Don’t worry, my current fetish for holes in the ground will have played itself out by the end of this article. However, whilst we are on the subject of the subterranean Soviet escapades, it would be remiss to leave out another iconic Moscow bunker: the personal domain of Joseph Stalin himself.
First, some disambiguation: this is not Bunker 42, located in the Tagansky district (we’ve already featured that). Stalin’s Bunker is instead found in Izmaylovo as part of the Central Armed Forces Museum. Obvious, right? Apparently not. The two locations are routinely muddled on the internet, resulting in a weird hybrid that creatively blends elements of both locales whilst failing to exist in its own right.
Also, for extra clarity: there is also another popular version of “Stalin’s Bunker” found in Samarskaya oblast, whose principal city “Samara” is nearly 860 Km East of Moscow. Best not get those two destinations cross-wired.
Light use only
Surprisingly perhaps, both Stalin’s Bunker/s and Bunker 42 received little use by the man himself, who preferred to direct operations from within the Kremlin. The final two months of 1941 saw him ensconced however, as Germany assaulted the city during the infamous Battle of Moscow. War historians may note that it was here that the make-or-break decision to defend Moscow to the end was made.
With desperation, determination and the Russian winter on their side; Stalin’s forces prevailed. Bunker 42 wasn’t even complete at the time of Stalin’s death in 1953 and was only fully realised 3 years later.
Compact and bijou
Although the facility is not extensive by later standards -nor deeply located underground- it still contains the essentials for a last-ditch command post, and with some luxurious decor to boot. With some of the facility closed off however; the contemporary tourist experience is perhaps a little more “bijou” than it could have been, as you will see.
At any rate, it presents an insight into the last-stand mentality of a pre-nuclear age, with it’s 4 metre thick walls designed to withstand conventional munitions, whilst still allowing easy access to a habitable surface. Those were the days.
En suite facilities
Stalin’s study (including personal effects) and his rest room were included along with a dining room, a sumptuous entrance hallway and a similarly adorned cylindrical, domed Session Hall – whose acoustics were designed to naturally amplify and disperse Stalin’s voice. Additionally the structure incorporates a High Command room plus service rooms for military personnel and security staff but these (including High Command) are off limits at the time of writing.
Also inaccessible is the fabled 17 Km tunnel to the Kremlin; large enough to drive a car through and still considered at least semi-secret. The whole endeavour was built under a “cover” project to mask the secret construction work. This “cover”, the 120, 000 seater All Union Sports Complex, (now Ismailovo Stadium) still remains today, adding new meaning to the phrase “on-site gym facilities”.
The big after-party
The quaint, semi-mythic rationale at work suggested that the Nazis -prone to theatrical grandstanding- would not bomb such a magnificent Moscow stadium that could host those inevitable post-victory rallies.
Incidentally, the Astoria hotel in central St.Petersburg was also earmarked for triumphant surrender celebrations – it also had a convenient balcony from which the Fuhrer could address triumphant troops and conquered citizens alike – what better locales could any incoming dictator enjoy?