By Ria Novosti
By Alexei Korolyov
It used to accommodate a giant Soviet hotel. Then they pulled it down. For years, this vast vacant lot just off Red Square has been an embarrassing eyesore in the heart of Moscow, but it may now finally be put to good use after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed making it into a park.
Visiting the lot with Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin on Friday, Putin suggested a park might be the perfect solution.
“Maybe we should establish a park zone smack in the middle of Moscow, near the Kremlin?” Putin asked Sobyanin.
“This would be an interesting decision,” Sobyanin responded.
When the communists placed the colossal Rossiya (Russia) Hotel in the historic Zaryadye district in the late 1960s, nobody seemed to be much affronted. People then liked things big and mighty, and this one certainly was – covering an area the size of 20 football pitches, it was the world’s largest hotel at the time.
But even before the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, there were some who questioned the hotel’s congruity in the heart of Moscow. Tiny 18-th century churches looked surreal beside it. The 3,200-room behemoth especially seemed to jar with Yury Luzhkov, Moscow’s disgraced former mayor, who ordered its demolition in 2004. But not before Russia’s first reality show, “Behind the Glass,” was shot in it.
“Horrific mastodon,” pronounced Alexei Komech, the then head of the State Institute of Art Studies.
Government headquarters and shopping malls have at various times been planned to appear on the prime site but long-running legal disputes put a stop to these plans.
Putin’s plan seemed to strike a chord with heritage activists, who said it would be the best for the city.
“There is a lack of greenery downtown,” Denis Romodin, an expert on Soviet architecture, told RIA Novosti.
But while he had some kind words for the former Rossiya, saying it was “probably the best project offered” in the 60s, Romodin said a park was the “optimal decision” for the site.
Before Rossiya was on anyone’s mind, the district was meant to house one of “Stalin’s sisters” – a series of early 1950s skyscrapers exhibiting the advances of Soviet architecture.
Dmitry Lisitsyn, an activist from the Moscow heritage watchdog Archnadzor, said the “fate” of the Zaryadye district should be decided by Muscovites.
“We need to know what people think and we need public discussions,” Lisitsyn told RIA Novosti.