Almost 30 years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Everyday Voronezh residents are reminded of the no longer existing country by architectural elements on the facades of buildings: coats of arms, sickle and hammer, portraits of political leaders. But recently, some artifacts have been lost. In 2018, the dilapidated decorative “Star” module was removed from Revolution Avenue. The illumination in the form of an excavator by the “Rabochy Avenue” bus stop was dismantled on December 10, 2019.
RIA Voronezh correspondents, together with a stalker and searcher Dmitry Yurin, who has been collecting photographs of artifacts of the Soviet past in Voronezh for several years, made a selection of the most interesting “time capsules”.
In Soviet times, the facades of houses, the walls of lobbies and bus stops were decorated with mosaic paintings depicting scientists, workers, astronauts, Young Pioneers. Glass smalt used by ceramics artists to create paintings all over the walls is an expensive material, but in the Soviet times, the authorities did not spare funds for wall decoration. The material and the laborious work of artists were paid for by the factories.
“Mosaic is a fine art. It was done by professional artists, the art fund, members of the Union of Artists,” historian Pavel Popov noted.
Where: The House of Young Pioneers and Schoolchildren (16 Politekhnichesky Lane)
The front wall of the House of Young Pioneers in Cominternovsky District built in 1977 is decorated with an engraving depicting Young Pioneers with serious faces. A girl is holding a book, and a boy is holding a rocket.
On the walls of the lobby, there are beautiful mosaic paintings depicting Young Pioneers from 15 republics of the Union. The author of the engraving and the mosaic is the Voronezh ceramics artist Eduard Plotnikov. The artist made the panel picture of glass smalt, which was brought to Voronezh from Vyshny Volochyok.
“First, smalt was chipped manually, with a chisel and a hammer. The pieces of the required colors were picked using color cardboard. Then, we made cells made in the wall, poured them over with concrete, and laid colored pebbles on top. It took us a long time to wash them free of concrete,” the artist recalled.
But the four large-scale mosaic panels by Eduard Plotnikov on the building of the Children's clinic № 4 - “The Seasons” – had been barbarously knocked down, and now there are white spots instead of them.
“A mosaic is an expensive job. At that time, one kilogram of smalt cost 200 rubles. In Soviet times, mosaics were paid for by factories. The expenses for decorating the clinic were paid by the richest factory in Voronezh – the Voronezh Mechanical Plant. We made the mosaic for a full due so that it would hold for centuries. This material is not affected by either sunlight or water,” said the ceramic artist.
There is no one to hold accountable for destroying the mosaic - it is not subject to protection.
“The objects with Soviet mosaics must be re-registered so that they would be protected. It is just as valuable as pre-revolutionary houses,” architect Nikolai Gunenkov thinks.
Where: The Research Institute of Forest Genetics and Breeding (105 Lomonosova Street)
These mosaic paintings depict genetic scientists and plant breeders breeding new varieties of crops. The Institute of Genetics was built in 1970. The author of the panel painting is artist Grigory Pertsev, who died in 2005. He is the creator of the mosaic in Talovskiy District next to the Dokuchaev Research Institute of Agriculture of the Central Black Soil Strip. From 1971 to 1978, Grigory Pertsev was the main artist of Voronezh. Since 2000, the painter and ceramist had lived in Italy.
The Fountain "Siren and Neptune"
Where: the Palace of Children and Youth (1 Detey Square)
The Palace of Children and Youth (formerly the Palace of Art of Young Pioneers and Schoolchildren) designed by architect Vladimir Bykhovsky opened in 1988. Under the stairs leading to the basement, there used to be a real fountain. Nowadays, the only reminder of it is a pool without water and ceramic sculptures of Neptune and the Siren - a boy and a girl holding tridents in their hands. The concept of the fountain and decorative elements of the Palace was created in 1982 by Voronezh ceramic artists Vladimir Klepinin and Nikolai Suvorkov.
“The models for the fountain were large, ceramic, life-size, from raw clay. The details of the sculptures were fired in large furnaces of the Voronezh Ceramic Plant. From there, the parts were taken for installation to the Palace,” explained Vladimir Klepinin.
The fountain was faced with a blue smalt mosaic. Then, against its background, they mounted the entire composition, which was half under water and half above it. The bottom of the pool imitated the seabed: it was decorated with sea stones and jellyfish, starfish and octopuses made of ceramics.
Since the fountain had no filters, the water in it did not circulate and began to congest. The pool had to be drained and the nozzles, from which the fountain had sprung, were removed. By the way, not only they were lost but also the ceramic marine inhabitants.
Festive illumination – the advertisment of the USSR
Stars, rockets, carnation flowers, wheat heads, molecules, circles along the roads – the artifacts of the Soviet festive lighting that used to twinkle with different color lights have remained in the city so far. However, they had gone out forever. The only thing remaining is iron frames.
“We used to see these symbols everywhere. In Soviet times, this was the only advertisement - the advertisement of the socialist society. This defined the selection of symbols: if it is a geometric figure, then it’s a star; if it is a flower, then it’s carnation; if it is images of people, then they are strong muscular young people and fleshy toilers,” said local historian Olga Rudeva.
“The illumination was created in the relatively recent past - since the 1970s. It depicts purely Voronezh symbols: an excavator, rockets, gears - things typical for the Voronezh man of labor. They were used to decorate not only the city center but also the outskirts. Such symbols enlivened the gable facades. The shelf life of temporary structures is short. It cannot be helped - sooner or later they will become scrap metal. Such temporary structures include the monument “Proletarians of All Countries, Unite!” (“the Chupa Chups lollipop”) on Universitetskaya Square and the DNA molecule monument, although they had effectively fit into the urban landscape. They don’t have special value - I don’t think that they need to be specially protected unlike Soviet bas-reliefs and mosaics depicting people of labor, science and agriculture,” Pavel Popov noted.
The rocket and the crane
The area of the former excavator plant is especially rich in illumination. A striking example is a four-story building at 15 Moskovsky Avenue. The corner of the building is decorated with illumination in the form of a rocket - the symbol of space conquest.
“The rocket is a reminder of the fact that Voronezh produced engines for space rockets and of the country's success: we were the first to go into space,” Olga Rudeva said.
On the wall facing Moskovsky Avenue there is a crane-shaped structure (a symbol of the Soviet construction), and at the top, there is a five-pointed star, which probably used to be highlighted in red.
Fireworks and wheat head
The five-story building at 20 Moskovsky Avenue is decorated with two illuminations that are fixed at the corners of the building. This is a structure in the form of fireworks that even has different color paint - green and red – remaining on the bulbs, as well as a sickle and a hammer - a symbol of the unity of workers and peasants - with a wheat head growing out of - a symbol of prosperity.
A similar illumination can be seen on the building №153 on Leninsky Avenue. The only different thing is that the wheat head and the fireworks here are smaller.
The five-pointed star is a symbol of the Red Army, which was on the flag and the coat of arms of the USSR. The five ends of the star are a symbol of the five continents of the planet and the unity of the world proletariat. Such an illumination star can be seen on the roof of the building of the former Electronika Plant (119 Leninsky Avenue).
And this particular star is a popular decoration that used to be fixed on lampposts along the road (132 Leninsky Avenue).
“The star has always been a symbol of the USSR, which is why it is everywhere: on stucco molding, on illuminations,” Olga Rudeva told.
The gable facade of the five-story building №17/1 on Minskaya Street is decorated with "scientific" illumination in the form of a microscope and atom model glorifying Soviet scientists.
Young Pioneer badge
At the “Zastava Square” bus stop, at 48 Plekhanovskaya Street, you can distinguish the shape of a five-pointed star surrounded by flames. Such was the old version of the Young Pioneer badge worn by Soviet schoolchildren.
Symbols of the Revolution
Carnations in the Soviet Union were ubiquitous: iron carnations hung on lampposts along the roads, carnations flashed with red bulbs on the walls of buildings. Carnation is a symbol of revolution. The tradition of decorating clothes with a red flower came to the USSR since the time of the French Revolution of 1793. Red carnations were an indispensable attribute of May Day.
In Voronezh, roadside carnations attached to lampposts still remain on Truda Avenue and Kostromskaya Street.
On the already mentioned building at 15 Moskovsky Avenue, there is an unusual illumination in the form of a purple carnation with a sickle and a hammer.
Another illumination in the form of a flower of the revolution has remained at the production building of the Voronezh Tire Plant, near the Lebedev bus stop.
The blank shot of the cruiser Aurora was the signal for the launch of the assault on the Winter Palace in Petrograd. This is why the cruiser had become one of the main symbols of the October Revolution of 1917. The colored brick image of the cruiser Aurora decorates the apartment building №17 on Molodogvardeytsev Street. The building was built in 1967, the year of the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. The author of the brick mosaic is the architect Nikolai Gunenkov.
“It was a small family building with a blank end wall. On it, I proposed to lay out the Aurora from red brick - it was cheap and affordable unlike such expensive material as smalt,” Nikolai Gunenkov noted.
In some places, there are panels and structures in the form of doves flying towards the sun remaining on Voronezh buildings. For example, an image of a girl letting a dove fly up to the sky is hanging on the side of the building №127/1 on Leninsky Avenue.
On the building №265 on 45 Strelkovoy Divizii Street, there are doves made of brick mosaic - the symbols of peace.
“While the star dates back to the post-revolutionary years, doves and children releasing doves date to the period after the Great Patriotic War,” Olga Rudeva told.
The depiction of doves became even more common after the World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow in 1957. Another symbol of peace - the slogans "Peace" and "Peace to the World" - had spread in the Soviet Union since 1951 and also gained a new wave of popularity after the festival of youth and students.
The pacifist slogan, for example, can be seen on apartment building №52/4 along Novosibirskaya Street.
And on the roof of the nine-story building at 16 Volgo-Donskaya Street, there is the slogan "Peace to the World" with a dove.
“These symbols need to be preserved. In 100 years, such artifacts will be a rarity. They are not protected, and their preservation depends on the will of the building owners,” Olga Rudeva stressed.
Civil War symbol
The end of the building of Multilevel Educational Complex №2 at 7 Shendrikova Street is decorated with "Cavalry" engraving created by Voronezh sculptor Fyodor Sushkov in 1979. The work depicts the cavalry of the Soviet military leader Semyon Budyonny, who became famous as the commander of the First Cavalry Army of the Red Army during the Civil War.
Cavalry fighters began to be called Budyonnovtsy. By the way, Budyonny freed Voronezh from Makhno’s troops. Fyodor Sushkov was recommended to decorate the end wall with this composition by his friend, architect Nikolai Gunenkov.
“It was a yet another anniversary of the Soviet regime, so I advised Fyodor Kuzmich to depict something revolutionary. He made the "Cavalry" using the dishing technique. First, a bas-relief is made in concrete, and then, a dishing is made from a copper sheet matching its shape,” Nikolai Gunenkov said.
Symbols of labor
On the facade of the former grocery store at 37a Barrikadnaya Street, one can see a picture of women working on a collective farm painted on raw plaster.
Some decorative panels and bas-reliefs glorifying the people of labor have remained in the factories. For example, the monumental panel on the territory of the former VELT Plant is dedicated to the workdays of factory workers. Engineers are shown below: a man is holding a drawing and pressing on computer buttons and a woman holding a punched tape from a computer. In front of her are conventional images of a kinescope and a TV set. Above them hovers an astronaut - a symbol of Soviet science and engineering.
Signboards, sign plates, letters
Advertisement of the "Souvenirs" store
In the 1970-1980s, there was a "Souvenirs" store on Revolution Avenue. It is reminded of by the decorative structure - the store’s advertisement hanging above the arch opposite the Proletary Film Theatre. Earlier, the two other arches of the city’s main street used to be decorated with another two decorative modules made in the same style as the “Souvenirs”. One was in the form of an “Alpinist” receiver, the second one was the decorative structure named ”Star” removed in 2018 due to disrepair.
On the building of Dormitory №1 of the Voronezh State University (10 Friedrich Engels Street) still hangs a black Soviet sign plate.
A similar one was has remained on the building of the Voronezhsintezkauchuk Plant canteen. The inscription states that the factory used to have a catering complex.
And signs like the one hanging on the building №29 on Lizyukova Street - the distinguishing sign “A Building of Exemplary Upkeep and Culture” - were placed on the facades of buildings of the Soviet Union, the entrances and courtyards of which were always clean and welcoming.
The I.T.R. building
The stucco molding with an inscription “The I.T.R. Building” has remained on the building №31 on Bogdan Khmelnitsky Avenue built in 1935. "I.T.R." stands for "engineering and technical workers" - in the USSR, they were in a privileged position. In the pre-war era, they were provided with better housing - more spacious apartments, improved layout.
“ITR included chief technologists, chief designers, the chief engineers of enterprises. Before and after the war, they were called “enterprise commanders” - at that time everything was paramilitary. After the war, our family lived in a three-room communal apartment – a very good one even by today's standards. In each room there lived a family, and later they even made the bathroom a living room – it was occupied by a worker from a brick factory. It had a bed, a bookcase, and a table,” local historian Oleg Kazanevsky, a son of an engineer, recalled.
He added that before the war, families of engineers were given separate apartments, but later, when the housing problem worsened, they were given rooms in communal apartments, and the spacious apartments were made into two.
“There weren’t enough engineers at that time. Nevertheless, when housing was allocated after the war, the main factor was not the specialty, but the composition of the family. As a rule, small families were given rooms in communal apartments. By the way, the attitude to housing in Soviet times was completely different from what it is now - no one tried to snatch housing space. Often there were cases when a family of three refused an apartment and asked for a room in a communal apartment - it was awkward for people to live better than others,” Olga Rudeva noted.
By the way, before the war, Tchaikovsky Street was called ITR Street - it was built in 1935, new houses for engineers were built here.
Another building erected for engineers, a model of constructivism, is located at 22 Pushkinskaya Street.
Many Voronezh buildings have bas-reliefs with official state symbols - the emblems of the USSR, flags, sickles and hammers, and portraits of the ideologists of Marxism-Leninism. A well-preserved colored coat of arms of the USSR has remained on the facade of the Voronezh Agricultural University. A sickle and a hammer are depicted against the backdrop of a globe illuminated by the sun from below - a symbol of a brighter future. At the top of the coat of arms is a five-pointed red star. The emblem is framed by wheat heads - a symbol of the country's prosperity. The emblem of the USSR is a symbol of the union of workers and peasants, the unity of the Union’s republics, the equality of all nations and the international solidarity of the peoples of the Soviet Union with the working people of the entire planet.
The coat of arms of the RSFSR is still hanging on the facade of the council of Sovetsky District.
A Soviet bas-relief depicting the classics of Marxism-Leninism - Lenin, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels - can be seen on the facade of the cultural monument of regional significance - the Book House (33 Revolution Avenue). For several years, the bas-relief was closed with a banner, but on December 11, 2019, it was removed at the demand of the Prosecutor's Office, which received a complaint from social activist Konstantin Kvasov.
A well-preserved bas-relief depicting Karl Marx has remained on the frontispiece of the Palace of Culture of Railway Workers (previously the Palace of Culture of Karl Marx).
“There were bas-reliefs on the walls in pre-revolutionary times as well. The pre-revolutionary architecture mainly referred to the past: even in the modernist era, buildings were decorated with sculptures of ancient Greek muses. And Soviet symbols guide people into the present and future. It is a bad thing when Soviet symbols are evaluated from a political point of view and people are trying to get rid of the Soviet heritage. As decades pass, stars, coats of arms, sickles, hammers, and portraits of the ideologists of Marxism-Leninism no longer belong to the elements of propaganda. These architectural decorations have gained not only artistic but also historical value. And although officially they are not under protection, there is a broad concept of “monument”. And everything that is depicted on a monument can be classified as a part of it,” Pavel Popov is sure.