May 12, 2003
Fire safety in old St.Petersburg.
St.Petersburg did not become an architectural gem at once.
The center of the city was Admiralty Island formed by the Neva and Fontanka rivers. Beautiful houses, enormous palaces, and orderly town-planning! But this show window hid a real chaos – miserable hovels of artisans, workers, sailors and soldiers formed a typical ancient Russian town with tangled, narrow, curved and dirty streets. They formed slobodkas (settlements): the so-called Greece slobodka, Finnish slobodka, etc. Time after time the city heads issued multiple severe decrees about straightening the streets and moving the inhabitants to Vasylievsky Island, but people clung tenaciously to their poky little houses which some foreigner dubbed tomtit cages.
Terrible congestion of population permanently threatened the city with fires. That is why inhabitants of slobodkas were prohibited to cook meals or bake bread in their houses in dry weather. The situation went so far that police sealed up stoves in private houses and people had to have meals at special public houses.
Naturally, there were always disobedient people who attempted to violate the decrees and to stoke a stove at night.
But the chief of police Anton Devier organized a special “nosing” brigade that patrolled the streets during the night time and literally “smelled out” the lawbreakers by the smell of smoke and stchi (cabbage soup).
Information source: the magazine “Vokrug Sveta”.