"Reconstruction of Moscow by Stalin and
Yoshiro Ikeda (Nigata University of International and Information Studies)
In Moscow City Museum, the reprinted postcards of healthy young boys
and girls playing in Gorky Park originally issued in the 1950's are
displayed for sale. The picture provides images of "vital energy" and "improvement".
This is one of the examples of domestic revaluation of the Stalinist
Russia, instead of considering it as merely a dark age.
Joseph Stalin established his regime in the 1930's, and started reconstruction
of Moscow as the capital for "new culture", socialism. Architecture
and designs at the time of reconstruction were not forced to be realized
by the directive board, but were mixed representation of the wills
of architects, artists and people. Vladimir Paperny described the relationship
between Russian politics and culture by classifying into "Culture
1" and "Culture 2". "Culture 1" covers liberal
ages, where buildings were built horizontally based on the ideal of
equality. This culture tends to deny histories and traditions and can
be called as "fire" culture because it wishes to burn pasts.
Stalin-era is classified as "Culture 2" Where vertical direction
was emphasized, such as hierarchy, high-rise buildings, escalators,
etc. Although Stalin-era was considered to be repressive, it was also
required to reintegrate and reconstruct the city after deconstruction
based on the concepts, "construction", "vital energy" and "improvement".
Furthermore, "water" was also important as the base of being,
therefore many canals and waterworks were built. I will focus on the
following themes: Moscow-Volga Canal, Moscow as water city and parks
for culture and rest.
In contrast to the dark images of Stalin-era, such as purges and political
trials, urban reconstruction in the 1930's developed urbanization and
made popular cultures flourished. Many guides on canal cruising and
parks were issued. "Evening Moscow" of the 1930's picked
up recreation and popular culture. The film of Medvedkin, "New
Moscow", Showed changes of Moscow as well as new visions of new
city. Although the film was not screened because of control by Communist
Party, it proved expectation from various artists for renovation of
The construction of canal linking the Moscow River and Volga River
was one of the major projects. The canal was expected to improve the
water supply for Moscow, to raise the water level of the Moscow River,
and to improve water transportation. The completed canal provides us
the image of "conquer". However, when analyzing ideas and
symbolic systems of canal, the role of canal or water began to expand
by the construction of Moscow-Volga canal, among "self recognition" and "political
language" of Stalin regime. The relationship between rivers and
human as a symbol of nation, was reviewed for the first time since
the opening of Moscow-Volga canal. Canals including planned one, would
link "five seas (Beloe More, Baltic Sea, Sea of Azov, Caspian
Sea, and Black Sea)" to "make Moscow heart of system".
Canals are important not only as an accomplishment of the regime, but
also for historical consciousness and self awareness of the regime.
The statues of Stalin were built at the inlet of the Moscow River
and terminal station. The largest diesel ship at that time was named "Josef
Stalin". Stalin and canal were closely linked each other. The
North River Station had a shape of diesel ship; Many statues named "ship
and human body", "water and health", etc. were built
along waterfront, and ornament of ship of Columbus was built on a lock.
As described above, waterfront space was visually improved with many
decorations. To provide recreation and to build healthy bodies of citizens,
water storage ponds and swimming beaches were provided, excursion and
tourism were actively held, etc.
Because Moscow was constructed centered around the Moscow River, the
river regulated the urban renovation design of Stalin. "Basic
Plan of Renovation of Moscow" (July, 1935) defined that "river
shall become a mainline of the city"; river banks "will provide
most comfortable living areas within the city, therefore other than
buildings for living and public shall not be built". Living spaces
for common people were destroyed or transformed, to be reallocated
to privileged class, or to ministry and commercial buildings; hierarchical
social order and river banks were connected. River banks were improved
by granite pavement, etc., to be opened to people. Along with the opening
of canals, bridges were rebuilt, which would compose parade spaces,
as main streets connecting city core and surrounding areas. The waterfronts
were renovated, surely opened to citizens.
On the opposite side of the Moscow River, collecting lines were built
to prevent flood. Tributary Yauza was also improved to allow larger
ships could navigate. Moscow-Volga canal developed water transportation.
In 1931, smaller ships started regular service. In 1932, steamship
company was established. Many photos and figures of river banks could
be seen on papers at the time. Water transportation was recommended
for recreation and pleasure, for the health of citizens. It was evident
that living and rest were closely linked with the Moscow River, through
the number of passengers and ships utilized.
At the Stalin regime, high culture and rest for people was considered
to be essential; therefore waterworks and attraction facilities, "Gorky
Central Park of Culture and Rest" and its promenades were built.
Lenin Hills along the Moscow River was included in this large park.
Boats floated on the river provided recreation for the park. An island
among a big bog was used as a stage, with natural decoration of woods.
Rivers, hills and nature were well coordinated within the park. Furthermore,
waterfront, culture and human bodies were closely connected.
As described above, the government as well as citizens of Moscow in
the 1930's valued waterfront spaces. The importance of waterfront spaces
in Moscow has been always recognized, which might reach its peak in
the Stalin regime.
Buildings along Moscow-Volga Canal.]
of Moscow-Volga Canal (Ship-shaped)]
Excursion Guide of Moscow River (1990)]
Gorky Park (facing Moscow River)]
Winter Sports in Gorky Park]