Stalin’s Slight of Hand in the 30’s

Moscow the 4th Rome

At Face Value

This picture visually represents the mindset with which Joseph Stalin used to shape Russia in the 1930’s. The 1930’s were a busy time with mass construction in Moscow and the introduction of the second 5 year plan. Stalin signed off on an audacious plan to completely renovate Moscow into a modern city, which exemplified socialist values. This sentiment is echoed in the following quote from the New York Times on 11 July 1935, “In the words of tonight’s decree. “the construction and architectural design of the capital of the U.S.S.R. must perfectly reflect the grandeur and the beauty of the Socialist epoch.”” Below is a picture of the city plans.


The following quote from Lewis Siegelbaum‘s subject essay in 17 moments describes Stalin’s plans.

“Four years in the making, the plan called for the expansion of the city’s area from 285 to 600 square kilometers that would take in mostly farmland to the south and west beyond the Lenin (a.k.a. Sparrow) Hills. It involved sixteen major highway projects, the construction of “several monumental buildings of state-wide significance,” and fifteen million square meters of new housing to accommodate a total population of approximately five million. Surrounding the city would be a green belt up to a width of ten kilometers.”

Stalin’s True Intention

Joseph Stalin used the reconstruction of Moscow and the second five-year plan as a way to further solidify his own power and establish the party hierarchy. The reconstruction of Moscow represented a turn from revolutionary soviet ideals towards glorification of Soviet Russia. This quote from the Freeze text further explains this transition, “Corresponding to a shift in investment priorities, the heightened cultural significance of the capital signaled a new hierarchy of values, by which society’s attention shifted from the many to the one outstanding representative” (Freeze pg 361) Stalin Chose to rebuild Moscow, making it the epicenter of all Russian transportation, to visually demonstrate that all decisions, authority, and glory came down from the capital.

Stalin truly wanted to create a fourth Rome. He used the rhetoric that socialism had finally been achieved as spring-board to motivate Russian citizens to strive to bring glory to Moscow. An interesting quote from Freeze eloquently sums up this transition ” If previously life’s satisfactions were derived from the knowledge that one’s work was contributing to the building of socialism, now the formula was reversed: the achievement of socialism, officially proclaimed in the 1936 constitution, was responsible for life’s joyfulness which in turn made work go well.” (Freeze pg 362)

Stalin’s true intention was convincing the Russian people that he and the Soviet Party were the cause of their success and happiness. His actions, during the 1930’s, demonstrate that he was stepping more and more in the direction of dictator and distancing himself from the original revolutionary ideals.



City Plans- See hyperlink

Moscow the Fourth Rome – See hyperlink

All other sources are cited in the text

6 thoughts on “Stalin’s Slight of Hand in the 30’s

  1. Russia as the “Third Rome” has been a recurring theme in Russian history for centuries and I think its interesting that the theme continued during the Soviet period since it was an Imperial theme too. You included some great images and links/sources in this post. Great job!


  2. What drew me to this post was the religious connotation to the title. Stalin and the communist party wanted to get rid of religion in the Soviet society, so this time it meant something different. Moscow had been referred to as the “Third Rome” after the fall of Constantinople centuries earlier, but this time is wasn’t meant religiously. Interesting post!


  3. I thought that the restructuring of Moscow was a great power move by Stalin. While citizens saw it simply as an expansion of land and wealth, Stalin had ulterior motives that implied wealth was centralized under his reign. Stalin took an opportunity to appear as having more power and authority without greatly disrupting many people because they didn’t recognize his true intentions. Very interesting post!


  4. Great post! It is really important to note Stalin’s change in rhetoric, especially going into the 1930s. Soviet nationalism and identity was essential at this point because there were other places in the world that were becoming more intense in their own national identities. Nationalism and fascism were internationally popular in the 1930s. Hitler came into power in the early 1930s in Germany, and Italy’s Mussolini had been propagandizing his own fascist party at that time too. Perhaps Stalin also noted the external environment around him, influencing his change in rhetoric from party-head to more of a dictating role?


  5. Nice post! You did a great job of using other sources to back up your post. It is cool to see how Stalin wanted to rebuild Soviet Russia not only physically with a new city layout but in terms of revamping Russian nationalism and identity. I agree, I think his plan of restructuring the city was definitely a ploy to get more power but disguise it as a benefit to the people.


  6. I enjoyed your post as Stalin’s ambitions are truly impressive. I wrote on the creation of the Moscow Metro so I was familiar with one aspect of the city’s renovations. However, I did not know the true scale to which Stalin had foreseen the city to be upgraded. Great post, the two images you used were very fitting and added a certain understanding that was not otherwise possible without them.


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