We, the residents of the “Muromtsev Estate“, call on the international community to take a stand against the very serious human rights violations being perpetrated against our families by the local authority in Moscow.
In the early hours of Sunday, March 7, 2010, Moscow security forces and demolition workers tore down our home to make way for one of the Government's planned development projects, leaving our families homeless, including 5 children and a woman due to give birth.
No explanations were given and no documents were provided to us. The authorities referred to the eviction of our families and the demolition of our home as a "debris removal operation".
The Muromtsev Estate had been one of the last remaining historic wooden houses in the outskirts of Moscow, which sits on land which unscrupulous people have been keen to acquire because of its high value and prime location in the capital of the Russian Federation. It had a long and distinguished history of owners, occupants and visitors, extending over a century.
It had originally been built for Sergey Muromtsev, a famous Russian lawyer and the chairman of the pre-revolutionary Russian parliament. It is also famous as a place where Ivan Bunin, a Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer, was introduced to his future wife, Vera Muromtseva. Following the Revolution of 1917, the building was used for many different purposes. It served variously as a boarding school, as teachers' housing, and a Natural Sciences research institute.
Three generations of our family have lived in the Muromtsev Estate since the 1930s. Our 104-year-old great-grandmother was one of the first inhabitants of the house, where she was registered as a geography teacher in 1937.
The school, the Capital, and the research institute together brought many people to the house, and it became Tsaritsino’s unofficial cultural center. It was a gathering place for artists, composers, musicians, performers, poets, illustrators, and journalists, including the Russian artist Konstantin Vasilyev, the sculptor Vyacheslav Klykov, the Soviet author Leonid Borodin, the writer Aleksandr , the artists L.Timofeev and I.Glazunov, the journalist Paul Khlebnikov, and many others.
This inspired us to set up our own small museum there. It was dedicated to the telling of the remarkable story of the house and the famous people who had worked and lived there. Foremost amongst these was the writer Venedikt Yerofeyev, who was living there when he wrote the famous “Vasiliy Rozanov” and “Walpurgis Night“.
In the early 1990’s, the house was crossed off the city's official maps and, thereafter, remained unknown, unmapped, and undocumented...
Our great-grandmother was registered here, our grandmother was born here, our father was born here, we were born here. Our longtime occupation of the premises can be easily documented. Such occupation under existing law conveys to the occupier legal ownership of the property under article 234 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation. The text reads as follows:
“The person - the citizen or the legal entity - who is not the owner of the property, but who has, in good faith, openly and uninterruptedly, possessed the realty as his own immovable property in the course of fifteen years, or any other property in the course of five years, shall acquire the right of ownership to this property (the acquisitive prescription.)”
Though we have asked the authorities to recognize our legitimate right to dwell in the Estate, we have been constantly and unjustly thwarted by the Courts.
On the night of January 2nd, 2010, shortly before the Russian Supreme Court session of March 15, 2010 in which a decision was to be made on the case, the estate inexplicably caught fire and was severely damaged.
It is quite clear that the building was set alight intentionally. The fire started in an unoccupied room on the ground floor. This room had no electrical outlets and was unheated.
Before the fire, we have received veiled threats from local authorities suggesting that a fire could break out. Indeed, on one occasion, the head of the local police department told one of the residents privately, "You understand, there might be a fire. The house is there today, but tomorrow it could be torched. Do you need that? Leave peacefully!"
Firefighters arriving at the scene refused to extinguish the flames, stating that they had “received orders“ to not save the house. Numerous firefighters were then observed - and even photographed - looting personal belongings and valuable pieces from the Estate’s museum. The house was severely damaged, leaving our families with virtually nothing, and in desperate need of food and blankets ... The museum also burned, and many of its exhibits were also lost.
Hundreds of volunteer Muscovites who were not indifferent to our plight helped us set up temporary shelters near the burnt house. They gave us food and money and helped us rake through the ashes, digging out items from the museum. Fortunately, several museum pieces somehow managed to survive the blaze.
On Sunday, March 7, 2010, the Moscow authorities chose to play out the final act in their campaign to evict our families. Police and military were present in number. While physically abusing and intimidating protesters, they prevented journalists from filming the incident and, importantly, from documenting illegal police misconduct while enforcing an equally illegal decision of demolition and eviction. More than one protester received death threats from the police. Two female protesters were hospitalized with head injuries, and about 7 were detained. Recent reports have come in that the police are now attempting the threaten the hospitalized women.
Despite stiff resistance from the citizen-supporters who barricaded themselves in, the armed men forced their way in, removed all remaining personal property and shelter, and bulldozed what was left of the building.
We have been living in shelters for the past two months, looking over the remaining museum items, and also guarding what remained in our homes.
We had hoped to restore the Muromtsev Estate. But this morning we had to watch while the building where our families had been living was bulldozed to the ground in the presence and with the complicity of the police. Even though we had lived on the premises for many decades, the local authorities did not even see fit to notify us of the upcoming demolition or ensure our relocation.
In sub-zero temperatures they made us leave, taking everything from us that could be taken, and leaving us with nothing. We were offered no recourse of law, but instead received threats. When they had stripped us of everything that could be taken, they bulldozed the building which had been our home, and reduced our museum to ashes.
Where our families had been living will now be built a car park. We have lost everything. We have nothing and nowhere to go.
According to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the right to adequate housing includes legal security of tenure and protection from forced eviction and other harassment and threats, availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure, affordability, habitability, accessibility, location, and cultural adequacy.
We, the residents of the “Muromtsev Estate“, appeal therefore to the international community and to all people of goodwill throughout the world to give their active support to our call to oppose human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of Moscow.
We call on the international community to help us spread the word and raise awareness of these serious human rights violations in Moscow.
We seek your support to urge the Government of Russia to:
• Immediately put an end to all forced evictions of this type
• Let the community rebuild the “Muromtsev Estate“ to its former specifications
• Grant full ownership of the new building to the rightful owners, the six families.
• Investigate and take legal action against those who allowed human rights violations to take place.
• Investigate, find, and punish the authors of the thefts, looting, and arson.
• Demand the resignation of those officials guilty of wrongdoing or complicity in these incidents.
• Find adequate housing for the evicted families until the Estate is once again ready to be inhabited.
• Grant suitable financial compensation (“damages“) to the persons who have been wrongly evicted from their dwellings.
Please send an appeal letter by e-mail or fax to the address listed below requesting the Government of Russia to act on this issue.
President of the Russian Federation
23 Ilinka Street
Via Facsimile: +7 (495) 606 5173
Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation
1 Okhotny Ryad Street
THE MOSCOW TIMES 10.03.2010 “Controversial Dacha Demolished at dawn”
FOTOGLIF.COM 07.03.2010 “Moscow authorities demolish historic Russian Dacha”
RADIO LIBERTY 06.01.2010 “Suspicious fire guts historic Russian Dacha”
GLOBAL VOICES ONLINE 08.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate Demolished”
THE MOSCOW TIMES 18.01.2010 “After warning, historic dacha hit by mystery fire” http://www.themoscowtimes.com/arts_n_ideas/article/after-warning-historic-dacha-hit-by-mystery-fire/397571.html
GRANI.RU “Moscow police threatens female protesters injured on Muromtsev Estate demolition site ” http://www.grani.ru/Events/m.175709.html
VESTI – RUSSIAN NEWS 09.03.2010 “Moscow triumph of bulldozer justice”
MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS 08.03.2010 “Famous dacha bulldozed in Moscow”
FORUM.MSK.RU 08.03.2010 “Women protesters on the front lines against Muromtsev Estate demolition”
NOVAYAGAZETA 08.03.2010 “Heritage building demolished in Moscow”
VESTI - MOSCOW NEWS 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate in its last throes of demolition”
VESTI - MOSCOW NEWS 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate Demolition Attack”
VESTI - RUSSIAN NEWS 07.03.2010 “Seven protesters detained while attempting to halt Muromtsev Estate demolition”
RIAN.RU 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate Demolished. Seven activists detained at demolition site”
INTERFAX 07.03.2010 “Seven protesters arrested at demolition site”
RIA NOVOSTI 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate residents fear looter’s attacks”
KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate residents left to spend the night on the streets”
INTERFAX 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate residents left homeless in sub zero temperatures”
GZT.RU 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate demolished during the holidays” http://www.gzt.ru/topnews/accidents/-dacha-muromtseva-ne-perezhila-ocherednyh-/294436.html
POLIT.RU 07.02.2010 “Muromtsev Estate demolished. Supporters sending petition letters to the president”
KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate destroyed”
NEWSRU.RU 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate bulldozed despite the protests” http://newsru.ru/russia/07mar2010/un.html
REGNUM.RU 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate demolished”
LENTA.RU 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate demolished”
THE VOICE OF RUSSIA 07.03.2010 “Muromtsev Estate to be demolished”
NOVAYAGAZETA.RU 25.01.2010 “When the ashes sing”
REGNUM.RU 18.01.2010 “The Muromtsev Estate mysteriously disappeared from the list of Moscow cultural monuments”
VEDOMOSTI.RU 14.02.2010 “Boo!fest” book festival held in Moscow"
THE INDEPENDENT 14.01.2010 “Christmas tide on the site of fire”
VEDOMOSTI.RU 14.01.2010 “They heard and they came. Moscow bloggers unite to support the victims of the Muromtsev Estate fire.”
GZT.RU 14.01.2010 “Residents hoping to restore Muromtsev Estate”
NOVAYA GAZETA 13.01.2010 “Moscow arson”
LENTA.RU 12.01.2010 “Muromtsev Estate fire victims accused firefighters of looting”
LENTA.RU 12.01.2010 “Fire-fighters refused to extinguish the fire”
THE RUSSIAN LINE 12.01.2010 “Publishing house of Moscow samizdat magazine "Veche" burned”
SOBESEDNIK.RU 12.01.2010 “Arson”
ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA 12.01.2010 “Bloggers unite to support Muromtsev Estate fire victims”
CHASKOR.RU 11.01.2010 “The Muromtsev Estate. Who set the famous house on fire”
ROSBALT.RU 11.01.2010 “Burning and destroying history”
RIAN.RU 11.01.2010 “Muromtsev Estate fire victims fear eviction ”
MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS 11.01.2010 “Fire victims join the ranks of the homeless”
GZT.RU 10.01.2010 “Destroying Moscow history”
THE MOSCOW TIMES 09.02.2010 “Tsaritsyno attracts developers”
RUSSIAN JOURNAL 06.01.2010 “Burning Tsaritsyno”
LENTA.RU 05.01.2010 “451 degrees Muromtsev”
MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS 05.01.2010 “Muromtsev Estate set ablaze”
SVOBODNAYA PRESSA 4.01.2010 “Smoking people out”
NEWmsk.COM 04.01.2010 “Muromtsev Estate fire could have been arson”
The Moscow News 04.01.2010 “The fight for the museum goes on”
LENTA.RU 03.01.2010 “Muromtsev Estate burned in Moscow”
GZT.RU 26.10.2009 “A museum with no address”
MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS 25.10.2009 “Yerofeev’s last refuge”
MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS 15.10.2008 “The phantom house. An old ancestral home might be demolished to make way for the parking lot”
ROSBALT.RU 27.05.2009 “Archnadzor to remind Muscovites about Venichka Yerofeyev”
The residents set up a home page to spread news about the museum and document their legal fights: http://5radialnaya3.msk.ru/index.php/en
The photos of the demolition have been posted by different bloggers and gathered at LJ community: http://community.livejournal.com/photo_polygon/1460505.html
More photos of the demolition:
The photos of the Muromtsev Estate and its residents after the fire:
The photos of the house before the fire: