The All-Russia Exhibition Center, Moscow

THE ALL-RUSSIA Exhibition Center or VVTs (known as VDNKh during Soviet times) in Moscow is touted as a must-see for tourists. During our stay in Moscow, we went there twice.

Our first visit was on 12th June 2006, which happens to be Russia Day. It is a national holiday that has been celebrated since 1992. It was indeed a timely visit to view the glory of the Russian Federation’s past, present and future.

(Top, L-R) A big balloon reminding er of 12th June being Russia Day; M pictured with pretty flower beds; group photo at the Central Gate Entrance Arch; (Bottom, L-R) At the Central Pavilion;  just the ladies with the gilded ladies at the People’s Friendship Fountain; M got a lift from Papa at the Armenia Pavilion.

(Top, L-R) A big balloon declaring 12th June as Russia Day; M pictured with pretty flower beds; group photo at the Central Gate Entrance Arch; (Bottom, L-R) At the Central Pavilion; just the ladies with the gilded statues at the People’s Friendship Fountain; M got a lift from Papa at the Armenia Pavilion.

A newspaper clipping from The Moscow Times (undated, except for the year 2007) offered information of this place described as “Stalinist Wonderland” (it was conceived during Stalin’s time) that opened its doors on 1st August 1939.

“It was conceived as a one-time state fair that would sell peasants on the wonders of collectiveness… Prizes of Rb10,000 and a car were offered for winning exhibitions. Over a quarter of a million applications were received to display prize pigs, giant apples and wilt-resistant cucumbers. These and thousands of other agricultural success stories were exhibited in buildings and extensive gardens…  

The fair was such a hit that it became an annual event and – following an interruption caused by World War II – a permanent exhibition with a triumphant new entry arch, spectacular fountains and dozens of new pavilions. It also began highlighting industry as well as agriculture. For the rest of the Soviet era, it was one of the city’s main pleasure parks and a hands-on refresher institute for farmers and workers. Foreign tourists plodded through the pavilions while tour guides extolled the wonders of the Soviet system.

After the collapse of communism, no one was singing the praises of the Soviet economy, and the exhibition grounds began their decline into a rather shoddy market for consumer goods and honky-tonk amusement park. The murals of Lenin and statues of robust workers and peasants became a political embarrassment. Some of the socialist backdrop was dismantled, got covered up by trading booths or fell into disrepair.

But the wheel of history keeps turning, and right now VVTs is in the middle of an upswing. There are plans to reconstruct the old pavilions and build several new exhibition halls and science museums. In the meantime, the sprawling exhibition center remains a one-of-a-kind snapshot of Moscow’s past, present and future…”

What we saw during our visit to the 207 hectares VVTs site was a showcase of monumental Soviet architecture and manicured landscaping. There were grand fountains (the central attraction was the Fountain of People’s Friendship with its gilded statues that represented the 15 republics of the former Soviet Union, and the other was the Stone Flower Fountain); palatial pavilions (including the Space Pavilion that exhibited a live-size Aeroflot plane and rocket) and vast flower-bed gardens. It also had Russia’s biggest Ferris wheel and other amusements like pony and camel rides. Statues of past leaders, including Vladimir Lenin, can be found throughout the park.

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On some weekends, there are outdoor shows/performances. And that was what we went to see on our second visit to VVTs the following year on 24th June 2007.

Top (L-R) “Visit Malaysia Year 2007” in Russia (read as “posetite malaiziyu v 2007 godu”); a Malaysian cultural performance; Bottom (L-R) medical students-turned-dancers Ashley (in blue) and her friend; M and schoolmate Dina with a camel in the background; at the Stone Flower Fountain.

In conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007, Tourism Malaysia held a cultural performance there, so a group of us went to show our support to the dance troupe, some of them were Malaysian medical students.

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In 2005, the VVTs was the venue for the third annual Festival of Flowerbeds and Landscaping. Themed “Victory” in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory in WWII, the festival boosted over two million buds in a variety of floral displays including tanks and planes.

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