Moscow’s Constructivist architecture under threat by government demolition plan

A proposal to raze Soviet era housing and relocate 1.6 million residents has caused so much concern that thousands turned out to protest this weekend

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An excavator demolishes a five-storey apartment block in Moscow in April
An excavator demolishes a five-storey apartment block in Moscow in April / © Natalia Kolesnikova – AFP Photos

An interactive map of the former Soviet Union’s Constructivist architectural heritage went online just days before the city of Moscow published a list of 4,500 apartment buildings proposed for demolition as part of a plan to relocate up to 1.6 million residents. Describe by many residents as a property grab akin to the forced collectivisation of property under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, the demolition plan has proven so unpopular that thousands turned up for a demonstration against it in Moscow on Sunday 14 May carrying signs with slogans like “My house is my castle”.

The plan has also alarmed preservationists. Initially described as an effort to upgrade residents from pre-fabricated mass housing built under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the architectural targets have broadened and fears are mounting that it has become a carte-blanche for developers to destroy any building that stands in their way.

Among the buildings considered most at risk are Constructivist complexes built in the early Soviet years and still used as residential housing. Preservationists had already been fighting the city for years to save them before Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced the estimated 3.5 trillion ruble housing plan, dubbed “renovatsiya”, earlier this year.

Earlier this month, after the demolition list was published, Aleksei Yemelianov, director of the the Moscow city government’s Department of Cultural Heritage, promised that the main Constructivist housing complexes, including Dubrovka and Usachevka, would not be touched, and declared them to be “fascinating cultural sites”. […]

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