VDNKh Park and it’s Secrets
There is a special place named VDNKh (Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy) that you could find in Moscow, it’s a huge exhibition park territory. Depending on how you feel at the moment, you could find a spot here that would relate especially to you.
There are so many things to do here. You could stroll through the park, explore various areas with ponds, bush labyrinths, and fountains. You could bike, rollerblade, scoot or jog. There is a rope climbing park, numerous exhibitions, museums, and special events that take place here regularly. Lots of cafes, restaurants, and sunbathing areas.
I love to come here early in the morning when it’s peaceful and quiet. The sun is shining, highlighting the beauty of landscapes all around. You are surrounded by grand structures, perfectly tailored trees, and plants wherever you look. You see occasional gardeners quietly working in the distance and hear birds exchanging their daily greetings. And in the evenings, there is a romantic atmosphere in the air, the sky spills out in different shades of the setting sun, it’s breathtaking how stunning everything becomes around you. It’s like the special lighting that the photographer is always searching for. In that light, all the photos look like masterpieces. In these moments, if you just relax and forget about everything else, you could feel love, peace, and inspiration… And how lucky you are to be here at this exact moment.
Did I catch your attention? Let me begin my tale.
The City of the Future
VDNKh exhibition had two birthdays in 1939 and 1954, it was supposed to be temporary but became a permanent venue. It was used for Propaganda of the Soviet workers and farmers to show them the City of the Future. At the time of the opening, VDNKh had over 300 pavilions. Exhibition grounds were divided into different sections: a section dedicated to all the USSR republics, Soviet village, farming and agricultural areas, as well as, the outdoor relaxation area.
On the territory of the exhibition, the place was built a city of the Future. A mini copy of the USSR with Pavilions dedicated to each Republic. Showcasing achievements of each republic, national costumes, best plants, and crops from various agricultural industries, best animals from all over the USSR. The full-size city with houses, schools, entertainment, and relaxation centers. This place allowed people practically in one day to see the whole country.
It was considered to be a luxury to visit VDNKh Exhibition and a great privilege to participate in it. The best workers & farmers from all over the USSR had a chance to show off their mastery and share their trade secrets. It was one of the grandest educational venues in the USSR. The medals of achievements that were earned at the Exhibition were considered to be the highest honor.
The purpose of this place was to inspire Soviet people to believe that the work that they are doing for their homeland is meaningful, that if it’s possible to build something like this on one little piece of land, that soon all parts of Russia will become like the City of the Future. It was a Fairytale land, a Garden city, a city of Exhibitions that had many famous Soviet architects working on different structures and pavilions. A lot of resources were put into this Fairytale land, it helped to inspire the masses, but it was impossible to make it a reality.
The VDNKh Exhibition always showcased the political situation of the country. It changed its name several times. It changed its function a few times, but the main idea remained the same. Although in the 90s, this area started deteriorating and it seemed that VDNKh would never be the same again, in the last 5 years renovations began all over the territory, and like in the Fairy Tale slowly the VDNKh Exhibition is getting its power back and getting better and better every day.
VDNKh holds a lot of secrets, this place is believed to bring Good luck…
And just to give you a little teaser, I will share a few of these secrets with you.
So, take my hand, let’s go…
Worker and Kolkhoz Woman Statue
Before entering the VDNKh exhibition place, let’s walk over to the North Entrance, it’s located to the right of the Main Entrance. Do you see that statue of two people, the Worker and Kolkhoz (Collective Farm) woman holding a hammer and a sickle? This statue was made by a Russian Sculptor named Vera Mukhina. The Statue was crowning the Soviet Pavilion at the World Fair of 1937 in Paris. The Sculpture was made just for the Fair, but once the French people showed that they liked it and wanted to keep it, it was decided to return the Sculpture to USSR. And which better place was to put it than in front of the entrance into the City of the Future. By the way, the main entrance into the park was originally located on this side.
Let’s enter into the territory of VDNKh, I want to show you another Structure that has traveled across the world. You see that building that looks like the roof of it is flying into the sky, amongst Muscovites it is known as the Montreal Pavilion, although it has a different name. This Pavilion was originally built in Montreal, Quebec, Canada for the International Exhibition Expo’67 to represent the Soviet Union. It featured about 10000 exhibits with three floors of the Pavilion dedicated to Ocean, Earth & Cosmos.
Before the opening of the Expo, the advertising brochure stated: “Look what Russians are building just 40 miles from the USA. As an American, you should look into it.” Due to that promotion, the Pavilion was one of the most visited at the Expo and had at least 12 million visitors.
After the Expo, it was decided to rebuild this Pavilion in Moscow at the VDNKh Exhibition place. It took over 10 years to rebuild it. In the 1990s it was used for temporary Exhibitions and as a Clothing Market. In the 2000s the most popular exhibitions here were Cat shows. Right now, the Pavilion is closed, but with the VDNKh territory being renovated, there are hopes that this place will become great again.
If you keep walking along the path of the Northern entrance, along your way you will see nature, beautiful trees and flowers, little houses, and hear birds singing. You might see a few people leisurely exercising, but mainly you will feel serenity and tranquility.
Main Entrance of VDNKh
But if you’re in the Celebratory kind of mood, you want to see life and people around you, let’s go in through the main entrance. The main entrance onto VDNKh territory represents a Triumphal Arch that symbolizes the Victory in World War II and serves as a Gate into a different fairytale world.
As a kid I used to always fantasize of what it would be like walking and hearing music wherever I went, I could say on VDNKh that dream came true, walking along the main alleys of the territory, pretty much everywhere you could hear the music playing.
As you walk through the arch you will end up on a Central Alley at the end of which you will see a monument to Lenin. Lenin is the first Leader and Creator of the Soviet Union, but I’m sure that you already know that. When I was growing up, I was taught that Grandpa Lenin was the best person that has ever lived. And that in all my deeds I should strive to be like him.
Central Pavilion or Pavilion #1
Right behind him, you will see Pavilion #1. It was meant to be the Central Pavilion of the Exhibition. The architecture of it reminds us a bit of a typical Stalinist Empire Style architecture or of Stalin’s 7 Sisters. You must’ve heard of them? If not, you could find out about them at the Moscow Metro Tour.
Stalin’s Bomb Shelter
For now, I will tell you another story. During Stalin’s leadership, a lot of buildings had bomb shelters and there is a real bomb shelter that is located on VDNKh. According to sources it is located somewhere between the Central Pavilion and the Friendship of the People (Friendship of the Nations) fountain. The bomb shelter is capable of holding 300 people, keeping them safe for about 2 days. The exit out of it is believed to be located under Lenin’s Monument. The one that we discussed earlier.
There are three main fountains on VDNKh territory that you should definitely see: Friendship of the People (Friendship of the Nations), Stone Flower, and Golden Spike.
Friendship of the People
You see that beautiful fountain that has 16 young women in Gold, dancing around the Sheaf of wheat. They were supposed to represent all the USSR republics. Why 16, you would ask, weren’t there 15 Republics, did the architect make a mistake? While this fountain was planned and built there were 16 republics, but by the time the Exhibition opened there were 15 since it was impossible to change the fountain, it stayed as is. The 16th Republic that for a short period was part of the USSR was Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic.
The Stone Flower
The second fountain is straight ahead, but honestly, it looks better in the dark. It’s called The Stone Flower. It looks absolutely gorgeous when it’s lit up, the idea for this fountain came to the architect in a dream, based on a fairy tale with the same name. The Stone Flower fountain was opened on VDNKh in 1954, it was the first in the USSR light & musical fountain.
The third fountain is located in the Recreational area. It’s called Golden Spike, it was the very first fountain that appeared on the territory in 1939, it didn’t work for a very long time, but just recently it’s been renovated. You have to walk quite far to find it, but it’s worth it. The fountain is located right in the middle of a Pond and is rumored to have about 66 streams of water coming out of it. There is a rest area facing the fountain with benches that look comfy for tanning and allow visitors to lounge on them. The whole surrounding neighborhood is filled with trees, nature, and amazing places to hide away from the world. Very romantic…
I hope that you’re not tired yet from all this walking? There are a few more stories that I’d like to share with you…
You probably noticed that beautiful Pavilion with a tall Rotunda in the middle of it? The one that looks like a Sultan’s palace. That’s Uzbekistan’s Pavilion, there is a legend that the columns of the Rotonda represent the wives of Padishah (Sultan) that lived hundreds of years ago and at night sometimes near the pavilion the security guards could hear crying. It’s the wives crying due to the loss of their loved spouse.
The territory is divided into three sections, the initial square was dedicated to Collective farms, had Pavilions of different republics and Soviet Regions. In the center, there was a Mechanization square, with pavilions dedicated to various industries and the Mechanization Pavilion, now known as a Space Museum, which was the central piece of that arrangement. And at the end of the park, was a recreational area. There you already know, you will find the Golden Spike Fountain.
But let’s stop in front of the Space Museum. You see this Rocket…
In the heart of VDNKh, you will find a Rocket, right in front of the Space Museum. The rocket is a life-size model of the Space Rocket in which Yuri Gagarin flew into outer space, but about 10 times lighter in weight. Not a lot of people know that until the early 1950s, in the place of a space Rocket was a huge Statue of Stalin. Originally a small prototype of this statue was made to be used as a model for the larger statue and since no one dared to destroy Stalin’s image, the small model was placed into the bigger statue, technically creating a Matryoshka doll. There is a legend that currently Stalin’s statue is buried somewhere on the territory of VDNKh, but no one knows where.
Words Can’t Fully Describe This Place… It Has To Be Seen And Felt.
There are so many more things I wish I could tell you about VDNKh, but no matter what I say, it’s hard to describe this place in words, there is so much more here to see. You could spend your whole day wandering around and won’t be able to see everything that this place has to offer because the territory of VDNKh is stated to be greater in size than the Principality of Monaco.
When you are here alone you can’t help but get mesmerized by all the beauty surrounding you, it’s like a little piece of heaven on earth. But when you are here with a special someone or a friend, this place gets more magical. I truly believe that it’s possible to fall in love here.
To be continued…
On your own, or with the ExploRussia team!
by Yulia Kostroma, Moscow tour guide