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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Stalin’s Architect: Power And Survival In Moscow’

Stalinist architecture (ста́линский ампи́р), also referred to as Stalinist Empire style, or Socialist Classicism-Red Gates Administrative Building and the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel 
Image by Jorge Láscar

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Anyone who has strolled along the banks of the Moscow River in the center of Russia’s capital will likely be familiar with the stolid and rather intimidating Soviet edifice sitting on the western tip of Bolotny island across a stretch of river from the Kremlin. This is the House on the Embankment — Dom na Naberezhnoi — one-time home, or rather fortress, of the Soviet elite.

What is likely to be less familiar is the life of the man who created it: Boris Mikhailovich Iofan. It is his story that Deyan Sudjic recounts in “Stalin’s Architect: Power and Survival in Moscow.” In just under 300 pages, Sudjic takes the reader from Iofan’s birth in the Silver Age of the Russian Empire to his death in the midst of Brezhnev-era stagnation, charting the architect’s tumultuous — and, more often than not, uncomfortably close — relationship with the highest echelons of Soviet power. 

The book is chronological, with the first two chapters covering Iofan’s early life from his childhood in Odesa to his stint in the Italian Communist Party. From the very beginning, Sudjic shows, Iofan was willing to make compromises in order to survive. Born Borukh Solomonovich Iofan, the son of “respectable middle [class]” Jews changed his name to the Slavic-sounding “Boris Mikhailovich” in response to “Russia’s vicious anti-Semitism […] as well as a reflection of his embrace of militant secularism…”

To read more visit The Moscow Times.

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