Saturday, February 20, 2016

Moscow demolition

By Stephen Wilson

Destroying Moscow kiosks per order of city government.

(Moscow, Russia) -- On Monday the 9th of February, the Mayor of Moscow ordered bulldozers to unceremoniously demolish hundreds of kiosks as well as pavilions in Moscow around metro stations Sokol, Aeroport, Christi Prudi,           Sukharevski, Marksistskoi, Arabatskay and kropotkinskaya.

               In the space of a single night, 97 business pavilions were razed to the ground leaving hundreds of redundant workers wondering where they will find fresh work. The Moscow mayor claims those small business shops were  'illegal' and inconvenient eye-sores  impeding the movement of pedestrians as well as representing a potentially 

dangerous hazard. The Moscow local government has         declared, 'This is only the beginning.'  Critics claim the
latest local government 's moves lack any logic or sober foresight.

               It was as if someone had launched an air-raid. When I went for a day stroll along the Leninskaya shosse (Highway), I confronted a heap of rubble, along with fragments of glass that littered the pavement so much one had to skirt it by using the road. That was what was left of
some florists and one newspaper kiosk in Aeroport.

               Near Sokol, a whole business pavilion where I and Jim Vail used to drop in to browse over newspapers had been literally flattened.

               On my way to work on Monday evening, as I was coming out of Rechnoi Vokzal metro I witnessed bulldozers tearing apart local pavilion which had stood for years. The faces of locals who were watching the spectacle looked alarmed, anxious and at times astonished.

               THE JUSTIFICATION

               What is the justification for such sweeping changes? In long articles in newspapers, the local government claims that such pavilions, kiosks and shops represent an ugly eye sore blocking some beautiful sights of Moscow. They also claim that such buildings represent an inconvenient obstacle impeding the movement of people in Moscow. 'We are demolishing illegal businesses who are working without proper documents'. A further reason is that such kiosks around the metro represent a threat to the 'safety and security of locals'.

               The local government claims that the demolition squads will open new space where leisurely fountains, benches, squares and gardens will be erected. There is even talk of building chapels!

               What has been the latest reaction of local people to those measures?

               The main reaction appears to be complacent indifference and apathy.

               Other people passing by seemed to be startled, bemused and a few were shocked about how abrupt the actions were. Some people welcomed this. A pensioner told me, 'There are just too many of those kiosks around the metro. You can hardly walk around.'

               According to 'Delovaya Business', the latest moves to destroy the pavilions is costing the local government a staggering 30 billion rubles. Over the last two years more than 2000 business points in the city have been razed, and over 100,000 vendors have lost their jobs. At a time of deep
economic crisis where workers are losing their jobs, they will
find it highly problematic to obtain work.

               Those vendors are not 'bandits' but simple people struggling to make a living who are often migrants from either Ukraine, Armenia or poorer Russian towns just trying to get by. They tend to be very warm and friendly. They have even found me English students. I recall one huge vendor near Prospect Mir who because of his cumbersome size had difficulty sitting in this kiosk. He had been selling me model soldiers for years until just last year they closed down every kiosk in the underground passage. What has become of this vendor remains a mystery. Has he found a new job?

               THE REAL  AGENDA

               The latest large scale demolition program is not about creating 'green spaces' or clamping down on sinister 'illegal businesses'. In fact, those businesses were not 'illegal' but had signed legally binding contracts with the local officials of the local Moscow. Suddenly, the Moscow mayor, capriciously claims those agreements are now null and void just like that! In fact, the small businesses took the local  Moscow government to court over this. In many cases the
courts ruled that there should be no demolition of kiosks prior to a final settlement of the case. The mayor ignored this and went ahead with sending in the liquidation squads anyway! So, who, in deed, alas, are acting illegally? The local government has acted recklessly and rashly assuming they are above and beyond the law.

               Sergei Katirin, the president of trade and industrial centres states:

              "The blame for this lies not only with those who constructed those kiosks, but with the officials who gave them permission to do this.

               "There are documents which have been officially signed by hand. It seems to me that in such situations we need to think first and foremost about people. This is work of small businesses. And it is important that the city protect such small companies and work places which were created".

               However, neither the dreams of small business men or the jobs of vendors are on the minds of the local government. The most likely reason for the demolition of kiosks is for politicians and officials to acquire expensive real estate to make more underhand dirty deals. The price of a square metre in the Rublevskoi Shosse district can fetch a staggering 220,000 rubles. The newly created space left by those demolition squads will be either rented out or replaced by more expensive kiosks. Just as new estate property is created by merging schools and hospitals, so new lucrative space for shady deals is created by demolishing local kiosks.

               The honest men lose their jobs and the dishonest prosper. It reaffirms the words of Anse in William Faulkner's novel, 'As I lay Dying', when he declares, 'Nowhere in this sinful world can an honest, hard-working man profit'.

               And Moscow is no longer a city for small business men, vendors, migrants, refugees or teachers, but for crude, cunning and capricious businessmen.

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