Although the Soviet Union fell nearly 20 years ago, symbols of the regime still remain throughout the former USSR. This hammer and sickle adorns the Russian State Duma (the lower house of the federal legislature) building in Moscow. This building formerly housed Gosplan (State Planning Committee), the agency responsible for economic planning in the Soviet Union, which included the infamous five-year plans.
When the Soviet Union fell, the symbols of that regime – the innumerable statues of Marx, Engels, and Lenin – were brought down as well. Many were melted down, demolished, or sold to wealthy Westerners who installed them in American casinos. Some of these statues still survive throughout the former Soviet Union, however, either in the town squares of small towns or places like Fallen Monument Park in Moscow, which houses a large collection of old Soviet statues, including this one of Stalin. I don’t know how Stalin lost his nose here, but I’d like to imagine that it was the result of a large sledgehammer wielded by an average Soviet citizen.
Taken with a film camera (remember film?) back in July 2003, when I was studying in Moscow. In the Russian language, “Kreml” (Kremlin) means “fortress”. All ancient Russian cities had a kremlin at their center. The Moscow Kremlin served as the seat of government for the Tsars of Russia until Peter the Great transferred the capital to St. Petersburg. In March 1918, the Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow, and since then the Kremlin has remained the center of power.
In Teatralnaya Square, directly across the street from the Bolshoi Theatre stands Moscow’s last remaining monument to Karl Marx, which was erected in 1961. The inscription reads “Proletariat of all countries, solidarity!” (aka “Workers of the world, unite!”) While the Communist Party still occasionally rallies around the monument, some have suggested replacing the monument with, among other things, a bronze statue of Vladimir Putin.
This is the Nikolskaya Tower (Russian: Никольская башня) which is situated on the eastern wall of the Moscow Kremlin. It was originally built in in 1491, rebuilt in 1806, and restored in 1816 after the top of the tower was blown up by the retreating French army in 1812. The towers were originally topped by gilded two-headed eagles that symbolized Tsarist Russia, however these were replaced by red stars representing the Soviet Union in 1935.
Russia, unfortunately, is not a country that you can jet off to for last minute holidays. Trips there require advance notice, as you must acquire a visa from your nearest Russian embassy or consulate. A trip to Russia is well worth the time and money, however, and remains one of my favorite places that I have visited in my eight years of international travels.
Designed in 1937 by Vera Mukhina, the “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” is a 78 foot high stainless steel sculpture that crowned the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. The sculpture currently resides at VDNKH in Moscow and is one of my favorite examples of socialist realism. This photo was
taken in 2003 while the sculpture was undergoing restoration.
The Bibi-Heybat Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, undergoing renovation in 2006. The original mosque was built in the 13th century and destroyed by the Bolsheviks in the 1930s during an anti-religious campaign. This new mosque was built in the same site in the 1990s, following Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union.
“We won the war … foreigners will come to Moscow, walk around, and there’s no skyscrapers. If they compare Moscow to capitalist cities, it’s a moral blow to us”. – Josef Stalin
Back in the summer of 2003 I took Russian language courses at Moscow State University’s Center for International Education. Unfortunately, our classes weren’t held on the main university campus, but we did visit it occasionally to use the computer labs and play basketball. The main building that dominates the campus is one of the original “Seven Sisters” skyscrapers that Stalin ordered built in Moscow. It was constructed in the early 1950s by thousands of prisoners, most of whom were captured German POWs. This was the tallest building in Europe until 1990, and remains the tallest educational building in the world.