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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Free Wee Under Potty Perestroika

Moscow's public lavatories are undergoing a major perestroika, according to a report issued by the capital's toilet bureaucracy, the Moscow Sanitary and Epidemiological Inspectorate.

The number of free places to wee has dwindled 16.7 percent over the last five years, said the report, with most of the 40 public toilets closed over that period being converted into bars, restaurants and shops.

"When everything was owned by the government, there was no problem with finding a place to go to the loo," lamented Nadezhda Konstantinovna of MosSanEpidNadzor, who has worked in the public toilet world for 20 years, but would not give her surname. "All the toilets were well looked after. They even had paper; only newspaper, but it was paper. Now businesses have taken over all the best premises, and there are very few places for Muscovites or guests of the capital to go."

Public toilets enjoyed a hey workshops and quickly converted then into toilets. People still come in here looking for the loo, people who remember it from years ago and don't come to Moscow very often. Some who come to relieve themselves stay for dinner."

But the lavatory class of '53, unprecedented in the history of Russian toilets for their size and opulence, has suffered in recent years from the ravages of neglect and the greedy eye of capitalism. Few of the original toilets have survived from the golden years, said Murashov, whose own 80- square-meter premises were "a complete s**thole, literally" when his restaurant took over in 1992.

On nearby Pushkinskaya Ulitsa, a stone's throw from the Kremlin, another famous pair of public toilets have been transformed into the Sheikh delicatessen (formerly the Gents') and the Advantage bar (once the Ladies').

"Those toilets were so disgusting," said Maria Agarova, manager of the Jobis women's clothing boutique, next door to the former restrooms. "What kind of people go to public toilets, anyway? Only bag ladies and out-of-towners. They were unspeakable; you could smell them as soon as you came out of the metro."

Strangely, both establishments' managers were shy about admitting the premises' earthy origins; though the urinals and the smells have gone, a whiff of shame remains.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov launched a campaign last year to introduce paying toilets into the capital, with some success, said MosSanEpidNadzor, so spending a penny without spending a penny has become more difficult. The lavatory inspectorate called on the city of Moscow to make it mandatory for all shops to provide toilet facilities for their customers to relieve the strain on the public system, a suggestion which met with little enthusiasm from shop owners.

"If I have to let any old tramp use my toilet, I won't be able to use it myself," said Agarkova. "We might as well close the shop, because old people are so used to having a place to pee right next door."