A System of Absence

Late Soviet-era co-op apartment buildings on the Smolenka River in northwest Petersburg, near the Primorskaya subway station. Photo: Roman Bezjak/Hatje Cantz Verlag. Courtesy of Business Insider

* * *

Along with the heating, in every building
there is a system of absence. Concealed in the walls,
its noiseless radiators
flood the apartment with unadulterated emptiness
the year round, whatever the weather.
Connected to the main, it apparently runs
on fuel supplied by death, arrest or
simple jealousy. This temperature
rises towards evening. One turn of the key
and you find yourself in a place where there is
no one: like a thousand years ago,
or somewhat earlier—in the Ice Age,
before evolution. Usurped space
never relinquishes its
uninhabitedness, thus reminding
the upstart monkey
of emptiness’s primordial, pre-glacial right
to housing. Absence is merely
the home address of nonexistence.
Being bourgeois,
in the long run, at curtain call,
it prefers wallpaper to boulders or brown moss.
The more elaborate the wallpaper’s jungles, the unhappier the monkey.

1993

Original text. Translated by the Russian Reader

Eviction Addiction

1. Everyone shall have the right to a home. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of his or her home.

2. The bodies of state authority and local self-government shall encourage housing construction and create conditions for exercising the right to a home.

3. Low-income people and other persons mentioned in law and in need of a home shall receive it gratis or for reasonable payment from the state, municipal and other housing stocks according to the norms fixed by law.

Article 40, Constitution of the Russian Federation

Photo courtesy of Alexander Drozdov/Interpress/TASS
Photo courtesy of Alexander Drozdov/Interpress/TASS

Head of Federal Bailiffs Service Assesses Legality of Justice Ministry Proposal to Confiscate Debtors’ Dwellings
Vladislav Gordeyev
RBC
January 10, 2017

A draft bill, proposed by the Justice Ministry, that would in some cases permit the confiscation of a debtor’s only dwelling, does not violate Russians’ constitutional right to housing, said Arthur Parfenchikov, director of the Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP).

“The proposed legislation stipulates guaranteed housing during forfeitures, but within the established norms,” he wrote on his Twitter page.

He tweeted in response to remarks made by ex-children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who had written, “The Russian Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to housing. There is nothing in it about the obligation to pay debts, only taxes.”

In addition, Astakov called the draft bill “quite controversial,” since it could “make people homeless who don’t have any means as it is.”

Parfenchikov also noted the law was being adopted “in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” and “the Justice Ministry [was] implementing the mandate of the Constitutional Court, which ordered [it] to establish this procedure several years ago.”

As published on the Federal Portal for Draft Regulatory Acts, the draft bill stipulates a debtor’s only dwelling can be sold if two conditions are met. First, if its floor area is twice the size of the legally approved norm for the debtor and his family. Second, if its value is twice the value of the dwelling due to him by law.

Moreover, the debtor must have no money and other property that could be sold to repay his debts.

The controversy surrounding the bill has been underway since November 2016, when it was posted for public comment. The Justice Ministry has proposed making the relevant amendments to the Civil Procedure Code, which currently includes a ban on confiscating a debtor and his family’s only dwelling. Exceptions are made only for real estate that has been mortgaged.

According to the Housing Code, the legal norm for the provision of living space is set individually by the regions. In Moscow, for example, the current norm is 18 square meters per person.

“At the present time, the rights of creditors (claimants) are violated, since there is a ban on the forfeiture of residences (or their parts) if they are the only suitable dwellings available to debtors and members of their family living with them in the residences owned by them. In addition, a difficult situation has arisen around debts for child support payments, and the rights of minors to living quarters are also violated when their parents divorce,” it says in the one of the documents accompanying the draft bill, as posted on the Federal Portal for Regulatory Draft Acts.

Translated by the Russian Reader

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Since the otherwise odious Pavel Astakhov has suddenly reverted to his previous incarnation as a social liberal and passionate defender of human rights, I would like to dedicate this song to him. TRR