MOSCOW UNDER FIRE!
By Stephen Wilson
Moscow, Russia -- A hugely grandiose plan to demolish up to 8000 old five-story Krushcheski buildings provokes a seething wrath of many Muscovites.
"Can I have your attention ? You understand Russian! Well Maybe you haven't heard but there are plans by the Moscow Local government to demolish our buildings and resettle us in shoddy accommodation outside Moscow. They have even passed a law redefining Moscow as encompassing 30 km so that they can claim we are being resettled within the Moscow city boundaries. Very few people are aware of the local government's plans. They believe the state media reports that everything is going to be fine but that is not true. On the
contrary we will be rehoused in far worse buildings far from the city centre without access to parks or services. "We have to inform other people and organise a campaign against this. We also need to legally challenge this in the courts," stated Monica Spibak, an anxious neighbour who informed me that
every building was under threat.
Two school students I spoke to also expressed a similar doubts about the honesty of the local government's recently announced intentions to demolish up to 8000 buildings which would affect as many as 1.6 million residents.
One 14 year old student called Peter stated: "I'm for those proposals if they would rehouse my family in decent accommodation just up the road in the Aerobus complex but I don't think this will happen. Instead, we will be moved
from a pleasant area with nice parks and schools where we already have friends to a badly built and designed complex outside Moscow."
Over the past week officials who organised public relation meetings where local tenants were invited to express their misgivings were taken a back by the furious anger of tenants, some of whom seemed more than a match for officials who had not been put in the full picture about the government plans.
"Why are you violating our residential rights under the Russian constitution?" thundered one tenant.
Moscow officials did not anticipate such opposition and anger. However, if you carefully examine the proposals by the local government it is not hard to fathom.
Only last week Russian politicians were attempting to quickly pass a draconian approved by most toothless politicians. The contrast between the past and and proposed tenant's rights is glaring. Whereas earlier, a building would be threatened with demolition if it had fallen into dangerous disrepair, now any building, even 9 to 12 storey brick buildings in decent condition can be demolished if they are located in a 'special demolition zone'. In earlier times the authorities would provide tenants with one year's notice to leave, now they
are offered only 2 months and if they don't leave by the deadline, they will be evicted by a court order which they can't challenge.
Before tenants had a choice of three variant new homes, now they'll have to accept only one! Previously tenants were entitled to financial compensation but the new law suggests they'll have to fork out for the losses. Whereas before the
full cost of a property was considered , now only the size of a property in square metres is considered.
In earlier times tenants could be expected to be placed in a locality with special amenities such as a park and pleasant surroundings. But now tenants fear that they'll be placed in badly designed and badly built poor substandard blocks
with low safety and hygiene. A tenant could actually be moved from a decent building to a substandard one!
However, local officials claim that all this is just scare mongering. Opponents are putting words into their mouths. The Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin attempted to reassure tenants that they all be rehoused in the same locality they live in. "We will be able to provide for 100% of those people who want to stay in the district where they now live". Only a day ago he published a list of buildings which revised the number of buildings down from a figure of 8000
to 4566! I was happy to learn our building had received a reprieve! In addition, the mayor stated that if the percentage of local tenants voting in a future referendum oppose it by 70% instead of 80%, the demolition won't go ahead. (voting will take place from . ) Critics
state the voting arrangements are still unfairly loaded in the government's favour. What is more, the referendum is being arranged just at a time when many locals go abroad or spend time at the dacha!
Local people are right to deeply distrust the local government. Despite the fact that thousands of kiosks in Moscow had perfect legal approval and agreements
the government still bulldozed them down. This was done very swiftly.
The facts are that new laws are being rushed through parliament to deprive them them of their legal rights to challenge the courts. This amounts to an unprecedented attack on a person's right to his property as well as right
to live where they choose. All this appears to reflect the lust for obtaining new real estate property 'on the cheap'. Unless the local people continue to effectively organise and structure resistance to those proposals they will wake up one morning to find themselves in a 'concrete jungle'. "They are just bandits" a disaffected tenant told me." It is difficult to disagree!