Joseph Stalin is one of the most controversial figures in history. Stalin’s biography, shrouded in mystery and the subject of legend, is closely associated with that of Moscow, whose appearance greatly changed during his rule. The famous seven of Stalin’s high-rises, large avenues, the first, “Sokolnicheskaya”, line of Moscow Metro and Stalin’s air-raid shelter are some of this leader’s legacy, which is perfectly maintained and easily viewed by visitors.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE LEADER
Officially, Stalin was born on 21 December 1879. However, records at the Gori Church (Georgia), where the future Soviet leader was baptised, show his date of birth as 18 December 1878. Joseph Stalin was the son of Vissariaon Djugashvili, a cobbler, and Ekaterina Geladze, a woman of peasant origin. Stalin was a pseudonym he took in 1912 when he joined the Russian underground revolutionary movement. He enrolled at a seminary in his hometown of Gori, intending to pursue a career as a priest, but, starting from 1900, Joseph Djugashvili took interest in Marxism and engaged in revolutionary propagandist activity, which eventually got him expelled from the seminary. In 1917, already noted for his party activism, Stalin was appointed head of the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities and joined the Council of People’s Commissars headed by V. Lenin. After the Soviet government moved to Moscow in 1918, Stalin, along with other top officials, took up residence in the Grand Kremlin Palace.
In 1919, Stalin was appointed People’s Commissar for State Control, and later People’s Commissar of the ‘Rabkrin’, an abbreviation for the ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate’. The Commissariatcentral body of executive power in the Soviet Union had its headquarters in the Chernov House on Vorovsky StreetRussian: ulitsa Vorovskogo or улица Воровского (now, 11 Povarskaya StreetRussian: ulitsa Povarskaya or улица Поварская). In later years, this building housed the Soviet Writer Publishing House.
Another memorable site related to Stalin’s life in Moscow is the Talyzin House (5 Vozdvizhenka StreetRussian: ulitsa Vozdvizhenka or улица Воздвиженка). In the 1920s, this 18th century mansion housed the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and Stalin and his assistants had their offices here. The building has been home to the Shchusev Museum of Architecture since 1946.
In 1922, Stalin was elected as a member of the Political Bureau and of the Organisational Department of the Communist Party and took a key position in the USSR’s administrative system after he became the General Secretary of the Communist Party. He rose above his rivals within the party and put his supporters, including L. Kaganovich, K. Voroshilov, G. Malenkov, N. Khrushchev, into policy-making roles. Stalin’s authority and power became undisputable from the late 1920s onwards.
In 1934, the Bolshoi Theatre building in Moscow (1 Teatralnaya SquareRussian: Teatral`naya ploschad` or Театральная площадь) hosted, along with other congresses, the 17th Communist Party Congress which altogether suppressed opposition within the party. From this point onwards, all of Stalin’s opponents were repressed.
Stalin would often visit another Moscow theatre, the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre (3 Kamergersky LaneRussian: Kamergerskiy pereulok or Камергерский переулок). He went there more than once to watch Mikhail Bulgakov’s Days of the Turbins, a narration of the Russian Civil War.
From 1920 onwards, Stalin and his family (his second wife Nadezhda Alliluyeva, son Vasily and daughter Svetlana) lived in a suite located on the third floor of the Kremlin’s Amusement Palace, built in the 17th century for Tsar Alexis I’s father-in-law, boyara member of the highest rank of the feudal society in Russia Miloslavsky. Later, the family of the Soviet leader lived in Kremlin’s Building 6, a small 19th century two-storey house next to the Troitsky Gate. It was in this building that Nadezhda Alliluyeva committed suicide. On 7 November 1932, the entire Party elite gathered at Kliment Voroshilov’s home to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution. The event was also attended by Stalin and his wife. First-hand accounts report that the couple quarreled, and that Stalin told his wife: ‘Hey you, have a drink!’, to which Nadezhda replied: ‘Don’t you call me “hey”!’ and stormed out of the room. She returned home and shot herself. The circumstances of her death are still unclear.
The lying in state of Nadezhda Alliluyeva took place in the Upper Trading Rows on Red Square (now, the GUMan abbreviation of Russian: Главный универсальный магазин that means State Department Store building at 3 Red Square), where various Soviet government institutions and apartments of executive officials were then located. Legend has it that Stalin took a long look at his deceased wife and then pushed her coffin away with the words ‘She’s betrayed me!’ Stalin is said to have frequently visited her grave at the Novodevichy Cemetery (2 Luzhnetsky DriveRussian: Luzhnetskiy proyezd or Лужнецкий проезд).
During the 1930s, Stalin moved to the Kremlin Senate building. He lived there with his children – Yakov, Vasily and Svetlana. This building, erected by architect Matvey Kazakov in 1787 to house the Senate’s departments and the Court, still stands today, and you can get a view of it from Red Square. Its triangular configuration, its chaste, even austere, décor, and its classical dome, topped by the USSR flag in Stalin’s time, make it easily recognizable. Before Stalin moved there, the building had been renovated, with walls decorated with oak panels, floors covered with parquet, and bronze chandeliers installed in the ceilings. The building also included Stalin’s study, a conference hall, a dining room, a library and a small bedroom.
After his wife’s death, Stalin moved to a country house in the village of Volynskoye (Moscow, 1, Staromozhayskoye HighwayRussian: Staromozhayskoe shosse or Староможайское шоссе). This is where he died from a stroke on 5 March 1953. Today, this building is a top-secret government facility.
In 1953, Stalin’s body was embalmed and placed in the Mausoleum in the Red Square next to Lenin’s sarcophagus. A new “Lenin. Stalin” inscription was added to the Mausoleum. On the night of 31 October 1961, however, Stalin’s remains were reburied by the Kremlin Wall. The Soviet leader’s tomb is open to visitors daily, except Mondays and Fridays, from 10am to 1pm. Stalin’s bust by sculptor N. Tomsky was installed in 1970 along with other monuments to national and military leaders in the necropolis by the Kremlin Wall on the Red Square.
The first (‘Sokolnicheskaya’) line of the Moscow Metro was commissioned in the Stalin years. Tile panels, busts and mosaics depicting the leader decorate many stations, including Komsomolskaya, Arbatskaya, Baumanskaya, Kurskaya, and others. For instance, Arbatskaya station on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line features a giant tile panel right before the escalator leading to Vozdvizhenka Street. You will not see it, though, as it’s hidden under layers of whitewash. In the hall of Kurskaya Metro Station, you’ll find lines from the Soviet anthem honouring Stalin. A frieze below the ceiling in the station hall features an inscription which says: ‘And Stalin our leader with faith in the people, / Inspired us to build up the land that we love’.
Stalin personally visited Kirovskaya, Ploshchad Revolutsii, Mayakovskaya and Partizanskaya stations more than once. The General Staff even had its headquarters at Kirovskaya station (now, Chistye Prudy) throughout WWII. In the early years of the war, Stalin assumed military, political and administrative control of the country, and the station platform had workplaces arranged for military commanders, rooms for signal operators, and an office for the leader himself. Another of Stalin’s command post was located in Moscow’s Izmailovo District. This is why PartizanskayaPartisan station has not the usual two, but three rail tracks, the middle one leading to an underground shelter. This underground shelter, originally arranged for Stalin, still exists today and is open to visitors. It is in the ‘Generals’ roomhigh command room’, crafted in Karelian birch, that Stalin held his meetings; his bedroom was next door. Today, it houses a memorial complex known as the Emergency Command Post of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief ‘Stalin’s Bunker’ (a branch of the Museum of Armed Forces: 80 Sovetskaya StreetRussian: ulitsa Sovetskaya or улица Советская, Moscow, at Partizanskaya or Cherkizovskaya Metro Stations).
On 6 November 1941, Stalin took part in a meeting celebrating the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution. At that time, Moscow was under siege; German troops were aggressively making their way toward the city, and the authorities were getting ready to abandon the capital. Stalin arrived at the station by metro, and the meeting was held right on the platform. The next day, the troops of the Moscow Military District paraded on Red Square on Stalin’s orders, and following this, he delivered a speech from the Lenin Mausoleum’s tribune, which noticeably cheered the Moscow people. Legend has it that during the toughest time of the war – at the end of 1941 – he had an airplane fly over the besieged Moscow with an icon of the Mother of God. He also claimed to have had a personal encounter with Saint Matrona of MoscowSaint of Russian Orthodox Church. In 1943, Stalin authorized religious services in Moscow’s Orthodox churches.
Stalin is also known to have been greatly impressed by the design of Ploshchad RevolutsiiRevolution Square Metro Station. Once it opened, he personally came down to the platform to take a look at its décor and finishings and the remarkable sculptures by M. Manizer depicting revolutionary fighters and builders of communism. The station’s interiors have remained unchanged to this day.
Nikita Khrushchev’s exposure of Stalin’s repressions and personality at the 20th Party Congress of 1956 resulted in the destruction of a great many monuments to Stalin in Moscow. A monument to the former Soviet leader still stands on Krymskaya EmbankmentRussian: Kryimskaya naberezhnaya or Крымская набережная as part of the exhibition at MUZEON Museum (2 Krymsky ValRussian: Kryimskiy Val or Крымский Вал). Carved in beautiful pink granite forged by Sergey Merkurov, it was meant to tower over the Moscow Canal in the city of Dubna. A smaller copy of this monument was exhibited in 1939 at the New York World Fair. In 1991, the monument was relocated to MUZEON Art Park.
This monument to Stalin stands in front of a long stone wall carved with people’s faces supported by posts and a barbed wire net frame. This piece of work by sculptor Yevgeny Chubarov, surrounded by busts of other communist leaders, such as F. Dzerzhinsky, A. Gorky and Y. Sverdlov, is a memorial to victims of political repression. Another monument to victims of repressions, the ‘Solovetsky Kamen’, is located on Lubyanskaya SquareRussian: Lubyanskaya ploshchad` or Лубянская площадь. This huge rock was brought to Moscow from the former Solovki prison campThe largest in the USSR corrective labour camp on the territory of the Solovetsky Islands and installed opposite the Lubyanka Building, best known for housing the headquarters of the KGB, in 1990.
A collection of Socialist realism paintings exhibited in the nearby Tretyakov Gallery on Krymsky Val features pieces depicting Stalin. One of the best known paintings is Stalin and Voroshilov in the Kremlin by A. Gerasimov. Another Stalin monument stands in the courtyard of the main Tretyakov Gallery building (10 Lavrushinsky LaneRussian: Lavrushinskiy pereulok or Лаврушинский переулок). A bust of Stalin can also be seen in the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War (on Poklonnaya HillRussian: Poklonnaya gora or Поклонная гора) standing among other Soviet military commanders of the time.
The famous Seven Sisters – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Moscow State University, Ukraina Hotel, the high-rises at Red Gates, Komsomolskaya Square, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment and Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya Street – are the best-known architectural landmarks of the Stalinist era, designed in the so-called Stalinist Empire style. Many buildings were designed in the same style and built in Moscow in the 1930s–1950s on Mira AvenueRussian: prospekt Mira or проспект Мира, Kutuzovsky, Leninsky and Leningradsky Avenues, Tverskaya Street and other major thoroughfares.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com