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‘The house looks like a cemetery’ Memorial plaques to victims of Soviet repressions removed from St. Petersburg building after residents complain

Source: Meduza

In St. Petersburg, 23 Rubinstein Street — also known as “Dovlatov’s House” — used to have 16 memorial plaques with the names of victims of Soviet-era political repressions. All sixteen people used to live in this building. Now the plaques commemorating them are gone, reports the local news outlet Fontanka.

The placards were added to the building’s facade as part of an initiative called the Last Address project. It’s founder, journalist Sergey Parkhomenko, told Fontanka that the company in charge of the building took down the plaques in response to letters from three residents, who “couldn’t come to terms with the existence of the placards.”

According to Kirill Polysaev, who lives in the building, the placards were put up “not entirely legally.” “[Their] placement requires the consent of the owners, but they simply were not asked.” A Fontanka source added that the tenants’ main argument against the plaques was that there are “too many [of them] and the house looks like a cemetery.” Fontanka doesn’t specify whether or not Polysaev was one of the residents who complained to the building’s management company. 

“We aren’t against [it], but let’s coordinate. If there’s 100 percent agreement then it’s not a problem,” an “opponent of the installation of the placards” named Dina told Fontanka. “I won’t be giving [my consent].”

Parkhomenko claims that the installation of the placards was coordinated with the buildings’ residents. “At the house on Rubinstein there was a senior tenant who we were in contact with and she took it upon herself to organize the approvals. Unfortunately, she moved,” the journalist explained in conversation with Fontanka. 

He also clarified that the building’s residents “will decide the fate of the plaques” at a general meeting. The management company told Fontanka that they’re planning to try and talk to the dissatisfied residents and put the placards back up after they’ve finished renovating the building.

According to the local outlet Bumaga (Paper), St. Petersburg’s municipal deputies are preparing an appeal to the city’s legislative assembly regarding the dismantling of the memorial plaques.

RBK adds that there have already been “attempts to remove individual plaques” in the city. Alexander Mokhnatkin, a former assistant to deputy Vitaly Milonov, complained about them in 2018. That same year, the St. Petersburg City Planning Committee deemed the signs “illegal,” RBK reported, and “characterized their installation as an administrative offense.”

Twenty-three Rubenstein Street is called “Dovlatov’s House” because writer Sergey Dovlatov lived there from 1944 until 1975. According to Fontanka, it was one of the first buildings in St. Petersburg where the Last Address project installed its memorial plaques commemorating victims of Soviet-era repressions in 2015. According to Parkhomenko, his initiative has already installed thousands of these memorial placards in different cities across Russia. 

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Tatyana Pashkova

Translation by Eilish Hart