Russian Ministry of Culture appeases corruption  

Russian Ministry of Culture appeases corruption

Russian intellectual elite is currently actively discussing a document, recently issued by bureaucrats "On basis of governmental cultural policy."

[The original article was written in 2014]

First of all, authors of the «cultural basis» defined the main strategic mission of the Ministry of Culture.

"…preservation of Russian cultural heritage as a universal value, defining identity and viability of the Russian nation."

However, according to our sources within the Ministry of Culture, the pompous words are only written on paper. The agency itself is simply unable to cope with its main mission in virtue of some questionable factors. What is more, the work of the Ministry is being sabotaged by a group of interested people, who are obviously pursuing their personal corrupt goals.

The informed source also told, that the government was guarding about 90 thousands monuments, four of which were of federal significance and 16 are included in UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)list. More than 140 reserve museums and estate museums are registered on the territory of Russia. However they all are seriously endangered.

Thus, only 10-15% of monuments were in satisfactory conditions as of 2014 year. More than a half of all monuments were in critical conditions and in need of urgent restoration. During the last 10 years Russia has lost 2,5 thousands monuments because of the untimely restoration. Annual losses estimate at about 150-200 facilities. This number almost never changes.

The reason for such terrible situation is that today most of the facilities do not have any particular legal status. This fact does not allow conducting their proper restoration. It is surprising, but the giant mechanism of the Ministry of Culture is unable to conduct elementary building’s recording. The CrimeRussia’s informed source believes, that such state of things is not just an accident or irresponsible attitude of certain employees. According to the source, thus a group of powerful persons are implementing their individual enrichment plans.

“Now there are only 1500 objects registered in state register out of 90 thousands. Other objects are not documented and that may encourage corruption. For example, let’s take situation, when there is a necessity of a monument’s privatization, but it should be urgently registered in state register. Naturally, you can call someone in the Ministry [the Ministry of Culture] and make an arrangement to speed up the process. Or you can conversely crumb somebody’s deal, because it is impossible to conduct the deal without these documents,” – told the source.

Thus artificial barriers are created. According to the source, they are created either because of the unvarnished incompetence or task-oriented sabotage.

This strange story with impossibility to register all monuments lingers from 2002.

"Roscultura [federal agency for culture and cinematography] was responsible for documenting the objects starting from 2002, when the decree about the register was issued. However, to the very liquidation of the agency in 2010 it had not register a single object, can you imagine?"

After Roscultura was liquidated, its functions were delegated to the Ministry of Culture, which managed to register only 1500 objects in the period from 2010 to 2014. What is more in the modern world of innovations and technology - the Ministry conducts the recording on paper.

“It is a survival of times past, some kind of paper work tradition… Imagine, 90 thousands monuments – means 90 thousands works. The Minister just does not get, that he would have to use the entire building he is sitting in for the state register’s storage."

However the agency, which is failing to conduct its mission, does not call for outsourcing services or for specialized universities’ help. It becomes even stranger, when taking in consideration the fact, that the Ministry has its jurisdictional research institute, which, according to the source, could easily cope with this mission.

Other suspicious factor is a serious staff turnover in the agency. As the person familiar with the matter told, due to unknown reason, specialists in the Ministry are changing pretty often. What is more, after coming on a place, new employees are starting to correct previous’ workers mistakes, but they never finish their work. It seems, that they prolonging the process on purpose.

To analyze the situation, our source turned to the Committee on architecture and monument protection, which was solving all questions in this sphere in Soviet Union.

During the Khrushchev’s board, this agency was liquidated and all its functions were passed to the national economy and then - to the Ministry of Culture. The agency received a great amount of authority in addition to those, which it had already had: theatres, libraries, and museums. Now it had to deal with construction works (bell-towers, monuments of architecture and etc.). Since then, the Ministry has not moved very far in this sphere – it has always set the priority for exhibition activities, arts promotion, organization of exhibitions and competitions.

That means, that the Ministry simply does not have any specialists among the staff, who could solve this painful long-lasting problem. And thus 90 thousands objects have undefined status.

Those, who want to restore them don’t have the possibility because of the juridical mistakes. At the same time, the objects could not be brought in economic turnover and they could not be sold. It benefits nobody.

In addition to these problems, there occurred staff shortage in restoration sphere. The restorers’ training is a long and difficult process, which, besides the theory, includes a field trip with usage of special operations support facilities. What is more, the restorers’ work is pretty undervalued. The requirements to the quality of their work, is much higher than requirements to the quality of simple builders’ work, however the salary of restorers is almost the same as the salary of builders. Even though it takes more time for restorers to train. Because of that today many young people leave the profession.

Those restorers, who really know their professions are currently 60 years old – not many of them left.  People who were trained in 1990-s were to become the basis of the national restoration, its human capital assets. But because of the youth’s outflow mentioned above, Russia now is in heavy deficit of experienced specialists.

Thus at the meeting with Dmitry Medvedev on 20 June 2014 in St. Petersburg, among the 17 restorers, invited by the Ministry of Culture, only two really were ones. Those were architecture-restorer S. Kulikov and gilder N. Slezina.

There is also another problem, which stands on the way of the heritage protection, to which Mr. Putin systematicallycalls attention. It is an active building development at preserved areas. In 2012 the President signed a decree on approval of boundaries of all the reserve museums, created in Soviet Union.

According to our source, defining the reserve’s borders is an elementary process: confirm, adopt standard regulation and introduce into inventory. In cases of violations of the regulations, Mr. Putin promised to issue directions for changing the criminal law. However, during the work of these regulations, the Ministry of Culture has not done anything to solve this topical for Russia problem.

Such slowness is only payable for developers. Preserved areas – are golden mines for builders, there are the best natural areas, which are often connected with the names of great Russian writers and poets. So the developers, who are primarily working with oligarchical elite, are trying to take these lands for cottage building co-operatives or other individual housing developments.

This happened with the Borodino filed, which managers were complaining, that soon they «won’t be able to conduct any upscale occasions».

President Putin himself, during one of his visits to the Ryazan Region direct the governor’s attention to «carving-out» of government museum’s lands – Sergey Esenin’s reserve.

The same situation is currently happening at the territory of the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve in Serpuhovo district. According to available data, Serpuhovo criminal authority Sergey Romanov, known as Graf, illegally built a mansion in the reserve. It is said, that Graf not only lives in the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve, but also conducts illegal sand extraction at its territory. At a 100 ha territory of Romanov, an illegal sand extraction zone was found. The mine is located at the protective zone of the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve.

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Photo: illegal sand extraction at the Graf's lands

The reserve’s management wanted to contact all monitoring bodies, including even court, but the CrimeRussia has information, confirming that Graf still lives there. Protective zones surround the preserved forest from all angles, but at 5 ha, where according to the law everything should be clear and quite, developments are currently conducted. It happens, because the land does not have a juridical status. Thus during the last few years, the reserve’s lands were carved-out by new owners.

According to our source, many reserve museums in Russia have such problems.

It becomes even worse, when remembering tenders, which are currently conducted by the Ministry of Culture.

In June-July 2014, Ministry of Culture organized open auctions for project developments of borders of two historical settlements – Gorohovets (the Vladimir Region) and Zaraysk (the Moscow Region). The results of the commission’s decisions generate many questions. The commission was led by acting director of the Department of control, supervision and licensing in the cultural heritage Sphere Pavel Mosolov.

It seems, that price factors and long-term experience of town-planning documentation’s development were not among winner selection criteria.

In Gorohovets’ competition a well-known company Rosrestavratsiya was excluded, while the a limited liability company Gradostroitelnaya Masterskaya from Ivanovo city with a highest price became a winner. At Zaraysk’s competition, at the same time, the best competitor was a state unitary enterprise of the Moscow Region - Research and Design Institute of Town Planning, which announced the best price and developed the master plan of Zaraysk’s development; used «methodical recommendations of an assessment of historical and cultural value of the historical settlement» and «application of criteria of historical and cultural value of the historical settlement in the real estate assessment» in its work; was approved by two federal structures – the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.

However it did not confuse the contest commission and Mosproject-2, architectural design institute, which historically isn’t engaged in development of town-planning documentation and site plannings of the territory, won. What is more, this company does not even know the Moscow Region well.

It is unknown, why the Ministry of Culture does not want to solve these topical questions. However, summing up all information the CrimeRussia got form the informed source, it is noticeable, that somebody’s honourless interests are being lobbied. 

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Photos: commissions of Russian president Vladimir Putin 

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