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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Threatened By 'Mock Heritage'

MTA teenager chasing a balloon outside Sysoyev House on Pechatnikov Pereulok on Monday. The building is slated for destruction amid a campaign that threatens to turn Moscow into "an ersatz city of cheap reproductions and mock heritage," building preservatio
Moscow is in danger of becoming "an ersatz city of cheap reproductions and mock heritage," building preservationists warned in report released Monday.

The bilingual illustrated report, titled "Moscow Heritage at Crisis Point," marks the first time that Russian and foreign activists have come together to document the threat to Moscow's architectural heritage.

The report is a joint publication by the Moscow Architectural Preservation Society, or MAPS, a campaigning organization founded by Western and Russian journalists in 2004, and Save European Heritage, a London-based organization headed by the architecture correspondent for the London Times, Marcus Binney.

It is an attempt to "combat the tidal wave of grossly overscaled and insensitive development that threatens to erode Moscow's unique and distinctive qualities," Binney said in a statement read at a news conference Monday.

The city's historical buildings have been the main victims of the construction boom. The report estimates that 1,000 historical buildings have been knocked down in the last five years, 200 of those with, or close to, protected status.

As well as listing numerous old buildings that have been destroyed, the report lists those under threat and is accompanied by a series of essays that attempt to show that Moscow is a city "deserving of praise and of saving," said Clementine Cecil, a former reporter with the London Times, who set up MAPS.

"The report is an expression of heartfelt appreciation of Moscow's architectural heritage, but also a call to cherish it," Cecil said, adding that the city has a superb heritage of classical, constructivist and art modern buildings.

Moscow Times reporter Kevin O'Flynn and Edmund Harris, who writes for a supplement to The Moscow Times, contributed to the report.

The Mayor's Office declined to comment on the report. But Natalya Loginova, spokeswoman for the Moscow Heritage Committee, the City Hall committee that oversees historic buildings, welcomed it and said it would be read and used.

The "Under Threat" section features the Detsky Mir toy store, which is to be remodeled, and the Mayakovskaya metro station, whose elegant steel columns are being damaged by water leaks.

Many of the buildings featured are already draped with green netting -- which usually foretells demolition -- that conceals crumbling facades or wholesale rebuilding.

The Sysoyev House on Pechatnikov Pereulok, a favorite of preservationists, will soon be gone. Others are now beyond saving: A note in the report informs readers that an elegant Art Nouveau building on Degtyarny Pereulok just off Tverskaya Ulitsa, was "demolished before going to press."

"As a result of these losses, the wealthy city of Moscow becomes poorer every day," Franziska Bollerey, an architecture professor at the University of Technology in Delft in The Netherlands, wrote in the report.

The preservationists plan to deliver copies to President Vladimir Putin, Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the city's chief architect, Alexnader Kuzmin, and other leading architectural figures.

"All the Moscow bureaucrats linked to architecture and to architects" will get the report, said Sergei Ageyev, an architect and a trustee of MAPS.

He said the fact that it is in Russian and English and compiled by Western journalists and experts would give it greater authority in the eyes of Russian officials.

"You can't ignore the Russian tradition of listening more to the opinion of foreigners than to local specialists," he said.

The report "will certainly be effective in Britain," where it will be distributed to politicians and those with an interest in Russia, said Adam Wilkinson, one of the report's authors and secretary of Save Europe's Heritage.

"The interesting thing is what will happen here [in Moscow] when it lands on people's desks," Wilkinson said. "I very much doubt that it will be met with a wall of silence, because you have to answer a report like this."