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Friday, October 3, 2014

Moscow Travel - VDNKh

Planning a visit to Moscow and thinking about the most interesting places to visit? Then VDNKh Center is surely worth considering. The abbreviation stands for the Exhibition of National Economy Achievements, known also under another acronym: VVC, which means All-Russian Exhibition Center. It’s a permanent trade exhibition center and a park that was opened in 1939 with the purpose to demonstrate the economic achievements of the Soviet Union. After the Second World War the park had to be closed for restoration. It was opened only in 1954 as an agricultural exhibition (that was the main focus of the exhibition from the start). The industrial part was added later, in 1956.
By 1989 the exhibition had 82 pavilions with the exhibition area of 700,000 square meters. Each pavilion (including the 1939 "regions") had been dedicated to a particular industry or a field: the Engineering Pavilion (1954), the Space Pavilion (1966), the Atomic Energy Pavilion (1954), the People's Education Pavilion (1954), the Radioelectronics Pavilion (1958), the Soviet Culture Pavilion (1964). (Wikipedia)
During the Soviet times, VDNKh hosted more than 300 exhibitions and conferences every year. Around 11 million visitors visited it annually. One of the most popular objects there was the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue. We will share more about it later.
After the Soviet regime collapsed in 1991, there were too many problems in the country and in the capital to care about VDNKh, so the park decayed for many years. Fortunately, the situation has changed. In fact, now that the park is turning 75 years old in 2015, the city administration is doing its best to renovate it and add more interesting things to see both in VDNKh and in the neighboring Botanical Garden and Ostankino Garden, too. Oh, did we mention that the park is located very close to the famous Ostankino Tower which is currently the tallest freestanding structure in Europe and eighth tallest in the world.
The VDNKh park is very beautiful, with several beautiful fountains, lots of cafes and restaurants. It is one of the most popular resting places in Moscow. Covering over 300 ha. of space, it is larger than the Principality of Monaco and has about 400 buildings.
But what’s the use of reading this description here if you can’t see it with your own eyes? Let’s take a walk across the park and see why people love it so much.
The main entrance
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That’s where your walk starts. It’s an archway with the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman statue on top. The statue actually deserves a few extra words. It was made from stainless steel by Vera Mukhina for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris and moved to Moscow after the fair. The sculpture is a fine example of the socialist realistic style and Art Deco. The worker holds a hammer and the woman holds a sickle, forming a well-known hammer and sickle symbol of peaceful labor and international proletarian unity.
Due to the inadequate maintenance of the sculpture, it was removed for restoration in 2003 and returned on its place only in 2009. Now you can see it on the archway at the entrance to VDNKh.
As you walk inside, you notice that almost everybody is using some kind of a vehicle to move around the park, whether it’s a bicycle, a scooter, a balance bike, roller skates, a skateboard, or a velomobile. The park is huge, so many people prefer riding something to walking. And if you see people walking, they are most certainly tourists. ☺ So if you plan to visit VDNKh, make sure you are ready to walk a lot or take something with you that you can ride. You can also rent a velomobile or some other vehicle right there, at the entrance.
The Central Pavilion
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That’s where the Central Avenue of the park takes you. The Central Pavilion originally featured a huge illuminated map of the USSR, dioramas of Lenin’s hometown and a Siberian hydroelectric power station. Now the major international exhibitions are hosted in the new Moscow Expo Center, while the pavilions of VDNKh mainly host various small shops, cafes and restaurants.
Friendship of Nations Fountain
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The fountain pictures 16 beautiful women in national clothes representing 16 former Soviet Republics. You might be surprised at the number, because everybody knows there were 15 republics in Russia. Yet, at the time when the VDNKh park was designed there were 16 of them, but the 16th one later got the status of autonomy. Here are the names of the 16 republics:
  1. Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR);
  2. Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (Ukrainian SSR);
  3. Uzbek SSR;
  4. Kazakh SSR;
  5. Byelorussian SSR;
  6. Azerbaijan SSR;
  7. Georgian SSR;
  8. Tajik SSR;
  9. Moldavian SSR;
  10. Kirghiz SSR;
  11. Lithuanian SSR;
  12. Turkmen SSR;
  13. Armenian SSR;
  14. Latvian SSR
  15. Estonian SSR
  16. Karelo-Finnish SSR
In summer you can see children and adults splashing in this fountain, so it’s quite a popular place among the Muscovites.
Each Soviet Republic had its own pavilion in the park, and the pavilions are still there! Some are functioning, others are being remodeled for the next year’s celebration.
Here are a few pavilions of different republics:
Pavilion of Armenia
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This pavilion is actually working: you can see a small exposition of things Armenia is famous for, plus there’s a shop where you can buy different tasty things imported right from Armenia.
Pavilion of Uzbekistan
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It’s weird, but when we visited the place, we thought it was the Pavilion of Culture (at least, that’s what was written in the VDNKh plan next to its picture). But the Wikipedia and different online resources say that it’s the Pavilion of Uzbekistan. So we won’t argue. Maybe we got it wrong.
Pavilion of Northern Caucasus
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Pavilion of Karelia
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There are also some other pavilions, monuments and interesting objects showcasing things Soviet Union and Russia are famous for.
Space Pavilion
It used to be the pavilion of agriculture, but later it was turned to the Space pavilion. This year it’s hosting an exposition of retro cars. Very interesting!
Space rocket “Vostok” stands right next to the Space pavilion. It is huge! Vostok is a whole family of rockets designed for the human spaceflight program. It was one of these rockets that launched the first artificial satellite and carried the first man into space.
Interested in all things connected with space? Here’s another treat for you: Buran, Soviet spacecraft. The Buran was completely analogous to US Space Shuttle both in function and design. However, it completed one unmanned spaceflight in 1988 as the Buran program was cancelled, and the USSR stopped to exist very soon after that. By the way, you can see the upper part of Ostankino tower behind it.
Here is one object you can see at VDNKh, that can’t be tagged with “industry” or “agriculture” tags. Children and grown-ups love the “upside-down house”. This type of attraction is new to Russia, though similar houses exist in Europe, America and Asia. The “upside-down house” in Moscow is a typical two-storeyed cottage with several rooms decorated in European style. You can also see an upside-down car, a bicycle and some other things right next to the house. The house is open for visitors every day.
And for those who love different crazy and not so crazy rides, VDNKh also has its own amusement park! There is a merry-go-round, two small roller coasters, and a few other rides for adults and kids. But the Moscow-850 Ferris wheel is surely the best way to get a great view of the Moscow skyline. Here is its picture:

These are just a few highlights of the park! But there’s nothing better than actually seeing and trying everything by yourself! So, if you are planning a visit to Moscow, make sure you have some time set aside for VDNKh. You can easily spend a whole day there, but it is also possible to make a quick visit observing the fountains, the Vostok and Buran spacecrafts and just relax in a friendly atmosphere.

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