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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protected Buildings List Gets Longer

MTAn aerial view of the Moskvoretsky Bridge, which is among the 184 structures added to the city's protected list.
Moscow city government's preservation committee has expanded its list of protected historical structures and vowed to be more open to the press and the public.

Around 200 structures have been added to the list, head of the Moscow Preservation Committee Valery Shevchuk said at a news conference May 25.

The committee, which has often been criticized by preservation activists for failing to do enough to save Moscow's historical heritage, is a city-funded organization in charge of giving buildings protected status and monitoring restoration. The committee, which has an annual budget of $2 million, also plays a decisive role in determining whether a building is to be demolished.

The Moscow Heritage at Crisis Point report, co-authored by the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society (MAPS) and SAVE Europe's Heritage and released last month, said 1,000 historical buildings and close to 200 protected buildings had been knocked down in the city over the last five years.

A total of 184 structures have been added to the city's protected list, Shevchuk said. Among them is an early 19th-century house on Ulitsa Malaya Dmitrovka once visited by Alexander Pushkin. Also on the expanded list for the first time are a number of bridges, including Moskvoretsky Bridge, which goes from Red Square to Sadovnicheskaya Naberezhnaya and Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge, which runs from Borovitskaya Ploshchad to Ulitsa Yakimanka. Both bridges were built in the late 1930s.

Preservation experts welcomed the move but said many more buildings should be on the list and that the loss of so many buildings in recent years showed that the listed status did not always provide sufficient protection.

"We welcome this news so soon after the release of this report ... but there is such an enormous backlog of buildings. This is only a fraction of what they need to take," MAPS co-founder Clem Cecil said.

Galina Naumenko, head of the committee's inspection staff, which evaluates the protected status of historical buildings, said some applications from the 1980s had still not been assessed.

But Shevchuk said the committee was understaffed.

"We have 6,500 historically and architecturally important buildings and 20,000 buildings that make up part of the city's historical landscape. This load is carried by 238 workers," he said, saying it was far too few for so many buildings.

Appointed last year, Shevchuk has promised to make the organization more transparent.

By the end of the year, anyone, Russian or foreign, will be able to apply for a building to be placed under protection via the committee's new web site.

Shevchuk has also set up an inspection committee -- with 78 volunteers -- who will watch out for violations of preservation laws.

The Moscow Preservation Committee has also submitted a new bill to restrict the amount of advertising and billboards on heritage buildings to the City Duma for consideration.

Meanwhile, in his first public comments since the Moscow Heritage at Crisis Point report appeared last month, Shevchuk criticized the authors for a lack of transparency, saying they "wrote this report behind closed doors."

But the accusation of secrecy is one that that MAPS's Cecil rejected.

"We welcome the new open policy at the Moscow Preservation Committee, but this was not the case in the past," she said.

The report, which received positive media coverage, got a cool reception from Moscow's architectural establishment. Moscow chief architect Alexander Kuzmin said last month that he regarded the report with skepticism.

Mikhail Moskvin-Tarkhanov, the head of the city's Building and Development Commission, accused the report authors of being in bed with Yabloko and State Duma Deputy Alexander Lebedev, an opponent of Mayor Yury Luzhkov, in an article in Tverskaya 13, City Hall's newspaper.

Shevchuk also criticized the report for its political nature.

Cecil said the report was not politically motivated and that MAPS had no political link to Yabloko or Lebedev.

"It is a shame that they do not believe that anyone could just be interested in saving Moscow's historical heritage without political motives," she said.