For a change I made this journey to the Kirovsky district of St Petersburg on a bike and that was the best decision as I could cover the ‘inhumane’ distances that are characteristic of this district. Just as an example, there’s the main street – prospekt Stachek (Strike Avenue, ex Peterhof road) – which runs for 8 km and counts three metro stations… Naturally, I didn’t aim to see it all (there is enough left for 1-2 journeys) also because it took me already some time to get there.
The district looks pretty much like Moscow – or rather a heavy-Stalinist-era one with various industrial and other non-residential areas here and there. Just as the Vyborgskaya Side, this district around the Avtovo and Kirov Plant metro stations is situated on the outskirts of the city, but to the south-west of the city center. The ringroad actually cuts through it while that 8-km main street finally turns into a highway leading to Peterhof. The district used to be the city’s outpost called Narvskaya zastava (Narva outpost).
As I moved forward along prospekt Stachek (actually towards its beginning, in the direction of the city center), I came across so many Stalinist buildings that I started ignoring them. They were built there apparently in order to make this street look pompous and ‘greet’ the incomers with a clear message: you are entering the Soviet empire’s second city, see how mighty and hard-as-rock we are. I’m not a big fan of the Stalinist era inhumane buildings, as they seem to belittle you with their immense walls and Roman-like decorations. But this ‘palace’ (above and on the first photo) with a tower and a huge arch just drew my attention and made me cross the street to see it in details. It was built by Kamensky and Ashparyan in 1952. Some years later such a waste of money, space and materials wouldn’t have been possible. Stalin died and Khrushchev was more than willing to get rid of all the decorum and built standard block of flats all over the country.
This is the entrance to the Avtovo metro station and it’s a tricky one: it doesn’t really impress you as much as what you can admire inside and it doesn’t give away its treasure…
Avtovo (the name comes from the Finnish village and also applies to the district) is one of the first metro stations to be built in Leningrad: it opened in November 1955 with the first train running from it to the Ploshchad Vosstania metro station. It was originally planned to be finished by 1942 but for the well-known reasons the construction was frozen until 1946.
This station is only 12 meters deep and there are no escalators. But there 46 columns which were to be decorated with glass. But the money ran out and only 16 of them got their weird Snow-Queen-palace-like appearance. They look like old glassware or some antiquity:
The rest were ‘temporarily’ decorated with marble until the better times come. But Khrushchev came instead 🙂 And here they are, 60 years later, still in marble:
But anyway this metro station strikes you as a very impressive one. It’s dimly lit notwithstanding all the chandeliers, and the light is reflected by its columns and walls. It’s not your regular metro, after all! The interior decoration is themed on the Leningrad’s defense during the World War II. But if you don’t know it – or if you just do not ‘read’ all those war symbols, you wouldn’t even think of it. There’s also this mosaic called The Victory (the top inscription says ‘Peace to the World’):
My next stop was the area around the Kirov Plant (Kirovsky zavod), ex Putilov(‘s) Plant which was established here in 1801. It used to make everything from guns and cast iron to torpedo boats and tanks. It still functions but it’s not as grand as it used to be. Putilov was the factory’s most famous owner in the 19th century. Once the Soviets came they renamed the factory into Red Putilovets and not being satisfied enough called it after the recently killed tovarishch Kirov (hence the name of the entire district too). The factory used to be famous also for being the place where 2 Russian revolutions initiated (1905 and February of 1917).
And no, this photo was not taken somewhere on the territory of the Kirov Plant, which is anyway closed to the general public like that of the Izhorsky Plant. As I was gradually moving towards the beginning of the prospekt Stachek I was also moving back in time, advancing (or degrading?) from the empire-style Stalinist palaces in its middle (and hence later developed) part to the first architectural creations of the early Soviet republic, the constructivism.
So here’s a sample of heavily modified Soviet avant-garde, the Palace of Culture named after Gaza, a venerated bolshevik from the Putilov Plant. Gegello and Krichevsky started building it in 1930-1935, i.e. already in the late avant-garde era when it was forcedly dying out, but never finished it in the way they planned it to be. No money – no palace of culture, guys! And then the war came and destroyed much of what was already built… So the workers had to wait for 1961-1967 to have their palace of culture finished by Poltoratsky and Bubarina.
The result is somewhat visible in this original part of the building: while the flower vase was definitely added later in the 1960s, the long ‘enveloping’ balconies and the round windows is what remains from the constructivist project. It seems to me that the columns were redesigned later but in their authentic (slimmer?) state they were pretty much characteristic of the Soviet avant-garde.
Did not have the chance to get inside but it looks like its interior is too largely 1960-zised. Upon breaking up of the Soviet Union like many Palaces of Culture this one has lost quite a chunk of its territory formerly packed with clubs, cinema etc to commercial organizations most of which have nothing to do with the culture, let’s say. Meanwhile, the symbols and other leftovers of the bygone era are dying away, like this 1935 60-meter frieze telling you about the revolutionary deeds of the Putilov Plant workers.
Just some meters away was the last stop on my bike tour that day, not surprisingly also called Kirovsky Zavod. A Greek temple? Nope. Entrance to the metro station for workers! Ironically (or rather sadly) several entrances to the metro stations both in St Petersburg and Moscow were built on the ground of the churches taken down by the Soviets in their anti-religious frenzy.
It’s situated just opposite the entrance to the Kirov Plant itself, so that the workers could have everything close by. Just as the Avtovo metro station, this one hides away much more than you would think looking at its Ancient Greek-style appearance.
The Kirov Plant station, one of the first in the city (1955), was to glorify the success of the Soviet industry. This one is much deeper than the Avtovo one and it does feel inside that you’re there underneath the city, in a sort of an underground industrial… temple. With the artificially bright and dead-cold lights coming from above and the repeating coat of arms composed of various tools, it feels like you’re in a production unit of an idealistic Soviet factory.
Inside – marble, marble, metal. The only surviving monument to Lenin underground 🙂 And the menacingly and at the same time weirdly looking ‘heraldic’ compositions with tools:
Feels really cold in their with all the marble and the metal.
This composition in particular looks like a monster in goggles:
As I was on a bike I didn’t go inside the stations, instead I made a ‘tour’ down that metro line (coloured red on the St Petersburg metro map) and took photos accompanied by other tourists and looked at suspiciously by the locals who are too bored to notice the details. What I missed were the entrance halls of the stations which are also quite curious (the Avtovo one is round, right under the cupola). Will do it later.
This post goes to the St Petersburg series.