St. Petersburg, Russia, and its history in heritage preservation have undergone several changes, challenges, and progressions since the area was first founded during the 18th century. Under the creation and development from the mind of the historical figure Peter the Great, the Russian czar that led Russia into the modern era, St. Petersburg, Russia, currently serves as the home for more than 7800 cultural heritage properties.
Comparatively, St. Petersburg is considered the second-largest city in Russia and has historically been compared to several prominent places. Primarily known for its architectural heritage, styles such as Baroque and Neoclassical Era structures such as The Hermitage and The Winter Place are impressively lined within the city.
Historically, the city has made valiant and successful efforts to preserve its cultural legacy by emphasizing providing and serving future generations with knowledge and access to their cultural heritage and the city’s cultural heritage.
After all, preservation is actively considered the process and act in which historical events, artifacts, and culture are documented, recorded, and maintained for education, local heritage, and tourism, to name a few. Within this thought, St. Petersburg implemented a strategy towards maintaining cultural heritage preservation that emphasizes the concept of continued city and economic development, reaffirming spiritual and cultural connections via its citizens and supporting sustainable solutions for future preservation needs.
For the most part, the strategies presented within cultural heritage preservation in the area and within the guidelines established by UNESCO, St. Petersburg has shown to be moderately successful in its endeavors. However, akin to many plans and cultural shifts in the region, the picturesque city has been confronted with threats towards maintaining the good preservation of many of its 19th and 20th-century architectural structures. In 2013, Moscow, a geological competitor and the country’s most densely populated city proved to be a potential threat to the historical sites found in St. Petersburg.
Some of the leading causes stem from urban development and political and influencers with resources to expand their territories. In addition, there have been some troubles with the preservation efforts due to poor infrastructure requests to UNESCO that poorly define the needs and importance of continued support and maintenance of these timeless cultural sites.
Many famous heritage sites have been destroyed in urban development and expansion because of the technicalities found in contractual agreements in heritage landmarks and buildings that do not often allow for certain phases of reconstruction and restoration projects. Moreover, an even simpler complication is the structures’ natural weathering and climate erosion beyond the repair and upkeep possible by preservationists.
Lastly, the recent potential threat of social and political unrest within the city due to oligarchical power demands and threats of war and combat via the present Russian leader could be just as disastrous to the monuments and sites. In all, St. Petersburg officials, preservation organizations, and heritage groups urgently need to remodel and assess potential measures on how the historical community can continue to maintain the story and collective history of St. Petersburg and that of the Russian nation.
Naturally, societal pressures will overpower the requests and desires of humanists. However, the concept of rethinking how preservation is maintained and carried forth in the city must happen. One solution that could be implemented is emphasizing digital preservation for some of the more fragile and physiologically susceptible sites, monuments, and archaeological structures.
Given the more permanent option that digital preservation provides, this option benefits the city’s legacy. It would make the material and resources more accessible for future generations if housed and preserved in practical places.
Another possible solution would be to decide which restoration and preservation projects are worth carrying out due to financial and location constraints.
Although not readily mentioned, dealing with the concept of time and lifespan are intangible factors that many preservationists and efforts must contend with. The presented strategy has considered many monuments’ natural progression over time and lifespan. However, this practice is more easily carried out theoretically than in actual terms.
If the idea of cultural heritage preservation is actively important to preservationists, tourists, and others interested in the cause, then for this concept to progressively continue, it would require realistically identifying key sites and places that are more relevant to savage rather than trying to preserve the mass.
Overall, many are learning through strategizing and creating efforts towards cultural heritage preservation that complex decisions are required to maintain cultural heritage.
Rather than pushing efforts to save everything, it is essential to remember that although there are losses that will be sustained in cultural preservation, the rewards and gains that are also possible can be found within the act of responsibly preserving history so that there will be lessons available for future generations to reflect. Holistically it is more important to salvage some history than to lose all of it trying to maintain everything remaining.
Arkansas State University Shanita Sanders