Wednesday 26th October 2011, 11.10am (day 62)
I use this today not because it’s a particularly great photo (although it’s not bad) but because the story behind it amuses me.
The place where I’m working this week rents space on the campus of this big university in Moscow, the Academy of National Economy (ANE), on Prospekt Vernadskovo to the south of the city centre. In the early-to-mid 1990s, after the fall of Communism, the World Bank and IMF tried a dose of ‘instant capitalism’ on Russia, demanding the country liberalise its whole economy almost overnight. The ANE had, and still has, one of the best campuses in the country, but an Italian company wanted to profit through this spanking new building, and under the new rules, it was virtually impossible to refuse them. So this vast glass palace was built – what you see here is barely a quarter of the whole.
However, there were two big problems. First, no one was allowed to question whether the new building was needed. Second, no one was allowed to establish whether the Italian company actually had the money and expertise to complete the job. Neither of these two things turned out to be true. The shell was finished, but nothing inside, and because the space was never actually needed, there was no revenue which then accrued to the developers in order to financially support them to finish it. They therefore went bankrupt before the job was done.
What makes it worse is that no one can now establish who owns this building. Until they do, it cannot be demolished. So there it has stood for 15 years, rotting away, a monument to corporate failure on this otherwise reasonably well-appointed campus, a huge carbuncle of glass, while the campus built by the Reds surrounds it and does its job quite happily, thank you very much.