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The ugly grey building with a number of internal courtyards is the infamous 'House On The Embankment' – a monument of truly soviet architecture. It occupies a vast area, between the Moskva River Embankment and the Water Overflow Canal.
'The House On The Embankment', also known as 'The Governmental House', was intended as a soviet dream-house project of the 1930s. It combined residential and public utility services in one location, comprising over 500 apartments – with kindergarten, nursery, gym, laundry, savings bank, post office, supermarket, library, variety theatre, and a cinema called “Udarnik” (or “Drummer-Boy”). The name “House On The Embankment” came from the title of a whistle-blowing 1976 book by Yuri Trifonov, which brought the administrative chaos and political backstabbings there under the spotlight. “It was like a rudderless ship, badly designed and impossible to steer, with no mast and no pipes – a huge ark jam-packed with people keen to sail, but with no idea of the destination. No-one knew, and no-one could guess” wrote Trifonov.
The House On The Embankment was built in the early '30s for top Party officials and members of the Soviet Government. The gloomy grey edifice was home to academics, authors, generals, NKVD officers (ie the KGB's precursor), and Kremlin officials. The central flank of the building is lined with memorial tablets to the Soviet Great And Good who lived there. Of course once the Stalin Terror began, many of the residents were labeled Enemies Of The People and were carted off to the Gulags. In the late 20th the former Administrative Offices of the housing complex were reopened as a Memorial Museum to residents sent to the camps – a total of more than 700 people. Many of them didn't wait to be executed, and committed suicide instead.
When it came to looking after themselves, the Party Officials could be remarkably efficient – the construction of the building went remarkably quickly. The former buildings on the site, including a large salt factory, were swiftly demolished, and the rubble used as building material. Supplies were delivered by carts, and special river barges. Every kind of outdated equipment was pressed into service – blocks-and-tackle, hand winches – so that the building could go up in just four years! It would become Europe's largest residential complex. The original idea was for a reddish pink colour, allegedly to match the Kremlin's walls nearby – but the cost of this granite finishing got the cold shoulder. The architects then suggested a classical yellow sandstone cladding – but this idea got the chop too, since the power-station just along the embankment might render the colour filthy in a short time. So finally they chose ashen grey – the very opposite of what the architect had proposed.
Everyone who was granted an apartment in the new block was given a special “Resident's Charter” to sign – primarily an inventory of what was provided. “The walls, ceilings, floors, doors, glass, American-style mortice locks, safety chains, electric doorbell (with buzzer), windows, flushing toilet, toilet pull with porcelain handle, keys to the lift, and samovar”. The Charter ends with a space for the tenant's signature and agreement to a further “Agreement about the treatment of the property”. The furniture provided in the apartments was bog-standard, all designed by the Chief Architect, and allocated according to an inventory list in common with all Soviet institutions. Some apartments included accommodation for household servants – an idea which seems to contradict the very basis of socialist ideology?
Each floor of each stairway in the House On The Embankment housed just two apartments. They have oak parquet flooring, and even murals painted on the ceilings. Landscapes, floral and fruit scenes were painted by specially-invited artists from the Hermitage team of restorers.
Size and position of the apartments depended on the tenant's importance to the State. A job promotion would usually lead to rehousing in an even more capacious apartment. but demotion would similarly result in being relocated to a smaller flat. Residents used to comment that if you saw the poet Demyan Bedny dragging a large baroque-style mirror – his prized possession, and which he entrusted to no-one – across the courtyard, it meant that his latest poems had failed to appeal to the Party leadership. In fact Demyan Bedny had his apartment downgraded several times. But residents also knew that if the electric light was on in an apartment all night, it meant that the tenant was being rehoused to a completely different neighbourhood.
The most prestigious apartments in the House On The Embankment were accessed from the 1st and 12th Entrances – the sections of the building with Kremlin views. A strange paradox was that although there was a 12th Entrance, there wasn't an 11th. Or rather, there was an 11th Entrance, but it led nowhere – no apartments, no lift. Some people said it was there for listening in on the people in the other apartments. As well as that, Secret Police 'sleepers' worked in the building as cleaners, doormen, lift attendants and so forth, and people claimed that informants were using the apartments.
The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is a cathedral on the northern bank of the Moskva River, a few blocks southwest of the Kremlin. With an overall height of 103 metres it is the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world.
The current church is the second to stand on this site. The original church, built during the 19th century, took more than 40 years to build. It was destroyed in 1931 during the Communist rule of Joseph Stalin. The demolition was supposed to make way for a colossal Palace of the Soviets that was never built, so the church was reconstructed in the 1990s on the same site.
The Cathedral is located on Volkhonka Street, which starts from Borovitskaya Square. The name of the street appeared at the end of the XVIII century when on the lands of the Volkonskis, a famous noble family was a popular tavern "Volkhonka". The street is one of the most ancient in Moscow. It was famous as a district for the rich.
This district is going to become Moscow Museum District. During the tour you will see and have the opportunity to visit a number of art museums: The Tsvetkovsky Gallery, The Ilya Glazunov Art Gallery, The Lopukhin Family Mansion (aka the Roerich Museum), Gallery of European and American Art of the C19th and C20th, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, The Museum of Private Collections. While walking here you will understand why Moscow used to be accepted as a beautiful jewelry box. In the lanes you will discover old mansions and fall in love with stories of Russian noble families. Such are The Golitsyn Mansion, The Lopukhin Family Mansion, Obolonsky's Mansion, Sergey Tretyakov's Mansion etc. The Chambers of Averky Kirillov - a unique example of a large urban homestead. Chambers, Church of St. Nicholas and outbuildings along the waterfront are a single architectural complex.
Another bright example of Moscow architecture is Pertsova's Rental Apartment Mansions. The house was an apartment house, located on the corner of Soymonovsky passage and Prechistenskaya embankment, built in 1905-1907 by architects N. Zhukov and B.N. Shnaubert on sketches of the artist S.V. Malyutin, author of Russian nesting dolls. The house includes apartments and artists' studios in the upper attic of the building.