MOSCOW — Thirty years in the past, the Soviet Union ceased to be. The flag was lowered for the final time on Dec. 25, 1991. That second nonetheless begs deep questions for its heirs: Who have been we as Soviets and the place are we going as Russians?
A lot of these solutions will be discovered on a Moscow boulevard — named Gorky Avenue, after author Maxim Gorky, from 1932 to 1990 and renamed Tverskaya Avenue, a nod to the traditional metropolis Tver, because the Soviet Union was awash in last-gasp reforms.
It was the Soviet Union’s show window on the brilliant future Kremlin-run communism was presupposed to convey. It was the place the KGB dined, the wealthy spent their rubles, Vladimir Lenin gave speeches from a balcony and authorities wielded their energy in opposition to probably the most well-known Soviet dissidents, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
In Nineties, Tverskaya embodied the fast-money extra of the post-Soviet free for all. In later years, it was filled with hopeful pro-democracy marchers. And now, underneath President Vladimir Putin, it’s a image of his goals of reviving Russia as an amazing energy, reliving previous glories and crushing any opposition to his rule.
Be part of a tour of Moscow’s famed Tverskaya Avenue.
The window in Room 107 on the Resort Nationwide faces Purple Sq. and the Kremlin. It’s an ideal view of Lenin’s tomb — becoming since he was Room 107’s most well-known visitor.
The Kremlin had been broken throughout the Russian Revolution in 1917. So Lenin and his spouse moved into Room 107 for seven days in March 1918, making the lodge the primary dwelling of the Soviet authorities.
The Nationwide, in-built 1902 throughout Imperial Russia, additionally accommodated different Soviet leaders, together with Leon Trotsky and Felix Dzerzhinsky, the key police chief. The constructing continued for use by the Soviet authorities as a hostel for official occasion delegates and was renamed First Home of Soviets in 1919.
Friends can now keep in the identical room Lenin did for about $1,300 per evening. In more moderen years, the lodge has hosted notable visitors together with Barack Obama (when he was a senator) and actor Jack Nicholson.
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“This lodge feels a bit of like a museum,” mentioned Elena Pozolotina, who has labored on the Nationwide since 1995.
“We have now rooms that look onto Tverskaya Avenue, and we at all times clarify to visitors that that is the principle road of our metropolis,” Pozolotina mentioned. “This nook of Tverskaya that we occupy, it’s priceless.”
When Soviet chief Joseph Stalin demanded a large redevelopment of Moscow in 1935, the order got here to remodel modest Gorky Avenue into a large, awe-inspiring boulevard.
Engineer Emmanuel Gendel had the job of transferring huge buildings to make method for others. Church buildings and monasteries have been blown up, changed by newspaper workplaces and an enormous cinema.
The Moscow Central Eye Hospital was sheared from its basis, rotated 97 levels, jacked up, hitched on rails and pushed again 20 yards — with surgeons working all of the whereas, or so official media reported on the time.
Gendel’s daughter, then about 8, proudly stood at a microphone, asserting: “Consideration, consideration, the constructing is transferring.” Tatiana Yastrzhembskaya, Gendel’s granddaughter and president of the Winter Ball charity basis in Moscow, remembers that Gendel extolled communism but additionally loved the rewards of the elite. He drove a positive automobile and at all times introduced the household the very best muffins and candies, she mentioned.
The most important Gorky Avenue constructing Gendel moved was the Savvinskoye Courtyard. Probably the most troublesome was the Mossoviet, or Moscow metropolis corridor, with a balcony the place Lenin had given speeches. The constructing, a former residence of the Moscow governor basic, needed to be moved with its basement. The bottom ground had been a ballroom with out central structural helps.
Gendel’s expertise have been used throughout the united statesS.R. — straightening towers on historical mosques in Uzbekistan, inventing a way to tug tanks from rivers throughout World Warfare II and consulting on the Moscow Metro.
Like most of the Soviet Union’s brightest abilities, Gendel’s freedom was tenuous. His ex-wife was known as by the KGB inside spy company in 1937 and requested to denounce him. She refused, and he averted arrest.
“I consider he was not arrested and despatched to the camps as a result of he was a singular skilled,” mentioned Yastrzhembskaya. World Warfare II, identified in Russia because the Nice Patriotic Warfare, interrupted the Grasp Plan for Gorky Avenue.
Within the Thirties, the pinnacle of the elite NKVD secret police, Lavrenty Beria, architect of the Stalin-era purges (often known as the Nice Terror), ordered the development of a state-owned restaurant, Aragvi, to showcase meals from his dwelling republic of Georgia.
One evening, NKVD brokers descended in a number of black vehicles on a humble Georgian canteen in Moscow that Beria as soon as visited. The brokers ordered the chef, Longinoz Stazhadze, to return with them. The dreaded NKVD was a precursor to the KGB.
Stazhadze thought he was being arrested, his son Levan informed Russian media. He was taken to Beria, who mentioned that he had agreed with “the Boss” (Stalin) that Stazhadze would run Aragvi. Stazhadze had grown up a peasant, despatched to work in a prince’s kitchens as a boy.
Aragvi opened in 1938. It was just for the gilded set, a reminder that the “Soviet paradise” was something however equal. The costs have been astronomical. It was unattainable to get a desk except the doorman knew you or you could possibly pay a hefty bribe.
Aragvi, at No. 6 Tverskaya, was a favourite of the key police; authorities officers; cosmonauts and pilots; stars of theater, motion pictures and ballet; administrators; poets; chess masters. Beria apparently dined in a personal room. Poet Sergei Mikhalkov mentioned he composed the lyrics of the Soviet nationwide anthem whereas sitting within the restaurant in 1943.
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It was privatized within the Nineties and struggled, earlier than closing in 2002. It reopened in 2016 after a $20 million renovation. However the brand new Aragvi closed abruptly in 2019 amid reviews of a battle between its proprietor and the constructing managers.
“You place your total soul into cooking,” mentioned the previous head chef, Nugzar Nebieridze, 59, celebrated for his khinkali, a meaty dumping virtually the scale of a tennis ball. He was devastated to search out himself unemployed. However different doorways opened. He now prefers to journey, giving grasp courses round Russia.
On March 6, 1953, the day after Stalin died of a stroke, an estimated 2 million Muscovites poured onto the streets. They hoped to catch a glimpse of his physique, which was lined with flowers and specified by the marbled Corridor of Columns close to the Purple Sq..
Yulia Revazova, then 13, sneaked from her home along with her cousin Valery with out telling their dad and mom. As they walked towards Pushkin Sq., at one finish of Gorky Avenue, the procession become a scene of horror. They noticed folks falling and being trampled. Some have been crushed in opposition to metallic fences. Valery, who was just a few years older, grabbed Yulia by the hand and dragged her out of the group.
“He held my hand actually tight and by no means let it go, as a result of it was pure insanity,” she recalled just lately. “It took us 4 or 5 hours to get out of there. Folks saved coming and coming, I couldn’t even name it a column, it was simply an uncontrollable mass of individuals.”
“I nonetheless have this sense, the concern of huge crowds,” added Revazova, 82. “To this present day, if I see an enormous group of individuals or a very lengthy line, I simply cross the road.”
Neither Revazova nor her cousin knew about Stalin’s repressions.
“Folks have been crying. I noticed many ladies holding little handkerchiefs, wiping away tears and wailing,” she recalled. “That’s the psychology of a Soviet particular person. If there isn’t a overarching determine above, be it God or Lenin, life will come crashing down. The period was over and there was concern. What’s going to we do with out Stalin?”
Officers by no means revealed how many individuals had died that day. The Soviet-approved archival footage of the 4 days of nationwide mourning confirmed solely orderly marches and memorials.
The Soviet tradition minister, the steely Yekaterina Furtseva, was nicknamed Catherine the Third after the forceful Russian Empress Catherine the Nice. Furtseva destroyed writers, artists or anybody who challenged Soviet concepts. She lived at an elite 1949 house for presidency officers at No. 9 — an ultra-prestigious handle with a view of the Kremlin.
Furtseva, a former small-town weaver, made positive that No. 9 was just for the cream of occasion officers and different notables, like well-known Soviet actress Natalia Seleznyova, scientists, conductors and designers.
Driving the coattails of Soviet chief Nikita Khrushchev, Furtseva was the one girl within the Politburo and later turned the Soviet Union’s cultural gatekeeper regardless of her provincial sensibilities. She as soon as infamously combined up a symphony with an opera, and critics have been fast to note.
“She had little in frequent with the inventive leaders of her nation besides a liking for vodka,” wrote Norwegian painter Victor Sparre, in his 1979 guide on repression of dissident Soviet writers, “The Flame within the Darkness.”
Furtseva was well-known for previewing performances, and banning anybody even subtly vital of Soviet insurance policies as anti-state. Director Yuri Lyubimov described one such go to to Moscow Taganka Theater in 1969, when she turned up carrying diamond rings and an astrakhan coat. She banned the play “Alive,” depicting a crafty peasant’s wrestle in opposition to the collective farm system. She “was furious, she saved shouting,” he informed L’Various journal in 1984. She stormed out, warning him she would use her affect, “as much as the best ranges,” in opposition to him.
He was expelled from the occasion and in 1984 was stripped of his citizenship. She vehemently denounced Solzhenitsyn and banned the Bolshoi Ballet’s model of “Carmen” in 1967 over prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya’s sensual efficiency and brief “un-Soviet” costumes that didn’t cowl sufficient leg.
“The ballet is all erotica,” she informed the dancer. “It’s alien to us.” However Plisetskaya, whom Khrushchev as soon as known as the world’s finest dancer, fought again. The ballet went on with some excisions (the costumes stayed) and have become a legend within the theater’s repertoire.
Furtseva was practically felled by scandal in 1974, ordered to repay $80,000 spent constructing an expensive dacha, or nation dwelling, utilizing state labor. She died months later.
The Nobel Prize-winning Solzhenitsyn uncovered the Soviet system’s cruelty in opposition to a few of its brightest minds trapped within the gulag, or jail camps.
Solzhenitsyn was given eight years laborious labor in 1945 for privately criticizing Stalin, then three years in exile in Kazakhstan, a Soviet republic on the time. His books have been banned. After launch from exile in 1956, he was solely allowed to make 72-hour visits to his second spouse Natalia’s house at 12 Gorky St., House 169. Solzhenitsyn needed to reside exterior the town.
“Folks knew that there have been camps, however not many individuals, if any, knew what life was like in these camps. And he described it from the within. He had been there himself, and that was surprising to lots of people,” mentioned Natalia Solzhenitsyna throughout a current interview on the house, which turned a museum in 2018.
“Many individuals say that he did make a contribution to the ultimate fall of the Soviet Union.”
Solzhenitsyn, who died in 2008, known as Russia “the land of smothered alternatives.” He wrote that it at all times attainable to reside with integrity. Lies and evil may flourish — “however not by way of me.”
The museum shows tiny handwritten copies of Solzhenitsyn’s books, circulated secretly; movie negatives of letters smuggled to the West, and beads product of compacted bread he used to memorize poems in jail.
“He spent quite a lot of time right here together with his kids. We have been at all times very busy. And we simply loved ourselves — being collectively.” They’d three sons.
In the event that they have been discussing one thing delicate, they wrote notes to one another due to KGB bugs, and destroyed them. Two KGB brokers often roosted within the stairwell on the ground above and two extra on the ground under.
“The Soviet authorities have been afraid of him due to his recognition amongst intellectuals, writers, folks of tradition and the intelligentsia.”
Her favourite room is decked with black-and-white pictures of dissidents despatched to the gulag, the Soviet Union’s sprawling system of pressured labor camps. “It’s devoted to the invisibles,” she mentioned, declaring mates.
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Sweden deliberate to award Solzhenitsyn’s 1970 literature prize within the Gorky Avenue house, however the author rejected a secret ceremony. A Swedish journalist in Moscow, Stig Fredrikson, was Solzhenitsyn’s smuggler. He carried Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel lecture on tightly rolled movie disguised as a battery in a transistor radio, and he introduced different letters to the West and pictures taped to his again.
“I felt that there was a way of unfairness that he was so remoted and so persecuted,” Fredrikson mentioned in a current interview. “I received increasingly scared and increasingly afraid each time I met him.”
In 1971, the Soviet Union allegedly tried to poison Solzhenitsyn utilizing a secret nerve agent, leaving him severely sick. Early 1974 was tense. The prosecutor subpoenaed him. State newspapers railed in opposition to him.
The morning of Feb. 12, 1974, the couple labored of their examine. Within the afternoon, he walked his 5-month-old son, Stepan, within the yard under.
“He got here again right here and actually a minute later there was a hoop on the door. There have been eight males. They instantly broke the chain and received in,” his widow mentioned. “There was a prosecutor in his prosecutor’s uniform, two males in plainclothes and the remaining have been in navy uniform. They informed him to dress.”
“We hugged and we saved hugging for fairly awhile,” she recalled. “The very last thing he informed me was to handle the youngsters.”
He was deported to West Germany. The couple later settled in Vermont and arrange a fund to assist dissident writers utilizing royalties from his guide, “The Gulag Archipelago.” About 1,000 folks nonetheless obtain cash from the fund, in line with Solzhenitsyna.
When the author and his spouse returned to Russia in 1994, they traveled throughout the nation by prepare. Hundreds of individuals crushed into halls to listen to him converse.
Solzhenitsyn abhorred the shock remedy and unchecked capitalism of the Nineties and most popular Putin’s robust nationalism. He died of coronary heart failure at 89 in August 2008, 5 months after a presidential election that noticed Putin swap locations with the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, in a transfer that critics noticed as a ploy to get round constitutional time period limits.
Behind a grand, Stalin-era house block at 6 Gorky St. sits an ornate 1907 constructing well-known for its facade, artwork nouveau glazed blue tiles, elegant arches and baroque spires. As soon as a monastery dormitory, it was a staple on pre-Soviet postcards from Moscow. However November 1939, the 26,000-ton constructing was placed on rails and pushed again to widen the road.
Linguists Lev and Raisa Kopelev lived at House 201 on the highest ground. Their spacious eating room turned a popular haven for Moscow’s intelligentsia from the Nineteen Fifties to the Nineteen Eighties.
“Folks gathered on a regular basis — to speak. On this house, like many different kitchens and eating rooms, at tables crammed most of the time with vodka, herring, and French dressing salad, feasts of thought happened,” mentioned Svetlana Ivanova, Raisa’s daughter from one other marriage, who lived within the house for practically 4 a long time.
Solzhenitsyn and fellow dissident Joseph Brodsky have been the Kopelev household’s mates, amongst many different artists, poets, writers and scientists who fashioned the spine of the Soviet human rights motion of the Nineteen Sixties.
Kopelev was a author and dissident, turning his again on the Communist Celebration and a prestigious college place. A former gulag prisoner, he impressed the character Lev Rubin in Solzhenitsyn’s novel “Within the First Circle,” depicting the destiny of arrested scientists.
“The house was a particular place for everybody. Folks there weren’t afraid to talk their thoughts on subjects that may be thought of in any other case dangerous,” Ivanova mentioned. “A brand new, completely different spirit dominated in its partitions.”
The Eliseevsky retailer at No. 16 was a landmark for 120 years — born in czarist Russia, a witness to the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, a survivor of wars and a bastion throughout eras of shortages and many. It closed its doorways in April.
Eliseevsky fell on laborious occasions throughout the coronavirus pandemic as worldwide vacationers dwindled and Russians sought cheaper grocery purchasing alternate options.
Within the palace-like inside, two chandeliers dangle from an ornate ceiling. Gilt columns line the partitions. The entrance of the shop, looking at Tverskaya Avenue, has a row of stained glass.
Denis Romodin, a historian on the Museum of Moscow, mentioned Eliseevsky is one among simply two retail areas in Moscow with such pre-revolutionary interiors. However Eliseevsky’s stage of preservation made it “one among a sort,” he mentioned.
The constructing was as soon as owned by Zinaida Volkonskaya, a princess and Russian cultural determine within the nineteenth century. She transformed the home right into a literary salon whose luminaries included Russia’s best poet, Alexander Pushkin.
St. Petersburg service provider Grigory Eliseev opened the market in 1901. It shortly turned a success amongst Russian the Aristocracy for the number of European wine and cheeses.
Romodin mentioned it was Russia’s first retailer with worth tags. Earlier than Eliseevsky, haggling was the norm — and it was additionally distinctive in its revolutionary know-how for the time: electric-powered fridges and show instances that allowed items to be saved longer.
Even within the Soviet Union’s hungriest years, the Thirties famine, Eliseevsky stocked pineapples.
“One may discover outlandish delicacies right here, which at the moment appeared very unique,” Romodin mentioned. “It was already unattainable to shock Muscovites with wine retailers. However a grocery retailer with luxurious interiors, and huge for that point, amazed and delighted Muscovites.”
In 1989, in a dusty authorities workplace by a nook of Pushkin Sq., three younger artists threw off a long time of suffocating state management and opened the primary unbiased artwork gallery.
That April, Yevgeny Mitta and two fellow college students, Aidan Salakhova and Alexander Yakut, opened First Gallery. On the time, the Soviet Union was opening up underneath insurance policies together with glasnost, which gave extra room for public debate and criticism.
Artists have been ordered to undertake the Socialist Realist model in 1934, depicting scenes reminiscent of completely satisfied collective farmworkers. Expressionist, summary and avant-garde artwork was banned. From the Nineteen Seventies, underground artwork exhibitions have been the one retailers to interrupt the Soviet-imposed guidelines.
“I simply felt we needed to make one thing new,” recalled Mitta, 58, who saved his curiosity in modern expressionism a secret at a prime Moscow artwork college within the Nineteen Eighties.
“It was like nothing actually occurred in artwork historical past within the twentieth century, prefer it stopped,” he mentioned. “The Socialist Realism doctrine was invented and unfold to the artists as the one one attainable method of growing work, movies and literature.”
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, artists needed to “discover ways to survive, what to do, learn how to work and make a dwelling,” he mentioned.
Within the Soviet Union’s last years, a mania raged for all issues Western. Estée Lauder opened the primary Western-brand store on Gorky Avenue in 1989 after assembly Raisa Gorbachev, the spouse of reformist Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev, in December 1988.
The Soviet Union’s first McDonald’s, situated throughout Pushkin Sq. on Gorky Avenue, opened Jan. 31, 1990 — a yellow-arched image of Gorbachev’s perestroika financial reforms. Pizza Hut opened later that 12 months. (In 1998, Gorbachev starred in a industrial for the pizza chain.)
Karina Pogosova and Anna Patrunina have been cashiers at McDonald’s on opening day. The road stretched a number of blocks. Law enforcement officials stood watch to maintain it organized.
“The environment was great. The primary day I needed to smile your entire day and my face muscle mass damage,” Patrunina mentioned. “This isn’t a joke. Russians don’t smile basically, so we weren’t used to smiling in any respect, to not point out for greater than eight hours straight.”
Pogosova and Patrunina have been college students on the Moscow Aviation Institute once they discovered McDonald’s was hiring by way of an advert in an area Moscow newspaper. Interview questions included: “How briskly are you able to run 100 meters?” It was to gauge if somebody was energetic sufficient for the job.
Pogosova and Patrunina are nonetheless with the corporate in the present day, as senior vice chairman of improvement and franchising and vice chairman of operations, respectively.
“I assumed that that is the world of alternatives and this new world is coming to our nation, so I have to be on this new world,” Patrunina mentioned.
The smiling employees wasn’t the one tradition shock for purchasers. Some had by no means tried the fountain sodas obtainable. They have been unaccustomed to meals that wasn’t eaten with utensils. The colourful paper bins that Huge Macs got here in have been often saved as souvenirs.
McDonald’s shortly turned like a landmark on the road.
“I keep in mind very properly that the road and your entire metropolis was very darkish and McDonald’s was like an island of sunshine with vivid signage,” Pogosova mentioned. “The road began to alter after McDonalds opened its first restaurant there.”
The top of the Soviet Union uncorked Moscow’s wild Nineties. Some folks made on the spot fortunes on buying state-owned enterprises at throwaway costs. Guidelines have been being written on the fly. The town was pulsing with potentialities for these with cash or these determined to get some.
“It was straightforward to get drunk on this,” mentioned Alex Shifrin, a former Saatchi & Saatchi promoting government from Canada who lived in Moscow from the mid-90s till the late 2000s.
All of it was on full show at Night time Flight, Moscow’s first nightclub, opened by Swedish managers in 1991, within the last months of the Soviet Union, at Tverskaya, 17. The membership launched Moscow’s nouveau elite to “face management” — who deserves getting previous the rope line — and music-throbbing decadence.
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The phrase “standing on Tverskaya” made its method into Russian vernacular as the road turned a scorching spot for prostitutes. Towards the top of the 2000s, Night time Flight had misplaced its luster. The membership scene in Moscow had moved on to greater and bolder venues.
Many years earlier than, No. 17 was well-known because the constructing with the dancer: A statue of a ballerina, holding a hammer and sickle, positioned atop the cupola throughout Stalin’s constructing blitz.
Muscovites nicknamed the constructing the Home Below the Skirt.
“The thought was to have Gorky Avenue as a museum of Soviet artwork. The statues represented a dance of socialism,” artwork historian Pavel Gnilorybov mentioned. “The ballerina was a logo of the liberty of ladies and the concept that, earlier than the revolution, girls have been slaves. It’s as if she is singing an ode to the regime.”
The statues have been crumbling and have been eliminated by 1958. Folks forgot them. Now a gaggle of Muscovites, together with Gnilorybov, are campaigning for the return of the ballerina.
“It’s an concept that we wish to give the town as a present. It’s not political,” he mentioned. “It’s lovely.”
Pushkin Sq. has been Moscow’s favourite assembly place for mates, lovers and political demonstrations.
In November 1927, Trotskyist opponents of Stalin marched to the twenty seventh Home of Soviets at one finish of Tverskaya Avenue, reverse the Resort Nationwide, in one of many final public protests in opposition to the Soviet ruler.
In December 1965, a number of dozen dissidents gathered in Pushkin Sq. to protest the trials of two writers. It turned an annual occasion. Folks would collect simply earlier than 6 p.m. and, on the hour, take away their hats for a minute.
In 1987, dissidents collected signatures at Pushkin Sq. and different areas calling for a memorial to these imprisoned or killed by the Soviet state. The motion developed into Memorial, a number one human rights group. Memorial was declared a “overseas agent” in 2016 underneath Putin’s sweeping political crackdowns.
Protests in help of opposition chief Alexei Navalny met at Pushkin Sq. earlier this 12 months. And it’s the place communists and liberals rallied on a wet September evening to protest 2021 parliamentary election outcomes giving a landslide win to Putin’s United Russia occasion regardless of widespread claims of fraud.
Almost 30 years after the autumn of the united statesS.R., Putin’s Russia carries some echoes of the tales lived out in Soviet occasions — censorship and repressions are returning. Navalny was poisoned by a nerve agent in 2020 and later jailed. Many opposition figures and unbiased journalists have fled the nation. The hope, sleaze and exhilaration of the Nineties have pale. Tverskaya Avenue has settled into calm stagnation, ready for the following chapter.
Arthur Bondar contributed to this report.
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https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/interactive/2021/russia-soviet-30-anniversary-tverskaya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world | On Moscow’s Tverskaya Avenue, a front-row seat from czars to the Soviet Union to Putin’s Russia