VDNKh turns 77: Archive documents about its creation go on the Web

VDNKh turns 77: Archive documents about its creation go on the Web
An exhibition, entitled The Main National Exhibition Through the Camera Lens of History, will tell the story of the creation of one of the USSR’s most ambitious exhibition complexes.

The Main Archive Directorate has prepared a virtual exhibition to celebrate the 77th anniversary of the National Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKh), which was initially called the National Agricultural Exhibition (VSKhV – Russian acronym). It will display historical documents about the creation of the National Agricultural Exhibition.

From the first five-year plan until the beginning of the war

The opening of the National Agricultural Exhibition was one of the key events in the USSR’s pre-war history. From the very beginning, this was where the country’s greatest achievements in agriculture, industry and culture were presented. The idea behind its creation was to make VSKhV a permanent exhibition of a new type and a country-wide experience workshop.

The complex started sprawling on the northern outskirts of Moscow to occupy 136 hectares, including ponds, experimental grounds and parks. The general development plan for the complex was drafted by prominent architect Vyacheslav Oltarzhevsky. Later, Sergei Chernyshev assumed the management of the project, taking command of over 2,000 qualified professionals and artisans.   

The site was decorated with 400 sculptures and several hundred paintings and pictures, and 250 pavilions were built, so that all republics and regions of the country and various sectors of the economy were represented at the exhibition. 

The complex became one of the city’s landmarks and the public’s favourite recreational location. A large old park neighbouring the exhibition featured a parachute tower, a Ferris wheel, a hall of distorting mirrors, a merry-go-round and a playground for children. Guests of the exhibition could visit the Green Theatre, a concert bandstand, a circus, two cinemas, an Oriental tearoom, a canteen, cafes, restaurants, a tobacco kiosk and a confectioner’s shop.

The exhibition was a fabulous success. Over 3.5 million people visited it between 1 August and 25 October 1939. Every day the exhibition received up to 100,000 guests. Bus, trolleybus and tram routes were designed to take all these people to the exhibition. 

The exhibition was closed on 26 June 1941, shortly after the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The majority of exhibits and the library were evacuated to Chelyabinsk. Several anti-aircraft units were installed at VSKhV and pavilions were camouflaged with dark cloth. Not a single bomb hit the huge exhibition area during the war.

New pavilions and famous fountains

It was only on 1 August 1954 that the exhibition opened again. At that time, its architectural style acquired new features and the area was extended to 207 hectares. 

Work to renovate the display complex was managed by architect Anatoly Zhukov and sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich, and took several years to complete. It included building an arch over the main entrance, finishing the construction of the main pavilion and building new pavilions for the Baltic republics, the Karelo-Finish Soviet Socialist Republic and some others. Designed by architect and artist Konstantin Topuridze, the Druzhba Narodov (People’s Friendship) and Kammeny Tsvetok (Stone Flower) fountains started running in Kolkhozov Square and the Zolotoi Kolos (Golden Wheat Ear) fountain was reconstructed.

On 4 July 1956, the National Industrial Exhibition opened at the site, in keeping with the decision of the Communist Party Central Committee and the Council of Ministers.  It was intended as a venue for promoting the achievements of and prospects for the socialist industrial sector, and for introducing the best pioneering practices in industry. 

In 1958, the industrial, agricultural and construction exhibitions were consolidated into the National Exhibition of Economic Achievements, or VDNKh (Russian acronym).

The name has not changed since then. Recently, it became the world’s largest complex combining an exhibition, a museum and a recreational area. Every year, the complex receives over 24 million people, hosts over 100 international exhibitions and congresses, as well as dozens of festivals and special events, and runs new exhibitions. After the Green Theatre was given a new lease on life in 2014, VDNKh also became famous for its concerts, with the world’s best musicians performing there.