Global Voices Online
Saturday, December 30, 2006
There's a distinct sense of deja vu this New Year's Eve: Gazprom, Russia's largest (and state-controlled) company and the world's biggest extractor of natural gas, is in the spotlight again, both locally (due to an ambitious and controversial construction project in St. Petersburg) and internationally (due to a dispute over prices and control of a pipeline in Belarus, very similar to the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute exactly a year ago).
Quite a few Russian bloggers have posted this banner on their blogs, linking to a flash game that was created by St. Petersburg branch of the Yabloko Party:
The monster hulking over St. Petersburg's Smolny Cathedral isn't Godzilla. It is Gazilla, and it represents Gazprom, and its name, allegedly, was coined by LJ user alexvert a year ago (according to LJ user aneta_spb (RUS)).
Gazilla/Gazprom is planning to build a 300-meter-tall glass tower (dubbed “the corn on the cob”), which would change its color up to 10 times per day, depending on the position of the sun, and soar a few times higher than any of St. Petersburg's famous landmarks (including the Smolny Cathedral, located right across the Neva River from the proposed construction site). Gazprom City is the skyscraper project's official name (gazoskryob - "gas-scraper" - instead of neboskryob, as one Russian newspaper jokingly misnamed it (RUS)). It is expected to be finished by 2016.
Obviously, many consider the project a threat to the historic landscape. The latest protest rally took place Dec. 28 at Malaya Sadovaya St. in St. Petersburg: the protesters brought canned corn with them and constructed a mock tower; LJ user consultantphoto has a few photos from the rally.
As for the Gazilla flash game, one is supposed to throw apples at the creature, and this isn't a surprising choice of the weapon, since Yabloko, the name of the party that has made the game, translates as "apple." Here's one blogger's comment on it (LJ user oleg-kozyrev, RUS):
I can't help but support this
St. Pete's Yabloko folks have created a fun thing. I like it when people choose a creative approach. Everyone must've heard by now about the Gazprom-monster that they want to erect [in St. Petersburg] and thus turn the culture capital into the capital of culturelessness. So I'm making my micro-contribution into the noble cause of preserving St. Pete [by promoting the Gazilla game]. Moscow that's been killed is more than enough for us. Hopefully, they'll leave St. Pete alone.
Just like Ukraine a year ago, Belarus is preparing for a New Year's Day gas supply cutoff: so far, there seems to be no sign of resolution in the dispute that, among other things, threatens the delivery of gas to Europe.
Up until now, Belarus paid $47 per 1,000 cubic meters; if this close ally of Russia gives in to the price hike demanded by Gazprom, it will be paying $105 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Aleksandr Lukashenko, considered by many "Europe's last dictator," is reported to have accused Gazprom of blackmail.
Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Aleksandr Milinkevich, on the other hand, said in an interview with the Gazprom-owned Radio Echo of Moscow that he "understood [Gazprom's] position and considered it normal" (RUS).
LJ user sadovnikov has called Milinkevich "a traitor" (RUS).
LJ user aneta_spb - a Belarus native living in St. Petersburg - weighs in (RUS) on what appear to be rather desperate political somersaults performed by Belarusian politicians as they find themselves face to face with Gazilla:
I hope my fellow-countrymen Belarusians would forgive me, but I don't like how many oppositioners are close to depicting Gazilla white and fluffy, as they are accusing [Aleksandr Lukashenko] of having failed to negotiate with Gazprom.
For the first time in my life, I almost agree with [Lukashenko].
He's a jerk, of course. But this inflated monster Gazprom is now just trying to grab as much as it can while it is still able to. Gas supplies are coming to an end. New fields haven't been explored. Equipment is worn down. Soon, they'll be transporting abroad all that remains of the gas, and there'll be a little bit for [Moscow] and whatever remains from that - for St. Petersburg.
They are already "investing in real estate" - and want to build their phallos [Gazprom City] using St. Pete money (my money, too, that is).
What would the Russian countryside do? Nothing. They'll have to live without gas. Well, as most of them live already.