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Stalinist Architecture

During my various visits to Eastern Europe, in particular Russia, many of a multitude of architectural styles did not escape my attention. In particular, Stalinist architecture caught my eye, in part due to the excessive nature and overwhelming visual impact of it.

Stalinist architecture is also known as Stalinist Empire style, or Socialist Classicism. This particular style is associated with the socialist realism school of art and architecture. It applies to the years from 1933 (when Boris Iofan's draft for the Palace of the Soviets was officially approved under the leadership of Joseph Stalin) to 1955 (when Nikita Khrushchev condemned "excesses" of the past decades and disbanded The Soviet Academy of Architecture). Possibly the most famous buildings in this style, two of which are features on this page, are the 'Seven Sisters' of Moscow. Built officially from 1947-1953, the skyscrapers were constructed to rival the impressive buildings which had sprung up in American cities such as New York City. As well as using the same modern construction technology as in America, they were built to incorporate Russian Baroque and Gothic styles, resulting in their form we see below.

Stalinist architecture is generally limited to urban public and residential buildings, sometimes set on a square or along avenues and is also found in some Moscow metro stations and canal projects. It excludes such buildings as the large residential blocks typically seen in the former Soviet Union. It extends beyond the boundaries of the former Soviet Union as well - notable examples may be found in many other former communist European cities such as Warsaw, Prague, Sofia, Riga, Berlin (East) and Bucharest. There are also some examples of it elsewhere in non-European communist states such as China and North Korea.

With the arrival of Nikita Khrushchev as leader of the former Soviet Union in the 1950's and the subsequent abandonment of the excesses created by the Stalinist era, Modernism returned  to the country as the main driving force behind new construction projects. However, the Stalinist architectural style still continued after the 1950's under more authoritarian regimes, such as that of Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania. His continuation of this building to excess is epitomised in the construction of the Parliamentary Palace in Bucharest. It was begun as late as 1984 and almost (but not quite) completed in 1990, soon after the end of his regime in 1989. In more recent years, some elements of Stalinist Architecture have been resurfacing in some new buildings in Moscow.

Above (upper photo): Moscow State University, Sparrow Hills. At 787.4 feet (240 metres) tall, it was the tallest building in Europe from its completion in 1953 until 1990. Above (lower photo): Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building, completed in 1952. These are two of Moscow's 'Seven Sisters'. The other five are: Hotel Ukraina, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, the Hotel Leningradskaya, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Red Gates Administrative Building. An eighth proposed building, Zaryadye Administrative Building, was never constructed.

Above: Casa Presei Libere (The House of the Free Press), Northern Bucharest, Romania. Completed in 1953, including the antenna, it stands 341 feet (104 metres) tall. The building has always been used for producing newspapers and when first constructed, was named Combinatul Poligrafic Casa Scînteii "I.V.Stalin".

Above: Palace of Culture and Science, Warsaw. is the tallest building in Poland and the eighth tallest building in the European Union. Completed in 1955, it was conceived as a "gift from the Soviet people to the Polish Nation". Including the antenna, it is 778 feet (237 metres) tall. Although designed and built by people from the Soviet Union, the architect incorporated many historical Polish styles into the final design. Originally, the building's name was in honour of Joseph Stalin. For more text and photos, click HERE.

Above: Palace of the Parliament, Bucharest (Built 1984-1987). Moving on from the Stalinist era, years later, the tradition of it's architecture is seen in Romania under the Ceauşescu regime. Designed to house the government and Parliament after the devastating earthquake of 1977, the palace is the world's second largest administrative building after the Pentagon. Sometimes referred to as a giant Stalinist wedding cake, the marble rooms, it's carpets, curtains, wooden carved doors and crystal chandeliers are beyond global normality in the sense of size and opulence. For more text and photos on Palace of Parliament, click HERE.

Of course, this page is about Stalinist architecture, but to read about the tyrant himself, there is an external webpage HERE.

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