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Martina Koukalová

„Mám vám pověděti své dojmy z Moskvy a Leningradu“. Z cesty architekta Ladislava Machoně do SSSR

The interest of the left-wing avant-garde in political and social developments in the Soviet Union reached a height in the first half of the 1930s. While in Czechoslovakia the building industry had almost come to a halt under the effects of the international economic crisis, the Soviet Union was experiencing an unprecedented architectural boom. However, only a handful of Czechs architects ever travelled for study or business purposes to the USSR because of the time, money, and bureaucracy involved in doing so, and only some of them wrote about their observations and experiences. A preserved copy of a lecture by architect Ladislav Machoň (1888–1973), who visited the Soviet Union in late April and early May 1932, is a revelation in that Machoň was not a part of the avant-garde but belonged rather to the older generation of students of Jan Kotěra. His visit to the USSR was organised by the Russian travel office Inturist, which, among other objectives, to promote the country in the West arranged carefully planned and quite full programmes for its clients. Machoň‘s observations from his trip reflect the fact that this was a tourist trip and that he spent only a few days in Moscow and Leningrad. The lecture is more form of travel writing than a scholarly piece of work, which is also apparent in the colloquial style of language and the fact that the author devotes considerable space to describing historical monuments. Like other contemporary architects he relates in detail the journey by train, border crossings, and everyday life in the streets, which showed the contradictory nature of the information about the USSR being published in the contemporary right-wing and left-wing press. Machoň does not hide his admiration for the great number of newly built buildings, but he is critical of the execution of the construction work and the quality of the architectural designs.

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