As the Russian city of St. Petersburg prepares for the celebration of its 300th anniversary during the week of May 23 – June 1, Arthur George, a Chicago author and an attorney with the global law firm Baker & McKenzie, has published a book on the history of St. Petersburg’s first three centuries.
George co-founded Baker & McKenzie’s Moscow and St. Petersburg offices, working and living in Russia from 1989 to 1997, and currently heads the firm’s Russian and CIS practice in the United States.
George’s book, “St. Petersburg: Russia’s Window to the Future – The First Three Centuries,” chronicles for general readers the political, architectural and cultural history of Europe’s fourth largest city, beginning with the city’s founding by Czar Peter the Great in 1703 and carrying through to the modern-day, post-Soviet era of President Vladmir Putin, who is a native of St. Petersburg.
More than 40 world leaders, including President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will visit St. Petersburg during the last week of May to celebrate the anniversary. On May 31, leaders of the G-8 will be meeting in the city’s restored Konstantinovsky Palace, marking the first time that Russia has hosted a meeting of the group. A Summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States will also take place in the city during the week, as will a meeting between Russia and the European Union.
St. Petersburg is expecting 200,000 foreign visitors during the anniversary period. More than 200 concerts, cultural exhibits and theatre performances will take place throughout the weeklong celebration, including a naval parade and laser show on the Neva River, the opening of a new exhibit on Peter the Great at the State Hermitage Museum and a concert featuring opera stars Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. In anticipation of the anniversary, the Russian government has put 78 of the city’s landmarks under reconstruction, many of them dilapidated and ignored for decades under Soviet rule.
Fluent in Russian, George has written numerous articles and books on the legal aspects of business and investment in the former Soviet Union, international commercial law and the regulations of international trade, and is a frequent speaker
at conferences and seminars on these topics.
While living in St. Petersburg George began research for the book and wrote the first words in 1996, a year before he left. Since then, he’s worked on the book in his spare time and conducted research and interviews when visiting the city. George’s wife, Elena, whom he met while studying in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad) during college, is a native of the city and was heavily involved in the book’s research.