Candor is a quirky thing. It has a way of showing up in places you expect it least. So it was yesterday when RIA Novosti covered General-Major Sergey Chvarkov’s meeting with members of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee.
Chvarkov is the relatively new head of the relatively new Main Directorate for Personnel Work. The new name replaced an old one — Main Directorate for Socialization Work, GUVR for short. Chvarkov and his charges are inheritors of the long tradition of zampolits and the Main Political Directorate.
According to Chvarkov, over the past year, military investigators have initiated 20 criminal cases involving the construction of thousands of unfinished and unwanted apartments intended for Defense Ministry servicemen. But he declined to give specific details about the cases.
Deputy Committee Chairman Nikolay Sidoryak, however, said at present there are 33,000 apartments in various regions which are unwanted by servicemen. He called this a “nightmarish figure.” He wants those who ordered these apartments and financed their construction brought to account. It’ll be interesting to see when or if this happens.
Early this year, a figure of only 20,000 was cited.
RIA Novosti gives a couple clipped Chvarkov phrases — the housing “isn’t fully ready,” and “a great number of refusals are happening.” Then:
“I’ve personally seen buildings which stand in an empty field with absolutely no infrastructure. Servicemen getting notifications that they’ve been granted housing go there, say the housing’s magnificent, good, but we don’t want to live there — we’re tired of garrisons.”
Committee Chairman Viktor Ozerov, for his part, says it’s all just a misunderstanding, and the Defense Ministry’s requirements for builders are just too tough.
RIA Novosti notes former Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy claimed nearly two years ago that apartment construction was following detailed information on where servicemen want to live.
It would be easy to see the military housing issue as all but over and done with if one listened only to official political or military pronouncements, but reality just keeps coming back. It smacks of a Soviet approach – fulfilling the plan and meeting the quota is what matters, how [i.e. quality] is secondary. It makes one ask if this is more broadly indicative of how other decisions and policies are implemented.
Now permanent military apartments are supposed to be provided in 2013 (three years later than Putin’s original deadline). And Putin himself said not long ago that there are only 77,000 apartments remaining to be built.
These unwanted apartments are exactly why some veterans have gone out for public demonstrations lately.
It’s been clear for some time that the Defense Ministry builds apartments where it wants to, not where former servicemen want to live. And it wants to build where it’s less expensive. Paperwork problems have kept half of new military apartments empty each year. And the problem of incomplete construction has also been around. Not much about this situation’s changed in recent years. But here’s one more recent article detailing the problems of permanent apartments built for the military.