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Moscow: among ghosts of urban environment

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 25-04-2011
Мир России. 1994.  Т. 3. № 1. С. 84-133. 
Тематический раздел:
The structural crisis of 1991/92 weighs heavily upon life in Moscow yet one is to see there not only a fall-down in urban conditions but a prerequisite for the Capital District to get stabilized and to be developed. A possibility does exist now to choose between mere pragmatism of feasible taming the chaos and creative mastering the situation by means of solving the real task of the full-scale urban restructuring.In spite of a series of Master Plans (1935, 1971, 1977, 1991) the Russian Capital is second to Calcutta or Mexico-City if we would try to seek for an overall development program. The problem is that the maintenance system that has never been really considered in terms of economy now faces the structural crisis of national economy. We still are using the most unhappy system of heating, the City is loosing up to 40% of drinking water, billions-of tons of fuel are wasted because of poor window construction, lack of heat-regulation, absence of the simplest energy-saving devices etc.All these trivia are rarely discussed — the media are more interested in political debate than in such a base matter.At the same time an attempt to treat territorial self-Government in terms of rather vague "public participation" is clearly reflected in the Russian Law on "local self-government" and is representative for the "City Fathers" mentality.The Moscow realities are so complicated and confused that to find a mutual foundation for solving a dozen of particular tasks means to stick to treating the Moscow Metropolitan Unit as an integral whole — the environment with weak regulative capacity. To speak of a holistic development model one is to pass from being enchanted by the legal borders or by the authority delineation to considering the Moscow Region as a natural, historical and economical unity.It looks obvious that the city of Moscow is now an administrative illusion, that it is also the Oblast territory, subdivided into Municipal Districts some of which like Yassenevo with its 260.000 inhabitants exceeds any of the District towns, while some are to be found at a lower scale of self-governed territories.The will of the Moscow Government to preserve the linear managerial strategy instead of formatting a regular system of stimuli and restrictions and yet to mock decentralization is openly expressed, never meeting structural analysis. Through a gathering at the Major's Department the author could witness confidence on the side of the Government that the traditional Russian paternalistic mode of relations between those in power and those "below", is still there.More than that, when coming back to local self-government we are to register a revival of the system that has been known since Peter the Great: self-government is processed as the lowest (and free!) grade of the executive pyramid.Speaking about necessary steps to improve the situation one is first to reveal all those centralized structures the very existence of which has no other justification than the burden of tradition and the Government's commodity. First comes elimination of the Administrative Districts level of management (save the Central District which is Federal in essence) as transposing direct authority to the level of the Municipal Districts would mean the first step towards a normal regulative system with some control on the part of communities. Then there comes the turn of centralized systems that has no justification but "soviet" inertia. It is quite obvious that any attempt to abolish a whole set of managerial agencies would cause harsh opposition on the part of bureaucratic structures and the lobbyist groups.Being moderately optimistic one might risk predicting that at least two electoral cycles are needed before the Moscow communities win be mature enough to head strife for fundamental change in that particular matter.The drama of the current moment lies in a disparity between unprecedented potential of a situation that has emerged out of the August-91 Coup and the human readiness to grasp the essence of the existing possibilities to start a long-term restructuring process for the whole Moscow Region.Our experiments have taught us that rejection of any common action for the sake of untamed individualism, being organic to the times of totalitarianism collapse, has no future. Seeking for a kind of a Common Deal on a local scale seems to be a good start for further process of piece-meal regional reintegration.Being moderate optimist, the author is to say that through applying "weak" stimulus to the regional environmental continuum and aiming at the simplest solutions for problems of coexistence at the local level might work for the unifying trend. Reforming a well-known saying, to make the noun Moscow a working term in the reality of the Moscow Region, one is to think regionally and to act locally