VDNKh

Nikolay Galkin/TASS
The Exhibition of Achievements of the People's Economy, which epitomized internecine friendship in the Soviet Union, was born when the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition opened in the north of Moscow on August 1, 1939. With its 250 buildings one more unusual and striking than the other, it was a veritable city in its own right inside Moscow. The core of the complex was formed by the pavilions devoted to each of the Union republics and the key industries and agricultural occupations. The best Soviet architects and engineers contributed to the VDNKh concept. The exhibition was officially closed in the summer of 1941, when the war began. Some of the core exhibits were sold, and some evacuated. The newly vacant premises were re-specialized for defence needs. One of the pavilions was reappointed for a counterintelligence training centre. Many of the pavilions fell into decrepitude during the war, but the whole complex was renovated with great enthusiasm once the war ended. The old pavilions were restored, and new ones built. School kids were brought here to admire the specially fattened turkeys and suckling pigs. At the republic pavilions, visitors were treated to free fir cone jam and churchkhela (a Georgian dish of walnuts on a string, boiled in grape juice). Two amazing fountains were opened in 1954: Friendship of the Nations and Stone Flower, the world's first fountain where music was synchronized with a light show. The music was composed by Dmitri Shostakovich. From the 1950s through the early 1990s, VDNKh served as the showcase of an ideal happy nation with its beautiful pavilions decorated in the ethnic traditions of the Soviet republics, each offering the best the respective national cuisine had to offer, proudly displaying all the agricultural achievements, e.g. pedigree pigs, cows and all kinds of poultry, and marvels of Soviet industry (the Cosmos Pavilion was truly remarkable). VDNKh fell into neglect after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

VDNKh's second life began in 2013. The pavilions went into reconstruction (some have already been restored in their former glory), illicit trading was stopped, and the Green Theatre opened, which now books world-class performers, most notably Yury Bashmet and Sinead O'Connor. The exhibition complex is now home to the Polytechnic Museum and Europe's biggest aquarium. VDNKh's endless walkways are great for rollerblading, scooting and biking. Right of the main entrance towers Vera Mukhina's Worker and Kolkhoz Woman sculpture, created in 1937 for the World's Fair in Paris.