The Battle for the St. Petersburg Zoo

The hippopotamus in Leningrad zoo survived the German siege of the city in the Second World War because keepers persuaded him to eat dubious porridge mainly made from sawdust.

Now the 165-year-old zoo, in the Alexander Garden near the Peter and Paul Fortress in the city centre, is under threat again –allegedly because local developers, helped by the governor’s office, want to turn it into a leisure centre.

The battle over St Petersburg zoo involves President Vladimir Putin and Alexander Yakovlev, the city governor. The zoo has had six directors in 10 months, including a woman who lasted three days and a mysterious military officer who refused to tell anybody his rank. For a city trying to clean up its act in time for its 300th anniversary next year, it has not looked good.

The feud first came to public notice when Irena Yakovleva, the governor’s wife, sacked Dr Ivan Korneyev, the zoo’s director for 11 years. Her husband, a powerful politician, had set up a foundation called Zoosad to make plans for the future of the zoo, which is owned by the city.

These plans envisaged moving the zoo to an outer suburb of St Petersburg, where it would be filled with herds of wild animals at a cost of nearly $1 billion. Since no money was allocated, Dr Korneyev believed the real purpose was to use the zoo site to build hotels. He said: “The aim was to convert the Alexander Garden, or at least the zoo part of it, into a leisure centre. The animals’ problems were the last thing they ever thought of.”

Dr Korneyev’s attacks drew so much attention that the plan was dropped. But he had become an enemy of the governor’s wife. Mr Putin sympathises but the city owns the zoo. “If the authorities decide to close the zoo tomorrow, nobody can stop them,” said Dr Korneyev, adding that only the mayor’s resignationwould save the zoo.

Nikolai Konotovsky, an official in the governor’s office, claims the position is not so bad and “everything is OK with the animals”. But Valentina Shurganova, its deputy director, who has spent 19 years at the zoo, is gloomy. “The situation was never as bad as it is now,” she says. “We cannot understand what will become of us.”

More articles by:
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir