The memorandum on the accomplishment of the Amber Chamber restoration has been signed in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo (St Petersburg suburb that used to be the Russian Tsars' residence).
The signing ceremony was attended by Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Reserve Museum and Achim Middelschulte, member of the Ruhrgas board of directors and chairman of the expert council.
According to the culture minister, the reconstruction of the Amber Chamber is crucial for Russo-German relations. "This work has brought the nations closer and eliminated many prejudices that used to exist in our relations," he stressed at the ceremony. The minister pointed out that by covering more than one third of overall expenses, Ruhrgas had done much more than merely allocated money - "the company proved that relations should rest on a friendly basis." He said the official opening ceremony would take place on May 31, when the leaders of Russia and Germany Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schroeder would have entered the reconstructed Amber Chamber.
Achim Middelschulte stressed in turn that "the council members and Ruhrgas representatives were astounded by the restorers' masterly work." Ivan Sautov said that the current task was to keep the unique collective of the Tsarskoye Selo amber workshop. The next work that the restorers will possibly have to carry out will be the restoration of Agate Chambers situated in the museum-reserve.
According to Sautov, the reconstruction of the Amber Chamber cost $11,350,000 with the contribution of Ruhrgas making up $3.5 million. Over 6 tonnes of amber supplied by the Kaliningrad Amber Factory was used for the reconstruction.
The Amber Chamber (amber panels for interior decoration) was presented to Peter I by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I in 1716. The panels were used in 1755 for the decoration of a hall of the Grand Palace in the Tsarskoye Selo.
Tsarskoye Selo was occupied by Nazi troops during WWII. The Amber Chamber was dismantled and sent to Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad) in East Prussia. It is still unknown what happened to the original chamber. In 1979, the Soviet Government decided that the Amber Chamber should be reconstructed.
The remarks from the Pope came as "a very strong step towards degradation," "given the rather massive nature of homosexuality" among the Catholic clergy.