Moscow's 19th-century City Hall



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Four 70-storey towers will be
home to Moscow’s city duma

By Gregor Gosciniak

9 August 2006: Moscow, capital of the Russian Federation, is currently building a new City Hall that will be the new home of the city duma. The duma is comparable to other European city councils, with Moscow’s local government as well as the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, answerable to it.

Mr Luzhkov has been mayor since 1992 and has had an undoubted influence and authority over the capital city's government.  Born in Moscow in 1936, he joined the city council as a deputy chairperson in 1987, rising to head chair in 1990 and then to  vice-mayor from 1991 to 1992. Currently under construction, the new 70-storey towers will rise 308.4 metres into the Moscow skyline.

The project consists of four super-tall skyscrapers with several two-storey bridges between towers and eight storey bridges at the top. The highest bridges will be built in the shape of the letter "M", standing for "Moscow". The city’s plan is to concentrate all centres of administrative authority within the new complex to provide an efficient organisation that will provide an improved service for both citizens and investors.

Currently, the city government is using hundreds of smaller buildings throughout the city for various services and activities, and when the new building is completed the old buildings in use at the moment will be sold. Work on the new city hall began in November 2005 and will be completed at the end of 2007. The new city hall will be symbolic of this type of building.

Unlike most other European capitals, Moscow did not have a city hall until the establishment of the so-called Zemstvo system in the late 19th century. The Zemstvo was a form of local government instituted during the reforms of Imperial Russia’s Alexander II.

The Zemstvo, for the first time, provided local government councils in Russia between 1864 and October 1917. All classes, including the peasants, took part in electing the Zemstvos, which had local responsibility for medical care, food supply, education, public welfare and road maintenance. Unfortunately the nobility ruled them, and they were not much interested in improving the living conditions of the poor. The strongest opponent of the Zemstvos was always the Socialist Revolutionary Party, which shut down the system after the October Revolution.

However, during the Zemstvos period, in the 1880s when the Red Square area was being overhauled in the Neo-Russian style, the Moscow city duma decided to build an impressive building for its headquarters. In a competition held in 1887, architect Dimitry Chichagov (1835-94) was selected to begin building work three years later, with some remains of an early 18th-century Mint incorporated into the new building.

Chichagov's design was a mixture of two styles favoured by the Muscovite middle class of the 1880s - Russian Revival and, popular all over Europe at that time, Neo-Renaissance. The building today still shows forms of Muscovite antiquity. The roof reminds visitors of the Terem Palace, an early 17th Century structure within the nearby Kremlin.

Despite all these intimations of the Russian Middle Ages, the principal hall and other interiors are imbued with western elements. The strictly symmetrical ground plan of the building is as typical of western architecture as the ornamental monotony of the façade, which fronts the legendary Hotel Moskva, sprawling on the opposite side of Revolution Square.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the city duma was disbanded and the large building became part of the Moscow Lenin Museum. As a result of this decision, opulent pre-revolutionary halls were either plastered or painted over, so as not to distract the visitor's attention from the personal effects of the deceased Communist leader exhibited there.

After the fall of Communism, the Moscow city duma was reinstated but preferred to keep its headquarters in a modest building of the former Moscow Soviet on Petrovka Street. The pre-revolutionary city hall is being currently used to exhibit vast collections of the State Historical Museum.


Computer image of Moscow's new City Hall


Ekaterinburg City Hall
Ekaterinburg City Hall was built in the early 1950s by German prisoners of war and was intended to be richly symbolic and unique. Its theme was to reflect the Great Victory of the Second World War. The decision to build this landmark was taken by the Council of Ministers to honour Ekaterinburg for its contribution to that victory.

Ekaterinburg richly deserved such recognition, since the people had worked 16 to 20 hours a day in the plants and factories of the city, where each third shell and missile and each second tank of the Soviet Army was manufactured.

Construction of Ekaterinburg’s City Administration (or Sverdlovsk as it was called during the Soviet period) became a symbol of the country’s post-war power. Built with German skill, the building is of the highest quality, surpassing that of any other in the city. It has an eclectic architecture with its style combining both classic and modern - a style typical of the architecture of the time, which is usually called “Stalin’s Triumph”. More