Originally founded under the name Simbirsk, the city of Ulyanovsk was renamed in 1924 in honor of its most famous native son, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov “Lenin.” Nearly fifty years later, the city of Ulyanovsk decided to undergo a series of construction projects in commemoration of the leader’s centennial and the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The project was promulgated with the slogan “The Homeland of the Leader of the World Revolution Must Live Up to Its Status,” and consisted of a massive hotel and a monument for Vladimir Lenin. The hotel was to be completed by October 1967, the 50-year-mark of the October Revolution and the monument was to be completed by April 1970, the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Lenin’s birth.
The structures were to reflect the “ideal” as envisioned by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In order to understand this concept, Moscow-based artist Kirill Gluschenko ventured to the modern-day Venets Hotel – digging through its archives, and listening to the stories of its veteran employees and residents. The final product was an installation comprised of reconstructed versions of the Venets Hotel’s suite rooms in accordance to a photo album published in 1970. The installation, completed with the assistance of the VAC Foundation, premiered at the Space Force Construction exhibition for the Venice Biennale.
One of the core facets of the installation was a book published by Gluschenkoizdat, the artist’s fictional publishing house whose name functions as a pun on Soviet publishing jargon, i.e. the Soviet construction publishing house “stroiizdat.” The book explores the history of the 23-story hotel, assembling newspaper articles from the local edition of the Soviet broadsheet newspaper Pravda, with previously confidential documents from the Ulyanovsk chapter of the CPSU archives and official photo-reportages featuring everyday snapshots of the hotel’s employees. Also appearing in the book, is a short story written by Gluschenko’s collaborator Grigor Atanesian based on the diary of Moscow journalist Boris Mertz. The story provides a rare firsthand glimpse at the days spent in the Venets Hotel just before its 1970 opening, as well as details of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev’s visit. The book will soon be available for purchase on amazon.com, as well as a few bookstores across Europe.
Accompanying the project is a short documentary Gluschenko filmed in collaboration with the INRUSSIA team. Shots of the hotel’s contemporary interior coupled with its employees’ nostalgic firsthand accounts provide a timeless glimpse into the world of Venets, that crosses the temporal borders between the Soviet era and the present day.
For a more detailed description of the project, click here.