After the Second World War, the defeat of Germany and the advent of the struggle between East and West, the Soviet leaders felt that their capital city was lacking grandeur compared to other world cities, notably those in the US. In 1946, Stalin thought of a new idea: building a chain of vysotki, skyscrapers designed by Soviet architects. The project apparently had a high priority: within ten years, all seven buildings had been completed. They are collectively called Seven Sisters, or, Stalins Seven Sisters. Their functions varied from one building to the next; some are close to downtown Moscow, while others are out of the way. Their style is neo-gothic. Still now, they stand out as curious buildings, and I decided to travel the city in order to see them all. It proved to be a good way to also explore some of the neighbourhoods of Moscow.
Starting with the building near Barrikadnaya, I heard a parade when exiting the subway station and searched for that, first. After all, it was May 9, the big celebration day of the victory in World War II. Having seen this small, and straightforward parade, I walked on to the Kudrinskaya square building. Standing right in front of it, in the small park at its feet, and the sun breaking through the clouds to highlight the building, I could not help but like this vysotki, my first sample of Stalin skyscrapers. Walking closer, I noticed the building was decorated with statues and sculptures. Apparently, in Soviet times, it was primarily intended for cultural leaders. When walking away from it, I looked back, the sun shining on the star on top of the spire. And I, was hungry for more. Within walking distance, I found Hotel Ukraina on the banks of the Moskva river. A dramatic cloudy sky behind it, also this second Sister of Stalin, which appeared more refined than the first one, stood out in between the surrounding buildings and the modern skyscrapers which could be seen in a distance. I especially liked the roofs of the wings, with sculpted stone stars. One of the things that would strike me on my search for Stalins Seven Sisters, was the fact that they are placed in such a way that you can actually appreciate them, precisely because they all stand out from their immediate environment.
It was time to walk the banks of the Moskva river to reach the third Sister of Stalin: the enormous building which currently houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Smolenskaya. One of the tallest Sisters, the building somehow had a dramatic impression on me, perhaps because of the effects of the sunlight sometimes blocked by clouds. Close to the entrance, I found obelisks and grand doors - apparently, the interior is lavishly decorated. After an underground ride, I got off near the Red Square, noticed that the bridge across the Moskva was blocked, and realizing I would not be able to see the parade, I walked along the banks of the river towards Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building, where the Moskva and Yauza rivers meet. A grand building with several towers of varying heights, this building seemed like the most adventurous to me, if only because of the variation in its design. Walking towards the south along the banks of the Moskva, I frequently looked back; the views of the building above the river only got better. From here, my plan was to visit Moscow State University, which is the largest sister, but a key station in the underground system was closed, and I decided to visit the last two Sisters instead: Leningradskaya Hotel and Red Gates administrative building. The former is the smallest of the vysotki, overlooking a square with one of the railway stations of Moscow, while the latter dominates a small square. They, too, have a spire with a star on top, typical of all Stalins Seven Sisters. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the University Building; as so often is the case with traveling, you sometimes have to leave things for later, if only to have a reason to come back.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Stalins Seven Sisters (Russia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Stalins Seven Sisters. Read more about this site.