Inspiring VDNKh. Six tales about acquaintance with the chief exhibition of Russia

Inspiring VDNKh. Six tales about acquaintance with the chief exhibition of Russia
Ferris Wheel view of the grounds of the All-Russian Exhibition Centre on the day of the 60th anniversary of the VVTs. Photo by V. Mariño. 1 August 1999. Main Archive Department of Moscow
For some people VDNKh is a Museum, some compare the exhibition with the island of tranquility, where you can escape from the metropolis hustle and bustle, other treat it as a place of power and Soviet Disneyland. Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Yuri Nikolaev, Artemy Troitsky, Anetta Orlova, Kirill Svetlyakov and Zhanna Badoyeva told about their first visit to the major Russian exhibition.

This year, VDNKh celebrates its 80th anniversary. Annually, 30 million people visit the exhibition. It seems that the Russian word  'vdokhnoveniye' (inspiration) and 'VDNKh' have much in common. Is it a mere coincidence?

The history of the chief exhibition of Russia started on 1 August 1939. Its name changed for several times: VSKHV, VPV, VDNKh, VVTs. The complex obtained its present name after voting of Muscovites within the Active Citizen project.

The VDNKh's history had periods when the pavilions had been transformed into trade spots, with illegally constructed trade stalls on its grounds. At the end of 2013, by decree of the President of Russia, VDNKh was transferred to Moscow’s ownership. In spring 2014, the revival of Russia's major exhibition was launched, with all illegal facilities demolished, its area landscaped and integrated with Ostankino Park. After the immediate emergency work for preservation of architecture monuments, a large-scale program of historic pavilions restoration launched.

What did VDNKh look like 50, 30, 20 years ago, and what has changed over the years? Performing artists, journalists and writers shared with their stories of acquaintance with the chief exhibition of Russia.

This place is like a Museum

Nikolai Tsiskaridze, ballet dancer, rector of Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, People's Artist of Russia

For the first time, I came to the exhibition with my mother. I was very small then, only 4 or 5. It was difficult to get here, as there were crowds of people all around. At that time, the achievements of Soviet republics were presented in each pavilion, I remember it very well. This place was like a Museum, and I was particularly struck by the Friendship of Peoples fountain. And there were those ice cream stalls I loved so much.

 Ferris Wheel view of the grounds of the All-Russian Exhibition Centre on the day of its 60th anniversary. Photo by V. Mariño. 1 August 1999. Main Archive Department of Moscow

I visited VDNKh once again in the 1990s, but there was nothing to do there, the site was not entertaining at all. I used to come there for shooting, since many photographers and TV companies rented studios on its grounds.

I have been living in Moscow for all my life. This is one of the attractions of our capital, and I am happy that our authorities came up with the idea that VDNKh, an artefact of the former great country, must be preserved. People treat it differently. Some treat it badly, some people like it, but the idea of creating an exhibition was undoubtedly great, and it was translated into its architecture and many achievements.

VDNKh for me is a part of my life

Yuri Nikolaev, TV and radio host, actor, People's Artist of Russia

In the days when it was not yet VDNKh but VSKHV, I came here with my dad. It was surely a different world, a completely different experience. I remember us watching a film here, not in a regular cinema, but in the Circular Panorama, where we were standing in the centre with screens around us. It was really amazing.

Later, when I started working in television, VDNKh became a permanent shooting area. All the most interesting 'Morning Post' TV programmes featuring nature, forest or water were filmed on this site. We didn't need to buy entrance tickets, we just showed our permits and started to work.

VVTs's Alley. Stone Flower fountain on the left, Central Regions of Russia Pavilion in the background. Photo by S. Pominov. 24 August 2004. Main Archive Department of Moscow

VDNKh for me is a part of my life. Three years ago, for the first time after a long break, I came to the exhibition, observed the restored old pavilions and new facilities, well-kept, with crowds of people around, and I was happy for the exhibition's upgrade. Despite many years of its history, VDNKh is always young and alive. There are many cultural events held here. You may come here to get some fresh air, to admire its beauty, live awhile in a different rhythm.

Gagarin Party launched Moscow rave and techno music development

Artemy Troitsky, journalist, music critic, TV and radio host

I used to visit VDNKh a long time ago, when I brought my foreign friends here. That time, I was a black marketeer and an anti-Soviet person. For me, this exhibition was a Soviet Disneyland, as they call it now. As you enter, you observe all those colonnades, Friendship of Peoples, Stone Flower fountains, all these remarkable pavilions in Stalin's Empire style.  It was all very amusing, but it was a long time ago.

Ferris Wheel view of the the All-Russian Exhibition Centre territory on the day of the 60th anniversary of the VVTs. Photo by V. Mariño. 1 August 1999. Main Archive Department of Moscow

After that I visited VDHKh on business matters only, with Gagarin Party, the first rave party in the Soviet Union, being the most outstanding of all of them. It was December 1991. I was engaged in its advertising and promotion in the media. I must say that its success exceeded all expectations, as it brought together all trendy Muscovites. The Cosmos Pavilion could not even accommodate all those wishing to attend. DJs, mostly from Leningrad, some popular guys from Riga and even one Frenchman played their music, mostly techno. It was really an epoch-making event. Actually, with this party, the Moscow rave and techno music started its development. All the music of the 1990s originated in Moscow, at VDNKh's Cosmos Pavilion in December 1991. And this is a historical fact.

Friendship of Peoples fountain is a place of power

Anetta Orlova, psychologist, writer

My first shooting that had started my television career and work took place at VDNKh, in Pavilion No. 57.  There was a large Studio from its opposite side that hosted Stolitsa (Capital) Moscow TV Channel.

Today, I love to walk around VDNKh with my children, we adore Friendship of Peoples fountain, it is a place of power for me. We visit the exhibition several times a year, and it is always associated with pleasant meetings. My brother, sister and niece live abroad, and they regularly come to Moscow. For them it is a significant event, they always long for visiting the exhibition, to feel its grandeur.

This year, VDNKh celebrates its 80th anniversary. I think it is a significant event not only for every Russian citizen, but a great day for all people who believed and still believe in the power of our country, both on a small and large scale. I would like to wish VDNKh to be attended by as many people as possible, so that they feel involved in everything that has been created on its site and filled with that enormous power, the power of generations, the power of Russia.

VDNKh has created for me a certain model of the world

Kirill Svetlyakov, art critic, Head of the Modernism Department of the State Tretyakov Gallery

My mother told me about my first visit to the exhibition, as I was very small and I do not remember it. We lived in a residential area, in Beskudnikovo district, and VDNKh was the first site I saw outside it. As we were approaching the main entrance arch, I stopped in front of it and exclaimed enthusiastically: "It is Moscow!'' At that point I felt connected with this place, as before that, I had lived in an abstract Moscow, I knew only several houses and streets, and VDNKh created for me a certain model of the world.

Children Game Alley on the VVTs's grounds. Photo by S. Pominov. 24 August 2004. Main Archive Department of Moscow

In the 1990s, as a student, I liked to walk here with my friends and look for traces of Soviet civilization. The old ideology was gone, with monuments losing their value. For me it was a space where words, things and images needed already a new understanding. Later, I used to arrange tours of exhibition, which were announced not as the VDNKh's history tours, but as a kind of unusual journey open for fantasy. The exhibition boasts so many styles entwined: Babylon, Egypt, Art Deco. And each new style that had appeared here added more and more new meanings.

VDNKh for me is a source of inspiration and reinventing myself. This is a kind of a unified memory space, where things open anew, as the facades of Kazakhstan Pavilion with their fantastic reliefs I could not have seen in my childhood.

Mom, just imagine, I'm at VDNKh!

Zhanna Badoyeva, TV host, director

I first came to VDNKh when I was 14. We came to the Gagarin Pioneer Camp, and were offered some tours of Moscow, to Lenin's Mausoleum and VDNKh. And naturally, I was so much excited by the grandeur of this place that I even wrote to my mother: "Mom, just imagine, I'm at VDNKh!" We saw it on TV in Lithuania.

Now, for the first time in my adult life, I visit it again. It is very nice that there is a place in Moscow where you can feel as if you are somewhere else, not in a mega-city, but in a park where you can walk, ride a bike and recreate after all this big city noise.