Russia: Butovo Land Dispute

Global Voices Online
Friday, June 23, 2006

The recent land dispute between Moscow city authorities and residents of Butovo, a suburb just outside the capital's beltway (MKAD), included such dramatic elements as a tent camp, bulldozers and riot police. Ilya Yashin (LJ user yashin), leader of the youth wing of the Russian social-liberal party Yabloko, writes about the incident and shares his thoughts on how the standoff could've been avoided. The post (RUS) generates a discussion of the local officials' ways.


Moscow authorities have decided to replace a village outside MKAD with high-rise apartment blocks. People living in the small village houses were offered to move to the city concrete buildings. They refused because they were being moved to tiny, one-room apartments, and, in addition to this, they were being deprived of the chance to work on the land (for some, it's the only way to make a living). The officials are filing lawsuits, winning them and sending eviction officers with riot police - breaking the fences and doors, twist hands, operate with rubber sticks.

There's one thing I don't get. Obviously, profits to be received after the village has been razed are incredible. To use some of these superprofits to deal with the village locals - is that such a big problem? Why can't they be offered not a tiny one-room cage, but a normal three-room apartment, and some additional cash?

Yes, it's always hard to part with money, even when there's much of it. But when will these jerks from the mayor's office start using a rational approach - by spending money, the regime basically buys insurance against social problems: protest rallies, the critical media, fights with riot police. People are being forced out of their houses, and it's natural that they are going to resist, even if you show them a dozen of court decisions. And they'll hate the regime. And the society will sympathize with them, not the mayor's office.


terika: You are the generous one. Because it's not you who's got those potential two/three/four-room apartments. And to give them away just to preserve that mythical social stability in the village of Butovo? It's ridiculous and, of course, no one would want to spend money on this. Riot police is cheaper. Try to think the way they do. Would you give ten rubles to a beggar, just to keep him from following you up to your front door and begging? Someone would give the money, others won't. Someone would call the police. The same with these apartments.

yashin: Well, the beggar comparison isn't very correct. Butovo residents aren't begging anyone about anything, they've just been living in their houses for many years and want to be left alone.

As for the problems, the police is, of course, cheaper, that's true. But the reputation of the officials after such informational bombs suffers quite a bit. Then again, they don't care anymore - the governors' elections have been cancelled [governors get appointed now].

terika: The officials' reputation :))) You've answered your own question.

yashin: I was absolutely serious, by the way. This is the essence of the civil ideology - an official values his reputation, because if it's affected, then he (or his boss) has much less chances at the elections. But it's not about Moscow, unfortunately.

terika: And it's not about Russia, too. I've been on a business trip to Germany recently. They arranged a city tour for us. So we come to the Bundestag. It's surrounded by three rows of bicycles. Public officials have come to work. Then the local guide sees a Mercedes near the entrance to the parliament. His face changes and he yells: "And who is this? On our money!" And then: "Ah! That's the Russian delegation..." :))


solo_d: Taking into account the proverbial Russian mentality, it's possible to assume that the reputation of the officials who solved the problem peacefully will suffer even more than the reputation of those who simply send the riot police to attack the people. Force, and especially rough force, is respected in our country. And to go against the regime - for some it's nothing but amoral. And for a certain segment of the population, officials who are solving problems without bulldozers or riot police, covered by the cameras of Channel 1, appear to be the weak ones.

oleg_kozyrev: No, I think you're wrong. Because an official's considered strong when no one at all learns about the situation. And if they do, that means he's been weak.

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