Back to Index

RUSSIA: GUM and Lenin's Body

From Moscow.Cameron Sawyer reports: "The State Universal Store, or GUM, on Red Square, was built in the 1890's as the Upper Trading Galleries, to supplement the ancient closed market called Gostinny Dvor next door (part of which, incidentally, I am rebuilding into a hotel). It was one of the first enclosed shopping malls in the world; built on the model established by the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele in Milan. It is an exquisitely beautiful structure, which unfortunately got rather run down during Soviet times. I first saw it in 1980, when it was an eerie symbol of the Soviet attitude towards consumer goods long queues of people waiting to exchange their rubles for a tiny selection of dusty, shoddy goods, with accounts calculated on abacuses, and purchases wrapped in dusty newspaper. It was a kind of surrealistic vision of a nightmarish Orwellian future juxtaposed on the 19th century.

Today GUM has been privatized as a publicly traded corporation. It has been lovingly restored and has regained practically all of its lost splendor. Most of the retail spaced is now leased to expensive boutiques such as Hugo Boss, Benetton, Yves Rocher, Galerie Lafayette, Clinique, Este Lauder, etc. It has an excellent website with online shopping, real time tracking of the value of GUM stock, and a virtual tour of the restored building:

This year it celebrated its 110th anniversary:
Anniversary cake of Moscow shopping mall to go down in Guinness Book of Records

The Central Shopping Mall of Moscow, GUM has ordered the biggest cake in the world to celebrate its 110th anniversary. As a Rosbalt correspondent was informed by the press department of the Moscow administration, the cake will weigh 3 tonnes, will be over 3 metres high and over 6 metres in diameter. Preparation of the cake has already begun with 20 confectioners attempting to make two tonnes of sponge-cake according to a special recipe. Over a tonne of icing sugar, jam and marzipan will decorate the cake. 110 candles will be placed on top.

The presentation and tasting of the cake will take place on June 7 at 15:00 by the central fountain. Estimates suggest that about 10 thousand people will be able to try the record-breaking cake, created by the best confectioners in the world. Famous sportsmen, artists and politicians will take part at the presentation ceremony as well as representatives of the Guinness Book of Records. [RH: Simple folk may not be able to patronize the restored GUM, but let them eat cake!]

As to Stalin's body, it is buried discreetly next to the Kremlin wall, not in it. It is half-hidden behind Lenin's tomb, and so I am not aware that anyone particularly cares about reburying it. The big controversy has been about reburying Lenin. Many Russians consider it a sacrilege to display his corpse in this manner".

Les Robinson indulges in an odious comparison: "There was ghoulish speculation MacDonald's would move into Lenin's tomb after his body was moved out. Incidentally, when we were there, our guide didn't take us to the tomb (I think she was disgusted at the thought); a guide in Beijing did take us to see Mao, who was displayed much more ceremoniously than Lenin apparently was--at least in bigger quarters".

Ronald Hilton - 11.18.03