Socialistic heaven for the working class: Sochi and the Specter of Stalin

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It all started in the 20’s of the XIX century, when Stalin first took the Matsesta baths. He felt relief immediately after the first procedure. This is when he decided to make Sochi his annual vacation place; his rheumatic pains seemed to miraculously go away here.

In 1934, under Stalin's instruction, more than 1 billion Russian rubles were allocated to sponsor the building of infrastructure in Sochi- at that time this amount was enormous. There was even a special turnpike built near this health resort, which was called Prospekt imeni Stalina (Stalin's Avenue). Now this avenue is called Kurortniy Prospekt. After that a water supply line was built, parks were laid out, many sanatoriums were set up, and, of course, the Matsesta region was modernized itself, because the General Secretary was especially fond of it due to the healing quality of its sulfurous water.

The Leader's residence

At first, when he came to Sochi, Stalin had the habit of staying in the "Mikhaylovskoye" estate. The buildings were situated on a mountain ridge right between the Matsesta rift and the Agurskiy waterfall. A little bit later, on the territory of this estate, 50 meters above sea level a special "dacha"- Zelenaya Rosha was built for Stalin. As a matter of fact, it still exists, and you can visit it as a museum or mini-hotel, which is all part of the Zelenaya Rosha sanatoria complex.

A young Soviet architect Miron Merzhanov was the one who designed the residence of the Secretary General. In his project he tried to include everything Stalin had wished for. The "dacha" was open for fresh air all the way around- the sea and mountain wind swished through the rooms constantly. Stalin lived in a separate building because he was fond of peace and quietness. The next building, rather far from where Stalin was settled, was where all the servants lived and where the kitchen was constructed. Stalin couldn't bear the smell of food and the clatter of tableware.

The steps leading to the second floor were too low and uncomfortable for most people. As for Stalin, he thought that they were rather practical. Because of his rheumatism he couldn't take big steps. Even the handrails weren't really high so the leader could watch everything happening on the streets. According to different sources, the height of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was around 165 cm.

For his Sochi chambers Merzhanov even designed special keyholes so that no servant or maid could spy or listen in on him.

The facade of the building was painted in an emerald-green color, so that it would blend in with the nature surrounding it. Even nowadays it still looks exactly the same. It is a well-known fact that Stalin was afraid of assassination attempts, and it was really hard to notice that dacha among the numerous trees and plants of that mountain chain. And today it appears before the eyes of tourists in exactly the same way. In Sochi the issue of the Leader's safety was extremely important and well thought out. Usually he came to this region on his personal train. On the railway track there were always a few trains with the number 1- in one of them was the General Secretary himself, and in the other- his security team. As for his Sochi dacha, there were always three security cordons protecting the leader. Even his soft furniture was on a special order filled with horsehair to detain a bullet if anything was to happen.

The Riviera and Gagra

Only two events are said to have been assassination attempts on Stalin. The first one happened on the night of August 25-26, 1931, when a Buick with Stalin and Voroshilov was crossing the Riviera's bridge. The governmental car started immediately shooting at the truck that it crashed into. The driver of the truck disappeared and later it was established that he was drunk and killing the Leader hadn't been his intention at all. The second incident happened during Stalin's marine ride on an auto boat. The boat was fired at with a rifle from the coast near Gagra, not far from Sochi. Stalin's bodyguard acted as his shield during this shootout, but that wasn't necessary- all the bullets went by, nobody got hurt. Later it was found out that the frontier post hadn't been informed that the governmental boat was going to sail by, so the commander decided to make three warning shots, just in case.

At this time in the 30’s, Sochi had already become the Soviet Union's main holiday resort. Many important decisions had been made here, even those that affected millions of people. In official statements Stalin was in Moscow on June 22, 1941, and not long ago English historians, referring to the information their special services had given them, have announced that they believe Stalin was on his holiday in Sochi during the tragic days before the war Incidentally, his look -a-likes could have been seen on the Black Sea coast at that time- it is believed that there were four of them.

During the war Stalin's family lived at his Sochi house "Zelenaya Rosha". The General Secretary himself returned to his main southern residence in 1945, when the country had started celebrating the Victory. Joseph Vissarionovich wasn't feeling very well. After suffering a stroke he was being followed up by three doctors. During the evenings Stalin used to watch black and white movies, like "Volga, Volga" and "Chaplin" in his personal movie hall. He planted trees himself and was really happy when lemon and tangerine trees started giving fruit.

Paradise in Sochi's sanatoriums

The Soviet Leader was very concerned about the fact that the locals kept getting sick with malaria. On Stalin's order eucalypt trees were generously planted all around Sochi. Once again Sochi's administration started laying out parks, squares, started planting flower gardens. Sochi's sanatoriums, which were used as hospitals during the war, came back to being famous holiday resorts. Among them were "Voroshilova" sanatorium, "Ordzhonikidze", "Frunze", "Pravda" and "Metallurg". These are all truly monumental buildings, built by Stalin's command, which have been preserved even to our time. They remind people of real palaces with pillars and decorated ceilings. Stalin was convinced that every Soviet person should have the ability to relax and gain health in truly heavenly places, so that after vacation he would be able to work even harder. So now Stalin spent even more time in Sochi- from August till September. In order to keep up with his governmental work, numerous Soviet leaders, working in Moscow, came to his Sochi residence to see Stalin themselves. This is how in 1948 Sochi became an independent administrative center of republican subordination. Prospekt Stalina was thoroughly washed three times a day. If your car had dirty tires, you weren't allowed to use the main road. As for women, they could have been banished out of Sochi if they were seen walking around the city in robes.

It is still unknown as to where Stalin used to like to stroll in Sochi because he always did it completely incognito. There is only one public fact regarding Stalin in Sochi- that is when he came to the "Kavkazskaya Riviera" - a sanatorium right in the center of Sochi next to the sea. On September 18, 1947 all of a sudden a ZIS-110 limousine rolled up to the main entrance of the sanatorium- everybody was completely shocked! Joseph Vissarionovich got out of the car and headed straight towards the cafe. He kept asking the vacationers whether they like the sanatorium, was the food of good quality and how they like Sochi. The local kids, having momentarily surrounded Stalin, were lucky enough to get some chocolate candy from the Leader himself.

Matsesta health resort

That same young soviet architect Miron Merzhanov, having built Stalin a residence in Sochi, built him a new one in Matsesta, where the Leader would come to take sulfurated hydrogen baths. Today this building has barely changed its form or purpose. This estate is regarded as presidential. Only Russian leaders, famous international political guests and well-known people of art are allowed to undergo special treatment here.

The Akhun Mountain would also probably not have been so famous without Joseph Stalin. It was he who ordered to establish an eleven- kilometer road going up to its peak in a record-making 102 days. The road was constructed by prisoners to whom Stalin promised freedom if they were able to finish their work in 100 days. According to one version of the story, all the prisoners were actually let go, according to another; they were killed due to failure to meet the time constraints. Stalin himself confirmed the project of the white-stone watchtower, which was built right on the highest point of the Akhun Mountain. The small pavilions which lead to the watchtower are made out of the same material. They say that Stalin used to take his numerous bodyguards, leave his "Zelenaya Rosha" residence and walk up to the top of the Akhun Mountain. The pavilions were built in exactly the same places where Stalin used to stop and catch his breath.

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