Destiny of the Russian Country Estate

Among all historical monuments of Russian architecture apart stand the country estates – the symbol of Russian soul and culture. Emblem of the Russian country estate is inseparably linked with destiny of such great people as A. S. Pushkin, L. N. Tolstoy, N. A. Nekrasov and many other Russian figures of culture and art. Therefore the preservation and restoration of the country estate complexes of bygone ages are on a par with the protection of historic architectural ensembles of Russian cities.

Russian country estate through ages

During a long history of its existence, the Russian country estate evolved from purely economic purpose in the XVII century to the place of recreation and entertainments of noble society in the XVIII–XIX centuries. In the XVIII the largest country residences around Moscow and St. Petersburg begin to appear, the country estate ensembles with regular parks, artificial ponds and fountains are created. Many Russian estates were built by the particular designs of famous architects. In the provincial estates one could see gardens with exotic plants, collection furniture, objects of fine and applied arts.

Since the beginning of the XX century the country estate began to assume more prosaic significance as a country house, where of urban residents generally spent the summer time. After the October Revolution of 1917, practically all Russian noble estates were left by the owners, most of them were plundered and later desolated. In a number of outstanding estates during the years of Soviet power the museums were created (Arkhangelskoye, Kuskovo, Ostankino – in Moscow and Moscow region), including a memorial museums (Yasnaya Polyana in Tula region, Karabikha near Yaroslavl’). During Soviet period in the most of the remaining estates were situated tubercular, psychiatric hospitals, military institutions, institutes worked for defense industry.

Before the revolution in Russia there were about 40,000 country estates in different regions of Russia. After all the wars of the XX century, restructuring and economic crises only a tenth part of the country estates preserved. Year after year a number of the old Russian estates having been decreased. Of all of the complexes less than 10% are of commercial interest, the rest are in an emergency condition or ruined.

To date, the buildings of the XVII century, the buildings of Peter the Great epoch, the manor houses of the XVIII century, noble estates are almost completely removed from the housing stock, recognized as architectural monuments and used by the state as premises for offices, embassies and representative offices of foreign countries or are desolated. Of greatest interest for investors are still remained the country estate buildings located within the limits of cities after their expansion, which increased the possibility of their further use.

We will help with all we are able to do
Sale of the historical country estate complexes and lease rights to them are regulated by the federal law of 25th June, 2002 N 73-FZ “On the objects of cultural heritage (historical and cultural monuments) of peoples of the Russian Federation”.
Having rented a historical object, the investor together with the rights and restoration obligations gets also appropriate restrictions, which are governed by protective legislation. Typically a lease contract or investment contract are accompanied by another document – conservation obligation, specifying the actions that one can and can not carry out with reference to the object of real estate. The reconstruction project should be coordinated with the officials, the investor is prohibited to construct on land adjoining the new objects besides reconstruction of lost parts of the complex, after carrying out a restoration of the monument the tenant must provide the groups of sightseers with a free access on its territory.

Adopted in 2013 by the Government of Moscow Region Resolution on Preferential Rent of Historical Buildings under the “one ruble per square meter” program helps to attract both Russian and foreign investors. The cost of renting the monument during the period of restoration is fixed at auction. All this time the tenant must at his own expense restore the building, after the completion of which gets the right to pay the rent at the rate of 1 ruble. The country estate of the merchants Aigins in the village of Talitsy of Pushkinsky District of Moscow Region became the first object, granted on lease by Moscow Region authorities to the investor under the program “one ruble per square meter” for the period of 49 years. Later the given Resolution has been used in other regions of the country when renting and restoring the monuments of history and culture. Often the country estates in very poor, sometimes in ruined condition are offered for sale at auctions under the “Rent for One Ruble” program.

To date the tenant right to the old country estate complexes are sold at auctions. Such auctions are held not very often. In St. Petersburg for the last time the historical country estate of Samoylova near Pavlovsk was sold to a private person at the auction of the Property Fund in 2012. After renovation it is planned to place there a hotel. In a like manner the manor of Orlovs-Denisovs in Kolomyagi was sold in 2011.
Market participants believe that in order to increase the attractiveness of historical monuments, including the country estate complexes, as the objects of financial investments a new law on charity, which will allowing charities, transferring funds for the restoration of national monuments of history and architecture, to receive tax benefits is required. Also for the reconstruction of some historical complexes it may be required to engage in as sponsors the family, whose ancestors were the owners of the country estates in Russia. So for 20 years the descendant of the Decembrist Muraviev-Apostol, who lives in Brazil, invested money in the restoration of ancestral estate on the Staraya Basmannaya Street. Now it's the House of Ceremonies, where auctions, exhibitions and commemorative events are held. But this is the only example of such participation in the destiny of the Russian country estates.

Prospects of use
Niche occupied by the country estate complexes in the commercial real estate market is quite risky from the point of view of investments. Banks finance only those projects where it is easy to calculate the economic benefits and risks. In the case of the country estate complexes calculations may be inaccurate due to many hidden characteristics of damages of particular buildings. This fact prevents the extension of funding sources, including credit. However, it should be noted that the high risks usually characterize a significant return on investments. The current situation in the market has a positive influence on the prospects of investment in historical objects due to decrease in value of the country estate complexes under the circumstances of decline in of the Ruble and reduction of prices of construction materials.

Depending on the ageing of structures and necessity to restore the landscape ensemble the investment volume can range from 2 to 3 thousand dollars per square meter of building. Payback is quite difficult to predict. Taking into account the use of the country estate for the commercial project (hotel, exhibition hall, etc.), it can be repaid just as not earlier than 10 years, so quickly enough for 2–3 years. The payback period depends on the type of the project and the volume of investment in the restoration of the country estate.
Profitability of the country estate complex may be lower than the return on investments in modern shopping and hotel complexes. However, restoration of historical buildings can be more effective and long-term investment than the quick construction of a modern building, which in a few years will require a serious modification.

Options of use
The country estates are part of the history and culture of the country. An important task is not only to preserve, but also to use them in the most effective way. The historical country estate in Russia can be purchased for social, cultural, educational, administrative, business hotel and recreational purposes. The acquisition of such an object for private housing is almost impossible.
All around the world the historic country buildings used for:
- tourist and recreational objects;
- cultural institutions;
- administrative institutions;
- health care institutions;
- educational institutions;
- industrial and economic objects.
During the past 30 years in Europe appeared and became accepted such specialization in the field of state administration as a “heritage management”, whose task is to create a competitive development and tourism products, working-out and carrying out of regeneration projects with preservation of authentic monuments and ordinary historical buildings, as well as taking into account the interests of local residents and business. Another essential feature of the system for the protection and regeneration of heritage in the developed countries is the significant role of non-commercial public organizations. In Europe there are many forms of work with monuments.

There are national trusts as, for example, English Heritage and the National Trust in the UK. They finance the maintenance of particular objects, own and transferred to be managed, organize projects in the field of theme tourism, providing financial assistance and advisory support to organizations and individuals owning monuments. Such organizations exist at the expense of membership fees, donations, own income from various activities, government grants, organization of the work of volunteers.
Most unusual types of use of historic country estates in Europe are the entertainment park, offices and a prison. To date the most famous historic country estate in Europe is Highclere Castle in the county of Berkshire, United Kingdom – lineal housing of Caernarfon family since 1679, the owners of which have made their own trust of this estate and begun to rent it for shooting, for example, of such popular series as “Downton Abbey”. In addition, the castle is used for guiding tours and carrying out spectacular wedding ceremonies.
The museum-estates in the countryside of Russia perform a specific function. On their base different festivals, cultural events are carried out, training courses are created sightseeing programs are executed. The other trend is the continuation of educational traditions usual for a given region or a particular object of heritage. For example, the revival of training in local trades and crafts, traditions of gardening and cattle farming, lecturing.
The existing restored country estate complexes in Russia in most cases are used for museum and other cultural and educational purposes. Sometimes the country estates are transformed into hotels and country clubs. These hotels are working in Smolensk Region (the Lafer country estate) in Karelia (Ladozhskaya country estate), the Perm’ Region (the country estate of Svedomskiye estate) and so on. But not all of them restored and modernized.

The ASG Investment Group of the Companies from Kazan’, rented three country estates situated near Moscow – estate of Aiginyns in the Pushkinsky District, estate Cherkizovo in the Kolomna District and estate Pushchino-on-Nara in Serpukhov District, going to develop tourism in all its objects. All the company's projects are still under reconstruction. The company Konkor, which restored a historical mansion Belyustina in Kalyazin (Tver’ Region), at the moment carry out the restoration of the country estate of Glebovs-Streshnevs with the name of Znamenskoye Raek near Torzhok (also Tver’ region). Now in one of the restored outbuildings there is a mini-boutique hotel. Works are expected to be completed by 2015 and to turn the estate into a hotel of the highest class.
Moscow Region Government plans to continue the restoration of the historical and cultural heritage with the help of interested investors. Seven historical country estate complexes with large land plots were handed over to the Auction House of the Russian Federation for following sale at auction. Thus the well-known Russian country estates will find a second life.