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Stalin Skyscrapers: Building for Prestige or Energy Generation?

Thursday, 20 August 2009

stalin skyscrapersThe legend goes that Stalin once said, «We've won the war and are recognized worldwide as a great winner. Foreign tourists will visit our cities. What will happen if foreign visitors walk around Moscow and find no skyscrapers? They will make unfavorable comparisons with capitalist cities». For a long time, this phrase was mostly laughed at, as it was given as an example of Stalinist totalitarianism, as a vivid demonstration of his megalomania, but we can not deny that Stalin skyscrapers (or «vysotki» in Russian) are one of the best sights of Moscow, which attract tourists and excite admiration.

Broad avenues, built in the days of Stalin, too, were ridiculed - they were far too spacious for a small amount of traffic. But years have passed, and it turned out that those avenues were built for the future, and their width is more than justified.

Indeed, Stalin's desire to transform and «upgrade» Moscow is totally understandable. At that time the Russian capital was not particularly impressive. Tall buildings were a rarity, to say the least. The highest buildings had six to eight floors. The «Moskva» hotel was the only exception as it had as many as sixteen floors! But the rest of the Moscow urban landscape has not changed much since the days of Pushkin, when the house of the Governor-General on Tverskaya Street which had as many as three floors was considered to be the highest building in the capital!

Stalin skyscrapers and broad avenues have been designed to create an entirely new view of Moscow - beautiful, luxurious, and equisitely elegant at the same time. Unfortunately, the idea of renovation of the center of the city was not implemented in the full, and the present-day tall buildings have completely destroyed the building scheme developed in the 1940-s, by literally ruining the «communist ampire» of Stalin skyscrapers.

Many legends and stories are told about Stalin skyscrapers. For instance, they say that a bronze statue of Stalin (which was supposed to crown the tower of the building) is mured in the basement of the main building of the Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills. Also, there is a legend that the builders were political prisoners, and two of them tried to escape on a hang-glider when working on the upper floors of the building, and one even suceeded. Moreover, the construction site was a potential landslide hazard and the building cracked in the process of construction, and people who were blamed for this were executed and the foundation was redone. They say that the Moscow State University has a few underground floors where Stalin planned to locate the Center for countermissile defense of Moscow.

However, these rumours are hardly true, while the talks about the tall building on Lermontovskaya Square are plain truth: it was originally built at an angle and the foundation ground was frozen in order to proceed with construction without waiting for the natural shrinkage of the foundation. The calculation was quite accurate, and the building has perfectly leveled off to the upright position.

All the buildings employed over-engineered steel frames with concrete ceilings and masonry infill, based on concrete slab foundations (in the case of the University building - 7 meters thick). Exterior ceramic tiles, panels up to 15 square meters, were secured with stainless steel anchors. The height of these buildings was not limited by political will, but by lack of technology and experience - the structures were far heavier than American skyscrapers.

Moreover, some stories about Stalin skyscrapers have a mystical flair. For instance, they say that these buildings were erected not as a part of the architectural reconstruction project of the Russian capital, but as energy concentrators designed to reinforce the power and bring the leaders (Lenin and Stalin) back to life. Like, that is why the skyscrapers were erected in the areas where blood was spilt: on the Red Square (near the sites of mass executions), and the sites of violent battles in 1905, etc. It is hard to imagine that Stalin would like to bring Lenin back to life, but let this incredible theory rest on the conscience of the mysticism enthusiasts. Anyway, you can find a lot of more «murderous» places in Moscow.

However, whatever you might say about resurrection of the dead, Stalin skyscrapers do look like high-stepped ziggurat pyramids which are known to have strange effect on the living organisms and objects.

Thus, blades if placed on the pyramid surface get sharp by themselves, food is well preserved for a long time and distilled water can change its electrical conductivity. However, such experiments were performed on the pyramids of classical, not stepped structure. But ziggurat pyramids have «mystical» properties, too.

Sometimes the longevity of Soviet rulers is attributed to the magical properties of Stalin «pyramids»: Molotov (96), Budenny (90), Kaganovich (98), Zhukov - (78), Mikoyan (83), Voroshilov (88) ... Life expectancy in the top highest echelons of power in the Soviet era was 76 years. This is surprising indeed, especially when compared to the life expectancy in men in general which was only 59 years. However, such phenomenal longevity can be explained without resorting to the mystical pyramids and attributing magical properties to Stalin skyscrapers (which allegedly «concentrate energy» and forward it «in the right direction»). In the end, the powerful few have always enjoyed better medical care than the mortals. Isn't this a true secret of their longevity?

However, you can't stop gossip. Another rumor says that Stalin wanted to eradicate religion and to substitute with his own personality cult, and «sacred» architecture was part of the «religious» plan. Yet the most popular theory states that the Palace of Soviets (which was the first Soviet skyscraper project, interrupted by the German invasion of 1941, at which point the steel frame was scrapped in order to fortify the Moscow defense ring, and the site was abandoned) along with Stalin skyscrapers should form a single complex, which would help to keep the entire Soviet Union in «psychological and energetical» submission.

But after the Patriotic War was over, Stalin froze the construction of the Palace of Soviets. And if Stalin skyscrapers were to help hold down the country, why did they work so poorly?

Yet, Stalin skyscrapers will excite our imagination, even if tomorrow hundreds of scientists will present irrefutable mathematical evidence that these buildings were nothing else but an architectural fad of the time. The skyscrapers are too beautiful and elegant, and they really look like mystical pyramids. And every city wants to have something unusual and attractive that could be a true inspiration for legends.

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