In Search of Stalin’s Seven Sisters

Ever since I visited Russia earlier this year, and to be more precise Moscow, I wanted to do a post on ‘Stalin’s Seven Sisters’. It’s the sort of thing that appeals to me I guess – something to see, to hunt out in a city and say you saw them all.

What are Stalin’s Seven Sisters? Well, they are seven tall buildings across Moscow. They were built between 1947 and 1953, they are huge and foreboding, something strange yet, at least I felt, special in someway. Although the locals don’t know much about them, for some visitors they are a highlight of visiting the Russian capital. When I went back in 1999 I saw one of them, and developed a curiosity for these strange monoliths. So, this time I decided, quite late in the piece, to try and see the lot on my visit to Moscow. I had limited time, so it was always going to be rushed, but this is how it went down.

 

  1. Leningradskaya Moscow Hilton

And here was the first and easiest of all the buildings to find. It was a Soviet hotel back in the day, now run by the Hilton chain, and when I emerged from the Kazansky Station after my long train journey from Beijing, there it was! In fact, I might have forgotten about looking for these buildings if it wasn’t there. So a couple of quick snaps, and the first of seven had been found!

              2. Kudrinskaya Square Building

The second building I saw was actually the last to be completed. I saw this again by chance, when I visited the Tchaikovsky Theatre to see the symphony and walked further down the road to go to a small museum. This seemed one of the larger buildings and I wasn’t sure until I did some research which building it was or if it was one of the Seven Sisters.

Looking back at my old pictures, this appears to be the building I saw back in 1999 and took one solitary photo of.

                  3. Red Gate Administrative Building

So on my last day in Moscow, with a monastery to see and dinner out planned, I decided to fill the rest of the hours by hunting the remaining five buildings so I could say, well, I ‘did it’!

This meant going via metro to the closest stations to each of the buildings. I was running VERY thin on time, and I hoped to be able to pop my head out of the metro, see the building and take a couple of snaps, and then repeat.

And for this building, located right outside the Krasniye Vorota station, it worked like clockwork. It was perfect really, there it was, and it was perfect for taking photos. In fact, this is definitely the one I was best able to photograph. And from here, the remaining four were to prove trickier.

                    4. Moscow State University

The largest of all the buildings, completed in 1953 this building was partly constructed by prisoners from Gulags (I know, fun facts!). This was hardest to reach, simply because it’s the furthest from the centre of town. Which meant a very long metro ride and then when I did get off the train, well, I still wasn’t close enough to see the thing. I got off at Universitet Station, finding wide roads and more modern apartment buildings than closer to the centre. It was a very different side of Moscow out there. I had a rough idea where it was, and so I walked over a kilometre past gorgeous parkland to get there.

The bustling university made me want to study again. Ever so briefly at least.

I got my photos, obscured as they were, and then back up the road to the metro. It would be another 30 minutes roughly to get back into town.

                  5. Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building

This one was the hardest to get to of all. At Kitray Gorod station I popped out hoping for a similar experience of the Red Gate Administrive Building, but couldn’t see it for the life of me. They were doing works around the whole area and it was very difficult to move about quickly. In the end I managed just the one shot of it through trees. And it was a pretty bad shot too. I was pretty disappointed. That’s why it doesn’t feature in the banner today and why there are only six buildings.

                6. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building

This was almost as disappointing as number 5, I couldn’t get a great shot. I got off at Smolenskaya Station for it, and worked my way around. The sun was setting, the photo was okay around the corner of another building. HOWEVER – turned out that I had already gotten a couple of decent shots from the Cathedral of Our Saviour, when I went up onto the roof! They appeared to be doing some restoration on the upper levels as you can see.

        7. The Radisson Royal Hotel (also known as Hotel Ukraina)

The rush continued, I had people to meet (who were late by 20-30 minutes in the end whilst I was on time lol), the old Hotel Ukraina has been taken over by Radisson, I got off at Kievskaya to see this one, the final one. I had a bit of a walk to get close enough to get a shot, and I didn’t feel I had enough time to get closer than I did. A disappointing end to the quest I guess, but I did find all of the seven buildings, even if I feel I need to go back to get decent pictures one day of at least 5 and 7 on my list!

 

Thanks for reading about my little quest in Moscow earlier this year. Does this sort of mission whilst travelling appeal to you? And if so, have you ever searched cities for something? Please do comment, and May the Journey Never End!

 

 

7 comments

  • Moscow seems so charming and these buildings are truly remarkable, Andy. This is the first time I am gearing about the seven sisters. 🙂

  • My few visits to Moscow were very short without giving me time to go out and explore. But even with that little time I had, I totally fell in love with the architecture. It’s so beautiful! Your post portrait it to the t.

  • Love this kind of architecture Andy – the first one (the Hilton) looks almost like to Hotel International in Prague which was built by the Soviets.When we were there we did a bit like you, we bought a book highlighting some of the most unusual (and obscure) attractions and went hunting for them. It was sometimes frustrating but the result was finding places that most tourists never get to see.

    Frank (bbqboy)

  • Quite a quest to find them all, well done. I can see why they are termed Stalin’s Sisters. Looking at the buildings I see quite a similarity in all of them. I can only guess that any real creativity in architecture was forbidden under Stalin.

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