Soviet Disneyland (VDNKh)

28 Oct 2016

If there were such thing as a Soviet Disneyland, Moscow’s VDNKh (pronounced VDN-hah) district would be it. No matter what direction you head in, a massive, opulent Soviet relic is bound to confront you. Most of them can be found on the grounds of the giant All-Russian Exhibition Centre (VVC), the namesake of this part of the city. The acronym VDNKh (in Russian ВДНХ) stands for “All-Union Exhibition of People’s Economic Achievements,” which was the official name of the now All-Russian Exhibition Centre centre between 1959-1992.

Exploring the All-Russian Exhibition Centre

The centre once hosted the Soviet Union's - and some of world's - largest, most elaborate argicultural, industrial, social and scientific expos: they together attracted upwards of 10 million particpants and visitors anually. Now it is nearly impossible not be overwhelmed by the hundreds of expo pavillions, buildings, ponds, parks, monuments, fountains and amusement-park attractions that speckcle the centre's giant territory, which, by the way, measures 2. 4 million square meters, or 593 acres. That’s bigger than Monaco and Vatican City put together! Many of centre's structures were designed by eminent Soviet architects and have been classified as historical and cultural monuments of national signifience, so it's worth spending a day taking a closer look at them.

Glory to Rabbit Breeders, Milkmaids and Young Naturalists!

In 1939, when the centre first opened as the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition, the august pavillions were stricly dedicated to the kolkhoz' (collective farms) triumph over the plant the animal kingdom. Samples of regional agricultural supremacy were on display in pavillions and plots of land dedicated to different Soviet republics, regions, territories and cities. Other buildings were strictly built for showcasing developments in animal husbandry, foresty, horticulture and crop cultivation. Rabitt and cattle breeders, cotton, tabacoo, fisheries, potatos and flower growers were among the many honoured. The pavillions' interior and exteriors are embellished with glorified agricultural symbols and national or regional motifs. The entrance of the neo-classical rabbit-breeding pavillion (on the far-right end of the grounds) boasts two broze statues of female collective-farm rabit breeders holding cute white bunnies close to their chests. Birch was was used on the Karelian pavillion's front door and gable façade to reflect the region's foresty industry and wealth of birch trees. Carved into the wooden gable are figures at work in the region's other main industries, including fishing and land-cropping.

“Bread to the hungry! Land to the peasants! Peace to the people!”
One of the most notable BDHKh sites is its monumental gateway, also built in the 1930s. This Propylaea is the epitome of Stalinist classicism, with six Doric columns on each side forming five passageways. The marble bas-reliefs on both the entablature and the columns depict Soviet laborers and other national symbols. But the Soviet-realist icing on the cake of this gate rests on the imposing bronze sculpture ensemble. Towering above the cornice, a female collective farmer and male tractor driver hold shafts of wheat high above their heads. They appear to call out the famous Bolshevik-party slogan to passersby: “Bread for the hungry! Land for the peasants! Peace for the people!” After passing through the majestic gateway onto the wide path, flanked on both sides with symbolic ears of corn on poles, you will come upon the central exhibition hall and, of course, a monument to Lenin.


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