The 4th CIAM Congress in Moscow. Preparation and Failure (1928–1933)

Thomas Flierl


The paper deals with the dramatic story of the preparation for (and subsequent failure of) the 4th Congres internationaux d’architecture moderne (CIAM) conference in Moscow. The offer to host the congress in Moscow was made in 1929, with the planned topic ‘Urban Organisation, Urban Construction, and Regional Planning’. Had it taken place in 1930 or 1931, the planned congress would have had an enormous impact. It probably would have been able to counteract the split of the modern urban construction movement into two factions, with those in favour of reconstructing existing cities on the one hand and proponents of building brand new cities on the other. It is widely believed that the congress was moved from Moscow to Athens due to CIAM’s protest against the results of the competition for the Palace of Soviets. Indeed, the controversy over this contest certainly delayed the congress. However, the study of the archival sources shows that the postponement was a result of a drastic change in the USSR’s domestic policies, which took place before CIAM challenged the results of the competition. The character of the preparation for the congress on the Soviet side in 1929–33 was quite complex. Therefore, the  paper pays special attention to the positions and policies of the Soviet officials in charge of the congress: Jurij Larin, Jakov Vajnshenker, Avel Enukidze, and others. The analysis of previously unknown letters and documents shows that, despite the fact that agreements between CIAM and the Soviet side were concluded in December 1932, the congress was postponed (indeed, cancelled) once again in March 1933, this time by Stalin personally, even though Karo Alabjan, the party secretary of USSR Association of Architects, argued against postponement.


history of 20th century architecture; constructivism; modernism; Stalinism; 4th International Congress of Modern Architecture


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