Coffee Klatch Averted in Makhachkala

Six Activists and Journalists Detained After Refusing to Drink Coffee with Makhachkala’s Deputy Mayor
Novoye Delo
January 4, 2019

On January 4, OurCity (GorodNash) activists went to inspect Makhachkala’s main square, Effendi Kapiyev Square, after its reconstruction.

They were met by Makhachkala Deputy Mayor Effendi Khaydakov and a spokesman for the contractor, as well as city hall staffers.

After an exchange of opinions about the quality of the renovation and the completion date, the deputy minister invited the activists to go have a coffee, but they declined his offer and went on inspecting the square.

When the deputy mayor left to drink coffee, two police patrol squads arrived, detaining six people, including Svetlana Anokhina, Arsen Magomedov, Caucasian Knot journalist Musa Musayev, and two cameramen, one of them from city hall’s press service.

Magomedov told Novoye Delo by telephone that they were being taken to the Soviet District Police Department in Makhachkala.

After the square was cleared of activists, Makhachkala Mayor Salman Dadayev came out to chat with the remaining city hall staffers and townspeople.

P.S. Magomedov reported by telephone that all the detainees were released immediately after being delivered to the police department, and they have returned to the square to continue their inspection. Contractors recently handed the square over to the city.

makhachkala our cityOurCity activists in Makhachkala. Photo courtesy of RIA Derbent

What Does Makhachkala Have in Common with Yekaterinburg?
RIA Derbent
May 21, 2019

In Makhachkala, activists from the movement OurCity (Gorodnash) held a picket in support of Yekaterinburg residents protesting construction of a church in a city park.

The people who gathered on Saturday, May 18, also recorded a video message in which they voiced support for Yekaterinburg residents and proclaimed their solidarity with them against construction in park areas. Lawyer Arsen Magomedov said in the video that the Makhachkala activists had likewise been fighting plans to construct a church in the city’s Ak Gel Park.

Local activists have opposed construction of a church in the park since 2017. In September of that year, a memorial cross was dedicated on the site of planned construction in a religious service involving the Russian ethnic communities of Makhachkala, Kizlyar, and the Kizlyar District, as well as the Terek Cossacks of Dagestan. The Lenin District Court was already then considering a suit filed by activists challenging the legality of leasing land in the park for construction of a cathedral, a suit the activists won in December 2017. In April 2018, however, the Russian Supreme Court overturned the ruling by the Lenin District Court.

[…]

[T]he planned cathedral in Ak Gel Park was not the first or last target of Makhachkala urban activists opposed to redevelopment of the city’s green oases. Activists united to form the grassroots movement OurCity in January 2017 after Ramazan Abdulatipov, the former head of Dagestan, spearheaded a campaign to build an interactive museum, Russia Is My History, in Lenin Komsomol Park. After residents of Makhachkala protested, and thousands of people signed a petition opposing the plan, Abdulatipov announced that construction had been postponed in the wake of a “wide-ranging public discussion.” The same year, the now-united urban activists campaigned against plans to redevelop the square opposite the monument to Effendi Kapiyev. In both cases, activists managed to persuade courts to annul decisions by city hall to lease the land.

In December 2017, lawyer and urban activist Arsen Magomedov filed a complaint with the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service about the Makhachkala City Property Committee’s  tendering of a lease to a 520-square-meter plot in 50th Anniversary of the October Revolution Park (aka the Dog Park), a complaint that was upheld. Magomedov used a similar method to annul bidding to construct a residential building in the green belt on Ali Aliyev Street.

Comparing the situation in Yekaterinburg and Makhachkala, Magomedov complained that, over two years of grassroots confrontation and court proceedings, neither the Russian Orthodox diocese nor the municipal or republican governments had engaged in dialogue with activists to resolve the dispute. According to Magomedov, people in Yekaterinburg were able to attract the attention of the federal authorities and win concessions “because the issue turned into a shooting war, with clashes, confrontations, arrests, and fights.”

The protesters in Makhachkala and Yekaterinburg say they are not opposed to building churches, but to the redevelopment of parks. Activists in Makhachkala have suggested moving the construction site one hundred meters away from the park to wasteland near the lake.

We talked to human rights defender and OurCity activist Svetlana Anokhina about what the protests in Yekaterinburg have shown us and how we should think about them.

Svetlana, do you think what has happened in Yekaterinburg will become an example for the entire country?

I’m surprised that what happened here in Makhachkala hasn’t become an example for the entire country. After all, we were able to organize a pressure group of ethnic Russians to file a lawsuit and write a letter to Patriarch Kirill in order to protect the city’s Muslim activists from possible attacks. The authorities tried to politicize outrage over plans to build a church in Ak Gel Park, because everyone understands that if the subject were raised by Muslim activists, they would immediately be accused of extremism and belonging to a nonexistent pro-Islamic sleeper cell, of course.

It doesn’t occur to the authorities that people just want to live a normal city with parks and trees. They don’t notice how they’re destroying the city.

But to make themselves heard, people in Yekaterinburg had to tear down fences and battle the police.

I don’t believe the folks in Yekaterinburg are wrong, or that their actions have been too radical, but such risks are impossible for us. This shouldn’t become an example for the whole country, because it was a spontaneous protest by desperate people, driven to despair by the authorities themselves, who sicked riot cops and martial arts club fighters on them. In my opinion, the protest itself was spontaneous, something you cannot say about the crackdown against the protest, which involved oligarchs and fighters from a martial arts club owned by an oligarch, and the Orthodox Church, which is structured like a military organization, and the police and the authorities. In this light, it is total nonsense to say that the grassroots protests were organized by outside forces, and that the protesters were too radical.

So this is the price for getting the president’s attention and his suggestion to conduct a survey?

You did hear what Yekaterinburg’s mayor said, didn’t you? That there wouldn’t be a referendum on the issue because it required a lot of preparation (a year!), but there would be some kind of public opinion poll. Someone countered him by pointing out that the referendum in Crimea was organized in two weeks.

I don’t like the fact that residents need to get through to the president to solve local problems. Issues like this should be decided at the local level, and if local officials cannot come to an agreement with ordinary people, it means they are not doing their jobs and should be replaced.

Thanks to Marina Ken for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Hive Minded: The Ghettoization of Suburban Moscow

“The residents of new buildings are forced to look at the windows of neighboring buildings and not see the light of day”
Olga Trakhanova and Olga Shamina
July 6, 2015
Bolshoi Gorod

Recently, residents of several new areas of Moscow and satellite cities have been protesting against excessively dense development. Residents of Krasnogorsk, Khimki, and Reutov, among other suburbs, are dissatisfied. The complaints are one and the same. High-rise residential buildings are built too close to each other, the necessary infrastructure is not constructed, and roads and public transport cannot withstand the rapid population growth. More and more often the word “ghetto” is invoked. According to experts, this is the likely future of these areas.

We asked residents of Moscow suburbs who are unhappy with excessively dense development to tell us why they do not like living in their towns. Here, for example, you can see how houses are being built in Reutov. Here are photos of dense development in the Pavshino Floodplain.

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Yevgeny Sosedov, Resident of Krasnogorsk, chairman of the Moscow branch of the All-Russia Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Landmarks (VOOPIK)

I live in the Krasnogorsk District of Moscow Region. I was born and raised in the village of Arkhangelskoye, but for the last fourteen years I have lived in Krasnogorsk.

I am dissatisfied with the town planning policies of the regional and municipal authorities, which have a negative effect on the quality of life. Practically speaking, in the last few years we have had to live on a giant construction site. The city and the district are being thoughtlessly built over with high-rises (up to forty-five storeys high). All town-planning standards have been violated; green spaces, forests, parks, cultural heritage protection zones, and nature reserves have been destroyed. Just next to my house, two gigantic shopping centers have been built, and several hectares of a historic park were cut down to make way for them. A third shopping center has been built literally ten meters from my windows, blocking the entire view and depriving the residents of our building of sleep during the five years it was being built. To top it off, intolerable conditions for navigating the city have been created: pedestrian paths have been cut off or dug up, parks are cluttered, and there are no sidewalks along highways and roads.

Infrastructural problems have been snowballing. There is no transportation infrastructure. The existing roads cannot cope with the flow of vehicles. There are traffic jams nearly round the clock in the district. To get to work on weekdays, residents have to leave at five or six in the morning.

During rush hour it is almost impossible to get onto commuter trains. People jam into them at a run. These problems are not being solved, they are only getting worse. For example, the Mortongrad Ilinskoye-Usovo development project, approved by the governor, presupposes delivering another fifty thousand people to the already overburdened Krasnogorskaya train platform.

High-rises are being built in the most problematic traffic spots without obliging investors to reconstruct roads and build interchanges. For example, the Moscow Region Urban Planning Committee, chaired by the governor, has approved the construction of the nine 32-storey towers of the Tetris residential complex in Pavshino at the most problematic spot in terms of traffic. This is in addition to the already-existing Youth residential complex, being built by the same firm, and the 45-storey towers of the Krost complex, which was built without any permits at all. (The development plan still has not been submitted.)

The situation is identical with all other infrastructure. Moscow Region is the leader in terms of families waiting in queues for spots in kindergartens. There are huge problems with health care facilities. There are only two functioning clinics in Krasnogorsk, one of which was built in the nineteenth century. And yet, the population increases by several tens of thousands of people annually, and this whole burden is placed on the existing infrastructure. The biggest infrastructural problem in store for us in the coming years is the drinking water supply and sewerage.

One of the main problems associated with real estate development is the rapid deterioration of the environment, which has extremely detrimental effects on the populace’s health and quality of life: the destruction and clear-cutting of thousands of hectares of forests, the shallowing of bodies of water and sources of drinking water, and the redevelopment of agricultural land and nature reserves.

Something must be said about the quality of the new construction. Moscow Region is a leader in terms of putting so-called new substandard housing on line, housing which starts to fall apart as soon as it is put into service, and huge amounts of money are subsequently spent on its maintenance.

None of these housing projects is provided with places of employment. 80–90% of the population of Moscow Region towns near Moscow travel back and forth to work in Moscow every day.

Huge estates of high-rises, built in the middle of fields according to obsolete designs and without the necessary infrastructure and places of employment, will inevitably turn into ghettoes.

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Olga FilatovaResident of Reutov

The town of Reutov is divided into South and North Reutov. There is new construction in both parts. However, North Reutov is adjacent to the subway, and so, apparently, it is being developed more recklessly.

When flats in South Reutov were being presold, the future tenants asked the developer what would be built near their home. The construction company told them there would be a square, shops, and other infrastructure. Instead, however, dozens of residential buildings were built.

A new neighborhood is being built next to us. One of the buildings there has 645 flats. If three people end up living in each flat—and there are several such buildings—what will happen to our town in the next five years? Property prices will fall, and consequently it will be harder and harder to unload a flat in such a “marvelous” place.

While not all the buildings are inhabited, the town is already overcrowded. Population density in Reutov is nearly one and a half times greater than in Singapore.

Because of the dense development, the town’s ecology is deteriorating. All trees are cut down on construction sites. Consequently, South Reutov is almost bereft of greenery. And the residents of news buildings are forced to look at the windows of neighboring buildings and not see the light of day.

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Elena NosovaResident of Khimki

We, the residents of the Novokurkino District of Khimki, are suffering from the illegal new construction of the PIK Group, a catastrophic lack of infrastructure, the corruption of the local administration, and the inaction of officials and law enforcement agencies. Our district is rapidly turning into a ghetto. We are being deprived of the right to live in humane conditions. We have been trying to put up a fight, but we have remained unheard.

For several months, the district’s residents have been trying to halt the illegal construction of multi-storey residential buildings that the PIK Group has launched on the site of planned infrastructure. Due to excess housing density, the district of Novokurkino, which has a population of 40,000 and includes three microdistricts, is experiencing a catastrophic shortage of infrastructure.

PIK Group has been developing Novokurkino for ten years. The district development plan was approved in 2005; the latest revisions for the sixth and seventh microdistricts were officially approved and went through the compulsory procedure of public hearings way back in 2011. During this time, PIK has built and settled all the residential buildings in the sixth and seventh microdistricts and has begun construction of the next microdistrict, the eighth, but the infrastructure sites stipulated by the plan have not been completed. The construction of schools, kindergartens, and medical clinics has been unacceptably slow, and residents have been unsuccessfully complaining about the situation for several years.

At this point, although 100% of the housing has been built in the sixth and seventh microdistricts, only about 60% of the kindergartens, 50% of the schools, 30% of the medical clinics, and 18% of the parking lots have been built as planned. In the seventh microdistrict, construction of a school, a clinic, a multi-storey car park, and a sports center has not even been started. Consequently, the capacity of kindergartens, schools, and clinics in Khimki and the nearest district of Moscow has been stretched to critical limits. The situation with parking remains catastrophic and continues to worsen.

Despite these circumstances, the developer, PIK Group, has begun building new high-rise residential buildings on the site of the planned infrastructure sites with the permission of local authorities. On the site where, according to the district plan, there should be have been the only sports center in the district, equipped with a parking lot, they have begun building five residential buildings. The building permits were issued on the basis of a city land development plan that was at odds with the district development plan. The Khimki prosecutor’s office confirmed the illegality of the city land development plan, and it was canceled. However, the building permits have still not been withdrawn. Taking advantage of the inaction of the authorities, the developer began construction work, violating all the building codes in the process. At present, the foundation pits of the first buildings have been dug, and piles are being driven into the ground. There is a hoarding on the site advertising that flat are for sale, and pre-booking of spots is underway.

For two and a half weeks, residents who were against the ensuing construction blocked it on their own by parking their cars opposite the driveway to the site, thus preventing construction equipment from entering. However, after almost three weeks of our blocking the construction, the PIK Group moved about twenty well-built young men into workers’ sheds who set about illegally towing away the cars, damaging two of them in the process. The total damage came to about 600,000 rubles [approx. 9,500 euros]. Moreover, the district beat cop was present. He signed the towing tickets, which is not one of his duties, not to mention the fact that the drivers of the cars had not violated any parking rules. Next, PIK fenced off the driveway onto the construction site with concrete blocks, seizing half of the road in the process, meaning they left only one lane for travel. The road is very busy, because it leads to the school. Now all residents, especially children, are also suffering substantial discomfort from this as well.

In addition, permits are being sought for residential construction on two more plots of land, which had originally been zoned for parking lots and a shopping mall with a parking lot.

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All photos courtesy of tuteyshaya.livejournal.com

Ilyushinites: “Leningrad’s builders are being made homeless”

“Ilyushinites” Move to Tents in Front of the Smolny to Protest Evictions
October 20, 2014
paperpaper.ru

Residents of Ilyushin Street, 15, which has been in the process of resettlement since 2007, will begin an indefinite hunger strike in front of city hall today. They plan to set up tents in Smolny Garden and stay there until Petersburg authorities solve the issue of their building.

Recently, four families have been evicted from the building. As Olga Baranova, a resident of Ilyushin Street, 15, recounts, bailiffs broke into the flats, made an inventory of the things in them, then changed the locks.

“We live in the corridor, which is not heated. We have nowhere to return. They threw out all our things: our sofa, our blankets and pillows, our clothes. Leningrad’s builders are being made homeless.”

ilyushinites picket

An Ilyushinite picketing Nevsky Prospect in late May of this year. Her placard reads: “Leningrad’s builders are being made homeless. Ilyushin Street, 15, building 2.”

The house at Ilyushin, 15, was built as a dormitory for employees of Glavleningradstroy, a Soviet construction enterprise. In 1991, it was privatized by the firm Fourth Trust, of which the residents were unaware, but in the 2000s the company demanded that the residents buy back their flats or vacate them. City hall offered social housing to the “Ilyushinites.” Several families agreed to the offer, but some residents have refused to leave the building.

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The Ilyushinites went on hunger strike in the winter of 2013, as shown by the local affiliate of REN TV in the following report, which also makes it clear that the Ilyushinites refuse to vacate their building not on a whim, but because twenty years ago city hall bureaucrats had promised them title to their flats, and they now claim that the Smolny has offered them only temporary, not permanent housing, meaning they fear they could end up homeless again within a few years.

According to reports from other Petersburg grassroots activists, three Ilyushinites were detained by police yesterday as they tried to set up tents across the street from the Smolny, Petersburg city hall. They have been charged with disobeying police officers, a misdemeanor.

Before gubernatorial and district council elections in September, the Smolny had promised to solve the problems of the Ilyushinites. Now that the freest, fairest elections on planet Earth are successfully past, city hall has apparently forgotten its promises.

Photo, above, courtesy of BaltInfo