WHATEVER HAPPENED TO . . .:King of the Castle

Remember Yevgeny Meshchersky who moved into his semi-ruined ancestral home 75 kilometers northwest of Moscow? The Moscow Times told readers the prince's story in March 1998, about a year after Meshchersky began his odyssey to legally reclaim his family's palace.

Meshchersky, his wife and their three children (ages 7, 14 and 18) came to Petrovskaya, in the Naro-Fominsk region, from Ukraine after the new Constitution reinstated private property and inheritance rights.

Since then Meshchersky's lawsuits have continued. The court decisions have all basically been the same: as the Meshchersky palace was designated a historical monument in 1974, "it is a property of the state and cannot be passed to a private owner."

Dissatisfied, Meshchersky appealed to the international court in Strasbourg, France, that deals with inheritance issues. Last month the court agreed to consider his case.

Meanwhile, Meshchersky and his family, who have been refused registration, live in a gatehouse while continuing restoration.

Meshchersky set up a historical museum in another of the gatehouses. But after the museum had been open for a year and a half it was destroyed by unknown arsonists. His car also burned in the fire.

Meshchersky does not expect the local police to protect him. "I have nothing to do but wait [for the Strasbourg court's decision] and my only weapon is the telephone," he said.

f Tanya Mosolova