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September 18, 2003 by AK

Tower review

Kat — formerly of uberspiffy.com — has moved her blog over to NeoZiggurat. Don’t expect to frighten us with ziggurats, neo or paleo: we have one right in the heart of town, in Red Square. It’s called the Lenin Mausoleum. Yes, it’s still there, complete with the mummy. As geeks say, “Traffic through the Mausoleum is low because the content is seldom updated.” Seldom but not never: they take out the body for repairs from time to time — that should count for updates. In case you need to refresh your memory, here are a few pics, and this is a virtual Mausoleum.

Alexei Schusev, who designed the Lenin Mausoleum, was an accomplished master of art nouveau (known to Russians by another French word, moderne). The essence of art nouveau, one could argue, was playing with pre-existing styles, and Schusev was excellent at stylization and eclecticism. He deliberately modeled the sepulchre on Sumerian or Babylonian ziggurats; I shall delve into the religious repercussions of his choice in the next post.

Before the 1917 Revolution, Schusev designed the Kazan Station in Moscow in an old Russian style (sort of; it’s really art nouveau at its best; pic) — it’s a lovely ensemble indeed, as is the whole square known as the Square of the Three Stations, all of which were designed by prominent Russian architects (Schechtel, Schusev, and Ton). It is said that the Kazan Station tower has much in common with the famous falling Syuyumbike tower in Kazan (pic). Although the Syuyumbike tower appears to have been built in the late 17th – early 18th century, it may be a replica of a much older tower. If, as some claim, the original tower appeared in the late 15th century, it is theoretically possible that its real designer was one of the Italian architects who made the Moscow Kremlin what it is (Aristotele Fioravanti, Pietro Antonio Solari, Marco Ruffo, Aloiso of Milan, Aloiso the Young, etc.). And so the circle closes.

From the late 1930s on, Schusev — described as a very talented and a very cynical man — was at the forefront of an architectural style often referred to, ironically or not, as Stalin Baroque or Stalin Empire.

Here’s some background on ziggurats: link1; link 2. I think there’s a popular politblogger who goes by Marduk — contact him for more.


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