After three years of negotiations, the Eesti Kontsert foundation has signed an agreement with the congregation of St. John's in St. Petersburg that runs until 2063 and will essentially pay much of the building's upkeep through concerts.
The renovation of the church was completed in February 2011, after the building had long been in serious disrepair.
"In 2013, the congregation legally regained the building, even though the construction was ready even earlier," said Jüri Leiten, director of the concert agency. "It's just that bureaucratic processes take much time today. Before we had one-time, month-long agreements, but now Eesti Kontsert is the long-term user of the congregation's church."
The Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC) is not registered in Russia, so St. John's Church is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria. But the EELC does play a coordinating role.
Last year, St. John's in St. Petersburg was visited by 17,000 people and concerts are once again being given regularly. There were 95 in 2011 and more than 150 last year.
Archbishop Andres Põder of the EELC said he was pleased with the long-term lease as well.
St. John's Church was founded in 1859 to serve the Estonian community living in the city. It was the place where calls to resist the Tsarist government’s russification policy were made in 1888. In 1917, 40,000 Estonians began their march from there to Tauride Palace demanding national autonomy for Estonia.
A quality organ is next on the agenda for the church.
The church's upkeep costs over 150,000 euros a year, 70-80 percent of which is paid for through concerts. The renovation project cost 6 million euros.