The owner of St. John's Church (Peterburi Jaani kirik), a protestant church in St. Petersburg, sued SA Eesti Kontsert in Russia, which is now requesting about €72,000 from the state for legal fees. The church's owner wants to end the lease in court and has restricted Eesti Kontsert's access to the grounds.
Since these costs are related to the war and political circumstances, the State Concert Institute Eesti Kontsert (hereafter Eesti Kontsert) could not take them into account in its budget, Kertu Orro, a member of Eesti Kontsert's board, wrote to the Ministry of Culture.
"The primary point of contention is the minister's decision to halt concerts in St. John's Church in St. Petersburg. Since the other party to the contract considers it our contractual obligation to organize cultural activities in the church, it found it possible to bring an action for breach of contract before the courts of the Russian Federation," Orro wrote.
The purpose of the letter is to ensure that the Ministry of Culture covers the extra-budgetary costs incurred by the concert hall as a result of a legal dispute.
In total, SA Eesti Kontsert is requesting about €72,000 from the state to cover the legal costs to the Russian law firms Duvernoix Legal and Sorainen in representing Eesti Kontsert at various levels of courts in Russia, before various authorities in Russia and in its dealings with the other party to the contract, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria, which operates in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region and consists of 18 parishes.
In addition, Eesti Kontsert wants €6,750 for the costs of monitoring the area. The foundation states in the letter that despite the positive decision of the first tier court, Eesti Kontsert has not been given access to the building.
"We keep an eye on the building from the outside to safeguard the safety of SA Eesti Kontsert's assets and interests. The cost of guarding the building's perimeter was unexpected. The city obliged us to protect the building 24 hours a day in order to maintain local contact with emergency services, ambulances and police. We had to seek the proper permissions from the city to install the insulation and meet our contractual obligations," Orro wrote in the letter.
In May of last year, the St. Petersburg Society of Estonian Culture (Peterburi Eesti Kultuuriselts) approached the ministry, Eesti Kontsert, and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) with a request to terminate the contract because, since May, Eesti Kontsert had been banned by order of the ministry from organizing events in the church due to sanctions against Russia.
According to the St. Petersburg Society of Estonian Culture, the restriction threatened the activities of the cultural association. The Ministry of Culture did not authorize the termination of the contract, found a solution to fulfill the contracts and send the rent money to Russia.
St. John's Church (Peterburi Jaani kirik) was founded in 1859 to serve the Estonian community living in the city at that time and is considered Estonia's symbol of independence. It was the place where in 1888 Jakob Hurt made the call to resist the Tsarist government's russification policy and on March 26, 1917, 40,000 Estonians began their march to Tauride Palace demanding national autonomy.
The church was reconsecrated on February 22, 2011 by the archbishop of the EELK, Andres Põder and as of 2014 St. John's Church belongs to Estonia.
Editor: Kristina Kersa