With its numerous canals, the Russian city of St Petersburg is known as the 'Venice of the North'. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, the city was built to rival the architectural gems of France and Italy. But in the 20th century, Lenin moved the capital to Moscow and the city entered a long period of decline. Blockaded for 900 days during the Second World War, it lost 800,000 of its citizens to hunger, disease and bombardment.
After the fall of the Soviet Union the city woke from hibernation with its baroque but crumbling architecture intact. The facades were cleaned up for tourists and visiting heads of state.
But behind the pretty exteriors the toll of nearly a century of neglect is hidden from view. In the once grand but now faded courtyards and entrances live many of the city's poor, crowded into communal apartments; apartments that are now coveted by Russia's new rich and aspiring middle class.
About Al Jazeera - Witness
Rageh Omaar and Ghida Fakhry present Witness, a half-hour documentary series which features short, specially commissioned or acquired films gathered from independent filmmakers.
Each documentary reveals the unknown lives of ordinary people, following their lives, telling their stories and portraying the challenges that confront them. Our witnesses are people in a situation or those who have observed them first hand.
The films cover conflict, belief, the past, and the future and, as well as bringing new stories to light, they showcase the talents of a new breed of multi-skilled, frontline journalist.