Musicians Whip Out Instruments in Protest

MTStudents staging a noisy, unsanctioned rally at the Atrium mall near the Kurskaya metro station on Monday. About 100 students from the Gnesin Academy of Music sang, danced and played musical instruments in a cacophonous protest against an attempt to evict
Students from one of the country's top music schools staged a noisy, unsanctioned rally at an upscale Moscow shopping center Monday to protest being evicted from their dormitory.

About 100 students from the Gnesin Academy of Music descended on the Atrium mall, beside the Kurskaya metro station, to sing, dance and play instruments in a cacophonous protest against the eviction attempt, which students believe is a plot to grab valuable real estate with the help of corrupt officials.

Beefy security guards looked on but did nothing to stop the 10-minute protest by the students, some of whom wore surgical masks, apparently to hide their identities.

Students learned about the eviction last Wednesday when their dormitory was covered with notices ordering them to leave for 30 days so authorities could address fire-safety violations.

The notice, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times, said students had to leave by Tuesday or risk being forced out by the Federal Court Marshals Service.

It cited an October ruling by the Savyolovsky District Court -- a decision students said they had never even heard about.

"We only found out about this five days ago," Yulia Zhukova, a choral direction student, said after Monday's protest. "Nobody knew about the court ruling."

Zhukova, like other dormitory residents, said she had nowhere to go because she was not from Moscow and could not afford other housing.

The dormitory houses about 800 students, most of whom study music at the Gnesin Academy. The others study at the Shchukin Theater Institute.

Phone calls to administrators at the Gnesin Academy were not answered Monday, which was a public holiday.

Calls to the Federal Court Marshals Service, Moscow city prosecutors and the Savyolovsky District Court also went unanswered.

The initial announcement for Monday's protest said it would take place at Manezh Square, next to the Kremlin. Dozens of police officers were patrolling the square at the scheduled time. Reporters who showed up were quietly handed leaflets saying the protest had moved to the Atrium.

Students vowed to stay in the dormitory, fearing that it would be taken over by shady developers if they left.

"We will stay to the bitter end," Zhukova said.