Soviet-style building rash killing old Moscow: group

Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:07am EDT
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By Dmitry Solovyov

MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Moscow city officials are employing the brutal methods of their Soviet predecessors to develop a rash of buildings that are destroying the Russian capital's historic heritage, a pressure group said in its latest report published on Wednesday.

Moscow landmarks under threat include The Bolshoi Theater, Mayakovskaya metro station and monuments of the avant-garde, a survey by the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society (MAPS) said.

MAPS, set up in 2004 following the demolition of two major Moscow landmarks -- the Moskva Hotel and Voyentorg department store -- said that due to public awareness none of the buildings listed in its 2007 report had been condemned to be demolished.

"But this turned out to be only a temporary reprieve for the city's heritage. Since the beginning of 2008 numerous other buildings have been destroyed outright or suffered major losses to their original fabric," said Edmund Harris, chief editor of the report.

"The scale of destruction is almost comparable to that of the 1930s-1960s, the difference being that today what is under attack is those few structures that were lucky enough to survive Stalin and Khrushchev's purges."

Demolishing old Moscow, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin would not hesitate to splurge state funds on giant and pompous high-rise buildings to accommodate ministries or house the Soviet elite.

Stalin's extravagance, intended to immortalize "the capital of workers and peasants", was followed by the dreary style of Nikita Khrushchev who built the cavernous, steel-and-iron Palace of Congresses amidst the centuries-old Byzantine environment of the Kremlin's onion-shaped church domes and crenellated walls.