The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy or “VDNKh,” as it is more commonly known, opened in 1954, and its intended function was something akin to a Soviet theme park. Located in Moscow’s Ostankinsky District, the park is enormous as Soviet planners sought to evoke the immense size and space of the former USSR. (VDNKh covers over 2 million square metres, which makes it larger than the Principality of Monaco!)
Although VDNKh contains over 400 buildings, the most impressive structures within the park are its monumental pavilions. These pavilions are intricately decorated and dedicated to all the former Soviet republics; a few other pavilions commemorate socialist industries, including everything from geology to rocket science. Curiously, while the visitor to VDNKh can find busy shops, restaurants, and even travel agencies inside many of these pavilions, others are virtually empty. Two fountains situated in the centre of VDNKh — the People’s Friendship Fountain and the bejewelled Stone Flower Foundation — are masterpieces of socialist art, which epitomize the importance of the proletariat in the construction of their socialist paradise. After years of neglect, the park is being lovingly restored, and an excursion to VDNKh from central Moscow makes for a surreal but unforgettable experience. VDNKh is also arguably the best place to people-watch in Moscow outside of Gorky Park.
Previous pages: A model of the Vostok Rocket class. This group of rockets was designed by the Soviets for their human spaceflight programme. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, orbited around the world in such a rocket. (Sputnik also belonged to this rocket class)