The frightening splendor of Stalinist-era Empire style

Photographer Naum Granovsky reveals the perfection of the architectural ensemble: his laconic delineated photographs, taken in numerous cities of the USSR, became evidence that plans of life reorganization came true.

The architecture of Soviet times is not just a monument to the epoch, but also an illustration of the social ideals of the Kremlin’s former leaders. Even the names of the buildings are testimony to that, formed as they are from the names of the leaders: Stalinki, Khrushchyovki and Brezhnevki. // Tverskaya street, Moscow, 1968

The architectural avant-garde style, which prevailed between 1918 and 1932 was followed by the era of Stalin’s neoclassicism – the so-called “Grand Style”. In 1931 Moscow’s reconstruction project was approved, and then the ambitious construction program spanning the whole USSR was launched. // Planetarium, Volgograd, 1960

New projects constituted a definitive break with constructivism and introduced a new ideal, which invoked not principles of rationalism and functionalism but that of state power. All cities were built according to a general development plan. // Spartak cinema, Voronezh, 1960s

In early 1947, the Council of Ministers adopted a resolution for the construction of seven “skyscrapers”. These monumental skyscrapers built in the style of neoclassicism surround the center of the city like a fortress wall. // Ukraine Hotel, Moscow, 1960

All of these buildings were built according to one stylistic conception: a dominating central tower which, like an Aztec pyramid, narrows in stair-like stages to the top and is flanked in a more or less strict order by wings. The plan of the buildings varies as does the lavish decorations of the towers, the statues and the bas-reliefs. // Yauzsky boulevard, Moscow, 1950s

In 1935 Moscow saw the birth of the VDNKh exhibition park with its eclectic mix of monumental Stalinist architecture and a full range of historical styles ranging from Gothic to Art Nouveau. The monument that became symbolic of VDNKh is

Famous all over the world for the extravagance and beauty of its stations, Moscow metro has been serving people since 1935, and has grown into one of the world's largest and busiest underground rail networks. In 1939 a model of Mayakovskaya was taken to the Universal Exhibition in New York, for which another ceiling with planes and the Kremlin star in the night sky was created. The project received the main prize. // Mayakovskaya metro station, Moscow, 1950s

The Stalinki or Stalinist apartment blocks housed the elite. They were built from the end of the Thirties to the mid-Fifties, predominantly in the neo-classical style, and their principal characteristic was a sense of space and enormous size. But behind the grand facade lurked room partitions made from poor-grade materials that have deteriorated over time, as well as wooden overhangs between storeys. // Leninsky prospect, Moscow, 1950s

By the 1930s Naum Granovsky had already been working as the chief photographer at the publishing house “Izogiz”, which prioritized architecture photography that aimed to present a growing and flourishing country. Before the Second World War Granovsky photographed Moscow a lot. // Northern riverside station, Moscow, 1960s

After the Second World War Granovsky traveled across the USSR as a reporter for the Soviet news agency Telegraph Agency  (TASS): Volgograd, Kiev, Minsk, Smolensk, Vladimir, Kuybishev, Voronezh, Kishinev, Baku, Tbilisi. // Station square, Minsk (Belarus), 1960s

High horizon lines and viewpoints that enable to show the city’s panorama, roads receding into the distance and finely calibrated compositions are characteristic of Granovsky’s style. As a reporter of the state-owned agency he had permission to photograph from Moscow’s highest points that were inaccessible to ordinary citizens. // Kreschatik street, Kiev (Ukraine), 1969

Granovsky teetered on a thin edge between a cityscape remaining authentic and at the same time embodying the symbol of the city. Granovsky’s cityscapes seem to be in accordance with an architect’s plan. It is an ideal city, in which accidentalities are erased and only the imperial monumentality remains. // Shakhter sanatorium, Tskhaltubo (Georgia), 1965

He reveals the structure and emphasizes the perfection of the architectural ensemble. His laconic delineated photographs, taken in numerous cities of the USSR, became evidence that plans of life reorganization came true. // Central staircase on the Volga embankment, Volgograd, 1960s

After 1956, fewer and fewer of Stalinist apartment blocks were built. Khrushchev declared war on Stalinist extremes in city planning. Now everything would be sacrificed to functional understatement. Then came the Khrushchyovka era. In everyday life Stalinkas and Khrushchyovkas became bywords for a luxury lifestyle for the elite and a cheap uncomfortable one for others. // Krasnopresnenskaya and Smolenskaya embankments, Moscow, 1970s

Naum Granovsky’s “Grand Style” exhibition explores the legacy of one of the leading architectural photographers of the Stalinist era through more than 100 iconic photographs. The exhibition runs in the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, Moscow, till January 24, 2016. // Udarnik cinema, Volgograd, 1960s

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