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March 16, 2004 by AK

Cui bono?

It turns out the Moscow city government, together with its business cronies, had its own plans for the Manege before it caught fire last Sunday (This link to an article in Kommersant will expire soon). Moscow’s chief architect admitted he had seen reconstruction proposals in the past two years, but the city preservation committee (an arm of the Moscow government) and the public at large were up in arms against them. Given that the Manege is somewhat unique in its design (Betancourt built it without a single supporting column on the inside), plans to convert it into a shopping center were not exactly a unifying cause for the Muscovites. (There is already an underground shopping mall beneath the Manege square.)

Now that the Manege as a building — and, therefore, as a protected building — is no more, control over its remnants will be transferred from the federal level to Moscow city, i.e., to Mayor Luzhkov & Co. That is, Luzhkov and his “business associates” will have their way. Not that the mayor is more corrupt than other elected and, especially, unelected bureaucrats — he might be a more decent man than most of those, actually. Not that he is behind the arson, if it was arson indeed. It’s just that he’s way too lucky, that man in a cap — almost as lucky as Putin; and they always have it their way, unlike us.


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