Threat of Tsaritsyno Dacha Becoming a Car Park

ArkhnadzorThe dacha in Tsaritsyno has seen many a famous guest over the years.

Hidden away behind a tall fence in the Tsaritsyno park complex is the Muromtsev Dacha, a dark-green wooden building that has seen many of Russia’s most distinguished walk in its doors.

Since its first inhabitant, Sergei Muromtsev, the president of the first State Duma, moved at the end of the 19th century, the place with its idyllic country setting has seen Nobel Prize-winning writer Ivan Bunin, Venedikt Yerofeyev and former Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov. Today, it faces demolition.

The Moscow city government is threatening to knock down the dacha and replace it with a parking lot. The six families who live in the dacha say they are being harassed by local police to move out.

“Once the Tsaritsyno park complex became Moscow city government property, our house came under attack,” said physicist Nikolai Boldyrev, who has been living at the Muromtsev Dacha since 1959. “The city authorities are determined to make us move out.”

The federal government previously owned Tsaritsyno but handed it over to the city in a deal in 2005.

Muromtsev’s Dacha became government property after the Revolution. It was used as a school and a research laboratory, and many of its workers moved into the building. Some families have been present since before World War II but have no documents of ownership.

In an attempt to protect their home, the six families filed an ownership application. The Civil Code allows anyone to claim ownership if they have lived in a building continuously for more than 15 years.

The court rejected their appeal despite the testimonies of eight witnesses and phone bills, which confirmed that they had been living at the house for more than 15 years.

“After the court session, we filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, but soon afterward the Tsaritsyno police came to the house in the middle of the night, threw one of the kids out of the bath, started breaking windows and telling us to get out,” Boldyrev said. “They said that if we don’t move out, the house might ‘accidentally’ burn down.”

To gather support, the Muromtsev Dacha hosts cultural evenings in memory of the house’s distinguished guests and residents.

A photo of Yerofeyev hanging at the dacha during a recent literary evening.

Inside the dacha, visitors can look at a small collection of objects connected to the former inhabitants and visitors. There are bricks from the original Muromtsev house, where he wrote his version of the first Russian Constitution; excerpts from Bunin’s short stories, where he describes the linden alley that still surrounds the dacha and where he met with his future wife; photos of Klebnikov and Yerofeyev’s notes.

Klebnikov, who was murdered outside his office in Moscow in 2004, was a friend of the Boldyrev family and once saved the dacha from being turned into a brothel in the wild 1990s.

In 1996, a local police officer started harassing the family, asking for half of the house to use as a brothel. Later, Klebnikov wrote an article about the situation and the police harassment stopped, said Nikolay Boldyrev’s son Kirill, a student.

The Boldyrevs also were close friends with Yerofeyev, who wrote the alcohol-soaked poem in prose “Moscow-Petushki” and who spent a lot of time at the dacha in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The Muromtsev Dacha could rightfully become the official Yerofeyev museum,” said Anna Ilyichyova from Arkhnadzor, a Moscow organization that promotes the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage and which recently placed a memorial plaque in tribute to Yerofeyev on the building.

Arkhnadzor brought together Yerofeyev’s friends and admirers, including his last love, Natalya Shmelkova, for a literary evening at the end of July.

“Yerofeyev would have been astonished had he known that the house, where he had spent so much time, was going to be turned into a banal parking space,” said Shmelkova, who donated photographs, old playbills and books to the dacha’s museum.

Arkhnadzor will host a literary evening at the Muromtsev Dacha on Sept. 4.
5 Radialnaya Ulitsa, Bldg. 3, Tsaritsyno park complex. Metro Tsaritsyno. Tel. 8916 631 3631.