by David Fox
After the World War II, many countries had to rebuild their ransacked cities from the ground up, and the Soviet Union had an idea to create something majestic as well as symbolic – a nation that would portray a victory against Nazi Germany, through grandiose architecture.
In the post-war period, Stalin was still the leader of the country, and, like many dictators, he played an important role in all spheres of the soviet society, including civic plans to build new architectural structures, including statues and buildings.
Basically, it was Stalin who was the one who influenced a new architectural style named after him, and of course a tribute to his oversized ego – Stalinism – and blessed most of the projects dedicated to his cause, in terms of architecture which began to rise up before his death in 1953.
Stalin came up with this idea of skyscrapers because according to him, all big European capitals had them and Moscow didn’t, and it was a huge shame to him for such a big and powerful country as the Soviet Union to lack such majestic structures, and symbols of great success. But that would soon change…
It’s interesting that the idea of how those skyscrapers should look like came from the skyscrapers in New York and other Western countries, considering a fact that there was already the so called “Cold War” brewing between those two countries. That said, Stalinist structures were unique unto themselves.
The first projects of the Stalinist movement started in the late 1950’s, when the first constructions appeared. The plan was to create enormously massive and spectacular skyscrapers which would represent a whole new face of the Soviet capital, Moscow. Such structures are symbolic of the grandeur of that empire at the time.
The Seven Sisters name was given to seven distinct skyscrapers in Moscow that were built in a time between 1947 and 1957.
These buildings are one of the most well-known examples of Stalinist architecture, and they stand out because of their size and breathtaking appearance in the overall landscape of Moscow. For fans of architecture, and particularly Russian architecture, these buildings would be on anyone’s “must see” list.
The tallest of the Sisters is the Moscow State University building. It was built between 1949 and 1953 and is 240 meters high.
Designed by a Russian architect Lev Rudnev, who has earned trust from the Communist party, this building is decorated with various statues such as statues of students at the main entrance.
Another very important detail of this construction is a star on top of a 57-meter spire. It was a widely spread communist symbol that was used as a decoration in many different types of soviet buildings.
This skyscraper was the tallest building in Europe until 1990, and still remains the tallest educational building in the world today. The Soviet government was so proud of their achievement in creating this building that they used it as a logo of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Another Stalinist skyscraper in Moscow is a Hotel Ukraina, which is officially known as Radisson Royal Hotel. Built between 1947 and 1957, this hotel is 206 meters high and located in the centre of Moscow.
It is decorated with sculptures of wheat because Ukraine was where most of the agriculture came from, especially the bread which used to be delivered to the whole of the Soviet Union.
Hotel Ukraina, like many other Stalinist buildings in Moscow, has a huge spire on its top with a Soviet symbol, a star. The interior of a hotel reminds one of a royal palace, with a lot of gold imitations and full to the brim with extravegant crystal chandeliers. There is a huge fresco on a ceiling in the lobby that is dedicated to Russian history.
Next to that, there are around 1200 Russian artists paintings, created in the first half of the 20th century, and a diorama named “Moscow – Capital of the USSS“. During events of the Russian Constitutional Crisis in 1993, the front-facing rooms of the hotel were evacuated because of the danger of accidental bullets.
The next object on our list of the Seven Sisters is a Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building. This incredible 176-meter construction was designed by Dmitry Chechulin and built from 1947 to 1952.
The main tower is connected with the apartment buildings which are known as a place where the popular soviet artists use to live.
The interior of the halls is decorated with natural granite, marble and fine woods. Walls and ceilings are adorned with art painting, elegant plasterwork and bas-reliefs.
Back then, only the elite of Soviet Union could live there and today anyone who has money can buy or rent an apartment in this building.
The renowned Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia is another Stalinist object in Moscow. Its construction started in 1948 and ended in 1953.
The project creators are Russian architects Vladimir Gelfreykh and Adolf Minkus. It has similarities with the other six buildings because of its gigantic constructions and the 20-meter spire on the top.
The interior of the entrance lobby combines the polished black granite floor which contrasts with the light marble walls. There are two impressive obelisks of dark grey stone next to the two main entrances.
It is known that Stalin paid his personal attention to this project. For example, this building was planned to be without a spire, but Stalin drew one on the blueprints of this project.
Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel was built between 1949 and 1954. This 134-meter high hotel was created by architect Leonid Polyakov.
The famous Hilton brand is known for its luxurious style and it perfectly suits this building. Everything here is created to shine and scream about wealth. The interior is decorated with massive chandeliers and ornaments on walls and ceilings, meanwhile, colours of blue, red, and gold have an impression of royal colours.
The fins and the rosette between the spikes and the globe on the top of the building can be considered as a cherry on top because those parts are covered in a thin layer of gold.
Another skyscraper of the Seven Sisters group in Moscow is named Kudrinskaya Square Building. This 160-meter high object was created between 1950 and 1954 by Russian architects Mikhail Posokhin and Ashot Mndoyants.
The building itself was created as an apartment building for the Soviet elite at that time. Here resided various aviators of the Soviet Union such as cosmonauts, pilots, and aircraft designers and today it remains a luxurious place to live for wealthy Russians.
The main entrance is decorated with four large sculptures and Soviet star bas-reliefs. The interior in the lobby combines light marble walls and colourful stained glass.
The last skyscraper of the Seven Sisters group is the Red Gate Building. This 133-meter high object was created by architect Alexey Dushkin between 1947 and 1953.
Its main purpose is residential, it has over 300 flats inside but there were government institutions as well, such as Ministry of Construction of Heavy Industry and Ministry of Transport Construction.
The outside walls of the building are faced with natural limestone and the first floors with red granite. Comparing with other skyscrapers, this one has a pretty modest interior in which are no expensive materials.
The Seven Sisters skyscrapers group is a magnificent representation of Stalinist architecture, that was created 70 years ago, but still standing and being actively used for private and public purposes today.
It shows that the Seven Sisters is a successful project, considering that its idea belongs to one of the menacing dictators in planet history. It is a great example of how you can learn about a country’s history through its architecture.
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About David Fox
David Fox is an artist who created davidcharlesfox.com to talk about art and creativity. He loves to write, paint, and take pictures. David is also a big fan of spending time with his family and friends.