August 01, 1997

Notebook



Peter’s creation in dire straits

St. Petersburg — The historic center of St. Petersburg is dying for lack of financial resources to renovate its buildings, and experts are becoming alarmed. According to official city hall figures, 25 percent of apartments are still communal, where families are forced to share kitchen, bathroom and telephone. “The infrastructure of the city center is almost worn-out,” said Alexei Vassiliyev, chief of the municipal architecture department. “All the piping dates form the time of [the city’s] founding by Peter the Great and we don’t dare to even touch some of it.” 

In Moscow, thanks to an active policy by the city hall of bringing in private investors, buildings have been decorated in striking pastel colors, apartment interiors are being steadily modernized and blocks of offices and living accommodations are mushrooming. But in St. Petersburg, a city of 5 mn inhabitants that claims to be the cultural capital of Russia, wall ceilings crack, pipes burst and the old quarters dating back nearly 300 years are decaying. Most of the buildings of the central area, covering 54 square km, need to be restored, if not completely demolished. 


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