Monday, July 18, 2005

Stalin's buildings

The first thing you notice about almost any city in Western Russia, is that aside from modern International-style construction, its buildings look like a cross between those of St. Petersburg & old Paris. Outside of Moscow, they are mostly falling apart, like everything else. But almost everywhere they are beautiful and touching, with everything done right, and often with great sensitivity to people's needs.

However, these buildings are modern. They were part of massive work-making building programs of Stalin's. They look 18th century, but many are from the 1950's. It's incredible, especially if you've spent any time tracking architecture in the rest of the world. It's as if an entire country is trying to fool you ... very successfully.

Of course, the Metro is a major example. Each station looks like a palace. But it is a metro station, so you know it's not very old ... this contradiction makes each trip on the Moscow Metro extremely surreal.

Stalin was a monster, but his construction people really knew their stuff. The horrible International style movement in the USSR, in the post-Stalin era, was obviously a reaction to Stalin, avoiding anything he would like ...

This avoidance is similar to the situation 10 years earlier, in post-WWII Europe, when people stopped building in the old manner, partly to escape association with the war, but partly to join the US-led new world order.

The good news is that these buildings are mostly protected in Russia (loopholes aside). The bad news is that, outside of Moscow, there's no money to maintain them.


Post a Comment

<< Home