01 Apr TOP 6 places in Moscow to experience Soviet Russia
One of Moscow historians once said that two powers influenced the way Moscow looked today. Those powers were communism and capitalism. Opposite from Saint Petersburg, where royal heritage created a unique atmosphere of a European capital, Moscow is full of reminders about a country that does not exist anymore, the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. But still today we feel like we travel back in time when we visit some places in the Russian capital.
Red Square had been formed long before even words Soviet and communism appeared. Yet it has a very strong association with Soviet times. Why so? The reason behind is simple. Communist party leaders decided to use the square as a stage for celebrations of the greatest moments in Soviet Union’s history. Red Square hosted big demonstrations and parades, including Victory Parade on June 24, 1945.
The look of Red square was changing in line with communist party ideas. For example, Soviets decided to end a tradition of plastering Kremlin walls and leave bricks red to empower an image and support ideology. In 1930s ruby stars appeared on spires of five Kremlin towers. A red star was an element of Soviet coat of arms and a flag, symbolizing the unity of all the continents in their fight for communism. What a nice addition to the look of the capital’s main square!
Today Red square is a place of many major events and activities. Every year all the Russians watch Victory day military parade live from the heart of Moscow. Red Square hosted a football park during the World Cup 2018. Music and book festivals take place there every year. And in winter ice skating ring invites all Muscovites and guests of the capital to enjoy skating by the Kremlin walls. Do not get upset if you come in a period when most of the square is occupied with construction. We have five more places on the list where you can dive into Soviet heritage.
Mausoleum and the Kremlin Wall Necropolis
The fact that there is a cemetery on Red square is a big surprise for many tourists. It is also a big debate for the Russians whether it should stay this way. Whether you support this idea or not, it may happen that soon Lenin’s body and remains of other famous people will be reburied in another place. So take your chance to take a look at the most iconic place in Soviet Russia.
Vladimir Lenin was a revolutionary leader and head of the communist party until his death in 1924. The first temporary wooden mausoleum was constructed quickly to accommodate the chief’s body. The building, which we see today, was opened in 1930. It took 16 months to build that massive house, weighed 10,000 tons, and faced with red granite and black labradorite.
But undoubtedly a star of the attraction is the body of Vladimir Lenin itself. The process of its embalmment was kept in secret for a long time. Research of finding a way to keep the body well preserved and acceptable for demonstration was very complicated. Nowadays the Mausoleum closes for about a month every year as the body needs to spend time in a solution of formaldehyde mixed with other chemicals. Thanks to this procedure the communist leader can be demonstrated to the public for the rest of the year.
Despite the fact that Lenin’s Mausoleum is very famous, he was not the first or the last person who was buried by the Kremlin walls. In fact, there are more than 100 urns with ashes hidden in the niches in the wall and covered with granite tiles. Besides communist party leaders, such people as Igor Kurchatov, physicist and father of a nuclear bomb, Sergey Korolev, constructor of space-rocket systems, and Yury Gagarin, the first man in space, are buried there.
If you decide to take a look inside the Mausoleum, be prepared to queue for a while. The tomb of the chief of the Revolution is still an attraction for many people. But the good news is that you do not have to pay for the entrance. You will be asked to leave any bags in a storage room and not take any pictures. After you take a walk around glass coffin with Lenin’s body, you will be taken to the Kremlin wall. There you can pay tribute to great men of the Soviet history.
Cold War inspired many directors to make movies about the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the USA. But time, when a possibility of a nuclear attack had to be always taken into account, was not particularly easy. People had to be always ready to be evacuated or ready to hide in safe places like underground stations. Government and communist leaders had such places, too. Bunker 42, situated next to Taganskaya metro station, was one of them.
If you walk by the building, which is a small 2-floor house, you would never guess that it keeps a secret. Only a big museum’s sign gives it away.
Once you enter, you will have to walk 17 floors down to actually enter Stalin’s bunker. It consists of several spaces, located 60 meters underground and connected with corridors. The bunker is 7,000 sq meters and could provide a place for all government to continue working in case of a nuclear bomb attack. In the 1960s the bunker was fully equipped with groceries, fuel, and artesian water. During the Caribbean crisis, it was operating autonomously and about 2,500 people worked on shifts in there, ready for a nuclear bomb to be dropped at any time.
In 2000 the bunker was declassified. In 2006 it was bought by a private company and turned into a museum. Besides the bunker’s interiors, you can also see engineering rooms, Central command post, and exhibition hall. The exhibition showcases a Soviet radio station, chemical protective suits, gas masks, a Geiger counter, Soviet posters, and many other interesting things of that time.
Seven Stalin’s skyscrapers, built in 1940-1950s, really stood out on the city’s skyline in their time. They were the tallest buildings, surrounded by small wooden houses. Nowadays you may think that they are lost between massive structures and glass skyscrapers. But actually, they are still remarkable buildings of the Russian capital’s scenery.
Stalin’s skyscrapers or ‘Seven sisters’, as foreign tourists named them, were built in a difficult time, right after the Second World War. Those buildings were meant to become a symbol of power that would send a clear message to western countries about the Soviet Union. That is why 3 out of 7 buildings were assigned to serve foreigners. Those were Hotel Ukraine, Hotel Leningradskaya, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The greatest skyscraper and the most expensive one was a building of Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills. You might have already seen it in case you watched live broadcasting from FIFA Fan Fest during the World Cup 2018. It was organized at one of the most picturesque places in Moscow, on a square in front of Moscow State University, which is also next to a viewpoint overlooking Luzhniki stadium.
Though the skyscrapers are quite distant from each other, make sure you take some time to observe at least some of them. The architectural style is remarkable. It is a combination of Russian Baroque and Gothic styles, what gives the skyscrapers their well-known look.
‘Underground is a true masterpiece that should not be missed in your travel itinerary’ is something you do not hear often. But taking a tour of Moscow Underground stations is a must in the Russian capital.
Opened in 1935 underground was meant to resolve not only traffic problems, but also showcase the Soviet state’s prosperity, generosity, and power. Gradually the interiors were becoming richer and richer, more and more interior decorations were added. Mosaic panels, frescos, ornaments, stained glass panels are just a few forms of arts, which were used for decorating metro stations. Passengers were so amazed by the beauty of the stations that they started to call them palaces for people. Well-deserved, we must say. Nowadays more than 20 stations are considered to be cultural heritage.
If you want to explore stations by yourself, make sure you visit Komsomolskaya and Novoslobodskaya stations on a circle line, Mayakovskaya and Novokuznetskaya stations on a green line, Revolution square and Arbatskaya stations on a blue line. The ticket costs 55 RUB (less than $1) and allows you to stay in the underground and make as many changes as you want.
If you want to take a break from sightseeing and have a cup of tea with a sausage roll in soviet style, stop by the Canteen №57 on the second floor of GUM. A culinary book about tasty and healthy food, published in the Soviet Union, included dozens of recipes. Yet often it was a challenge to find some products needed for the described dishes. Luckily in our time, we do not have this problem. In the Canteen №57, you have a chance to try typical dishes of Soviet times: cabbage soup, beetroot soup, cutlets with mashed potatoes, Russian salad, dumplings, and famous cake Kartoshka (‘Potato’). The canteen operates as a buffet and always gathers a big queue in front of it. But consider queuing for food as part of your time travel back to the Soviet Union, where spending hours queuing for something special was a regular thing.
Welcome to our Moscow tours and you will experience Soviet architecture and take an insight on how people used to love during Soviet times.