Saturday, January 2, 2021

Russia’s Architectural Heritage is Burning Down, Threatening Country’s Future, Gnilorybov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 31 – In the last few weeks, fires have destroyed two important Russian architectural monuments, the Barkov house in Ryazan Oblast and the home of the Pimenov-Sharapovs in St. Petersburg, highlighting the lack of attention the Russian government is giving to saving these important components of the Russian world, Pavel Gnilorybov says.

            The editor of the Architectural Excesses telegram channel project says that many see each fire as separate and distinct while in fact the burning of Russia’s wooden historical monuments “bears a systemic character” and must be addressed as a national priority (

            Some of Russia’s architectural landmarks have been privatized and restored, he continues; but approximately 500 to 600 have not and are decaying, with consequent risks of fires. One might have expected that the Kremlin’s celebration of Russia’s past would have led the government to take steps to save them. But that hasn’t happened.

            Instead, Gnilorybov continues, there exist a tangle of laws which means that no one feels responsible for what happens; and these buildings fall through the cracks into the fires that are destroying many of them forever. Only if there is a single law based on a single set of principles so that everyone knows who is responsible can this tragedy be stopped.

            At present, existing legislation doesn’t even require owners to take care of these buildings and so privatization, on which many placed such great hopes, hasn’t worked. All too often those who do own the buildings and might be expected to take care of them destroy them through remodeling or neglect.

            Not a single law specifies that the new owners love and preserve these monuments, Gnilorybov says. And given the enormous expenses involved in preservation compared to replacement, it is no surprise that so little is done. Opening them to tourists to raise funds for this might work in a few cases but not in many which are far from where such people go.

            The architectural activist calls for the establishment of a single well-funded government program to require restoration and to train those who can engage in it. That is the only way to stop what has become an epidemic, with approximately 300 historical monuments disappearing every year.

            At that rate, there soon won’t be anything to save; and Russia will lose yet another part of its heritage under the watch of those who say they care about it. And the logic of inattention and neglect to them is precisely the kind that Gnilorybov suggests will lead to the disintegration of the country.

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