RUSSIAN MYSTICISM AND THE SECRET OF STALIN’S SKYSCRAPERS

By ANDREW GOUGH

APRIL 2013

Joseph Stalin’s legacy is one of a dictator, not an initiate with a deep understanding of Russian mysticism. Closer inspection reveals that the self-proclaimed ‘Premier of the Soviet Union’ was familiar with esoteric principles and maintained an occult-based master plan for his rule and afterlife.

On 12 September 1947, at 1pm, Stalin presided over the laying of the corner stones for eight of the most austere skyscrapers the world has ever known. It is believed that the buildings were planned to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Moscow, yet their location appeared haphazard. However, Stalin took drastic measures to ensure that they were anything but arbitrarily positioned. In one instance Stalin diverted the flow of the Moscow River to create a marginally different vantage point for the skyscraper. In another, he razed a cherished heritage district to the ground. In still another, he even demolished the most sacred cathedral in Moscow, in order to build the skyscraper he intended to be buried in. His behaviour was peculiar, especially given that there were many vacant building plots in the vicinity of the sites he had chosen. Those who questioned him would have been subjected to surveillance, purged of their position, or even sentenced to death. The message was clear: Stalin’s positioning of the Moscow skyscrapers was top secret.

From Luxor to London, cities have been designed in accordance with the principles of sacred geometry. Some designs orientated avenues and buildings in line with the summer or winter solstices. Washington DC employed Masonic principles, while others built their monuments in the manner of ‘as above so below’. Might Stalin have had a similar objective when he designed the Moscow skyscrapers? 

A view of two of Stalin’s Seven Sisters (far left back and middle right), as depicted on a mural inside Hotel Ukraina (also one of Stalin’s Seven Sisters) © Andrew Gough

 

Russia and the Occult

In her book, The Occult In Russia and The Soviet Union, historian, Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, states:

Occultism in late Imperial Russia (1890-1917) was not simply a passing fad; it had a profound and enduring impact on Russian and Soviet thought and culture…  The occult ideas that circulated in the early twentieth century in Russia contributed massively to the politics of myth and cult that culminated in Stalinism.

So, what exactly were these ‘occult ideas’?

Russia has been fascinated by mysticism for centuries, including disciplines such as magic, divination, Jewish mysticism, geomancy, alchemy, dreams, sacred stones, and others. The celebrated Tsar, Ivan the Terrible (1530 – 1584), consulted Finnish magicians, as had his father and grandfather, and understood the esoteric significance of the gem stones in his staff. A few years later, in 1586, Tsar Boris Godunov (1551 – 1605) attempted to recruit the services of the English alchemist, John Dee, who had successfully advised Queen Elizabeth I during a decisive period in British history. Although Dee cordially refused, his son Arthur, an alchemist like his father, accepted the position and served as a Moscow court physician for many years.

Russia’s obsession with the occult gave rise to a truly fascinating period of Stalinist history. The remarkable Tunguska event of 1908, believed to have been an exploding comet, created a powerful explosion that burnt an estimated 80 million trees in the Russian wilderness and seemed to stimulate what was already an esoterically fanatical country. There were three primary movements of the day, the most popular being Spiritualism, or the belief that the spirit lives on after death and can be communicated with in the astral state. Spiritualism had an international appeal and acquired millions of followers. Another movement was Theosophy, the study and practice of comparative religions, made popular by the Russian expatriate, Elena Blavatsky, who founded the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875. The third was Freemasonry, which is thought to have been introduced into Russia in 1731 by members of the Grand Lodge of England. By 1917 Russia had over 2,500 Freemasons, in addition to many Rosicrucians and Martinists, similar orders also popular at the time.

In the same year, on 13 May 1917, at the height of the Russian Revolution, three young children were visited by the Blessed Virgin in Portugal. The holy entity confided three secrets, known as the ‘Three Secrets of Fátima’. Not surprisingly, uncensored accounts reported that the children had seen a white light in the sky, not an apparition of a woman, a conclusion that appears to have been a manipulation by the Church.  The first secret dealt with visions of Hell, and the second, which was only revealed in 1941, spoke of Russia:

When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.

Sadly, the prophecy was only revealed after the start of World War II.

The question remains, with all the insight that the Blessed Virgin could have bestowed, why would she have singled out Russia, and why would she have communicated such a complex message to three young children? Half a century later, in 1990, the church revealed the third secret, which proved to be anticlimactic and appears to be pure invention. Could politics have been the reason Russia was featured in the legendary prophecies, or were occult forces at work?

The influx of Spiritualism, Theosophy and Freemasonry would have had a profound effect on a young, impressionable and ambitious Stalin. But there were other influences, too. In St Petersburg, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the Russian mystic and advisor to the Romanovs, was assassinated in 1916 amidst considerable controversy, but not before he had left a lasting impression on Russian high society. There was also an underground stream of esoteric thought leaders, such as the remarkable Rudolph Steiner (1861 – 1925), who maintained his independence from other factions and yet kept his finger on the pulse of Russian mysticism. Steiner felt that Russia was the country that best captured the spirit of the age, and whose people kept their souls open to the ‘continuous influx of the Christ-impulse’. He suggested that the ‘female’ east (Russia) should be impregnated by the ‘male’ west, although he later criticised Bolshevism, or the Marxist faction that developed into the Soviet Union, as an unhealthy hybrid of eastern mysticism with western abstract thinking. Steiner was well thought of and had credibility in influential circles. Generally speaking, one either followed his school of thought or Blavatsky’s, but not both.

Then there was the controversial work of Nikolai Fedorovich Fedorov (1828 – 1903), a free-thinking writer who, although not well known during his lifetime, became influential after this death. This was ironic, for resurrection was the focus of his work. Fedorov was adamant that resurrection was not only scientifically feasible, it was the moral obligation of society.  After his death the Fedorov movement, known as Fedorovtsy, became the ‘new black’. Led by the poet, Alexander Gorsky (1886 – 1943), Fedorovtsy championed the notion of the ‘common task’, or the obligation of all living things to resurrect the dead and, ultimately, to overcome death altogether. Nikolai Setnitsky (1888 – 1937), an advocate of Fedorov’s ideas, lobbied for the abolition of cremation and a return to more traditional burials, so that preservation of the body, and hence physical resurrection, would be possible.

Russian intellectuals were obsessed with immortality, and the preservation of Stalin’s predecessor, the beloved Communist revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin (1870 – 1924), in Red Square underpinned Fedorovtsy principles and reinforced Russia’s defiant belief that resurrection will be achieved.  And so Lenin lies in wait for his resurrection, his triumphant return reliant on technological advances.  In accordance with this belief, Lenin’s body is preserved in a cube, a shape that represents the fourth dimension and which allows the body to survive disintegration, according to Theosophists, such as the artist, Kazimir Malevich (1879 – 1935), who was adamant that Lenin’s tomb be shaped in a cube, thus ensuring immortality. Lenin’s tomb architect, Alexey Shchusev (1873 – 1949), agreed and designed three cubes for the Russian leader, representing eternity and the holy trinity.

Lenin’s tomb in the foreground, Red Square, Moscow © Andrew Gough

 

Stalin died on 9 March 1953 and was buried in Lenin’s tomb. He remained there until 1961, when a party member, a woman by the name of D.A. Lazurkina, reported at the 22nd Party Congress that Lenin had appeared to her in a dream and communicated that he no longer wanted to lie next to Stalin. Amazingly, nobody contested her claim and Stalin was promptly moved to an outside plot near the Kremlin wall.

Stalin’s tomb, near the Kremlin Wall, but separate from Lenin’s mausoleum

 

The resurgence of Fedorov’s work may have led to the development of Cosmism, a philosophical and cultural movement which attempted to establish harmony and order in a new age of technologically determined evolution. In this construct technology was not only the new alchemy, it was the surest path to immortality. In fact, many writers of the day, such as Andrei Platonov (1899 – 1951), believed that the engineer was the new prophet, magus and high priest who utilised technology to channel supernatural forces.

Invariably, Moscow’s esoteric revolution resulted in many conflicts, and in 1913 two groups, known as the Symbolists and Futurists, clashed. They disagreed on most things, except for their belief in the need for a ‘new language’. As the Bolshevik coup took hold, such movements were abolished. Nevertheless, the quest for a new language continued and would appear to have manifested itself in the dialect of technology.

The Cult of Stalin

Stalin shared many traits with Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945), including the belief that the world was a battlefield, and in 1939 he signed a secret pact with the Nazis, consisting of a ten-year, non-aggression agreement. Although Hitler would later double cross him, the two dictators had bonded over many subjects, including their complete disregard for the dignity of those whose political or ethnic origins were different to theirs. They also shared an obsession in the occult.

Pivotal to Stalin’s meteoritic rise to power was the October Uprising, or the Bolshevik Revolution of 7 November 1917. Lenin was wary of Stalin, but nevertheless appointed him General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1922.  By December the Soviet Union had been officially established. Lenin discouraged cult building, but Stalin succumbed, orchestrating the creation of his own cult of personality on his fiftieth birthday. Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal makes an intriguing observation:

Stalin was the sun and the cadres were the moons… A legend circulated that ‘Stalin knew something which no-one else could ever discover and that he was an incarnation of Manu, the Great Teacher of India’.

Military Air Force and World War II soldiers shouted, ‘For the Motherland! For Stalin!.’  Stalin had hypnotised a nation and many felt that the changes in the cadence of his speeches was a conscious technique to manipulate his audience. Curiously, Stalin banned hypnotism in 1948, suggesting that he feared its effectiveness.

Intriguingly, on his fiftieth birthday, Stalin changed the day of his birth, moving it forward in time one year and three days, from 18 to 21 December 1879, without any explanation as to why. Was it simply to commemorate the birth of a new era, or was there more to his choice of the winter solstice than met the eye?

Stalin’s behaviour became irregular following the suicide of his wife in 1932. He moved from the Kremlin, where he was tormented by her memory, to a forest in the Kuntsevo district of Moscow, where he died on 5 March 1953. Evidence suggests that he may have been murdered, and there certainly would have been many suspects. Unlike Lenin, whose letters and archives are readily available, most of Stalin’s personal archives were destroyed after his death by political heirs. What remains has been marked confidential and placed in the Presidential Archive in the Kremlin.

The cult of Stalin is found in many a Moscow Metro station © Andrew Gough

 

Stalin’s surviving possessions suggest that he admired Ivan the Terrible, as well as Peter the Great, and it was widely known that Russian rulers practised alchemy, astrology and architecture in their courts from at least the sixteenth century onwards. Peter was said to have been initiated by the legendary architect and freemason, Christopher Wren. A century later Jacob Bruce, a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, became known as the ‘Russian Faust’, due to his reputation for sorcery, which included the resurrection of a dead dog, the creation of a mute housemaid from flowers, and reversing the aging process on a old man and allowing him to be young again. Curiously, inspection of Stalin’s possessions revealed that he owned nothing made of gold. Might that have been due to his belief in alchemy and the understanding that gold could only be produced from base metals?

The Stalin bibliographer, Yevgeniya Zolotukhina, examined his library after his death and noted:

The atmosphere at the dacha was stiff and formal, the only agreeable room was the library, which had a cosy feel… He read all émigré literature that appeared in Russian… In the post-war years he became interested in books and magazines about architecture. The books could be found on his bedside table. (Zolotukhina’s account recorded on tape by Roy Medvedev).

In 1945 Stalin suffered his first stroke and became obsessed with immortality, and his architectural legacy.

Architecture: The New Language

In 1935, a dozen years before the construction of Stalin’s skyscrapers, Moscow opened its first Metro line. The Sokolnicheskaya Line, 6.8 miles long, ran deep underground and consisted of 13 stations. The line was colour coded Communist red and passed from the future site of Moscow State University, down the centre of the most pronounced bend in the Moscow River and into Red Square. At the time, the future site of Moscow State University was relatively barren, rendering the choice of Moscow’s first Metro line somewhat curious. However, there may be one very interesting reason indeed: the path taken by the Metro mirrors the trajectory of the midwinter solstice sunset. Perhaps the answer also involves the legendary Metro-2, a secret underground system, built by Stalin and known to the KGB as ‘D6’. In 1991 the US Department of Defense provided some insight:

The Soviets have constructed deep-underground both in urban Moscow and outside the city. These facilities are interconnected by a network of deep interconnected subway lines that provide a quick and secure means of evacuation for the leadership. The leadership can move from their peacetime offices through concealed entryways in protective quarters beneath the city. There are important deep-underground command posts in the Moscow area, one located at the Kremlin. Soviet press has noted the presence of an enormous underground leadership bunker adjacent to Moscow State University. These facilities are intended for the national command authority in wartime. They are estimated to be 200–300 meters deep, and can accommodate an estimated 10,000 people. A special subway line runs from some points in Moscow and possibly to the VIP terminal at Vnukovo Airfield…

The notion of two train lines, one secret, mirroring the midwinter sunset is fascinating, especially as each travels through an underground command post under Moscow State University and the (never built) Palace of the Soviets and into the Kremlin and Lenin’s tomb in Red Square.

The Sokolnicheskaya Line (left) and the top secret Metro-2 each follow the line of the winter solstice on their way to the Kremlin in Red Square

 

The second stage of the Moscow Metro opened in 1938. Fifteen years later Stalin added the Koltsevaya Line, the world’s first circular metro line. This was the pinnacle of the Stalinist era of architecture, and the Koltsevaya Line’s 12 stations remain gothic time stamps to the prosperity that Stalin was trying to create.

The Koltsevaya Line continued a long tradition of circular enclosures around Moscow. The first wall enclosed the Kremlin, and the modern-day Bulvarnoye Koltso (Boulevard Ring) road system was built over the sixteenth-century city wall, formerly called Bely Gorod (White Town). The second ring, located outside the Boulevard Ring, is called the Sadovoye Koltso (Garden Ring) and was also built over a sixteenth-century enclosure. The third ring, completed in 2003, is built outside the Garden Ring and is a high-speed freeway. A fourth motorway ring is scheduled to open and the outermost ring, the Moscow Automobile Ring Road, forms the approximate circumference of the city, encapsulating the other rings like Russian dolls.

Moscow Metro map

 

The circular line was a late addition to the Moscow Metro. It had never been envisaged. Not surprisingly, Stalin is linked to its genesis, and it is said that when he removed his coffee cup from the Moscow Metro development map it left a brown circular stain, which prompted the idea and sealed the colour code of the line as brown. He is often quoted as having said, ‘It’s your main fault, it should be built.’ Could the urban myth of the brown coffee ring be a cover for the real reason he wanted to introduce a circular ring around Moscow? Did Stalin have a master plan? The image of a skyscraper inside a five-pointed star inside a circle is a common theme on the Stalin-inspired circular line.

Stalin was aware that the rest of the world, and particularly the United States, had embraced technology to create inspiring skyscrapers and that Moscow had none. Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev (1894 – 1971), recalls Stalin’s thinking on the matter: ‘We won the war… foreigners will come to Moscow, walk around, and there are no skyscrapers. If they compare Moscow to capitalist cities, it’s a moral blow to us.’ Enter the first Soviet high-rise project, an absolutely stunning, audacious and jaw-dropping design, complete with a gigantic statue of Lenin on top. It was going to be called the ‘Palace of the Soviets’, and Stalin had intended to be buried in it.

Common Stalinist artwork on the Moscow Metro circular line shows skyscrapers inside a circle and a five-pointed star © Andrew Gough

 

A common mural on the Stalinist Koltsevaya Line shows a five-pointed star at the top of a circle with the sun radiating beneath © Andrew Gough

 

The whole notion of a skyscraper continued an ancient tradition of fabulous structures defining Man’s mastery of his world: buildings such as the Tower of Babel and the Great Pyramid of Giza, which at 146 metres remained the tallest building in the world until Lincoln Cathedral in England was constructed (1311 – 1549); only usurped by Washington’s Monument in 1884. Today, the tallest man-made structure in the world is Khalifa Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, measuring 829.8 metres (2,722 feet).

And so, in 1935, encouraged by the designs for the Palace of the Soviets, Stalin unveiled what was called the Moscow Master Plan, which consisted of guidelines for new developments and called for buildings to be at least six storeys high. Around the same time he sponsored a series of Moscow canals and avenues. Two years later, in 1937, the foundation for the Palace of the Soviets was laid and the iconic skyscraper was featured on stamps. Disappointingly, the project was halted in 1941 and the site abandoned, but not before it was stripped of its steel frame for use in fortifying Moscow’s defence ring. Russia’s entrance into the world of skyscrapers, with a building that would have been the world’s tallest, would have to wait – the German invasion had begun. Hitler had reneged on his promise and this meant war. Seventeen years later the skyscraper’s foundations were reused for what would become the world’s largest open-air swimming pool. Fortunately, the swimming pool was torn down and a replica of the original cathedral Stalin had demolished was rebuilt in the late 1990s.

Design of the never-built Palace of the Soviets

 

Between 1947 and 1956 the Russian architect, Boris Iofan, promoted over a half dozen designs for the Palace of the Soviets, in the hope of rejuvenating the project. Stalin rejected each, in part due to the fact that he had devised something better – an eight-skyscraper development plan known as Vysotki. The official decree commenced in January 1947 and the building sites were selected over the first nine months of the year. As noted, Stalin appeared to have a very specific idea about where each high-rise would be situated, and the selection process remained confidential. Equally as curious, Stalin shunned the architectural establishment – in particular the Neoclassical Revival architects from St Petersburg, and the Russky Modern architects from Moscow – and awarded commission of the skyscrapers to a young and relatively unknown generation of architects. In many instances Stalin held contests for the best design and overrode the committee by appointing his own selection. Those lucky enough to be granted a commission were not guaranteed artistic freedom, for Stalin insisted on the final design and was outspoken about which statues the architect selected for the buildings’ exterior. In fact, there was one thing upon which Stalin was particularly insistent: each skyscraper must have a tower with a five-pointed star.

Bridge leading to the Church of Christ the Saviour, the former site of the Palace of the Soviets and the world’s biggest outdoor swimming pool © Andrew Gough

 

Towers and Pentagrams

Popular literature portrayed Stalin as Satan, and the five-pointed star, or pentagram, that he insisted should crown his skyscrapers, was an occult symbol which represented the devil when viewed upside down.  The five-pointed red star, in particular, is a quintessential symbol of Communism, red being the colour of socialism and the five points representing the working man’s five fingers. Along with the hammer and sickle, the five-pointed red star branded the Soviet Union under the rule of the Communist Party. The star represented the masculine potency of the Red Army, while the hammer and sickle represented the feminine aspect of harmonious society. A classic example of early Stalinist architecture, the Red Army Theatre was built in the shape of a five-pointed star by architects, K. Alabyan and V. Simbirtsev, and boasts the largest stage in Europe. In an act of symbolic genius Stalin placed the five-pointed star at the top centre of the circular Metro line, an obvious, but yet ignored, act of deliberate esoteric intent.

The five-pointed red star was a popular symbol during the Russian Civil War and the Russian Marxist, founder and first leader of the Red Army, Leon Trotsky (1879 – 1940), reinforced its masculine aspect when he publicly referred to it as the ‘red star of battle’. The symbol remains emotive and many countries have banned the image due to the belief that it encapsulates a ‘totalitarian ideology’. Most, however, recognise the five-pointed star not as a Soviet invention, but as a pentagram, an ancient and sacred shape that was used in Mesopotamia and many cultures and faiths thereafter, including Pythagoreans in ancient Greece and today’s Neopaganism. The notion of Stalin building his own Tower of Babel (like the one in Mesopotamia) and topping it off with a pentagram seems beyond coincidence. Like the Nazi Party, which around the same time had adopted the ancient and benevolent symbol of the swastika as the emblem of their regime, Stalin had chosen an ancient symbol, the pentagram, as the emblem of his era, dictatorship and cult.

It should be noted that the five-pointed stars that top Stalin’s skyscrapers are golden, which differs from the traditional five-pointed red stars that top the older Russian buildings in Red Square, such as the Kremlin. Could this deliberate deviation be an attempt to portray the golden age of man? The idea may not be as far fetched as it first appears.

Aerial view of Stalin’s five-sided Red Army Theatre

 

Some have argued that the construction of Stalin’s skyscrapers paled in comparison to others and that they used over-engineered steel frames, such as the seven-metre thick frame of Moscow State University, and that this was the real reason they were not taller; they were too heavy. As a result, the demand on labour and raw materials that the simultaneous construction of eight skyscrapers placed on Russia adversely impacted upon urban development. For instance, during the years 1947, 1948 and 1949 Moscow built a total of 100,000, 270,000, and 405,000 square metres of housing, while during that same period Stalin’s skyscrapers exceeded 500,000 square metres and at a higher cost.

Moscow State University (MSU) was the first and largest of Stalin’s skyscrapers, having been constructed in September 1953.

Although furthest from the city centre, the University is the most prominently placed of Stalin’s skyscrapers. Built on Sparrow Hills, the University is positioned at the centre of a significant bend in the Moscow River, and hints at further alignments. The skyscraper was built by Lev Rudnev, a high-profile architect within the Party, who also designed the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw between 1952 and 1955 – a gift from Stalin to the Polish people, constructed in classic Stalinist architectural style.

Rudnev had taken over from Boris Iofan, who had drafted his design for the skyscraper too close to the hillside, a mistake he refused to admit and which cost him the job. Correcting Iofan’s miscalculation, Rudnev placed the University a further 800 metres from the cliff. At 787.4 feet (240 metres) tall, Moscow State University was the largest building in Europe. The building’s construction was carried out mostly by German prisoners of war and totalled over 14,000 in all. A macabre legend tells of workers living on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth floors and constructing plywood gliders, which they rode to their deaths in a desperate attempt to escape their repressive fate.

Three of Stalin’s Seven Sisters Towers and the Kremlin © Andrew Gough

 

Tragically, the skyscraper scheduled after Moscow State University was never built. Situated near Red Square, Zaryadye Administrative Building would have been the second of eight skyscrapers and the most centrally located. What makes its abandonment at the foundation stage so tragic, besides the compromise of Stalin’s master plan, was that in 1947 the medieval district known as Zaryadye, the oldest trading settlement outside the Kremlin, was obliterated to make room for the colossal 32-storey, 275-metre-high skyscraper.

Dmitry Nikolaevich Chechulin (1901 – 1981), the renowned architect, who as a young man was one of the 12 finalists for the aborted Palace of the Soviets project, and who later designed our spectacular stations on the Moscow Metro, was commissioned for the job. Two decades later Chechulin was awarded the commission to build Rossiya Hotel on the same spot. Forty years later the hotel was demolished. Curiously, the skyscraper would have been the only one without the five-pointed star at its top. The Zaryadye Administrative Building had been designed with planet Earth depicted on the top of its tower.

The dramatic, yet never built, Eighth Sister: the Zaryadye Administrative Building

 

Built in 1953 at a height of 198 metres and 34 storeys, Hotel Ukraina (the Radisson Royal Hotel since 2010) became the second tallest of Moscow’s skyscrapers and remained the largest hotel in the world for over two decades. Its architects, Arkady Mordvinov and Vyacheslav Oltarzhevsky, were leading Soviet experts on steel-framed construction who, as a result of Stalin’s insistence that the building be placed in a precise location near the Moscow River, introduced an innovative technique for digging below the water level, using a water-retention system that utilised a perimeter of submerged needle pumps.

Hotel Ukraina © Andrew Gough

 

The 172-metre, 27-storey skyscraper known as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was built by the Russian architects, V.G. Gelfreih and A.B. Minkus, between 1948 and 1953. Like the others, Stalin intervened and modified elements of its design, most notably the last-minute addition of a metal spire that would support the five-pointed star.

The 136-metre, 26-storey skyscraper known as the Leningradskaya Hotel (a Hilton hotel from 2008) was designed by Leonid Polyakov and is situated in Komsomolskaya Square, in the shadow of the Stalinist railway station of the same name. Polyakov was later stripped of his 1948 Stalin Prize when criticism was levelled that the interior was wastefully designed.

The 176-metre-high skyscraper known as the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building was built with 22 functional floors. The domineering structure was again designed by Chechulin as elite housing, and holds the distinction of having been built on a spot where Stalin had ordered the confluence of the Moskva River and Yauza Rivers to be redirected.

The 160-metre-high, 22-storey Kudrinskaya Square Building was designed by Mikhail Posokhin (Sr.) and Ashot Mndoyants and was intended to house upmarket apartments for Soviet cultural leaders. The skyscraper’s top two floors are said to have been designed for KGB officers, who spied on the nearby United States embassy. 

Kudrinskaya Square © Andrew Gough

 

At 133 metres and 24 levels, the Red Gates Administrative Building is the smallest of the Seven Sisters. Designed by the respected Moscow Metro designer, Alexey Dushkin, the high-rise includes the customary tower with a five-pointed star. Once again, Stalin insisted on a location that was not ideal; the site was known to move as frozen soil thawed, and so the building was constructed with a deliberate tilt, in order to compensate for the seasonal fluctuation. The contractors overcompensated when warming the soil by pumping hot water and the skyscraper now tilts to the other side – not ideal for a major construction project by any stretch of the imagination.

What Does It All Mean?

When testing hypotheses, one must apply Occam’s razor, or the notion that the simplest explanation needs to be exhausted first, before more extraordinary alternatives are pursued. With this in mind, we should acknowledge the fact that 1947 was the 800th anniversary of Moscow. Might the eight skyscrapers simply have been commemorating each century of Moscow’s illustrious past? The explanation seems logical, as does the fact that the eighth skyscraper was one of the last to be constructed and was never finished, due to political disdain for Stalin after his death. So, one would be forgiven for asking, where’s the mystery?

On the surface the only real mystery is why Stalin took such an active role in the construction of the skyscrapers, and their placement, especially at a time when war was threatening Russia’s very existence. The fact that Stalin disrupted rivers and razed historic districts and monuments in order to build the towers prompts us to at least consider the possibility that he had a hidden agenda.

Moscow tour guides take pride in sharing that the skyscrapers were constructed over energy points. Others have argued that Moscow forms part of a sacred energy grid, connecting to other energy hot spots in other cities around the world. Focusing on more demonstrable evidence, we know that Stalin commissioned the first Metro line to mirror the midwinter sunset line, and then added the circular Metro line, with 12 stops, placing seven skyscrapers within it, and a five-pointed star directly on top in the form of the Red Army Theatre. This design, a five-pointed star within a circle, is a common Stalinist-era design feature, especially in the Stalinist Metro stations on the circular line, and conjures the possibility that a five-pointed star might also be encoded on the ground across Moscow, not just above the circle.

Stalinist detail on the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building © Andrew Gough

 

I have looked for alignments of all types between the eight skyscrapers, and the aborted Palace of the Soviets, yet none have revealed themselves. What seem interesting, especially as Stalin considered himself to be the Sun, and wanted to be buried in the Palace of the Soviets, is that the eight skyscrapers could symbolically represent the eight planets revolving around the Sun, i.e. the Palace of the Soviets. This hypothesis is intriguing, especially as the Moscow River, which winds around the skyscrapers, could represent the Milky Way. Disappointingly, the placement of the eight skyscrapers does not match anything in the sky at that time or in any other period in Moscow’s history. Yet, the scenario remains an intriguing possibility.

Another notion worth exploring is the term ‘Seven Sisters’, for although it appears to be a westernised description of the skyscrapers, it does invoke some relevant mythology.  The political reference in Fatima’s second secret, shared during the alleged apparition of the Blessed Virgin in Portugal in 1917 – and the time of Stalin’s ascent to power, and the publishing of the second secret during the planning stages of Stalin’s skyscrapers – might suggest that the skyscrapers were a veiled reference to the Seven Sorrows (significant events) of the Blessed Virgin, who, as we recall, believed that Russia should convert to the Immaculate Heart.

The phrase, ‘Seven Sisters’, is also the name of a star cluster in the Pleiades, and in Greek mythology it represents the companions of Artemis. Perhaps most tellingly, it refers to the Hesperides, the nymphs (often thought to have been seven in number) who oversee a magical garden containing the golden apples of immortality. This is intriguing, for King Atlas, who is credited with creating the globe, and astronomy, had seven daughters who were known as the ‘Hesperides’, and it was their responsibility to tend to the Tree of Life where the golden apples of immortality grew.

Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building © Andrew Gough

 

A challenge to this hypothesis is the fact that Stalin was planning for eight skyscrapers, not seven, although a possible explanation is that only seven were destined to exist inside the sacred circle, which (in this framework) represents the garden of immortality – Moscow had symbolically become Arcadia, a heavenly paradise on Earth. Remember, the name of the primary ring around the city is the ‘Garden Ring’.  And, what is more, a dragon/serpent by the name of Ladon was said to be entwined around the Tree of Life in the Garden of the Hesperides, his job being to protect the golden apples of immortality. One could argue that in Stalin’s eyes Ladon was the Moscow River, and that the symbolism of Ladon, the guardian dragon, included Moscow State University, as it guards the entrance of the ancient city enclosure in the distance.

The number seven is also associated with immortality. This is interesting, for when we connect each skyscraper a lightning bolt, or dragon, appears in the form of an inverted number seven. The lightning bolt is a fascinating possibility, for the rune symbol for  a lightning bolt represents power, control and magic. Synergy or intent, the symbolism recalls the seven thunders and the red dragon of mythology with seven heads. There are also seven crowns in the bible. Perhaps most tellingly, the painter, John Singer Sargent’s, famous work, Atlas and the Hesperides, features a man inside a circle, holding the Earth on his back and shoulders, while seven nymphs lie around him. Further, an inverted seven – and two sevens, when multiplied together equal 49, the number of days it takes the soul to reincarnate after death, according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead.  Other related associations of the double seven are the Greek God, Pan, the Goat, the creator and destroyer, whose number is 77. The winter solstice is ruled by the goat, i.e. Capricorn, the Soviet Union – in the Soviet Union, the astral chart of the Sun was in Capricorn. The number seven is frequently associated with rulers, such as the Mesopotamian god, Enlil. Was Stalin trying to convey that he, too, was a god?

When connected, do Stalin’s skyscrapers form an inverted seven, a thunderbolt or a dragon?

 

Despite the poetic, yet unlikely, possibility of the Hesperides hypothesis, I was astonished to have found support for the theory inside the Leningradskaya, one of the last of Stalin’s skyscrapers to be completed. Entering the building, which was designed to be a hotel, and which was faithfully restored in 2008, is akin to entering a temple. Immediately on the floor in front of you are two five-pointed stars, superimposed upon each other and forming a ten-pointed star; an occult and Masonic symbol that suggests that Man has ascended as a star, perfect in the eyes of the gods. The ten-pointed star is also the symbol of Baphomet and is associated with druids and other ancient priesthoods. It also represents Capricorn, Saturn, the tenth House. It symbolises strength, prosperity and harmony with the natural kingdom; the perfect symbol of an Arcadian garden. Above the ten-pointed star is a glass roof, which forms the bottom of a pyramid and extends through the exterior of the hotel.

The ten-pointed star at the entrance to the Leningradskaya Hotel © Andrew Gough

 

Next, one passes through a gilded gate, designed to resemble the golden gates of Verhaspassky Cathedral in the Kremlin. This is powerful symbolism, for the Verhaspassky tower was constructed in 1491, during the reign of Ivan III, and served as the gate that every procession from the Kremlin must pass through. The gate was worshipped as sacred and men were forbidden to pass through on horseback or while wearing hats.In this context, it is not inconceivable that Stalin was attempting to capture the legacy of Atlantis, which was purported to have been the City of the Golden Gates and an Arcadian civilisation, just as he had envisaged Moscow. From here one proceeds into a lobby silhouetted by a second golden gate, fashioned from stone so rare that it can only be found in one place in Russia (or the world, for that matter) and which possesses a rich, golden marble colour. Carved on the gate are the golden apples of immortality, along with other garden fruit. The images are found throughout the hotel and are always golden – just like the five-pointed stars on all of Stalin’s skyscrapers. From here one enters the elevator and symbolically ascends to the heavens. Concealed on either side of the elevator shaft are two bronze chandeliers, which rise through the winding staircase for many floors, earning them mention in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest bronze candeliers in the world – a sort of Tree of Life version of Jacob’s Ladder. And in the grand ballroom a mural of the skyscraper is shown amidst an Arcadian garden.

The colour gold dominates Stalin’s most authentically refurbished skyscraper; and not only does the colour denote wisdom, spirituality and wealth, it represents eternity, as symbolised today by wedding bands. It also represents eternity, illumination and the Sun!

The rarified golden granite of the second gate, the golden apples of immortality and the skyscraper as part of an Arcadian garden © Andrew Gough

 

The symbolism of immortality, and the seven nymphs of Hesperides as the seven towers within the Arcadian garden ring of Moscow, is alluring, but are there other signs that immortality was a theme that Stalin was trying to convey, if not achieve. As we have seen, the great thinkers of Stalin’s time were obsessed with the idea of resurrection. They also sought a new language. Might that dialect have been technology?  Could technology have been Stalin’s vision for commemorating Moscow and immortalising himself in the process? If so, is there further evidence of his pursuit of this quest? The answer is yes, or so it would appear.

As previously mentioned, Stalin did a peculiar thing in 1928, the year of his fiftieth birthday. He moved his birthday ahead one year and three days, from 18 to 21 December, the winter solstice; the shortest day of the year and the day with the most potent symbol of resurrection in our calendar.  To understand his motivation we must return to Moscow State University, the first of Stalin’s skyscrapers. I had the good fortune to visit the skyscraper on 20 December and noticed that the midwinter sunset fell directly overhead and onto Red Square in the distance. I had a hunch, and the next morning, on the winter solstice, I visited Red Square and confirmed that the winter solstice sun not only rose over Red Square, it beamed on Lenin and Stalin’s tombs. Each adjoins the wall of the Kremlin, which is designed with Irminsul-shaped curvatures along the top, an ancient symbol of protection that was featured in Knossos, Crete, to protect the seafaring traders from the evil eye.

Later that day I visited the Museum of Architecture and studied old maps of the city. It was easy to see how pronounced the midwinter sunrise line actually was. Moscow State University is a beacon that the sun traverses as it symbolically impregnates an unambiguously vulva-shaped bend in the Moscow River on its way to Lenin’s tomb. The Kremlin, along with Lenin’s tomb, was located at the intersection of the midwinter sunrise and sunset. The symbolism of resurrection could not have been stronger.

Midwinter sunrise in Red Square. © Andrew Gough

 

Consultation with a friend, a renowned astrologer, provided collaborating insight. Without giving away my hypothesis, I inquired as to the astrological significance of 1pm on 12 September 1947, the precise hour at which Stalin had laid the foundation stones for each skyscraper. She revealed that the time proved a unique and optimal opportunity for a master power to unveil a hidden, but potent, plan. A powerful conjunction with Saturn and Pluto, she added, meant that the public could be controlled and manipulated. People would love what was created at this time, but the powerful influence of Jupiter would ensure that the underground stream would go unnoticed; a perfect time to introduce a new religion.

The explanation resonated, yet was ironic, for in 1928 Stalin introduced a hard-line policy on science, which became the official line of Soviet astronomy by 1931, and introduced the policy that ‘astronomy must serve ideology and the economy’. In short, Soviet astronomy must support the Stalinist regime. This led to what are known as the 1929-1930 and 1936-37 Purges of Soviet Astronomers, when top Russian astronomers were arrested and charged with counter-revolutionary activity and participating in a Fascist, terrorist organisation, with the intent to conspire against the government. Those accused were placed in camps, murdered, or all three. Yet now Stalin was embracing the knowledge of an ancient science. He was acting in accordance with the stars and banking on their benevolence to help ensure his immortality.

Map of the Seven Sisters: 1 is Moscow State University; 5 (Palace of the Soviets) and 6 (the eighth skyscraper) were never built

 

Intrigued, I asked for insight into why Stalin altered his birthday on his fiftieth birthday, the day historians cite as the start of his ‘cult of personality’, the beginning of a media campaign to portray Stalin as a larger than life superhero. By moving his birthday forward a year and three days, she added, Stalin changed his chart dramatically. He would have believed that he had changed his destiny. By changing his birthday, the moon changed from Libra to Aries, which, in conjunction with Saturn in Aries, represents control, unquestionable authority, a dictatorship and a fearless warrior. As if that was not enough, she added that the Sun in conjunction with Capricorn ascendant ensures that the world sees his ‘light’ and ‘venerates’ him as the Sun. Additionally, Venus in Scorpio, in the tenth house, ensures that the public value his work and that he is loved, yet, at the same time, it allows him to carry out hidden agendas. Most poignantly, by moving the date of his birthday ahead a year and three days, and to the winter solstice, Stalin was modifying his natural birth chart, which included the sun at 26° of Sagittarius, and by moving it 3° it mirrored the winter solstice alignment of 29° of Sagittarius. By establishing himself as the Sun, Stalin was symbolically enacting his resurrection. The one and unequivocal leader of Russia was borrowing from the ancient tradition of dying and returning from the underworld three days (and 3°) later, in this instance on the 21st, each year, thus ensuring his immortality. 

Did Stalin share in the Russian mysticism that was rampant throughout his life time and, if so, did he exhibit esoteric intent with his actions? It would appear so. This fact, however, does not absolve him of his many atrocities. It simply puts into perspective that, like many world leaders before and since, Stalin looked beyond the mundane to the supernatural for inspiration and guidance – especially the quest for immortality.

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank three friends: Lidia Dor, a Moscow resident, who provided tireless assistance and an invaluable local perspective; Star Peimbert (nydunicorn@gmail.com), for her brilliant research and astrological interpretations, and my colleague, Alf Saggese, for pointing out the Seven Sisters and suggesting I look deeper.