Hard-liners are defiant over Moscow apartments Police told to evict former lawmakers

October 19, 1993|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- Russia's unrepentant legislators, who earlier this month refused to leave the White House until tanks blasted them out, yesterday took another defiant stand. They refused to leave their government-provided apartments.

Some, like Olga A. Chistikh, have little desire to return to a pig farm in the middle of nowhere after having savored the relative comforts of Moscow for the last few years. Others simply have nowhere to go -- like Viktor and Yelena Yakovlev, who relinquished their apartment in a frozen Arctic Circle town after Mr. Yakovlev was elected to parliament three years ago.

Friday, the Moscow city government gave the people's deputies who, in defiance of President Boris N. Yeltsin, had stayed in the White House -- Russia's parliament building -- three days to get out of their government apartments.

Yesterday, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov ordered police to evict the hard-liners from their flats.

Also yesterday the state of emergency that Mr. Yeltsin imposed on Moscow Oct. 3, during the standoff with parliament, expired. That lifted a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew, which was credited with sharply reducing crime.

Since the curfew began, nearly 90,000 people were detained for violations or minor offenses and 9,886 people were expelled from Moscow because they lacked residency permits, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

The three-day deadline for the legislators to leave their homes was a ridiculous amount of time in Mrs. Yakovlev's view. "Do you know how long it takes to find an apartment here?" she asked. "We've been waiting 12 years to get one of our own."

The apartments -- humble as they are to Western eyes -- represent enormous privilege here. And the battle for them offers a glimpse at the thinking that led to the traumatic collision between past and future and finally to Mr. Yeltsin's assault on parliament.

As Mrs. Yakovlev sees it, she and her husband followed all the rules. The couple left their native St. Petersburg 18 years ago to move to the Arctic town of Vorkuta, where Mr. Yakovlev worked as a miner until he earned an engineering degree from a local institute and got a better job.

Suffering in remote towns was rewarded under the old system with premium pay and an opportunity for apartments, which were not available in St. Petersburg. After 15 years in northern isolation, Mr. Yakovlev was elected to parliament.

The family gratefully moved to Moscow, where the government provided them with a unit in a 24-story building in which 160 other legislators and their families live.

The apartments, while fairly new, are as shoddily made as any construction in Russia. Only one of the three elevators in the Korolyov Street building was working yesterday. The heat and ++ hot water had gone off, as they often do.

The Yakovlevs have three rooms where they live with their two daughters, 9 and 12, and their 20-year-old son, his wife and 14-month-old twins.

"By the time you're 40, you deserve at least your own apartment," said Mrs. Yakovlev, who is 40. "We were so happy when we came here. And according to the law, we should have this privilege. We deserve this apartment." She can't understand why her husband's decision to defy Mr. Yeltsin and to stay at the parliament building should change that.

Twelve years ago, family members put their names on a list for a St. Petersburg apartment. Nine years ago, when their third child was born, they moved up to a priority category on the list. They're still waiting.

"It is quite unfair to do this to the children," said Mrs. Yakovlev. "We don't know where to go. We can't tell them what school they'll be going to next week."

Yesterday, a spokesman for Mr. Luzhkov said the deputies had to move to make room for the deputies who will be elected Dec. 12 to Russia's new parliament. Three days was a little hasty, he agreed. "It might be an initiative that came from a lower level," said Sergei P. Tsoi, the spokesman.

The deputies actually decided their political fate three weeks ago. That was when Mr. Yeltsin, after dissolving parliament Sept. 21, offered the deputies a deal.

Those who left the White House could keep pay and privileges, such as Moscow apartments, for a year. And the government would find them new jobs. But accepting the deal meant an eventual return to ordinary lives. Most of the deputies had spent a lifetime working to escape that, and they chose to fight for the old system that had rewarded them.

Mrs. Chistikh, 51, was director of a state farm with 20,000 pigs and 520 people in a small Siberian town before she was elected to parliament. A member of the conservative Agrarian Party, she said she decided to remain at the White House to protect the constitution.

Mrs. Chistikh's family still has an apartment on the pig farm. She could go back there, but it wouldn't be right, she said.

"The only thing we hope for now is legality, and that people will understand we are being treated in an illegal way," Mrs. Chistikh said. "But who knows what will happen now? If the president can shoot at deputies, why can't the city throw them out on the street?"

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