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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arbat Kiosk Ban Is Permanent

The kiosks stacked with tins of caviar, the tables of matryoshka dolls and the walls lined with T-shirts and flags are gone for good from the Arbat, according to a city official.

Last week, Moscow authorities barred street vendors in what was called a "temporary" spring cleaning effort, and cranes one by one hoisted away the kilometer-long street's 120 kiosks.

On Thursday, for the first time, the official overseeing commercial activiTIES in central Moscow acknowledged in an interview that the city plans to prevent all but a handful of kiosks and merchants from returning.

"We cannot turn one of Moscow's main streets into a bazaar", said Vitaly Usov, deputy head of Moscow's central prefecture. "The place was anarchy. The area's resident's couldn't cope with the criminal situation; they couldn't go out on the street in the evening".

City officials hope that by cleaning away the low-brow commerce, they will attract investors to help create a European-style pedestrian mall where commerce is conducted in stores and not on the street. Usov said he expects chic boutiques of local and international firms to replace the previous open air stands run by young toughs.

"A few necessary kiosks can remain, such as those selling soft drinks, ice cream, cigarettes", he said. "It's also possible that a few places will be designated for selling postcards and folk art".

Preliminary results of the Arbat's week-old clean-up are already taking shape. The street appears considerably wider since kiosks on both sides have been removed, and pedestrians no longer need to navigate between stands.

Teams of police officers patrol the street -- ready to fine violators up to 222, 000 rubles -- to ensure that the merchants do not return. A few leather-jacketed youths stand idly with bags of merchandise in hand, but the city seems to have succeeded in wiping away the mercantile bustle that has characterized the Arbat in recent years.

Trading on the Arbat is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back only to the Gorbachev years when the street was made into the city's first pedestrian mall. It became a symbol of attempts to liberalize the economy.

In recent days, the Arbat's ranks of small-time merchants had swelled to 500 manning street stands, not including vendors in 120 kiosks, Usov said.

"It's a repeat of the fate of the New Economic Policy", one evicted kiosk owner said in reference to Lenin's experiment with limited capitalism from 1921 to 1928. "Under NEP they allowed everything for a while and then they forbade it; this is NEP II".

Usov countered that the city still allows trading at 77 different trading zones in the center, places typically located around Metro stations.

"To say we're squeezing out business is a shameful lie; we need order above all", he said.

"Before, it was complete chaos and impossible to control", said police officer Mikhail Magazenko. "When there are less people, there are fewer criminal elements".

Usov said that a commission he heads must formally approve the ban on Arbat street trading next month. He added that the city also intends to clean up the many vendors on Novy Arbat, parallel to the Arbat.