All-Russia Exhibition Centre
Lonely Planet review for All-Russia Exhibition Centre
No other place sums up the rise and fall of the great Soviet dream quite as well as the All-Russia Exhibition Centre. The old initials by which it’s still commonly known, VDNKh, tell half the story – they stand for Vystavka Dostizheny Narodnogo Khozyaystva SSSR (USSR Economic Achievements Exhibition). Originally created in the 1930s, the VDNKh was expanded in the 1950s and ‘60s to impress upon one and all the success of the Soviet economic system. Two kilometres long and 1km wide, it is composed of wide pedestrian avenues and grandiose pavilions, glorifying every aspect of socialist construction from education and health to agriculture, technology and science. The pavilions represent a huge variety of architectural styles, symbolic of the contributions from diverse ethnic and artistic movements to the common goal. Here you will find the kitschiest socialist realism, the most inspiring of socialist optimism and, now, the tackiest of capitalist consumerism. VDNKh was an early casualty when those in power finally admitted that the Soviet economy was in dire straits – funds were cut off by 1990. Today, as the VVTs, it’s a commercial centre, with its pavilions given over to sales of the very imported goods that were supposed to be inferior. The domed Kosmos (Space) pavilion towards the far end became a wholesaler for TV sets and VCRs, and Lenin’s slogan ‘Socialism is Soviet power plus electrification’ still adorns the electrification pavilion to its right. Although you may not want to do your shopping here, VVTs does host international trade exhibitions. The grounds of VVTs are huge, so you may wish to catch a ride on the tourist train that leaves from the front gate. Otherwise, you can rent bicycles and in-line skates (R100/300 per hour/day) just outside.