Stalin’s high-rise buildings. Moscow

How Stalin’s skyscrapers were built

On September 7, 1947 on the 800th anniversary of the city in Moscow began simultaneously to build seven Stalinist skyscrapers. The eighth building planned in Zaryadye was never built – in its place appeared the biggest hotel in Europe, the Rossiya. How Stalin’s Empire symbols were built – see RBC photo gallery.

The skyscraper on Krasnye Vorota

Height: 138 meters

Architects: Alexei Dushkin, Boris Mezentsev

Construction of a 24-storey building on Red Gate Square was completed in 1952. The building is located on the highest point of the Garden Ring. The project was the brainchild of architect Alexey Dushkin, who also designed the Detsky Mir building on Lubyanka Street and the Kropotkinskaya, Mayakovskaya, Ploshchad Revolutsii and Novoslobodskaya metro stations. In Soviet times the building housed the Ministry of Transport Engineering, now it houses the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, Transstroy Corporation and the Russian Trade Union of Railway and Transport Builders. It is the only high-rise building combined with a metro station, which, given the instability of the Moscow ground, required unique engineering solutions from the creators. The house and the metro were built simultaneously. As part of the high-rise was overhanging the trench for the subway, it was built with a slope, and the ground was frozen to a depth of 27 meters. When the work was completed, the ground thawed and the tower rose to an upright position.

The skyscraper on Krasnye Vorota

The skyscraper was built on the site of a demolished quarter of pre-revolutionary houses, one of which was the birthplace of Mikhail Lermontov in 1814. In memory of the poet, Red Gate Square was called Lermontovskaya square from 1941 to 1992.

Leningradskaya Hotel

Height: 136 m

Architects: Leonid Polyakov, Alexander Boretsky

The building on Kalanchevskaya Street was completed in 1953. The hotel “Leningradskaya” is the lowest in the family of Stalin’s skyscrapers, 136 meters high.

During its construction, at a depth of 8.5 meters the builders stumbled on a “quicksand” – the ground saturated with water. The construction was halted, and piles had to be driven along the perimeter of the foundation to continue.

Initially the authors of the project, Leonid Polyakov and Alexander Boretsky, were awarded the Stalin Prize of the second degree, but after the death of Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev disbanded the Academy of Architecture and deprived the architects of their prize.

Leningradskaya Hotel

In 2008 after the reconstruction the hotel opened under the brand of Hilton and was given a new name – Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya. All the restoration works were financed by Sadko-hotel related to the Gutserievs family. According to experts the investments amounted to $45-50 mln.

House on Kudrinskaya Street

Architects: Mikhail Posokhin, Ashot Mndoyants

The apartment house in Kudrinskaya Square (former Vosstaniya Square) was finished in 1954. The Ministry of Aviation Industry was in charge of the construction, and the apartments were mainly allocated to the department’s senior staff. For this reason the building was sometimes called “the House of Aviators”. There are 18 floors out of 24. Nowadays there is a cinema, stores, a bowling club.

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The high-rise building on Kotelnicheskaya

Height: 176 m.

Architects: Dmitry Chechulin, Andrey Rostkovsky

One of the first completed high-rise buildings was a residential building on Kotelnicheskaya Embankment. The Main Directorate of Industrial Construction Camps of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was in charge of the construction, with prisoners of war and German prisoners of war as the main workforce. They also served as models for the bas-reliefs of workers decorating the facades and the lobby of the skyscraper.

Apartments were first distributed among the NKVD employees, later scientists and artists started to move in. At different times writers Vasily Aksenov, Konstantin Paustovsky, Alexander Tvardovsky, actress Faina Ranevskaya, ballerina Galina Ulanova and poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko lived here. The latter wrote about the cockroaches that used to inhabit the house: “Only Zykina sang, / from the ceilings / came an a capella / of weevils.

The high-rise building on Kotelnicheskaya

According to realtors, the house on Kotelnicheskaya embankment remains the most status among the other high-rises. The price of one-bedroom apartments here may be up to 30 million, 40 million and even 50 million rubles.


Height: 172 m

Architects: Vladimir Gelfreich, Mikhail Minkus

The administrative building on Smolenskaya Square was built first. Its 27 floors house the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and the Ministry of Trade.

The original design of the building did not include a spire – it was designed and installed later by Stalin’s decree. Due to the impossibility of constructing a full-fledged spire, it was made in the form of a decorative metal hipped roof.


In September 2016, work began to remove the spire on the Foreign Ministry building. The work also included replacing parts of the building’s roof. “The updated spire will be lighter, which will reduce the load on the entire structure,” it was reported on the official portal of the Moscow City Hall.

In November 2016, the Russian Foreign Ministry launched its own channel on Telegram and created a selection of stickers, including images of the ministry’s main building.

Ukraine Hotel

Height: 206 m

Architects: Arkady Mordvinov

The building was completed in 1957. At that time it was the tallest hotel building in Europe. The Ukrainian hotel was designed by a group of architects headed by the president of the USSR Academy of Architecture, Arkady Mordvinov.

During the construction of the building, pumps were used around the clock to pump out the ground water.

Ukraine Hotel

In 2005, the Kievskaya Square structures of God Nisanov and Zarah Iliev bought the hotel from the Moscow authorities for $275 million; another $300 million was invested into the reconstruction. In 2010 after reconstruction the hotel began to operate under the brand Radisson Royal.

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Height: 236 m

Architects: Lev Rudnev, Sergey Chernyshev, Pavel Abrosimov, Alexander Khryakov, Vsevolod Nasonov

The main building of the Moscow State University is the tallest of the Stalinist skyscrapers, and until the 1990s it was the tallest building in Europe. Originally the MSU main building was supposed to be built on the edge of the Sparrow Hills, but because of the danger of landslides they decided to move it further inland. To implement such a large-scale project in difficult geological conditions required innovative engineering solutions, which were proposed by Vsevolod Nasonov and Nikolai Nikitin, who later built the Ostankino TV tower.


A special railroad was built to construct the building, which was used to deliver construction materials. More than 16,000 people, including prisoners, were involved in the work. According to the official Chronicle of Moscow State University, Gulag prisoners participated only in the initial stages of construction. However, the Memorial Human Rights Center cites data on the participation of about 8,000 prisoners over five years in the construction of the MSU complex.

Stalin’s high-rise buildings

The Stalin skyscrapers are high-rise buildings that largely determine the architectural appearance of Moscow. Construction began in the post-war decade when the city was restored after the devastation. Stalin thought that high-rise towers of original architecture should become a symbol of the revival.

The high-rise building on Kotelnicheskaya embankment

The USSR Council of Ministers developed a plan to build eight high-rise buildings. In September 1947, during the celebration of the 800th anniversary of Moscow, the foundations of all skyscrapers were laid.

The Moscow “skyscrapers” were to become a symbol of the restoration of the Soviet capital after the war, the superiority of the Soviet system over the capitalist one. At the same time with the foundations of the skyscrapers, a monument to Prince Yuri Dolgoruky was unveiled: the founder of Moscow as if he was blessing the city to enter a new era.

Stalin's high-rise buildings

The creators of the Stalin skyscrapers had an ambitious goal – to demonstrate the power of the Soviet state and at the same time to build true architectural masterpieces distinguished by beauty and refinement of form.

According to the original plan, eight high-rise buildings were to surround a grandiose structure, the Palace of Soviets. This 420-meter skyscraper was to be adorned with a 100-meter high Lenin statue. Construction of the Palace of Soviets began in 1937 on the site of the blown-up Cathedral of Christ the Savior. With the beginning of the war the construction was stopped, and the ready metal constructions were sent to create antitank hedgehogs.

The Palace of Soviets project

The project of the Palace of Soviets remained unrealized, but high-rise buildings were constructed. However, not eight, but only seven: the skyscraper planned for construction in Zaryadye was never built. The last Stalin skyscraper was completed in 1957.

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Stalin saw Moscow as the city which would begin the renewal of the entire country. It was planned that skyscrapers would be built in other cities. Dream of the leader of the nations partially came true: buildings which can be called Stalin’s high-rise were built in Chelyabinsk, Kiev, Riga. In addition, skyscrapers of such architecture can be seen in several capitals of the former socialist camp – Prague, Warsaw and Bucharest.

Stalin's high-rise buildings

In the Western press, and then in official architecture, the style of Soviet high-rises is commonly referred to as “Stalinist Empire”. There is a certain amount of irony in this expression – expensive skyscrapers were built in a country which had not yet recovered from the consequences of a terrible war, at a time when much of the population was starving.

Nevertheless, the construction of high-rises was a landmark event for Moscow and other cities: most of the buildings became architectural landmarks, outstanding masterpieces of world architecture.

Stalin’s high-rise buildings in Moscow

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The first Stalinist skyscraper completed in 1953 a few months before the Moscow State University skyscraper. The 172-meter high-rise was designed by architects M. Minkus and V. Gelfreich.

Foreign Ministry building

The original appearance of the skyscraper was different from the modern one: the building had no spire. Stalin didn’t like this concept, and he ordered the architects to build a spire. It was very difficult to accomplish the task: the design created an additional load on the upper floors of the building. Minkus and Heilfreich erected a light frame spire on the building that was too weak to be crowned with a five-pointed star. As a result, the Foreign Ministry building was the only Stalinist skyscraper not topped with a star.

Address: 32/34 Smolenskaya Sennaya Square, Moscow

The Moscow State University skyscraper

The skyscraper was designed by the outstanding Soviet architect B. Iofan. Iofan proposed to erect the building on the spot where the observation deck on Sparrow Hills is located now. This was opposed by geologists who believed that the skyscraper could slide down the side of the mountain. Iofan insisted and he was dismissed, and the construction was entrusted to another outstanding craftsman, L. Rudnev.

The Moscow State University's high-rise building

The building was built from 1949 to 1953, it took almost 200 million bricks and about 45 tons of steel. On the spire of the 238-meter skyscraper was erected a big star.

The foundation of the MSU building was created by engineer N. Nikitin, who built the Ostankino TV tower. V. Mukhina’s studio was responsible for decorating the facade. The statue “Worker and Collective Farm Girl” was supposed to be placed in front of the entrance to the university, but L. Beria opted for the monument to M. Lomonosov.

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The Moscow State University's high-rise building

Following the tradition of the time, the Moscow authorities arranged for prisoners to be involved in the construction, promising an amnesty for the workers after the statue was commissioned. Thousands of builders needed somewhere to live and for these purposes the village called Solntsevo was organized near the construction site. Later the settlement became a metropolitan area.

On September 1, 1953, the main building of the Moscow State University opened its doors for students and teachers. It was a real “city within a city”. The high-rise consisted of several buildings that housed faculties, academic laboratories, libraries, research facilities, lecture halls and living quarters. Students could live and study practically without leaving the campus.

The Moscow State University's high-rise building

The MSU high-rise had an enormous significance for Moscow’s architectural image: the panorama of the Sparrow Hills with the MSU high-rise quickly became one of the most replicated views of the capital.

The area in front of the skyscraper was landscaped. In fact, in front of the main building of Moscow State University there is a full-fledged park with walking paths, monuments, artificial ponds, fountains, benches.

The Moscow State University's high-rise building

Up until 1990, when the 256-meter tall Messeturm skyscraper was built in Frankfurt, the MSU high-rise was the tallest building in Europe.

There are many legends and mystical stories associated with the MSU building. For example there is a supposition that under the skyscraper there is the so called “underground building” in case of nuclear war.

Address: Moscow, Leninskie Gory, 1.

House of Aviators

Another Stalinist high-rise was built on Kudrinskaya Square (in Soviet times – Ploshchad Vosstaniya). The 156m high-rise was completed by the architect A. Mndoyants in 1954.

The Heights on Vosstaniya Square

Its entrances resembled museum lobbies, the staircases were faced with expensive marble and the tenants were transported to each floor in high-speed elevators. A total of 450 luxurious apartments with high ceilings were in the House of Aviators.

Housing in the elite house was distributed among the Soviet elite: party functionaries, movie actors, cosmonauts, aviators, designers of space and aviation technology. Mostly the last three professions lived in the house, which is why the high-rise building got its name.

The Heights on Vosstaniya Square

The inhabitants of the House of the aviator could stay indoors for weeks: there were stores, hairdressing saloons, a cinema, etc. in the high-rise.

Address: Moscow, Kudrinskaya Ploshchad, B. 1

Ukraine Hotel

This building was started to be built in 1953, in the year of Stalin’s death. The construction was completed in 1957, when the country was headed by Nikita Khrushchev. The new secretary general chose the name for the skyscraper.

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Ukraine Hotel

The 198-meter skyscraper on Kutuzovsky Prospekt was built by architects A. Mordvinov and V. Oltarzhevsky.

In the hotel “Ukraine” there is a museum-diorama “Moscow 1977”, which represented the capital at an international exhibition in the United States. The layout fully demonstrates what the center of the city was like in that period of time.

Ukraine Hotel

In 2010 the hotel “Ukraine” was completely renovated, since that year it houses an international luxury chain hotel “Radisson”.

Address: Moscow, Kutuzovsky Prospekt. 2/1

The high-rise building on Kotelnicheskaya embankment

One of the Stalin skyscrapers was originally supposed to give to the creative intelligentsia. This building is 176 meters high skyscraper on Kotelnicheskaya embankment. The high-rise building with original towers is decorated with many sculptures. The architect A. Rostkovsky completed the structure in 1952.

The high-rise building on Kotelnicheskaya embankment

The house is situated in one of the most comfortable and beautiful places in Moscow, in the mouth of the river Yauza. The high-rise building on Kotelnicheskaya Street was home to famous poets A. Voznesensky and E. Evtushenko, the singer L. Zykina, the actresses N. Mordyukova and F. Ranevskaya, the ballerina G. Ulanova.

Address: Moscow, Kotelnicheskaya Embankment, 1/15

Leningradskaya Hotel

Among all Stalinist high-rises, the 136-meter Leningradskaya Hotel stands out for its lack of wide buildings and its diminutiveness. From some angles the building looks like a medieval tower.

Leningradskaya Hotel

Another feature of “Leningradskaya” is that even by the standards of the Stalinist Empire the interiors are decorated magnificently. Architect L. Polyakov involved in the interior design work specialists in Old Russian architecture and church architecture. The rooms are decorated with expensive marble, crystal and semi-precious stones. Inside the building there are a huge number of sculptures, bas-reliefs, mosaics and forged elements.

Leningradskaya Hotel

At present the building is a hotel “Hilton”.

Address: Moscow, Kalanchhevskaya ul. 21/40

High-rise building on Sadovoe Koltso (Garden Ring)

The Stalin Empire style block of flats on the Sadovoe Ring near the Red Gate Square was erected by architects B. Mezentsev and A. Dushkin. The height of the building was 138 meters, which is not much compared to other Stalinist skyscrapers. The architects obtained the right from the city authorities to place the house at the highest point of the Garden Ring, which gave the building some impressiveness.

The skyscraper on Krasnye Vorota (Red Gate)

The construction of the skyscraper was fraught with significant problems: the metro station was being built right under one of the wings of the building. The architects used a unique technology and literally froze the construction pit to avoid it collapsing.

During Soviet times the building housed the Ministry of Engineering, nowadays it houses offices of transport companies and residential apartments.

The skyscraper on Krasnye Vorota (Red Gate)

Unfortunately, during the construction of the skyscraper, the old mansion, where Lermontov was born, was demolished.

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