Saint Petersburg, anti-evictions mobilisation of dormitory tenants
Evictions of dormitory tenants in Saint Petersburg: background, current status and prospects. City Mayor orders tenants to be arrested
On October, 4, the tenants of a former construction workers dormitory located in Ilyushina, 15, Street of Saint Petersburg, who have gradually been evicted from their house for ten years by now, decided to remind the authorities and public of their plight.
More than 100 tenants and activists affiliated with a newly established small businesses trade union arrived at the City Government Property Committee, willing to talk to the ‘’civil servants’’ and submit them a petition protesting the practice of verdicts ruled by the local courts under pressure of the city authorities.
A particular case connected with this practice, according to the protesters, is the verdicts ruled by the local city courts on evictions of the tenants from the Ilyushina Street dormitory and mass evictions of small businesses from trade outlets located at one of the metro stations.
However, the city ‘’civil servants’’ ignored the protestors, and securities and police tried to force them out of the building.
Upon having an hour long vigil in the city committee, the tenants and their supporters marched towards the Smolny office (Saint Petersburg City Government). The securities did not allow the protesters to enter the entrance hall by announcing that ‘’here we are the President’s guards’’. But they condescended at last and let one protester into the building, who handed over a letter of protest to the civil servants.
Now the tenants, more than 250 of them, are waiting for the answer to their letter and pondering new protest actions.
However, this protest action was not the only one.
The Ilyushina tenants had already staged a number of other protest actions before.
Last year, they broke through to the City Hall and had two ‘’round tables’’ dedicated to the situation with the local dormitories and involving some deputies, journalists and lawyers.
Two weeks ago they tried to come nearer to the city mayor country house located in one of Saint Petersburg’s picturesque environs, with the aim of petitioning Mrs. V. Matvienko, City Mayor.
However, they were stopped by securities 200 meters away from the cottage with some of the tenants arrested.
The Ilyushina tenants’ story is one of those in Saint Petersburg which date back to the 1990 ies. The tenants of the former dormitory were given their small apartments in the late 1980-early 1990 ies by the state, for a ten year long hard work effort at Leningrad’s construction sites.
It was a practice typical of that time.
Many of the tenants had been involved in the construction of the Ilyushina building personally. They moved into their apartments in 1992.
In 2004, all of a sudden, the new ‘’investor’’ emerged («the Fourth Trust company»), whose officers declared that the house had been built with their financial contribution and they, the Fourth Trust, previously a state owned entity, were consequently the owner of the dormitory building, and the tenants had either to buy their ‘’property’’ at the market prices or move away. Saint Petersburg courts sided with the ‘’investor’’.
In 2007, the first court verdicts on evictions came into legal force.
Elena Raimova, Alexander Platonov and Veselovs’ family were thrown away from their apartments. In the latter case, a person younger than 18 was evicted, just right before the army service.
He is back now from the army to face the new reality of being a homeless ‘’citizen’’.
Another tenant, Galina Shitikova, was talked by the local ‘’civil servants’’ into moving to a retirement home. They insisted that she move ‘’voluntarily’’.
However, not all of the tenants agreed to be evicted without a scandal.
Lyudmila Portyankina had staged a day long picket at the City Government. She ensconced herself up in a tiny cardboard ‘’house’’ right in front of the Smolny office. Then, after she was evicted from her room in the dormitory building, Lyudmila Portyankina settled down for a ‘’permanent living’’ at one of the stairwells of the dormitory building. Her protest was backed by the other tenants.
As a result, both Portyankina and another tenant, Platonov, succeeded in wresting new housing from the authorities. At present, the other dormitory tenants expect new court verdicts to be ruled regarding their personal cases. And the people are anticipating the worse.
However, the Ilyushina dormitory and its tenants’ story is just one of those many Saint Petersburg’s former dormitories that had to go the ‘’whole hog’’ of the neo liberal privatization processes of the 1990 ies, after the USSR collapsed and the ‘’new epoch’’ came.
Thus, at least six local dormitories and their tenants have had to go through the procedures similar to that of Ilyushina.
The tenants of the Polyarnikov Street, 9, former dormitory were left high and dry in the mid 1990 ies following the same pattern - they had to face their new ‘’owner’’, who had privatized the property by employing murky schemes and involving some corrupt officials of the local city and municipal governments.
The tenants of two more former dormitories located in Podvoisky Street have already seen their apartments granted to them by the state in the late 1980 ies privatized illegally and many of the tenants evicted, following court verdicts.
Some of their cases are being tried now by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The tenants of other former dormitories- in Pilyutova Street, 13, Petergofsky Prospect, 73 (accommodated with former and now-in- service police and fire brigade officers and their families), Avtovskaya Street, 17 and others - are suffering the same or similar plight: the city authorities turn a blind eye to their personal cases and ignore calls for correcting the mistakes made as a result of illegal property privatization of the last fifteen years.
In fact, all the tenants of Saint Petersburg dormitories have fallen victims to illegal and roguery schemes actively employed by corrupt officials and dishonest businessmen in the 1990 ies.
Now, those dormitory tenants in Saint Petersburg, who don’t have anything else to lose except their housing, are seeking to set up an organization of their own and preparing new joint protest actions.
And they need international solidarity!