A bill has already been submitted to the State Duma, allowing the Government of the Russian Federation to establish, from 2022, special cases of state expertise of project documentation “without additional state historical and cultural expertise” – “as measures to counter sanctions pressure”.
The situation is really simple and tragic. From the beginning of the special operation in Ukraine, the construction lobby began to push through a bill that directly contradicts the order of the President. Draft Law No. 80712-8 was submitted to the State Duma, which gives the Government the right to establish in 2022 “ cases of state examination of project documentation ... without additional state historical and cultural examination as measures to counter sanctions pressure .” In other words, under the guise of countering sanctions, in fact, it will be possible to destroy the history of the country.
The issue of historical and cultural expertise was discussed more than once at the very top with the participation of the president. As recently as December 2021, at a meeting of the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society and human rights , the topic of an attempt on the state historical and cultural expertise of cultural heritage sites was discussed.
Member of the Presidential Council, Moscow historian Konstantin Mikhailov raised the issue of the inadmissibility of merging the state historical and cultural expertise with general construction expertise. Recall that he said: “ This is a specialized examination, and it should be carried out by specially trained and knowledgeable people. Merging it with the general expertise, as proposed - I'm afraid that, excuse me, we will break not only firewood, but also bricks, and white stones, and everything else, and only memories will remain of many monuments. The President agreed and replied: “Now about the expertise. Yes, you are right, I will not repeat what you said here, but I think that we should listen to you”.
To this day, the president has not backed down from his words.
By the way, after the imposition of sanctions, the construction lobby already received unprecedented subsidies, the government allocated billions to support this industry. But that's not all. We are talking, in particular, about simplifying the development of urban planning documentation, the procedure for holding public discussions or public hearings on it; accelerating the provision of land plots in state or municipal ownership; simplifying the procedure for conducting legal expertise in the implementation of state cadastral registration and (or) state registration of rights.
In other words, now, in fact, you can build anywhere and anything.
“The abolition of historical and cultural expertise means a catastrophe”, - says the historian of modern architecture and urban planning, Ph.D. Surikov Nikolai Vasiliyev. - If this decision is approved, it will be necessary to make changes to federal laws and to the Civil Code of the Russian Federation. In particular, in 73-FZ and in the urban planning code. If the country has any respect for the laws, all this must be borne in mind. What regulated historical and cultural expertise? An expert certified by the Ministry of Culture issued a verdict, for example: it is impossible to build on this street, because there are historical objects on it, certain building materials cannot be used, buildings of such a height cannot be built, because the historical landscape will be disturbed. Conflicts arose, but a reasonable solution was usually found. And in this way, history was preserved and, at the very least, survived”, - Nikolay Vasilyev, a historian of modern architecture, told NI.
To begin with, it is worth remembering that the project documentation for the preservation of a cultural heritage site, which affect its design, reliability and safety characteristics, is subject, on the one hand, to historical and cultural expertise, and on the other, to state expertise of general construction. This norm was introduced a few years ago - by no means at the initiative of the cultural community. Now it turns out that this was done, it seems, with far-reaching goals. From now on, general construction expertise should absorb the historical and cultural one.
What is the formal justification for the need to abolish historical and cultural expertise? The explanatory note to the bill of the Ministry of Construction states that this bill was developed "in order to optimize services for the state examination of project documentation". The word "optimization" generally does not cause positive emotions in the majority. This is where many suspected a trick. Yes, it is also mentioned that the historical and cultural expertise is being demolished in order to “counter Western sanctions”. Wake up, gentlemen, any of our enemies will only rejoice at such innovations! After all, a country without history, without roots, without awareness of its identity is not a rival.
“Historical and cultural expertise was not invented by lovers of administrative barriers. For more than a hundred years it has been serving the Russian restoration. It was instituted by the state as the most important, basic institution and tool for the protection of the national cultural heritage... And now this age-old tradition, this experience of several generations of experts and restorers, is being offered to be let down into a "single window". In order to optimize construction processes. All this will lead to the actual loss of control of state heritage protection agencies over what is happening with the monuments. That is, to the liquidation of the heritage protection system as such”, - said Konstantin Mikhailov, Moscow historian, one of the founders of Archnadzor, who is a member of the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society and human rights.
It is not superfluous to note that, unlike the historical and cultural state expertise, the general construction state expertise is not specialized, its experts do not have certificates or licenses from government agencies. In addition, their services are paid by the customer. It is not difficult to predict the results of such an examination.
And one more important point: the general construction state expertise is not public, it does not involve public or other discussions. But the acts of the state historical and cultural expertise are published according to the law, discussions are held, and as a result, it is possible to neutralize many threats to monuments. This is a public procedure, which, of course, gives developers, lured architects and "black experts" a lot of trouble. But it is the most important achievement not only of the historical and cultural community of recent years, but also of democracy as a whole. Now they want to “optimize” it. Apparently, together with objects of cultural and historical heritage.
Next in line for developers - the Kremlin?
“Experience shows that historical and cultural expertise works very effectively. Just a few examples. As you know, in Moscow, more than 300 five-story buildings fell under the renovation program. Including on the territory of the Simonovsky Monastery in Moscow, founded in the 14th century, it was ordered to demolish a 5-storey building. All five-story buildings, as you know, in Moscow are subject to renovation. But at the same time, officials did not take into account that on the territory of the Simonovsky Monastery there is not a five-story panel building, but a brick building belonging to a religious complex. It was the historical and cultural expertise that helped to convey to the officials that this is a historical building of 5 floors, which has not been restored almost since its construction. In the same way, historical and cultural expertise helped to preserve in Moscow the historical building of the 600th school on Shabolovka, the adjacent territory to which they planned to build up, Akademgorodok in Novosibirsk, the historical complex of the Krasny Bogatyr plant in Moscow”, - a historian of modern architecture told NI, Candidate of Art Criticism Nikolai Vasiliyev.
There is already an example of what can happen if the historical and cultural expertise is canceled, and it is very indicative. On the territory of the Moscow region, the oldest monument in the Moscow region, the Shcherbinsk settlement, was recently demolished. The tractor just came and demolished history to zero. As it turned out later, the site of the early Iron Age near the village of Shcherbinka in the Domodedovo district was demolished by bulldozers of the Robmetallstal company under a site for the construction market. Scientists say that the age of the settlement is over 1 thousand years. It was one of the most valuable archaeological sites in the Moscow region. It turned out that the developer did not have a warrant for earthworks and conciliation documentation for cultural heritage sites. The company was fined. This seems to be the end of it.
If the historical and cultural expertise is canceled, it will be possible to consider that everything is subject to development, up to the buildings of the Moscow Kremlin. So what? The building complex is near. On Sofiyskaya Embankment in Moscow, right opposite the Kremlin, a block of deluxe class private residences with the status of apartments is under construction. And the Mandarin Oriental hotel will be located on Sofiyskaya embankment, opposite the Kremlin, and will occupy a historic mansion of the 18th century. Apparently, the Borovitskaya tower is next in line.