The presidential envoy in Russia's Northwest talks about the celebration and what will happen afterwards
"The whole of Russia built the city of St. Petersburg, the city of Peter the Great; the world's best architects created their buildings there. The preservation of this national value is not the goal of one city only," the presidential envoy in the Northwest of Russia, Valentina Matviyenko, said.
Just a few days are left before the celebration of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. Will the celebration become a starting point for a new stage of the city's development? Valentina Matviyenko, presidential envoy in the Northwest of Russia, spoke about it in an interview with the magazine Itogi.
What is your evaluation of the preparations for the celebration of St. Petersburg's 300 years?
A lot of things have been already done in the city. I think that a lot of people who come to see the city can already see the results of that work. The restoration of the historical center, the development of the city infrastructure, new roads - citizens will soon have an opportunity to appreciate all these things at their true value. There have been a lot of complaints made about the miserable condition of buildings and roads. I do not want to say that everything that has been done so far is enough for the city. All the work will continue after the celebration is over. As for an evaluation, I do not think that now is the time for it.
If you were just a guest at the holiday, which things would you prefer to see?
If I were just a guest, I would find myself in a rather difficult situation. St. Petersburg is an extremely interesting city. I would try my best to see everything on the program.
What is the budget for the holiday? Which projects were funded from the federal and which ones from the local treasury? The Clearing House and other auditing departments have determined several occasions of untargeted use of the funds.
A lot of money has been assigned for the event. However, a lot more money is needed to make the city look as it should. The whole of Russia built the city of St. Petersburg, the city of Peter the Great; the best architects in the world created their buildings there. The preservation of this national value is not the goal of one city only. I think that Russia owes a lot to our great city. As far as untargeted use of funds is concerned, let's get back to this issue after the celebration is over. The Clearing House will work on it.
What is going to happen in the city after the holiday? Will the attention paid to you by the federal center decrease?
That is not a good way to put the question. One might think that St. Petersburg is a disabled city that can not live without Moscow's help. The city possesses a huge potential and it should realize itself. We should not have an inferiority complex. Yet, there is a need for help from the federal center, and I am sure that assistance will be rendered. I hope that, when foreign guests leave, new investment projects will come into the city together with a better service level, appropriate to the new international status of the city.
St. Petersburg is the most European city in Russia. Does thisthis give it any advantages from the point of view of economic development; in attracting foreign investments, for instance?
St. Petersburg was originally meant to be a "window to Europe." The city has already become Russia's face to the whole world. Foreigners’ impression of Russia depends a lot on what they see in St. Petersburg. The city was built for close and mutually beneficial cooperation with foreign countries. The city has certain advantages - the geographical position of the city is an example, which illustrates its investment attractiveness. The cultural value and the historical legacy of St. Petersburg are definitely a great advantage. There are a lot of advantages, and it is important to use them to the maximum.
Do you think that it would be good to make St. Petersburg the capital of Russia? Is it possible to do this partially, to have the Russian parliament based in St. Petersburg, for example?
This idea is not new. There is no common opinion on this question. I personally think that there is no need to do that – Moscow handles the role of the Russian capital well. Yet, it would be good for St. Petersburg to take on a part of Moscow's functions. This would give an incentive for the development of the city's infrastructure, which would eventually improve people's living standards.
Speaking about other problems, why do you think St. Petersburg Gov. Vladimir Yakovlev refused to run for reelection?
I think that the governor, as a person devoted to democratic values, made such a decision Out of concern for the law.
Are you going to announce your candidacy for the post of governor? If yes, what will your election campaign be like?
I have said it before many times and I will say it again: there is a lot of time left until the election, and it is too early to talk about it now. I think that everyone who cares about the future of St. Petersburg has one goal: to provide normal conditions for the whole city, to have stability in the city's administration, and so on and so forth.
A woman as a governor, a woman as a presidential envoy, is a unique phenomenon in Russian politics. In addition, you have experience of working in the government. How do you feel in this role?
I can sense a trace of male chauvinism in your question. It is generally believed that a woman, as a politician in Russia, is not capable of achieving any real results. In fact, this is not true. There are very few women in Russian political life, it is true, and, perhaps, women are not willing to go into politics themselves. But look at the women who have succeeded in the field of politics: Lyubov Sliska, Irina Khakamada, and many others. When I was a vice premier in the Russian government, I worked with a team of other people. This is exactly what I do now as presidential envoy in the Northwest. It is impossible to settle such responsible goals alone. A leader is always supposed to have someone else to help them.
What does St. Petersburg mean to you personally?
St. Petersburg is the main city in my life. When a schoolgirl, I decided that I wanted to live my entire life in this wonderful city. When I could finally say to myself that I was a resident of Leningrad, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I treasure the Hermitage, the Pertropavlovskaya Fortress, the Neva River. A lot of things in the city mean much to me, especially the atmosphere of St. Petersburg: the low sky, rains and so on. My whole life is connected with this city.
Near the United Nations Glass Palace in New York, there is a metallic sculpture entitled "Evil Defeated by Good", representing Saint George transfixing a dragon with his lance. It was donated by the USSR in 1990 to celebrate the INF Treaty concluded with the USA in 1987