Socialist Classicism: Stalin's Style
In previous articles we have examined a number of different architectural styles which have shaped the world's cities and skylines. Most of these, such as neoclassicism or romanticism, originated as a result of the Enlightenment or other affairs of the 18th and 19th centuries. In today's article, we are going to take a look at Socialist Classicism, an architectural style influenced by Joseph Stalin's leadership of the Soviet Union and social changes under his rule.
Socialist Classicism has its origins in the 1930s after Stalin became the General Secretary of the Communist Party, thus taking control of the USSR. The style itself was not innovated or developed by Joseph Stalin, as had little architectural knowledge worth speaking of, but he certainly patronised Socialist Classicist architects and relied on them to build the new cities of the Soviet Union after the Civil War and Second World War. As an architectural style, Socialist Classicism typically uses brick masonry and concrete blocks to create grand high rises such as the Hotel Ukraina in Moscow. Ultimately, Socialist Classicism was not used as the definitive architectural style of the USSR as it could not meet the nation's requirements for mass building, and so was replaced by Socialist Realism. Regardless, it still had a massive impact on Russia's architectural scene. Many Stalinist buildings were tall skyscrapers topped with great spires, totally eliminating any need for flat roof fall protection. We will now examine a few Socialist Classicist buildings to further expand your understanding of the style.
Moscow State University
The main building of Moscow State University is one of seven Socialist Classicist skyscrapers built in Moscow between 1947 and 1953, widely known as the Seven Sisters. Until 1990, it stood as the tallest building in Europe, and remains the tallest educational building in the world. The skyscraper, designed by leading Stalinist architect Lev Rudnev, is 240 metres tall and is made up of 36 storeys peaked with a 12-ton star at the very top of the building. Moscow State University's main building has stood for over half a century now and stands tall as one of the most notable of Stalin's construction projects.
Red Army Theatre
The Central Academic Theatre of the Russian Army, formerly known as the Red Army Theatre, is a grand theatre built in the Socialist Classicism style. The Red Army Theatre was established in 1921 though construction did not begin for another 13 years and lasted for another 6. When it was finally constructed in 1940, the Red Army Theatre was intended to be the largest theatre in all of Europe, and was certainly big enough to fit tanks, ship models, cavalry and units of soldiers in its central auditorium. The theatre is still open today, though it is now called the Russian Army Theatre, and contains 1900 seats from which attendees have viewed some of the most famous war-related plays and productions of the past 80 years.
Another one of Stalin's "Seven Sisters", the Hotel Ukraina stands as the tallest hotel in (ironically) Russia. It also has the double honour of being the tallest hotel in Europe. Commissioned by Stalin himself, construction began pre-war but had to be put on hold until Hitler's forces were defeated. Once finally built, it served as the largest and most important hotel in the Soviet Union, hosting foreign diplomats and visitors, which can be fit into any of its 505 rooms or 38 apartments. Today, it also holds 5 different restaurants in its lower levels. Recently, Hotel Ukraina was climbed and the star at the top of the spire was painted yellow in order to form the Ukrainian flag. This was carried out by a Ukrainian rooftopper as an act of protest against Putin's invasion of Ukraine.