Local Councilors in Moscow’s Yakimanka District Vote for Referendum on Karimov Monument
She explained that eight councilors out of ten voted in favor of the referendum planned for March on the same day of the Presidential Election in an attempt to increase voter turnout. The Council’s decision, though, must still be approved by the Moscow City Duma and the Central Electoral Commission.
“They are submitting all the papers and waiting for a response. I believe it requires five days. But there is very little chance that the referendum will in fact take place”, Leonova noted. She is sure that the central city authorities would likely withhold their consent on the grounds that there is no legal basis for local authorities to decide these matters.
“In fact, Moscow has never carried out referendums despite the fact that the local self-governance law includes an element of direct democracy. With many independent candidates winning council seats in municipal elections last September, initiatives for referendums emerged in different districts. Of course, it makes the authorities sick and they would look for ways to block such requests. But the fact is that the power of municipal councils is very limited and blocking these initiatives will be quite easy for the authorities. Practically, they will make the quite legitimate point that these things are not local issues. But still, it is just absurd to put this monument right under our noses”, Leonova added.
The square of Islam Karimov, where the monument is planned, is located close to the consular department and the guest house of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The square was re-named in honor of the former Uzbek President by Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin two months after Karimov had passed away in November 2016.
The law states that it is possible to assign someone's name to objects in Moscow ten years after the death of this person. An exception is made for persons recommended by the Mayor or the President, so Sobyanin acted well within his authority.
In December 2016, the Commission on Monuments of Moscow’s City Duma also approved of the construction of a monument for Karimov on the square.
The charitable foundation named after Karimov, whose founders are the widow of the late president Tatyana and his youngest daughter Lola, resumed all expenses for designing, manufacturing and installing the monument.
News broke in May 2017 that they had enlisted the famous British sculptor Paul Day to create the work.
A plaque on a Moscow house near the square named after Islam Karimov
Most of the residents of the district did not follow these developments, Leonova said. The situation changed after almost all trees were cut down in the park, replacing them with firs. The District Councils soon began discussing the project with ordinary people, most of whom expressed dissatisfaction and a petition against the installation of the monument appeared on the website Change.org. At the time of writing, it was signed by over seven thousand people.
Citizens dissatisfied with the "landscaping" of the park and the prospect of seeing a monument to Karimov there, turned to local councilors. In a Facebook post, the head of the municipal district of Yakimanka, Andrei Morev, wrote: "The residents of our district and the neighboring Zamoskvorechie vehemently disagreed with the installation of the monument to Mr. Karimov, who did not do anything notable for our region and the city. That is, if you do not consider it useful to move thousands of Uzbeks to Moscow in the 90's and 00s."
First of all, the councilors tried to retract the decision of their predecessors who had previously approved the installation of the monument. In the September municipal elections, opposition candidates from the Yabloko Party won nine out of ten seats in the Yakimanka District where the pro-government United Russia had earlier held a majority.
However, a retraction was not possible. This is when the idea of a referendum came up. Should authorities approve it, the councilors still have to explain to most Yakimanka residents what it is all about. Some of them do not know who Karimov is; others just do not care whose monument will stand in the park. Many people who are aware of the issue are opposing the move not for political reasons, but simply because they were never consulted about it. "How is it that they did not ask us and just cut down the trees on such a wonderful square of a historic district. And again, there will be some unknown figure honored there, surrounded by fir trees. To be honest, this is provoking some quite unpleasant reactions”, Leonova noted.
P.S. One of the regional groups actively discussing the installation of the monument a few months ago has now almost ceased its activities. The group writes that homeless people have occupied the Square of Islam Karimov recently. They began to light a fire near the Uzbek consulate with the arrival of frost in Moscow to keep themselves warm. In the first days of January, one man froze to death.