In Soviet Union, World’s Fair Exhibit YOU!

From the Official Guidebook of the 1939 New York World’s Fair:


“Visit the Soviet Pavilion and become acquainted with the 170 million people of the Soviet Union in their daily life, their work and their achievements in the first Socialist country in the world.”

The Soviet Union was one of sixty nations who participated in the Hall of Nations at the 1939 World’s Fair. Each participating country had their own pavilion, complete with exhibits, artifacts, performances, and food. Visiting the pavilion was to be an ersatz approximation of a visit to the country itself; it was to be both educational and entertaining. This is precisely where the EPCOT World Showcase concept comes from. In fact, the guidebook says the following, and these words could have came from the pen of Walt Disney himself:

“The presence of sixty foreign participants makes the Fair a true parliament of the world. Here the peoples of the world unite in amity and understanding, impelled by a friendly rivalry and working toward a common purpose: to set forth their achievements of today and their contributions to the “World of Tomorrow.”

Well, unfortunately for everyone, these “friendly rivalries” soon dissolved into not so friendly ones. But the 1939 Soviet Pavilion sounds like it was pretty awesome!


THE TWO EXTENDED WINGS of the semicircular pavilion situated on Congress Street embrace a spacious courtyard paved with varicolored flagstones. Here a tall pylon of red porphyry and Gasgan marble, bearing the seal of the U.S.S.R., is topped by an imposing statue bearing an illuminated star. The facades of the building are decorated with eleven large panels representing the eleven Union Republics. Sculptured into the front of one wing of the pavilion is a bas-relief portrait of Lenin; on the front of the other wing a bas-relief portrait of Stalin. On each of the inner sides is a stainless steel, self-illuminating plaque which shows the flags of the eleven Republics.

Exhibits show the daily life and work and achievements of 170 million people in the first Socialist country in the world. Feature exhibits include the airplane in which a crew headed by Chkalov made the first transpolar flight from the U.S.S.R. to the United States; a reproduction of one of the new stations in Moscow’s “palace. subway”: a replica of the Palace of Soviets in semiprecious stones: a huge map of the Soviet Union worked out in precious and semi-precious stones.

In addition to the paintings and sculptures of leading Soviet artists, handicrafts for which the country is famous are exhibited wood carvings, lacquer work, embroidery and hand-woven carpets and rugs from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Entertainment features include showings of the masterpieces of the Soviet cinema and performances by the Red Army Ensemble of Singers, Dancers and Musicians. In a handsome restaurant and bar, Soviet foods and wines are served. The architects for this building are Boris Iofan and Karo S. Alabian. In the U.S.S.R.’s Hall of Nations section, exhibits include a huge map of the country and explanations of the structure of the Soviet government. A separate Arctic Pavilion, close to the main Pavilion, is devoted to Soviet achievements in the Arctic.


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