The Architecture for the Palace of the Soviets/Архитектура Дворца Советов (1939) – Free PDF Download

The Archetype of Stalinist Architecture - The Palace of the Soviets

Continuing our theme of the decline of architecture, literature, and the visual arts under Stalin, it is perhaps appropriate to post here a document that was printed in order to educate the public on the proposed architectural design of  the building.  The Architecture of the Palace of the Soviets (Архитектура Дворца Советов) was intended to accomplish this task.  In it, numerous architects, some of them having formerly belonged to the now-vanquished Soviet avant-garde, sing the praises of this bizarre, wedding-cake blend of monumentalist gigantism and neoclassical stylization (the columns and lavishly-decorated façades).  Some, like Vladimir Paperny, have suggested that Stalin himself might have had a hand in its design, personally stepping in to oversee the realization of Iofan, Fomin, and Shchuko’s abominable vision.  Considering the sheer monstrosity of the final structure, it is not too unlikely that this might have been the case.  Either way, below you can download a free .pdf file copy of the 1939 text, which sadly includes a declaration from the once-great architectural modernist Nikolai Miliutin written in in support of the final proposal:

Архитектура Дворца Советов (1939)

And the following is a Stalinist propaganda film made a year before this text, in 1938, called New Moscow (Новая Москва), which features both the interior and exterior of the proposed building:

5 thoughts on “The Architecture for the Palace of the Soviets/Архитектура Дворца Советов (1939) – Free PDF Download

  1. ‘New Moscow’ is not a propaganda film – it was withdrawn from circulation after the premier! Not only because it embodies the ‘nightmare’ of the Stalinist reconstruction of Moscow, but also reveals the screen as the primary construction site of the further Soviet architecture. The film itself generates a number interesting themes:
    o ‘Moscow is always with you no matter where you are’ – the main topic of the song throughout the film;
    o Critique of the old media (painting) as they are unable to capture the Zeitgeist, the changes of the city;
    o Utopic mobility and its critique: the house could just be moved to a new place;
    o Althusserian ideological interpellation visualised in the ‘blessing’ of the portrait of Stalin at the end of the film.
    Highly recommended to watch :)

    • I’ve seen the film before, but I had no idea about the history of it. How fascinating that the pulled it after the premier. You’re right, it wasn’t just the nightmarish quality of the Stalin/Kaganovich plans for reconstruction — it was also the virtuality of the projected changes. The idea that all of these wonders would be accomplished only on a screen within a screen puts it at a double-remove, as the audience watches an audience watching a film. The artifice is obviated.

      It may be tragic that most of the utopian plans and proposals put forth by the Soviet avant-garde were never realized, and thus had to remain mostly on paper. But we can be thankful that the neoclassicist kitsch of the Stalinist utopia of Moscow’s reconstruction was never realized either. Apart from a few huge statues and the so-called “Seven Sisters” of the Stalinist gothic, the city was never fully converted into his paradise of monumentalist historicism.

    • Perhaps that’s why they kept putting off the building of the structure. The Second World War intervened, but images of the Palace of the Soviets kept being released up until Stalin’s death. They had built maybe some small part of the base of it when Khrushchev decided to just turn it into the world’s biggest swimming pool instead. After the fall of the USSR in 1989, they rebuilt that ugly church that they had blown up in the first place.

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