Starting tomorrow, the famous Amber Room of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve will be closed to visitors until May 2003. The restoration work that has continued for over 20 years and now is 95% done is supposed to be completed by that time.
The completion of the restoration of the Amber Room is one of the points of the preparation for St. Petersburg's tercentenary. Supposedly, all the monarchs will arrive to take part in the celebration. The Amber Room is expected to be opened by that time.
The problem is, St. Petersburg has just about no monumental style artist skilled in stonework left. Ivan Sautov, Director of the Tsarskoye Selo museum, says, 'Nearly all work in the Amber Room has been done by three master artists, the youngest already 70. Regretfully, stonework skills are lost with time, so we are losing the unique artistic school.'
The restoration of the Amber Room, which had been stolen by the German army, began in 1979. About 6 tonnes of amber has been used so far. The amber came from Kaliningrad. For 20 years, from 1979 through 1999, the work was financed by the federal government, a total of USD 7.754 million spent. An agreement was signed in 1999 to the effect that from then on the work would be financed by the German Ruhrgas company that pledged a donation of USD 3.5 million. Most of that has also been spent. The remaining USD 430,000 will be used up between now and May 2003.