The new article of special project “Legends of Voronezh” is dedicated to bas-reliefs of the Soviet era. Looking at them lets you understand the life of Soviet people.
According to the architecture historian Gennady Chesnokov, Voronezh sculptors engaged in building decoration worked in a sculpture trust founded in 1943. The city was lying in ruins, but the architects were already thinking about making the to-be-restored buildings not just boxes to live in but building that would uplift both the spirit and the mood. Distinguishing the names of sculptors engaged in bas-relief creation was uncustomary, so the names of many craftsmen remain unknown.
Bas-reliefs are one of the typical features of the Stalinist Empire style.
– After the havoc of the Civil War, in the late 1920-s and early 1930s, buildings were constructed in the Constructivism style. But it seems that people themselves got scared of these dull houses with their monotonous rhythm. They were prohibited, and so the era of the marvelous Stalinist Classicism, or Stalinist Empire, had begun. Voronezh is considered a great example of it. The buildings built in the Stalinist Empire style refer to the architectural tradition of the ancient Rome: they are pompous, monumental and majestic, – Olga Rudeva told.
The style combined the elements of such styles as Baroque, Empire of the Napoleon era, late Classicism, Art Deco and Gothic Revival.
The house at 52, Koltsovskaya Street
The house consists of two buildings built in different times but united with the shapes of the Soviet Classicism and included in the ensemble of residential buildings at the intersection of Koltsovskaya and Plekhanovskaya streets.
– The five-storey south-western building (the left one, the second building from the corner) was constructed in the second half of the 1930s upon the design project of the Kharkhov architect Lukyanov to replace the demolished dilapidated smith shops of XVIII-XIX centuries. It was intended for workers and specialists of the Voronezhselmash Plant. At the time, it was the biggest and most majestic residential building on Koltsovskaya Street. It has the highest artistic value in the entire ensemble. This building had set the development scale for the whole future ensemble created in the post-Soviet times. It was restored in 1947-1948, - the historian Pavel Popov told the RIA “Voronezh” correspondent.
On the second floor, there are bas-reliefs made of white cement picturing the everyday life of Soviet workers. They were created by sculptor Boris Lavrov who had lived in Voronezh at the time of the construction.
– The bas-reliefs picture the country of workers and peasants. It means that they look busy. You won’t find languishing ladies here. If a bas-relief depicts women, they are working. Children are busy too: they are doing something all the time, they have a ball, a toy ship, or a toy airplane, - Olga Rudeva noted.
According to Pavel Popov, the corner north-eastern building adjacent to the building on Koltsovskaya Street and unfolding on to Plekhavoskaya Street was built from 1954 to 1956 upon the design project of the architect Alexander Mironov as an extension of the 1930s’ building.
– The original design of the architect implied a heighten corner part which was forgone in the 1950s due to the anti- excessiveness trend in Soviet architecture, - Pavel Popov told.
Voronezh-1 train station and Mira Street
The building of the modern train station, the railway station forecourt and Mira Street were built in Voronezh after the war. Architecture academician Lev Rudnev, who had developed the general city restoration plan, proposed the square layout – a rectangle joint with a semicircle – and put the designers to the task of its complex ensemble-like development. In 1954, the railway station was built upon the design of the Moscow architect Tatarzhinsky.
The frontage is decorated with 12 sculptures of men and women among which are pilots, soldiers and white-collar workers. They were created by the Voronezh sculptor Vasily Burimov. He is also the author of the monument of Ivan Chernyakhovsky installed the railway station square. According to the sculptor Ivan Dikunov, originally all the figures were not hollow, which is possibly the reason they had fallen into disrepair by 1993.
– The figures must be hollow inside in order to exude water instead of accumulating it. Otherwise, the sculpture will deteriorate, - the sculptor assures.
Sculptors Ivan Dikunov and Elza Pak were entrusted with the restoration of the figures.
– We covered the sculptures with copper by chipping them out and made hollow copies of them out of copper sheets, - Ivan Dikunov explained.
The final appearance of Chernyakhovskogo Square was formed in the autumn of 1958. Mira Street that was built after the war led from the railway station to Revolution Avenue. In its design, the architects set the concept of a densely-built corridor-like main street./p>
Two symmetrical semicircular five-storey buildings were constructed on Mira Street to the left and to the right of the railway station in the Stalinist Empire style. The houses were to play the role of gigantic wings inviting the guests of the city to enter.
– The twin-building on the left of the railway station turned out to be luckier – its frontage is generously decorated with molded décor and bas-reliefs – apples, grapes, hammers and sickles, planters. There are decorative moldings o the inside of the arch as well. The frontage of the opposite house has no décor, and the ascetic-looking arch is not decorated with moldings. The reason is that the building was finished after the infamous 1955 decree “About eliminating excessiveness in design and construction” which had marked the end of the Stalinist Empire, - Olga Rudeva reported.
The building at 13, Geroev Stratosfery Street
The Stalinist Empire building was constructed in 1938. It was allegedly created by the architect German Zdebchinsky. The name of the author of the bas-reliefs on this building remains unknown.
The bas-reliefs located in the corner part picture people that look similar the Karl Marx and Lenin holding the USSR Constitution. Below them is a bas-relief that shows Soviet citizens – a young pioneer, a policeman, a collective farmer woman with an armful of wheat heads and a loaf of bread in her hands, a male worker, a tennis player holding a racket and an old man. The lower bas-relief represents a hymn to motherhood and children.
For a long time, the tennis player remained the main local “highlight”: it had been worked on by amateurs during a capital repair, after which the man gained eastern facial features. The last general repair, which is still in progress, has worked to the advantage of the building: the face was finally fixed.
High reliefs on House of Communication (35, Prospekt Revolutsii)
In 1932, the construction of the House of Communications began, in which the Regional Department of Communications, the Central Telegraph Office, the intercity telephone and the Scientific Testing Station were located. The building in “constructivism” style was ready in 1935. Its architect is Alexander Ginsberg from Leningrad.
During the war, a bomb hit the right side of the building, the walls burned out. The restoration of the House of Communications began as early as 1944 – a large city could not function without a full-fledged communications center. The works were carried out in strict accordance with the author’s drawings, which were found in the archive. Two concrete high reliefs (unlike bas-reliefs, high reliefs are more prominent – some figures are completely separated from the background and exist independently) – “Space” and “Post Office”, which the Voronezh sculptor Oleg Tolmachyov created in 1980, made new details of the main facade of the building.
High reliefs are located on the right and left of the entrance. “Post Office” symbolizes the past (the high relief depicts a messenger who delivers a letter), and “Space” – a bright future (a little boy who dreams of becoming an astronaut, held by young parents).
The model for the boy was Sergey, the little son of the sculptor Oleg Tolmachyov. His mother – a Voronezh monumentalist Antonina Tolmachyova – the author of a grand ensemble of monuments on the Chizhov bridgehead.
– Previously, the city authorities ordered bas-reliefs and sculptures. Artists worked with architects. The architect thought out what emphasis to do on the building. And gave the order to the Union of Artists. Now everything is arranged differently, Sergey Tolmachyov said.
Circus bas-relief on the House of Actor (5, Dzerzhinsky Street)
The unusual bas-relief was created by Voronezh sculptor Suliko Gelashvili. He depicted a street theater – with “tamed” bears, musicians, buffoons, acrobats. According to Deputy Chairman of the House of Actor Natalia Polivayeva, the sculptor originally made a bas-relief with a pig, on which, as you know, Voronezh clown Anatoly Durov performed. Later, the pig was removed, theatrical masks appeared instead of it. But the essence remains the same – it is dedicated to the circus.
According to the contemporaries’ recollections, Suliko Gelashvili created a solid bas-relief, but due to some problems during the installation, they had to cut it into several parts and only after that assemble and mount it.
The building of the House of Actor appeared in 1978. The construction started in 1970 according to architect Vladimir Bykhovsky’s project. According to the memoirs of Natalia Polivayeva, four dwelling houses were demolished before the construction. The “columns” on the facade of the House of Actor symbolize the folds of the theater curtain.
Bas-relief at the fire station (79, Lenin Street)
– It would be more appropriate if the whole bas-relief, including its background, was white or of another bright shade, which it was from the very beginning.
Since 1968, the building is occupied by the Center for Fire Prevention and Public Relations of the EMERCOM Main Directorate in the Voronezh Region. The museum keeps the diorama of old Voronezh, which depicts the major fire in 1748, as a result of which almost the entire city was burned out, as well as current models of fire departments and large high-security facilities of Voronezh, fire ammunition, documents, photographs. The admission is free.
Muses at the Opera and Ballet Theater (7, Lenin Square)
The construction of the Opera and Ballet Theater (at that time, the Voronezh Musical Theater) began in 1940 according to projects by Voronezh resident Alexander Mironov and Muscovite Boris Yefimovich. After the war, the huge stone box stood behind the high fence for a long time. The theater welcomed its first spectators in February 1961. The six columns of the Corinthian order support the powerful, full-width, triangular pediment. The paired semi-columns decorate the side facades.
Sculptor Ivan Dikunov recalls: next to the neighboring majestic building of the former “Voronezh” Hotel with a spire (now it is the building of the Regional Council of Trade Unions), the Opera and Ballet Theater looked like a “flattened frog”. e Ivan Dikunov and his wife, sculptor Elsa Pak, were given the task: to pull the building up visually with the help of bas-reliefs and sculptures. This was how the muse trumpeting on the roof of the theater and the bas-reliefs on the pediment of the theater were created. The three muses of the master are made of sheet aluminum, inside the figures are hollow. The bas-reliefs on the triangular pediment are of plaster.
– It was impossible to load the gable with heavy figures – they are concrete. Therefore, they made them hollow. If the bas-relief is not made hollow inside, then it will not dry to the end, it will get wet and eventually collapse, Ivan Dikunov explained.
The sculptors had a huge amount of work. The dimensions of the gable are 6 m high and 40 m wide. The height of the muses is 8 m. The sculptors made the bas-relief in the workshop.
– The relief consists of three parts. Each plate was 300 kg in weight. They were raised with a crane, Ivan Dikunov recollected.
Voronezh Concert Hall (17, Teatralnaya Street)
The size of the bas-relief on the Voronezh Concert Hall (formerly the Koltsov Drama Theater) is 6 x 12 meters. Ivan Dikunov and Elsa Pak were creating it for 10 years. According to Dikunov, the theatrical relief was made of copper sheet using embossing technology, owned by few sculptors. The figures looked like gold. Over time, the copper oxidized, the figures of the actors turned black.
– They are hollow inside, so it was easy to mount them. The relief is divided into two halves. In the center there are a man and a woman, on the left, we depicted the world theater history, on the right – the Russian theatre history. Below, in the center, the director stands with his back to the viewers, Ivan Dikunov noted.
Palace of Culture of the 50th Anniversary of October (19, Voroshilov Street)
The Palace of Culture Named after the 50th Anniversary of October appeared in the 1960s. The author of “Cosmonauts” high-relief on the side facade of the House of Culture was Voronezh sculptor Fyodor Sushkov, who passed away in 2006.
The sculptor became famous thanks to his monumental works “The Hymn of Life” on Zadonskoye Highway and the memorial complex on Pobedy Square.
Swimmer and sailors on Naberezhnaya Street
The sights of the left bank unknown to a wide circle of Voronezh residents are the high relief “Female Swimmer” on the territory of the Palace of Underwater Sports (15a, Naberezhnaya Street) and the sailors adorning the facade of the Voronezh Diving School (15, Naberezhnaya Street). There is little information about them.
According to the widow of the sculptor Oleg Tolmachyov, Antonina, the author of both works is Fyodor Sushkov: the figures reveal the author’s characteristic style. And Voronezh architect Nikolai Gunenkov believes that sculptor Viktor Meleshko created the high-reliefs.