A tribute to Yury Luzhkov: A symbolic figure gone to stay

Credit: Mikhail Fomichev | RIAN

Former Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov died at the age of 83.

Throughout his long life, Yury Luzhkov has served in various positions and in many roles, but historically, he will definitely be remembered as the head of the Moscow city hall in the most difficult period immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Luzhkov served as Moscow’s mayor for over 18 years from 1992 to 2010 after having actually run the city as vice-mayor under Gavriil Popov, the first elected mayor, for 1.5 years.

His service as the mayor of Moscow is yet to be analyzed by historians and economists; it will be certainly mentioned in textbooks, but first of all it should be noted that with Yury Luzhkov, the huge megalopolis remained under control despite the tribulations of the Tumultuous 1990s, the raging inflation, the rampant crime, and the decline in the organizational and technical culture at all levels. The municipal economy continued to function, impeccably on the whole; the city kept growing and improving its looks and prosperity to the best of its ability at the time. Many gratefully remember that the city hall pursued its own rigorous social policy, and many Muscovites still keep warm memories of the so-called Luzhkov Benefits.

His mayoral performance equally came under criticism – he was criticized for making certain city-planning decisions to please individual business leaders and lobbies, for assisting a company owned by his wife, Yelena Baturina, to grow into a huge conglomerate under his wing, for the city’s environmental degradation, and neglect of its architectural heritage, and for his reluctance to consult with a wider expert community. In fact, Luzhkov laid the foundation for the modern – Sobyanin – city management system, with all its strengths and weaknesses. It is essentially the Luzhkov system, only reinforced by new financial opportunities.

Yury Luzhkov embodied a special type of politician – an experienced and gifted economic leader of the Soviet time who tried his best to adapt his skills and experience to the new, unfamiliar and alien conditions. In many respects, Russia was supported by such people in the 1990s, and it was largely thanks to them that the country avoided decay and chaos; yet, it is also to them that we owe the many modern aberrations, occasional archaic ways, relapses of socialism and a planned economy, and many horrible incidents of lawlessness.

So in the fullest sense of the word, a symbolic figure of his age is gone – but his age has not yet ended.

Previous ArticleNext Article