VDNH is a unique historical and architectural complex located in the capital of Russia - Moscow. It has no analogues in the world. The complex includes more than 500 permanent structures. 49 of them are the objects of cultural heritage.
However one should not think of the Exhibition as of the frozen monument of the bygone era. From the very first year of its existence it became a laboratory where the best Soviet architects, sculptors and artists experimented with the new Soviet style. From a historical point of view the Exhibition has always been an ideological loudspeaker of the country government.
STAGE I: HOW IT ALL STARTED
The background of the exhibition goes back to 1927 to the XV Congress of the Soviet Union executive body, i.e. All-union communist party (Bolshevik party) that is VKP(B) in Russian, back to the time when the decision regarding collectivization of the agricultural sector was taken. From that time until the mid-1930-s the country was undergoing serious changes. The idea of “shock agricultural labor” came into being.
In February 1933 during the First All-Union Congress of Collective Farmers special groups of “shock workers” appeared. Two years after during the Second All-Union Congress of Collective Farmers the government took a decision to build All-union agricultural exhibition. The idea of the exhibition was mainly symbolic. It was important to demonstrate the success of collective farms by collecting and showing the best results of collective farmers’ work on a specific area. This area was decided to be the part of Ostankino Park. The idea of such exhibition had a lot in common with “building of socialism in one specific country”.
Works at the All-union Agricultural Exhibition began in the second half of 1939. A lot of difficulties of political, technical and economical character were overcome. During the last 7 years of construction there were twice more work done than during the period of 1936-1937.
Two thousand artists, sculptors and architects worked at the first opening of the exhibition! El Lisitskiy, Alexander Deineka, Sergey Konyonkov, Gregory Motovilov, Vyacheslav Oltarzhevskiy, Sergey Chernishev took part in creation of the ideal world, including town planning at VDNH.
Forgotten and unremarkable waste land in the North-East suburbs of Moscow turned into ideal model of the future of the USSSR. Here on 136 hectares of land were located 250 buildings including 32 industrial pavilions, 20 palaces of the Soviet Republics, territories and regions , as well as a park , a greenhouse of subtropical crops , squares , ponds , open experimental plots , exemplary farm buildings and even a sugar factory .
In the design of the buildings artists and sculptors used a variety of natural materials. Facades of the pavilions of the republics showed the strategic meeting of architectural traditions with the arts and crafts of each region of the country together with all-union motives of self-sacrificing collective labor.
The grand opening of the exhibition took place on 1 August 1939. The Head of the Soviet government, the Chair of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR Vyacheslav Molotov made a speech in front of the first guests of the All-union Agricultural Exhibition.
During the first 85 days of the Exhibition’s work it was visited by more than 3.5 million people!
Danish writer Andersen Neksne was very expressive in his comments after visiting the exhibition: “We are in front of the exhibition, 52 pavilions of which resemble a city from the “Thousand and One Nights”. Every nation of the USSR got its particular space. The result is a picture that, despite the fact that it only shows the nations of the Soviet Union, gives a deeper understanding of humanity than many of the World Expo that I have seen so far!”
The exhibition became a very popular place for recreation of the Muscovites and tourists. Although many visitors never went inside the pavilions or read propaganda texts the aim of the exhibition creation was mainly achieved. It created overall positive attitude towards the idea of "socialist agriculture" among the visitors.
All-union agricultural Exhibition continued to function relatively unchanged until the beginning of World War II.
STAGE II: THE BIRTH OF VDNH
1948 – 1963
On October 25 1948 , the Council of Ministers decided to revive the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition. Due to objective reasons the opening of the exhibition took place only in 1954. The territory was enlarged up to 207 hectares, several fountains appeared, i.e. "Friendship of Peoples", "Stone Flower" and "Spike" (by the architect K.T . Topuridze), a five-kilometer highway with trolleybuses was built. Most pavilions were renovated. The main entrance became a monumental triumphal arch.
Before the exhibition was opened on 25 July 1954 the leaders of the party and government visited the Agricultural Exhibition and approved its new design. But the " Khrushchev thaw" brought its changes. A period of struggle against the "foofaraw" and "architectural excesses" began. There was a new trend for cheaper construction and standardization.
But it was during the "Thaw" that on 28 May 1958 the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a resolution "On the unification of the All-Union industrial, agricultural and construction exhibitions (on Frunze Embankment) into a single Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy of the USSR”.
In 1963 the Council of Ministers adopted a decree “On the reconstruction of the work of VDNH USSR” The exhibition became all year-round; the construction of a number of new and modern pavilions was planned and carried out.
STAGE III : PRESENTIMENT OF CHANGES
1970 - 1985
Every year exhibitions at VDNH became increasingly interesting and impressive. Thousands of exhibits filled new pavilions. In 1971 by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR the VDNH was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. It was the only state award granted to the exhibition over seventy-five years of its existence.
In the seventies the methods of propaganda improved. Ideologues were looking for the new ways of psychological and emotional influence on people. On the sixtieth birthday of the Soviet government there was created a big full-screen spectacle entitled "We are the Soviet people." It has been demonstrated in the Pavilion №1 “Central pavilion”.
It was at VDNH that so rare at that time foreign exhibitions took place. Despite they were mainly expositions of Soviet countries still they were of great interest to Soviet people.
Mid of 80-s was a time of change in the political and economical spheres of the country. Mikhail Gorbachev became the Secretary General of CPSU . He headed to the reform of the totalitarian system. A feeling of change and a sense of euphoria seized the society. No one yet imagined what difficulties would await the citizens of the USSR, and then the citizen of new Russia in the coming years. Publicity began to affect many areas of Soviet society life, including the activity of the ministries, departments and their leaders. Of course VDNH of the USSR was not left unattended.
Economical situation in the country became worse and worse. But so far everything went its usual order. There were huge trucks produced, space ships “Soyuz” and “Salute” were launched. The Soviet Union launched the space orbital station “Mir”. VDNH continued to surprise visitors with the unique exhibits. Its alleys and fountains were still beautiful.
STAGE IV : THE ERA OF ALL-RUSSIAN KEBAB-HOUSE
The beginning of the nineties of the XX century was a difficult period for Russia. The country survived the collapse of the Soviet Union, the formation of the Russian Federation and the Commonwealth of Independent States, political infighting and a systemic crisis.
In 1988 VDNH started working on the self-supporting basis and then completely lost state financing. The exhibition had to survive on its own trying to find new sources of financial support.
That's when the administration of the exhibition made the decision to lease the pavilions and other rentable places. The dictates of some tenants often reminded barbaric destruction, i.e. upon receipt of pavilions with live exhibits for rent they immediately got rid of the exhibits not to waste any "useful" area and turned the places into the points of consumer goods sale and even warehouses.
The expositions of “Central pavilion”, pavilion “Culture” (former “Uzbek Social Republic”) and other exhibitions were destructed this way. Even the restaurant “Golden Spike" that used to be able to serve 17 000 different dishes daily was harmed. It was turned into a warehouse.
Right after its renaming VDNH had to survive new era that was named “The era of all-Russian kebab-house”.
In 1992 the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy was transformed into a state joint stock company "VVC". By 1994 in the pavilions of VVC that is the abbreviation for the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, all expositions were closed except for the pavilion of livestock industries. But they also didn’t last long and by the first half of the 2000-s were eliminated. The only place that remained untouched at that time was the Amusement Park where people came to relax. The rest of the exhibition was turned into the flea market and kebab places.
Despite the barbaric use of pavilions and complete cease of exhibition activity VVC managed to keep the majority of its unique architectural complex.
In 1993 the state protection was granted to 49 pavilions and constructions, to cascade of artificial ponds with all the adjacent territory, to Michurinsky garden, Oak Grove (Sheremetyevo oak forest), Chestnut Grove and even to floral porters. In 1994 there was made an additional list of 35 separate buildings that were also recommended to state protection.
The first decade of the 2000s was to become slow period of exhibition activity recovery for VVC. In the early 2000s the management of the complex wanted to make some changes. The refuse of retail activity was out of question still it was necessary to make the exhibition look more attractive. It was decided to develop an exhibition area. National economy was recovering so there was something to tell and show.
Signs of “exhibition life” appeared in anniversary year 2009 when in addition to the three exhibition pavilions (№20, №57 and №69) multimedia pavilion №75 (“MosExpo”) was opened. It met all the requirements of exhibition complex of international level. The pavilion became the center for international and domestic exhibition and congress projects that demonstrated the newest technologies in the sphere of public healthcare, innovations energy and resource-saving. At the same time international cooperation with the countries of former Soviet Republics started to develop.
Meanwhile the Government of the Russian Federation being the main shareholders of JSC “SJSC VVC” and the Government of Moscow (having 30% share) got dozens of offers a year from private investors suggesting what should be done on the territory of the exhibition. Revival of the cultural complex was not a priority. There were ideas to build up to 500,000 square meters of residential property or giant shopping centers. As of November 2013 about 30% of the land and facilities of VVC were already privately owned. At that time there was a real danger of complete loss of the unique historical and cultural complex.
OUR TIME: 2014
Of course VVC with its 235 hectares of beers stands and kiosks from the 90-s rose questions, i.e. “When will the exhibition turn come?” In November 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a document that allowed to turn the most unpleasant page in the history of the main exhibition of the country. The president has decided to entrust the revival of the country's largest exhibition center to Moscow’s authorities. The headquarters of reconstruction was personally headed by the Mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin.
On 4 April 2014 the management of the complex was taken by the team of talented professionals. Vladimir Pogrebenko was appointed as the General Director.
Moscow City government can already answer the most important question " What will happen to the renovated VDNH?” The Exhibition of Economic Achievements has now again combined the three functions that were the aim at the time of its creation. It again became the main museum, exhibition and recreational complex. Sergei Sobyanin proposed the Muscovites to vote for the restoration of the historic al name of the exhibition at the portal "Active citizen". On 14 May 2014 the Exhibition regained its glorious name - VDNH.
At the direction of the Mayor during the first two weeks all illegal extensions, porches, advertising constructions, tents, stalls and fences installed unauthorized on the territory of the exhibition were eliminated. There were about 300 temporary and illegal buildings demolished. About 10,000 tons of garbage was taken away . 1.000 units of construction machinery and 6.000 people were working at the site at the same time. There will be no more sales in the pavilions, only exhibitions, museums, lecture halls and a variety of new expositions in new for Moscow formats.
Construction works that started at VDNH in April 2014 became the largest project of public space improvement in Moscow. In recordingly short time the city authorities returned to the unique architectural and park complex in Europe its historical appearance.
During four months, by the day of the 75th anniversary of the Exhibition Center celebration that was on 1st August 2014 the huge amount of work was carried out. It included:
By 1st August the primary works in the pavilions “Ukraine” and “ Cosmos” were completed. The main pride of the complex is the reconstruction of the half-ruined 4000 seat Green Theatre! It was even possible to fix the fountains at the pavilion “Uzbekistan-Culture” that didn’t work for over 20 years. Their ceremonial opening took place on 1st August.
All the buildings of the central zone celebrated the exhibition anniversary with renovated facades. During the repair works historic facades of some pavilions that in 1960-70s were rebuilt and hidden under metal false facades were renovated.
At the request of the Muscovites it was decided to remove the fences that blocked the way to the Main Botanical Garden and Ostankino Park. This increased the territory of VDNH twice and now it exceeds 520 hectares.
Polytechnic Museum with the exhibition “Russian innovations and inventions!” opened its doors for the visitors. The exhibition is dedicated to the most famous developments of the Russian scientists. The model of the spaceship “Buran” was brought from Gorky Park to VDNH. It will become one of the most attractive exhibits.
One third of the VDNH territory is occupied by a large pedestrian zone. The movement of vehicles is either restricted or completely forbidden at the territory of VDNH.
Those who love active outdoor recreation can find at VDNH bicycle and rollers rentals, there are also bicycle parking lots .
Instead of doubtful catering facilities, i.e. cafes, snack bars and grills that used to be at the Exhibition on the Central Alley there were opened fast food pavilions, numerous points selling ice-cream and soft drinks. There is also a food court with the total area of 1.3 thousand square meters between pavilion № 64 “Optics” and pavilion № 66 “Culture”. Gastronomic festivals are organized at the Exhibition during public events and activities.
Works on VDNH renovation were carried without closing the Exhibition for visitors.
Historically VSHV-VDNH USSR was the place where not only the achievements of labor were demonstrated but also the achievements in sport. Today the main Exhibition of the country continues to develop its glorious sporting traditions. On the territory of VDNH modern sports cluster is formed .
If you love to train outdoor you are invited to the street workout ground. It is located in the picturesque impounding area, right in the forest. You can practice sports here all year round and absolutely free of charge! For the first time in the history of post-Soviet Russia pavilion №27 “Physical Culture and Sports” comes back to life. By the efforts of the Moscow government and the management of VDNH in summer 2014 the facade of the famous building was renovated, the playground near the pavilion reconstructed and the fitness center equipped with the new equipment.
In front of the pavilion there is a free playground for Cross Fit workout –for group practicing with heavy weights under the supervision of a trainer.
A real gift to the visitors of the Exhibition is a modern playground of 42 * 26 square meters that is located to the right of the pavilion “Physical Culture and Sports”. It is a place to play mini-football and street ball.
The area between the Ring Road and Michurinsky Garden is occupied by the complex of four playgrounds: two for mini-football and two for basketball and for volleyball.
The management of VDNH has prepared grand winter sports premieres. On 28 November on the territory between the square of the Peoples' Friendship and the Fountain “Stone Flower” the world's largest skating rink with artificial ice was opened.
This winter VDNH will make ski everyone who feel like it. There will be a ski track along the territory of the Exhibition, in Ostankino Park and in the Botanical Garden. All ski equipment can be rented at the rental desks.
In the long term perspective it is planned to create 5 kilometer running zone on the territory bordering Ostankino Park, infrastructure for beach recreation on VDNH ponds (with no swimming), water amusement park and a chess club. The supports for three-level Rope Park near the sports complex for team sports are already being installed. Approximate dead line for the project realization is summer season of 2015.
Large-scale exhibition renovation is accompanied by the execution of the new communication strategy. Corporate identity of the complex has already been changed. Based on the historical fonts laconic image of the new Exhibition Center was developed. The website that you are visiting right now was created. We try to report promptly all important news on our pages in social networks. Navigation system, detailed maps and guidebooks as well as souvenirs have already appeared at the main exhibition of the country.
For the first time in the last 20 years comfortable and safe public space was created at VDNH. The main exhibition of the country has become up-to-date recreation destination for the Muscovites. Renovated VDNH is now the place for main public recreation activities of the city, outstanding cultural, gastronomic and sports events.
Today during weekends there are 10 times more people coming to VDNH than a year ago before the improvement started (up to 500 thousand people instead of 40 thousand).
On behalf of the Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin there is an active development of the VDNH concept to be the major cultural and exhibition center as well as the main public park of capital of the world level.