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Snowy Winter 2019

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Hi! I am Andrey Fedorov. And this is my first winter in St. Petersburg.

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Andrey Fedorov, reporter: “I lack sunlight, the wind gets under my skin and I am bewildered by zero centigrade in January. But I am particularly surprised by the amount of snow in the streets, on the roads and atop the roofs. Namely – how exactly it is being cleaned”.

  • Why is not taken care of?

Mohammed Barat, street cleaner: “You need to throw salt here, shovels won’t help. Yeah, they break”

  • Why are you not working and standing still?

Viktor Ivanov, driver of a snowplow: “How am I supposed to work? By closing off the road? It’s impossible to work – as you can see”.

Heavy traffic, unbreakable ice and never-ending snowfall. Since the beginning of the winter, St. Petersburg has registered more than a meter of rainfall. Many say that this is an anomaly for a city located at the 60th latitude.

Others say that thick and heavy rain can be seen every winter, but this time it’s the biggest in 5 years. Utility services have been throwing everything they have at their disposal.

Vadim Mizyukin, head of department on complex road maintenance at Utilities Committee of St. Petersburg: “Everyone would want more gear and manpower. And if we had a possibility to increase those two-fold, we would’ve certainly done it – and cleaned up the city twice as fast. But we can only depend on the resources which are provided to us by our financing”.

1155 mechanized units and unconventional solutions, which exploded the Internet lately. For instance, a passenger van was used in one area to take out the snow.

Andrey Fedorov, reporter: “This convertible at Chkalovsky Prospekt became a social media hit in January. The abandoned Volga has been here since the beginning of the winter and has turned into a very photogenic pile of snow. And it also illustrates what utility services name as the biggest problem in cleaning the streets – they claim dense parking hampers them”

To solve this kind of problem, such off-roaders have been commissioned this year – for the first time ever. Also becoming social media sensations. And we have managed to find them. It turns out that this idea came from Europe and was realized in St. Petersburg. Those have hit the streets of Kalininskiy district - as an experiment.

Alexey Sautkin, driver: “It is highly maneuverable, easy to drive and compact – you can see how good it is on the road. I think this experiment has proved to be a success”.

Andrey Fedorov, reporter: “Also, I have managed to find interesting numbers online – about the number of cleaners in the streets in different times. Before the revolution, those amounted to only three percent of the entire population. Even less than that in the Soviet times – only half-a-percent. Today, eight thousand people are cleaning the streets of the Northern Capital. With the population of 5 million people, this is only 0.15 percent”

It turns out that at the brink of the centuries, there were more than ten of them for every profit house. And the work itself was far more meticulous in those times, according to museum tour guide Yulia Smirnova. Because three different entities were overseeing its quality. If a pathway to a building or a rooftop were not cleaned, its owner faced a hefty fine. At times such serious approach led to humorous situations.

Yulia Smirnova, tour guide at S.M. Kirov Museum: “There was a directive to clean the snow next to buildings by a certain hour. One of the residents fulfilled it, others did not. And then other residents started complaining that there was not enough snow for sleds to drive through. So that diligent resident had to by snow from his neighbors – in order to enable sleds travelling through the streets again”

  • Was it cleaned better in the Soviet days?

  • Of course!

And not because the snow was dumped into the Neva, as I believed. You do remember the “Irony of fate” movie by Ryazanov? That was a piece of fiction – realized on this very spot in the heart of St. Petersburg.

Street cleaners were motivated in those days. Every outsider was provided with accommodation. And to own it, the person would have to clean the streets for 5 years – without changing his employer.

Alexey Erofeev, regional historian: “The attitude towards Leningrad was somewhat different. People who came to Leningrad fell in love with it and became its residents”

A heavy cyclone hit Finland this week. But the people there did not feel any inconveniences. White snow mixed with granite crumbs under their feet. The same gear, but different approach.

According to forecasts, the cyclone will move soon. And then the Northern Capital will be hit by -20C temperatures, which I’m not looking forward to. For the time being, St. Petersburg’s winter is associated with a comfortable temperature and fluffy snow. And yes, I do not regret coming here.

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