Unique Balalaika Production Implicated in Real Estate Dispute

Russia and world's only balalaika enterprise is forced to leave its premises

Russian people's artist Nikolay Kalinin:

"I will tell you the truth. They deliberately ruin the society and the state. Someone wants the Russian Musical Association to stop its existence. Someone wants the new generation to have absolutely no idea of the spiritual and cultural legacy that has been saved and accumulated in our country for ages. We appeal to authorities, but they are deaf, and they know that they are deaf. Yet, I would like to say that we will struggle for everything that belongs to the Russian Musical Association. Just please, do not think that we are just a stupid group of people's artists - you are wrong to think so."

Something incredible has happened in Moscow this week. The only Russian enterprise that produces Russian national musical instruments - gusli, balalaika and others - found itself in the streets. The unique Moscow industrial factory, which is the only enterprise like that in the world, belonged to the public organization All-Russian Musical Association (a creative union), the history of which counts over 100 years.

Here is the gist of the story in brief. The Russian Musical  Association (RMA) rented premises from the Moscow Property Committee. The RMA has been renting the building of the factory officially, for 40 years. The enterprise produced balalaikas, gusli, domra, Russian national costumes and shoes. However, on April 22, they had to face the fact that the building of their factory had been sold to a new proprietor without the tenant's knowledge. The transaction was conducted illegally, it was backdated for the new proprietor - Monolit Post Ltd. Yet, this fact did not confuse anyone.

Mr. Scherbov, the general director of Monolit Post, the new owner of the building, wrote in a note: "With your illegal staying in the mentioned building you impede the implementation of proprietor's legal rights." Mr. Scherbov then wrote that the RMA was supposed to leave the building within three days, otherwise, they would be forced to do it. Monolit Post guards got the building under their control, the building was outfitted with new locks and doors. After that, they started threatening RMA managers and employees, who objected to such a development of the situation.

Aleksey Zhidkov, the director of the creative and organizational work of the RMA, said that spokespeople for the new proprietor presented remarkable documents to them. One of those documents was the registration certificate:

The certificate (dated April 9th, 2003) of the state registration of the proprietor right for Monolit Post Ltd., on the base of the purchase and sale contract (dated March 26th 2003) that was concluded between Monolit Post Ltd. and the company Komar Ltd. The RMA made an inquiry at the Moscow Registration Committee, and they were told there that the company Komar Ltd. obtained the property right on March 25, 2003. It turned out later on that Komar Ltd. acquired the property right allegedly on February 1, 1996 from some company called Progress. It was not possible to find out, how the company Progress managed to obtain the property right so long ago.

In February of 2003, it became known that the building of the Russian Musical Association was going to be leased to FSB's Security Institute. This means that the building could not be sold to anyone at least until February. The RMA addressed to the Moscow City Property department, where they were told that the building in question was owned by the city of Moscow.

More details about the purchase and sale of the building came up soon after that. For example, it became known that RMA's building was put up for sale at the webpage realty.ru during the period April 8th - April 15th. The price of the building was $1500000. There was the following ad published in the "Office Sale" section: "Private residence for sale, Taganskaya metro station, Tovarischesky Pereulok, 10-2. Three stories, 900 square meters, mint condition. $1,5 million." The ad was signed as Dmitry. The RMA tried to dial the telephone number that was put at the end of the ad, and they were told that the building had been sold three days ago.

As a matter of fact, there is nothing surprising about these events. Occasions like this one are rather frequent in Moscow, which testifies to the mess on the real estate market. There is another thing, which strikes imagination. Russian people's artist Nikolay Kalinin said: "Our leasing contract has officially expired. However, we have repeatedly addressed to adequate departments and instances, to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, with a request to prolong the contract. We have sent tens of letters. However, no one responded to us. They just wanted to oust us from the building. I would like to say, though, that we will struggle for everything that belongs to the Russian Musical Association. Just please, do not think that we are just a stupid group of people's artists - you are wrong to think so."

Nikolay Kalinin believes that if the state does nothing about this or that field, this is a good reason for the criminal world to step in that field. It is worth mentioning here that it never occurred to anyone of the Russian Musical Association to ask the culture minister for help. Indeed, what this minister can do, if he has ignored the situation in the musical field from the very start, showing absolutely no influence on the cultural development. It is absolutely no use to ask such officials for help.

Yet, the people from the Russian Musical Association hope that Moscow real estate departments and mayor Yury Luzhkov will establish at least a bit of law and order. They hope that the Russian and global society will help them in their future. They say that they do not think about profits. The preservation of the unique production of Russian national musical instruments is an issue of the national significance. Yet, the government exercised its total inattention to cultural figures.

However, the RMA has managed to defend their building with the help of their guards and employees. For the time being, the association controls the building, the production has been resumed. So far, it is still possible to purchase a balalaika there for $100. Others sell balalaikas for $1000.

The new proprietor, Monolit Post and Mr. Scherbov personally, are having a break for a while.

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Author`s name Olga Savka