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Soviet Paradise

Restorers re-discover the magnificence of Stalin-era architecture

VDNKh or the National Agricultural Exhibition Centre in Moscow was built in the late 1930s on the order of Stalin. It was meant to inspire Soviet people who lived a hard life of poverty and astonish the whole world. Its many pavilions were created in a multitude of architectural styles and elaborately decorated by the best artists and sculptors of the USSR. 

Many of its sights became iconic symbols of Moscow: Vera Mukhina's sculpture Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, the golden fountain, the space rocket. But the Soviet people had to pay a great price for this splendour. Several thousand convicts from the Gulag were used to construct VDNKh and its initial architect, Vyacheslav Oltarzhevsky, was arrested for political reasons and sent into exile for 5 years.

Related: Soviet Russia's most ominous and mysterious building – the House on the Embankment

After Stalin's death, the controversial feeling conveyed by the place led to its slow decay. During Khrushchev's rule, the opulence of many pavilions was hidden under aluminum panels while many parts of the park fell into disuse. Slowly but surely, the place meant to commemorate the country's strength turned into the exact opposite. 

But as time passes, the association of VDNKh as a reminder of an oppressive regime wanes. What remains is the admiration of its beauty and the sense of duty to preserve and restore this unique architectural complex. As a reward for its renovation, VDNKh continues to present its restorers with a wealth of hidden treasures.

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