Friday, 1 October 2010

The Dethroning of Luzhkov

In the twelve or so years I spent studying Russian, as well as going to and from Moscow, there was always one constant: Yury Luzhkov. For the past eighteen years Luzhkov was the mayor of Moscow. But earlier this week, during Dmitry Medvedev's trip to China to rub shoulders with potential Hu Jintao replacements, the head of state held a press conference, during which he told the media that he had just signed a decree removing Luzhkov from office over "loss of confidence". He added that, as head of state, he cannot work with a regional head he does not trust. Michele Berdy has an interesting insight into the affair in her column on translating Russian over at the Moscow Times concerning Medvedev's choice of words.

Luzhkov is not a popular man, especially among the gay community, whom he has repeatedly condemned for their so-called satanic activities and happily dispatched the police to knock the shit out of them every time they tried to hold an "unsanctioned" demonstration anywhere in the city, though specifically on Triumfalnaya Square, where one can find the statue of renowned poet Mayakovsky...

...but it wasn't always this way with Luzhkov. He did do a lot for the capital. After the USSR went belly up in the 90s, Moscow was in chaos, and Luzhkov's indefatigable management skills came to the fore and managed to turn the place from potentially becoming a swamp to one of the most opulent capitals on the planet.

Urban regeneration was his forte, and for the first few years he pulled it off. In the vid up top you'll see the big gold Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Храм Христа Спасителя Khram Khree-sta Spa-see-tell-ya). The colossal structure was reconstructed under his watch (it got torn down in the 1930s). He had restored the city, and then some.

...But then things started to go wrong (well, not really for Luzhkov). Luzhkov slowly shifted from being a manager to a political figure, not to mention the sums of money that were being accumulated from the massive construction projects.

Of course, people in office in Russia aren't permitted to have any financial interests, but it would have been a terrible shame to let all those business contacts go to waste. That's where Luzkhov's wife came in.

Unlike her spouse, Yelena Baturina has no such problem with trivial issues like political accountability. Although it's never been declared officially, it's fair to assume that her construction firm wouldn't have been behind so many of Moscow's many sky-scraping eyesores had it not been for her proximity to the highest executive power in Moscow.

Speaking of eyesores, Luzhkov is also partly responsible for the most obnoxious statue in Moscow.

This 90-meter-tall behemoth is meant to be in memory of Peter the Great, and was constructed by the equally obnoxious "artist" Zurab Tsereteli, who just happens to be (surprise surprise) a close friend of Luzhkov. I think we're a seeing a pattern emerging.

Regardless of the slightly undemocratic deposition, it was more than ample time for him to be booted out. His stay in the mayor's office was way past any acceptable term, though I suspect Michael Bloomberg may have been taking notes.


In other news, I've been lax in visiting the gym, mostly due to laziness combined with the fact that I have achieved more or less what I set out to do. Honestly speaking, the place is pretty lame and the membership is running out soon. The fact that there are so many men doing those previously-mentioned thrusting motions in tight shorts (on more than one occasion I've even seen punters do some form of bizarre tapdance as a warm up) in front of me while I'm on the treadmill makes me feel I've wandered onto the set of a really crap gay softcore porno-comedy. The receptionist is cute, though.

I believe there's a nicer (read: more expensive) gym up the road.

[Husband & wife pic by Misha Japaridze/Associated Press, found in this Guardian article, the rest are mine :P]

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