and misdemeanors, which often involve demolishing listed or perfectly serviceable and comely old buildings and replacing them with variations on post-postmodern listlessness and anomie, whose only real purpose is to occupy as many storeys and square meters as possible and stroke the egos of their “authors” by physically dominating their historic built environments.

And given the current political conjuncture, it is no wonder these historical evocations and gestures are usually deeply reactionary celebrations of Russian imperial history rather than Russian revolutionary history (whose early period produced art, architecture, and theory that people are still marveling over and studying  almost a hundred years later, and whose middle and late periods are, at very least, recognizable as legitimate products of architectural and social history).

While strolling around the city this past spring, a friend and I came upon this newish oddity on the Sinop Embankment of the Neva River.

sinopskaya 22-back

Upon closer inspection, it turned out the grillwork on the balconies were emblazoned with rather odd, at first glance, inscriptions.

sinopskaya 22-balcony
“Battle of Sinop. The Paris, ship of the line. The Grand Duke Konstantin, ship of the line. The Empress Maria. The Rostislav, ship of the line. The Chesma, ship of the line.”

After pondering this funny list for a few minutes, I realized the inscription on the top balcony read, “Battle of Sinop,” and that listed below it were Russian naval ships that, I discovered later, had taken part in this maritime slaughter of Turkish ships during the distant Crimean War.

The building’s designer, “post-neo-Empire style apologist” Dmitry Lagutin, explained the gimcrack notion behind the building in an August 2012 interview with online local architecture and development watchdog publication Karpovka:

The building was intended as a memorial to the Battle of Sinop, the last battle between sailing ships. The idea arose when we had to get the image across to the client and convince them to build a classical building. We wanted to deliver the building before December 1 of this year, for the anniversary of the Battle of Sinop.

There is a two-storey glass dome at the top of the building, an expensive luxury. It can be seen from the other shore. But if you are walking along the embankment, the dome is not visible. It disappears into the depths, and the building becomes smaller. So there will be a smooth segue from Alexander Nevsky Square with its lower built environment. There is a pediment, which, if you look closely, resembles the stern of a ship. It supports a sculpture of Empress Maria, recalling the name of the flagship Empress Maria, which Admiral Nakhimov commanded in the battle. The names of the ships [involved in the battle on the Russian side] will appear on the gridwork of the facade.

sinopskaya 22-sketch
Rendering of the new building on Sinop Embankment, 22. Courtesy of Karpovka.net

[…]

We are communicating with sculptors. There is architecture that includes a place for sculpture. And our building has a lower arcade of six arches. Between the arched windows there are niches that will house sculptures of [four Russian] admirals. Everyone knows Nakhimov. There is Kornilov and Panfilov, whom everyone confuses with Panfilov’s Men. There is Novosilsky. The four admirals who took part in the Battle of Sinop. Real heroes.

Now, as we are selecting sketches, we have to study the story of each admiral to avoid mistakes, starting with how they looked. We have to study every thing down to the epaulettes and buttons. Recently, a monument to Nakhimov was erected on the street of the same name. It was chockablock with crude mistakes.

When the busts of the heroic Russian admirals were unveiled on October 3, 2013, the city’s high and mighty were present for the festivities, as reported by Peterburgskii Dnevnik, the city government’s official newspaper.

Busts of Admiral Kornilov, Pavel Nakhimov, Fyodor Novosilsky, and Alexander Panfilov were unveiled today in a ceremony at Sinop Embankment, 22.

sinopskaya 22-bust

St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko, Russian Museum director Vladimir Gusev, businessman Boris Zingarevich, who initiated the creation and installation of the busts, and sculptor Alexei Arkhipov attended the unveiling.

It is no accident that the sculptures of the great admirals have appeared on the Sinop Embankment. 2013 marks the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Sinop, which was the last battle involving sailing ships. Likewise, sixty years ago, the embankment was named in honor of this naval battle.

“It is twice as nice and important that that we have not forgotten the glorious tradition of the Russian fleet and are unveiling the busts of those who were victorious at Sinop. I thank everyone involved in the project—the architects, designers, and builders—for wanting to recall history and for their initiative,” Georgy Poltavchenko said at the unveiling ceremony.

The designer of the busts, Union of Artists member and sculptor Alexei Arkhipov, said that executing the works was not easy, because there were very few extant images of the admirals. The decorative elements—buttons embossed with coats of arms, and the decorations worn by the admirals—were a particular challenge. In total, the work took around a year.

sinopskaya-ceremony
Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko (second from left) with naval officials and other dignitaries at unveiling ceremony. October 3, 2013, Sinop Embankment, 22

The dome of the building on Sinop Embankment where the busts of the great admirals have been installed is crowned by a replica of the bas relief from the bowsprit of Admiral Nakhimov’s flagship, which was named after the Empress Maria Feodorovna. In turn, the names of the ships involved in the battle have been inscribed on the railings of the balconies in the building, which will house a business office center.

For what it’s worth, before this recent outburst of collective built patriotism, the lot at Sinop Embankment, 22, was occupied, until 2003, by a much homelier but more more recognizably Petersburgian building. Known as the Alexander Nevsky Lavra House, it was erected in 1860 by architect Karl Brandt (1810–1882).

sinopskaya 22-previous 2
Alexander Nevsky Lavra House in 1993. Photo courtesy of A. Kaidanovskij

And this is what Brandt’s modest building looked like on the eve of its demolition.

sinopskaya 22-previous
Sinop Embankment, 22. Photo courtesy of CityWalls.ru

I was reminded of our springtime encounter with the patriotically dolled-up “business office center” on the Sinop Embankment while investigating one of the Petersburg’s oldest streets, Galernaya, with a group of local psychogeographers a couple weeks ago.

During our drift, we came upon this little Art Nouveau bonbon at Galernaya, 40.

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According to CityWalls.ru, it was built by Maxim Kapelinsky in 1905–1907 and 1910 as an apartment building and publishing house for S.M. Propper.

And yet a plaque on the first storey claims that the great Russian architect Vasily Stasov lived and died there on September 5, 1848.

holland-stasov

This apparent contradiction is easily explained. When Stasov lived there, the lot was occupied by the Kireev estate, which extended all the way from Galernaya to the Admiralty Canal Embankment on the other side of the block.

The real mystery, however, is not whether Stasov lived here at the end of his rich life, but whether the building now on the site is the same building that Kapelinsky built over a hundred years ago.

Views from the side and the front, and a glimpse through a crack in the gateway hinted that something fishy might have been afoot at Galernaya, 40.

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Sales office of Holland apartment complex, Galernaya, 40

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In fact, it seems that Kapelinsky’s hundred-year-old Art Deco confection has not been restored, as deceptively suggested by the façades on both ends of the block. Instead, it has been partly or totally reconstructed, its original innards replaced with tonier digs, more storeys and square meters, and its “empty” courtyards righted with a lot of infill construction.

On November 2, 2014, CityWalls.ru user “Vlada” made a snapshot of the official sign that has to be erected, like a permit, outside all such construction sites.

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The sign reveals that the Propper House, identified as a listed regional architectural landmark, is being “adapted for modern use (reconstructed) as an apartment hotel.”

As redeveloped by the Clover Group, the Propper House has now been renamed Holland.

I cannot recommend the project’s video presentation (accessed by pressing the big arrow on the home page) or the page where you can select an apartment (and simultaneously take “virtual tours” of various parts of the complex) highly enough, because you will be quickly convinced that the Propper House has indeed been “adapted” (gutted) to make way for a new gentry and their loose cash.

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Visualization of penthouse deck, Holland apartment complex, Galernaya, 40

How this brutal approach to a listed regional architectural landmark is compatible with local law, federal law, and the city’s explicit obligations as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all of which should amply protect the city’s historic center from such predations, is beyond me. This, however, has been the standard practice for the past ten years, a sad fact known all too well by the pesky gradozashchitniki I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and by tens and hundreds of thousands of other Petersburgers who are less active civically, but have seen perfectly well what has been going on and to whose benefit.

But you will not be surprised, I hope, when you learn that Clover Group’s elegant wrecking ball methods have also been sanctified and sanctioned by Russian imperial history, to wit:

The Holland complex consists of three sections, Amsterdam, Hague, and Zandaam, located in historically significant renovated buildings. Ranging in height from five to seven stories, each of the buildings offers luxurious apartments of various sizes (from 27 to 195 meters square). The names given to them were not accidental. These resonant names have their roots in Petrine times. These were the names of the three main stops in Holland during Peter the Great’s Grand Embassy.

If you suspected there might be something in common between the pseudo-historical papering over of what are often latter identified, euphemistically, as “town planning mistakes,” and the current political regime’s uses and abuses of history, you would be on the right track.

Goethe reportedly said that architecture is frozen music. In today’s Russia, new “architecture” is the frozen hysteria of a ruling class and society “enslaved by history” and thus unable to do anything other than salvage and bricolage it to justify its knowingly futureless projects. That this often involves simultaneously destroying real history, such as the historical buildings and cityscapes of the former imperial capital, is only one of the paradoxes generated by this extremely dangerous political moment in Russia. TRR

Blue Turns to Red

Here are my early summer evening snapshots of yet another catastrophic urban anti-development in the ex-Capital of All the Russias, this time on Korolenko Street in the Central District.

These snapshots were taken on an old Nokia 3110 that has long suffered from a ghostly “pillar of flame”-like blemish on the lens. The blemish lends shots an extra creepiness when they are taken at the wrong time of day. Sometimes, it is just what the doctor ordered.

After all, rancid, pretentious crap like LSR’s hideous Russky Dom (Russian House) anti-development on Korolenko, designed by local architectural bureau Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners, does not deserve high-quality photography.

It deserves grassroots resistance, but there has never been enough of that, especially lately, under Putin 3.0, and especially when “projects” like this have been battering the old city and the Soviet new estates hotter and heavier than the beleaguered and outnumbered historic preservationists and other local residents and activists have the time or the forces to handle. (For those who read Russian, here is one local press account of attempts by preservationists to resist the demolition of this block in the UNESCO-protected historic center. This mostly verbal skirmish took place almost exactly three years ago.)

rh-red fenceRed construction site fences are a rarity in Petersburg. Such fences are almost ubiquitously blue.

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In fact, this particular fence apparently began life blue, like most of its other local brethren. But then it was painted red.

rh-paradny“From the creators of Paradny Kvartal,” reads the caption, a backhanded endorsement if there ever was one.

rh-russky domWhatever the ethnically tinted title of the project, Russky Dom, could mean amidst all the ideological, political, economic, social, and physical wreckage of its own site, and its place and time, is beyond me. Except, maybe, that it visually represents the aspirations of the Russian ruling class, their servitors, and their aesthetically stunted fans among the masses. (Whom, I assure you, are far fewer than the eighty-six or eighty-four percent cited by dubious polling organizations and reproduced ad infinitum by Russian and western media alike, who then go further by conjuring up a fake alternate reality to explain these fake ratings.)

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The specs include a variable number of storeys (from five to nine), flats from 60 to 250 square meters in size, an underground parking lot for 519 cars, and commercial spaces, as well as “closed yards and a large promenade zone [sic].”

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The caption reads, “Unusual flats: panoramic views from terraces on the upper floors; flats with turrets and second levels.”

The description of the project on Gerasimov’s website, aside from the usual boilerplate (e.g., the development is meant to blend into the built environment while also striking a bold pose), reveals, unsurprisingly, that it was inspired by Russian Revival style architecture of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

If this is not an admission of aggressive ideological and aesthetic bankruptcy, I don’t know what is. In this sense, however, Russky Dom tries to blend in not with its built environment but, rather, with the country’s hyper-reactionary zeitgeist.

Duma deputy Irina Yarovaya declared today that Russia’s education system is too “tailored to the study of foreign languages,” according to a report by United Russia, the country’s ruling political party.

www.egp.spb

“How can we expect to preserve our traditions under these circumstances?” Yarovaya asked worriedly, criticizing the Education Ministry’s plan to make a second foreign language compulsory in the school curriculum and require students to pass a standardized exam in at least one foreign language.

www.egp.spb-1The newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets published an even more radical quotation from Yarovaya’s statement: “While studying in our schools, students spend 866 hours of instruction on the Russian language and 939 hours on foreign languages. Now the Education Ministry wants to introduce a compulsory standardized exam in a foreign language and mandate the study of a second foreign language. My fellow citizens, what kind of country are we raising here?”

www.egp.spb-2Yarovaya also said the state’s current educational standards focus on “students’ personal success,” which she claims is “foreign to the Russian frame of reference,” instead of developing traditional values. Additionally, she expressed concern about the variety of school textbooks used throughout the country to teach the same subject.

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This kid was polite, making a point of getting out of the way when I was snapping pictures, but he was wearing a jacket emblazoned with the word “Russia” and toting a toy AK-47.

Whom or what was he planning to go to war against, Yarovaya and her “traditional values,” which are actually designed to keep the current kleptocratic regime in power in perpetuity and keep people like the little kid poor and disempowered, or “foreign frames of reference”?

* * * * *

I (or, rather, my Nokia) tried to peer through a hole someone or something had punched through the red fence to get a sense of how the Russky Dom was shaping up.

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But when I got to the corner of the block, I discovered the construction site’s main gate was wide open, probably because the workday was wrapping up.

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Work was proceeding apace on the Russian reactionary elite’s dream home.

As well it should have been, because, according to the site’s “passport” (everyone and everything has a passport in Russia, including built and unbuilt buildings), construction is scheduled to be completed in July 2017, a mere two years from now.

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So if you are thinking about getting in on the ground floor of this Russian neo-Revivalist reactionary real estate action, the time to call is now.

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It was not that the Leningrad City Executive Committee and Main Internal Affairs Directorate (i.e., police) motor pool garages that previously occupied the lot were things of great beauty (and until they were threatened with demolition, three years ago, seemingly nobody knew that what was left of the barracks of the First Artillery Brigade Life Guards may or may not have also been taking up otherwise expensive land there), but they served some purpose other than driving up real estate values and giving rich people a venue to offload their extra cash, kids, lovers or themselves while on vacation from Goa or London.

They were also part of the city’s real history, for better or worse.

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The other day, a friend of mine showed me, on the invaluable but somewhat incomprehensible Regional Geographic Information System, how many “projects” real estate developers had stashed away among the nearly incomprehensible and numerous filings and permit requests they make with the city’s relevant committees.

If all these projects are implemented, Petersburg will be unrecognizable in ten years or fifteen years or so, a bright and shiny Russian Revivalist and “neoconstructivist” no man’s land with lots of elite housing, business centers, entertainment and shopping complexes, and superhighways.

But there will not be much of anything else, because Petersburg’s inner-city light and heavy industries were long ago condemned, under the guise of “developing and preserving” the historic center, to banishment to the far suburbs or even farther, to the outer darkness of the Leningrad Region. The orders were signed by Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, in 1994, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, in 1996, respectively.

The funny thing is that the new powers that be revived this approach a few years ago. As current Governor Georgy Poltavchenko has said recently, “The formula goes like this: ‘Preservation through Development, Development through Preservation.’

Or as a comrade and I have written elsewhere, Petersburg is a “World Heritage Site under permanent reconstruction.”

wikimapia-russky dom scorched earth

All shabby snapshots and main text by the Russian Reader. Additional images and quoted text courtesy of Evgeny Gerasimov and Partners, Meduza, Kanoner, and Wikimapia.

Gathering Dust

Poltavchenko: I have set the task of gathering all the dust
March 28, 2015
Fontanka.ru

Governor Georgy Poltavchenko has set city maintenance services the task of “gathering all the dust.” He stated this in an interview on Saint Petersburg TV.

“Speaking of dust, then, of course, I could also not fail to notice it, because I live in this city. The goal is to gather all the dust. It must first be gathered, and then the city must be washed,” he said.

The last two weeks, Petersburgers have complained of excessive dust in the air. The Smolny said that the city can be washed only after the transition to a sustainable plus temperature.

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Petersburg maintenance workers dustily gathering dust on a very dusty street yesterday, March 27, 2015. Photos by the Russian Reader.

“I Will Find You and Kill You”: How Petersburg Celebrated “Democracy Day”

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“Whatever anybody says, especially our foes from abroad, both you and I know that we live in the most democratic country, in Russia.”

— Georgy Poltavchenko

This past Sunday, September 14, was declared “Democracy Day” in Petersburg, Europe’s fourth largest city. What this meant on paper was that the city’s Kremlin-appointed governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, swept to an overwhelming victory in his first “real” gubernatorial race, while ruling United Party crushed the opposition in elections to the city’s neighborhood councils. Then the victors celebrated “democracy” with a pop concert on Palace Square.

What this meant in practice was that Poltavchenko’s only real challenger had been peremptorily “filtered” from the race two months ago, and the melancholic KGB nonentity was left to face a quartet of stick-figure opponents almost no one had heard of before; the United Russia machine pulled out all the stops doing what it loves best—brazenly rigging elections and just as flagrantly cracking down on anyone who challenges its right to do that; and a band of foreign fascists, ultra-right-wingers, and Stalinist clowns, masquerading as “international monitors,” showed up to rubber stamp this bloody farce. No wonder Robert Mugabe backs Russia.

I received the following letter from a friend whose son celebrated “Democracy Day” by serving as a member of the electoral commission at a polling station in central Petersburg. I have translated the letter and published it here with her permission, but I have changed the names of people and places to protect “Dmitry,” “Lyuba,” and the author from further persecution and harassment.

**********

I don’t know whether you are aware of yesterday’s elections in Petersburg. They were completely hellish.

[Our son] Dmitry was a voting member of the electoral commission at Polling Station No. 86, on Austerlitz Street. His girlfriend Lyuba had the same status at Polling Station No. 85, which was in the same building. A bunch of Dmitry’s friends worked in the same capacity at various other polling stations.

The chairs of the commissions hid from them all the time. On Saturday, the day before the elections, Dmitry went to his polling station, where he immediately faced aggression and intimidation: “We’ll have you removed from the polling station,” “Don’t you dare photograph anything,” “We’ll settle your hash later,” and so on. Dmitry demanded to be shown the certificate for receipt of the envelopes containing the absentee ballots. The chairwoman started screaming that this was a provocation. Saturday ended with the chairwoman turning Dmitry over to the police for allegedly photographing the voter lists.

Dmitry was taken to the eighty-third police precinct on the Old Barge Channel, where he was immediately released because the arrest had been illegal. I went to the precinct to get him.

Then came Sunday [election day]. Right away in the morning, Dmitry wrote to us that there had been a bunch of violations; he was again being threatened, and so forth. He was sent out with a mobile ballot box to make the rounds of the old women [pensioners confined to their homes], and while he was out, the chairwoman sent someone with two unregistered ballot boxes to a hospital. At the end of the day, the ballot boxes came back with twenty additional votes that had appeared out of nowhere, as if people had been admitted to the hospital the day before and were immediately registered as voters at this polling station. It was like this with the ballot boxes at nearly every polling station: two hundred votes apiece, cast by completely unknown people, ended up in them.

In the afternoon, I brought Dmitry coffee, because he was afraid to leave the polling station. Lyuba went out to have tea, and while she was out, two ballot boxes were carried away from her polling station: she was informed of this after the fact.

When I arrived at the polling station, they also made as if they were going to arrest me: “Who the hell are you? His mama?” and so on. I snapped at them and told them they were shameless. Dmitry and I went out onto the porch. Some security guards—not cops—came out after us, as if they were keeping track of us. They smoked and swore. We remarked to them that both smoking and swearing were administrative violations. They cussed us out. When Dmitry started filming them with his telephone, they began pushing us down the stairs, trying to snatch the telephone from Dmitry. They got the telephone from him, and Dmitry hurt his hand. (Also, one of the guards got doused with coffee, meaning that Dmitry was left without coffee.) We called the police. When they heard us doing that, the guard cooled their heels and gave back the telephone, but they had erased the video.

Then a polizei came, and Dmitry and I filed an assault complaint. The polizei said he would charge the men with an administrative violation for smoking.

I told the chairwoman that hopefully she was being well paid for everything, because otherwise I saw no point to this mayhem. To which she replied that she was glad I was concerned about her welfare.

But it got really gnarly after the polls closed. We got reports from everywhere about [opposition electoral commission members and observers] being removed from polling stations during the counting of the votes. When Lyuba’s turn came and she refused to leave the polling station voluntarily, the police were summoned and told that she had spit on a local cop. Lyuba was taken away, and like Dmitry the day before, she was just released. She has filed a bunch of complaints against everyone.

At Dmitry’s polling station, on the contrary, they didn’t start counting the votes for four hours: they were supposedly verifying the voter lists. However, the chair of the Shostakovich Municipal District Electoral Commission, a man who weighs over a hundred kilograms, would come up to Dmitry and whisper in his ear, “I will find you and kill you.” He did this several times. Dmitry was alone against twenty gangsters who insulted and threatened him.

Dmitry called us and said he was being threatened, that they were trying to remove him from the polling station for videotaping and interfering with the commission’s work. I telephoned GOLOS (in general, I spent all of Saturday and Sunday phoning and writing everywhere). The people at GOLOS [a Russian electoral rights NGO] told me I should go to the polling station. At one in the morning, Grigory [her husband] and I ran to Austerlitz Street.

Just as we got there, Dmitry rang to say he was being forcibly dragged from the polling station. A police jeep was already parked outside. Dmitry had also called the police and told them he was being unlawfully removed, but they hadn’t shown up, or rather, they showed up to arrest him.

I was talking to Dmitry on the phone, and he was yelling, “Don’t you dare arrest me, you’re breaking the law.”

The door opened, and Grigory and I saw a cop dragging Dmitry from the polling station. I ran up to the cop and told him he was breaking the law and so on. To make a long story short, Dmitry was again being taken to the eighty-third police precinct. We headed there.

Before leaving, I asked the cop a question.

“Look me straight in the eyes and tell me you aren’t ashamed.”

“I am just doing my job,” he said.

“But what about the law?” Grigory asked.

The cop began to walk away.

“Do you believe in God?” Grigory shouted to him as he walked away.

“Yes,” the cop firmly replied.

Well, then we arrived at the police station. Dmitry was almost immediately released. He also dashed off a bunch of complaints.

We got home at four in the morning. Dmitry ate and drank for the first time in a twenty-hour hellish day. Then we were online until six in the morning watching as his electoral commission kept putting stuff up and erasing and rearranging it. They didn’t even have the obligatory large summary vote tally.

Dmitry’s friends were practically removed from all the polling stations [where they served as electoral commission members and observers]. One friend, Eduard Dubinsky, who was a candidate for the municipal council in the Kamenka district, was arrested for allegedly resisting the police. He spent the night in jail, and the next day a court sentenced him to a five hundred ruble fine. So Dmitry got off lightly. But we are waiting for responses to all his complaints.

P.S. We also found out that there were around two hundred ballots in the unaccounted ballot boxes at Dmitry’s polling station that were secretly sent out and brought back from the hospital, but it is impossible to verify who filled them out and how. Twenty-one of these ballots were allegedly filled out by people who had been admitted to the hospital the day before. It is unclear how they could be entered onto the voter lists. In fact, it couldn’t have been done legally. Plus, now Dmitry has checked and spotted the fact that another one hundred additional voters appeared up out of nowhere. He found this while looking over the final report. Meaning that approximately three hundred fake votes were added to the tally at his polling station. That is roughly fifty percent added to the total. Now I understand why the commission was so aggressive and didn’t allow the results to be known, and whey they were looking for an excuse to kick Dmitry out.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Image courtesy of academichelp.net

The Shipping Forecast

While Manifesta 10’s “public” program sets all that is left of progressive humanity (i.e., the contemporary art world) on fire with its overly provocative metallic Xmas tree, actual public and political life stubbornly and unattractively creaks on in the city that progress and progressive humanity have forgotten, Saint Petersburg, former capital of All the Russias.

kristina_norman_souvenir_2014

This life is of no interest to almost anyone, practically, even in Petersburg itself, so take what follows the way I and many other radio listeners the world over consume the beloved “Shipping Forecast” on BBC Radio 4: as a series of pleasant but ultimately meaningless vocables that have absolutely nothing to do with the way we self-satisfied landlubbers lead our rich, perfectly dry lives.

Gubernatorial and municipal district council elections are scheduled for September 14 in Saint Petersburg. However, even before the pretenders began formally declaring their candidacies this month, many observers, including liberal journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, argued the fix was in, and the Smolny would never allow any serious opposition to the incumbent (the unelected Kremlin appointee Georgy Poltavchenko) or whatever other candidate the Kremlin might suddenly choose to run for the job.

And indeed that is what has happened. Perhaps the only (mildly) oppositional candidate with the popularity and support to make the race real, Oksana Dmitrieva of A Just Russia party, was nixed before she got to the starting blocks. She did not pass the so-called municipal filter: formal approval of her candidacy by a minimum of 156 district council deputies.

I could not find any report about any of this monkey business in English, but hilariously I did find a badly translated statement from the ruling United Russia party angrily denouncing Dmitrieva for having the temerity to suggest there was something fishy about her failing to get through the filter and demanding an apology from her.

Well, sayonara, fair Oksana. We, the enlightened Petersburg “public,” barely knew who you were anyway, so we won’t miss you.

However, really serious candidates, like Takhir Bikbayev of the “Greens Ecological Party,” a man whose name is synonymous in the minds of Petersburg voters with all things environmental and progressive, (that’s a joke: I really have never heard of him before nor, I gather, has anyone else), easily passed through the dreaded filter.

Meanwhile, opposition candidates are being purged right and left from the district council races or otherwise prevented from registering. One such victim of Putinist vigilance is Fyodor Gorozhanko, a well-known local grassroots housing rights advocate, who was dismissed from the elections after United Russia complained he had “misled” voters who signed a petition supporting his candidacy. A court has upheld the complaint.

How exactly did Gorozhanko “mislead” voters? On the standard-issue petition sheets voters sign to get candidates on the ballot, there is a blank where the candidate has to state whether he or she is “employed” and where. Since Gorozhanko works as a volunteer aide to Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy Maxim Reznik, he crossed out the word “employed” and pencilled in what he does now in lieu of gainful employment. This is how he “misled” voters. Gorozhanko plans to appeal the court’s decision…

Man, this local politics shit is so, so boring. I am going to switch on the “Shipping Forecast” and wait for a contemporary artist to make another provocative statement in public space about public space and history. Now that will be something to talk about.

P.S. While I was gussying up this post, incumbent Georgy Poltavchenko officially declared his candidacy. He will face stiff competition on September 14 from Irina Ivanova (CPRF), Konstantin Sukhenko (LDPR), Takhir Bikbayev (Greens), and Andrei Petrov (Motherland). I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of Petersburg will have never heard of any of these candidates except for Poltavchenko, of course, although Ivanova and Sukhenko are deputies in the city’s legislative assembly.

Oksana Dmitrieva (A Just Russia) and Anatoly Golov (Yabloko) were refused registration. Dmitrieva has claimed that Poltavchenko pressured municipal deputies into not supporting her candidacy and has filed complaints with the prosecutor general’s office and the central electoral commission.