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How Greed and Incompetence Put Russia’s Heritage during Risk

The Novodevichy priory is a rare glance of tranquility in Russia’s bustling capital. Perched on the banks of the Bolshoi Novodevichny Lake, the convent’s golden domes and soaring bell towers have given retreat to Moscow’s needy given the 16th century. When informative and scientific group UNESCO designated it a world birthright site in 2004, no one doubted the place among Russia’s informative gems. After flourishing both the purges of Napoleon and Stalin, the convent’s destiny finally seemed secure.

The fire came suddenly, on a dim Mar night in 2015. Gathering crowds of onlookers jostled with firefighter crews as the blaze illuminated adult a gloomy sky. Flames had originated in one of the priory towers underneath restoration, fast swelling along the rows of scaffolding that surrounded the historical monument. The fire was blamed on the fresh replacement company, that was hence fined 1 million rubles for damages.

But notwithstanding being extinguished within hours, and although no critical repairs had been finished to the building itself, the incident has had critical repercussions. On March 15, 2016, accurately one year after the Novodevichy fire, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) raided the Culture Ministry at their offices in Kitai-Gorod. Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Pirumov was arrested, along with other officials and the arch of the Baltstroi construction company. The charge: embezzlement, in a intrigue involving a number of priceless birthright sites — including the Ivanovsky convent, the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the Izborskaya outpost in Pskov.

According to prosecutors, income set aside for the replacement of Russian birthright sites had been diverted into the pockets of Pirumov and others.

Currently, investigators are perplexing to prove that the Baltstroi construction company, that has executed dozens of government replacement contracts, collaborated with method officials to carry out the scheme.

Konstantin Mikhailov, control of the Archnadzor romantic movement — an organization that helps safety and safeguard chronological monuments — has dubbed the scandal RosOkhranGate, or, RussianPreservationGate. He is one of many activists and restoration experts who contend that they have been sounding the alarm for years, and that the current box is usually the tip of the iceberg.

Aside from allegedly siphoning off of public funds, the Culture Ministry is obliged for hiring utter companies whose bad peculiarity renovations have irreparably shop-worn Russia’s informative legacy. Reports in 2013 from the city of Pskov fact the disappointment of local residents with the restoration of the Izborsk fortress, a 14th-century mill palace in one of Russia’s many ancient towns. When they asked charge and restoration experts from across Russia to come and evaluate the restoration, a team led by Mikhail Milchik — architect, art historian, and member of the St. Petersburg supervision legislature for the refuge of cultural heritage — shortly headed to the city.

What they found was a disaster. The work was careless; the materials and methods used were unsuitable. The damage spurred the expert elect to write to the Culture Ministry in early 2014.

Yet the restoration efforts continued. Two of Pskov’s churches from the Middle Ages were deemed restored, though their walls grown colorful mildew within a year, the result of unsuitable materials.

Pskov is usually one of many such examples, according to Mikhailov.

At the Avraamiyev-Bogoyavlensky nunnery in Rostov, works dictated to save the monument caused a large square of the ancient building to collapse. Although the company obliged was fined, zero can recompense for the detriment of Russia’s initial 12th-century church with mixed chapels.

At Tambov’s Aseev manor — an elegant building of gleaming-white Art Nouveau facades crafted by renowned designer Lev Kekushev — new replacement cost about 400 million rubles. The work was an utter rubbish of money, as the poorly selected construction materials refused to adhere to the strange structure, Mikhailov said. Another array of restoration works will be indispensable to repair the damage.

A fortified monastery, dating from the 15th century, can be found on the Solovetsky Islands in northern Russia’s White Sea. Last year, architects, replacement experts and preservation activists petitioned a UNESCO elect to intervene in a new plan consecrated by the Culture Ministry that would see the construction of a new building usually 200 meters from the Solovetsky Monastery, destroying the integrity of the birthright site. Despite supervision promises that work would stop, construction continues. “UNESCO hasn’t seen that yet,” says Mikhailov.

At the Izborsk fortress, work value 186 million rubles — some-more than half of the supports reserved to the plan —was never completed.

Profiting From Conservation

When deliberating Russia’s stream replacement woes, experts cruise government the problem. Many trust the current system — where both construction and restoration work are tranquil by the same emissary minister — is the cause of the trouble.

Pozhigailo, control of the Khranitely Nasledia (Guardians of Heritage) romantic movement, and deputy enlightenment apportion in 2006-2008, insists that that the two fields contingency be kept separate.

“New construction is some-more essential than restoration,” he says, adding that the Culture Ministry would cite the former.

Other hurdles for experts embody the public proposal system: a bidding routine open to all protected companies, where a bid is presumably selected after weighing the merits of cost opposite quality.

Pozhigailo, however, believes that successful bids for restoration projects are dynamic usually on cost.

These winners are frequently hulk construction companies, such as Baltstroi, who have small if no knowledge in restoration, though cost little — distinct smaller companies with competent experts. “Only vast companies can contest in such a market,” says Pozhigailo.

Architect Grigory Mudrov considers the public proposal complement “deadly to monuments.”

“If we wish a good designer and a competent consultant to be invited, we should control personal contests, not contests for the lowest [price],” he says.

As a result, replacement work is mostly carried out by builders. Mudrov says that he has witnessed cases where monuments were in better condition before replacement than after it. “Ninety percent of the conservation-restoration function at historical buildings is indeed usually renovation-style reconstruction,” he says. He’s mostly seen some contractors adding complicated elements such as dangling ceilings or linoleum flooring. “In general,” he says, “restoration has turn partial of the construction field.”

The situation is exacerbated by inflexible stream laws. The scope of work — or the price quoted for a project — can't be nice after a government agreement is signed. Yet experts highlight that re-evaluation is an essential partial of the replacement process. The discovery of culturally poignant stays can supplement infinite chronological discernment into a building. Such commentary need that the project be re-evaluated and plans amended.

Art charge experts, architects and activists are now campaigning for more clarity and public appearance in decisions done about chronological restorations and preserving informative birthright via Russia.

What Milchik and other campaigners wish many of all is a separate group that would curate charge and restoration. For now, his dreams are a more modest. The current proposal elect is stoical roughly wholly of ministry officials: Milchik and his colleagues wish amendments that need the commission to include experts from different fields, and the annual replacement news to include eccentric organizations, not usually internal officials. As the embezzlement enquiry rumbles on, it is a matter of small, solid steps.

The bell building of the Novodevichy priory browns in March 2015. The UNESCO universe birthright site was undergoing replacement work at the time, and the fresh association obliged for the building work was fined.

Dismantling the System

“In sequence solve the challenges the field is facing, we should be articulate about dismantling the entire system,” says designer and conservation consultant Natalya Dushkina.

She and other experts in her margin collected to discuss the uncertain destiny of Russia’s informative birthright final week. The atmosphere was grim — all participants have prolonged been wakeful of the systemic problems and hope that that the Culture Ministry’s piracy liaison will offer as a wake-up call for both the government and the media. They determine that petrify stairs contingency be taken quickly to prevent any serve damage.

Times could be changing. At the finish of March, the Culture Ministry temporarily halted the restoration of the Koporye outpost in the Leningrad segment following objections by 11 experts. According to protesters, the cost of the work was farfetched by the executive by at slightest 50 million rubles.

Mikhailov hopes that this kind of action will no longer be the exception for such cases. He is carefree as he records that, in light of the new scandal; the Culture Ministry has begun scheming a number of amendments that will shortly be suggested to the public.

Yet, for now at least, such movement stays rare — and for many of Russia’s cherished informative monuments, it has come too late.

Contact the author at newsreporter@imedia.ru

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/565757.html

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