At the end of November, VDNH will traditionally open Moscow's largest skating rink. The rink is currently being assembled and filled with ice. In the winter 2020/2021 period, the skating rink will operate with a number of additional safety measures in place as per Rospotrebnadzor requirements. There will also be a new timetable for visiting the rink.
This winter, VDNH is once again opening its skating rink for those who enjoy active recreation in the fresh air. The rink will once again take pride of place in the Central Alley. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the skating rink will be operating in a new format.
VDNH has closed its 2020/21 winter season. It was dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian explorers Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. Photo installation Discovering Antarctica Together, tubing slides and snowmobile, ATV and ski tracks were open for visitors. And, of course, the most popular activity was the skating rink in the main alley. Despite COVID-19 regulations, from 27 November to 28 February, the skating rink saw over 283,000 visitors.
This winter's epidemiological situation has compelled VDNH to introduce a new skating format. To minimise human contact, tickets were sold online and skaters were only allowed to access a specific pavilion during certain hours. These measures allowed visitors to feel comfortable at Moscow's largest skating rink. Over the course of three months, it hosted more than 283,000 people.
The skating rink first opened on 27 November 2020. The 20,500 square metres of synthetic ice are situated near Pavilion No. 1, Central, and Pavilion No. 58, Agriculture, winding around the historic Friendship of Peoples and Stone Flower fountains. The skating rink was compliant with all safety regulations from Rospotrebnadzor. Disinfection points were installed at the entrance, visitors had their temperatures taken, surfaces were regularly cleaned and skates were specially treated after use.
The skating rink contains four entrance pavilions housing skate rentals (including children's skates), a luxury business pavilion and an express pavilion. Skates were hired at least 91,777 times, the sharpening service was utilised 5,702 times and the First Steps on the Ice service was engaged 439 times.
During the entire season, VDNH has offered a discount programme to multi-child families, orphans, people with disabilities of groups I and II, military veterans, pensioners as well as other categories. Over the course of three months, more than 16,000 visitors skated for free.
On 14 February, the skating rink hosted a wedding ceremony for the first time. The participants of this unique wedding were wearing skates, and the official ceremony was conducted by an employee of VDNH's Wedding Palace. On 21 February, visitors competed in skating competitions and watched the rising stars of Russian speed skating as part of the Moscow Lightning festival. On 28 February, the season was closed with a traditional charity campaign in support of critically ill children. All money raised from ticket sales were donated to Konstantin Khabensky Charity Foundation, a hospice supporting Vera Foundation and the I Am! Foundation.
On top of that, tubing slides, children's snowmobile and ATV trails, ski tracks and an admission-free skating rink at the Ostankino park were available. Finally, the Discovering Antarctica Together photo installation, which was devoted to the extraordinary beauty and mysterious nature of the South Pole, was open to the public.
VDNH started celebrating New Year's Eve in the mid-1950s when it re-opened on a year-round basis after the war. That was when most of the winter traditions at VDNH were established, most of which have been preserved to this day.
For more than 60 consecutive years the Exhibition has become a key nexus of the New Year's Eve and Christmas festivities in Moscow for residents and visitors alike.
During the New Year and Christmas season VDNH invites you to relive the best holiday traditions that the Exhibition has offered over the years. Historical photos are on display for you to see how VDNH's visitors had a good time 50 and 60 years ago. Archival clippings from magazines, newspapers and guidebooks will also help you get a sense of the atmosphere of the past.
New year trees and shows for children
In the mid-1950s, New Year shows were arranged at the Kolkhoz House of Culture just for the children of the Exhibition's employees. Starting in the 1960s, the events became accessible to everyone. They were held at the House of Culture or outdoors and included themed exhibitions in Pavilion No. 1. The show 'Karandash is Here to Celebrate New Year!' starring a famous clown and top artists of the Soviet circus was wildly popular. There was a nature corner where children could make some feathered friends, songbirds, swans and peacocks. A central feature of the New Year shows at VDNH has always been the sweets. For example, in 1963 one sweet cost 1 rouble and 30 kopecks and included admission to the show. The tradition of such children's shows continues today and the nature corner has grown considerably and transformed into the 'City Farm', an educational centre for the whole family.
The legendary skating rink at VDNH
Ice skating has always been the most beloved leisure activity at VDNH for adults and kids alike. From 1954 to 2014, there was a naturally-formed ice rink at VDNH with the exception of only a few years when a rather small artificial skating rink was created. In Soviet times, the skating rink was situated in front of the Main Pavilion and around the Friendship of Peoples Fountain. This season the biggest skating rink in Moscow extends from Pavilion No. 1 Central to Pavilion No. 58 Farming. Back in the USSR, next to the ice rink there was a special area for exciting competitions and circus shows. Amateur dance troupes, choirs and folk performers from Moscow and the Moscow Region, as well as guests from different Soviet republics often performed on the stage. More than 60 years later, the tradition of winter performances continues at the Exhibition today.
Natural fir trees and holiday decorations
A bushy green Christmas tree is an indispensable symbol of the New Year. In the past, the Pushkino forestry district provided trees for the Exhibition to be installed on its grounds and inside the pavilions. The tradition of natural fir trees was revived in 2019 when the Exhibition celebrated its anniversary. This season, there are also natural fir trees on the skating rink. Besides, at VDNH you can find holiday trees of years gone by that were planted along its alleys and squares back in the late 50s to mid-60s. Instead of ornaments and garlands, they are decorated with their own pine cones and fluffy snow provided by nature itself. VDNH mostly features Asian, European and Siberian spruces. The firs growing near Pavilions No. 66 Soviet Culture and No. 17 Forest Industry are close relatives of spruces. There are even more types of conifer trees growing at the Exhibition such as pines, larches, cypresses and cedars. At the Young Naturalist mini-park, you can see a unique alley of Douglas firs, one of the tallest types of coniferous trees.
The tradition of celebrating Christmas was officially revived in Russia in 1991. However, the Exhibition did not hold any mass events on that occasion due to the turmoils and difficulties of that period in our history. In modern Russia, Christmas is considered a religious holiday that has not retained any well-established traditions. In recent years, VDNH has been arranging themed sessions on the skating rink to celebrate Christmas.
Outdoor festivities: riding three-horse and reindeer sleighs
Over the past few decades, a festival called Russian Winter has been hugely popular among Moscow residents and guests. It has been held at the Exhibition since the mid-1960s. The festival has featured theatre performances starring famous entertainers and circus artists. Every day of the festival guests of VDNH could ride traditional three-horse and reindeer sleighs. The smallest visitors could take a pony ride. There was also a traditional three-horse sleigh championship held on the show ring. Today, the best traditions of the Russian Winter festival are being carried on, but in the form of somewhat different events organised annually at VDNH. The Exhibition again offers rides in three-horse, reindeer and even husky sleighs.
In the 1960s–1970s, the Exhibition offered special guided tours and meet-ups with interesting people for schoolchildren on their winter break. This season, VDNH has also prepared a New Year's excursion programme on its grounds, complemented with online events from the residents of the Knowledge. VDNH project. It is free for all participants.
Holiday Fun Fairs
New Year fairs with beautifully decorated kiosks are yet another lovely tradition that has carried on since the late 1950s. Just as in Soviet times at VDNH you can treat yourself to holiday pretzels, baranki, pies and rasstegai, and buy souvenirs and presents for your friends and family.
VDNH has closed this winter season. According to Natalia Sergunina, Deputy Mayor of Moscow, the Exhibition has held over 100 events in over three months, including sports festivals, shows, concerts, charity events, flash mobs, workshops and competitions.
'Despite an unusually warm winter in Moscow, over 500,000 people came to the skating rink during the season. Ice-skating guided tours became the novelty of the season. They were organised for the very first time in the history of VDNH and were dedicated to the historical pavilions on the Central Alley', said Natalia Sergunina.
Throughout the entire winter season, VDNH visitors were able to ice skate from Pavilion No. 1 Central to Pavilion No. 58 Farming. The skating rink with artificial ice took up 53,000 square metres, infrastructure included. The Exhibition had five entrance pavilions with skate rentals and an express pavilion for visitors with their own skates. A total of 187,215 visitors used skate rental services.
A variety of different events were held on the skating rink, featuring cinema and theatre actors, pop stars and famous athletes—Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė, Egor Beroev, Ksenia Alferova, Ternovoy, Rodion Gazmanov, Anastasia Grebenkina, Natalia Zabiiako, Alexander Enbert and many others.
The three-month sports and entertainment programme started on the skating rink's opening day, 22 November. The theme of the night was the New Year celebrations of past years. Visitors got to watch an aerial gymnastics show and a dance parade, and listened to a symphony orchestra conducted by Vladimir Yatskevich, rapper Mot and DJ Aspyer.
In December, skating rink visitors celebrated All-Russian Ice Hockey Day, International Tango Day and took part in New Year's Wishes Days. The skating rink was one of the three VDNH's venues for New Year celebrations. The event attracted over 100,000 people. A new world record was set on New Year's Eve: VDNH gathered the largest celebration ever at an ice rink with a total of 4,457 people.
During the winter holidays, Exhibition visitors took part in ice-skating exercises, figure skating workshops, met Father Christmas and exchanged Christmas wishes. On 16 January, a special programme was in store for all Beatles fans. Global Beatles Day was celebrated with themed flash mobs and rock 'n' roll dances.
Russian Students Day was celebrated here on 25 January, also known as Tatiana Day. Discounts were offered to all students and Tatianas. Diskoteka Avaria was the event's headliner. Over 10,000 people came to the skating rink that day.
A winter sports holiday and festival of speed skating, Moscow Lightning was held on the rink in February. On Valentine's Day, a special guest and actor Alexander Petrov announced the results of the Proposal on the Skating Rink competition.
On 23 February (Russia's Defender of the Fatherland Day), the skating rink saw a dance flash mob of Moscow firefighters and rescuers. On the last weekend in winter, VDNH visitors enjoyed Maslenitsa celebrations, themed musicals and a grand holiday concert featuring Buranovskiye Babushki folk band, Gudy Gorazdo gusli ensemble and the Zventa Sventana project.
As always, the skating rink hosted charity events to support seriously ill children. Several charity foundations organised themed events at the venue. VDNH visitors with medical conditions got to ride sledges for sledge hockey and watch performances by professional athletes, as part of the Skating Rink For Everyone social project.
Ice-skating guided tours became the novelty of the season and were offered on weekends in February and March. VDNH visitors combined ice skating with the opportunity to learn about the architectural masterpieces located in the Central Alley.
A discount programme was available at the skating rink the entire season. Certain hours were free for pensioners, while students got a 50% discount. This season VDNH also offered a special programme with discounts on skating and other Exhibition events.
The history of skating rinks at VDNH goes back to 1954 when the first rink opened at the Exhibition. In 2014, with the start of large-scale work on VDNH's revival, the skating rink returned as well. The regular format was altered only in the 2018/19 season, when two smaller skating rinks were built instead due to the restoration work. The skating rink resumed its position the year of VDNH's 80th anniversary and became very popular with Moscow residents and city guests.
During the grand opening on 22 November 2019 and throughout the season, the theme of Soviet winter entertainment traditions will get a new, modern interpretation. VDNH visitors will feel the atmosphere of carefree childhood and take a journey into the history of the snow festivals, which dates back to 1954.
1954–1955: THE FIRST SKATING RINK AT VDNH
Russia's Main Exhibition first attracted the lovers of winter sports when it opened for the second time during the 1954/55 season. Previously, VDNH had only been open during warm seasons. The first skating rink at VDNH had natural ice and occupied the area between the Main Entrance Arch and Pavilion No. 58 Ukrainian SSR (today's Farming), and the Christmas tree was located near the Stone Flower Fountain.
Mid-1950s. Skating rink in the Central Alley
1960–1980s: RUSSIAN WINTER FESTIVAL
Every year, new activities were added to VDNH's winter entertainment programme. The Russian Winter Festival emerged in the 1960s and became a traditional event.
1970s. Russian Winter Festival. Stage near the Pavilion No. 1 Central
In addition to ice skating, the stage was also used for theatrical and animal tamer performances, rides in Russian troikas, sleighs and even on camels, for fairs and circle dances. In 1965, newspapers wrote that VDNH started offering reindeer sleigh rides—the very first ones in Moscow.
1970s. Rides in Russian troikas. Show ring
1960s. Reindeer sleigh rides. Central Alley
Pavilions hosted creative meetings with theatre and cinema actors. A snow town and a skating rink for playing hockey were set up at VDNH grounds in winter. On New Year's Eve, ice swimmers jumped into the ponds of the Kamenka River.
1956. New Year's event at the House of Culture
Over the years, the festival started at the end of December or in January, but it always ended at the end of February with a large-scale celebration to mark the end of Russian winter. The holiday programme resembled the modern Russian Maslenitsa week and included treats, especially crepes, tea from a samovar, competitions, dances and fairs.
1970s. Performances on stage near Pavilion No. 1 Central. Central Alley
1990–2000s: WINTER FAIRS
There were no large-scale festivities at the Exhibition in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, the Exhibition hosted fairs where people could buy the main attributes of the winter season—ice skates, skis and other sports equipment, as well as Christmas toys and decorations. Small skating rinks with natural ice opened only a few times in the Central Alley in the early 2000s.
2010. Skating rink in the Central Alley
The only place at VDNH where the holiday spirit has lived since Soviet times, including the most challenging years, was the House of Culture in Pavilion No. 84. It has organised annual New Year celebrations for children and parents during the winter break.
2014–PRESENT DAY: THE REVIVAL OF THE LEGEND
The real winter holiday returned to the Exhibition only in 2014, when the restoration of the complex began. During the very first season, VDNH opened one of the largest skating rinks in Europe.
The rink was moved to a new location, between Pavilion No. 1 Central and Pavilion No. 58 Agriculture, around the Friendship of Peoples and the Stone Flower fountains. That's when the rink gained its signature key shape, retained to this day.
2017–2018. Skating rink in the Central Alley
On 8 December 2016, the World Record Academy named the VDNH skating rink the world's largest skating rink with an artificial ice surface. Since 2008, this title had belonged to the skating rink on the main square in Mexico City. The Academy acknowledged the measurement error and the VDNH skating rink became the new record holder.
2016–2017. Skating rink in the Central Alley
The regular skating rink format was altered only in the 2018/19 season. Due to the restoration of Central Alley's fountains, VDNH built two smaller skating rinks—around the historical flowerbed and on the Square of Industry, around the Vostok launch vehicle model.
2018–2019. The Rocket skating rink on the Square of Industry
Aside from the skating rink, the revived VDNH offers a variety of activities it inherited from the Soviet Exhibition, along with plenty of new ones. Every year, it welcomes visitors to fairs, New Year celebrations, a tubing slide, interactive shows, a show of marine life, plays, workshops and exhibitions.
2015–2016. Skating rink in the Central Alley
The programme VDNH prepared for its 80th anniversary was symbolic and combined the Exhibition's best traditions from the 1950s to the present day. On the opening day and throughout the season, VDNH will take different generations of visitors back to their childhood. Winter time travels start on 22 November.