In what might be the biggest urban demolition project ever, 10% of Moscows housing stock will be torn down and 1.6 million people resettled as the citys Khrushchevka flats are destroyed. But residents are fighting back
In the 1970s, machinist Yevgeny Rudakov was living in a communal apartment with 30 people in north-central Moscow where there was always a line for the toilet. He was also in line for his own flat, through the institute where he worked.
Finally his turn came, and he and his wife were given a two-room flat at 16 Grimau Street. Built in 1957, the four-storey, 64-flat building is considered the first Khrushchevka, a kind of prefabricated, low-rise flat block that was erected in the tens of thousands across the USSR and came to be called after then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (The colloquial term has come to apply to almost any late Soviet five-storey residential building.)
Now 16 Grimau Street, along with up to 7,900 other Soviet flat blocks in Moscow, are to be torn down, in what will be one of the largest urban resettlement programmes in history. With the backing of the president, Vladimir Putin, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin has declared the programme an absolute necessity to replace ageing housing. He promised the replacement flats would be 20% larger on average.
To Rudakov, however, it is just another example of profit taking precedent over heritage. This is the first housing block that Khrushchev built. They dont have any regard for this now, he said of his home. Money comes before anything else. He added that he didnt know why Putin said to tear such flat blocks down. The building is good, the walls are thick.