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Daghestanis continue to defend city park

2 February 2017

Daghestanis have continued to clash with the authorities over plans to build a museum in one of the capital, Makhachkala’s, last remaining green spaces. The authorities want to cut down up to 60 trees in Lenin Kosmomol Park. Residents of the city staged a demonstration over the weekend to protest the planned development.

Head of the Information-Analytical Department at the President of Daghestan’s Office, Zubayr Zubayruyev, defended the project in a press conference organised by Daghestani daily Chernovik, which was attended by local MPs. According to Zubayruyev, the project to construct the museum, titled ‘Russia Is My History’, has been approved on a federal level and is controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He added that the park wouldn’t be destroyed, and that 600 new trees would be planted in place of the felled ones.

Local representative of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Madina Ibragimova, responded sceptically to this.

‘Where will you plant 600 trees? Where will you find so much land in Makhachkala? And how long will it take them to grow? The trees here are centuries old. We all remember how the restaurant Kazan-mangal came to be. When the trees were being cut down, it was supposed to be for a children’s centre’, Madina Ibragimova told Chernovik.

Local representatives the Communist Party and the Party of Pensioners for Justice were also strongly opposed to the construction of the museum in the city park, and suggested it should be built elsewhere in Makhachkala where it wasn’t necessary to cut down trees.

Another press conference was held in the editorial office of news agency RIA Daghestan, which was also attended by civil society activists. The atmosphere of the meeting was tense, with people often resorting to shouting.

The authorities argued that the museum was a federal project and if the museum is built on the outskirts of the city, instead of in the centre, no-one will visit it. Activists argued that the museum should be built in a different location, and that the park should be left untouched, given its historic value.

Government representatives and civil society activists clash in the RIA Daghestan press conference.

The Lenin Kosmomol Park was built in the early twentieth century by the German Weiner brothers, who were businessmen from Vienna. They visited Makhachkala (then known as Petrovsk) in order to build a brewery. Before the park was built, the area was a swamp, and so the Weiner brothers planted poplar trees drain it. The park was initially named Weiner Park, but was renamed to Lenin Kosmomol Park during the Soviet Union.