St. Petersburg, Ilyushina tenants for ever!
The tenants of residential house № 15 building 2 of Ilyushina street in Saint Petersburg, Russia, have become famous not only in Russia but worldwide thanks to their many yearlong resistance to forced evictions.
The Ilyushina tenants, as they are called in Russia, have sustained a longer than ten year long struggle for their housing having grappled with the local city authorities and construction companies and won finally through their perseverance and courage.
As many as 70 Ilyushina house families suffered evictions for several years because the Fourth Trust, one of the local property and estate developers, had illegally privatized their residential house in Saint Petersburg midtown area during the mass privatization campaigns Russia saw in the 1990 ies.
Since 2005 the Ilyushina tenants have sustained two hunger strikes, vigils and protest actions in the city center, and several international solidarity campaigns have been held, which caused the city government to interfere.
The city authorities have provided the Ilyushina tenants with more or less decent housing in new and not so new houses, on the conditions acceptable for the tenants.
However, the officials seem to be reluctant to find the final and complete solution to the problem as the evacuation of the tenants has been completed and the ‘’owner’’, the Fourth Trust company, in the person of Mr. Mokshakov, its director, has found another way to take revenge and sued the tenants claiming that big amounts of money be paid to the owner for the ‘’moral and financial damage’’ allegedly caused to him.
And this ‘’damage’’ amounts to hundreds of thousands, from 400 000 to 1 000 000 Rubles, which is impossible for the tenants to pay.
These horrific money claims were also caused by the lack of real activity on behalf of the city officials.
Instead of finding a proper and decent solution to the Ilyushina tenants’ ordeal, who were evicted and thrown out to nowhere, the city officials (civil servants) kept writing requests to the court marshals asking that the tenants not be evicted forcefully.
Mr. Albin, a city Vice - Governor, interfered.
He stated that the amounts of money claimed by the illegal ‘’owner’’ are too excessive and assured the tenants that a solution would be found. This was claimed at the working group meeting held on April, 30, 2015, but no solution has been found so far.
The tenants are forced now to pay huge sums of money to ‘’please’’ Mr. Mokshakov’s insatiability and rancor.
13 desperate tenants
About three years ago, after the Russian officials had to react to a request made by the UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Saint Petersburg Government began to provide the tenants with new apartments.
However, the biggest part of the Ilyushina tenants, as many as 55 of them, accepted the so called ‘’temporary’’ tenancy.
It was not earlier than the summer of 2015, when the last of the most obstinate tenants, thirteen families, who had refused to be accommodated in temporary housing, received new apartments on the permanent conditions with the right to have them privatized.
According to Olga Baranova, one of those thirteen tenants, they were given the right to choose a house and city district to their preference.
It is interesting that the city officials haven’t announced publicly about ‘’success in solving the housing problem’’ for these individual tenants, perhaps, for the fear that in Saint Petersburg there are many other tenants who experience similar problems and who might avalanche the government with the same claims.
However, the Ilyushina tenants have said that this is not the end to their ordeal.
According to Olga Baranova, they have faced another big problem.
Millions of Rubles and pies for the city officials
Olga means the claims of the new owner of the Ilyushina house.
During the first hunger strike sustained by the tenants in early 2013, the city Prosecutor’s Office requested that evictions be stopped by the court marshals while a solution was sought by the authorities.
The court marshals consented.
And the time when the tenants were staying in the old apartments turned to be the pretext for the owner to bill the tenants for the so called ‘’illegal enrichment’’, having claimed that the tenants ‘’were staying in the apartments illegally’’.
The owner sued the tenants in court.
Marina Kozhina, one of the tenants, received a bill to the amount of 600 000 Rubles.
Kozhina said that if they had been warned about paying those amounts for tenancy they would have stayed in the stairwell for some time.
Some of the Ilyushina tenants did stay in the corridors and stairwells during a certain time.
Personal belongings of the Ilyushina tenants and property were distrained by the police, evacuated and sold out by the court marshals.
That is why the tenant women keep picketing the Smolny palace (City Government Headquarter) trying to reach Mr. Albin, city Vice Governor responsible for the city infrastructure and hoping that he is likely to find the solution.
According to the tenants, some of their cars have been arrested and property distrained by courts as part of the legal actions in recovering the amounts claimed by the house owner.
The tenants say that ‘’this money is enough for all of us, our children and grandchildren to pay during the entire life times, till we die’’.
Even the tenants’ pensions have become the target for the house owner’s claims.
According to the activists and tenants, Igor Albin, Vice Governor, who was responsible for the housing and infrastructure in City Government, is aware of the situation.
Olga Baranova said that Albin had promised help and another meeting with them to discuss the regular problem.
However, Mr. Albin hasn’t delivered on his promise yet.
What is more, he is trying to escape the Ilyushina tenants – he seems to have been tired of this scandal.
‘’We understand that he is a busy person’’- the tenants are quoted as saying. – ‘’But we will insist on our demands. It looks like pensioners, invalids and low income people should sustain rich businessmen? I believe it to be unfair’’, — says Olga Baranova.
A funny thing is that the tenants promised baking a pie for Mr. Albin in case if he finds a decent and final solution to their plight, and this pie is still expected to be baked.
So, the Ilyushina tenants are continuing their struggle and appealing to all organizations and social activists for help and solidarity.