This week the Northern Capital’s parliament marked its 20th birthday. Alexey Mikhalev found out which challenges it has faced and how deputies are looking into the future.
Yuriy Zinchuk, host: “St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council has turned 20. It were the city’s legislators who became harbingers of all political changes at the brink of 1980’s and 1990’s. First it was the Leningrad Council, then the Petrograd Council, now it’s the Legislative Council. Oh, our country’s and the whole world’s history would have probably taken a different turn if not for those events at the Mariinskiy Palace. Let’s recall that Vladimir Putin’s political career started with Anatoliy Sobchak, who chaired the Leningrad Council.
These walls have known a lot of events, political mysteries and insider intrigues. It’s an entire book, which will be written by somebody someday. In the meantime, our observer Alexey Mikhalev attempted to write it – in the format of a special report. Let’s watch the outcome.
Alexey Mikhalev, reporter: “What is 20 years in the history of parliamentarianism? The oldest parliament in the world – Iceland’s Alting – was founded in 930. Its more than a thousand years old. But that’s the thing – sometimes you only have 20 years to fulfill the same path which had taken centuries before. It was hard to imagine how congested time would become”
Vyacheslav Makarov, chairman of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council: “If we remember the early 1990’s – the parade of sovereignties – when both the Soviet Union and the entire legal and law systems were destroyed. Under those circumstances, it was vitally important to create a code of laws”
Literally from its first cadency, the Legislative Council became the flagship of the regional parliamentarianism. It managed to carve a path unknown before to the rest of the country”
Yuriy Kravtsov, chairman of St. Petersburg Legislative Council’s first cadency: “The law about the system of state authority in the city is rarely noticed though. But it was then that members of the government started accounting for their actions in front of the parliament. Moreover, deputies could vote non confidence. It is the real control mechanism”
Legislation duties is the first and foremost mission of the parliament. The number of adopted and approved laws was growing at an exponential rate. If by 1994 only one law was adopted, in 1995 there were 28, by mid-2000’s it went into hundreds. The parliament started working as a restless organism.
Konstantin Sukhenko, deputy of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council, LDPR party: “In that sense, we have been working more composedly, in a St. Petersburg style. But I remember the times when we deliberated on the budget until midnight, and we had tea and sandwiches brought into the hall”
However, the activities of the Legislative Council are not restricted to solving the city’s problems. St. Petersburg’s Parliament – and that’s a statistical fact – is the most active regional body of power, affecting the country’s life too.
Sergey Naryshkin, chairman of the Russian State Duma: “This is one of the authorities of the regional council – the right of federal initiative. St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council is one of the best in that respect. This year, the State Duma has received around a 100 legislative bills from it”
Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, deputy of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council, Yabloko party: “I think that not only St. Petersburg could become the 2nd capital – from cultural and intellectual points of view – but also part of that mechanism, which influences ties with Europe, with the world and shapes the country’s future”
So to speak, “the second capital” – is not just a combination of words. The city’s deputies voted on relocating the Constitutional Court into St. Petersburg. And in February 2007 the Russian President rubberstamped this initiative.
Vadim Tyulpanov, chairman of St. Petersburg Legislative Council’s 3rd and 4th cadencies: “St. Petersburg has de jure become the second capital. This status is legitimized – we have a body of state power operating here, the Russian Federation’s Constitutional Court”
The originality of St. Petersburg’s Parliament materialized in its multi-party structure. Changing, ageing, getting rid of excessive hustle and noise – it still has always been an arena for discussions.
Vyacheslav Makarov, chairman of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council: “Its important that we have 64 political parties and movements registered in the city – and that creates the stability for the political structure. I am sure that a parliament must have as many parties as possible”
One of the important functions and privileges of the deputies – the duty to choose St. Petersburg’s honorary citizens. Vladimir Putin received this title in May 2006.
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation: “I am profoundly grateful for this trust. Im talking to the residents of St. Petersburg and the deputies of the Legislative Council – the appraisal of my landsmen is very valuable”
In different years, Dmitriy Likhachev, Olga Berggoltz, Patriarch Alexey II, Kirill Lavrov, Zhores Alferov, Andrey Petrov and Daniil Granin became St. Petersburg’s honorary citizens. These people are well known and are always in demand, but their busy schedules have never been an obstacle to keep track of parliamentarians’ activities.
Mikhail Piotrovskiy, director of the State Hermitage: “I want to tell them not to forget that they are meeting at the Mariinskiy Palace – the place where the State Council of the Russian Empire once resided at. Don’t forget that, and things will be fine”
The Mariinskiy Palace is one of the three political palaces of St. Petersburg. Having received its name after the daughter of Tsar Nikolay I – Mariya Nikolayevna – it has been inseparably connected to Russia’s political life for more than a century. Since 1985 it housed the State Council and Ministers’ Committee of the Russian Empire. It was here, at the rotunda of the Mariinskiy Palace, that a solemn gathering of the State Council took place on May 7th 1901 – which was depicted on a painting by Ilya Repin. The replica of the painting hangs to remind the deputies of their mission within the walls of the Legislative Council.
Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the Federations Council: “We cannot allow ourselves excessive populism, unprofessional decision taken to suit someone’s political ambitions and interests”
Every jubilee is not only about making conclusions, but building future plans too. That’s why it is reasonable to ask ourselves now – what will the Parliament of the future be like in 20 years? What can we suggest to those who will replace the current deputies?
Vyacheslav Makarov, chairman of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Council: “Deputies who will replace us…the main thing is that they understand our decisions and motivation. We always remember our predecessors with underlined respect. As for those who will come to replace us, I want their motto to sound like – we will do it better than our predecessors, but we will keep their traditions alive”