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Developers' profits are destroying Moscow

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In her analysis of recent architecture in Moscow ('Russia's New Space Race', AJ 8.1.04), Ruth Slavid mentions all too briefly the current, serious disregard for the city's built heritage.

To give the reader a balanced assessment of the current situation in Moscow, it is essential to stress the fact that not since the 1930s has there been so much damage to, or complete destruction of, scores of highly important buildings in the country's capital.

An article in the Moscow Times (13.1.04) highlights this unfolding disaster.

The past two years have seen a 60 per cent increase in the average price of real estate, and those involved in realising new building projects stand to make enormous profits. There are allegations that, under Yuri Luzhkov, the present mayor, many listed buildings of architectural or historical importance have been unlawfully demolished in order to clear the way for large, new, and often insensitive developments in the city.

Some buildings have been condemned as beyond repair with no justification, others are deliberately sabotaged and damaged to such a degree that they have to be pulled down; and there are reports that residents have received threats from developers eager to lay claim to their homes. The green netting that screens numerous historic buildings, carrying notices reassuring the public that the structure behind is undergoing restoration, often mask the grim reality that a building is being demolished or changed out of all recognition.

As this all goes on, leading conservationists struggle to have their voice heard, while residents and businesses, wishing to preserve their local communities, remain ill-informed about proposed demolition and developments in their neighbourhood, and, therefore, ill-prepared to oppose them.

Moscow, to be sure, doesn't have the beauty of St Petersburg;

but those attractive districts that do exist are at grave risk, and assistance is urgently called to save them and their historic architecture.

Oliver Learmont, by email

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