Moscow, 1956

The hiatuses of our collection of Moscow’s historic photo series – 1931, 1900-60, 1960-80 and 2010, 1981/2009 – are gradually filling up, as from various archives more and more pictures come to light, whose existence has not been known. French historian Jacques Dupâquier digitized and put up on the net in 2009, one year before his death the color photos of his 1956 journey in the Soviet Union (from which we will also present those outside Moscow). The images are average tourist photos, but they deserve attention not so much because of their quality as for the date. “Such freedom”, recalled Dupâquier in a recent interview, “as in 1956, there was not even in the Gorbachev era in the Soviet Union. Our delegation met no police control, I could break away from the group and wander for hours all over the streets. I knew a little Russian, andn could ask for directions. Soviet society at that time had to face the moral catastrophe following Khrushchev’s speech at the Twentieth Congress [on the crimes of Stalinism]. No one knew what is admitted and what not, I could do whatever I wanted, which was an especially heady feeling. When for example taking photos on the drunk people laying on the main streets of Moscow, the policemen standing there did not hamper me, neither did they took away the camera, in spite of my expectations… What surprised me the most was that in 1956, more than half of Moscow’s buildings were of wood, and some great poverty prevailed everywhere, except the central streets.”

9 comentarios:

MOCKBA dijo...

That's the city about to undertake the most important of its recent transformation, the Khruschev housing boom. A few shots of Moscow University make me strangely nostalgic for the time I've never actually experienced. The trees are so small! The future shady campus of GAISh is all in the view, as it will never be again. The plaza between Chemistry and Physics buildings, and the gardens around the Biology building, are just delicately newly planted! Those were the days when my parents were heading to study there; thanks for sharing!

Studiolum dijo...

How good that you help to interpret these pictures and fill them with life. And yes, at the sight of these photos I also feel a strange nostalgia for a world which I for multiple reasons could have never experienced.

MOCKBA dijo...

I couldn't resist peeking again at the photograph with the Shternberg Observatory (GAISh) and a veritable forest of construction crane in the background, where the last pre-mass production highrises are going up along Leninsky Prospect. It's almost like everywhere I look, I recognize something which deeply influenced me as a kid, and continues to shape my life!

Right in front of the twin smokestacks is the brand new building of Zelinsky Institute (which puzzled me as a kid with its Latin MCMLIV on the pseudo-classic facade, that's two years prior this picture was taken). Gramps worked there, and I owe my first taste in rhyming to him - as well as an interest in chemistry. Far to left rises a cupola of the science library and the grand auditorium of Chemical Physics Inst; that's where I heard Vladimir Vysotsky for the first time, which cemented my affliction with poetry.

A shallow ravine runs to left, in front of the construction sites; that's where I got my first rush of victory racing on xc skis, to be fed over the years with countless adventure ski trips. A green grove on the near bank of the ravine would become, in 1962, the campus of Moscow Palace of Pioneers and Students, where I got my first unforgettable taste of biology research as a middle school kid. And on the far side of the ravine, almost directly behind the right-most of the turrets of the observatory, a crane is working on what will become a public school building, the famed
"School Number Two" where I learned both to love math, and to stand up to the totalitarian authority. So many fascinating stories there, so many outstanding teachers and students, I could go on forever with tales and links. Just sharing a couple "crosscultural" stories which fit the mold of Rio Wang the best IMVHO:

Studiolum dijo...

How fascinating memories. It is amazing how many stories can be hidden in a picture which seems absolutely uninteresting and empty to an outsider. (I know this feeling: having grown up in the industrial outskirts of the city, that seemingly gray and dull rust zone is full of exciting stories to me.) May I publish just this image with your commentary as a separate post? Or – far better – do not you want to write it yourself, eventually going on with tales and links indeed (even if not forever)?

MOCKBA dijo...

I can give it a shot myself, making it just a bot longer - not spelling out the tales but just mentioning a few? What really makes it attractive for myself is a verse ... kind of about the spirit and the betrayed hopes of those times ... and dedicated to Natalia Gorbanevskaya who is already mentioned in my previous comment ... and it opens with what could very well be a spring 1956 view from the University tower:

Как мир был ясен!
Как он открывался
Перед глазами -
Синий, голубой, понятный...

The probably hasn't been published (outside of the Samizdat), but I just checked, I seem to be able to remember it all after all these decades. But will it not offend your sensibilities, Studiolum? For your, 1956 probably conjures up the coming of a winter ... not the hopes of a spring?

Studiolum dijo...

Please do so. It would be wonderful.

As to my sensibilities, I don’t think you would offend any, as my various posts on the two world wars – in which our fathers and grandfathers fought against each other – may have already indicated it.

And indeed, 1956 brought the hopes of a spring to us too. In the tales of my father, they felt the same as Gorbanevskaya in this poem.

If you think to elaborate on this thread as well, then it would be fascinating to publish it on the anniversary, 23 October, this Sunday. In English, Russian and Hungarian.

Studiolum dijo...

(P.S.: just now comes to my mind this post as a possible illustration of my sensibilities in this matter.)

MOCKBA dijo...

Deadlines are inspiring :) I never thought I could track down the author of the verses, but I tried today, and it looks like I may have solved the riddle. The guy, if I got it right, is a rocket scientist and a poetry aficionado in his 80s, and still gainfully employed. I send an email hoping to get a permission to use the poem (and to check if I remember it right) and I think I will give it a day or two. If I get no answer then I guess I shall forge ahead, but please keep your fingers crossed.

Hey just to keep a Magyar connection we made two kinds of lecso. Mine has onions and zucchini and mussells and ginger and garlic; Mrs's is a stripped down version with just tomatoes and peppers and spice. Am I way off target?

Studiolum dijo...

Actually, mussels and ginger are non-canonical in a country without a sea and colonies, but to tell the truth, we also add zucchini, ginger, garlic and eggs to it. Omitting pepper, our totem animal and cultural hero is, however, a blatant heresy, just as crossing yourself with two fingers instead of three. Mrs’ version, if complemented with at least some onion, is the standard della mamma. But the standard lecsó, as you used to have it in the Globus tins in Moscow, is just the pasta della pizza, the carrier of whatever one thinks or can enrich it with.

In the meantime I got obsessed with the deadline (practically, tomorrow evening, to publish it by the morning of the revolution’s anniversary), so what if you write it anyway, independently of his eventual answer, and will change it only if by Sunday morning he says an explicit no?