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Church yeast of Governor Misharin

Church yeast of Governor Misharin

08.07.2011 — Analysis

Alexander Misharin, Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region, ordered to build about 700 orthodox cathedrals in the Middle Urals. Concurrently, the authorities are preparing programs aimed at restoration of ancient religious buildings and structures. The implementation of such programs requires sizeable funds that are not available either from the budget or from benefactors. Experts say that no one is actually going to bring these projects to completion. As the "RusBusinessNews" columnists have found it out, officials allocate money for reconstruction of the same buildings, demonstrating remarkable persistence and wasting substantial budget funds.

The Ekaterinburg Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church thinks that there are not enough cathedrals in the Middle Urals. Despite the enthusiastic construction of religious buildings within the last 15 years, their total number cannot still reach the level of the prerevolutionary time. The regional head Alexander Misharin agreed with Archbishop Vikenty of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye and ordered to build cathedrals in all large settlements, requiring one building per 5,000 people. Based on their calculations, the Sverdlovsk Region having the population of 4.4 million people must have about 800 orthodox cathedrals, while their number does not exceeds 100 as of today.

Governor Misharin says nothing about the source of construction financing. However, there is no doubt that it will be the so-called public and private partnership. It was this very arrangement that was offered by the governor for financing of the program - The Spiritual Center of the Urals - contemplating restoration of a number of monasteries in Verkhoturye (the north of the Sverdlovsk region) by 2015. The officials announced that the restoration of the religious buildings and structures dated back to the 18th century will require 10.8 billion rubles, which means 15 billion rubles, taking into account the town infrastructure. The lion's share of this amount (7 billion rubles) will be given by the regional budget, about 2.4 billion rubles will come from extra-budgetary resources, and 1.5 billion rubles, in the government's opinion, will be donated by citizens.

A. Misharin also pins his hopes on assistance from Moscow. Initially, the representatives of the governor's administration used to say that the Spiritual Center of the Urals will be created solely through federal funds; however, later on, they downsized the federal assistance to 2 billion rubles. However, the region is most likely to be left without this money. In 2011, the Sverdlovsk Region received only 19.5 million rubles from Moscow, though the expected amount was 269 million rubles. According to Oleg Gubkin, Deputy Minister of Culture of the Sverdlovsk Region, the federal government allocates 1.2 billion rubles a year, or on average 4 million rubles per building, for all the projects of the Russian Orthodox Church. With this in mind, one should be naive to assume that the federal budget is going to put up 400 million rubles annually within five years in Verkhoturye.

The experts have no doubt that hopes for donations will also fail. A few years back, Governor Eduard Rossel, the predecessor of A. Misharin, got his fingers burnt, trying to implement the same intention. In 1996, the government of the Sverdlovsk Region made an attempt to revive the historical legacy of Verkhoturye. Those days business was handles without gloves; therefore the governor offered the largest companies of the region to finance restoration of cathedrals and monastery infrastructure. His assignment failed.

According to Alexander Zykov, the former mayor of Verkhoturye, the restoration of the acropolis was not completed; the sewage facilities were built in part; the building of the gas supply system was not finished; many amenities were not built. Generally speaking, only the Cathedral of Exaltation of the Holy Cross was restored - due to tax-payers' money. The companies took part in the reconstruction solely for redemption of their taxes payable to the regional budget and the road fund.

There is no doubt that business will also torpedo the second attempt to revive the Spiritual Center of the Urals, while all the burden of expenses on development of the tourist and recreation zone in Verkhoturye will be shouldered by the budget. One the other hand, if the budget has no money to restore old cathedrals, why does Governor Misharin assume responsibility for construction of another 700 new churches? The answer should be sought for in the Russian specific implementation of programs aimed at restoration of church heritage.

In Russia, projects are conceived not to be implemented, but to substantiate squandering of budget funds. For example, Eduard Rossel explained huge expenses on the restoration of the Cathedral of Exaltation of the Holy Cross by the necessity to restore the domes and cupolas, the façade and paintings in the cathedral. Thirteen years later, Alexander Misharin announced that the cathedral must be restored. The expenses were itemized exactly as previously: the roof, façade, and finishing. The repair work in Verkhoturye was performed by the building companies that were trusted by E. Rossel. The random inspection performed by the commission of the Sverdlovsk Regional Ministry of Culture revealed falsification of numbers shown for restoration of walls and towers of the Verkhoturye acropolis; in other words, the overall quantities of work differed from those actually performed.

Governor in Russia come and go, but the ways they handle the budget remain unchanged. In addition to the Cathedral of Exaltation of the Holy Cross, A. Misharin decided to start restoration of the house of the military governor in the acropolis and the masonry hotel in the Nickolas Monastery, which were included in the fifteen-year-old estimate. The appetite growth is evidenced by simple statistics: if E. Rossel was going to spend about 900 million rubles (with consideration for the estimated cost adjustment index) on restoration of the Verkhoturye acropolis, Nickolas and Pokrov monasteries, and the Resurrection Church, A. Misharin needs 830 million rubles only for the Nickolas monastery. The expenses on the creation of the Spiritual Center of the Urals are flabbergasting: the construction of a standard hotel in Verkhoturye is estimated by the authorities at 2 billion rubles. For comparison: the five-star Hyatt Hotel in Ekaterinburg cost the developer 2.8 billion rubles.

Inflated estimates are explained by trivial overstatement of amount and cost of construction work. These manipulations appeared to pursue the only aim: to fill the right pockets with money. Actually, the officials hardly ever tried to disguise their doings, which resulted, for example, in imprisonment of Alexander Pivovarov, the former head of Verkhoturye. In the criminal case records, according to deputies of the Sverdlovsk Regional Duma, there is his statement affirming that he gave bribes to high-level officials in the regional administration.

The experts note that unless A. Pivovarov talks down on his associates, then it becomes clear why the Sverdlovsk government is so quick in approving of multibillion programs that cannot be implemented due to the lack of money. Their main concern is not to build 700 announced cathedrals (no one is going to be punished in Russia for the failed programs), but to roll out large-scale construction that will swamp billions of budget money. The more ambitious the project is, the easier it will be to cover things up.

Konstantin Dzhultayev, Vladimir Terletsky

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