The Ministry of Defense has auctioned off a piece of land adjoining the historic Arkhangelskoe estate to housing developers.
The development is the latest in a long-running dispute between the ministry and activists, who claim the ministry never owned the land in the first place.
The 18th-century historic estate, dubbed “Moscow’s Versailles,” has long faced the threat of being turned into a development site.
First the region’s administration signed deals giving 80 percent of the land to developers. Now the Ministry of Defense, which happened to own a piece of land that abuts the estate, decided to sell off the parcel.
“We intend to attract more media and government attention to this problem,” Evgeny Sosedov, from the Society for Protection of History and Culture, told RT. “We have already held series of protests, addressed the president and the prosecutor general, along with the Ministry of Culture and other state agencies. We hope the outcome of the auction will be declared invalid.”
Local activists say a federal law came into force in 2001 protecting the whole area, which would mean that for 10 years the regional administration and local prosecutor’s office have been acting illegally.
“This site is more than just an estate – there’s also the park and the beautiful landscapes,” cultural expert Alla Telegina told RT. “This is the only historic site where the surrounding lands have not been touched. It’s like building houses around Versailles.”
This is not the first time that Russia’s historic sights have faced grave danger.
This past February, a construction company started work right next to the Borodino reservation, which saw a legendary 19th-century battle between Russian and French armies.
The Moscow region governor’s strict ban on construction work close to Borodino did not stop the developers from proceeding with their destructive activities. The governor even had to set up a special watch group to monitor the situation at the site day and night.
In the last 10 years, over 300 historic building have been demolished in Moscow alone, among them 50 protected by the state.
A recent audit showed that at least 43 percent of Moscow’s landmark sites are not being looked after properly. Out of a total of roughly 4,000 monuments in Moscow, only 593 are fully protected.
Russia has a total of 103 estate museums, among them Kulikovo Field, Mikhailovskoe estate (where Alexander Pushkin grew up), Yasnaya Polyana (Leo Tolstoy’s residence), Tsarskoe Selo, the Peterhof Palace.