Lubyanka - Delve into History

On Lubyanka Square in Moscow is where the headquarters of the KGB and prison can be found, and is also popularly called the Lubyanka. In 1897 Alexander V. Ivanov designed the large yellow brick building, which was then augmented by Aleksey Shchusev between 1940 and 1947.

Originally the Lubyanka, with its lovely parquet floors and pale green walls, was built as the Neo-Baroque headquarters of the All-Russia Insurance Company. Forgetting the scale of the large building, it does not come over as an impressive edifice. It has isolated Palladian and Baroque details, for instance on the minute pediments over the corner bays and the central Laggia or corridor. These, however, are lost with the continuous repeating of the palace façade, where three bands of cornices exaggerated the horizontal lines. Centered at the top of the façade is a clock.

With the Bolshevik Revolution, the government took the Lubyanka building for the Cheka or the secret police to be used as headquarters. During the Great Purge it was realized that the building was too small for all the staff working there, so in 1940 the famous Soviet architect, Shchusev, was brought on in to increase its size by demolishing back street buildings.

Schusev’s design brought out the Neo-Renaissance detailing of the left side of the façade, due to the war and other interruptions. The Lubyanka stayed and survived as it was left until 1983, when Yuri Andropov urged the completion of the building in accordance with Shchusev’s plans.

Over the years the secret police changed its name repeatedly but they continued to stay on in this building. In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s classic study of the Soviet police, the prison on the ground floor is mentioned many times. Raoul Wallenberg and Father Walter Ciszek, S.J. are famous inmates who once were held there to be tortured and interrogated.

Once the KGB had been dissolved, the Lubyanka later became headquarters of the Border Guards and also housed a directorate of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. Later a museum was added and opened to the public displaying information on the KGB. On November 1999, four FSB agents were injured during a fire that broke out in the Lubyanka, but there was very little damage and was later shown to have occurred due to faulty wiring.


User Comments & Reviews: 2 Comment(s)

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Phillip de Valcourt - 2009-11-11 06:10:20

Though the security organs of the Soviet Government from the Cheka to the KGB (and now FSB) were responsible for some of the world's most serious human rights violations, and you correctly point out the relationship between the NKVD and the Nazis in the beginnings of Hitler's fascist regime, Stalin was possibly more paranoid and insane than Hitler. Prior to WWII and shortly after Stalin's death when the KGB got it's final Soviet name, they were the most effective intelligence agency in the history of modern intelligence gathering and remain unrivaled from an historical perspective today. I agree with you that the Soviet system should be studied carefully. However, you cannot teach it properly unless you study what made it possible and emphasize how to recognize and avoid or prevent a similar situation from happening again. Nothing will be learned by simply Soviet-bashing. Simply demonizing the Soviet Union will accomplish nothing outside of historical context. The governments of Romania, Bulgaria, and of course Yugoslavia were equally brutal, if not more so in the case of Tito and Yugoslavia. There were also equally problematic countries that for many decades supported the Soviet system by relative passivity such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Equally important in studying oppression as a preventative measure is to look carefully at countries such as Sudan, Rwanda and North Korea, to name but a tiny fraction of places where one group of people is oppressed by another for political, social or religious reasons. It's easy to point fingers at a system of government that no longer exists, but we are overly concerned in the US with not interfering with other governments' practices unless it suits our government's agenda and then they can rationalize anything. As for calling the Soviet system "criminal" you are implying that there were some universal laws that were broken which is a logical fallacy. To teach the truth, one has to be objective enough to be able to recognize the truth first.

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Janusz Kowalik - 2009-08-30 22:09:59

The history of Soviet dictatorship and oppression should be included in the school books. Too many schildren are not aware of the brutal and criminal nature of the former Soviet System. A good example of the still promoted soviet lie is the denaial of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pack that helped Hitler to start the Second world War.

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