The House on the Embankment, Moscow

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The House on the Embankment. Anyone want to argue that a picture isn’t worth a thousand words? One of the most famous buildings in Moscow, sort of across the Moscow River from another of Moscow’s famous structures – the Kremlin. The House on the Embankment was built in the early years of Soviet power (1931) and was intended to house important government officials and their families. It was designed by architect Boris Iofan. One of those government officials was the father of a young man named Yury Trifonov, who grew up to be one of the finest writers in the Soviet Union. Yury’s father Valentin suffered the same fate as an enormous number of residents of this building – he was arrested in June 1937 and shot in March 1938.  His son Yury wrote about that, and about others in the building who suffered a similar fate, in his great novel The House on the Embankment. A plaque commemorating the fact that Trifonov lived here and wrote about the building was erected in 2003.

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The building itself is gorgeous in its massive, yet simple, way. It is full of straight lines creating visual angles and is clearly a “child” of the Constructivist age of architecture.  It is located on the Bersenevskaya Embankment along the Moscow River, and the front section houses a  massive theater that seats some 2,000 people and today is called the Estrada Theater, something like the Variety Theater. The street-level walls of this building are laden with memorial plaques to an inordinate number of famous individuals in the fields of politics, aviation, science, literature, theater and more. I will post some of those plaques at a later date, but this one is meant to focus attention on the building itself.

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I spent an evening in one of the apartments here many years ago. My wife Oksana and I were invited to tea by Marina Murzina, one of the leading Moscow theater critics and theater journalists at the time. She grew up in the building with her father Alexander Murzin, a journalist who ghost-wrote the famous memoir Virgin Soil for former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev was awarded State Prizes for his literary prowess, while those who actually hammered that prowess out were awarded beautiful apartments in one of the nation’s most prestigious buildings.

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