Saturday, 24 September 2011

Vampires in Moscow

File:Kutuzovsky night.jpg

As some of you may know, I've always had a thing for vampires. I brought a limited pocket-edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula which I kept in my bedside drawer for years, only to throw it under the bed to make way for the Twighlight series. So when the Rough Guide to Moscow told me there were "seven sisters who brood over Moscow city like vampires", I was entirely distracted from repeatedly downloading the trailer for Twilight: Breaking Dawn (it looks immense). 

The 'seven sisters' in question are neo-gothic skyscrapers commissioned by everybody's favourite city-planner, Josef Stalin. Apparently he developed quite a complex about the Americans and their high-rise skylines and so set about carving up his landscape in competition. "We won the war..." he apparently told his underlings. "Foreigners will come to Moscow, walk around, and there's no skyscrapers. If they compare Moscow to capitalist cities, it's a moral blow to us." So he commissioned teams of his favourite architects to create eight megalithic Soviet Skyscrapers.

Walking back to our hotel from Red Square at midnight, we got our first impression of one of the sisters dominating the skyline. She is beyond impressive, looming on the horizon in all her gothic majesty...

Now that really is immense

I was happily convinced that one of the moths dancing way off in the flood lights was The Batman.

Muscovites call them them the Stalinskie Vysotky "Stalin's high-rises", and rumour has it that workers who died from exhaustion during their construction were simply tossed into the cement and worked into the walls. So if you decide to renovate your high-rise apartment with river views, you can expect to find a skeleton or two behind your closet.

As you walk around the city it's hard not to notice the others. They're like nothing I've ever seen - straight out of a movie... 
Moscow State University

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

You get the idea
Two of the Seven Sisters are residential apartment blocks - where a lucky few got to live inside a physical manifestation of Stalin's mind. The Kotyelinicheskaya Embankment Apartments (above) were home to chosen artists, writers and composers. Why keep so many arty types all in the same building? Obviously - because it's much cheaper to spy on them if they're all in one place. Imagine the cost savings. He was a shrewd man, that Josef Stalin.

These days the apartments are highly sought-after real estate - some of the most expensive flats in the city. But some of the original tenants - artist and spies - apparently still live there. Check out the amazing story here:

"Neighbors: Can't live with them, can't shoot them. But you can always inform on them to the authorities...".

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