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Disappearing St. Petersburg. The city’s historic legacy is being taken apart


The House of Back on Kirochnaya Street. Renovation works are in full swing here - an as a result, the building lost several details.


Member of the Restoration Workers Union Gennadiy Vyunov shows us the entrance - which until recently was covered with a steel cap from the early 20th century. This is how it looked in the summer. Now, the cap was taken out - bit by bit - and the man is most concerned with how exactly it would be brought back.
This is a profit house named after its first owner - Yulian Back - and its often named among the most unusual and popular buildings in St. Petersburg, thanks to its galleries. But it has not seen any capital renovation from the moment it was built. And now - when the much-anticipated work has begun - residents barely manage to rescue vintage decorations.

Marina Zhukova - just like her neighbours - still cannot forget the case when vintage doors of the building resurfaced at one of the cafes on Rubinshteina Street. Purchased online. And now a new reason to be worried - the steel cap, taken apart and removed.

The Capital Renovations Fund understands these concerns of the residents. But, according to specialists, there’s no other way of saving an element of the facade. After through examination, it was determined that it was about to crumble. The rescuable elements will be renovated. Those which have rusted through will be reconstructed.

But the steel cap from Back’s House will return on its spot. Other historic objects were not as lucky. This footage from two weeks ago instigated debates and even led to a criminal case. The person who filmed it - Larion Topchiy - often visits one of Kronschtadt’s forts during his sea trips. And in one of those he noticed that vintage cannons and parts of dock crane went missing.

The sixth norther fort has been defending St. Petersburg since the mid-19th century. And even after losing military functions, it housed a military enterprise. But a year ago it was completely abandoned. And the fact that this site is on UNESCO’s list has not stopped vandals. Bronze metals go for 25 rubles per kilo. Each cannon weighs 3.5 tons. There were seven cannons. So it all makes over 6 million rubles. Who cares about the city’s history?

Four of the stolen cannons have been found so far. Those are not lost forever. But some things in St. Petersburg will not return to us - like the out-house of Dologorukovs’ House, where Pavel Filonov began his artistic path and depicted it on one of his paintings. And literally last week another historic object also disappeared.

At the beginning of the century, there was a depot for omnibuses here. Omnibus, translated from Latin, means «for everyone». So, basically, the history of St. Petersburg’s public transportation. And now we are trying to recognise the previous look in the remains of the walls with chairman of St. Petersburg’s branch of the All-Russian society for protection of historical and cultural monuments Alexander Kononov.

According to him, the owner of the building - Russian Railways - has been keeping silence. The demolition began suddenly and unexpectedly. Thats despite you have to obtain special permission to demolish any historic object in this area. But now all we can see here is a pile of redbrick and a wall. 

This is how St. Petersburg’s history gradually fades away - a detail of a facade, vintage cannons, out-house, a building. And thats just in the last month alone. The question is what will remain?