Planning eight: The history of Stalinist high-rises

September 9

The foundations of the Stalinist high-rises were laid on 7 September 1947, on Moscow’s 800th anniversary. They completely changed the architectural appearance of the victorious country’s capital.

The high-rises came about thanks to the 13 January 1947 resolution of the USSR Council of Ministers on construction of multi-storey buildings in Moscow. The resolution envisaged construction of eight monumental buildings between 1947 and 1952 that would meet the world’s highest standards in terms of design, construction equipment and technology.

Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate shares the story of how the famous high-rises began.

Design and expectations

From the very beginning, the Moscow high-rises stood out because of their architectural design and unprecedented scale, even though they were originally supposed to be used as residential housing, hotels and public offices.  

City planners were particularly thorough about the location of the buildings in the capital. The high-rises were supposed to be built at Leninskiye Gory (now Vorobyovy Gory), Krasnye Vorota Square, Vosstaniya Square (now Kudrinskaya Square), Kotelnicheskaya Embankment, Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square and other signature locations.

The ministries and agencies with access to the country’s biggest construction capacities were entrusted with the project. They were given only two months to design the buildings while the preparatory works were to be finished by the end of 1947.

On 7 September 1947, secretaries of Moscow district committees of the All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) held a meeting on the festivities to mark Moscow’s 800th anniversary. According to the transcript of this meeting, which is now stored in Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate, the groundbreaking ceremony for the high-rises was scheduled for 12 pm that day.

The ceremony was held across the eight construction sites where preparations were in full swing. A two-metre rectangular brick plinth for a memorial plaque was installed in the centre of each of the construction sites. The ceremony was followed by festive rallies involving speakers representing Moscow neighbourhoods, designers, architects, representatives of local workers and senior managers of the companies in charge of the construction.

The speakers expressed confidence that the projects would be completed to high standards and within the set timeframes. Greeted by a round of applause, a representative of the ministry in charge of the construction and the chairman of the district executive committee attached a memorial plaque to the plinth. It was a bronze-patinated aluminum plaque, 40 cm by 80 cm in size.

The archive document states that the plaques were produced in Moscow at a casting and mechanical plant supervised by the Moscow City Executive Committee’s Road and Bridge Construction Directorate (17 Shelepikha Street). Each of the plaques were engraved with the following inscription: “This is the site of a future 32-storey (26- or 16-storey) building. The ground was broken on 7 September 1947, the 800th anniversary of Moscow.”

Seven high-rises were finished by 1957, including Lomonosov Moscow State University, the Ukraine Hotel, a residential building on Kudrinskaya Square, the USSR Foreign Ministry, Leningradskaya Hotel, the administrative and residential building on Krasnye Vorota Square and the residential building at Kotelnicheskaya Embankment. The eighth planned high-rise, a 26-storey administrative building in Zaryadye, was never built.


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