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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayor's Book-Release Gala Garners Little Interest

Already a renowned builder of cathedrals and shopping centers, Yury Luzhkov has found a new calling as a writer of inspirational prose with the launch Tuesday of his book "We're Your Children, Moscow."


The powerful Moscow mayor seems to be on his way to some sort of literary fame with a tale of his past life in the city bureaucracy -- from ambitious vegetable boss to feisty deputy mayor.


If only the television networks would cooperate. The idea was simplicity itself: organize a gala concert for the mayor's opus, get all the participants to perform for free, throw up some street banners and call it a celebration for all Moscow.


But television wasn't playing, professing a ho-hum attitude toward the budding author.


"It's painful for me to admit, Yury Mikhailovich, but we have nothing ready," pop star Iosif Kobzon, the mayor's "cultural adviser" and gala organizer, told Luzhkov at a press conference to publicize the book.


A competition between television companies ORT, NTV Independent Television and Moscow Television for the right to cover the event proved a flop, Kobzon said.


NTV and ORT had another version, denying any knowledge of a competition to air the concert. Moscow Television could not be reached for comment.


"Do you think that we would actually fight with each other to cover a concert like that?" an ORT representative, who asked not to be named, asked between laughs.


In the end, the concert came off, with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin showing up to sit with Luzhkov, said a gala organizer, Yelena Generalova.


The book also has problems, according to the mayor himself. "It's turned out as an abracadabra," Luzhkov conceded. "Since our times are confused, the book is mixed up too, but I wrote what I wanted."


The 338-page tome, including some 170 pages of photos and prints of Moscow's architectural history, was designed to give Muscovites a sense of their city's identity, Luzhkov said. The book, in the works for two years, was written in snatches of free time or recorded into a dictaphone, he added. Both city government and publishing company officials freely admitted that the work is linked with the June mayoral election, but Luzhkov preferred to portray it more as an historical essay.


Presented as half-autobiographical, the book kicks off with scenes from Luzhkov's childhood, when he lived with six family members in a one-room flat near Paveletsky Station with no gas and no running water.


Other than a few pranks with firemen and German grenades, Luzhkov abandons his life story early on, pausing only to lament the disappearance of the communal values of his Moscow dvor, or the shared yard in the center of many apartment complexes.


Next follows a rambling account of Luzhkov's years in the Moscow government, liberally sprinkled with asides on everything from Moscow's housing problems, to the importance of snow plows to reminiscences of then-Moscow Communist Party boss Boris Yeltsin.


"I didn't declare war on the system. I just stood up in defense of the vegetables," wrote Luzhkov about his years as boss of the city's vegetable supply system in one of the most memorable lines.


Due to hit city bookstore shelves "around Wednesday," according to city officials, the book will have an initial run of 100,000 copies that will sell for 26,000 rubles (about $5).


prepared for "commercial sale" by Vagrius publishing house. The target retail price will be 26,000 rubles (a little more than $5), said Tatyana Makarova, a representative of Vagrius.


City-owned publishers Stolitsa Holding has printed an additional 15,000 copies to be given out as gifts, said City Hall spokesman Yury Zagrebnoi.


The mayor will take no percentage from the book's sales, Zagrebnoi added."Let them dance if they want to," said NTV deputy editor Stanislav Mormidko. "We don't show concerts like that. It's not our style."