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Crimea and St. Petersburg. What connects us?



Probably every school pupils of Leningrad dreamt of going to Artek – Soviet Union’s best summer camp. Svetlana Gudzik, a teacher from St. Petersburg, never went there as a kid, but worked there as senior for two years. Here she is – with her group. In that very summer, when American girl Samantha Smith came to Artek – having written a letter to Andropov at the height of the Cold War. Svetlana shows us the photos which were famous across the world at the time – Samantha wearing a traditional Russian hat and a pioneer’s tie.

Svetlana Gudzik, deputy director at school 636: “Samantha Smith was such a bright girl. Everyone wanted to be around her and group leaders wanted to work with her. But only those who knew the language could. The girl was not afraid to put on Artek’s uniform – against all odds. Having succumbed to Artek’s regime”.

Thirty five years on, Svetlana joined dozens of St. Petersburg’s Artek-lovers on a trip to Crimea, to celebrate the 90th birthday of the legendary camp. Red tie, souvenirs from group leaders from everywhere across Russia and, most importantly, traditions and educational brands of the famous Artek so fondly loved by St. Petersburg’s school students – all that is firmly engrained in their memories.

It is believed that Alexander Pushkin himself was among the first visitors to Artek for a Crimean seaside vacation. Every school pupil today knows how much connects St. Petersburg and Crimea. But a live excursion is much more interesting than a history lesson, according to tour guide Viktor Kanin. He created a special route in St. Petersburg through spots connected to Crimea – for visitors from the peninsula. From the most obvious – a monument to Katherine the Great who made Crimea part of the Russian Empire – to the bust of Aivazovsky, the famous painter of Black Sea naval sights.

Viktor Kanin, tour guide: “As a pleasant addition we have this connection with Crimea – for them to feel how close we are. Both spiritually and in terms of numerous monuments”.

The conversation about three-hundred-year-long relations between St. Petersburg and Crimea can be endless. But people of our time are writing the new pages. Famous pilot from St. Petersburg, Vadim Bazykin, has been living in two cities for two years now. He spends most of his time in Crimea, where he heads the construction of Sevastopol airport and building up private aviation at the peninsula. So that aero taxi and medical air transport becomes available too. Vadim says he likes the atmosphere in Crimea – the changing times.

Vadim Bazykin, renowned Russian pilot: “I am a little jealous of them – they are embarking on a path that we took in the 1990s. A revolutionary period when you want everything to happen within 100 days, not 500. These are very decent people, who re-joined Russia because they loved it. I can see it myself – have many friends now in Crimea”.

Vadim BAzykin tells us how a small hangar – at the size of three apartments – will grow to become a modern airport in Sevastopol. And this is by far not the only project which unites the two regions.

Evgenia Altfeld, reporter: “Crimean businessmen really want to work with St. Petersburg and are ready to invest millions. But in the beginning – as in every sphere – things are far from smooth. Evidenced by a Crimean-made “smart-stop” in the heart of Nevsky Prospekt”.

Those did not survive in St. Petersburg. The equipment was brought into St. Petersburg by a businessman from Sevastopol – Anton Chervinsky. The stop gives you internet access, charges your phone and provides information about transport routes. But servicing this venture in St. Petersburg happened to be much more difficult than Anton had expected. And found other markets instead.

Gastronomic business is doing much better. This is one of St. Petersburg’s restaurants with Crimean-Tatar cuisine – opened long before the referendum. Inside – carpets and paintings by Yalta’s artists. On its shelves – the hit of Crimean cuisine – home-made nut and mulberry jam. Sous chef Evgeniya Chistyakova shows how to make traditional Crimean dumplings. Which are colloquially called “a bride’s tear”.

The dumplings have to be so small, that one spoon would fit 15 of those. Evgeniya learnt the trade of traditional cuisine in Crimea – along with other chefs from St. Petersburg. And brought those authentic recipes back home.

This is how Crimea and St. Petersburg – which have almost 2.5 kilometers apart – are connecting different people. From distinguished pilots and businessmen to school teachers and chefs. Crimea and St. Petersburg are writing the new pages of our history.