Russia at World Expo
Russia has been a regular participant of Expo since the first exhibition in 1851. 363 Russian exhibitors took part in the exposition that was held in Crystal Palace specially constructed for the event in London.
In 1855, the exposition in Paris saw 365 exhibits from Russia, 130 of which were especially praised to result in 3 golden awards, 60 silver medals and 67 honourable mentions. The greatest appraisal of public and experts was gained by Russian kerchiefs and fabrics. The first place was given to the jasper vase manufactured in Ekaterinburg. The most valuable exhibit of the Russian exposition was presented by a famous metal-maker Pavel Anosov – a Damascus sword created according to an old formula he managed to recover in 1841.
Paris hosted Expo once again in 1878. The Russian pavilion has become the star attraction of the exhibition. It was a real success of the Russian architecture. The pavilion designed by the architect Ivan Ropet was widely discussed both in Russian and foreign press. Another sensation of the exhibition was provoked by “the Russian light” – Yablochkov long-arc lamps. A year later, these lamps appeared in the streets of London, Paris and Saint Petersburg.
Preparing for Expo 1900 (once again in Paris), the Russian government decided to show the country’s technology power to the full. The particularly friendly relations with France allowed Russia to have the largest area of 24, 000 square metres for its exposition. Nearly 6 million rubles were spent on the Russian exposition, approximately half of which appropriated by organizations and exhibitors. Dmitry Mendeleev was a vice-president of the International jury. For some portions of the exhibitions, special buildings had to be constructed, when there wasn’t enough space. This time, Russian exposition gained 1,589 awards, including 212 of high-category, 320 golden medals, 436 silver, 347 bronze and 224 honourable mentions. Russian physicist Popov received golden medal for inventing wireless radio. And Russian engineer Lavr Proskuryakov was awarded with a golden medal by the special committee headed by Gustave Eiffel.
In 1901, participation in the World Expo in Glasgow transformed the Russian pavilion’s designer Fyodor Schechtel into the member of the Academy of Architecture and honorary member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The Soviet Union participation in the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in 1925 in Paris has become one of the first acts of the cultural exchange between the Soviet Union and France after the establishment of diplomatic relations on 28 October, 1924. The Soviet pavilion constructed from wood and designed according to the architectural project by Konstantin Melnikov was one of the most popular at the exhibition. The “art director” of the Soviet pavilion Alexander Rodchenko presented a club for workmen (a village library and reading room) designed as a cover of the Soviet catalogue. His advertising billboards earned a silver medal. Other Soviet artists took part in the exhibition, many of them received awards for their works. The film “Strike” by Sergei Eisenstein earned a silver medal.
The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (International Exposition dedicated to Art and Technology in Modern Life) that was held in Paris in 1937 figured in history as a parade of humanity achievements before the Second World War. The Soviet and German pavilions turned out to be the largest ones.
The Soviet exposition was presented in a 150-metre long gallery. The pavilion designed by Boris Iofan was coated with the Samarkand marble and crowned with a 24-metre high sculpture of “Rabochiy I Kolkhoznitsa” (“Worker and Collective Farm Girl”) by Vera Mukhina. The entrance was adorned with the bas-reliefs showing the coats of arms of the USSR and 11 union republics by Ivan Chaikov. The first prize was divided between the Soviet Union and Germany.
The first exposition after World War II was held in Brussels, and the Soviet pavilion was nicknamed as the “Steel- and-glass Parthenon” by Belgium press. The USSR managed to excel the United State,s showing a 84-kilogram copy of the first manmade satellite. The exposition was visited by over 30 million people. Its success was predetermined by the mere fact that the USSR had launched two satellites in succession a few months before the exposition opened. The models of both satellites were exhibited in the Soviet pavilion, and there were queues of people waiting to see that wonder of space technology. Furthermore, the pavilion was literally “stuffed” with various machines and mechanisms working, and the two showpiece flats to demonstrate Soviet everyday life. The pavilion itself, with its glass walls, looked exceptionally impressive. The exposition was devoted to the theme of “Peace and Labour” and included 18 sections.
“Somebody would think that Russian pavilion had to be a huge stylized izba, but what we saw was a real wonder of modern architecture…”
Expo 1967 that took place in Montreal under the slogan “Man and His World” introduced the novelty of “national days”. The Soviet pavilion occupied a total area of 16,000 square metres and was nicknamed as the “Crystal Palace” or the “Flying Roof”. The slogan of the Soviet exposition (that consisted of 5 topic sections) was “Everything for a man, everything for man’s welfare”. According to the final results presented by Canadian corporation, the Soviet pavilion attracted the greatest number of visitors – 13 million people, followed by Canada, France and the USA (9 million visitors each). The Soviet pavilion was equipped with a roof curved in the form of a ski jumping, which inspired the nickname of the “flying roof”.
The USSR participation in Expo 1970 in Osaka, Japan, has also left its mark in the world architecture. The steel folded structure of the Soviet pavilion was designed in the form of an unfurled flag.
In 1993, Russia’s exposition in Daejeon, South Korea, has been one of the largest and most frequented. It occupied 1,000 square metres of indoor and 1,000 of outdoor area. The exposition presented the latest scientific research results and state-of-the-art technologies for space and World Ocean exploration, future-technology vehicles, as well as methods of eco-friendly power generation, etc. Among the exhibits that attracted most visitors was a full-size model of a space station “Mir”.
Expo 1998 was held in Lisbon, Portugal, 22 May through 30 September. The theme of the fair was “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”, chosen to commemorate 500 years of Vasco da Gama’s discoveries. The Expo received around 11 million visitors in 132 days, while 155 countries and organizations were represented.
The Russian pavilion was decorated in line with national flag colours, the waiting hall was tiled with tiny dalles, while masterpieces of Russian art and sculpture were demonstrated accompanied by classical Russian music.
“From the Kremlin to Space, to Peace” – that was the theme of Russia’s exposition at Expo 2000 held in Hanover, Germany. The exposition was a great success among visitors, showing a model of the famous space station Mir (Peace), both from inside and outside, and allowing people to feel themselves spacemen. Russia was presented as a country rich not only in mineral resources, but also in art masterpieces. The famous 6-metre high Easter Egg was specially designed for Expo 2000. This object of art that housed entire art museum reminded visitors both of the Kremlin tower and one of the Fabergé eggs.
Expo 2005 that was held in Aichi Prefecture, Japan, east of the city of Nagoya, gathered over 100 participating countries. Russia’s exposition “Noosphere Harmony” developed the theme of “Living in harmony with nature”. The exhibition stands told that Lake Baikal contains nearly 22% of the world’s fresh water, while Russian forests make up one quarter of the planet’s tree cover. Visitors also had a chance to admire various everyday objects and interior items made by Russian masters from wood and other natural materials.
The main theme of the Russian pavilion at Expo 2008 held in Spain was “The World of Water, Russia Today and Tomorrow”. Russia possesses one of the largest freshwater sources in the world, so the principal objective of that exposition was to show the state’s responsibility for efficient water and ecosystem management.
The Russian pavilion that occupied 865 square metres included a 2-level showroom, cinema hall, break-out room, gift shop, café, offices, engineering and operating premises. The original architectural solution of the ramp gallery had allowed to amplify the useful space by 35%, which resulted in increased number of visitors, and, therefore, more people had a chance to admire the pavilion’s general panorama and at the same time watch the videos demonstrated on plasma screens.
As a result, Russia was awarded with a silver medal for “precise theme development and scientific content” among A-category pavilions.
At Expo 2010 in Shanghai, the Russian pavilion was one of the most impressive ones and won a silver medal for “best theme development” among major-size pavilions. The main theme of the exposition “Better City, Better Life” was interpreted by Russia as follows: “The best city is the one where children live happily”. It was around this thesis that the Russian exposition was constructed. Over 20,000 people visited it on the first day only. And the total number of visitors amounted to 7.5 million people.