Hundreds Gather in Moscow to Protest Razing of Historic Building; A Few Throw Stones

April 21, 2016
The Tagansk Telephone Exchange on Pokrovsky Boulevard, built in the Constructivist style in the 1930s, now being raised by new owner oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov to build luxury apartments. Photo by Sergei Bobalev/TASS

LIVE UPDATES: Thousands of Muscovites have gathered this afternoon to protest the razing of an architectural monument, the old Tagansk Telephone Exchange.

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Hundreds Gather in Moscow to Protest Razing of Historic Building; A Few Throw Stones

Thousands of Muscovites have gathered this afternoon to protest the razing of an architectural monument, the old Tagansk Telephone Exchange, blogger @martin_camera reports.

Translation: Popular gathering against the razing of the Tagansk Telephone Exchange.

Translation: At the gathering across from the wrecking of Tagansk Telephone Exchange, some guys are throwing rocks at the building.

As Gazeta.ru explained yesterday, the Tagansk Telephone Exchange, built in the 1930s in the Constructivist style, has been the subject of a battle of lovers of architecture, historians and ordinary citizens against indifferent or pragmatic city officials to save what they see as a vital monument of the Soviet past that goes beyond the association with Soviet rule to a world-renowned artistic movement.

The building was recently purchased by Vladimir Yevtushenkov, head of Sistema, a holding company, an oligarch said to be close to President Vladimir Putin but who himself was in disfavor for a time back in the fall of 2014 when he was arrested on charges of irregular acquisition of Bashneft, the main oil company in Bashkortostan. After a short time under house arrest, he was cleared of the charges, but the government seized Bashneft and gave it back to the republic, once again calling into question any notion of market reforms in Russia. 

Yevtushenkov plans to build luxury apartment towers on the site, said Gazeta.ru. 

The act of destroying a building to put up a more lucrative property focused the ire of ordinary people on oligarchs whom they feel have too much power and wealth, and lower-level officials who they feel indulge them, even if most of them support Putin, who makes it all possible.

The building did come up for review before a city board that decides whether buildings can acquire historical status and be saved from the wreckers’ ball, but the Tagansk Exchange fell short 200 points of such designation.

Natalya  Dushkina, an architect and historian of architecture and urban planning and a member of ICOMOS, told Gazeta.ru she believed that the failure to protect the building was a function of lack of historical knowledge by officials about the period in question.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick