Worker and Kolkhoz Woman

The World's Fair in Paris 1937

The World’s Fair in Paris 1937

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Worker and Kolkhoz Woman

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (Russian: Рабочий и колхозница) is a sculpture of two figures with a hammer and a sickle raised over their heads. The concept and compositional design belong to the architect Boris Iofan. It is 24.5 metres (78 feet) high, made from stainless steel by Vera Mukhina for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris and subsequently moved to Moscow. The sculpture is an example of socialist realism in an Art Deco aesthetic. The worker holds aloft a hammer and the kolkhoz woman a sickle to form the hammer and sickle symbol.

The sculpture was originally created to crown the Soviet pavilion of the 1937 World’s Fair. The organisers had placed the Soviet and German pavilions facing each other across the main pedestrian boulevard at the Trocadéro on the north bank of the Seine.

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman - 01

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman – 01

Mukhina was inspired by her study of the classical Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and La Marseillaise, François Rude’s sculptural group for the Arc de Triomphe, to bring a monumental composition of socialist realist confidence to the heart of Paris. The symbolism of the two figures striding from West to East, as determined by the layout of the pavilion, was also not lost on the spectators.

Mukhina said that her sculpture was intended ‘to continue the idea inherent in the building and this sculpture was to be an inseparable part of the whole structure but after the fair, the Rabochiy i Kolkhoznitsa was relocated to Moscow where it was placed just outside the All-Russia Exhibition Centre.

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman on the Main Gate of VDNKh

Worker and Kolkhoz Woman on the Main Gate of VDNKh

In 1941, the sculpture earned Mukhina one of the initial batch of Stalin Prizes.

The sculpture was removed for restoration in autumn of 2003 during the city’s Expo 2010 bid. The plan was that the sculpture could be back at its place by 2005, but this did not happen after the city lost the bidding process to Shanghai and many financial problems contributed to a delayed re-installation.

At the end of 2009 the monument returned to its place at VDNKh after 6 years of restorations. The revealing of the restored monument was held on the evening of December 4, 2009, accompanied by fireworks and a light show. The restored statue uses a new pavilion as pedestal, increasing its total height from 34.5 metres (the old pedestal was 10 metres tall) to 60 metres (the new pavilion is 34.5 metres tall plus the 24.5 metres of the statue itself).

The main structure of the monument was made at The Moscow factory of aggregate machine tools and automatic lines (called ‘Stankoagregat’) while the smaller components of the outer covering were created at the pilot plant of the Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering and Metalworking, overseen by Professor Pyotr Nikolayevich Lvov. He suggested using stainless chrome-nickel steel for the sculpture, despite initial doubts from Vera Mukhina and the rest of the team. The main reason steel was chosen over bronze and copper was because it had a better ability to reflect light. The goal was for the monument to shine brighter than the eagle on the German pavilion and the Eiffel Tower. Lvov invented resistance spot welding, a technique that was used to skin airplanes since the 1930s. Instead of using the traditional riveting method, the decision was made to use this technology for assembling the sculpture.

The Worker and Kolkhoz Woman in 1937

The Worker and Kolkhoz Woman in 1937

At the start of the project, the workers had four plaster models to use, with the tallest one being 95 cm. They assembled the monument in the factory courtyard using a crane that was 35 meters high with a 15-meter boom. The templates for the plating parts were made of wood, and the carpenters used 15 cm thick boards. The moulded parts were then shaped from inside the monument. People involved in the project remembered these details:

‘Working in February was particularly challenging due to the cold weather and strong winds. The only respite from the wind was inside the frame or ‘under the skirt of the Kolkhoznitsa’. To keep warm, we relied on a fire that was built in a cauldron dug into the ground. Additionally, we had to manually weld the sheathing sheets’.

A different approach was needed to create the hands and heads of the sculpture. Instead of using wooden templates, clay was used to fill in the damaged wooden blanks for the heads, which were then molded with steel. The creation of the scarf posed challenges, as it was a large and heavy piece that needed to be supported without external help. During the creation of this artwork, factory director S. P. Tambovtsev criticized Mukhina for causing delays with numerous revisions and claimed that the scarf she had designed could potentially damage the sculpture during windy weather. However, his complaints were ignored, and engineers B.A. Dzerzhkovich and A.A. Prikhozhan managed to create a truss to support the scarf, allowing it to appear as if it was floating behind two figures.

During this time period, the sculpture was created and it was supported by a heavy frame weighing 63 tons. The outer shells of the sculpture, made from thin sheets of 0.5 mm steel, only weighed 12 tons. The entire process took three and a half months. Once the sculpture was assembled, it was visited by a government commission led by Kliment Voroshilov, the People’s Commissar of Defence. Later that evening, Joseph Stalin, the leader of the USSR, inspected the finished monument. Shortly after, the sculpture was dismantled for transportation to Paris.

The USSR Pavilion in Paris in 1937

The USSR Pavilion in Paris in 1937

In 2003, plans were made to restore the monument, and it was supposed to be finished by 2005. The Moscow government provided a budget of 35 million roubles for the dismantling process, including 5 million US dollars for scaffolding to meet safety regulations. However, the project was put on hold due to suspected embezzlement, and it was not resumed until 2007 after several inspections.

On December 31, 2008, the government announced a new tender for the restoration with a maximum contract amount of 2.395 billion roubles. The only company to participate and win the tender that same day was SK Strategia, a subsidiary of Inteko owned by Yelena Baturina, the wife of former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The contract amount was increased to 2.905 billion roubles. Finally, the restoration was completed in November 2009.

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman - 03

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman – 03

The sculpture project was led by Vadim Tserkovnikov and the materials were made by the Vladimir Kucherenko Central Research Institute of Steel Structures. The casting and installation were done at the Energomash plant in Belgorod. The Melnikov Central Research Institute of Steel Structures worked on new calculations and designs for the frame, as the original documentation was not available and the new materials have different properties. The employees at the All-Russian Institute Of Aviation Materials (VIAM), under the leadership of E.N. Kablov, developed coatings and materials that are highly resistant to corrosion in order to restore the sculpture.

The sculpture was taken apart into 40 pieces and each piece was photographed to assess the level of damage caused by corrosion. Only 10% of the pieces needed to be replaced completely, while the rest could be restored. Additionally, the welding points were examined through radiography, with over one million points being checked. The sculpture had design flaws that made it not airtight, resulting in moisture build up and pigeons nesting inside.

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman - 05

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman – 05

The second step in the reconstruction process involved cleaning the sculpture. The contaminants, particularly in the scarf and skirt areas, had accumulated over 70 years and resembled stalactites. Technobior developed a highly toxic and fluid substance to dissolve these contaminants and fully clean the surface. VIAM created an anti-corrosion paste specifically for the restoration of this sculpture, which won an award at an international exhibition. This paste can be applied at any angle, prevents spreading, enhances adhesion, and increases resistance to environmental damage. A ton of paste was used to treat the sculpture parts, and an additional protective compound was applied on top.

Under Tserkovnikov’s guidance, a new triple frame was calculated and designed for the monument. This frame is divided into a load-bearing frame, an intermediate frame, and a structural frame that connects the shell and load-bearing frame. As a result of the reconstruction, the weight of the support increased by 2.5 times to account for the load of hurricane wind. The total weight of the monument now stands at 200 tons. The sculpture was placed on the pavilion, following the general design of Iofan’s original project from 1937. The length of the building is 66 meters, and the original coat of arms created for the exhibition in 1937 is installed on the façade.

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman - 02

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman – 02

The monument was installed on November 28, 2009, using a specialized crane from Finland, of which there are only three in existence. The official unveiling of the monument occurred on December 4, 2009.

The total cost of dismantling, storing, and restoring the sculpture was 2.9 billion roubles. However, experts believe that this amount is at least twice as high as it should be. Vadim Tserkovnikov mentioned in an interview that the actual restoration expenses were much lower compared to the additional costs, such as constructing a 60-meter high scaffolding and hiring a crane from Finland, which cost several tens of millions of roubles.

The Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman – 04

In Soviet cinema, the sculpture was chosen in 1947 to serve as the logo for the film studio Mosfilm. It can be seen in the opening credits of the film Red Heat, as well as many of the Russian films released by the Mosfilm studio itself.

A giant moving reproduction of the statue was featured in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, symbolizing post-World War II Soviet society, particularly in Moscow.

Text above from Wikipedia.

The Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (meaning a worker on a collective or State farm) is one of the most iconic representations of Soviet Socialist Realism sculpture. And it played an ‘active’ role in the battle against the extreme manifestation of capitalism, the fascism of Nazi Germany which was nurtured and promoted by the so-called western ‘democracies’. In 1937 when fascism was rampant in various capitalist countries – and whilst the Spanish Civil War was raging on the Iberian Peninsular – the statue stood opposite the Nazi swastika and eagle in the area in front of the Eiffel Tower during the World’s Fair of that year. Two social systems confronted each other in a benign manner in 1937 but it was only one of them who would come out victorious in the real conflict which was the Battle of Stalingrad of 1942/43.

In its imagery it encompassed much of what the Soviet Union, in the construction of Socialism, was aiming to achieve; equality between men and women; both on an equal footing in the construction of a new society; the unity of the industrial worker and the worker on the land; marching determinedly forward to a new future, devoid of exploitation and oppression; a future free of militarism; a future where labour was respected as being the creator of all wealth and where those who created that wealth were able to enjoy the fruits of their labour without it being stolen by a parasitic and avaricious capitalist class; and the choice of stainless steel in its construction being able to outshine anything that fascism or capitalism could produce.

I had seen pictures the sculpture and had also seen scaled models in various museums before going to the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy, VDNKh, but nothing really prepared me for the sheer size of the sculpture in real life. Even standing on the pedestal of the reconstructed building from the 1937 World’s Fair it looked immense.

And the efforts to return it to its former glory, although taking many years (due to political and economic reasons) and costing possibly more than it should have (due to funds going to those not deserving) the results are truly impressive.

Location;

Now on a reconstructed building of the original at the 1937 Paris Exhibition which is just outside the main VDNKh exhibition area in Moscow.

How to get there;

The site is served by the VDNKh metro station, on Line 6, the brown one.

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Park Pobeda – Victory Park, Moscow

Museum of the Great Patriotic War

Museum of the Great Patriotic War

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Park Pobeda – Victory Park, Moscow

‘Trophies of the Russian Army’ and the Museum of the Great Patriotic War

‘Trophies of the Russian Army’

On May 1st 2024 a temporary exhibition was open at Park Pobeda (Victory Park) in Moscow. This was entitled ‘Trophies of the Russian Army’ and consisted of vehicles of various types and other war equipment captured by the Russian Army in the Ukraine. The main body of the exhibition was a variety of armoured vehicles – tanks, armoured personnel vehicles (APVs), and other forms of transportation, from various countries in the NATO alliance against Russia and its Special Military Operation in the Ukraine.

As has been documented on this blog on the page The war in the Ukraine – what you are not told, many of these weapons were introduced onto the battle field as ‘game changers’ – weapons that would be so powerful (as they were produced in the ‘west’ and hence superior to anything that could be produced in Russia) that they would just steam roller over any Russian defences and thereby assist in the Ukrainians recovering territory lost to the Russian Army since February 2022.

However, things did not go to plan.

German Leopard Tank

German Leopard Tank

Although there has been a blame game going on between the Ukraine and the NATO commanders (and politicians) what has been obvious is that the west believed too much in their own propaganda and came a cropper due to their own hubris. Whereas the military-industrial complex in the various NATO countries were hoping that the overwhelming victory their equipment would deliver against the Russians would be the finest advert possible to sell their wares in other parts of the world, it merely showed that western military equipment is too complicated; which means it takes too long to make in vast numbers and hence not ideal in a conflict of attrition (which the war in the Ukraine has become); and far too expensive.

However, instead of participating in victory parades the US Abrams and German Leopard tanks were filmed burning on the steppes of the Ukraine. The UK Challenger 2 tanks, once one or two had been destroyed, just ran away and acted as artillery far from the front – where such main battle tanks are designed to operate. An Abrams and a Leopard were on display in the exhibition.

American Abrams Tank

American Abrams Tank

In a covered enclosure there were also on display communication and GPS equipment, drones, mortars, small arms and other kinds of small military equipment.

I understood the original plan was for this to be a short term exhibition, finishing the weekend after Victory Day which was celebrated on May 9th. However, the exhibition attracted streams of Moscovites and there was a constant flow of people (many thousands in a day) so it was decided to extend the display.

For how long I have no idea and don’t know if there are plans to place some of this material in a permanent exhibition somewhere in Moscow or another major city. The plan might be, as far as I’m concerned, to take this exhibition around to other major Russian cities.

Hopefully, the slide show below will provide a flavour of what was on display for those who are unable to attend in person.

The Museum of the Great Patriotic War

This is a huge building which is approached by a wide avenue which commemorates the major battle fields in the war against the invading German Nazis and their accomplices in crime. It was opened in 1995 and I don’t understand why such a museum hadn’t been constructed decades before. Being constructed in a time of open capitalist control of the society the decoration inside or outside of the building owes nothing to Socialist Realist ideas.

In fact, it’s not really appropriate to call it a museum as it is more of a shrine and memorial to those who were killed in the Great Patriotic War and a place of ‘pilgrimage’ for military associated groups to come and pay respects.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War - 02

Museum of the Great Patriotic War – 02

There’s very little in terms of artefacts (as, for example, you will find in the Battle of Stalingrad Museum in Volgograd) and the vast space is not used, as far as I’m concerned, in an appropriate way to tell the story of some of the most significant battles of the Second World War. I think this is probably the result of the schizophrenic approach the present ‘rulers’ have towards the war against the Nazis. They recognise that it as a Socialist Red Army that defeated the attacking Germans but they don’t want to give (or didn’t in the 1990s) too much prominence to that fact. With the conflict with NATO – through its proxy of the Ukraine – thinking has changed and that was the reason you saw so much reference to Soviet symbolism in the posters and imagery in the build up to May 9th, Victory Day, 2024.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War - 01

Museum of the Great Patriotic War – 01

Also, very strangely for a ‘museum’ there was a room with references to the Special Military Operation in the Ukraine. This was in the form of portraits and photographs of soldiers on active duty. There was also a sculpture of a platoon moving forward on a battle front. I can see why this room was created, the war in the Ukraine is one of propaganda as well as what happens in the field, but placing such a room in a museum which commemorates battles on a much bigger scale where the forces concerned were not only hugely greater in number but also much more fiercely fought seems, to me, to detract from the importance and sacrifice of the war between 1941 and 1945.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War - 03

Museum of the Great Patriotic War – 03

In the slide show there are a few pictures which will, hopefully, give an impression of what the ‘museum’ is all about.

On my visit I didn’t make it to the Museum of the Main Weapons Relics of the Army, which might have been a shame. Entrance for that also costs 300 rouble.

Location;

10 Brothers Fonchenko Street

How to get there;

The Park Pobeda Metro station is right at the entrance to the park. It’s west of the city centre on Line No 3, the dark blue line.

GPS;

55°43′50″N

37°30′14″E

Opening times;

Wednesday-Sunday, 10.00 – 22.00

Tuesday, 13.00 – 22.00

Monday, closed

Entrance;

300 rouble.

Website;

https://victorymuseum.ru/for-visitors/museum-for-china/en/

More on the USSR

Moscow State University

Moscow State University - Dmitry A Motti

Moscow State University – Dmitry A Motti

More on the USSR

Moscow State University

The main building of Moscow State University (Russian: Гла́вное зда́ние МГУ) a 239-metre (784 ft), 36-level (in its central part) skyscraper in Moscow, Russia. Its roof (182 metres (597 ft)) is topped by a 58-metre spire which ends with a 12-ton five-pointed star. Lateral towers are lower than the central one; two 18 and 9 storey dormitory wings define, with the central corpus of the complex, a cour d’honneur courtyard. Designed by Lev Rudnev as the headquarters of Moscow State University, it is the tallest of seven Moscow skyscrapers in the architectural style constructed between 1947 and 1953.

Among the statues which decorate the building is a sculpture by Vera Muchina representing a couple of students [which sit either side of the main entrance facing the city of Moscow]. The University premises cover around 1.6 square kilometres.

Moscow State University - 03

Moscow State University – 03

The Main Building of Moscow State University is not open to the general public.

The leading architect Boris Iofan bid for the skyscraper project in 1947 but the job was assigned to Lev Rudnev, because Iofan made the mistake of placing his draft skyscraper right on the edge of Sparrow Hills, a site which raised concerns over a potential landslide hazard. Rudnev had already built important edifices like the M. V. Frunze Military Academy (1932–1937) and the Marshals’ Apartments (Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya, 28, 1947), earning the esteem of the Communist Party. He set the building 800 meters away from the cliff. The chief of the engineers’ team was Vsevolod Nikolaevich Nasonov.

Moscow State University - 04

Moscow State University – 04

The main tower, which used over 40,000 tons of steel for its framework and 130,000 cubic metres of concrete, was inaugurated on September 1, 1953. At 240 metres tall, it was the 7th tallest building of the world as well as the tallest in Europe. Its European height record held until 1990 when it was surpassed by the Messeturm in Frankfurt, Germany. It was also, and still remains, the tallest educational building in the world.

Moscow University is probably the best known of Rudnev’s buildings, for which he was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1949. The University skyline inspired various buildings in the socialist countries, like the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, and also the logo of 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

Text above from Wikipedia.

Moscow State University - 01

Moscow State University – 01

This is a vast structure. From pictures you can get an idea that we are talking about a large building but it’s only when you’re up close and actually walk around the whole of the building you realise what a truly monumental building it is.

The entrance for students and others who have business in the building is actually the ‘back door’ the main entrance being further from any transport links and seems to have been neglected in recent years.

Moscow State University - 02

Moscow State University – 02

The actual main entrance is that which faces the river and the city of Moscow. This is presently (May 2024) undergoing a major renovation after years of neglect. This would appear to be in readiness for the 250th anniversary of the foundation of Moscow University. It doesn’t look like the renovation will not alter the original design and it is hoped that the statues and monuments that adorn the entrance will be retained and restored to their former glory.

Moscow State University - 05

Moscow State University – 05

This vast building has restricted access to those not connected to the University so the nature of the internal decoration is unknown.

Architect;

Lev Rudnev

Structural Engineer:

Vsevolod Nikolaevich Nasonov

Location;

1 Leninskie Gory

How to get there;

The nearest Metro station, about a 10-15 minute walk from the main University building, is Universitet, south west of the city centre on Line 1, the red one.

GPS;

55°42′11″N

37°31′49″E

Completed;

1953

Height;

239 m (784 ft)

Floors;

36

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