Tag Archives: destruction of Saint Petersburg

The United Russia Guide to Winning Hearts and Minds. Strategy 3: Crash a Protest Demo, Break An Old Man’s Arm, Then Have the Police Arrest Bystanders at Random

Elderly Man Roughed Up as [Protest] Rally Turns to Boos
15 November 2011
The Moscow Times

St. Petersburg resident Nikolai Shkalin, 72, became one of the first real victims of the ongoing parliamentary campaign, sustaining a broken hand at a local rally crashed by a candidate of the ruling party.

Several city media outlets reported that Shkalin was thrown down from the stage by bodyguards of the candidate, Maxim Dolgopolov, during Sunday’s rally, where some 700 residents protested development plans for the district.

video from the scene shows Dolgopolov booed off the stage by protesters — many of them senior citizens — who clapped their hands and chanted “Go away!” and “Off with you!”

Several protesters, all young opposition activists, were detained and face hooliganism charges [Editor’s note: although, as we know for a fact, they had nothing to do with the scuffle], the Neva24 web site said. Shkalin, a co-organizer of the rally, was hospitalized.

Dolgopolov denounced the incident as provocation and said he did not see the attack on Shkalin, which [was] caught on video.

He did not identify the alleged provocateurs, but said in a blog post Monday that he came to tell the locals that the new city governor, Georgy Poltavchenko, had addressed their concerns after Dolgopolov’s lobbying.

No officials commented on the story Monday.

Earlier this month, an alleged United Russia official was booed off stage at a concert of the veteran rock band Mashina Vremeni in Kemerovo. The group later denounced his appearance as provocation.

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“Noblesse Oblige” as a Wrecking Ball (Paradny Kvartal, Petersburg)

Legality of Demolition of Historic Barracks Contested
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
May 11, 2011 (Issue # 1655)

Another planning controversy is developing in the city, as more historic buildings in the center were demolished last week to make way for luxury apartment and office buildings.

Built by architect Fyodor Volkov in the early 19th century, the demolished buildings on the corner of Paradnaya Ulitsa and Vilensky Pereulok are known as the Preobrazhensky Regiment’s Barracks and used to house one of the Russian army’s oldest regiments, formed by Peter the Great in the late 17th century.

Following a public outcry, Governor Valentina Matviyenko ordered an internal investigation into the legality of a construction permit issued by the St. Petersburg State Construction Supervision and Expertise Service (Gosstroinadzor). The agency is subordinated directly to Matviyenko.

Matviyenko’s orders were based on a memorandum sent to her by City Hall’s Heritage Protection Committee (KGIOP) after the last building was demolished on May 3.

Yulia Minutina, a coordinator of preservationist group Living City, said that Gosstroinadzor issued the construction permit that contradicted the protected zones law.

The local press suggested that the investigation may result in the dismissal of Gosstroinadzor’s head Alexander Ort. Preservationists and public figures such as film director Alexander Sokurov asked Matviyenko to dismiss Ort in a petition in January.

The developer failed to show the demolition permit, according to Minutina.

“Demolition is a separate type of work that requires a separate permit,” Minutina said Tuesday.

“Nevertheless, it was not presented to us, nor have they seen it at the KGIOP and I’m not sure it ever existed. Of course this is a violation.”

“Besides, buildings in the center can only be demolished if they are in a poor condition, but we haven’t seen any document stating that the building was in a poor state and impossible to restore either.”

Minutina said the demolition was one of the issues the preservationists are planning to raise during a planned meeting with Matviyenko on Thursday.

While the last building was being destroyed during the May Day holidays, the authorities did not react to the appeals of concerned residents. At the same time, police reportedly harassed activists who picketed the demolition site, rather than checking whether the developer had the necessary permits.

“We waited for two hours for the police to arrive,” Living City’s Pyotr Zabirokhin said.

“But instead of stopping the demolition, they started checking our passports, copying our placards into their notebooks and threatening to disperse us if we didn’t go away.”

St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly Deputy Sergei Malkov has written a complaint regarding the police actions to the St. Petersburg police chief Vladislav Piotrovsky.

The tactic of demolishing historic buildings during public holidays was recently used when a large portion of the 19th-century Literary House was destroyed on Nevsky Prospekt during the Russian Christmas holidays in January, Zabirokhin pointed out.

“It has turned into a bad tradition that not entirely legal cases of demolition start during or just before holidays, when people are not ready to get mobilized quickly, and while officials are on holiday and nobody can be reached,” he said.

According to the project’s web site, the area previously occupied by the Preobrazhensky Regiment Barracks will be home to an “exclusive” Paradny Kvartal, an isolated “mini city” of 16 office and residential buildings.

Call Now!

“The true adornment of the quarter’s center will be a square with a fountain, comparable in size with that in front of the Kazan Cathedral,” the web site said.

However, apparently as a result of the controversy, the site was no longer available on Tuesday, redirecting to the web site of the developer, Vozrozhdeniye Peterburga. The original site can be viewed as files cached in Google.

Anna Mironovskaya, the marketing director of Vozrozhdeniye Peterburga, a subsidiary of the LSR Group, said Tuesday her company was only a sub-investor and was not in charge of legal matters and permits, citing the Ministry of Defense as the project’s developer and the Pyotr Veliky Construction Company as the commissioner.

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http://paradny.ru/questions/

— Who acquires real estate in Paradny Kvartal?

One of the main advantages of Paradny Kvartal is the social homogeneity of [one’s neighbors]. Our buyers are people of high social status. That is why we will be able to create “our own world” in which it will be pleasant and comfortable to live.

[…]

— What does the phrase “noblesse oblige,” which is frequently applied to Paradny Kvartal, mean?

The well-known phrase has rightly become not just the slogan but the authentic motto of Paradny Kvartal. It translates as “[one’s] station obliges [one].” For in Paradny Kvartal each detail underscores the project’s elitism, its exclusivity.

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Photos courtesy of Zaks.Ru and Chto Delat.

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International Leaking Roofs Day (Saint Petersburg)

ROOF LEAKS UNITE RESIDENTS
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
April 13, 2011 (Issue # 1651)

Residents, artists and anarchists united Sunday to protest the St. Petersburg authorities’ failure to deal with housing issues by celebrating the fictitious International Leaking Roofs Day in the courtyard of a 19th-century building on Kolomenskaya Ulitsa.

The celebration, which included a discussion, an outdoor art exhibition and tea party, was organized by Verkhotura art group, one of whose members, Polina Zaslavskaya, lives in the building.

“The main idea was that people should unite and organize themselves to fight the problem, rather than deal with it alone,” Zaslavskaya said.

“And we came up with this humorous form: An exhibition, to invite artists to unite and tackle the problem with their artistic means. The housing problem is a common one; it doesn’t matter what you do, the main thing is to do it all together.”

Called “Everything Leaks and Everything Abides,” the art exhibition featured satirical posters criticizing the city’s housing services for the lack of transparency and alleged corruption, as well as documenting the effects of leaking roofs — a problem that affects thousands of the city’s households.

Zaslavskaya painted a series of watercolors with titles such as “Roof Pierced By a Crowbar,” “Electrical Wiring Has Burnt Out” and “Leak in the Kitchen. A Hot Water Pipe Burst in the Attic.”

The anarchists — some of whom held a regular Food Not Bombs event nearby, distributing free vegan food to underprivileged and homeless people — provided vegan snacks and hot tea as well as background music.

According to Zaslavskaya, the date was chosen to mark the first anniversary since the roof of her building, located at 38/40 Kolomenskaya Ulitsa, first started to leak. Despite promises from St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko to fix city roofs, the leaks returned last winter.

Zaslavskaya attributes this to corruption and inefficiency. “When such housing horror occurs, when things are on the verge of catastrophe, it immediately becomes clear to everybody how everything works,” she said.

“The Housing Code was issued back in 2005, but it still doesn’t work. City Hall came up with the “St. Petersburg Roofs” program in which they replaced old roofs with new ones, but it made things even worse because they were poorly made.

“It’s an example of solidarity among thieves and completely insane corruption, because incredible amounts of money are just draining away.”

The exhibition’s title, “Everything Leaks and Everything Abides,” is a play on words on Heraclitis’ quote “Everything flows and nothing abides” (in Russian, there is one word for both “leak” and “flow”), and was used on a poster that Zaslavskaya and her friends made for a rally against leaking roofs last month.

“The residents asked us to do something like ‘Valya, Fix Our Roof,’ which was an almost supplicating tone,” she said.

“I don’t know how productive that is. Quite the opposite, I think it makes sense to say, ‘Let’s battle, let’s unite, let’s organize ourselves and take everything over.’ There should be moods like that.”

Zaslavskaya believes that outdoor art events could overcome alienation and unite people — at least the residents of a specific building.

“There are severe problems now, and they can be used to try and stir up people,” she said.

“To overcome total loneliness and isolation, because I think it’s sad.”

Photos by Sergey Chernov. They are used here with his permission.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Saint Petersburg

The St. Petersburg Times
February 2, 2011
Governor Tries to Remove City’s Historic Status
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

Actor Oleg Basilashvili and author Boris Strugatsky were among artists, teachers and rights activists who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday asking him to deny City Governor Valentina Matviyenko’s request to exclude St. Petersburg from the Register of Historic Settlements.

“Recent years have demonstrated convincingly that the city authorities are not capable and, more importantly, do not want to protect the historic center of St. Petersburg,” they wrote in the letter.

“The ‘planning mistakes’ that appear one after another, distorting the unique appearance of our city, are a direct consequence of the permits and authorizations issued by the city authorities.”

The letter cites the new Stockmann building erected in place of two historic buildings demolished to make way for the Finnish department store, which has altered the view of the portion of Nevsky Prospekt close to Ploshchad Vosstaniya, and the 19th-century Literary House on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and the Fontanka River that is being demolished right now, as the most recent examples.

Matviyenko’s letter to Putin, in which she asked him to strip St. Petersburg of its historic status, was leaked to the press last week. According to an article published by Kommersant on Thursday, City Hall deemed the city’s protected status as a historical settlement to be “excessive,” hindering investment projects and construction activities.

St. Petersburg was included in the Register of Historic Settlements in July, along with 40 other Russian cities. The status implies stricter control over valuable historical objects and demands that the local authorities authorize construction plans and regulations with Rosokhrankultura, the Ministry of Culture’s heritage watchdog.

“Considering that neither Pskov, Novgorod or Moscow have been included on the register, I am asking you to consider excluding St. Petersburg from the said register,” wrote Matviyenko to Putin, according to Kommersant.

Since taking office in 2003, Matviyenko has been accused of overseeing the gradual destruction of St. Petersburg’s cultural heritage. According to preservationist organization Living City, more than 100 historic buildings, including six on Nevsky Prospekt, have been demolished during her tenure.

Late last year, Matviyenko made moves toward preservationist activists, inviting them to take part in a discussion — an initiative that appears to have reached a deadlock over the scandal caused by the demolition of the Literary House at 68 Nevsky begun on Jan. 7.

“I appreciate the activities of preservationist organizations; they are sincere in their care for the city, and I am open to dialogue,” Matviyenko was quoted as saying in November.

“Preservationists and the city authorities are interested in the same thing — in effective work to preserve historic heritage.” Matviyenko also offered the job of deputy chair of the [city’s] heritage protection committee to Living City coordinator Yulia Minutina, who works as a schoolteacher.

In late January, after film director Alexander Sokurov spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign to stop the demolition of the Literary House, City Hall’s stance seemed to change.

“Teachers should teach, doctors should treat patients, film directors should make movies; if people attempt to do a job for which they are not qualified, mess and madness ensue,” Deputy Governor Roman Filimonov was quoted as saying last week.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the Literary House continued Tuesday. “Maybe one third of the building remains, two thirds have already been demolished,” Living City’s Natalya Sivokhina said by phone Tuesday evening.

Activists of Living City and a newly formed group called Nevsky 68 continue to picket the building, collecting signatures for a petition to President Dmitry Medvedev.

Their demands include a halt to all the work, the future conservation of the site, punishment of the city officials responsible for the destruction of the historic building, the withdrawal of permits and the site from its current owner and a broad public discussion on the restoration of the building.

Photos by Sergey Chernov. See his entire photo reportage of the destruction of the Literary House here.

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The Tower: A Songspiel

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The Tower: A Songspiel, 2010

A film by Chto Delat

This film is the final part in a trilogy of socially engaged musicals that the Chto Delat collective began work on in 2008. This cycle includes the video films Perestroika Songspiel: Victory over the Coup (2008) and Partisan Songspiel: A Belgrade Story (2009).

Filmed in April 2010, The Tower: A Songspiel is based on real documents of Russian social and political life and on an analysis of the conflict that has developed around the planned Okhta Center development in Petersburg, where the Gazprom corporation intends to house the headquarters of its locally-based subsidiaries in a 403-meter-high skyscraper designed by the UK-based architectural firm RMJM. The proposed skyscraper has provoked one of the fiercest confrontations between the authorities and society in recent Russian political history. Despite resistance on the part of various groups who believe that construction of the building would have a catastrophic impact on the appearance of the city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gazprom has so far managed to secure all the necessary permissions and has practically begun the first phase of construction. (Although recent oblique signals from the Russian president may have thrown an insurmountable wrench into the works.)

The Gazprom tower is promoted by the authorities as a symbol of a new, modernized Russia. How are such symbols produced? How does the ideological apparatus of power function? How are projects like this pushed through despite the resistance of ordinary citizens? These are the principal questions raised by this film.

The film is structured as a confrontation between two worlds. On the one hand, we see the world of power, which is represented by a group of people working to create the new symbol: a PR manager (the head of the corporation’s branding project for the skyscraper), a local politician, the company’s security chief, a representative of the Orthodox Church, a gallery owner (who is in line to become director of the corporation’s contemporary art museum), and a fashionable artist. On the other hand, we see a chorus comprised of people from various social groups: the intelligentsia, workers, pensioners, unemployed office clerks, migrants, young women, a homeless boy, and a leftist radical.

The film is set in a corporate boardroom, where a meeting has been called to discuss the rebranding campaign for the Gazprom tower. The participants converse frankly among themselves and from time to time rehearse speeches addressed as it were to the public. They get up from the conference table, situated atop a podium, walk to the edge of this platform, and make speeches in which they attempt to persuade society at large of the need to build the skyscraper and the benefits it will bring the city and its people.

The chorus reacts to the proceedings “on high” by singing Brechtian songs and performing choreographic tableaux that illustrate their standing in society and their attitude to what is happening. These dialectical choruses, whose performers constantly contradict one another, are as it were the symbolic manifestation of debates in society about power and violence, love and beauty, and urban planning and the right to the city.

Director: Tsaplya (Olga Egorova)
Screenplay: Chto Delat
Composer: Mikhail Krutik
Set: Dmitry Vilensky and Gluklya (Natalya Pershina)
Choreography: Nina Gasteva, Mikhail Ivanov and Tsaplya
Editing: Vilensky and Tsaplya
Director of Photography: Artyom Ignatov
Sound: Alexander Dudarev

This video film was made possible with the kind support of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (Spain), Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Germany, and Sociedad Estatal para la Acción Cultural Exterior, Spain, as part of the project The Potosí Principle; and BAK (basis voor actuele kunst), Utrecht, as part of the project Vectors of the Possible. With additional support from the research project Creating Worlds, financed by Wiener Wissenschafts, Forschungs- und Technologiefonds; Vienna Science and Technology Fund, and ar/ge kunst Galleria Museo, Bolzano, Italy.

This film was produced with support from the Chto Delat Fund.


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The Sale of Saint Petersburg (Lopukhinsky Gardens)

Hundreds Protest Against Hotel Construction
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1556 (17), Tuesday, March 16, 2010
By Sergey Chernov

Hundreds of concerned St. Petersburg residents and preservationists gathered in the historic Lopukhinsky Gardens on Saturday to protest plans to build a multistory hotel on the site.

Last April, an area within the small scenic park located on the Petrograd Side was stripped of its state heritage status and sold for an extremely small sum to the private developer RBI, which opened the way for the garden’s destruction, preservationists say. They claim a number of laws were broken in the privatization process.

City Hall is now set to exclude the plot from the city’s register of public green areas, which could make construction work imminent.

The developer argues that the 4,586-square-meter plot, which covers the territory surrounding the abandoned Stalin-era boathouse, is not part of the Lopukhinsky Gardens and is located “nearby,” RBI’s press officer said Monday.

Following a series of protests last year, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko said that there would be no construction in the Lopukhinsky Gardens. “The city will not allow any construction work here, even if this territory is owned by a private proprietor,” she was quoted as saying on City Hall’s official web site in October.

In December, however, City Hall’s town-planning and architecture committee issued RBI with a permit for the construction of a hotel up to 33 meters in height on the land.

“The owner owns a piece of land, and it’s natural that they want to build something on it,” Matviyenko was quoted by Novaya Gazeta as saying in January.

“But this private piece of land has nothing to do with the territory of the Lopukhinsky Gardens; it is beyond their border,” she added.

On Saturday, from 250 to 300 protesters gathered to call for construction to be called off and for Matviyenko’s dismissal.

The price for which the site was sold has provoked questions. According to the web site of City Hall’s land resources and land management committee, the 4,586-square-meter site was sold for 274,265.72 rubles ($9,356) — or 59.8 rubles ($2) per square meter.

According to Alexander Karpov, director of the ECOM Center of Expertise, the deal was illegal.

“The law on public-access green areas, which clearly designated the gardens as a public territory, had already been in force for two years by the time the deal was done,” he said by phone Monday.

“The privatization of public territories is forbidden by federal law. Basically, the privatization of a plot that partly encroaches on public territory is against the law — that’s the essence of the outrage that is happening now.”

"Stop! Private Property"

Karpov said he could not see any way in which the hotel could be built and operate on the site without affecting the rest of the park.

“All this is one big con game, undertaken in the hopes of getting permission to destroy the Lopukhinsky Gardens further,” he said Monday.

Legislative Assembly deputy Sergei Malkov has written a letter to the city’s prosecutor asking him to look into the legality of the plot’s privatization and annul it if it is found to be illegal.

Dating back to the early 19th century, the Lopukhinsky Gardens are a tranquil green zone in a prestigious area of the Petrograd Side near the Kamennoostrovsky Bridge on the bank of the Malaya Nevka River. The land was part of the estate of Count Pyotr Lopukhin (1753–1827), after whom it is named.

“It’s important to obey the law,” artist and human rights activist Yuly Rybakov said by phone Monday.

“By law, the Lopukhinsky Gardens are a cultural heritage project and were also part of the green zone, when all of a sudden, at the whim of the investors, a section of the park was cut off and then a statement was made saying that this land has nothing to do with the park. That’s not supported by anything.

“There’s no reason to cut off this section — it can only be accessed through the territory of the park, it’s all surrounded by trees and is a single complex. It’s a very pleasant area that is loved by locals. It’s an arbitrary decision obviously taken on behalf of business.”

Rybakov, who described the hotel design as an “ugly iron-and-glass box,” expressed concern about the fate of the Lopukhinsky Gardens as a whole.

“If a hotel appears there, then a parking lot will appear, then a restaurant, then a VIP zone — and the garden will cease to exist as a garden altogether.”

You can view Sergey Chernov’s full photo reportage of the Saturday protest here.

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Defenders of the Fatherland (Rogov House, Petersburg)

“This Demolition Is Illegal”/“Petersburg Is Being Murdered Here”

Yesterday (February 23) was celebrated as Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia. Once upon a time not so long ago, February 23 was known as Red Army and Fleet Day. Now, apparently as a counterbalance to “International Women’s Day” (March 8), a holiday utterly emptied of its original radical/progressive/feminist content by the forces of consumerism and patriarchal reaction in Russia, February 23rd has become a kind of one-size-fits-all “men’s day.” The homely and sexual virtues of women are thus celebrated on March 8, while on February 23 the allegedly warrior-like traits of men are honored.

The reality of gender roles is, of course, more complicated. As is the question of what “defending the fatherland” means today. We would argue that this defense now entails work on very different fronts, such as the struggle against neofascism, rampant police abuse and violence, and lawless, union-busting employers. A no less important front in Russia today is the fight for the right to the city, whether this means battling  to save a humble albeit leafy courtyard in Petersburg’s new estates from the developers’ chainsaws and bulldozers, trying to stop the erection of a 400-meter-high skyscraper that would rape the city’s sublime skyline forever or, as you’ll read about below, keeping watch over historic landmarks that stand in the way of mindless redevelopment. This particular struggle is fought by men and women, the old and the young, communists, anarchists, and liberals alike.

Finally, we should stress that the “little” motherland/fatherland at issue here (Saint Petersburg) is the common property of all humanity (as our comrades from DSPA point out, below): the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re unhappy with what the combined forces of stupidity, greed, and bureaucratic corruption are doing to our common property, please write to UNESCO. Please write to us (at the e-mail address in the sidebar) if you need more information about the destruction of Saint Petersburg.

Vigil Set Up To Stop Demolition Of Building
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1550 (11), Wednesday, February 24, 2010
By Sergey Chernov
Staff Writer

A round-the-clock vigil has been established in central St. Petersburg by concerned locals attempting to prevent the demolition of a historic building.

Defenders of St. Petersburg’s cultural heritage set up camp near the Rogov House on the corner of Zagorodny Prospekt and Shcherbakov Pereulok as attempts to demolish the building continued during the weekend and into this week.

Sergey Chernov / The St. Petersburg Times
The Rogov House pictured on Monday, following demolition work that began over the weekend.

At every attempt by workers to start demolition, which the protesters describe as “illegal,” the activists called the police, who repeatedly came and stopped the work because the workers had no demolition permit.

But the workers, equipped with a hydraulic excavator labeled “Building Demolition Association,” managed to almost completely destroy the top floor of the three-story historic building in one sweep on Saturday and two sweeps on Monday.

On Saturday, two cars parked on Shcherbakov Pereulok were reported to have been damaged by falling stones due to the haste with which the work was carried out. After the third sweep on Monday, the workers present at the site were detained by the police, who ordered them to write explanatory statements.

The protesters say that Prestizh, which bought the right to develop the site from the city, deliberately started demolition work at the beginning of the long holiday weekend in order to complete demolition unhindered before Wednesday, when a court hearing about the legality of stripping the the Rogov House of its cultural heritage status is scheduled.

Prestizh is planning to build a seven-story business center with underground parking on the site.

The Rogov House, named after the merchant who built it in the late 18th to early 19th century, is the oldest building on Vladimirskaya Ploshchad. Located next to the Delvig House, it is valued as a relic of Pushkin-era St. Petersburg.

“The exact year of construction is unknown, which is often the case with buildings from that era,” Alexander Kononov, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Association for the Protection of Monuments (VOOPIK,) said by phone on Tuesday.

“It was built between 1798 and 1808, because on the 1798 map of St. Petersburg this building isn’t yet featured, but it is already on the 1808 map of St. Petersburg — with the same dimensions and configuration as it has now.”

According to Kononov, the building is the oldest in the Vladimirskaya Ploshchad ensemble — older than the Delvig House, which was built from 1811 to 1813 — and, unlike the Delvig House, it has never undergone major renovation or reconstruction work.

“It has all the authentic elements of construction and decor inside and out — the staircase and everything — including large wooden cross-beams,” he said.

“It is precisely as it was built, except for minor changes on the first floor due to doorways having been moved.”

The Rogov House has been under threat since the 1980s, when it was damaged during the construction of Dostoyevskaya metro station. Kononov insists that the building could have been restored, but City Hall’s heritage committee stripped it off its heritage status in November last year.

According to Kononov, organizations such as Lenmetrogiprotrans (Leningrad Metropolitan State Institute for Transportation Design and Planning) and Giprostroimost (Institute for Bridge Design and Construction) said in writing that they were ready to design projects for the repair and preservation of the building, including strengthening weight-bearing structures and the foundations.

“Unfortunately, Prestizh, which currently manages the site, doesn’t want to get in touch with the organizations that are ready to preserve the building — quite the opposite, they look for experts who will say that it is impossible to preserve the building and that it is in a dangerous state of repair,” Kononov said.

Prestizh was not available for comment on Tuesday.

According to the preservationist organization Living City, more than 100 historic buildings have been destroyed in the center, including six on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, since Governor Valentina Matviyenko took office in 2003. [You can see more of Sergey Chernov’s photos of the Rogov House demolition here.]

*****

Here Alexander Kononov talks to Petersburg Channel 100 about the battle over the Rogov House. Even if you don’t understand Russian, it’s worth a look for the visuals at the end of the segment, when the Channel 100 anchor reads off a short list of the more than one hundred historic buildings demolished during the reign of Valentina Matviyenko.

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*****

On the morning of February 23, activists from the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA) hung the following banner on the threatened Rogov House:

The text on the banner (“Citizens! Under Matviyenko’s Administration, This Side of the Street Is the Most Dangerous”) refers to the famous warnings stenciled on buildings during the Siege of Leningrad: “Сitizens! During bombardment this side of the street is the most dangerous.” Beginning in the early sixties, these stencils were restored on several buildings in the city, including the most well-known example, on the building at Nevsky Prospekt, 14.

DSPA issued the following communiqué in connection with this action:

By destroying Petersburg’s historic built environment and demolishing old buildings, the authorities violate the people’s right to aesthetic pleasure, which is no less meaningful than other civil and political rights.

The days when hi-tech buildings served as futuristic manifestos have long since passed; today’s glass boxes are built by dull and greedy bourgeois. They find it more profitable to demolish a historic building and erect a new one in its place: investing money in the restoration of an old building is too expensive. They thus infringe on the cultural property of all humanity.

A typical example of this infringement is the case of the Rogov House (Zagorodny Prospekt 3/17), an officially listed architectural landmark. Strictly speaking, little has survived of this neoclassical building complex, erected in the late eighteenth century: only the street-side wing remains; the rest of the building was barbarically destroyed during construction of the Dostoevskaya metro station in 1987. Preservationists successfully defended this part of the building, but in the twenty-some years that followed, the authorities dreamt not of restoring it to a condition befitting its landmark status, but of destroying it completely. Despite the fact that, in 2009, independent experts showed that it was still quite possible to restore the building, attempts to force through a demolition in order to build yet another commercial building on the site resumed with renewed vigor late last year.

During the six or so years of Governor Matviyenko’s administration, Petersburg itself has “shrunk“ considerably: the preservation zone in the central districts has been reduced by a factor of 4.5; the city has rid itself of 144 architectural landmarks and other historic buildings, as well as several dozen squares and green spaces; and the city’s central plazas — Sennaya, Kazanskaya, Vladimirskaya, and St. Isaac’s — have been irreparably disfigured.

We realize, however, that it is not so much Matviyenko herself who is personally to blame for all this, as it is the economic system of capitalism. The governor is merely a small fry in the big pond of the Market and a servant of High Profits. Only greed and the desire for profit are capable of demolishing works of art and erecting lackluster business centers. Big money is the only cause of all the horrible things that are happening to our city.

Governors come and governors go, but their policies remain the same. And during each of their reigns, both sides of every street remain the most dangerous.

There is only one solution — resistance!

Today, the Rogov House got a reprieve when a Petersburg district court declared a temporary halt to an earlier decision (on February 2) by the city’s heritage preservation committee (the now-notorious KGIOP, whose mission in recent years has been to rubber-stamp whatever atrocities the hearts of developers desire) to strip the building of its protected status. All the details of the suit, filed on behalf of the house by representatives of VOOPIK, can be found here (in Russian). The next court hearing of the case will take place on March 9. Activists, however, have promised to continue their vigil at the house.

alert-dog.livejournal.com/100900.html

“The Rogov House: Don’t Demolish It, Restore It!”

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Filed under activism, protests, urban movements (right to the city)