The Map as a Promise

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Although only partially implemented, “The General Plan for the Reconstruction of the City of Moscow” conceived by a commission under Lazar Kaganovich and signed by Stalin and Molotov on July 10, 1935, left many traces in the urban fabric of the city and determined its development over the next decades. The Plan betrays an effort to find a balance between “the old” and “the new.” Rejecting both the proposals to preserve the existing city as a “museum-city,” while building a “new city” around it and the idea to build the whole city anew, the Central Committee articulates its plan for Moscow in terms of “radical re-structuring” of the city that is based, however, on the existing spatial organization (“ЦК ВКП(б)  и  СНК  СССР  считают,  что при  определении  плана  Москвы необходимо  исходить  из сохранения основ исторически  сложившегося гoрода,  но  с  коренной  перепланировкой  его  путем  решительного упорядочения  сети городских улиц и площадей”). 

The new Moscow, home to 5 million people, the capital of the Soviet state, “a capital worthy of the proletarian state,” was conceived as a city that must “reflect the greatness and beauty of the socialist epoch.”  

Insofar as this map can be seen as a graphic representation of some of the goals emphasized in the Plan, it captures a vision of ideal Moscow, but it also constitutes a “promise” for the future.

In trying to figure out what kind of promise this particular map makes, we focused on the following questions:

  • What does this map actually map? 
  • What is the relation between “real” and “imagined” spaces in this map? Does it reflect the reality of Moscow on the ground in 1935, the intentions for the city, or both? How does it show the (proposed) change in urban fabric over time?
  • Why does this map define itself as a “skhema planirovki” (layout plan)? If any map is by definition a “diagrammatic representation,” what does the title—one that draws attention to the fact that this map is a schematic representation of the general layout of the city— signify? And how does it shape the process of reading the map?
  • What kind of cultural space does this map promise to Moscow? What is the hierarchy of spaces portrayed: built / non-built, street / non-street, constructed / green? What is visually stressed? 
The Map as a Promise