Topic: St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg officials are exploring the possibilities of breathing new life into the infamous Kresty Prison on the Arsenalnaya Embankment.
Turning the prison into a hotel, a museum, an art gallery, a business center and even a creative cluster complete with studios of local artists are just some of the ideas that have already been voiced.
Although in no way a postcard view, Kresty became one of the city’s iconic images long before St. Petersburg earned the unflattering nickname of Russia’s criminal capital in the turbulent 1990s. It has housed members of the Russian Imperial family, including the Grand Dukes Nicholas and George Mikhailovich, Grand Duke Dimitri Constantinovich as well as some of the country’s most high-profile prisoners, including politicians Lev Trotsky and Alexander Kerensky. The prison has also been the setting for dozens of thrillers and crime series.
Built in 1890 and designed by the architect Antony Tomishko, Kresty is scheduled to relocate to Kolpino in 2015.
The jail got its nickname, Kresty (Crosses) very shortly after it received its first inmates. The two four-story wings of the prison are designed in the form of a cross. According to legend, Tomishko initially designed the jail for 999 cells, but there was a 1000th cell, where the architect himself was locked up and buried after allegedly saying to the tsar, “Look what a beautiful prison I have built for you.” Although no proof has ever been found for the legend, speculation about the mythical 1000th cell still circulates. There are in fact 960 cells in the prison.
The prison has not undergone large-scale renovation since it was built.
Many of the country’s prisons are located in historical buildings, many of which were built back in tsarist times.
The fate of the historic prison will be made in the autumn when City Hall plans to announce a tender for potential investors to redevelop the territory of the prison and its surroundings.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 July, 2012