Heritage Neglect in Moscow

The Moscow Times has the story of a 17th-century merchant’s home in central Moscow which has been damaged by fire, neglect, water and ice:

Cracks can be seen in the facade of the four-story historic building in the center of Moscow, but it is only when you look at the side that you can see the calamitous state it is in. Part of the roof has fallen in after a fire hit the building last December.

Since then the building has been at the center of a struggle between preservationists and the city department that is supposed to protect the building.

Fyodor Bogatyryov from preservation organization Arkhnadzor brought a suit against the city property department and the city cultural heritage committee for their failure to act to save or even attempt to repair the building since the fire. The suit was rejected by the Zamoskvoretsky District Court last week.

The court will explain its reasoning Wednesday, and Arkhnadzor will almost certainly appeal the decision.

When activists from Arkhnadzor went inside the building after the fire, they discovered a hidden gem.

“The cellar is 17th century, the first floor is 18th century, and the second floor is 19th century,” Bogatyryov said. Nineteenth-century interiors are preserved on the first and second floors, including intricate oak balusters and stucco ceilings. All of it would have been destroyed if the building’s investor’s original plans went ahead.

Before they thought of bringing the case, Arkhnadzor appealed to the cultural heritage committee, held meetings, picketed, but nothing was done, Bogatyryov said. “We decided on more radical methods,” he said.

It was not just the fire that had damaged the building, one of a series of blazes that have hit old Moscow buildings in the last year. The water used to put out the fire turned to ice and, with no repairs done since, has melted causing serious damage to the building. With part of the roof falling in, the building has been exposed to the elements for more than four months.

  1. Kevin O’Flynn, Arkhnadzor Sues City Over Heritage Neglect | Arts & Ideas | The Moscow Times The Moscow Times, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/arts_n_ideas/article/arkhnadzor-sues-city-over-heritage-neglect/405408.html#no (last visited May 6, 2010).
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New Seizures

David Nishimura picked up on a couple of major seizures last week in Paris and Moscow which indicate the illicit trade in antiquities is still going strong.

First, the BBC reports that in Paris over 650 Malian objects were seized at the Charle de Gaulle airport (see picture from BBC). The artifacts included axe heads, flintstones, and rings. Most of the objects dated from a couple thousand BC, however some may have been over 200,000 years old. These objects should soon be returned to Mali, however the archaeological context surrounding them is of course lost. There is no word on what may have alerted the French authorities to this shipment. It seems there were “[looking] out for artefacts being exported from specific countries such as Mali”.

A similar story from from Moscow: MosNews reported last week that Russia’s “cultural watchdog” agency had seized Byzantine-era items from Turkey. Some of the objects appear to have been taken from the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara back in 1963.

Both shipments were seemingly on their way to American dealers and collectors.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com