Young Pioneer Tours

VDNKh: the Soviet Disneyland

On our recent Moscow-Pyongyang tour, we had the opportunity of first spending the better part of two days in the Russian capital before embarking upon our mammoth (and event-filled) journey across Siberia and into North Korea. But that’s another story (and one that will be told at length).

One of the many things we did during our time in Moscow was visit a place I’d never heard of – the VDNKh, or “Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy”. It was, basically, a sort of Disneyland for communists.

Here’s the skinny on the VDNKh.

What is the VDNKh?

A fountain with several golden statues of women near the entrance of the VDNKh.

The complex is a sorta permanent trade-show-cum-amusement-part, which I realise doesn’t really explain anything at all. Think of a fairground without any actual rides and lots of Soviet imagery, and you’ll get the picture. There are lots of monuments and pavilions and plenty of photo ops, but not too much to actually do.

A brief history of the VDNKh

The famous rocket monument at the VDNKh.

Founded in 1935 as the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition, the initial plan was for it to be a “city of exhibitions”, with through-streets and public spaces. Alas, things didn’t quite work out, and it turned into a big Soviet kerfuffle until Stalin himself stepped in and postponed things, possibly having a few people shot and unpersoned along the way.

A model of a space shuttle at the VDNKh.

Originally the whole thing was supposed to be built out of wood, but somebody decided that wood was way too counter-revolutionary of a building material, and the original designer was arrested for his lack of vision. Everything was subsequently built out of socialist materials like granite and marble.

The park has been expanded and renovated several more times over the years, most notably from 1948-1959.

What can I see at the VDNKh?

Do you like pavilions? Then the VDNKh has got you covered! Several former Soviet vassal states republics, such as Turkmenistan and Belarus, have their own pavilions there. There are also a bunch of pavilions dedicated to different fields of study – there’s an engineering pavilion, a space pavilion, a Soviet culture pavilion, and even an atomic energy pavilion. Basically just all the pavilions.

How can I visit the VDNKh?

The entrance to the Ukraine pavilion at the VDNKh, featuring workers with bushels of wheat.
The Ukraine pavilion. Ukraine was known as the ‘breadbasket of the USSR’ for its massive agricultural output.

It’s pretty simple to get to – the metro station is literally called ‘VDNKh’ and is 15 minutes or so outside the centre of Moscow.

Alternatively, we visit on two of our tours – as an amuse-bouche to our legendary Moscow to Pyongyang tour or as the group-one finisher on our equally legendary Eurasian Adventure!

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