Piotr Galitzine, chairman of Ipsco Tubulars Inc. and NS Group Inc., has another title prince. And like any nobleman worth his salt, Prince Galitzine can trace his family's history back more than six centuries.
Galitzine's clan, which originated in the city of Novgorod in northwest Russia, recently held its first global family reunion, including a celebration of 675 years as Russians and 600 years as Muscovites.
"We were a little bit forced to come to Moscow because Ivan the Terrible destroyed our army—so we become Muscovites unwillingly," Galitzine said. But no matter—any excuse to get the family together is a good one, he joked.
Galitzine's family is originally from Lithuania—"back when Lithuania was a big, important country"—and stretched from the North Sea to the Black Sea, he said. As part of the royal line in Lithuania, male heirs later became princes in Russia.
While Galitzine's family roots might be in Lithuania, he is firmly committed to philanthropic enterprises in his not-so-recently adopted homeland. As chairman of the board of trustees of the Village Church of Russia, Galitzine works to conserve provincial churches, many of which were destroyed during Soviet times.
"In post-Soviet Russia, the money that started to appear in the second half of the '90s, when it was invested in churches at all, was invested mostly in churches in cities and in places where that investment would have the necessary PR impact," he said. "The province always got the short end of the stick, so we work on churches exclusively in the province that are on the verge of falling apart."
The group has worked on approximately 44 churches. But the Soviets destroyed roughly 70,000 churches, "so we still have a way to go."
Restoration work generally starts with mountain climbers cutting trees and bushes out of cupolas. The organization then provides heavy equipment and scaffolding for structural work like restoring roofs. But local people generally provide the manpower for cleaning out the churches. In one church, they hauled away four tractor loads of cow bones. "It's not a top-down project, it's a bottom up, which gives it a very grassroots flavor," he said.
In many churches, the bell towers remained standing because people were afraid of pulling them down on top of themselves. And the oldest part of the church—the structure under the dome—often was left largely intact thanks to traditional masonry practices that involved using egg whites to make mortar. "The gluing effect is so strong, that basically you cannot tear those churches apart," Galitzine said.
With limited resources, the group's efforts focus mainly on making the churches weatherproof so that people can again pray in them protected from the elements. The cost for a new roof, windows and doors about $35,000 to $45,000 per church, he said. "We don't go in for golden domes, we don't go in for marble floors and we don't go in for stained glass windows. We just do what it takes to make the church weather-tight and usable again."
But on some occasions, the group does a full restoration, which can cost five times more than the typical project. For example, the Nikitskaya Church, in the Konakovo district of the Tver region, was fully restored. Its restoration was paid for by a friend of Galitzine whose son was killed in a traffic accident not far from the church and was buried in the church's cemetery "back when the church consisted of two and a half walls," he said. "He made a promise to his son that he would rebuild that church."
Funding for the projects come from local communities, personal donations from further afield and from groups like the Paul Klebnikov Fund. Klebnikov, the first editor of Forbes Russia, was gunned down in Moscow in 2004. The fund was set up by his widow to promote civil society, journalism and cultural heritage.
Galitzine also is involved in the Russian Women's Micro-Finance Network, which aims to lift women in the provinces out of poverty with small loans to help them start small businesses. The project is modeled on the work of 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus. Similar projects have been applied successfully across the world, he said, noting that the group has loaned out about $100 million over the past 12 years. Many of the loans involve just $2,000 for three-month periods. Some of the women use the loans to buy sewing machines to start small businesses or open kiosks to sell flowers. And unlike men, women rarely fail to pay back the loans, he said, and less than 1 percent are late in meeting their terms.
Sweden's Svenskt Stal AB (SSAB) in March agreed to sell its North American Tubulars unit—Ipsco Tubulars Inc.—to Evraz Group SA in a deal valued at about $4.025 billion (AMM, March 14). At the same time, Russian steelmaker Evraz entered a deal to sell the U.S. portion of Ipsco's tubular and seamless business—including some assets of the former NS Group Inc.—to OAO TMK, Russia's largest tubular player, for approximately $1.2 billion. TMK also has an option, exercisable in 2009 for approximately $500 million, to buy the remaining 49 percent of NS Group from Evraz. MICHAEL COWDEN