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  • Soviet Legal Documents on the Preservation of Monuments
  • Jean-Louis Cohen

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Gosprom Building, Kharov, Ukraine; Sergei Serafimov, Mark Felger, and Samuil Kravets, architects, 1929. Photograph by Richard Pare.

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Between 1917—or rather 1922, the date of the creation of the USSR—and its dissolution in 1991, Soviet society was characterized by a steady production of legal literature. The generous principles on which the laws and regulations were based were often undermined by the everyday exercise of the Party's leadership power. In this perspective, the following texts should be considered as a legal façade behind which contradictory procedures were followed by the central and local public authorities, to which the organs of preservation and restoration were subordinated.

The first text presented here was promulgated in 1948, in the aftermath of the Second World War's unprecedented destruction. The detailed description of the architectural monuments to be identified and protected reflects the feeling of loss resulting from war damage. Also, the wide spectrum of programs is an index of Joseph Stalin's wartime policy of reconciliation with the emblems of national identity, including churches, in contrast to the "revolutionary vandalism" of the 1920s and 1930s, when thousands of monuments were razed.

The second text dates from a quarter century later and is strikingly more sectarian in its description of monuments to be protected, focusing on their political and ideological value, and insisting on their contribution to the education of the people. At the same time, the range of disciplines concerned is enlarged. In contrast with the earlier legislation, the focus of preservation is widened to include urban zones and protected landscape.

The interpretation of both texts should take into account the other aspects of the situation during the Soviet regime: the scarcity of resources allocated to restoration of buildings not considered as the premier objects representing the nation or major tourism magnets, and also the limited number of specialists and craftsmen trained to complete professional restoration. [End Page 63]

  • The USSR's 1948 Instructions for the Identification, Registration, Maintenance, and Restoration of Architectural Monuments under State Protection
  • Translated by Richard Anderson


The present instructions have been compiled on the basis of paragraph five of the decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR from 14 October 1948 in approval of law number 3898, "On the improvement of the protection of cultural monuments," extending the appurtenant "Decree on the protection of cultural monuments."

The aim of these instructions is to establish procedures for the identification and cataloging of architectural monuments and the rules for their maintenance—i.e., the provisions for the maintenance, use, repair, and restoration of architectural monuments.

The fulfillment of the policies described herein is obligatory for all organs of the Committee of Architectural Affairs of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, which is responsible for the identification, cataloging, registration, and application for approval of a list of architectural monuments to be placed under state protection, as well as the direction and regulation of the use, repair, and restoration of architectural monuments. These policies are also binding in the planning and construction of cities; for all architectural, scientific, and expert councils; and for chief architects of cities and local executive committees of the Council of Workers' Deputies.

Observance of the policies described herein is obligatory for all institutions, enterprises, and organizations—regardless of bureaucratic hierarchy—as well as for individuals who direct or use architectural monuments that are under state protection.

Section I: Identification, Registration, and Documentation of Architectural Monuments

1. General Regulations

  1. 1. Architectural monuments located on the territory of the USSR having scientific, artistic, or historical value are in violable national property and are under state protection.

    Architectural monuments include complete buildings as well as damaged buildings, ruins, and parts of ancient buildings that have been incorporated into later structures. [End Page 64]

  2. 2. Architectural monuments may be:

    1. A. Freestanding monuments

      1. a. Civic buildings: palaces, castles, theaters, barracks, guardhouses, universities, hospitals, shopping arcades, schools, and other public buildings; country estates, urban residences, peasant izbas, barns, mills, wells, bridges, embankments, walls, summer houses, etc.;

      2. b. Religious buildings: cathedrals, churches, bell towers, belfries...


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