Eesti Kontsert to terminate contract with Estonian church in St. Petersburg

The Estonian St. John's Church in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Estonian St. John's Church in St. Petersburg, Russia. Source:

Due to the current international situation, Estonian concert and festival organizer Eesti Kontsert will have no choice but to terminate its contract with the Estonian congregation of St. John's Church in St. Petersburg, as it can no longer fulfill its contractual obligations on site at the church building. The state, however, is seeking other opportunities for continuing its activity at the church.

"For nearly 12 years now, Eesti Kontsert has organized concerts at St. John's Church in St. Petersburg, helped keep up the building, bring together the local community, and keep up St. John's Church as a so-called Estonian House," Eesti Kontsert CEO Kertu Orro said. "All of you can only imagine with how heavy a heart we're making these decisions today."

Orro explained that the church building belongs to the St. John's congregation of St. Petersburg, not to the Estonian state or to Eesti Kontsert. The latter had a long-term facility use agreement in place with the church which stipulates that priority use is to go to Eesti Kontsert with its core activity — to organize concerts, and to host Estonian musicians and showcase Estonian culture. The institution is likewise obligated to maintain the building, preserve the property, cover all running costs as well as make necessary investments into the building.

Under the current circumstances, however, while these obligations remain, Eesti Kontsert is no longer able to fulfill them due to sanctions imposed on Russia in connection with its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

"Currently we're already in a bind with paying the power bill, for example," Orro cited as an example. "As we know, due to sanctions, EU bank transactions no longer go through to Russia; Russia has imposed capital controls."

While the institution hasn't yet terminated its contract with the congregation, according to the CEO, it will be doing so soon.

"Our obligations will remain in force for a period of three months after we submit our notice of termination," she explained. "We haven't done so yet, because Eesti Kontsert is also currently negotiating with various parties as well as with the state. We all have a shared interest in finding solutions regarding how to achieve the best result in this seemingly hopeless situation."

Eesti Kontsert spends approximately €12,000 a month on maintaining the St. Petersburg church building.

Minister: We're working together with the church

Minister of Culture Tiit Terik (Center) said that the state is seeking solutions that would allow for activity at the church building to continue, but sanctions impeding the cross-border movement of money between Estonia and Russia complicate the matter.

"The preservation in St. Petersburg of a cultural hub of great significance to Estonian history is certainly worth us pursuing every solution and alternative possible to Eesti Kontsert saying that it can't fulfill its contractual obligations there," Terik said.

According to the minister, the state is working together with the church to come up with solutions. "If we cannot continue holding concerts there as the Estonian state, then religious activities could certainly be those with which we could continue at St. John's Church in St. Petersburg even in conditions of war."

He also expressed hope that the church may be capable of resolving certain concerns via its international organizations.

Eesti Kontsert ceased its concert activity at St. John's Church on May 2.

The institution has rights to use the facility for 49 years, including the covering of all expenses related to the building and the investing of Estonian funds in order to preserve the property.

The Estonian state invested €10 million into the restoration of St. John's Church in St. Petersburg.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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