Lonely Planet Writer

Moscow set for a new wave of multi-billion dollar makeovers labelled 'Hipster-Stalinism'

Russian planners have abandoned the safe urban development strategies of several decades to embrace a new approach that is being labelled – ‘Hipster Stalinism.’

Moscow's VDNKh, known as the ‘Soviet Versailles’ is due to be redeveloped.
Moscow’s VDNKh, known as the ‘Soviet Versailles’ is due to be redeveloped. Image by Sergey Norin

Included in the new wave of public revamps is a multi-billion dollar makeover of the ‘Soviet Versailles’ in Moscow, known as VDNKh. This sprawling ensemble of mostly Stalin-era constructions – from pavilions, statuary and fountains in the capital’s north east district is a pet project of the city’s mayor Sergey Sobyanin, according to the London Independent.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin visit the Moskvarium Oceanography and Marine Biology Center at Moscow's VDNKh Exhibition Center.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin visit the Moskvarium Oceanography and Marine Biology Center at Moscow’s VDNKh Exhibition Center. Image by Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Last year saw the Russian President Vladimir Putin attending the opening of a massive new oceanarium which is now home to over 8000 sea residents including a number of killer whales. The renovation is one of many major projects being undertaken in Moscow. In a change of mindset, both officials and planners have gone for a new approach which is both financially supported and more in tune with the resurgent wave of Russian nationalism that has gripped the country since the recent stand-off with the West over Ukraine.

Among the plans for redevelopment is the city's main thoroughfare, Tverskaya.
Among the plans for redevelopment is the city’s main thoroughfare, Tverskaya. Image by Getty Images

The breadth of the “hipster Stalinism” has led to comparison with the way Moscow was transformed in the 1930s when it became the capital of the then burgeoning Soviet Union. The landmarks at VDNKh, located about eight kilometres north of Red Square and established in 1935, were originally built as a tribute to communism. With millions of tourists visiting them each year, the Mayor of Moscow wants to adapt the Stalinist look of that time to modern life in Russia, even if there are some striking contrasts.

Another part of Mayor Sobyanin’s regeneration project is “My Street”, a $1.9bn blueprint that aims to turn Moscow into a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Among the streets being adapted is the Garden Ring, an eight-lane highway around Moscow’s centre. The city’s main thoroughfare called Tverskaya is having its sidewalks widened while thousands of new trees are being planted as part of the makeover.