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Muscovites, architects fight to save a Moscow landmark

MOSCOW -- Thousands of Muscovites and several top international architects have launched an unprecedented campaign to save an elegant steel tower that has loomed over Moscow's skyline since 1922.

The Russian communications ministry says it will dismantle and relocate the Shukhov tower, a masterpiece of design often compared to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But campaigners fear the tower will simply be demolished because it will be impossible to dismantle it and put it back together again.

It is the first time a campaign to save a historic building has received such a wide public following, not just from among architecture enthusiasts.

Government and city officials are set to meet campaigners for talks on the tower this week that may decide its future.

The campaign is not just about saving Moscow's crumbling early Soviet architecture, but also about people having a say in government decisions.

'Learn how to say no'

“We have to learn how to say no,” said Moscow resident Anna Chernobylskaya, holding a placard at a recent protest under the tower.

Vladimir Shukhov, a gifted engineer, built the tower to give Soviet Russia a strong radio signal. At 148 meters, it was Moscow's tallest structure until the 1960s.

The conical telescope-like design was built with each section lifted into place from the inside. Its slanted supports used the minimal amount of steel.

While often compared to the Eiffel Tower, its design is purely functional. “It's absolutely ascetic but at the same time very beautiful,” enthused Alexandra Selivanova, head of the Centre of the Avant-Garde at Moscow's Jewish Museum, who updates a Facebook page on the tower and has organized several protest events.

The Shukhov tower's owner, the communications ministry, says its poor, corroded condition means it must be dismantled, after which it could be rebuilt elsewhere, with proposals including moving it from its southern Moscow neighborhood to Sevastopol, Crimea's Black Sea fleet base and territory annexed last month from Ukraine.

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The Shukhov broadcasting tower is seen in Moscow on Friday, April 4. (AP)

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