Mosfilm, MGU and Vysotnik Cultural Centre, the five main buildings in Ramenki

Mosfilm, MGU and Vysotnik Cultural Centre, the five main buildings in Ramenki
Tatyana Vorontsova, Moscow historian, city guide and ProgulKino project initiator, speaks about key early Soviet architectural monuments.

Mos.ru continues to present a series of stories based on a Museum of Moscow project titled “Outdoor Lecture Hall. Local History” that culminated in late August. Throughout the summer, Moscow historians and historians of architecture addressed audiences in various courtyards across the city revealing mysteries and riddles. The Outdoor Lecture Hall will resume next summer. For the time being, lectures about Khamovniki, Shabolovka, Ramenki and other districts are available in the form of synopses.

Tatyana Vorontsova, Moscow historian

The main building of the Moscow State University (MGU)

Address: 1 Leninskiye Gory Street

Years of construction: 1947-1953

This is one of the Stalin-era high-rises started in 1947, when Moscow was celebrating its 800th anniversary. The plan was to build eight such places, each symbolising one of the eight centuries. However, only seven were actually ever completed. On 7 September 1947, the stone-laying ceremony was held and the construction began in the late 1940s.

Originally, the chief architect of the MGU building was Boris Iofan, who wanted it to be topped with a statue – putatively students, or scientists, or Mikhail Lomonosov – rather than a tower, a spire, or a star. But in 1949, it was decided that all the eight structures should conform to a single style – staggered and with a spire. Iofan’s design was somewhat modified and each building was adorned with the well-known topper.

Nevertheless, it was decorated with statues after all as well as the fact that its façade now bears the works created by sculpture students from Vera Mukhina’s studio.

The MGU main building is higher than the other six high-rises (183.2 metres without the spire and 240 metres with the spire). There are 34 floors in its central part. The lower wings house student hostels and teachers’ apartments (like in the Soviet period).

Vysotnik Cultural Centre

Address: 5 Ramenki Street

Year of construction: 1953

The Vysotnik Cultural Centre may have the most difficult history, even though it is based on a typical design. A construction camp sprung up on what is now Ramenki Street in Ramenki District during the construction of the MGU. Before long, it acquired some infrastructure, including two-storey houses, shops, and a cultural centre. The latter’s name, Vysotnik (Steeplejack), should have served as a reminder that the local residents had built the Moscow University high-rise. The cultural centre provided premises for interest groups and athletic classes and also had a large concert hall, where performances were held on red-letter days.

There are a lot of buildings like Vysotnik in Russia. You can visit any provincial town and are sure to find a similar cinema, theatre or club. All of these were built, with certain modifications, to a typical design by Ivan Zholtovsky’s Architectural Workshop. There is one in Moscow as well.

On the outside, Vysotnik is the same, but its contents have been changing over time. In the 1990s, it housed a pool of slot machines and was frequented by local youngsters avid for discos and videotapes from a video rental shop organised in the concert hall. In the 1980s and 1990s, Vysotnik also housed one of Moscow’s best recording studios and you could easily bump into Alla Pugachyova or Natasha Korolyova, who came to an ordinary district cultural centre to record their albums.

Currently, part of the building is a restaurant, but basically it is used for the purpose intended, offering places for interest groups and athletic classes to meet.

The Main Building of Mosfilm Studios

Address: 1 Mosfilmovskaya Street

Year of construction: 1930

It is held that Mosfilm was founded in 1923, when the 2nd and 3rd factories of the Goskino State Committee for Cinematography (before the 1917 Revolution, these were Alexander Khanzhonkov’s cinema factory and Joseph Yermoliyev’s cinema factory) were merged. In 1924, Mosfilm Studios produced its first cinema picture. The new pavilions that one can see today in Mosfilmovskaya Street were added somewhat later. The stone-laying ceremony was held in 1927 and the still unfinished buildings saw the first films being made in 1931.

Mosfilm is a true city within a city. It has 15 film pavilions, a sound studio, a landscaped area of its own, several statues (such as monuments to Vasily Shukshin and Sergei Bondarchuk), and an Old Moscow outdoor set.

The old building is an outstanding specimen of Stalin-era architecture, with its large area and the characteristic décor (columns, capitals, facing). As far as researchers know, all modifications were made inside the building, while its exterior survives intact to this very day.

Church of the Life-Giving Trinity on Vorobyovy Gory

Address: 30 Kosygina Street

Years of construction: 1811-1813

The exterior is being restored and worship will go ahead as foreseen.

The construction began in 1811 on the site of alternating wooden churches, the earliest of which dated back to the 14th century, when the area was owned by the Vorobyov Boyars.

The 19th-century church was designed by Alexander Witberg, the architect who planned to build the Church of Christ the Saviour on Vorobyovy Gory, but the plan failed.

It took two years to build the quadrangular church with columns, a single powerful cupola, and a two-tier belfry. It survived the 1812 fire in Moscow and was known as the place where the Russian Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Mikhail I. Kutuzov, prayed for a favourable outcome of the war against Napoleon.

The structure was rebuilt on two occasions (1858 and at the turn of the 20th century), but renovations mostly affected the interiors of the side-chapels.

The Church of the Life-Giving Trinity on Vorobyovy Gory is one of the few churches that continued functioning in the Soviet period. There were attempts to close it in the 1920s, when the anti-religious campaign was at its height, and in the late 1940s, when the MGU project was launched (it’s a scandal for a church to sit next to the Temple of Knowledge), but it has survived Soviet times plus it is in operation to this very day.

Church of the Life-Giving Trinity in Troitskoye-Golenishchevo

Address: 18A Mosfilmovskaya Street

Years of construction: 1644-1645

Troitskoye-Golenishchevo was a church patriarch’s village. A small wooden church was built there in the 15th century. The church that we see today dates back to the 17th century and is one of very few surviving structures with a 400-year-long history.

The church was designed by Larion Ushakov and built by local masons in the Russian decorative style characteristic of the then-contemporary church architecture. It was rebuilt several times; in 1860, for example, the belfry was slightly remade and shifted to the side but it mostly retained its former appearance. The side-chapel of St Agapius was moved as well, and an extension was added which was intended for a refectory.

In 1812, when Napoleon occupied Moscow, the church reportedly was used as a stable by a French cavalry unit. However, the same outrage is attributed to at least another four Moscow churches, which suggests the conclusion that this is just a tall story. What is known for certain is that it was badly damaged by the Moscow fire in 1812 and lost its ancient iconostasis. Nevertheless, some icons miraculously survived, for shortly before the war they had been sent off to restorers. Later these were added to the iconostasis church at Vorobyovy Gory.

The most recent reconstruction took place between 1898 and 1902. In the Soviet period, the church functioned for a while before it was closed down in the early 1930s. Sergei Eisenstein used some of its surviving icons in his film Ivan the Terrible. The church itself was then converted into a warehouse.

In 1992, an overhaul was started in the church, with divine services resuming by the end of the decade.