A correspondent of mine who requests anonymity tells a sad tale of what Oligarch Russia does to its cultural heritage these days. Money talks!
… the scandalous case with the monuments of ancient St. Petersburg on the place of which the Government plans to build a big (400 m high) skyscraper of Gazprom. This is in the very centre of the city, some 600 m from Smolny, and from the beautiful Smolny cathedral, the baroque creation of Rastrelli. The cathedral will be reduced to nil [I take it the cathedral will be physically dwarfed by the Gazprom skyscraper, not torn down]. UNESCO has warned that if the tower will be beginning to be built, Petersburg will be officially excluded from the World Heritage list. Nevertheless the building has begun: the chiefs of the city want to have the capital of Gazprom here because then the big money streams will be flow through Petersburg and through their hands.
The situation is aggravated due to the fact that under the planned tower extremely important archaeological monuments have been discovered: two Swedish citadels (Nienschantz and Landscrona) with retained on 1 m high bastions, and under them a great Neolithic settlement, the largest in the whole North-European region including Finland, with preserved wooden details allowing dendrochronology for many thousand years. The head of the excavations Peter Sorokin forbade further building activity. He suggested to build a museum instead. Gazprom has pressed the chiefs of the archaeological institutions (depending on Gazprom financially), and the Petersburg Institute for the History of Material Culture (headed by Evgeniy Nosov) these days has replaced Sorokin by another archaeologist (Solovyeva) ready to destroy Landscrona and Nienschantz before April, and the Neolithic settlement has in general dropped out from the agreement. It is non-existent now. And the Moscow Institute of archaeology (headed by Makarov) received from Gazprom money for works in other places and has promised to set up a Commission ready to judge if the museum is necessary. The decision will be without doubts negative and good for Gazprom.
The builders began to hammer big piles into the body of the multi-layer monument, and there are precious few days left before the full annihilation of the important monuments we are all responsible for. The days are numbered.
The minister of culture Avdeev has advanced against the building, but the chiefs of the state are silent. The only hope is on the international community of scholars…
For more on this issue, readers of Russian can refer to the Throitsky Variant newspaper, no. 21 (40) for October 27, 2009, pp. 14-15.