How trees can become monuments – the presentation of the project “Living Witnesses of History” took place in St. Petersburg
The press tour introduced the journalists to the first tourist routes in the city along old-growth and unique trees-monuments in the historical center. A press conference held within the framework of the event with the participation of museum experts, representatives of city and municipal authorities, biologists and public activists was held in the format of a lively discussion on the most pressing issues of the urban environment.

The non-commercial project “Living Witnesses of History” is dedicated to the search, cataloging and assistance in preserving the historical trees of St. Petersburg. The project is being implemented by the regional public organization “New Environmental Project” with the use of a grant from the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society provided by the Presidential Grants Fund.

Among the tasks of the project is to help citizens and tourists to see St. Petersburg trees as objects of history and culture. The authors of the project used numerous, but scattered developments and databases that are at the disposal of various government organizations, information from enthusiasts, and also applied scientific methods for determining the age of trees. The result was the first six tourist routes that pass through the Vasileostrovsky, Central, Admiralteisky and Petrogradsky districts of St. Petersburg and include more than 50 old-growth trees with a unique history, each of which is worthy of becoming a monument on the city map.
New objects on the tourist map of the city
Petersburg is a city full of attractions for tourists and the authors of the project supplemented the city map with a number of interesting and non-standard details.

Employees of the Russian Museum Federal State Budgetary Institution, activists of the Trees of Petersburg public movement and specialists of the St. Petersburg State Forestry University, as well as deputies of the Vladimir municipal district of St. Petersburg took part in the creation of the routes.
On December 11, journalists examined the trees of the pilot routes – the “Russian Museum” in the Summer and Mikhailovsky Gardens and the “Great Oaks” along the Vasilyevsky Island and the Admiralteisky District. Specialists of the Russian museum spoke about the research work that helped to clarify the age of many trees in their gardens – some were almost a century older than previously thought.

All routes will be available on the website of the organization “New Environmental Project” in a special application. Using an interactive map, users will be able to navigate from one tree to another by reading the history of each of them.
Internet or poplars?

After inspecting the routes, a meeting of journalists with experts took place in the press center of the Interfax news agency. During the meeting, they discussed legal and technical measures to protect valuable trees and give them the status of monuments at the city and federal levels. Problematic issues that have been constantly on the agenda of the media and in the center of attention of city activists – greening of streets, cutting down trees, causing discontent of residents were touched upon.

Experts from the Russian Museum and the Committee for State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Administration of St. Petersburg have cited a whole range of factors that lead to the demolition of trees on city streets. Among them are the short lifespan of some species, primarily poplars, massively planted in the post-war years, the need to lay communications on densely built-up city streets.

The experts noted that in some cases one has to choose – a new infrastructure, for example, a fiber-optic line or the preservation of old trees with their complex and voluminous root structure.

– If we ask young people today – what do they want: good Wi-Fi in their home or keep old poplars on the street? What will be the answer? We are faced with the impossibility of landscaping in cramped conditions, with many legislative and regulatory restrictions. Where can the trees go when the street is 10 meters long and its roots grow up to 25 meters? – Olga Cherdantseva, the chief curator of the gardens of the Russian Museum, gave an example of the contradiction between landscaping and the development of the city.

The consensus was that there are no easy ways – but a start has been made.

– The project “Living Witnesses of History” can become a unifying force between the authorities and state organizations on the one hand, and activists on the other. To promote the achievement of a balance of interests and a mutually beneficial dialogue, – said the project coordinator Alexei Lebedev.

Urban specialists in various organizations are quite well equipped with technologies for preserving trees of the oldest ages – and drawing attention to the unique heirs of other eras in the life of the city within the framework of the Living Witnesses of History project can become one of the most important steps in preserving the green monuments of St. Petersburg.
Photos of the event are available here:

Full transcript of the press conference at Interfax:

Link to the program of the event and the composition of speakers:

#gardensoftheRussianMuseum #MikhailovskyGarden #summerGarden #RussianMuseum #rusmuseum_gardens #igardens