Communist Moscow Tour (Self Guided), Moscow

The arrival of Communist ideology left indelible imprint in the history of the 20th century, largely affecting the lives of people, arts and architecture. Having been at the heart of the Soviet empire for almost 70 years, Moscow is a great destination for everyone interested in the Soviet heritage, the traces of which are found all over the city.

Some colorful, like the famous Metro stations built in the 1930s, and some rather gruesome, like the infamous Lubyanka KGB headquarters – they are the vivid reminders of the Communist era, ready to tell their story. On this self-guided tour of Moscow you will have a chance to visit some of the most prominent pieces of the Soviet legacy set in stone and to learn about the events and people that changed the world in the past century.
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Communist Moscow Tour Map

Guide Name: Communist Moscow Tour
Guide Location: Russia » Moscow (See other walking tours in Moscow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Author: audrey
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Lenin's Mausoleum
  • Canteen №57 (Stolovaya №57)
  • Moscow Metro: Revolution Square Station
  • Revolution Square
  • Lubyanka Square
  • Solovetsky Stone
  • Lubyanka Building
1
Lenin's Mausoleum

1) Lenin's Mausoleum (must see)

The Red Square Mausoleum is the final resting place of Vladimir Lenin, the illustrious leader of the Russian Revolution and the founder of the Soviet state. Lenin died on January 21, 1924, aged 53. Despite his expressed will to be buried alongside his mother in St. Petersburg, the overall public sentiment suggested that a simple burial would not be enough.

In response to thousands of appeals urging to preserve Lenin’s memory for future generations, Stalin pushed for the decision to embalm his body and the government began the task of constructing a proper tomb for it. The marble and granite mausoleum, replacing a temporary wooden one, was designed by Alexey Shchusev and completed in 1930.

Here Lenin’s body has been on display ever since, with rare exceptions during wartime in the 1940s when it was evacuated to Siberia. Over the decades, it has been one of the main tourist attractions in Moscow, visited by tens of millions of people.

Contrary to the rumors about a “wax mummy” being on display, it is in fact Lenin that you see. A special and complicated embalming process helps to keep the body presentable to the public. An interesting side note about the tomb is that Joseph Stalin was briefly interred there beside Lenin until the government removed it and buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis during the de-Stalinization campaign in the 1960s.

No photography, video or audio recording of any sort is allowed inside the mausoleum. All visitors are searched prior to entering and are obliged to show respect during the visit: no talking, smoking, hands in pockets, or wearing hats (except for females).

Why You Should Visit:
A glimpse of the historic figure, if only for a minute or so!

Tip:
Remember to keep moving – you won't be there to stop and stare.
The entrance is free.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat: 10am-1pm (the earlier you get there, the shorter is the queue)
2
Canteen №57 (Stolovaya №57)

2) Canteen №57 (Stolovaya №57)

When it's time take a break from sightseeing in Moscow, you may wish to do so as the Muscovites do or least used to in their not-so-distant past. If a nice cup of tea with a sausage roll or the famous rum ball cake, or perhaps something more substantial, sounds like suitable snack arrangement to you, consider popping in to Canteen №57 on the second floor of GUM shopping mall.

While there's no shortage of eateries in the vicinity of Red Square, finding a decent meal at affordable price here can be rather challenging. In this respect, the Soviet-style “Stolovaya” (Canteen) №57 is a real deal: both in terms of cheapness and authenticity of Russian dishes on the menu.

The interior design of this self-service outlet reflects the ambiance of the late Soviet era, with tableware and tablecloths reminiscent of the days gone by. Locals fancy this joint for the quality traditional food, nostalgic atmosphere and low prices, which in turn is a good sign for those foreigners seeking “real MacCoy”.

A huge dining hall offers plenty of comfortable seating. But be prepared to stand a long line though, which is also part of the Soviet practice that will spice up your dinning experience, but only a little, since the line moves quickly. Also, mind the local rule – "Bus your table after meal!" – steadfastly proclaimed by the wall posters.
3
Moscow Metro: Revolution Square Station

3) Moscow Metro: Revolution Square Station (must see)

The Revolution Square subway station (Russian: Ploshchad Revolyutsii) is one of the oldest on the Moscow Metro network. It opened in 1938, designed by Soviet architect Alexey Dushkin, featuring red and yellow marble arches resting on low pylons faced with black Armenian marble.

The most eye-catching element of the decoration is the 76 bronze statues depicting people of the Soviet Union: soldiers, farmers, athletes, writers, aviators, industrial workers, and schoolchildren – created in the style of socialist realism. The sculptures are grouped in 10 pairs replicated four times throughout the station, flanking the archways and two platforms.

The pairs are placed in a certain order, symbolizing Russia's transformation from the pre-revolutionary past, through the revolution, into the post-revolutionary present, and are as follows:

Male worker-partisan & soldier
Male agricultural laborer & sailor with pistol
Male sailor & female aviator
Male frontier guard with a dog & female sharpshooter
Male miner & engineer
Male & female agricultural laborers
Male & female students
Male football player & female athlete
Mother & father in swim clothing
Male & female students in Young Pioneer uniforms

Local folklore has it that some of the sculptures bring good luck, if rubbed. This concerns specific parts of the sculptures, such as the sailor's pistol, the patrolman's dog's nose, the roosters, and the female student's shoe. Numerous passengers touch or rub the statues as they pass, thus giving their bronze a permanent shine.

Why You Should Visit:
Among many nice metro stations in Moscow, this is one of the most beautiful – makes your feel like you're in a museum or in palace hallways!

Tip:
Amateur photography is allowed, but professional photography requires a special permit from the metro authorities.
To see the station in its full splendor, you need to have a valid ticket. If you intend to get in and out without traveling, consider the minimal possible option, which is a one-way ticket worth under $1.

Opening Hours:
Daily from 6 am to 1 am
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Revolution Square

4) Revolution Square

Shaped as an arc extended from the southwest to the north, Revolution Square (Russian: 'Ploshchad Revolyutsii') is a historic place in downtown Moscow. Its current name reflects the role that the square once played as a gathering spot during the Socialist Revolution of 1917.

Fully pedestrian nowadays, it is surrounded with monumental architecture dominated by the vast, red-brick building of Moscow City Hall. The latter was constructed in 1890, featuring Russian Revivalist style, and originally housed the ruling Duma disbanded by Bolsheviks after the Revolution. For many years after WWII, the edifice was home to the Lenin Museum.

Another notable façade overlooking the square is indeed that of the majestic Hotel Metropol, one of the finest Art Nouveau creations adorning the city, completed in 1907.

On the north side, the square is curbed by the Hotel Moskva, originally built between 1932 and 1938 by Alexey Shchusev. Despite being regarded as an architectural monument, the hotel was demolished in 2004 and then replicated ten years later, accurately as possible to the original, fitted with underground parking and few other features not available in the 1930s. The new hotel, re-branded as Four Seasons, retains the appearance of its iconic predecessor.

Why You Should Visit:
Impressive historical architecture plus other curious sites, such as the Karl Marx monument and the Vitali Fountain.
Also, check out the zero mile marker from which all the distances to/from Moscow are measured.
Perhaps not a prime destination, but still worth a visit if you're in the area.
5
Lubyanka Square

5) Lubyanka Square

In recent history, Lubyanskaya Square (Russian: Lubyanskaya ploshchad) or simply Lubyanka, has been one of, if not the, most notorious locations in Moscow, largely associated with the presence of the infamous headquarters of the Soviet secret service in its various incarnations: Cheka, OGPU, NKVD, MGB, KGB, and lately FSB.

The first historical records of Lubyanka date back to 1480, when Tsar Ivan III, having conquered Novgorod in 1471, settled many Novgorodians in this part of Moscow who then called the area Lubyanka after the Lubyanitsy district in their home town.

After the Revolution, the square was renamed and for many years (from 1926 to 1990) went by as Dzerzhinsky Square in honor of the founder of the Soviet security force Felix Dzerzhinsky. The monumental Lubyanka building was constructed in 1897-1898 and originally intended to house an insurance company. In 1918, the Bolsheviks seized it to accommodate the newly-established Cheka.

In 1958, the fountain at the center of Lubyanka Square was replaced by an 11-ton statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky ("Iron Felix"). In 1991, the statue was removed by liberal protesters following the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, upon which the square's original name was officially restored.

Opposite the FSB building stands the massive Detsky Mir ("Children's World"), Europe's largest children's store. Built between 1953 and 1957, it was fully restored in 2014. There, inside the main atrium you will find the world's largest mechanical clock, Raketa Monumental.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Solovetsky Stone

6) Solovetsky Stone

The Solovetsky Stone is a huge granite boulder set in the middle of Lubyanka Square to commemorate political prisoners and victims of political repression in the Soviet Union. The stone originates from the Solovetsky archipelago in the White Sea, commonly known as Solovki, which is the former location of the infamous prison camp, part of the Gulag system, where thousands of people met their end in the 1920s-50s.

The placement of the Stone – outside the KGB headquarters, previously occupied by the monument of Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Soviet secret service – is symbolic and was preceded by great logistical effort. First it was shipped by sea and then carried by rail from the Big Solovetsky Island to Arkhangelsk, and from there to Moscow. Originally, the Stone was placed in a park near the Polytechnic Museum on Lubyanka Square in 1990 by activists in a bid to establish the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in the USSR (now officially celebrated). Later, it was moved to take the spot of the "Iron Felix" dismantled in 1991.

The Solovetsky Stone is one of the first and perhaps the most important monument of its kind in the former USSR. The inscription at the foot of the pedestal reads: "This stone is delivered by the "Memorial" society members from the Solovki Special Camp and established in memory of the victims of the totalitarian regime."

The memorial was inaugurated on October 30, 1990, the day previously observed unofficially since 1974 as the day of solidarity and resistance – often by way of riots and hunger strikes held in the prison camps. Ever since 2007, each year on the eve of October 30 people gather at the Stone to read out names of the Muscovites executed during the Great Terror years. The Solovetsky Stone is also one of the traditional places in Moscow to voice protest.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Lubyanka Building

7) Lubyanka Building

Colloquially referred to as Lubyanka, the historic national headquarters of the KGB is presently occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. The large Neo-Baroque building was designed by Alexander V. Ivanov in 1897.

What's remarkable, is that originally the edifice was meant to accommodate the All-Russia Insurance Company Rossiya, but was built on the spot where Catherine the Great had once headquartered her secret police. Perhaps not surprisingly that after the Bolshevik Revolution, the government seized the structure and put their newly-established secret police, known as Cheka, there in 1918. For several decades afterwards, the building would cast terror in the hearts of Muscovites because of the affiliated prison situated behind this otherwise peaceful yellow-brick façade, crowned with a hammer and sickle coat of arms and a clock at the center.

Operational since 1920, the prison was located on the top floor. It had no windows, and therefore most inmates erroneously believed they were kept in the basement. Thence the common joke that Lubyanka is "the tallest building in Moscow", since Siberia (an euphemism for Gulag) could be seen from its basement. Among those who were held and interrogated at Lubyanka at various times were Sidney Reilly, Raoul Wallenberg, Ion Antonescu, Osip Mandelstam, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and many others. The interrogations stopped in 1953 after the death of Stalin. During the 1980s, the prison was partially turned into a cafeteria for the KGB staff. Another part was turned into a prison museum, to visit which a special authorization is required.

During the Great Purge of the 1930s, the Lubyanka offices became increasingly cramped due to the bloated staff numbers. In 1940, Aleksey Shchusev was commissioned to enlarge the building. By 1947, he had doubled Lubyanka in size horizontally by incorporating backstreet buildings, plus added another storey.

In the post-Soviet era, another museum inside the building (separate from the prison one upstairs), called the Historical Demonstration Hall of the Russian FSB, was opened to the public. For this, no special permit is required.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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