Take your things and go

 The beginning of the end for the biggest flea market (Barakholka) in Siberia  10/22/2012, 07:03
Take your things and go
Photos by Roman Brygin

There are two months to go until the Gusinobrodsky Market, home to tens of thousands of traders, starts its big move. However, neither the municipality nor the regional government have announced where exactly it’s going, apart from «beyond the city limits». While the new market is being built from the ground up, the existing one can continue working, but will be known as a «trade fair». This is the result of three attempts to reform Siberia’s largest flea market over a memorable decade, which has seen high-profile killings, threats against the authorities and enormous profits. Sib.fm’s correspondent remembers how it all started and who was responsible for the market and the rows surrounding it.

On 6th September 2012 the future of Gusinobrodsky Market was troubling Vasily Yurchenko, Governor of the Novosibirsk Region. More precisely, he was worried about the «legitimate working procedure» of the people who are engaged in market trading there. It emerged that from 1st January 2013, federal law requires markets in big cities to be located exclusively in permanent, covered structures.

5 thousand containers are currently situated on the territory of Gusinobrodsky Market

Yurchenko gave the order to prepare an action plan and stated the need for a «modern and comfortable market complex, which meets all the requirements of the law». In turn, the mayor of Novosibirsk, Vladimir Gorodetsky, reminded him that the five-year plan «Concept for the development of Gusinobrodsky Market», developed in 2002, also suggested putting the flea market under a roof. However, the area now occupied by market stalls is the planned site of a new depot for the city’s underground trains. Therefore, the comfortable and modern complex will have to be built somewhere else. The mayor admitted that it will probably be outside the city, considering the imposing size of the market.

The Mayor’s Office promised to submit its proposals to the Regional Ministry of Industry, Trade and Business Development within two weeks. After this period had elapsed, the press offices of both the senders and recipients perplexedly informed Sib.fm’s correspondent that they could not help and were unable to confirm the presence or absence of initiatives from the authorities.

There are still no workable options for the move.

It is noteworthy that the authorities are unable to disclose not only the future location of the market and its reopening date, but also a new source of the 370 million roubles ($12m) in the city budget which is received annually for renting out the municipal property. This isn’t a stratospheric amount of money for the metropolis, but it is the exact sum which was allocated for the modernisation of public infrastructure in the Novosibirsk Region in 2012.

All gradually broken down

The Mayor’s Office started the reorganisation of «Gusinka» in 2001, more than 10 years ago. They admitted that every year they receive tens, if not hundreds of millions of roubles less than they are owed by market operators.

«Until 2000, the ‘Barakholka’ contributed just a few million to the city budget, about as much as any kiosk or pavilion. In other words, next to nothing. Although, according to experts, the flea market’s annual turnover reached tens of billions of roubles,» says Novosibirsk City Council Member Aleksandr Lyulko, then Head of the Municipal Property and Economic Development Commission. «Nothing was under control; everyone was afraid of even getting close to the Gusinobrodsky Market. It’s no secret that the Barakholka was a strong source of money for criminals, who were ‘protecting’ literally every trader.»

Officials stated that the Mayor’s Office had two targets: a manifold increase in municipal income and the suppression of organised criminal gangs, who had divided the market into zones of influence.

238 million roubles were invested in the modernisation of retail markets by the Novosibirsk Regional Government in 2011

City authorities planned to abolish the Municipal Unitary Company «Merchandise Market» and use it to create a public enterprise, «Gusinobrodskoe»; 70% of shares in the new company would go to the municipality and the rest would be sold at auction.

Reorganisation would give the market more opportunities for economic activity — from the organisation of management to making a profit. Mayor Gorodetsky even signed an order to shut down the company, but several days later this was blocked by the Court of Arbitration. Nikolai Zubyekhin, Director of «Merchandise Market» and Member of the Regional Parliament, also opposed the closing down.

«The Mayor’s Office wanted to change the management of Merchandise Market because they considered the then director to be ineffective. In many ways, the company was shut down because it would have been difficult to dismiss the director in any other way,» added Lyulko.

The reform plans suggested shifting street trading from containers into covered shopping centres. To this effect, the car market was moved from Gusinobrodskoe Road to the Kirov District and construction of pavilions began on the vacated site.

According to the media, the cost per square metre in the pavilion built by the city at Gusinobrodsky Market was comparable to the price of luxury housing

In total, authorities intended to build more than 30 pavilions, with the first funded solely from the city budget. The first one ended up being the last: no money was found for the second building and businessmen responded reluctantly to the administration’s proposals, to put it mildly.

«The Mayor’s Office practically obliged traders to remove their containers, explaining that they interfere with the construction of civilised pavilions. They also promised container owners retail space in the future pavilions proportional to the amount of containers they had. In fact, the idea was to change cash flow in the municipality’s favour,» stated the council member.

On 7th August, three days after the Court of Arbitration’s decision, unidentified assailants shot at the car of Novosibirsk’s Vice-Mayor Igor Belyakov, who died on the spot after a point-blank shot to the head.

According to the media, someone wanted to make it clear to Gorodetsky that the market should be left alone.

«Belyakov, Head of the Consumer Market and Land Relations Department, was quite a bold man, reckless even. By 2003, the municipality should have been receiving at least 100 million roubles ($3.2m), by 2007 — 300 million roubles ($9.6m). In fact, this money was supposed to have been confiscated from criminals and allocated to targeted social programmes,» remembers Lyulko. «I must say, at that time we started to build children’s playgrounds and repair the roads inside courtyards just because of the extra money which we’d got from the Barakholka. In my neighbourhood this money helped to build a storm drain from the railway station ‘Novosibirsk West’ to the Betonka neighbourhood.»

After the vice-mayor’s death, Aleksandr Soinov, Head of the Regional Internal Affairs Directorate announced that the possible link between the murder and the official’s professional activity «is not a priority for the investigation».

The case was considered a «murder over a domestic dispute». The person who ordered the assassination wasn’t found, the perpetrator got 14 years.

In mid-December, Mikhail Trishin, the deputy director of Merchandise Market went missing. His body was found several days later in the countryside, reported the newspaper «Evening Novosibirsk» on 19th December.

Nine months later, in August 2002, city council member Anatoly Karpunin, who sat on the «Gusinobrodsky Flea Market» Board of Directors and supervised the progress of reforms, was murdered.

«If we manage to implement the reform in its entirety» Valery Maryasov, Belyakov’s replacement as vice-mayor, said to Evening Novosibirsk journalists, «the state would get about one billion roubles ($32.5m) of net income and capital investments will be repaid in just two years.»

Maryasov was killed in March 2004. The crime is still unsolved.

in 2003 unknown criminals burnt Frunzik Khachatryan’s Jeep Grand Cherokee

«The municipal market is 16 hectares of land. At that time, the mayor’s office wanted to group all the markets together in one municipal lot and sell them profitably. To people from Moscow, for example. A lot of owners didn’t like it, but one way or another they were all gradually broken down. By the mayor, gangs, the police. Maryasov and Belyakov were just following orders when they became victims of this shootout,» Frunzik Khachatryan, leader of the Armenian Cultural Society and owner of one of the Barakholka’s markets, told Sib.fm’s correspondent.

Patch on the road

The reform plans for the Gusinobrodsky Market were worked out up to 2007. By that time, according to the council members’ calculations, the flea market should have contributed more than 300 million roubles to the local budget, but such a level of performance has only been reached in recent years.

«The real results of the reforms are the huge increase of revenues in the city budget and the transfer of the car market,» states Alexander Lyulko. «The rest — the relocation of trade into covered premises and the construction of dozens of pavilions — wasn’t put into practice. The market isn’t any more civilised. Only one pavilion was built and it wasn’t a success.»

On 5th October, the Mayor of Novosibirsk announced the preliminary relocation options for Siberia’s largest flea market. In his view, the best solution would be to provide market operators with land to develop new shopping complexes, so that their «redeployment» would occur gradually. For example, in the area between the exit from the city and Pashino village.

Until 2005, electric suburban trains ran between Novosibirsk Main Station and Pashino

«The mayor didn’t propose moving the Barakholka to Pashino. That’s your interpretation, journalists’ speculations. The mayor just recalled that this patch on the road towards Pashino was once considered as a possible site for a wholesale or regional market of consumer goods. No, there’s no reason to move the existing flea market there. At any rate, don’t expect such a decision in the near future,» Igor Salov, Chairman of the Novosibirsk City Council Commission on Scientific Production and Business Development, told Sib.fm.

When mentioning the patch of land, the mayor admitted that it will take at least two or three years to build a new trade centre capable of accommodating all of Gusinka’s traders, during which the market will be able to continue in the form of a trade fair.

«The procedure is as follows: interested parties can propose their plan to organise a trade fair to the Mayor’s Office. This should be agreed with the regulatory agencies — the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the fire brigade, the health inspection service and the traffic police. If the Consumer Market Board deems the staging of a trade fair on a section of the market appropriate, then trading on that site can be resumed. A trade fair can last up to 6 months, and then the approval procedure will have to be repeated,» explained Salov.

According to his estimates, the number of traders will decrease to at least a half of its former amount as a result of the Barakholka’s transition to the trade fair format.

«Honestly, I don’t know why it’s still there,» says a perplexed council member Lyulko. «In Soviet times it really was possible to get hold of things there which weren’t in the shops, and at a low price. But now, you can buy the same things for the same price in civilised retail chains. Who really needs it? We could just leave it alone, it would close itself.»

 This publication has been translated by experts from "Monoton" translation agency.
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