If this is what is happening to listed building, what can you expect for buildings in the next heritage category down, so called “environmental objects of value”?These are mostly19th century two-storey merchant and bourgeois houses, either stone-built or with a stone first floor and wooden second floor, with decorative wrought iron fences, fretwork window frames and roof ridges, ornamental brickwork and old doors with carved bosses.And when we come to talk about how the city should protect its historical heritage, to embody the sense of continuity of human habitation throughout the generations, my spirits, and those of my students, sink completely.The last 20 years of “democracy” have seen the destruction of whole streets and neighbourhoods, building by building.
The local bigwigs couldn’t care less that the building had a rich history.Two years earlier, in similar fashion and with a similar aim, the Styx, the most historic of Perm’s small rivers, which flowed round the Yegoshikhinskoe Cemetery, was channelled into pipes and vanished below the ground.This was the work of another businessman and Legislative Assembly member, Viktor Suetin, and his construction company Stroipanelkomplekt.It was the last “free staging post” of pre-revolutionary Perm, and an infirmary during World War One.It was also the last well-preserved example of a typical Perm house with a mezzanine, of which there are no more. A few years ago there were more than 300 buildings in Perm built in characteristic old wooden Russian architectural style. It was only at the last minute that local conservationists managed to kick up enough fuss to prevent the demolition of a listed building in the city centre that had been the home of Lenin’s personal secretary Lydia Fotiyeva, a cult figure from the Soviet period who spent time in internal exile in Perm before the 1917 revolution.
Some businessmen, it must be said, behave in an almost civilised manner.