Moscow’s House on the Embankment

It is the home to perhaps one of the smallest and least visited, yet significant, museum in Moscow.

Proud, imposing, grand, ugly, and large; the House on the Embankment holds an important place in Russia’s more recent history. As many would explain, this building became known as Moscow’s version of the Titanic, sending many a Soviet party leader to the Gulag or firing squad during the reign of terror of the madman, Joseph Stalin.

The House on the Embankment was designed to be self-sufficient. It boasted a library, a gym, restaurant, a kindergarten and a theatre/concert hall called the House of Culture.

Architect Boris Iofan was born in Odessa and after studying art in Italy, Iofan returned to Russia and The House on the Embankment was his first major work. He entered into a competition and was chosen by Stalin to lead a group of architects in building the grand Palace of Soviets, thankfully a palace that would never be constructed. Moscow’s main Cathedral was dynamited to make room on Stalin’s chosen spot for the palace, but war and then later financing issues kept the project from being built. Today the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, rebuilt with donations from the Russian people, again stands on the same spot.

Across from the Kremlin along the Moscow River at 5 Ulitsa Serafimovicha, older Muscovites think of it as the building that had walls with ears, recalling late night arrests and Communist Party leaders who disappeared without warning. It is mammoth and imposing, and by its location the across the river from the Kremlin, stands as a symbol of Stalinist repression. Perhaps it is fitting that people think of Stalin’s terror just at the mere passing along the Moscow River.
To the left of Moscow's famous House on the Embankment is a view of the Kremlin palaces. To the right are some of Moscow's most beautiful churches.

Iofan constructed his House on the Embankment between 1928 and 1931 and during that time experienced a number of set backs including a fire that destroyed the first block. The complex finally opened with 505 apartment homes in April 1931. It quickly became home to the highest-ranking members of the Communist Party. Famous tenants included Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, the KGB’s Lavrenti Beria, Red Army Marshal Georgi Zhukov, Nikita Khrushchev,  Alexei Kosygin, and Aleksandr Aleksandrov, the man who wrote Soviet national anthem.

The complex was intended to be a city within a city, containing a post office, a telegraph office, a bank, a laundry, a supermarket, a beauty salon, restaurants, a school, a medical center and retail shops.

Despite the prestige and luxury of life at the House on the Embankment, it was a common nightly routine for KGB cars to pull up and escort a disgraced Party member, victim to Stalin’s repressions, hurried out into the night, either to be shot or to be shipped off to the Gulag system.

Oddly, it is family members of those almost forgotten victims who keep the memory of what happened alive. The house lost its appeal after the war as under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev and later Leonid Brezhnev, Moscow’s Kutuzovsky Prospekt became the place to live for Russia’s elite.

Mammoth in size, over the years facilities for dry cleaning, cosmetic shops, food market and a large movie theater were installed.

Today the House on the Embankment is considered to be prestigious once again and while still large and imposing, the place is no longer terrifying. Located in the first entryway, today there is a small museum open on Wednesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m. The hours are sparse but we promise that you’ll enjoy the visit. The museum is hosted by Olga Trifonova and she is a longtime resident and widow of Yury Trifonov, who wrote the best-selling book, “House on the Embankment.”

The museum has a website at http://museumdom.narod.ru/ and the telephone number in Moscow is (495) 959-49-36. Give it a visit because you won’t be disappointed.

The small museum includes a replica of an apartment with an original bed designed by the building's architect, as well as furniture and items donated by the families of former residents.

At the time of completion the 12-storey building with 505 apartments was the biggest house in Europe.

Advertisements