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City news, 02.11.2004 12:40

Avrora May Be Removed for a Survey

avrora St Petersburg Times

By Irina Titova

Staff Writer

Photo by Natasha Danchenkova/ For SPT

The famed historic cruiser Avrora, one of the symbols of St. Petersburg, may leave its permanent moorage in the Neva River for two months next year to undergo a technical examination in a dock.

"The cruiser was to have undergone a scheduled survey in 1997, however, that didn't happen because there was no money for it," the ship's captain Anatoly Bazhanov said Monday in a telephone interview. "Therefore, it's high time for the Avrora to have one."

However, Bazhanov said a final decision on the survey would be taken only at the beginning of next year, when the Defense Ministry, in charge of maintaining the ship which belongs to the navy, develops its budget plans for 2005.

The Avrora has been a symbol of the October Revolution since 1917 when on Oct. 25 according to the old-style calendar it fired the shot signaling the start of the storming of the Winter Palace, which became the start of the Bolshevik uprising. At the same time, the ship is considered a symbol of the navy.

The cruiser was built at the city's New Admiralty shipyard and commissioned in 1903, and it fought in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War and in the Second World War. In 1948 the Avrora was docked at its permanent moorage in front of the Nakhimov Navy College in the center of the city. In 1956 a branch of the Central Navy Museum was opened on board of the ship.

Since that time the ship has become a tourist attraction, where adults and children can see and touch the historic guns, the ship's wheel, and accessories of sailors' everyday life. In Soviet times the city's best elementary school students also conducted solemn initiation ceremonies for Young Pioneers on board of the ship.

The Avrora underwent partial repairs in 1957-1958, and in 1966-1968. In 1984-1987 the ship underwent a major overhaul after which it was recommended that the ship undergo a survey at least every 10 years. However, no such survey has occurred since 1987.

Pavel Smolev, head of the Avrora's reconstruction project of 1987, was quoted by Delovoi Peterburg as saying that when the overhaul was done in the 1980s the ship was in a sorry state. It had spent 84 years in the water and had sunk several times.

Several ideas of how to preserve the ship were examined.

Thus, some experts offered to put the Avrora on a special pedestal, but that would have meant the old ship would keep rusting, and it would have eventually collapsed.

Then it was decided to completely replace the part of the cruiser below the water line. That part of the ship has been coated with special chemicals, which will protect it for 300 years in the freshwater of the Neva.

Bazhanov said, however, that a technical examination in a dock does not necessarily imply actual repairs, which are done only if necessary.

During such examination the part of the ship under the waterline is cleaned and painted.

Bazhanov didn't know how much that might cost, but Delovoi Peterburg suggested 10 million to 12 million rubles ($34,800 to $41,700) would be required.

Any survey is likely to be performed in the city's Severnaya Verf shipbuilding plant, where the Avrora underwent repairs in 1987, he said.

The Avrora has lost none of its popularity with tourists since the end of the Soviet Union in the country, he added.

"Every day we get 15,000 tourists," Bazhanov said. "In all the years of working as a museum the ship has hosted 27 million people

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(c) 2000