Palaces for workers! There is no better place to see this Soviet slogan put into practice than at VDNKh, which stands for Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy. The place feels like a Stalinesque theme park, with palatial pavilions, each designed in its own unique style to represent all the Soviet republics and various industries, from geology to space exploration. A thorough reconstruction, under way at the time of writing, is expected to breathe new life into the area.
Built in 1939, VDNKh was designed as the main showcase of the socialist economy and lifestyle. The highlights are two opulently decorated fountains. Positioned in the second square from the main gate, People's Friendship Fountain is surrounded by 16 gilded female figures dressed in ethnic costumes representing Soviet republics (the mysterious 16th figure stands for the Karelo-Finnish republic disbanded in 1956). Further on, the jaw-dropping Stone Flower Fountain, themed around Ural Mountains miners' mythology, is covered in semi-precious stones from the area.
Only a handful of the grandiose pavilions were open at the time of writing, and these were mostly used for commercial purposes, but the Space Pavilion has become a temporary shelter for the Polytechnical Museum and a venue for insightful natural science and technology exhibitions. Two recently added features are the giant Mosquarium, dubbed the largest oceanarium in Europe, and the My History Park compound, which contains vast multimedia exhibitions designed to support rather controversial views on history held by Vladimir Putin's entourage.
Approaching VDNKh from the metro, the soaring 100m titanium obelisk is a monument 'To the Conquerors of Space’, built in 1964 to commemorate the launch of Sputnik. In its base is the Cosmonautics Museum, featuring cool space paraphernalia such as the first Soviet rocket engine and the moon rover Lunokhod. An inspiring collection of space-themed propaganda posters evokes the era of the space race.
If you reach the far end of VDNKh, you have the choice of either pressing on towards the extensive grounds of Moscow Main Botanical Gardens, or turning left towards the quaint Ostankino Park, surrounding a namesake palace.