Slezkine Yuri - The house of government

Author : Slezkine Yuri
Title : The house of government A saga of the russian revolution
Year : 2017

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Preface. During the First Five- Year Plan (1928– 32), the Soviet government built a new socialist state and a fully nationalized economy. At the same time, it built a house for itself. The House of Government was located in a lowlying area called “the Swamp,” across the Moskva River from the Kremlin. The largest residential building in Europe, it consisted of eleven units of varying heights organized around three interconnected courtyards, each one with its own fountain. It was conceived as a historic compromise and a structure “of the transitional type.” Halfway between revolutionary avant- garde and socialist realism, it combined clean, straight lines and a transparent design with massive bulk and a solemn neoclassical facade. Halfway between bourgeois individualism and communist collectivism, it combined 505 fully furnished family apartments with public spaces, including a cafeteria, grocery store, walk- in clinic, child- care center, hairdresser’s salon, post office, telegraph, bank, gym, laundry, library, tennis court, and several dozen rooms for various activities (from billiards and target shooting to painting and orchestra rehearsals). Anchoring the ensemble were the State New Theater for 1,300 spectators on the riverfront and the Shock Worker movie theater for 1,500 spectators near the Drainage Canal. Sharing these facilities, raising their families, employing maids and governesses, and moving from apartment to apartment to keep up with promotions were people’s commissars, deputy commissars, Red Army commanders, Marxist scholars, Gulag officials, industrial managers, foreign communists, socialist- realist writers, record- breaking Stakhanovites (including Aleksei Stakhanov himself) and assorted worthies, including Lenin’s secretary and Stalin’s relatives. (Stalin himself remained across the river in the Kremlin.) In 1935, the House of Government had 2,655 registered tenants. About 700 of them were state and Party officials assigned to particular apartments; most of the rest were their dependents, including 588 children. Serving the residents and maintaining the building were between six hundred and eight hundred waiters, painters, gardeners, plumbers, janitors, laundresses, floor polishers, and other House of Government employees (including fifty- seven administrators). It was the vanguard’s backyard; a fortress protected by metal gates and armed guards; a dormitory where state officials lived as husbands, wives, parents, and neighbors; a place where revolutionaries came home and the revolution came to die. ...

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