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Moscow: A City Reborn

The capital of the Soviet Union needed to be revitalized. With Stalin holding total control of the country, matched with his ideological desires and national need, pushed much of the state’s resources into rebuilding and empowering Moscow. When they came into power, Stalin and the rest of the Soviet leadership realized that while Moscow may be the most important city in all of Russia, it was nowhere near as built up as it needed to be for industrialization purposes. In order for the Soviet Union to contend with its Western neighbors as a military and economic powerhouse, it needed to further transform itself away from its rural, agrarian roots into a more urbanized society. Stalin set forth his industrialization plans, placing the rebirth of Moscow high on the list.

Moscow before Reconstruction

Moscow before Reconstruction

In July 10th, 1935, Stalin and Viacheslav Molotov signed a plan into affect which would expand the already large, 800-year old city. One of the most important components of this plan was to expand the city to nearly three times its current size. Such an expansion would not only require the resettlement of peasants into the city, but also required Moscow to expand outwards, mutating the farmland into the urban jungle. More than 15 million square meters of new housing units were planned to be installed and 16 new highways became constructed. The state paid for schools, nurseries, and other necessary social institutions in order to benefit the new transition the peasants had into the city and make Moscow into a modern-age metropolis.

Planned Palace of Soviets building

Planned Palace of Soviets building

As construction of the city emerged, the old buildings the Bolsheviks thought were unnecessary had to collapse and give way to the new. Numerous churches and religious buildings were demolished by Russia to make way for homes or other construction projects. Since Stalin disliked the influence the Orthodox Church still held over Russia, this was killing 2 birds with 1 stone. New schools, as well theaters, clubs, and department stores were added into existing Moscow as the city began to emerge as a Russionized version of Paris or London. Canals and highways were pushed through the new Moscow, adding to the city’s industrial potential and benefiting the residents whose homes were not demolished to make way for new developments. Projects dedicated towards the rise and glory of Soviet rule began to be planned out and their construction started, including the never-completed Palace of Soviets, numerous large statutes of Lenin, and the elegant Moscow Metro which its construction was filled with materials, made to be visually appeasing instead of efficient. The purpose of these statues and monuments was to instill national pride and also reassert that Bolshevik rule would be there to stay in Russia for generations to come. As the creation of the new Moscow demonstrates, 1930s of the Soviet Union focused on the expansion and development of the Soviet state and its cities when its authority throughout Russia went unchallenged. With little to no internal dissent which immediately threatened the state, the Bolsheviks could finally build towards their goal: a powerful socialist state which would rival even the greatest empires of the West.

Sergei Rzhevsky, “Moscow Palace of Soviets – Soviet architectural giant (July 29, 2011),” Russia Travel Blog,
Victor Ruikovich, “Moscow Before Reconstruction (1927),” Photodome 1999
Lewis Siegelbaum, “Rebuilding Stalinism: 1929-1941,” edited by Gregory L. Freeze, Russia: A History, 3rd edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 361-362.
Lewis Siegelbaum, “Rebuilding of Moscow,” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History,
Harold Denny, “Kremlin is to Remain,” New York Times, 11 July 1935, p. 1,

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9 Responses to “Moscow: A City Reborn”

  1. Drew Snell says:

    Excellent post! It’s interesting how expansions to the city were still being built as solely symbols of power. With all the social propaganda of the 1930’s, one would think Stalin’s expansions to Moscow would be efficient and necessary to the growing economy. Obviously, with the size of that palace, he had other intentions.

  2. Parker Leep says:

    I also wrote my post for the week on the rebuilding of Moscow. What made me so interested in it was the ridiculous size of the rebuilding project and the massive expansion of the city. This was such a cool project even though it wasn’t fully completed. I also didn’t see the amount of housing that was going to be built or the state paid social institutions so thanks for sharing that. Great post!

  3. A. Nelson says:

    Your post ads important context to Parker’s so I’m really glad you both wrote about this topic. I especially appreciate your reminder that other European metropoles (Paris, in particular) also undertook “planned modernization”:'s_renovation_of_Paris

  4. Phillip Pullen says:

    Great post, I also share the view that it is interesting how Stalin used the rebuilding of Moscow to continue to spread propaganda and the notion of Soviet power in accordance with the modernization of the city. I believe that Stalin not only saw the modernization of Moscow as necessary to keep up with the West industrially, but to assert Soviet power to the world as well.

  5. Logan Herschbach says:

    Very nice read. Some of these Stalinist buildings still exist today. While the Palace of the Soviets was never finished, there are seven skyscrapers still around Moscow. Today, these buildings are called the Seven Sisters.

  6. Sean Moughan says:

    Solid post. I like how you break down the numbers of it all. It gives the reader a sense of how big this project truly was. You also play tribute to the other metropolises that meant to “modernize” and renovate which reminds the reader this is not a strictly Soviet endeavor. I like how you spin it as an opportunity to further spread Soviet propaganda while simultaneously bringing the city into the 20th century.

  7. Iain Alexandridis says:

    I also wrote about the rebuilding of Moscow and focused on soem of the negative aspects that Stalin overlooked when prioritizing industrialization and urbanization. Thanks for adding in the numbers on housing, had trouble locating any so it was interesting to see how vast the housing plans were, especially when there were so many displaced farmers migrating towards the cities.

  8. Courtney Penzo says:

    In one of my first posts this semester I talked about the struggle from shifting to a more industrial based economy and the reasons why Russia struggled. It’s interesting that as a country it still needed work to fully transform, especially to keep up with the powers of the West. Interesting post!

  9. Amanda Thomas says:

    Your post was eye-opening. After reading your post, I now fully understand the depth of this project. Your post was very revealing as to just how large the scale of this endeavor was. I like how you also stated that Paris and London also expanded. It allowed the reader to know that Moscow wasn’t the only place expanding. Your post was very descriptive and I learned a lot.

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