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Shattered St. Petersburg. How our city is being broken

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Just two weeks ago, there was a historical fanlight above this entrance. Dimmed glass with words “Pharmacy” on it, dating back to the early 20th century. But today we are seeing a faceless plastic glass here – typical for the 21st century. The city lost one more small part of its soul. It’s like a puzzle game – you lose one piece, and can still understand what’s on the picture, but cannot put it on a wall anymore. But what if there is more than just one piece? We start our list of those lost pieces in our city from this place

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The Chertkov Building – the object of cultural heritage. This entrance always had a pharmacy. The glass was not just an ad of the place – it reminded of the times when the city had the look so dear to us. When Oscar Pel lived at Gorokhovaya. Today’s owners of the pharmacy replaced the door for a simple reason – it was old, rotten and the wind blew inside the room. But no matter how windy it got, the historic glass could not have been removed without permission from the authorities. Absolutely no way. It’s almost like removing a statue from a street and depriving us – residents of the city – of our right to admire it. And the pharmacy chain’s manager says that the media inflated this story and there’s no harm done.

Olga Rolskaya, head of pharmacy chain: “I think you – media – have generated too much noise over nothing. You claim that this is the object of cultural heritage – but we do not have any written obligations. There were four doors replaced in the building, but all the noise is about this old door. You should ask the authorities”.

The manager says they have no obligations, but they have a responsibility. The removed glass is kept at a room at Gorokhovaya 24 and awaits a decision on its fate.

Maxim Oblender, reporter: “Another missing piece is a massive one. Metal gates, installed before the revolution, have disappeared in broad daylight. No one flexed a muscle when men in orange bibs came, took them down and took them away. Reconstruction or utility works – that’s always understandable. But it later emerged that the local utility company had nothing to do with that. And nobody knows where the gates, weighing a ton, have gone to”.

Heavy gates, according to activist Anna Kapitonova, represent an easy catch – especially if there are no CCTV cameras. Now one would have to wait until those are put up for sale online or look for them in the black market, where a ton of such materials would cost around 18 thousand rubles.

Anna Kapitonova, activist: “After several cases of theft of valuable metals, we met with locals and discussed the course of actions. Awareness of local residents matters greatly in such cases. Not blindly trusting workers in bibs, but always be aware of what kind of works are held in your neighborhood”.

And look around more often too. The beheaded statue of Talia the muse has been standing in this backyard at Vasilievsky Island for more than 40 years. Regional historians found it accidentally earlier this month. After investigating their find, they learnt that the marble statue belonged to duke Alexey Alexandrovich’s palace!

Kseniya Sidorina, regional historian: “During the Red Revolution, its head was knocked off. You know how it was then – crash and burn. After that, it was relegated to a basement. 40 years later, there was a review of basements and it was found. Those who did wanted to throw it into dumpster, but a sculptor – casually passing by – prevented that and took it home”.

The workshop where Talia’ savior used to work is still in this palace. “The Three Graces” are being worked on. But this statue will not be renovated. First of all, such type of marble is unavailable today. Secondly, the renovated statue will be a brand new one instead. A piece of the city’s history – abandoned, dirty, beheaded muse from the palace – is still standing inside an ordinary St. Petersburg’s backyard.

Sadovaya, 25. A headless mermaid on the façade. The Nikolaevs Building of the late 18th century, which combines several architectural styles. The mermaids have been decorating the façade for more than a hundred years – hardly this is of any interest to vandals. Deface, spray paint and break. The same story once a year, all over again.

Krasimir Vranski, leader of “Beautiful St. Petersburg” movement: “Today we have filed a request to the governor’s office to set up CCTV cameras which would capture the faces of these vandals. We also requested that all such places are equipped with those”.

The mermaid got lucky. While we were producing this report, the broken-off face was returned to the Committee on control, usage and protection of monuments – it was found by a passer-by. But no one knows when it would be placed back on its spot – or whether this act of vandalism would happen again.

Maxim Oblender, reporter: “We visited this location in May. The renters – owners of the café – were doing a makeover, made a hole in the wall and a new entrance and took several lion carvings off the façade. Its only one and a half of those survived, but they were still forced to put the lions back into their places. Businessmen had to repair those and pay for it. And the door was not permitted as well. So the coffee shop had to vacate the property, not even having been opened. Another valuable lesson – in the city with three hundred years of history you just can’t demolish, refurbish or scrub off anything without asking first”.

If you gather such pieces of St. Petersburg together, you’d get enough items for several museums. And one such museum – “Keramarkh” – will open at Petropavlovskaya Fortress in October. Part of these decorations, oven gates and ovens themselves could’ve easily been dumped. St. Petersburg’s residents were renovating their homes en-masse back in the 1990s. So those ovens were clearly out of trend.

Konstantin Likholat, general director of renovation company: “On the right, we see a decorated oven, pretty one, which was acquired in a very peculiar way. There was an anonymous call – that an oven was being dumped at an address, and it was already packed in a bag”.

The buildings which housed these ovens might not even exist anymore, so the name of a man who decided to dump it might never be known. But these little crumbs of the city’s life will now be accessible to anyone. And it’s only up to us to retain this puzzle of millions of pieces – called St. Petersburg. Because we are its owners.

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