Conservation Heritage Russian Federation

Russian conservation bodies denounce destruction of landmark buildings

Moscow mayor under fire for demolishing part of Joseph Bové's early 19th-century complex

Moscow city hospital No 24 (Novo-Ekaterininskaya), before it was surreptitiously demolished. Photo: Olga Yakovenko

Heritage advocates have denounced the destruction of two buildings that formed part of an architectural landmark in central Moscow as “an act of blatant and unprecedented vandalism”. The demolition of the early 19th-century structures took place under the cover of darkness in the early hours of new year's day.

The complex on Strastnoy Boulevard was designed by the Neo-classical architect, Joseph Bové, who was commissioned to rebuild Moscow after the city was engulfed by fire following Napoleon’s invasion in 1812. The buildings served as the Novo-Ekaterininskaya hospital (known since the Soviet era as city hospital No. 24) before it was turned over to the city. The city plans to transform the complex into the headquarters of the Moscow City Duma, or legislature.

Archnadzor and the Moscow branch of Russia’s Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments, organisations that campaign to save architectural monuments, said in a joint statement that the situation has become worse than when it was under the Russian capital's former mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who was known for demolishing historic buildings to make way for questionable reinterpretations or new developments.

“Never, not even during the shattering ‘reconstruction’ of Moscow under the administration of Yuri Luzhkov did demolitions take place on new year’s,” they said. “The demolition on Strastnoy Boulevard was the final, shameful ‘blitzkrieg’ of city authorities against historic Moscow.”

Sergey Sobyanin, the cautious Kremlin official appointed to replace Luzhkov as mayor in 2010, had promised to work with preservationists.

“It has become clear that the mayor’s office under Sobyanin violates the law just as easily as under Luzhkov,” says Natalia Samover, a co-ordinator at Archnadzor. “It continues to develop illegal projects to serve its own interests.”

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