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Group Wants UNESCO Status To Save Moscow City Center

Downtown Moscow
Downtown Moscow
MOSCOW -- A Russian civic organization has appealed to UNESCO for Moscow to be designated a "World Heritage Site" in order to protect the city's historical core from planned urban renewal, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The civic organization wrote in its appeal that "Moscow is not just Russia's capital, but a unique monument to architecture and city construction."

Roman Tkach, a coordinator of the organization, told RFE/RL on September 9 that while it takes a long time to get a place designated a "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO, the UN's cultural organization, he hopes the group's initial appeal might change the city government's attitude toward its plans to remodel the capital, a project known as Genplan.

"In our opinion, the politics of the Moscow government should be recognized as destructive and, moreover, criminal," Tkach told RFE/RL.

According to Genplan, which was adopted by the city government in May, sections of historical parts of downtown Moscow would be demolished to make room for huge new buildings.

Historical preservationists and civic groups have protested against the plan, saying it will destroy architectural monuments and only serves big businesses.

Tkach said that "everything that is being done according to the current Genplan, everything that has been done over the past few years based on announcements from the Moscow government and other illegal decrees, has led to the destruction of the city and its historical image."

But Vladimir Krizhevsky, an academic at Moscow's literature museum, said the whole city can't be turned into a "World Heritage Site."

He said that city planners "should just take a specific territory, like the circle boulevard, and totally reconstruct it like they have done in Prague."

Publicist and historian Mikhail Korobko told RFE/RL that while world heritage status is not a "panacea," it could encourage city officials to think differently about large construction projects in Moscow.

"The center of Moscow looks like it has been bombed," he said. "If you walk around the city, there's a hole here, there. Historic streets are like a broken set of dentures -- two to three old buildings and everything else -- who knows what it is."