The end is near for the Soviets
The plans to take the Soviet Street down go back as far as the early soviet rule, but many decades on they are still to materialize. If the official Baku development concept is to be believed, the “soviet remains will have finally stopped existing by 2030.
Waiting in limbo
Many of the buildings have a red cross painted on their walls. This is to indicate they are to be removed soon. But no one knows how actually soon. 2030 is a long way off. Street residents say they’ve been bearing witness to history, watching as their soviet past effectively turns into ruins.
Teimur Tushiev who’s lived in the Soviet Street for 35 years
“A green area will be created where the Sovetskaya Street currently is. Social facilities may also be built there, the state committee for town planning and architecture of Azerbaijan says on its website.
Head of the centre for economic and social development Vugar Bairamov made five points regarding the Sovetskaya Street issue. These are:
– In 2015, the state will spend 180 million manats (about 170 million USD) to carry out the demolition works;
– The demolition effort and redevelopment of the territory are expected to cost about 500 million manats in all (around 480 million USD);
– Falling oil prices and, as a consequence, declining budget incomes mean social expenses will have to be adjusted downwards;
– A new requirement (stemming, again, from the decreased oil-generated incomes) is that any facility to be built there shall have to be profitable for the state, at least yielding tax revenue;
– Private investments will be encouraged to furnish the green area with cafes and amusement facilities.
What is going to happen to the historic monuments?
Human rights activist Eldar Zeinalov said: “[In the Soviet Street], there are many small apartments with an area of less than 25 square meters [like Sophia Vasilievna’s – editor’s note].
To date, some residents have been given flats, each a standard 45 square meters newly repaired, rather than the monetary compensations. It’s true the flats are not located in the centre of the city, but for these families the demolition has come as a welcome development, for they would have never been able to afford such apartments on their own.
As for the others, however, the compensation being as it is, most won’t be able to buy a decent place to live.
Head of the oil research centre Ilham Shaban said: “The demolition plan for the Sovetskaya Street was conceived as far back as 1928, however it didn’t start being put into practice until after the oil prices had started to decline. And only after the demolition work had got off the ground did the scale of it was fully brought home to [the officials], along with the realization that the removal of these things Soviet was going to take years. If they don’t want the process to drag on for decades, they should start attracting private investments immediately
Ilham Shaban has proposed to create a Sovetskaya Street museum accumulating photos from the street residents’ personal archives and stories from their families’ lives spanning the last 80 years or more. JAMnews finds this a great idea and would love you to share what you think about it.