New symbols and big reforms: how Moscow lived in the middle of the last century

September 17

For the City Day, a new interactive map was created in the ‘Moscow - With Care for History’ virtual museum. Using this map, you can compare the city of the middle of the last century and our days. The developers found photos of the early 1950s — early 1970s in the archives and took new pictures from the same points.

Moscow of those years is a city restored after the war, which was growing rapidly and did not want to be inferior to other world capitals. About how Moscow looked like and how the citizens lived at that time, Mikhail Morukov, the Deputy Head of the document storage department after 1917, and Philip Smirnov, the editor-in-chief of the Moscow Heritage magazine, the local historian, told

Minimum of Cars

In the middle of the last century, personal cars could be counted on fingers even in the capital. Philip Smirnov tells that taxis, a small fleet of officials and transport companies sometimes appeared on the streets. After the war, cars captured from the enemy appeared, but they quickly fell into disrepair.

“In the 1950s, a personal car meant belonging to the scientific, military and political elite, it was the privilege of people's artists, academicians and generals. And in the 1970s, this is a sign of a highly paid profession - engineers, middle-ranking managers. But even by 1980, one car accounted for 13-14 Muscovites, " Mikhail Morukov says.

According to him, for Moscow, the twentieth century has become the century of the road network reforms. Up to its middle, not a single street had even the width that Empress Elizaveta Petrovna had precepted. Only from this time do the roads begin to correspond to a major world city.

Transport Network

In 1960, Moscow grew dramatically: its borders expanded to the current MKAD. Many new routes were required for residents of the new districts to get to the center. Buses began running along the routs: ZILs-158 became pioneers in the development of new territories. A cheap type of urban transport has become widespread. It does not need a complex infrastructure: it is enough to affix with nail the signs on the poles and the bus stops are ready, Philip Smirnov explains. If in 1950 there were about 50 bus routes, then 20 years later there were more than 260, and by the end of the 1970s-more than 300, Mikhail Morukov adds.

At the same time, the trolleybus network was developing: in 1961, it became the longest in the world - more than 1.2 thousand kilometers. But the main public transport in those years was the metro, it finally displaced the tram from the pedestal in terms of traffic volume and did not yield the palm longer.

The 1970s were a breakthrough in metro construction, the speed of construction then was only slightly inferior to today. And in the XXI century, Moscow metro builders continue to set record after record: in 2018 - by the number of stations built, in 2019 - by the length of tunnels laid, in 2020-by the number of working tunneling boards.

Architecture of the New Time

According to Philip Smirnov, Moscow desperately needed to be rebuilt after the war. In 1947, on the 800th anniversary, eight capsules were laid with the promise to build eight high-rise buildings (as you know, seven were completed). A separate department was created with 10 teams of architects who solved unique tasks: they built buildings at an angle, fit them into the existing environment, strengthened the ground. Thanks to this experience, a galaxy of highly qualified specialists has grown and new technologies have been developed, which have been spread throughout the country.

Skyscrapers have become a symbol of victory and the prospects for the development of Moscow. Their architects would angrily refuse to compare them with American skyscrapers, Mikhail Morukov says. The buildings were built in contrast to the Western experience: instead of similar structures made of glass and concrete, unique architectural objects were erected in Moscow. The residents received them very positively - then it was a young city opened to all progressive things (before the war, more than half of the population was under 25 years old).

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Exhibition of Records

In the 1950s, the current VDNKh changed fundamentally. In 1959, agricultural, industrial and construction expositions were united on its territory, and the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition turned into an Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy. In the 1960s, instead of the territorial principle (pavilions of the republics), the exhibition was reorganized exclusively according to the industry (Chemistry, Metallurgy, Agriculture). Old pavilions are being rebuilt, new ones appear, and the territory is almost doubled - from 130 to more than 200 hectares, Mikhail Morukov says.

"It was difficult to get around such a territory even in a day. To make it more accessible, a trolleybus route was launched. Every morning it ran through entire Moscow on the route B called the exhibition route. These were very recognizable, richly decorated vehicles - one of them has been preserved in the Mosgortrans Museum, " Philip Smirnov says.

In those years, it was not so much a park, but a large exhibition, the territory of records, the highest achievements, where you can come and feel proud of the country. "In the post-war period, it was necessary to fix eyes on something. The abundance and architectural excesses of VDNKh helped to feel a surge of strength and deep pride. As a reward, people from the villages were given the opportunity to come here and show the world their breeding boars. They were amazed by what they saw, " the local historian notes.

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Parks of Culture and Recreation

Moscow parks were also reinvented. The Gorky Central Park has increased its territory - the Neskuchny Garden has finally become a part of it. The length of the alleys has grown to 50 kilometers, the famous arch was installed at the entrance to the park. And in the late 1950s, the public's observatory and the Ferris wheel appeared.

The Sokolniki Park was reconstructed, which, with the addition of new territories, ceased to be marginal. The Bitsevsky Forest began to be entered into the urban space. Most of these territories became parks of culture and recreation with open-air theaters, sports grounds, reading rooms, catering establishments and popular scientific institutions.


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At the same time, not so many park areas remained. "By and large, in the 1950s and 1960s, Muscovites recognized any space with access to the water, gazebos or ice cream kiosks as a park. Today's highest standards of park improvement are an achievement of the XXI century, " Philip Smirnov says.

Water Views

In the middle of the century, the Moskva River and its embankments acquired a familiar look for citizens. With the launch of the Volga-Don Canal in 1952, the capital received the status of a port of the five seas. The plan for the Volga-Don Canal construction was developed before the war, so in 1937, when the Moskva-Volga Canal was opened (it received the name of Moscow in 1947), there was already an idea of turning Moscow into a port of the five seas. But it was implemented only in the 1950s.

The depth of the Moskva River after the construction of the Moskva-Volga Canal and the reservoirs system reached five meters. For comparison: in the late 1920s, due to a drought, the river opposite the Kremlin could be waded, Mikhail Morukov says.

Already in the 1950s, almost 1.5 thousand cargo and about 300 passenger ships sailed here. At the same time, river trams appeared en masse - first the Moskvitch motor ships, then the Moskva (they are still very common today), and for those who want to give a drive at rapid-fire pace - hydrofoil ships called Rockets.

But Muscovites continued to swim in the river with pleasure - it could be done opposite the Kremlin, near the hotel Ukraine, on the territory of the Vorobyovy Gory, in Gorky Park and Serebryany Bor.

Old and New Cinemas

The oldest cinema in the city - the Khudozhestvenny - underwent a large-scale reconstruction in the 1950s. "During the fight against architectural excesses, its facade was simplified. At the same time, Khudozhestvenny is becoming the first widescreen cinema in Moscow and one of the main venues for film screenings," Mikhail Morukov says. The cinema gets the status of a festival one: it shows author's and foreign films that do not go out for public screening.

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In 2020, the Khudozhestvenny was opened for guests after a long-term pause. The cinema was restored having received back its historical columns and bas-reliefs.

The poster of the War and Peace movie on the Khudozhestvenny cinema building. Photo by Bergoltsev. July 1966. Moscow Main Archive (Glavarchiv)

New districts of Moscow, in addition to housing, received social infrastructure, which necessarily included cinemas. "Muscovites enjoyed going to the cinema. There they not only rested, but also educated themselves: the program included educational or popular science newsreels. Unless and until television became widespread, it was the main way of people exposure to the most important of the arts," the historian notes.

Today, Moscow is implementing a large-scale program of the Soviet cinemas reconstruction, which are now becoming regional cultural centers.

Main Stadium

The idea of building a main stadium in Moscow was born in the 1920s. "People there were to demonstrate their achievements and threaten their rebellious neighbors with their training," Philip Smirnov says. In the 1950s, the country’s new leadership of the country returned to this idea.

"The area turned up very successfully - by the second half of the 1950s, the metro reached Luzhniki, there was also the final stop of a number of bus routes that connected Moscow with the territories of new construction. This place was literally designed by nature and human efforts to create a large object, " Mikhail Morukov says.

The development of the project took only 90 days, and despite the difficult conditions, the stadium was built in 450 days. In the summer of 1956, Luzhniki was opened with a friendly football match between the USSR and China national teams. During the first years of its operation, the giant stadium (more than 100 thousand seats) hosted the Spartakiad of the peoples of the USSR, the World Festival of Youth and Students and numerous football matches. "The trip here was an encouragement for many Moscow families, people dreamed of getting to a modern, large and powerful world-class stadium," Philip Smirnov says.

The stadium remains the main venue for major sporting events even today. In 2018, after a large-scale reconstruction, its arena hosted the World Football Cup, and now the largest sports cluster in Moscow is being formed around it.


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