The VDNKh (The Exhibition of the Achievements of the People’s Economy) Park is one of the oddest parks I have visited. (The letters are pronounced something like “vedeenkha” and stand for vystavka dostizhenii narodnykh khozyastva.) We wandered into the park after the excitement of the Museum of Cosmonautics, looking for some fresh air, a cup of coffee, maybe. We found a strange mix of pavilions, some abandoned, a golden fountain that wasn’t working, and a monument to what seemed to be the electrification of the Soviet Union.
My children are growing up with no sense of the strange shadow that the Soviet Union cast over the twentieth century. A new country, magicked into being by a revolution, run by communists — for the people, by the people — the USSR intended to be a nation where equality was as natural as breathing. The economy was centrally planned, farms collectivised, and all the people would benefit. Just how wonderful life could be would be put on display here, in The Exhibition of the Achievements of the People’s Economy. Proof that Utopia had arrived.
On a monumental scale — as everything Soviet — the park is larger than Monaco. Opened in the Stalin era, in 1939, VDNKh celebrated and glorified the achievements of the 15 republics of the union, with a pavilion dedicated to each republic and the major forms of industry. The golden central fountain had a sculpted merry maiden from each of the republics dressed in national costume and soaked in the rain from the central giant bundle of wheat.