Lipp Service: VDNKh has It All
Text Linda Lippner
As summer faded away in Moscow, I made a trip out to my favorite outdoor “activity” park. A summer weekend in the city, when urbanites escape to the country and leave behind a surprisingly quiet metropolis that begs to be explored by those who remain, is something not to be missed. Why leave when everyone else is away, and you can actually get around the Ring Road and all of its “spokes”?
However, the depeopled streets can get a little lonely, so I headed to that great park of Soviet kitsch, VDNKh (pronounced ve de en kha, the initials of the Russian words meaning the Exhibition of the Accomplishments of the People’s Economy), in search of a crowd. And there I found lots of people enjoying warm weather. At first, dodging all the in-line skaters, bikers and skateboarders kept me from looking up at the buildings, but soon I got into the rhythm and stopped worrying about getting run down by a set of wheels on this pedestrian version of the Ring Road.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, VDNKh was renamed VVTs (pronounced ve ve tse, short for All-Russian Exhibition Center), but the place has retained most of its weird and wonderful architectural splendor (the closest metro stop, however, has kept the VDNKh name). I had been out there a few years back in the icy wintertime and noticed it looked particularly downtrodden, with crumbling exhibition halls and a sad collection of indoor kiosks selling the usual electronics, clothing, and souvenirs.
This time I think the place evinced a bit more spiffiness – thought it might have been the sun and the way it glinted off the blindingly golden Friendship of Peoples Fountain (a definite “must-see” among the Moscow’s amazing array of outdoor sculpture). Someday the city authorities may put back the equally amazing “Worker and Collective-Farm Woman” statue, the iconic hammer-and-sickle-wielding couple that until recently stood at the park’s entrance (apparently it has been removed for some refurbishments). Many say this giant, silvery statue is among Moscow’s best, so I hope is gets back on its pedestal soon.
I brought along a vintage 1970s guidebook, which helped me identify some of the buildings I had missed on previous trips — like the Atomic Energy Pavilion, the Mechanization and Electrification of Agriculture Pavilion, and the Circorama movie theater (see article in September issue of Passport). The Fun Fair with its kiddie rides was easy enough to locate, but the Electrification Pavilion continued to elude me.
Today, this island dedicated to Soviet economic achievements floats in the encroaching sea of post-Soviet economic boom that is Moscow. VVTs provides venues for industrial exhibits and international conventions. But on a weekend aft ernoon, the fountains, outdoor cafes, strolling families with their children and grandparents, music, and special exhibits make it a fun destination. When you go, try to find the Electrifi cation Pavilion. If you succeed, could you please let me know where it is?