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Evictions Loom for Artists

Published: June 25, 2004 (Issue # 980)


In a city renowned for its art, the St. Petersburg Property Committee has told all local cultural figures using studios belonging to City Hall that they will be privatized.

Tenants will have to pay market rents or buy the studios if they want to stay. The artists were not ordered to vacate the studios, but the city's decree makes that virtually inevitable because most artists cannot afford market rentals.

The artisans, bewildered by the decision, held a protest meeting at the headquarters of the Artists' Union on Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa on Thursday to discuss their response.

Street protests and even mass renunciation of Russian citizenship were mentioned as possible moves.

The city boasts about 2,000 studios that belong to the city and are rented by the artists in perpetuity. The right to rent a studio is granted by a professional union.

There are 14 artists' unions in St. Petersburg, including the Union of Artists, the Union of Composers, the Union of Writers, the Union of Designers and the Union of Architects.

Many artists live in the studios as well as using them for their creative works. The studios can't be inherited.

Prominent writer Ilya Shtemler urged the artists to take to the streets.

"Being delicate, quiet and tolerant is not going to help," he said. "The only way to confront this usurpation is to publicly protest outside Smolny and the Legislative Assembly. Even if we lose the studios we will keep our pride."

Artist Sergei Usik was far more radical; all petitions, meetings and protests would be treated as voices crying in the wilderness, he said.

The issue is political and requires a political response - all artists kicked out of their studios should renounce Russian citizenship, he said.

"To be effective, the measures must be sufficiently dramatic," he said. "If the authorities deprive us of our working space, they are clearly not interested in having artists here. That means we should go elsewhere."

Alternatively, Usik advised sending an appeal to the governments of developed countries asking them to give "the wandering stars" a roof over their heads.

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Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldn’t miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norway’s largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.