Russian Orthodox Patriarch resides in $295 million ‘dacha’ next to Putin palace, oligarchs

Patriarch Kirill (Vladimir Gundyaev) depicted in this photo illustration.

March 3, 2021 Anno Domini
Translated from the Russian

Lately too much attention has been riveted on the Black Sea coast. After investigating the dacha of Vladimir Putin, journalists found several more interesting houses of the country’s top officials, located not far from each other. We were especially interested in the complex of the Russian Orthodox Moscow Patriarchate hidden in the woods, which magically turned into the personal dacha of Patriarch Kirill.

The editors figured out how the local authorities allowed, in fact, an illegal construction near Divnomorskoye, and why local environmentalists suffered.

The house that the patriarch built

A small house is lost among the forests in an array of unique Pitsunda pine trees and mountains. Its owner has been known for a long time—Patriarch Kirill. In fact, it is difficult to call ownership a “house”, because they amaze with their scale, high cost, and privacy. True, the residence is officially called a “spiritual center” where journalists and other invited persons can visit. But in reality, there is practically nothing spiritual in it: the building has turned into a personal dacha of the patriarch for 22 billion rubles, where he comes to rest several times a year.

The beginning of the construction of the “house” was discussed back in 2004. At the same time, an agreement was signed with the general contractor, Stroy Engineering SU-848. At the same time, representatives of Patriarch Alexy came to the locals, saying that he was planning to build a small dacha for himself. Sizes within 1.8 ha were discussed. Moreover, they also designated the construction conditions, according to which it was impossible to block the road along the coast and touch the land where medicinal pine grows. The Russian Orthodox Church assured that the tourist sites would remain intact.

Literally five years later, when Patriarch Kirill replaced Alexy, metamorphoses began to take place with a tidbit for a summer residence. Now it was planned to build a “Spiritual Center” of the Moscow Patriarchate there. Meetings with the heads of other Orthodox churches were to take place here. Even the local pro-government newspaper announced the solemn opening of the center by the Patriarch himself. They say that this is not a dacha, but an operating center that contains administrative and protocol buildings.

The chosen location turned out to be inconvenient for the locals. But for the patriarch himself, it was fortunate to have Oleg Deripaska, Gennady Timchenko and even Arkady Rotenberg himself as neighbors. Vladimir Putin was also the closest neighbor. There is even a path between the dachas of Patriarch Kirill and the President, which the locals call the “road of death”. Indeed, it is very easy to die, disappear or go to prison while in the vicinity of the patriarch’s palace. The territories themselves are guarded by FSO officers and do not allow anyone close to the property of the Holiness. Because of this, the locals have to bypass the palace along a busy road – for example, in 2013, a 5th year student, Vitaly, died under the wheels of a car.

Only now, instead of the promised “calmness”, Patriarch Kirill, who replaced him, began to gradually expand the borders ten times—up to 21 hectares. Moreover, they began to include the forbidden lands of the forest fund, a tourist trail and part of the local cemetery.

“The palace of Patriarch Kirill and the palace of Putin are two inseparable things. All the unique trees between these houses are now being cut. This is a story not only about their palaces, but also about the corruption of power. It’s just that all the phenomenal natural heritage of the country has been appropriated by a group of top officials of the country, ”says ecologist Sergei Menzheritsky to the editorial office.”

Despite the fame of the unofficial owner of the future house, the client of the project was the presidential administration. Therefore, the new general contractor was chosen from among the friendly and “proven” companies. According to the documents, which are at the disposal of the editorial board, they appointed “Putevi”. The work began almost immediately.

Outwardly, the patriarch’s house resembles a temple. Icons hang outside, and some parts of the roof look like church domes. And despite all the preaching of the patriarch about the dangers of wealth, he himself does not hesitate to once again surround himself with luxury. For example, among the purchased hectares, there are also vineyards, which were insolently “squeezed” from a local family.

“Earlier there was also a vineyard planted there by the road. The total area was small – 1 ha. It belonged to one family. But they took it away from them by involving the local administration and the courts, ”human rights activist Valeriy Semergei said in a conversation with Readovka.

Valery Semergey on how the local vineyards were taken away:

The most expensive, according to the plan of the territory at the disposal of Readovka, turned out to be the “House of the Patriarchy”. It cost almost 402 million rubles. Next, for the price, was the “Service House”, intended for staff and guests. Almost 80 million rubles were invested in it. The installation of fences flew into a lump sum, it cost the patriarch a “penny” 50 million rubles. The drainage system for the site cost several times less—9 million rubles.

Fight and blessing
The locals began to oppose the construction of the luxurious mansion of Patriarch Kirill in 2009. At the same time, at the request of residents, the leadership of the Gelendzhik Human Rights Center joined in. For several years, Vladimir Ivanov, Zufar Achilov, Gagik Avanesyan and Valery Semergey tried to fight against development on the Black Sea coast, until in 2012 criminal cases were opened against them. Local authorities accused human rights defenders of fraud and sentenced them to imprisonment for terms ranging from 9 to 13 years.

Among such active ecologists was Sergey Menzheritsky. He fought to reopen the historic Dzhanhot tourist trail *, which was blocked by a three-meter patriarchal fence. The question of the integrity of the road was raised back in 2004, but then the locals were assured that they would not touch it.

The Dzhankhot road was built 120 years ago by the local Cossack politician Fyodor Shcherbina. With its help, the townspeople traveled from Divnomorskoe to the old cemetery, enjoying the views of the Black Sea coast. But it was closed in the early 2000s.

It was Menzheritsky who responded to the local request for the restoration of justice. The ecologist first filed an application with Rospotrebnadzor in order to establish the fact of illegal blocking of the road, to which the department replied: “Yes, it is blocked.” True, the prosecutor’s office did not appreciate the zeal of colleagues and ruled that there “is a fence made of easily removable structures with a permanently open wicket for the purpose of free access of citizens to the water body.”

“Violations were established, but nothing was done. I sent a request to the prosecutor’s office, to which the department replied that there was an easily removable fence. I went with this paper to the house of the patriarch, but the guards stopped me and said that the blessing of the patriarch was in effect on this territory, and not the decree of the prosecutor’s office, ”ecologist Sergei Menzheritsky said in a conversation with the editorial office.

Moreover, once the ecologist tried to organize a hike for the locals along the historical tourist routes. He was intimidated by police officers and threatened with prison. As a result, the event took place, only in the security company, which was walking behind his back and referred to the fact that he did not have a blessing from Kirill.

Before the construction of the patriarch’s summer cottage, a road ran along the picturesque coast, which was “safely” blocked. Together with ecologists, the locals wrote in order to safely move along the coastal strip (according to the Water Code, this is 20 meters). The department said that the coastal strip in this case is a steep cliff slope. When Menzheritsky asked how to walk on it, he was advised to use climbing equipment.

Visitors to the local cemetery did not receive the same blessing. His patriarch also blocked and forced the locals to bypass the highway. Some even complained that they were forbidden to hold a loud funeral during Gundyaev’s arrival.

Others were even less fortunate. By an unfortunate accident, next to the dacha of Patriarch Kirill there is a sanatorium “Golubaya Dal”. It is used for disabled children with cerebral palsy. Places there are fertile. For example, on the Black Sea coast there is a pine forest of Pitsunda. All such trees in the world are about 1200 hectares, and 1000 of them are in Russia. The sea is close by, so children are often brought to those places for recovery. But with the arrival of Kirill, everything changes—the pine trees begin to be cut down, and the part of the sanatorium, overlooking his dacha, is closed and resettled.

“When Patriarch Kirill came there, it created gigantic problems for local residents and vacationers at the Golubaya Dal sanatorium. There was also an order to evict all rooms that overlook the patriarch’s residence. They also bypassed all the cafes on the embankment so that the music would be turned off there, ”Sergei Menzheritskiy is indignant.

Kirill’s lordship
74-year-old Patriarch Kirill (aka Vladimir Gundyaev) has always loved to live a luxurious and beautiful life. Only now I never wanted to admit it. For example, not so long ago, he said that all the news about his wealth published in the media is a lie.

“When you read the most terrible things about the patriarch, about bishops, about priests, remember that there is usually not even a drop of truth, but all this is aimed at discrediting those who proclaim the truth of God so that the people stop listening to them. and trust,” Kirill replies with displeasure.

But this is not the case. According to unofficial data, the property of the “golden” patriarch exceeded almost 740 million rubles. The list of his assets includes not only expensive cars, gifts from wealthy visitors, but also houses of different beauty and high cost. For example, the patriarch owns a five-room apartment on Serafimovich Street right in the very center of Moscow. It is noteworthy that the house is located right on the waterfront near the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Apparently, in this way our patriarch saves the time he spends getting to work. Only with the price of the apartment itself it was not possible to save money—its estimated cost is 90 million rubles. This apartment, according to the documents, belongs to the patriarch himself. Everything else is the property of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Kirill also has several houses on the embankment, Rublevka, in Trinity-Lykovo, and even in the center of the pilgrimage Solovki. Moreover, he managed to acquire chambers in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra and a residence in the Danilov Monastery and Valaam.

The patriarch’s vehicle fleet is also impressive. He not only does not limit himself to one car, buying up various elite SUVs, but also does it on a special scale. For example, he owns a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Pullman worth over $500,000. Also in his fleet, there is a more modest Toyota Land Cruiser (cost over 4 million rubles) and a Cadillac Escalade in the same price category. The patriarch also owns a limousine and a Soviet car “Pobeda” worth almost 2 million rubles.

The construction of the palace of Patriarch Kirill became not only a problem for the locals, but also a major environmental disaster. To build another palace on the Black Sea coast, they cut down several hectares of Pitsunda pine and blocked the passage to the local cemetery. In fact, the center functions for one person and delivers a huge amount of inconvenience when the patriarch himself visits it. Everyone suffers: “Golubaya Dal”, disabled children, fishermen, cafe owners, locals who cannot get to the cemetery, tourists.


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