Joseph Stalin was a ruling dictator for the Soviet Union for nearly a quarter of a century i.e., from 1922 to 1952. His birth itself marked a revolutionary change in the history of the Soviet Union’s promising scope of a reminiscent future.

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Joseph Stalin ©britannica.com

Although expected to be a priest by his mother, Dzhugashvili, later known as Stalin was always involved in revolutionary movements since his young age, which resulted in him being exiled to prison or being punished by the state for being an active part. These incidents marked the beginning of his dream to rule over the Soviet Union as he was believed to be a person of vengeance once wronged. He carried forth by becoming a clerk in the Union and then rising the charts of hierarchy, he finally became the ruler of the Soviet Union.

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Statue of Joseph Stalin ©www.britannica.com

Stalin brought in remarkable changes and was considered the chief architect of totalitarianism as he expanded the Soviet Union conquered the eastern belts. Apart from being the architect of industrialization and communism, Stalin proved to be a visionary architect of built spaces around him. The buildings and monuments constructed in his reign are summoned under the era called ‘The Stalinist Architecture’. His regime showcased great examples of architectural experimentation and ambitious projects. His idea of construction was turning the country into a world power through the symbolization of structures, which would with time show the glory of the Soviet Union and the propagation of his ideals.

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Stalin had a mind of a driven architect but he stuck to classical elements of building like the use of arches, columns with broad capitals, and moldings to exhibit grandeur and glory. The structures built had a uniform language of being rigid and sober with scarce facial ornamentation. All the designs proposed by an architect could undergo implementation with the acceptance of Stalin’s government and it demonstrated massive proportions and symmetry in the layout.

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Manezhnaya Square ©hum54-15.omeka.fas.harvard.edu

The two most prominent places which were built on his vision were Moscow and Warsaw. With his execution of demolishing the built structure and rebuilding his own, he began with rebuilding Moscow and took to the Manezhnaya Square which was already of historical importance about the preceding leader. He built what is called Moscow’s crown jewel of Soviet architecture consisting of three structures namely Ivan Zholtovsky’s Mokhovaya Street Building, Arkady Langman’s State Duma Building, and Alexey Shchusev’s The Moscow Hotel.

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Mokhovaya Street Building ©hum54-15.omeka.fas.harvard.edu
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The Moscow Hotel ©hum54-15.omeka.fas.harvard.edu
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Duma Building ©hum54-15.omeka.fas.harvard.edu

The building profile of all the three buildings is distinct and different from each other as well as the surrounding context which in terms shows his reduced effort to cater to the surroundings and also the haste in construction exposing his desperation to visibly represent his morals of communism. The building conveyed power and glory as per Stalin’s orders but the rest of Moscow’s architecture remained massively different and coping with Stalin’s language of the building would have been expensive and time taking which henceforth, resulted into Moscow having varied genres of architecture.

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The Seven Sisters ©www.newcastlebeach.org

Further continuing to achieve his aim of displaying the growth and prosperity of Soviet Russia to the foreign countries, he built another remarkable visionary building known as the Seven Sisters which stood as a symbol for the strong withholding of Soviet Russia even post-war. The Seven Sisters also known as the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment was a set of seven remarkable skyscrapers built under the style of gothic architecture. The objective of building these skyscrapers was to showcase the establishment of power from every part of Moscow where life can reach.

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Map showing The Seven Sisters ©hum54-15.omeka.fas.harvard.edu

The construction of this set of the building was said to be the beginning of a Cold War between Soviet Russia and USA which in terms translated into the construction of skyscrapers. The ground coverage was huge accounting for the fact that it was built post-war which meant drainage of wealth and tremendously increasing population. The building was an iconic beauty but the internal spaces were made narrow and uncomfortable for living, proving negligence of quality of life and believing its aesthetics only. Due to the worsening post-war conditions, the building had to turn into communal housing at certain points which conveyed the irony of Stalin’s planning neglecting the context and neighborhood.

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Urban Planning ©www.theguardian.com

Apart from building iconic prescient buildings, Stalin also focused on the urban planning building newer, wider, and more straight avenues for activities like military parade and ease of conveyance. Furthermore, there was a social distinction in terms of housing construction depending on the wealth i.e., massive buildings with expensive ornaments and elements were constructed for government officials and aristocrats while the lower class people suffered to afford housing by experimenting with materials and planning catering to lowest of costs, deprivation to expensive ornamentation, or even affording basic ornaments for a suitable liveability.

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Symbol used for showing power ©www.russianambience.com

Stalin only understood mass and volumes as they were the only ways to display power and wealth but was deprived of the knowledge of space building and real notions of architecture. He was well versed with the elements which would bring grandeur and glamour to space but neglected radical and logical application requirements behind it. Stalin as an architect was himself an exemplary icon but not a timeless icon, with his regime the downfall of Stalinist Architecture also followed.

Author

Shivangi is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Architecture degree. She desires to explore in the field of research and literature while leaving a mark on the world with her influence, design and experience. She believes that architecture is a proportionate part of her life inculcating other interests like playing sports, reading novels and travelling.

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