The concept of private property ownership in Russia has always been rather foreign. Even in more recent history, getting the state to pay for eminent domain has been difficult, if not impossible. Nothing showed this more than the lead up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where residents were forced out of their homes to make room for roads, and other public works related to the Games. And, of course, who could forget the Yukos case?
On Monday night, the city of Moscow began to destroy small shops that dot the city, claiming that they were built “illegally”. These were not just lean-tos that had been put up the day before. And this was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was planned and deliberate. The Moscow Times reported that the decision had been made in early December. At least one of the strip malls had taken the city to court, and gotten a reprieve. The city ignored the court order. And it apparently plans to continue with its demolition plans.
You can view photos on Ilya Varlamov’s blog here to see what kind of destruction the city wrought.
These were legitimate businesses with the appropriate licences allowing them to operate legally. The city government plotted to take them down, for reasons that are unclear. And then to add insult to injury, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church said the city should give these now empty properties to the Church.
Journalist Sasha Sotnik asked Muscovites in a vox-pop if they thought private ownership in Russia had been suspended because of the city’s actions. When asked the more personal question of what they’d do if the authorities came to evict them from their own apartments, the respondents mostly answered to the effect: “what are you supposed to do?”
We talk about what Russian society’s limits are. It’s almost as if the Russian Regime is testing those limits to see if they can find the breaking point. If the Sotnik street interviews are any indication, this is not the breaking point that the Regime is looking for.