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City authorities will eradicate old Moscow – Pubic Chamber

Published time: July 29, 2010 07:23
Edited time: July 29, 2010 07:23

Another pearl of architecture has been torn down in Moscow. Russia's Public Chamber claims that city officials who were in charge of the demolition must be punished.

The Alekseev Mansion is – or rather was – situated on Bakhrushin Street right in the city center. Historically, it belonged to generations of Russian merchants and, as activists protesting against demolition say, it was one of the few remaining buildings in the Russian capital representing the so-called Moscow empire style.

The demolition started on Sunday: in several hours, the building has been completely destroyed – despite multiple protests held by Arkhnadzor, the movement trying to preserve historic architectural sites in Moscow.

“The city administration pays no attention to public opinion. This is vandalism and a criminal approach to the nation’s heritage,” professor Evgeny Asse, an architect, told RT. “There are lots of examples all over the world of how old buildings could be refurbished and renewed. It’s not such a big deal. It’s just a matter of understanding your own responsibility.”

The officials’ decision has also outraged the country’s Public Chamber. Its members say a criminal case must be initiated against those responsible for destruction of historical monuments in the city as the demolition was unwarranted and should not have been allowed.

Moreover, the Public Chamber argued that such “crimes” are the first step in the 15-year Moscow city plan that will result in the complete eradication of all the historical buildings in the center since the city government is only concerned with making money.

“If we're talking about the legal side of things, then the city government had enough of a basis to demolish the building, as it wasn't on the official monuments list. But if we consider moral aspects, this was totally wrong,” Galina Malanicheva from the Public Chamber told RT. “The investors clearly knew how much attention was being paid to reconstructing the city centre and the fate of the mansion, in particular. That's why they chose to carry out the demolition works as quickly and silently as possible.”

The city officials, in their turn, say that the demolition is in the city’s long-term interest as a new hotel close to the historic center of Moscow will draw hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.

They also said that, although the original structure was built in the early 19th Century, since then it had been renovated six times.

“We based our decision on the conclusion reached in 2006 by a group of respectable experts,” Valery Shevchuk, chairman of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Committee, said. “They concluded the building doesn't have any historical value. One can debate whether this was the correct decision. But the evaluation given by the Arkhnadzor movement is totally unprofessional. I think we need a more consistent approach. Our decision to demolish has been on the city government's website for a long time now, as well as details of the new building project. So I can't see the reason why protestors and the media only started getting active once the demolition had begun. If there's another expert's conclusion – show it to us and we are ready to discuss it.”