It all started with the fact that in April 1989 the Leningrad branch of the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (LB USSF) agreed with the management of the Baltic Shipping Company on participation of a Leningrad delegation of environmental scientists, historians, artists and scientists, core groups of Societies for Friendship with Scandinavian countries in a cruise in countries of the Baltic region on a training sailboat Mir. Just at the time the cruise was being prepared, a tourist from Mexico visited suddenly the office of the Deputy Chairman of the LB USSF Andrey Ibragimov in the Leningrad House of Friendship and Peace.

‘Frank Devlin’, the guest introduced himself, ‘I used to be a director of the international organization Rotary International in the recent past. I’ve come from Mexico as a tourist, but here in the House of Friendship I'm a representative of Rotary International.’

Andrey had met already groups of tourists representing foreign Rotary Clubs, as well as members of other similar international associations, so first he did not attach much importance to the fact that he met the keen manager of ophthalmic factory from Mexico City.

‘To what do I owe this honor?’ he asked, somewhat puzzled by the unexpected visit.

‘Management of Rotary International is willing to initiate the establishment of Rotary Clubs in Soviet Union; why not start this in Leningrad?’

‘A Rotary Club?’ Andrey asked, in surprise. ‘Establishment of an international non-governmental organization in Soviet Union? I hope you are aware what country you have come to?’ Andrey paused to let his words reach the guest. ‘And how are you going to establish the Rotary Club?’ he continued and thought to himself: he might have been a little bit off the top, or probably he's a naive dreamer inspired by the beauty of Leningrad... anyway, he cannot assess appropriately the possibility of founding some sort of international humanitarian organization in Soviet Union.

The Mexican guy was not confused with skepticism of the person he was talking to, so he tirelessly referred to more and more facts of Rotary International activities, with an emphasis on social orientation of the organization, its high international standing and recognition in almost all countries of the world, including recognition by leaders of Soviet Union.

However, the conversation did not go well, and then Frank said suddenly:

‘Tell me, do you plan any international events this year?’

Andrey used this interest of the guest to switch the conversation to the upcoming cruise which was a more important topic for him.

‘We are assembling a delegation of Soviet scientists and artists to participate in a cruise in Scandinavian countries on the sailboat Mir. We are going to build bridges with countries of the Baltic region and to establish cooperation in the fields of history, ecology and culture.’

‘Wonderful!’ Mr. Devlin cried. ‘Just wonderful! The thing you are planning is Rotary. If you do not mind, I will send information about your delegation to the governors, and Rotarians will surely meet you!’

Governors. This is good, Andrey decided, thinking of raising the level of stay of the Leningrad delegation in Scandinavian countries. Even when Frank explained that he was talking about Rotary governors, Andrey did not lose his interest in the guest's proposal and agreed to his initiative.

‘You will see the advantages of Rotary for yourself! Establishing Rotary Clubs in USSR is quite real,’ Frank kept assuring Andrey, ‘if you really want it.’

After receiving from Frank some documents and materials on Rotary as a keepsake, Andrey forgot about the conversation first, but soon he got a copy of a circular letter from Devlin, which was distributed to governors of metropolitan Rotary districts in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

In fact, this conversation in April 1989 was the beginning of the history of the Rotary Club Saint-Petersburg.

After the cruise, during which in addition to scheduled activities the Leningrad delegation attended meetings of Rotary Clubs in Denmark and Sweden and met with district governors and presidents of the oldest Rotary Clubs in Finland and Norway (who were very supportive in arranging meetings of the delegation with artists and scientists of their own countries), last doubts about the Rotary fell away.

During the sailboat voyage they had enough time to translate the standard Rotary Club Constitution and other materials of Rotary International from English, to have a better understanding of the structure and functioning of the international organization.

It became clear that Rotary is not a "Masonic lodge", but an absolutely transparent public organization with high ideals, which is engaged in the implementation of humanitarian projects. According to their legal status, Rotary Clubs are not just national, but even local community-based organizations that are independent of each other. Rotary International is an international association of Rotary Clubs, in which all officers from the Club level to the top are elected for a one-year term.

After returning from the cruise, the idea of creating the first Soviet Rotary Club in Leningrad captured a group of enthusiasts headed by Andrey Ibragimov.

Already in October 1989, they began to hold weekly meetings like those they had seen in foreign Rotary Clubs. The Museum of Variety Art at 15 Mokhovaya street was chosen as a venue for meetings. Director of Our House chain stores Vladislav Ginzburg helped them to purchase 3 samovars for tea parties. Andrey brought delicious sandwiches and pastries from then-popular cafe of the House of Friendship to the Club weekly meetings. Head of the Building Trust No. 20 Sergey Nikeshin helped the director of the Museum of Variety Art Natasha Shulga to restore a beautiful parquet floor in the main hall of the Singer Mansion, using in-house forces to clear the floor after it had been covered with a thick layer of mastic and paint for many years. In this pillared hall, first meetings of the new Club were held in full accordance with the Rotary Club procedures.

As is customary in Rotary, for each meeting we invite interesting spokespersons, sometimes we even had guests from foreign Rotary Clubs. At the same time we stormed the Secretariat of Rotary International with letters, demanding official recognition. However, one wish of ours and compliance with formal procedures were not enough.

The Secretariat of RI asked for formal guarantees of absence of legal and political impediments for Rotary in Soviet Union from the Soviet Government. The enthusiasts, of course, could not reach the Soviet Government, but a letter in our support was yet signed by the Chairman of the Leningrad City Executive Committee Vladimir Khodyrev. Later, a similar letter to support the establishment of Rotary Club in Leningrad was sent to Rotary International by the new Chairman of the Leningrad City Executive Committee Anatoly Sobchak, who succeeded Vladimir Khodyrev.

However, those letters did not provide government guarantees for Rotary International, and our request to the Department of International Organizations of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs remained unanswered.

But the story continued... President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev visited local Rotary Clubs during his official visits to Spain and India. Mikhail Gorbachev liked ideas of Rotary and he invited the President of Rotary International 1989-1990 Hugh Archer to visit Moscow.

November 30, 1989, Hugh Archer, accompanied by the President of Rotary International 1980-1981 Rolf Klärich from Finland did arrive to Moscow, but Mikhail Gorbachev flew to Malta at that time, and Anatoly Ivanovich Lukyanov could not make time to meet the Past Presidents. Instead, the guests were welcomed by two members of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and several deputies who expressed support for Rotary diplomatically, but undertook no commitment. Despite formal adherence to the protocol, this was a defeat of hopes in fact, as the mission of Rotary International did not take effect.

However, after a little while Hugh Archer was given another official invitation on behalf of the Soviet Government and during his second visit to Moscow on March 24, 1990, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Petrovsky on behalf of the Soviet Government provided the President of Rotary International with all necessary guarantees in the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For the third time, Hugh Archer arrived to Moscow on June 5, 1990 to present a certificate of registration of the first Soviet Club in Rotary International - the Rotary Club of Moscow.

The Moscow Club was very representational. Well-known Soviet statesmen and public figures were among members of the Moscow Club, including Chairman of the Moscow City Executive Committee Yury Luzhkov and his deputy Vladimir Resin, writer Yury Nagibin and film director Vladimir Krasnopolsky, Minister of Justice of the RSFSR (now the Minister of Agriculture) N.V. Fyodorov, Deputy Head of the First European Agency in the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs A.A. Avdeyev (later appointed the Ambassador of Russia to France, and then the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation), Head of Russia's largest Cardiology Center Yury Belenkov and Rector of the Moscow Academy of Architecture Leonid Vavakin, well-known journalists Eduard Sagalaev and Victor Loshak, diplomats, foreign businessmen, bankers and lawyers. A huge role in the establishment of the first Rotary Club was played by Valentina Tereshkova, who at that time was the Chairman of the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries.

By coincidence, on the day of inauguration of the Moscow Club, by order of Rotary International the Past Governor Veikko Rusanen and a member of the Lappeenranta Rotary Club Kaapo Pulkkinen visited the Moscow Club from Finland. After having made sure that we have been well informed about Rotary, they told us about the decision of the Board of Directors of RI to register our Club, provided assistance with filling out the necessary documents and suggested to set a date for chartering the Club in Rotary International on October 24, 1990, to have sufficient time for quality preparation for this important event.

The Charter Ceremony was truly a solemn and impressive event. It was attended by 110 Rotarians from 9 countries; the gala dinner was attended by Chairman of the Leningrad City Executive Committee Anatoly Sobchak and Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley. Norwegian Rotarians read out a congratulatory letter of the King of Norway (incidentally, Moscow Rotarians also accepted congratulations of Margaret Thatcher). A report on establishment of the Club was presented in the Vremya newscast.

Thus, the Rotary Club Saint-Petersburg (known as the Rotary Club Leningrad until 1992) was registered in Rotary International on September 28, 1990, and the Charter of registration in Rotary International was presented to the Club on October 24, 1990 (the day of presentation of the Charter is considered official date of establishment of the Club). Andrey Taledovich Ibragimov was the first President of the Club and, in fact, its founder.

February 20, 1992, Rotary Club Saint-Petersburg was registered by the Ministry of Justice of the RSFSR (registration No. 707) as international non-governmental association.

In 2007, Rotary Club Saint-Petersburg merged with Rotary Club Severny Sphinx.

On August 8, 2012, the Club was re-registered in the Ministry of Justice as a regional socially-oriented non-governmental organization Rotary Club Saint-Petersburg (registration No. 1127800008269).

The first project of the Rotary Club Leningrad was a telethon, during which a check for $2,000 was presented to the Saint-Petersburg University Library. Thereafter, the club gave priority to humanitarian projects in the field of child health, education, and helped children's communities and orphans. In early 1990s, the Club provided most significant support for the First Children's Hospital, where Chief Physician and deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union Vsevolod Morozov was a member of the Club. On the basis of this hospital, the first Cardiology Center in the Northwest of Russia was organized for treatment of congenital heart defects in infants (the Heart to Heart project). With the help of German Rotary Clubs and Rotary International the Rotary Club Saint-Petersburg was able to purchase expensive equipment for the Center for open heart surgery on newborns and infants.

For the twenty-two years, the Rotary Club Saint-Petersburg has implemented more than 40 humanitarian projects (see Projects of the Club).

Presidents of Rotary club «Saint Petersburg»

1. Andrey Ibragimov

1990 — 1991

2. Sergey Nikeshin

1991 — 1992

3. Yuriy Malishev

1992 — 1993

4. Yuriy Zavedeev

1993 — 1994

5. Alexaner Vasil’ev

1994 — 1995

6. Vladislav Ginsburg

1995 — 1996

7. Alexandr Gricanov

1996 — 1997

8. Arseniy Beresin

1997 — 1998

9. Natalia Shulga

1998 — 1999

10. Anatoliy Ozerskyi

1999 — 2000

11. Vladimir Ahutin

2000 — 2001

12. Evgeniy Semin

2001 — 2002

13. Sergey Nikeshin

2002 — 2003

14. Anatoliy Osnicskyi

2003 — 2004

15. Evgenyi Pen

2004 — 2005

16. Vladimir Gurevich

2005 — 2006

17. Andrey Ibragimov

2006 — 2007

18. Sergey Ciplyaev

2007 — 2008

19. Viktor Kuz’min

2008 — 2009

20. Vitalyi Golubev

2009 — 2010

21. Aleksey Golovin

2010 — 2011

22. Sergey Episkopyan

2011 — 2012

23. Yuriy Gerasimov

2012 — 2013