Exhibition "A Must-Visit"

24 October, Wednesday

Exhibition of the State Museum of Political History of Russia is dedicated to the First All-Russia Agricultural and Handicraft & Industrial Exhibition-1923 held in Moscow. It was a predecessor of All-Union Agricultural Exhibitions (VSKhV), the National Economy Achievements Exhibitions (in VDNKh) and the current All-Russian Exhibition Centre (VVC)

95 years later, the authors leave it with the visitors to form their own opinions of this event, so remote in time. Just have a walk around this unusual exhibition of Exhibition! You will see authentic artefacts and replicas of 1923 representing the accomplishments of agricultural theory and practice, as well as all possible ways to apply these achievements in the Soviet republics’ and regions’ agriculture.

Also exhibited are copies of rare drawings and photos of exhibition pavilions, as well as archival documents reflecting complex and difficult activities, original photographs, posters and promotional publications of the period, stored in our Museum. You will have a chance to watch a unique movie about the exhibition.

After the ordeal of the civil war, the Soviet population felt acute need for some confidence in the future, no matter how shaky their hopes could be. Total economic disruption, the population’s discontent of the Government policy made the country's authorities do their best to search for a way out of the disastrous situation. They had to give the people a glimpse at a bright future, convince them that they were to live and work in the new society. The steps to be taken to this end included the revival of exhibition business. Thus the display of accomplishments in various fields of the national economy became a propaganda tool to influence the broad public.

1921 saw the Council of people's Commissars take a decision on the establishment of the All-Russian Exhibition Committee (abbreviation transliterated as VseRosVystavkom) “to conduct the All-Russian Exhibition, manage the exhibition business in the country and coordinate the activities of exhibition departments established in all people's commissariats of the Republic”. [People's commissariats: central institutions of public administration in Soviet Russia that took over the functions of the former ministries and were renamed ministries in 1946.]

The IX All-Russian Congress of the Soviets of workers, peasants, and Red Army cossack deputies (Moscow, December 23–28, 1921) adopted a resolution on the establishment of such an exhibition.

The idea of the exhibition was welcomed by V. Lenin. In his letter of November 14, 1922, he wrote to the Main Exhibition Committee: “I consider the exhibition very important and I trust all organizations to cooperate in full”.

The Agricultural Commission of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee led by M. I. Kalinin was appointed to be in charge of the timely organization and successful conduction of the exhibition. The preparation, construction and operation of the exhibition were carried out under immediate control of the Main Exhibition Committee.

In December 1922, Declaration on the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was adopted by the X Congress of Soviets. Along with it a resolution On Agricultural Exhibition was adopted, which provided for the State budget funding of it for the first time. It was only natural, considering that the exhibition was to involve the masses of peasantry, that could not afford to make and deliver to the capital expensive exhibits, make up for the losses due to their work at the exhibition, unless the Government supported them.

To arrange individual republics, regions and districts participation local exhibition committees were established. A special Exhibition bureau was formed under the People's Commissariat for Nationalities to prepare the national regions to the exhibition.

The Main Exhibition Committee’s responsibilities included:

- selection of exhibits, organization of guberniyas’ (provincial) agricultural fairs;

- preparation of lecturers and guides from among scientists, agricultural experts, students of the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy;

- designing the routes of excursions;

- sponsorship of industrial enterprises;

- accommodation for exhibitors, securing and updating the exhibits (machinery, livestock, seeds, harvest).

The exhibition cost about 13 million roubles.

An area of about 100 hectares (240 acres) on the Vorobyovy Hills was selected as a venue for the event. It is currently the territory of the M. Gorky Central Park for Culture and Recreation and Neskuchny Sad (garden). The area was cleared, and 225 wooden pavilions, inter alia, the supporting facilities were built. The design and construction were completed within a record time of 10 months.

Academician A. V. Schusev was appointed the Chief Architect of the Exhibition, the Committee was made up of eminent scholars:A. V. Chayanov and N. I. Vavilov, architects V. K. Oltarzhevsky, I. V. Zholtovsky, E. V. Shirvinsky. Famous sculptors and painters took part in the design and decoration: V. I. Mukhina, A. A. Exter, S. T. Konenkov, N. A. Andreev, I. S. Efimov, I. D. Shadr, F. O. Schechtel, V. A. and G. A. Stenberg brothers, K. S. Melnikov, A. V. Shchuko.

On August 19, 1923 the gala opening of I All-Russia Agricultural and Handicraft & Industrial Exhibition took place. It presented a cross-section of all achievements in the field of agriculture, as well as all that was new and promising in the agrarian sector, export opportunities of domestic products. The prospects of international cooperation were demonstrated as well. The speakers at the opening ceremony included Vice-Chairman of the USSR Council of People's Commissars and the Council for Labour and Defence A. I. Rykov, Deputy People's Commissar of Agriculture A. I. Swidersky, Chairman of the Main Exhibition Committee M. E. Shefler, People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs G. V. Chicherin. The presence of the diplomatic corps was an evidence of the Exhibition International significance. Representatives of Turkey and China made speeches. 5,000 exhibitors participated in the exhibition, including 600 companies from Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, China, Turkey. The opening hours were from 8:00 a.m. to midnight.

          The Exhibition of 1923 was the first post- revolution temporary exhibition complex, to be built as a system of pavilions. Its pavilions were the first samples of the Russian avant-garde architecture. Nearly all the facilities were made of wood. This approach was advantageous, compared to the pre-revolutionary Russian and foreign exhibitions, in which sham monumentalism was common. The highlight of the exhibition was the Village Sector. It featured improved estates, a community house, a model agrarian center, a volost (district) Executive Committee of the Soviet, a powerhouse, against the background of a village of the past. A special big hexahedron pavilion housed the sector of mechanization. It was the only concrete building in the exhibition area. Its fragments have survived to the present day.

A system of awards was established, and three thousand domestic and foreign exhibits were awarded prizes: tractors, agricultural machinery, tools for cottage crafts, research equipment, books on agriculture, as well as “live prizes”, i.e. thoroughbreds.

Over the period of its work, from August 19 to October 21, 1923, the exhibition, where 150,000 exhibits were demonstrated, attracted 1,618,882 visitors.

The First All-Russia Agricultural and Handicraft & Industrial Exhibition, which is virtually forgotten today, promoted advanced agricultural techniques, the use of new crops and livestock breeds. At the same time, it proved to be an effective tool of visual propaganda for Lenin’s cooperative plan and an impetus to organizing plenty regional and local agricultural fairs.

The three-year period (1924–1927) saw 6,319 Republican, regional, district exhibitions held, with the total number of visitors over 6 million.

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