Russia’s splendour in the fog.

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Stalin, like any other dictator, had a thing for grandeur, and it spread, every satellite state wanted to contribute to his glory, and so, in the 1950s, Berlin, the capital of the GDR, had its Stalin-Allee constructed, a magnificent architectural endeavour, let’s no longer praise God or anybody in power by His grace, let’s praise Stalin, our real saviour, and let’s do it in style, midcentury neo-classicism with a touch of gingerbread, somehow reminiscent of Karl-Friedrich Schinkel, a reflection of proletarian power, adorned post-revolutionary self-importance rather than self-confidence, miles of praise of somebody who soon would be politically incorrect, even in Russia, but let’s not worry about that, there’s still Karl Marx to be proud of, philosopher, economist and saint to the communists, a saint who stated religion was the opium of the people, let’s honour him and have the boulevard renamed. Today, long after the Berlin wall has come down, long after communism has failed entirely, it’s still called Karl-Marx-Allee, the magnificent bookshop on it bears his name as well, it made it even into a favourite movie of mine, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Life of Others”, which won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2007, but I seem to digress, anyway, Stalin’s persona non grata for all eternity, but Karl Marx is still among us, as he has never killed anyone, let alone millions, and so the communist era still hasn’t lost its splendour, at least not on Berlin’s Karl-Marx-Allee.

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One thought on “Russia’s splendour in the fog.

  1. Thank you for the magnificent writing and photos!! This is one of my very favourite places in Berlin and one of the few that is still authentically East German in such a gentrified area. I remember my first visit there, making a pilgrimage after seeing the film to the bookshop. I was devastated when I returned another time to find it closed but still dream of getting an apartment on that street. I didn’t make it back there last autumn because it poured with rain nearly all the time so what a joy it is to revisit it here. Thank you Jan! And thanks to Karl Marx.

    Liked by 1 person

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