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Published onApr 23, 2021

N. A. Miliutin’s often cited but seldom consulted Sotsgorod is a landmark in the history of city planning. Written by a Soviet functionary at the height of controversy in the USSR about the direction in which socialist planning should go, it represents a unique effort to draft a physical plan that is the embodiment of a modern social, political, and industrial creed.

N. A. Miliutin’s model plan for a Stalingrad tractor plant (Fig. 14 of the 94 illustrations and diagrams in his book; see here within this volume) has been illustrated on countless occasions as one of the major theoretical industrial plans of our century. It has been recognized as the source of Le Corbusier’s cité linéaire industrielle of the 1940s (Pl. 1), and it is clearly the transitional step between Tony Garnier’s cité industrielle of c. 1900 (Pl. 2) and the codified planning principles of the Athens Charter that were worked out by members of the CIAM when they were dis-invited to meet in Moscow in 1932–33.

Unfortunately, Miliutin’s plan has usually been illustrated out of its context and meaning; it has frequently been misdated and misinterpreted; and virtually none of those who write about it have ever taken the trouble to look at, much less to read, the book in which it appeared. The result is that neither its social nor its architectural meaning has been understood; that is to say, the fact has passed unnoticed that it was one of Miliutin’s several paradigms of a socio-economic theory of planning by which society itself could be totally transformed. This oversight occurs not merely because of the difficulty of the language, Russian, in which Miliutin wrote: the book, although printed in an edition of 7,000 copies, seems to be quite rare outside of the Soviet Union—which is the major reason that we have decided to translate it.

The paradox of a general familiarity with Miliutin’s model plan and yet an ignorance of his text may arise from the rapidly changing political circumstances in the USSR at the time of the appearance of his book. It was printed late in the year 1930 at the very peak of agitated discussion and publication about planning, housing, and the new architecture by Soviet theoreticians. Dispute raged over the most efficacious ways to design minimal residential quarters, communal housing, and collectivized services and as to whether centralization (i.e., urbanization) or decentralization would better serve to achieve that transformation of the way of life demanded by Marxist theory and, in particular, by the Bolshevik Party Congress of May 1930. The fever of the First Five-Year Plan was upon everyone, and orthodox Communists like Miliutin were straining to demonstrate how to apply the rare utterances of Marx, Engels, and Lenin about physical planning to the professional architectural problems of the moment.1[NOTES TO INTRODUCTION]

Le Corbusier had just been in the Soviet Union,2 and teams of engineers and architects of several nationalities—especially German and American—were busily engaged at widespread sites throughout the USSR in laying out the separate units of a great power and industrial network. The door to the West was, for the moment, ajar; it was in the summer of 1930 that Margaret Bourke-White was allowed to compile her remarkable photographic record of the frenetic Five-Year Plan activities at many of the sites.3

Miliutin’s book was known to Russian-speaking members of the foreign colony; it figures in their later recollections of the events, and some of them brought copies out of Russia.4 This is apparently how his Fig. 14 to which we have referred got into the mainstream of modern city planning. The book fell afoul of Party leadership, however, in the kaleidoscopic shifting of Bolshevik politics, and it may be that its circulation was discouraged or even suppressed a few months after its appearance.



In the polemics of the moment Miliutin occupied a middle ground, and he attempted to mediate between the extreme positions by urging a forward-looking architecture and planning that was at the same time “realistic,” i.e., one that took into account the shortcomings of Russia’s industrial system during the “transitional” period in her development. This should have earned him the party’s plaudits. He had studied intensely and enthusiastically the new Western architecture, especially that of Le Corbusier and of the Bauhaus architects (Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Hannes Meyer), and he was venomous in his comments about the old-line academicians still practicing in the Soviet Union. This may have done him disservice in the days to come. But what actually tripped him up was his expansive use in the book of a number of drawings from his friend Moisei Ginzburg’s latest project “Green City” which proposed the decentralization of large urban centers, in this case Moscow. At the next Bolshevik Party Congress (that of June 1931, which signaled the conclusion of the period of excited theorizing that we have described), the decentralists and visionaries were roundly condemned, and Lazar Kaganovich singled out Miliutin especially for having suggested that Moscow be dispersed—a position that Miliutin had not explicitly taken in the book. Miliutin nevertheless recanted, as we shall see, and the fact that he wrote Sotsgorod is nowhere mentioned in his official Soviet biographies. This is the more ironic because of his enthusiastic use in argumentation of statistical data from bona fide Soviet sources and his considerable criticism of the plans drawn up by certain of the foreign teams then operating in Russia and of some of the more radical collectivist schemes by Russian architects.

In any case, his little-known text deserves to be read in full, if only to savor the way in which it expresses the boundless optimism of its moment and place in world history,5 but more particularly so that Miliutin’s famous linear industrial plan can be understood for all the social and economic ratiocination that lies behind it. That simple diagram is as loaded with symbolism and the fervor of the moment as is the frontispiece of a great Carolingian bible, and only through a careful perusal of the text and times can the meaning of either become clear.

As an introduction to Miliutin’s text, we would like to deal with the following:

The state of Soviet town planning before the late 1920s, and some of the individuals and organizations that were involved with Miliutin during the period of the First Five-Year Plan. Biographical data about him. The major points that he stressed in his writing and some possible sources for his ideas. An analysis of his book by chapters. His later writings about planning and their relation to the deepening crisis in Soviet ideology. Some speculations about his influence, then and now. •

The State of Soviet Town Planning before 1930

Due to the scarcity of material on Soviet planning of the 1920s that is available to readers unfamiliar with the Russian language, a considerable survey is offered here of the major events of early Soviet planning.6 This is in no way intended to be a complete, or even an entirely systematic, outline of early Soviet developments, but rather a setting of the stage for Miliutin’s theory; it is meant to illustrate the limited imagination and scope of planners before Miliutin and to give some indication of the utopian thinking with which Soviet planners were preoccupied. At the same time, it is important to know what elements were on hand upon which Miliutin could draw in formulating his own theory.

Early Soviet theories of city planning are so closely intermeshed with those of pre-Revolutionary Russia that any clear distinction between the two stages is difficult to make. The two major cities which were determining influences in Russian ideas of city planning were Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Tsarist capital after the time of Peter the Great. Immediately following the 1917 Revolution, St. Petersburg, or, as it was renamed, Petrograd, was less influential in this respect than the new Bolshevik capital, Moscow, due to the classical influence in architectural style and city planning in the former capital, as well as its association with the Romanov dynasty.7 Moscow’s layout differed markedly from the Tsarist capital’s classical plan, having grown concentrically about the ancient Russian citadel, the Kremlin. Radial arteries stretched from the Kremlin out toward the intercity highways. Suburbs and minor settlements had accumulated and expanded, as occasioned by population increases, and with the exception of a relatively few sections where conventional grid planning had been adopted, the development was sprawling and largely determined by land values and the location of factory buildings. This process held generally true until the adoption of the overall city plan of 1935. There were, however, earlier attempts on the part of pre-Revolutionary architects and engineers to deal with the mushrooming of residential buildings that industrialization and urbanization brought about in the city during the nineteenth century.

Early 1918 can be taken as the origin of Soviet town planning; at that time a decree of the Bolshevik Party socialized the land and opened the way to a multitude of proposals as to its proper use.8 A special architectural workshop was formed by the Moscow City Soviet, under the direction of A. V. Shchusev and I. V. Zholtovskii, for the purposes of preserving ancient monuments and existing green areas and of preparing plans for slum clearance.9 It was also proposed that an overall plan for the new capital be drawn up, but—due to the exigencies of civil war and famine—not much was accomplished beyond a few drawings, which still survive.10

Little advance was made in planning and housing during the first few years following the Revolution,11 and early proposals for workers’ settlements reflect a continuation of pre-Revolutionary practices. To cite only two examples, a workers’ settlement for the Burnaev Chemical Plant, at Kishnema on the Volga River near Ivanovo, had been built in 1915; and a cement factory, at Koktebel in the Crimea, which also provided for workers’ housing, was partially complete at the time of the 1917 Revolution. Both complexes are examples of the work of the Vesnin brothers—Leonid (1880–1933), Viktor (1882–1940), and Aleksandr (1883–1959)—whose careers were to be of major significance later, during the 1920s.12 The Vesnins were responsible as well for a post-Revolutionary plan for the Shatursk Power Station, which was among the first large-scale Soviet industrial projects, although in layout it was very similar to the earlier Burnaev and Koktebel works.13 Such projects as Burnaev and Koktebel, although exceptional perhaps, were indicative of an enlightened approach in that they provided good dwellings for the factory workers, and of an efficient attitude, in that the siting of these dwellings made it possible for the workers to live near their work. In both cases, the plants were located near raw-material deposits.

This enlightened approach to housing was not, however, followed by most factory builders; the Russian reaction to industrialization reflects a lack of concern about the uglier aspects of it, and only in rare instances did the Russian builder realize that improving the lot of his workers could insure greater productivity. The urban housing crisis brought on by the Industrial Revolution in nineteenth-century Russia had been particularly severe owing to the dramatic movement of freed serfs away from the countryside. Speculation in land and extreme overcrowding due to the rapidly increasing urban worker population produced squalid slums and a restive, revolutionary city proletariat.14

After 1917, various organizations attempted to deal with problems of planning and housing. By July of 1922, Western reformative ideas had taken root, to judge from a lecture given to one of these organizations by one Vladimir N. Semenov, on “Basic Principles of Garden Cities,” and the slogan developed: “The Garden City—City of Liberated Labor.”15 In September 1922, the first garden city, sponsored by this same organization, was proposed for a site near Moscow to house 500 inhabitants. This was to have been financed partly through public subscription and partly through aid from the government in the form of lumber-rights concessions. Garden cities were also proposed for the cities of Tver’ (1924), Ivanovo (1924), Briansk (1925), and elsewhere.16

An event of major significance in Russia shortly after the garden city proposals was the All-Union Agricultural and Handicrafts Industry Exhibition of 1923 (Pl. 3).17 In the design of the various Exhibition pavilions playful use was made of avant-garde forms, and the fair was remarkable for the view it afforded visitors of the latest Soviet experimental architecture. In contrast to this progressive outlook in the matter of architectural style, the plan adopted for the disposition of the Exhibition buildings was a conservative one. The committee entrusted with planning the Exhibition chose a rather formal grid with cellular plots on the periphery to accommodate the various pavilions. The site later became Moscow’s well-known Gor’kii Park, and the grid plan is still evident. The plan chosen by the committee was designed by the aforementioned Shchusev, who by this time was a leading member of MAO, the Moscow Society of Architects.

Among the exhibits at the 1923 fair was an area which illustrated the differences between traditional village life and that to be enjoyed in new Soviet settlements (Pl. 3, the lower portion, at the center of the plan).18 This general type of small-scale workers’ cooperative, composed of cottage-like dwellings, was characteristic of early Soviet plans for workers’ settlements, and a number were built. Plates 4 and 5 illustrate one example: that of the Sokol (Falcon) suburb of Moscow, designed by N. V. Markovnikov and begun in 1923. A step away from this pleasant but impractical semirural type of cottage town is illustrated by L. A. Vesnin’s design for a four-story apartment residence in 1924 (Pl. 6). Vesnin allotted the central part of the first floor to a communal dining room, kitchen, and library. This would have allowed for subsequent development in two different ways: either toward continued use for individual families living on a cooperative basis, or toward what was then thought of as “full” communism, that is to say, an aggregate of unmarried adults who would raise their children in common, without relying upon the family as the basic economic unit.


A slightly more conservative combination of the individual dwelling with a quasilinear plan is to be found in the Dukstroi settlement, built in 1924–25 for the Duks (Dux) Tobacco Plant in Moscow, and designed by V. I. Venderov. Its two-story houses, divided into four-, six-, and eight-apartment groups, were strung out along a tree-lined park on Begovaia Street (Pls. 7, 8).








An example of larger scale urban planning is Vesnin’s project of January 1924 for the Leninsk suburb (Pl. 9), an informal and varied grouping of residential buildings, interspersed with ponds, parks, and monuments, which also seems to have incorporated an extensive trolley-track system through the main street and square. Vesnin’s suburb project was to have been part of a larger overall plan for the capital, called New Moscow. This overall plan was undertaken in 1924 under the direction of Shchusev, following the success of his Exhibition plan of the previous year. A detail of the New Moscow project is seen in Pl. 10. This project seems to have consisted of a series of fanciful perspective renderings of various proposals for the replanning of the city centers and suburbs of Moscow; it was brought to completion by students of the Vkhutemas (the Higher Artistic-Technical Studios), with the cooperation and partial supervision of I. A. Golosov, a young and adventurous member of the Constructivist wing of Soviet architects.19

In the early 1920s a proposal had been put forth for the planning of Moscow by a Professor S. S. Shestakov, about whom little else is known. This was the so-called Greater Moscow Plan, and, while it received considerable publicity, it does not appear to have been government-sponsored, as Shchusev’s New Moscow Plan had been (Pl. 11). Shestakov’s plan provided for the growth of the capital into the world’s greatest city, and allowed for the planting of huge areas of greenery, a ring development, and the preservation of ancient monuments.20 The plan resembled a Greek cross inscribed within a circle with satellite cities outside the circumference. It was published in the newspaper Izvestiia in October 1925, and may possibly have been influenced by Viennese theories of planning. Three days after its publication, the Office of the Moscow Guberniia (District) Engineer issued a new set of zoning laws for the capital, which were published in the same newspaper, and which closely conformed to Shestakov’s basic proposals.21 The District Engineer, P. A. Mamatov, divided the city into six belts:

  • The Kremlin.

  • Kitaigorod.

  • From Kitaigorod to the Boulevard Ring and the Moscow River.

  • From the Boulevard Ring to Sadovoe Kol’tso (the Garden Ring).

  • From the Garden Ring to Kamer-Kollezhskogo.

  • From Kamer-Kollezhskogo to the city limits.

Ancient monuments were to be preserved, and all construction was limited to six-story buildings, seventy-seven feet in height. Residences were limited to four stories, and construction in the city center was permitted only with government approval. This latter practice was actually a direct echo of Tsarist building codes that had been in force in the imperial capital since before 1840.22


Kaganovich, in his address to the 1931 Bolshevik Party Congress, commented as follows about the Shestakov plan:

In Moscow, particularly, we had not, and still have not, a plan for the construction of new streets and the reconstruction of old streets. There was the plan of the engineer Shestakov, known as the “Greater Moscow Plan.” But this was a mere paper plan drawn up without any regard for economic and social conditions. It was a product of the draughtsman’s office. As an illustration of how little attention problems of scientific town planning receive, it should be noted that Communists working in the city enterprises, in spite of the fact that nobody had approved Shestakov’s plans, nevertheless, when assigning sites for building purposes, guided themselves by this plan.23

Mamatov was further responsible for the publication of a Russian translation of Sitte’s City Planning according to Its Artistic Principles, so that, while details are lacking, the ideas of Sitte would seem to have had some circulation in Moscow planning circles during the mid-1920s.24 The Shestakov plan, Mamatov’s zoning laws, and this publication of a text on city planning indicate a general impatience with official planning offices, whose work up to this point had produced little beyond a few cottage suburbs and Shchusev’s attractive paper sketches of pretty city centers. Planners were obviously groping for ideas.

It was not until the beginning of the First Five-Year Plan in 1928 that the Soviet government took an active role in encouraging planners to work out new theories for the building of cities. Prior to 1928, under Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed a considerable degree of free enterprise in the USSR, architects and planners were primarily occupied with the design of individual buildings and problems of style. •

Miliutin’s Modernist Associations

The subject of the modern movement in Soviet architecture, and Constructivism in particular, has been treated in so many books, exhibitions, articles, and special issues of magazines in recent years that there is no need to survey it here, but only to mention certain aspects of the movement that were closely related to Miliutin and the formation of his book.25

Among the Russian architects, Miliutin seems to have been closest and in greatest sympathy with Moisei Ginzburg—who was in turn a friend and profound admirer of Le Corbusier, whom Miliutin had probably met in Moscow. As Finance Minister of the Russian Republic, Miliutin had commissioned in 1928 one of Ginzburg’s most important buildings, the Domnarkomfin collective apartment house for workers in the Ministry, and we have mentioned that a number of Ginzburg’s projects were illustrated in Sotsgorod. According to Le Corbusier, Miliutin lived in an apartment building designed by Ginzburg.26

Miliutin seems also to have favored the controversial and radical young architect Ivan Leonidov, illustrating his project for Magnitogorsk in Sotsgorod, albeit with some criticism, and later defending Leonidov in an article in his (Miliutin’s) magazine as part of the continued polemic that raged over Leonidov’s highly formalistic and considerably utopian designs (Pl. 12).

Miliutin was not happy with a number of Soviet architects. He leveled criticism at the old-line academicians, at the supporters of eclectic architecture (including his own superior, Anatolii Lunacharskii27), and at the extreme collectivists. In his later period of recantation he fired salvos at a number of others, like the disurbanist Okhitovich, largely for their political deviations.




Miliutin’s ideas about architecture were so sympathetic with and influenced by the principles practiced by the Constructivist Ginzburg, that a few remarks about the latter might be in order.28

The son of an architect, Moisei Iakovlevich Ginzburg (1892–1946) traveled extensively and studied in Italy, as did many Russian architects; he was graduated in 1914 from the Academy in Milan and also earned a Russian engineering degree. He wrote constantly on the history and theory of architecture (some relevant publications of his are listed in our bibliography). By the early 1920s he was teaching at the Vkhutemas and at the Moscow Institute of Higher Technology and was a member of the Russian Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1924 he published his major theoretical work, Style and Epoch, which includes a stylistic analysis of Constructivism that reflects his indebtedness to Le Corbusier on the one hand and cyclical theories of history on the other.29 The book was, in fact, set up as a sort of socialist version of Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture, and it indicates that Ginzburg was already under the spell of the Swiss architect—an enthusiasm that he was soon to pass on to his fellow Russians and which culminated in the invitation to Le Corbusier to design the Tsentrosoiuz (administrative center for Soviet trade unions—later changed to the Commissariat of Light Industry) in Moscow in 1928–29 (Pls. 13, 14; Fig. 92). Constructivism, of course, was not simply an avant-garde outgrowth of the International Style, but had evolved out of the theories of Malevich, Tatlin, Lissitzky, and others and was fraught with social propaganda of a decidedly Soviet cast.

In 1928, when the choice of architect for an apartment house for the workers of the Finance Ministry was to be made, Ginzburg was assigned the commission. The result was Domnarkomfin, or, as it is popularly known, the “Ship House.”30 Domnarkomfin was planned on socialist principles of collectivization, but was designed in the spirit of Le Corbusier’s work (Pls. 15–19). It is a multi-story dwelling that, as originally planned, went much further with collectivized services than our previous example, that of Vesnin (Pl. 6).31 That Domnarkomfin was built as a nearly completely collectivized dwelling heralds the changeover in 1928 from Lenin’s NEP to the institution of the First Five-Year Plan and socialist “reconstruction,” which presumed a full-scale conversion to State-planned economy and the collectivization of agriculture. Whether the specific innovations in the programming of the Domnarkomfin represented ideas of Miliutin or of Ginzburg is not known, but the close collaboration that the construction of Domnarkomfin must have entailed surely exposed Miliutin to this most progressive Soviet architect and would account for much that Miliutin discussed later in Sotsgorod.

In 1925 Ginzburg and the brothers Vesnin had formed OSA (the Union of Contemporary Architects), a group of Constructivists who were presumably more concerned with practical matters like housing, engineering structure, and industrialized building methods than the existing avant-garde group ASNOVA, which was of a somewhat more formalist extraction. From 1926 to 1930, under the editorship of Ginzburg and the Vesnins, the group published SA (Sovremennaia Arkhitektura: Contemporary Architecture)—one of the most internationally admired periodicals of its day—whose pages have provided many of the illustrations for recent exhibitions of the Soviet movement. Perhaps the most official action of the OSA group came through its participation in Stroikom (Construction Committee of the RSFSR) a building research unit which it had pressed the government to set up under Ginzburg’s direction in 1928 in order to study methods of standardization in housing. Projects by both OSA and Stroikom are cited and illustrated throughout Sotsgorod, and Miliutin drew continually on illustrations from SA; although he seems to have admired their efforts in general, he was quite critical of oversights in their planning, where he saw them.






OSA during 1930–31 became SASS (Architects’ Association for Socialist Construction), but it did not survive the general suppression of independent artistic societies in 1932. SA (Contemporary Architecture) ceased publication with its fifth anniversary number in 1930 and was followed from 1931–34 by another SA (Sovetskaia Arkhitektura: Soviet Architecture) of which Miliutin was editor. The dramatic Suprematist-Constructivist graphic design that had characterized its predecessor was toned down in the later magazine, and a change in intellectual climate became noticeable, as we shall see. •

Miliutin’s Life

Who was Nikolai Aleksandrovich Miliutin and what was his background in planning and politics? (Pl. 20)

In 1929 Nikolai Aleksandrovich Miliutin left a post as Minister of Finance of the RSFSR in order to devote himself to the study of town planning. His background in the Communist Party had been largely in bureaucratic posts in the social services of the new State.32 A native of St. Petersburg (born 1889), where he grew up, he had early become a Party member and had operated as a Bolshevik agitator in industrial plants and in the army during the First World War.

Following the Revolution he served in a number of organizations that explain his later interest in supporting-services for the population and in statistical analysis of current problems. Several of these occupations can be seen to correspond to his publications of 1918–21. In March 1917 he was a member of the Petrograd Workers’ Insurance Center; in December of that year he became Chairman of the Citywide Petrograd Hospital Accounting Office. He was also a member of Guprosovet (Provincial Food Supply Committee), a member of Ispolcomsovet (Executive Communist Soviet), and representative of the Commissariat of Labor Communes for the Northern Provinces. In 1918 he became a member of the College of the People’s Commissariat of Labor. During 1920–21 he was Extraordinary Agent for the All-Union Central Executive Committee and Labor and Defense Council for Orlov and Voronezh, as well as Vice-Chairman of the People’s Committee for Food Supply in the Ukraine during a terrible famine there. From 1922–24 he was acting People’s Commissar for the Commissariat of Social Security of the RSFSR, and then was promoted to the position of People’s Commissar (i.e., Minister) of Finance for the RSFSR. Thus he came to his planning studies with a fairly comprehensive grasp of administrative and service problems of the USSR.


Miliutin’s growing reputation, through his Party background, for his ability to deal with problems of living conditions under the new way of life, and his position as a leader among the architectural cognoscenti was apparently what led, in 1929, to the offer of the chairmanship of a study committee on the construction of new cities, which was being formed by the Communist Academy. Originally the Socialist Academy, this organization has been described as follows:

Although a completely official body, subordinated to the Central Executive Committee, the Communist Academy nevertheless retained until 1927–28, a large measure of aloofness from the strife going on in the party.… The intellectual activity of the Academy during this period was the golden age of Marxist thought in the USSR. A number of stimulating works appeared under the auspices of the Academy in which the leading Marxists of the party, writing from different points of view, attempted to develop the principles of Marxism in the conditions applicable to Russia. Very few of these intellectuals were destined to survive the more rigorous control which would be applied to the Academy after NEP had been abandoned.33

As regards his qualifications to discourse on art and architecture, which he did, Miliutin was not really an architect, but had attended an art school part-time between 1905 and 1912. It was not until 1940 that he took a State examination and received an architectural degree.

Early in 1930 he contributed a brief essay to B. Lunin’s remarkable little anthology of opinions about socialist cities and about the socialist reconstruction of the mode of living—a writing that indicates the direction in which his Academy study was going and which anticipates certain aspects of the forthcoming book Sotsgorod. The essay, which reads like a lecture, was entitled “The struggle for a new mode of life and Soviet urbanism.” Among the fifteen other theorists who contributed (some of them more than one essay) were Lenin’s widow N. K. Krupskaia, G. E. Zinoviev (one of Lenin’s controversial heirs), Lunacharskii, L. Sabsovich (the radical urbanist), M. Okhitovich (the radical disurbanist), and other prominent architects, including Ginzburg, V. Zelenko, and B. Pasternak. The essays dealt with a variety of problems and opinions concerning the future of the city in the USSR and with current practices in collectivization, planning, and construction. Miliutin treated the latter. He insisted that the increased magnitude of projects in the Five-Year Plan called for an abandonment of outdated bourgeois ideas and values. Collectivized services, new construction techniques (as used by modern architects in the West), new norms (such as those of Stroikom and of the Domnarkomfin apartments), and a rationalization of the labor force—particularly as regards the place of women—are all obligatory. Old-line architects must cease labeling the young progressive architects as Trotskyites and counter-revolutionaries. As he said, “We have to build our new world.”

With the publication of Sotsgorod, Miliutin obviously became a force to be reckoned with in the Party apparatus, and he was assigned as editor of Sovetskaia Arkhitektura which was published by the Commissariat of Public Education (Narkompros), of which he was a deputy commissar by virtue of his research project for the Communist Academy. He wrote occasional short articles on technical subjects for the magazine and a number of important pieces which are discussed in some detail below. He also published a couple of his own projects. The magazine terminated with the first issue of 1934, an issue whose frontispiece dealt not with architecture but with more ominous matters (Pl. 21). It had already been more or less superseded by Arkhitekturo SSSR (Architecture USSR) and Akademiia Arkhitektury.

The following year Miliutin was made head of Kinofikatsiia (The Central Board of Film Distribution), a position that appears to have been something of an administrative sinecure. We are told that he continued to work on the subject of new towns, and there is some evidence that he kept in touch with his contacts abroad; but we know of no further important activities on his part, except that in 1939 he was serving as chief of the artistic section for the construction of the Palace of the Soviets in Moscow.34 He died in 1942 at the age of 53. For the critical period 1930–34, The Soviet Encyclopedia merely lists him as “representative of the People’s Commissariat of Public Education RSFSR.” •


Miliutin’s Major Precepts and Possible Sources for His Ideas

In reading Sotsgorod we can sense several things about the author’s ideals and the temper of the times. He spoke from more than a decade’s experience in the planning and budgeting of public services, as we know. He had statistics at his fingertips and was up to date on the latest census-type studies and policy directives of various official commissions. He had done extensive research on the new architecture since his appointment to the governmental commission on town planning, and he was attuned to the latest theory and practice in Russia and elsewhere. All this perhaps makes Miliutin out to be a bit mechanical and technocratic and we have been perhaps a bit condescending to call him a “functionary,” when actually all evidence points to a warm sincerity on his part and a total dedication to the ideal of gradual socialist transformation of the Russian life style. Certainly he showed a deep affection and consideration for children, their care, and their education.

Amongst the intellectuals in the USSR there still persisted in the late 1920s a state of euphoria about the future of the working class for whom the architects, planners, and other technicians were designing housing and communal facilities. It was assumed that these proletarian workers, given a minimally comfortable environment, would develop valuable modern skills on the job and in technical schools and would grow in community consciousness in the clubs and various collective facilities provided for their leisure time. As Anatole Kopp writes, “Like electrical condensers that transform the nature of current, the architects’ proposed ‘social condensers’ were to turn the self-centered individual of capitalist society into a whole man, the informed militant of socialist society in which the interests of each merged with the interests of all.”35 But Party intellectuals like Miliutin were writing prescriptions for a future order of classless socialism that the mass of workers would never realize. Far from developing as effective agents in their own right, the workers were to become essentially cogs in a State managed by a new class—the Party bureaucracy—which in turn was to be shaped to form under Stalinist purges. But our purpose here is not to bemoan the eventual estrangement of the Party and the working class in the USSR, but rather to communicate the deep sense of mission and the high idealism that marked the agitated years in which Miliutin’s book was composed.36

The 14 chapters of his book are organized in a rational argumentation, proceeding from the most general problems to the specifics of his plan on the one hand and the economics of construction and budget on the other. We will discuss the sections sequentially below, but, cutting across them for the moment, it is useful to analyze his message in terms of (1) those of his ideas that were typical of the moment, (2) the position that he occupied on controversial matters, (3) his unique contributions, and (4) some of his sources.

He called for new constructional forms for the new circumstances—not merely for renovation and efficiency as did Le Corbusier—because the old forms and systems were a function of bourgeois capitalistic society and had been determined by the dynamics of the marketplace. He strove for the abolition of the distinction between urban and rural life, repeatedly quoting Marxist authority on the matter. He wrote in great detail about the “living cell” and illustrated it with his own models (Figs. 2123, 6572). The living cell was a basic residential unit for all housing, of a type that the CIAM was then studying and calling “Existenzminimum.”37 The complement to the living cell is a wealth of supporting services, all collectivized for economy and efficiency: clubs, libraries, canteens, recreational rooms, laundries, nurseries, repair shops, and the like. The collectivization of certain of these services would bring about the emancipation of woman, especially from housework, a matter on which Miliutin dwells often and quotes extensively about from the Communist Manifesto. This liberation of woman through collectivized services would allow her to become a member of the productive labor force, along with other dependents. Finally, Miliutin goes into exacting detail about the facilities for education of children and youths. It is in this that his book resembles most strongly—and that he drew consciously or unconsciously upon—the utopian socialist programs of the nineteenth century. All the precepts enumerated here were fairly standard among Soviet theorists of the day.38

In his advocacy of these measures we have mentioned that Miliutin assumed a “realistic” middle way; his second chapter is entitled “The Avoidance of Extremes.”39 He points out that “We have now neither the technology nor the material means” that will be achieved in the future fully-developed socialism (Chap. 2). And although he condemns capitalist cities, he comments, “Does it follow … that the now-existing cities, settlements, etc., as well as routes of communication must be altogether ignored? Of course not.… We cannot throw into the trash basket indiscriminately everything that we have inherited from the past. We must transform and assimilate this heritage …” (Chap. 4). On the matter of the institution of the family he is somewhat ambiguous. Following Marx and Engels, he considers the family to be evil as an economic institution: “People’s intimate relationships will become their own private affairs independent of any direct property considerations” (Chap. 8). With “The New Organization of Life” (as he calls his Chap. 6) the “family mode of life” will be phased out. Nevertheless, he considers parent-child relationships to be important and insists that collective feeding and education will not take children away from their parents (Chap. 6). In all these matters Miliutin was in line with the just-published Bolshevik Party resolution (see his App. 2) which condemned certain visionary plans not so much for their deviation in physical structure and form as for their being totally out of line with the current economic and social conditions in Russia (i.e., in the working class). Miliutin’s remarks about agriculture are curiously limited, considering the role that it plays in his ideal layout; very little rural planning seems to have been done in this period of Soviet development.40


His really unique contribution is, of course, the linear industrial settlement plan (Figs. 11, 14, 16). There were antecedents, which fact Miliutin was probably aware of, but as it is decidedly different from them and as he suggests no prototype for it, it is fair to assume that he really invented it. The idea of linear planning itself was apparently popular with the Russian disurbanists, and the plan of the Spanish linear city was known to them.41 The Spanish linear city (Pl. 22) did not involve the principle of segregated functions; Garnier’s plan (Pl. 2) did just that, but was not linear and the functions were segregated in clumps—not in any relation to the boulevard that served as axis to his residential sector. Miliutin’s schema combines major features of these two plans but in a way that seems rather to grow out of his reasoning process about industrial efficiency and residential communities.


As an industrial settlement is for the purpose of productive output, its most logical arrangement, Miliutin argues, is a continuous one with one process leading to the next as in a steam power plant;42 subsidiary processes and input mechanisms should be arranged parallel and flanking the main processes as in an assembly line. Intersecting processes are to be avoided at all costs.43 Residences for workers should be insulated from noise and smoke of the factories by a green zone to be set up in a band parallel to the factories so that work is at an easy walking distance for all. The green belt would contain the main highway, thus insulating the residences from it and from the railway that passes back of the factories. The landscaped residential zone would have in it all the schools and nonmanufacturing social services, which would in turn be available to nearby farms and villages—in line with the Marxist tenet of bringing the urban and rural together (Pl. 23).

Once stated, Miliutin’s schema is so obvious that it is no wonder that it turns up in nearly every book on modern city planning. But only by reading his text would one realize how carefully he has rationalized and calculated all the secondary processes that go on in each zone. Capacities of canteens, schools, nurseries, etc., are worked out by careful statistical study of the composition of the work force and the average size of families. Siting and interconnections of the buildings are based on a study of servant-served relationships of the units. There are also certain principles that do not show up in the diagrams. He insists on the use of standardized building elements composed of economic materials of a life span that will not, in factories, outlast the machines that they are to house. He also calculates the relative economy of collective over individual services (as in laundries) and stresses the savings that accrue by designing in modern unmonumental terms. Miliutin underscores the economy inherent in the low buildings that his plan will allow instead of multifloor factories or skyscrapers which he calls “the peak—the last cry of capitalism.”44

Although Miliutin would have us believe that his ideas were formulated only in terms of the “analysis of K. Marx, F. Engels, and V. I. Lenin,” an appreciable amount of his thinking came directly from American sources. He was extremely interested in American industrial methodology, in particular, the assembly-line system. That Miliutin was adapting American methods to the layout of his system is clear in his choice of terms: he described his linear town as a “functional assembly line.”45

Not only in recent times, but from the very first years of the Revolution, the Soviets have measured themselves against the United States in matters of production. Long before diplomatic relations were established officially (the United States recognized the USSR only in 1933), Soviet missions were sent to the United States to acquire the technical information and assistance necessary to industrialize their new society. In this, the Ford Company represented the pinnacle of success; “fordizatsiia” (Fordization) was in vogue, especially during the 1920s, as a term for accomplished planning in every field from industrial programs to students’ study habits. As New Russia’s Primer described the assembly-line system (here): “Men stand still, but things move.” One of the earliest major plants in the USSR that used the assembly line was the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, which manufactured Fordson tractors.46 Prior to the construction of the city of Magnitogorsk, this plant was given wide publicity as evidence of socialist progress. The factory at Stalingrad was actually prefabricated in Detroit by the Albert Kahn Company and shipped to the USSR in 1929, where it was assembled under the direction of American engineers.47 Both Stalingrad and Magnitogorsk are discussed by Miliutin in his fifth chapter.

The part played by American companies in the early phases of industrialization in the USSR is a little publicized chapter in the history of US-Soviet relations. Americans were hired to travel about the USSR, supervising major construction and training construction workers on the spot. One company opened a drafting office in Moscow, and American help was directly involved in the building of over fifty major enterprises in some thirty Soviet cities by the Kahn Company alone.48 One plant, the Avtostroi automobile factory (Molotov Works) at Nizhninovgorod (now Gor’kii), also discussed in Miliutin’s Chap. 5, was designed under supervision of the Ford Company itself.49 Both Ginzburg and Miliutin—as well as any interested Soviet planner or architect who read German—had direct access to Henry Ford’s ideas through the 1923 Leipzig translation of his biography, My Life and Work.50 However, it should be pointed out that no mention of Ford’s name appears in Sotsgorod.

Another unnamed prototype for Miliutin’s process-thinking was the Taylor System of shop management. Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856–1915), a pioneer in industrial efficiency and scientific management in the United States, was one of the first to try to cut production costs by a more efficient use of productive equipment. His principles of scientific management, based on time studies and standardization of processes, spread throughout the industrialized countries; a Taylor Society was founded in 1915. “Taylor was the first really to grasp that work could become an object of science. He pursued this concept with great energy and brilliance into a vision of a new technocratic Jerusalem; and the ideas he advanced were necessary for the transition between the old preindustrial system and today’s world of automation. Even Lenin exhorted the new Soviet society to make use of Taylorism. His achievement thus parallels Ford’s mastery of mass production in historical significance.”51

The immediate or specific Soviet guidelines that Miliutin followed were: the pronouncements of Joseph Stalin, from which he quotes repeatedly; a Gosplan study of manpower and social services at Magnitogorsk (included as his App. 1); and the 1930 Bolshevik Party Congress Resolution “Concerning the work of reconstructing our way of life” (his App. 2), which we have cited above.

As for architectural style (the subject of his Chap. 12), he drew strictly on the Le Corbusier and Bauhaus traditions except for a curious Scheerbartian comment about the new city serving as a beacon for airplanes (see here within the present volume). •

The Content of Sotsgorod

At this point it may be useful to analyze the construction and the content of Miliutin’s book.

The Foreword was contributed by N. Meshcheriakov, chairman of the board of the Larger Soviet Encyclopedia (Bol’shaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia) and for nearly two decades chief editor of the Shorter Soviet Encyclopedia (Malaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopediia). He warns that the construction to be carried out in the Soviet Union in the course of its industrialization cannot follow either traditional methods or capitalist speculative procedures. He regrets that the current excitement about city planning in the USSR does not have a substantial body of literature to depend upon. He recommends Miliutin’s book as just such a knowledgeable source and commends it for stressing new rather than obsolete techniques and yet avoiding visionary and presently impossible solutions.

This is precisely the character of the book, as we have noted, and is what the author himself, in his preface, promises to do; Miliutin strongly urges the establishment of an experimental institute of urban design to focus on problems such as are raised in the book. He claims to have made an intense study of current theory and practice in Russia and the West and to have familiarized himself with the reports of pertinent Soviet agencies. In line with what we will see to be a new tendency—to correlate architecture and planning theory with Marxist polity—he stresses that he has limited himself to those aspects of his subject that derive from the ideas of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, that is, he concerns himself with the socialist city, as implied by his title.52

His first chapter, “The Essence of the Problem,” sets out in general terms what is to be accomplished in the USSR with regard to new settlements and old cities during the First Five-Year Plan. Available funds must be employed with great efficiency through the use of new construction technology and must be directed toward the socialist transformation of the way of life, most specifically in the freeing of women from “domestic slavery.” In particular, the pitfalls of capitalist speculative procedures must be avoided—especially urban concentration and skyscraper development.

“The Avoidance of Extremes” (Chap. 2) underscores the dangers of disregarding present circumstances and planning mindlessly as if fully developed socialism were already in existence. He urges an increase in labor productivity and a consequent raising of the living standard, the housing accommodation, and the cultural level of workers and peasants. His theme of a middle way, or rather a dialectic resolution of rival theories is developed in Chap. 3, “Urbanization or Disurbanization?” He describes the Western dilemma of first having centralized industry and trade at points (cities), which has engendered the dreadful workers’ slums of the capitalist world, and of now trying either to disperse in garden cities (which he considers to be impossible under the system of capitalism) or to tinker with technological services in the cities (from which improvements the proletariat derives little benefit). He finds current Soviet controversies over centralization or decentralization to be irrelevant because “the modern city is a product of mercantile society and will die together with it, merging into the socialist industrialized countryside” as the differences between city and country are eliminated. Marx, Engels, and Lenin prophesied just that, and he cites them at length.

In Chap. 4, “Choosing Sites for New Construction,” Miliutin again castigates capitalist cities. He calls for a halt to the continued industrialization of presently existing cities and recommends planning in terms of a more rational relation to sources of materials, agricultural production, and new power grids (citing Lenin on this). On the other hand he emphasizes, as we have seen, that existing cities, settlements, and communication routes are not to be ignored; any expansion of them, however, should be done with forethought. The “industrialization of agriculture,” he warns, does not mean scattering small-scale industry about; both industry and agriculture must take advantage of large-scale mechanized production.

Chapter 5, “Principles of Planning,” is a description of Miliutin’s model, and it develops logically out of all the foregoing. He leads off with the analogy of the industrial part of a city to a large-scale steam-operated power plant, and describes, by comparison, the chaotic arrangements in improperly planned establishments. He then enumerates 10 basic factors to be considered in the layout of an industrial town: (1) interrelated production facilities and transportation arteries arranged according to a “flowing functional-assembly-line system”; (2) an adjacent residential zone for the workers, insulated by a greenbelt buffer; (3) railway lines adjoining the factories and a highway in the greenbelt to service both industry and residences; (4) a nearby agricultural area; (5) institutions for higher technical and agricultural education located close to the activities that they serve; (6) medical establishments; (7) primary schools; (8) service industries in the industrial zone; (9) warehouses; and (10) a planned program for demolition of inadequate residential units.

He then outlines a six-part linear pattern for the layout of these functions (Pl. 23), which arises quite inevitably from the way in which he categorized the functions themselves. He insists that any alteration in the sequence of the bands would inhibit both the growth and the operation of the various parts. Bodies of water and prevailing winds should be taken into account, but topographical features are generally irrelevant. He proceeds then, at some length and with a variety of diagrams, to use his linear plan with its functional-assembly-line organization of the factory elements as the basis for a critique of three famous Soviet industrial installations then under construction or recently completed.

For the new steel center of Magnitogorsk, for which a competition had been held, he discusses the prize project (Fig. 8), a plan (Fig. 9) submitted by OSA (actually designed by Leonidov), a plan (Fig. 10) submitted by Stroikom (the semiofficial organization headed by Ginzburg), and his own “assembly-line” model (Fig. 11). His criticisms of the first three are clearly enumerated in his text and need not be repeated here.

The entirely new city of Magnitogorsk was to become one of the greatest steel producing centers in the world. The name is derived from “magnitnaiia gora” (“magnetic mountain”), a mountain of such high-grade ore that in ancient times travelers noted a deflection of compass needles in the vicinity; hence the name “magnetic.” Prior to the Revolution the ore had been only superficially mined and refined at the nearby Beloretskii plant; but now, under the First Five-Year Plan, the Soviets intended to develop the area into an extensive steel center and to lay out a new city to house the thousands of workers of the labor force.

Miliutin’s proposal (Fig. 11) was organized as a section of his linear town and conforms to his six-zone division. He left out provisions for agriculture here, but we may assume that this band was to have occupied the opposite bank of the river, away from the town (lower part of Fig. 11). He would also have dammed the river to provide for a recreational water basin.

Of the other proposals for Magnitogorsk discussed by Miliutin, the most interesting is that put forward by the OSA. This would appear to be a schematic version (for the purpose of comparison) of a project drawn up by a younger member of that organization, Leonidov, whom we have referred to earlier. Miliutin also reproduced Leonidov’s plan for Magnitogorsk elsewhere in Sotsgorod (Figs. 5661), but without attributing it directly to him; although several detailed drawings accompany it, it is simply presented as the “settlement proposed by the OSA.” This may, in part, have been a deliberate maneuver on Miliutin’s part, in order that the controversial architect’s name not be given such a prominent place in the book. Leonidov’s Magnitogorsk plan appears to be long and quite narrow, incorporating rectangular park areas and a fanciful, pyramidal palace of culture. Our Pl. 24 shows a highly imaginative juxtaposition, probably Leonidov’s own, of an actual photograph of a dirigible placed to show the airship flying over Magnitogorsk as drawn in the Leonidov plan—a typical Soviet use of photomontage.


None of the competition projects were taken seriously by the committee set up for the construction of Magnitogorsk, and, in 1930, the German planner, Ernst May, was invited to submit a possible solution. May’s plan consisted of more conventional superblock neighborhood units with their buildings arranged in rows, the units stamped on the countryside with little regard for continuity in movement or for topography (Pl. 25). However, this was drastically altered after his departure from Russia.53


It was for the purpose of criticizing the existing tractor-assembly settlement at Stalingrad (which we have discussed above) that Miliutin devised his famous plan (Fig. 14). The other plans he illustrates in his discussion of Stalingrad were the actual situation as it had been laid out (Fig. 12), and a plan, otherwise unknown, prepared by a Stalingrad construction committee for the project (Fig. 13). Stalingrad was readily adaptable to a linear plan, due to its being strung out along the bank of the Volga. Miliutin’s plan places the residential zone next to the river and follows his standard six-zone layout. His description of the plan is minimal, and he devotes most of this section to criticism of the plans of the others which followed the more conventional linear arrangement—like an American mill town—of placing the factories at the waterside, presumably to use the river for transportation, for which Russian waterways serve to a very large extent.54 As we can see from our Pl. 26, Traktorstroi (No. 2 in the plan) was only one of several industrial settlements that made up the Stalingrad riverfront prior to its destruction in the battle of World War II.


Miliutin’s third, and most elaborately detailed model plan (Fig. 16) was intended for Avtostroi, the automobile plant at Nizhninovgorod which was designed in Detroit by Soviet engineers under the direction of the Ford Motor Co. and was being built in 1930–31 by the Austin Engineering Co. of Cleveland, Ohio (Fig. 15). Miliutin gives a particularly sweeping damnation of the factory layout. He goes to the greatest length in his criticism of Ford’s plan, presumably because he is disillusioned to find the master of the assembly line not using his own principles for town planning. It is unlikely that Miliutin knew that Ford himself was a devotee of the linear plan and had proposed linear settlements for the Muscle Shoals area in the early 1920s. So far as is known, however, Ford was concerned primarily with electrification, with home craft and farming for the factory workers, and with the sale of his car-truck-Fordson tractor package to the residents; Ford apparently never developed the analogy between linear planning and his assembly line.

The author concludes this key chapter with a rehearsal of the advantages of the linear-conveyor system, of low rather than high-rise industrial plants, and of industrial buildings of short life span.

Chapter 6, “The New Organization of Life,” is intended to reveal the ultimate purpose of Miliutin’s plan as a social mechanism, and hence it deals with the residential aspects of his model. It is a rambling chapter in which he shadow-boxes with the current controversial question of the elimination of the family as an institution, and he quotes at great length from Marxist authority on that subject. He provides a special three-paragraph conclusion at the end of the chapter, however, which somewhat clarifies his points. The basic question is whether the present transitional stage of socialism is better served by collectivized services or by an improvement in existing individual facilities. He considers that the answer lies in the imminent need to increase the labor force, which can be done most economically by freeing woman from “domestic slavery” through the use of collectivized feeding arrangements and provisions for child care. This would in turn reduce the flow of workers to the city and reduce the demand for housing units. It would increase the income of families and hence their standard of living and culture. In time the orientation of life around the individual family would be replaced by a more social, collective ambient for the upbringing of children. Specifically, in residential areas the author calls for collective dining rooms with related reading and recreational rooms; nurseries, kindergartens, and dormitories for older children; laundries and repair shops; clubs and cultural facilities.

The remaining chapters of the book are concerned with elaborating details of the author’s basic premise—collectivization—and of his model—the sectored linear plan. Chapter 7, “The Location of Buildings,” very brief, is really concerned with their orientation for proper sunlight, their disposition in efficient lines, and the avoidance of multiple use in residential buildings. Chapter 8, “The Living Cell,” describes in detail the basic dwelling unit that we have discussed above, illustrating his thesis with projects of his own and of Stroikom (i.e., Ginzburg). He discusses the necessary dimensions, lists the minimal conveniences that should be provided, and ridicules those who would reduce the living cell to a “sleeping cabin,” i.e., a bunk and little else.

The next two chapters deal with the buildings for the “Collectivized Institutions for the Meeds of the Population,” as the title of Chap. 9 reads. Most of Chap. 9 is spent in careful calculation of the capacities of nurseries, kindergartens, and various dormitories for the young. He concludes with brief specifications for the housing unit itself and for the adjoining communal facilities structure. Chapter 10, “Blocking Out the Living Cells and Institutions,” illustrates the ways in which several recent architectural projects had combined the residential cells, children’s facilities, and communal services. Figures 31–37, which he calls a “single-story corridorless dwelling by Stroikom,” are actually taken from Ginzburg’s and Barshch’s “Green City” project for Moscow, as we have pointed out above in connection with Kaganovich’s accusation that Miliutin intended to dismember Moscow. Figures 38–55 illustrate a communal house (dom-kommuna), a station, and a club (also from “Green City” but not so labeled). Figures 56–61, called OSA settlement and OSA skyscrapers, are actually from Leonidov’s project for Magnitogorsk referred to above. The remainder of the chapter discusses in some detail alternative solutions by the author himself (Figs. 21–23, 65–72). All the projects illustrated in this chapter are in the most advanced International Style of architecture and are organized on linear principles.

Chapter 11 treats various new materials and light mass-produced construction methods—as the author had promised at the beginning of the book. He ridicules the monumentality of and extravagant materials used in buildings designed by conservative Russian architects like Zholtovskii, and to do so cites the same examples that the magazine SA had earlier satirized.55 Chapter 12 continues with the plea for functional modern design; it is copiously illustrated with the works of Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Hannes Meyer, Le Corbusier, and a Russian team. Miliutin argues: “an honest solution to a correctly stated and correctly resolved problem cannot help but be beautiful.” Le Corbusier’s Tsentrosoiuz building is pictured (Fig. 92) as is his League of Nations project (expediently labeled “People’s Palace”!), in Figs. 90, 91. Miliutin states the position of the Soviet modernist school succinctly and eloquently:

The Soviet settlement must be honest and simple in its forms—as the working class is honest and simple; varied—as life is varied; the parts that make up the buildings should be standardized but not the buildings themselves; economical in the material expended and maintenance but not in their expanse and volume; joyous as nature is joyous. Finally they should be comfortable, light, and hygienic.

The last two chapters are very technical. Chapter 13, “Comparative Costs of Construction,” is a demonstration that the use of collectivized services halves the cost of construction of a settlement and brings such facilities within the means of the USSR at that time. Miliutin relies on the data in a recent Gosplan study of the workers’ settlement at Magnitogorsk, the tables for which are included in his App. 1. Chapter 14 on the requisite budget for socialized services, and especially education, is exceedingly intricate to follow, but shows that in Moscow, at least, finances are not an obstacle to achieving “socialized education” of children. The rural situation is less sanguine and requires an increase in agricultural production and income in order to pay the costs of schooling. Other collective services—physical ones—can be assumed to be economical by virtue of their large-scale operations. “The form of organization of the dwelling with its subsidiary accommodations is one of the most important elements in the organization of the services for the population,” he states, and concludes his book with a quotation from the 1930 resolution of the Bolshevik Party (the whole of which is printed in his App. 2). •

Miliutin’s Later Writings and the Crisis in Soviet Ideology

In the first issue of his new magazine Sovetskaia Arkhitektura in 1931 Miliutin published an article restating certain matters that he had treated in his book, much as if he had in the meantime been questioned on some of his premises and had had second thoughts about their application. His concern was with the problems inherent in the physical and social transformation of housing patterns in order to achieve the new socialist way of life. Following an extensive preamble that reiterated his ideas about the special care necessary to avoid either the extreme of utopianism or that of conservatism during the period of “transition,” he summed up in the article a number of conclusions at which he had arrived in his book from Chap. 6 on. He emphasized that although the obsolescent family system could not be disregarded as an institution during the transitional period—especially in rural areas—yet provision should be made in both new buildings and in renovated apartments for the more economically advantageous collective services. He dealt with the setup and linkages of collectivized facilities for the manufacture and distribution of prefabricated foods, with the requisites for nurseries, kindergartens, schools, laundries, repair shops, and cultural centers, as well as with the specifications for the living cell and its furnishings. He also summarized his calculations about the per capita distribution of such socialized services.

His book seems to have been well received. The February 1931 number of the magazine “V.O.K.S.” (published by the Soviet Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries)—an issue devoted to the place of women in Soviet Russia and the progress of collectivization—printed a slightly abbreviated version of his Chap. 6 under the title “A New Organization of Life.” Further official support of his ideas is indicated by a substantial and enthusiastic review of the entire book that appeared in the “New Soviet Literature” section of the same propaganda magazine the following April.

But the clouds were already gathering, and, in 1932 lightning struck the modernist faction of Soviet architects which until then had been riding high.

In a sense, architecture and planning had flourished in relative freedom during the 1920s under a State that accepted the premise that the new revolution of modern architecture corresponded to the revolutionary transformation of the way of life represented by the USSR. In the feverish acceleration towards industrial strength, everyone pitted the Soviet accomplishments in industry and architecture against those of the West and welcomed input from the superior Western technology. There was a strong identification of the modernist architects in Russia with their struggling counterparts in the West. But suddenly about 1932 in a movement that was epitomized, if not run, by Lazar Kaganovich of the Politburo,56 architectural theory ceased to be concerned primarily with design, construction, and planning problems and became a branch of political theory. By means of an ingenious turnabout argument, modern architecture was declared to be synonymous with bourgeois culture, and tradition was proposed as the basis of Soviet design. Emphasis was on expressiveness, not efficiency of function, and the management of traditional city-like agglomerations was to be the thrust of planning—not disurbanization, which had previously been considered to be the more logically proletarian goal.57 Architectural theory in the Soviet Union was on its way to becoming more of a search for the correct symbolic and aesthetic expression of a particular Party dogma than a discussion of the art and technology of building. As Willen points out, the vocabulary of Marxism-Leninism began to color the discussion, and writers came to depend heavily on quotations from Marxist authorities.

Miliutin had actually been a part of this evolution. Before 1929 and the increasing consolidation of the State as represented by the Five-Year Plan, the identification of the modern movement in architecture and planning with the Bolshevik revolution had been more a general sentiment than a chapter-and-verse philosophical justification. At that point, however, a new cast was given the profession with the formation of VOPRA (the All-Union Society of Proletarian Architects) which, if not actually organized by the Stalinist faction, soon became its vehicle in a search for the architectural symbolism of proletarianism, viz., the pursuit in design of overriding political ends. Dialectics began to buttress architectural precepts. Miliutin’s use of quotations from the prophets of socialism was quite effective and was marked by a desire to examine modern ideas of building and planning—mainly Western in origin—in terms of their applicability to the new life in Soviet Russia; it was devoid of the sophistry that was to make similar quotations after 1932 serve to prove diametrically opposite points. The pressure to shift was apparently irresistible, however, and by 1933 we find Miliutin quoting Lenin as follows:

Marxism has gained for itself the universal historic significance of the ideology of the revolutionary proletariat because Marxism has not thrown away the achievement of the bourgeois epoch, but, on the contrary, has mastered and reworked everything that was valuable in more than two milleniums of human thought and culture.58

This idea of Marxism’s exploitation of the baggage of the past had already been used by Miliutin in Sotsgorod, but now it is being understood as justifying the use of traditional (i.e., classic) architectural styles in the service of the State.

The shift came about inexplicably rapidly. By late 1932 nearly every architect had abandoned and even condemned his earlier modernism. After 1936 there was nothing more to discuss, and apparently no discussions of any substance are to be found in the literature from that date on.59

In planning, the big switch of official Party position came at the June 1931 Bolshevik Party Congress to which we have referred above. On that occasion Kaganovich delivered a lengthy discourse on “The Socialist Reconstruction of Moscow and other Cities in the USSR” and submitted a resolution on the subject which was passed by the Plenum.60 In a sense the message was similar to the resolution of the previous year, which Miliutin reprinted as his App. 2 and took as a theme for his book: disregard futurist and abstract schemes which do not correspond to present possibilities and get down to practical matters at hand. But as opposed to the modernists’ plan-theorizing in the USSR, which was what we would today call a “systems approach” and had concentrated on determining the best abstract model, the Soviet capital of Moscow was now assumed as the model, and ad hoc procedures of the city-building type that had marked centrist planning since the late nineteenth century were adopted. Kaganovich said:

It should first of all be pointed out that the peculiarity of the question we are discussing consists in the fact that by means of the concrete experience in Moscow we shall solve problems of city development for the whole of the Soviet Union. We are here proceeding from the particular to the general, although, of course, the particular in this case, Moscow, is of decidedly solid proportions.61

A stunning reversal. Sotsgorod, of course, proceeded from the general to the particular, as we have tried to demonstrate. Four-fifths of Kaganovich’s speech was taken up with the “Town Development of Moscow,” and, embroidered with anecdote, dealt with admittedly practical matters such as housing, fuel, water supply, road paving, and city transport—all of this in a rather pedestrian and tendentious way.

The assumption is made that in the future Soviet planning would concentrate on urban problems of the traditional sort. Kaganovich a bit later in his speech said:

Yet among us there are pseudo-theoreticians, who, distorting Marx, Engels, and Lenin, consider it our duty to reduce the size of Moscow. Comrade N. A. Miliutin, who works in the Communist Academy, demands that a number of factories and works should be removed from Moscow and its population reduced to 1–1½, or at most to 2 million people.62

It is interesting that Miliutin, rather than OSA or Ginzburg, the more radical, should be singled out. A few minutes before Kaganovich had attacked Sabsovich (an extreme urbanist who believed in high-density, tightly scheduled city life in what were to be essentially barracks) for Sabsovich’s radical collectivism and abolition of the family; he ridiculed Sabsovich’s dictum: “There must be no room for the joint habitation of man and wife.…”63 What is apparent is that there was to be no middle ground (where Miliutin stood) and no compromise with either the modernists or (as would prove to be the case) with those with a sympathy for Western advances in architecture such as Miliutin had demonstrated. And, ominously, Miliutin was being attacked for things that he does not really appear to have said.64 Perhaps it was his substantial position in the Academy and in the Party, and the considerable publicity that the magazine “V.O.K.S.” had given his book, that required that he be admonished rather than Ginzburg, who was allowed to continue to talk Constructivism for several years, provided that he did not expect to fill commissions in that style.

In any case, Kaganovich went on to describe how he and Stalin had turned inside out the old Marxist ideal of abolishing the distinction between town and country—especially as it had been understood by Miliutin and other planners of the 1920s: We are aiming at the abolition of the contrast between the town and the country, not by means of the abolition of the town, but by the transformation of the town and the socialist reconstruction of the village, raising the latter to the cultural level of an advanced city. Comrade Stalin, in his speech at the Conference of Marxian Agrarians, pointed out with particular clearness how the question of the abolition of the contrast between the town and the village was to be understood. He said: “The question of the relations between the town and village … is assuming a new footing.… It will transform the psychology of the peasant and will turn him toward the town.… The peasant of the old type, with his barbaric mistrust of the city, which he regards as a plunderer, is passing into the background. His place is being taken by the new peasant, the peasant of the collective farm, who looks toward the city with the hope of obtaining from it real and productive aid.65

This switch to big-city planning procedures (echoing the new traditionalism in architectural design and the re-establishment of pre-Soviet academicians in power) gathered momentum, and the 1932 Bolshevik Party Congress on Moscow sent seven brigades of foreign architects and planners into Greater Moscow to work.66 Consequently it comes as no surprise that the invitation to the CIAM to meet in Moscow was withdrawn.

In 1932 Miliutin recanted. What he wrote from that time on with regard to architecture and planning represents an about-face that is incomprehensible in terms of Sotsgorod. With two outstanding exceptions, however, all the profession buckled under at about the same time; only Ginzburg and the Vesnins continued to defend their past.67

Miliutin’s recantation appeared in his own periodical in the spring of 1932 in an article entitled “Major Problems of the Present Period of Soviet Architecture.” While still defending his basic planning concept of linearity on the grounds that it was the product of a study sponsored by the Communist Academy, Miliutin admitted that Sotsgorod suffered from a number of defects. He takes himself to task for having gone along with the disurbanists to the extent that he did on the score of Moscow. He identified those who believed in the theory of disurbanization with the theory of the “immediate withering away of the State” (an analogy which he seems to have taken from Kaganovich68). Disurbanization is a “social-fascist” scheme that, under cover of “‘leftist’ phrases,” spreads the illusion that socialism can be created without the “annihilation of capitalist methods of production” and pretends that the period of the “withering away of the State, of the schools, of the army” has already come; this is an attitude on Miliutin’s part that conforms in a way to his earlier preoccupation with the “transitional period.” He lashes out at a number of his colleagues, however, labeling the disurbanist Okhitovich of the OSA a “Trotzkyite,” while those advocating the urbanist position were “Menshevik-Trotzkyite right-wing opportunists.” In general Miliutin began now to reinforce his writings with lengthier excerpts from Stalin’s writings, and he becomes increasingly Orwellian in expression. This article certainly contains his most bitter epithets about deviationism.69

Miliutin seems to have written nothing more on planning as such but, as an editor and ranking Marxist theorist in the profession, it is of interest to read his later opinions on the subject of modern architecture and its relation to the Soviet situation. In the fall of 1932 he printed the address he gave at the opening of the exhibition of German architecture of that year.70 He was genuinely enthusiastic to see an exhibit of the works he had so long admired. He cautioned, however, that the programs showed a lack of the social goals that Soviet architects should seek. He praised the “constructivism” of the German work, but warned (and this is the new Soviet line) against excessive formalism on the one hand and unaesthetic engineering on the other. He pointed out that Soviet architecture was striving for social expression and that to do away with such is nihilism: it would be to take the soul out of architecture (in painting, of course, this means “social realism”). Sculpture, ornament, and fresco should not be disdained in the search for a “dialectic unity of all aspects of architecture.”

Of the other articles he published during his tenure as editor of the magazine, the most interesting is a series titled “Basic Questions on a Theory of Soviet Architecture”; this is an informally organized and highly personal critique of the art and architecture of the day. It is more a credo of aesthetics than a practical outline of architectural theory.71

In these articles he severely criticizes Bekker, a leader of VOPRA, for his assertion that Western ideas should be completely avoided in creating a new Soviet architecture; instead, Miliutin follows Ginzburg’s reasoning that there is much of value in European and American architecture that the Russians should utilize. In addition, A. V. Lunacharskii, Miliutin’s erstwhile superior in the Commissariat of Public Education, came in for a merciless ribbing for his leanings toward the classical in architecture.


There can be no question of a synthesis of antique architecture (i.e., of the era of slavery) with contemporary forms … we want no unprincipled eclecticism such as they have in Washington.… Would we equip the Red Army as Creek hoplites?

Or perhaps we could make Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns of duraluminum and steel or maybe put a Doric portico over the assembly section of the Stalingrad Tractor Plant.…72

This comes close to describing the neoclassical excesses of later Soviet architects!

In the course of his “Basic Questions” article, Miliutin brings up the subject of Le Corbusier. His criticism of the Swiss architect seems to reduce to a lament that Le Corbusier was not born a Russian Bolshevik. The fact that Le Corbusier worked under a capitalist system made him the whipping boy for a harangue on economics, rather than the recipient of aesthetic criticism. Miliutin had many times made plain his respect for Le Corbusier’s technical accomplishments. His indebtedness to Le Corbusier is reflected in the passage:

We know that life is a constantly developing process and that the eternal in architecture is naive, but this does not mean that we will not have our palaces and monuments as well; but ours will not be like those of Egypt; they will be closer in feeling to Reims and Cluny where all is elastic and moving, where all the elements of architecture combine in amazing unity and clarity of purpose.… It is time to stop seeing architecture as something immovable. We build ocean-going architecture for ships and flying architecture for airplanes. Life is movement, too.73

Miliutin also uses “Basic Questions” to summarize his views on the history of art, a matter that we can only touch upon here. In view of his general disparagement of the formalists, we are startled at his lengthy defense of imaginative experimentation in the arts. He argued for more fantasy in creative work and introduced a passage from Lenin’s What’s To Be Done? of 1902, in which Lenin had termed fantasy a “priceless talent.”74 This was particularly intended as a defense of Iakov Chernikhov, the Leningrad Constructivist and professor of architectural rendering. Chernikhov’s Architectural Fantasies, an exciting collection of 101 colored renderings of visionary architectural complexes, had appeared in 1933, evoking a storm of adverse criticism on the part of other writers. Miliutin illustrates this section of “Basic Questions” with no less than sixteen of Chernikhov’s designs and comments upon the “remarkable industrial complex which can be developed into living architecture, made into marvelous paintings or left as inert formalist schemes … but the architect who is deprived of fantasy is impotent.”75

We are further surprised to find him arguing now that modern architecture, and especially Constructivism, represents the decadence of bourgeois society, in particular because of its subjectivism; presumably modern architecture in the USSR was not as subjective because of its social goals, a theme he had stressed at the German exhibition the year before.

Another, later effort that he made to explain the failings of capitalist (Western) modern architecture is an article entitled “Constructivism and Functionalism” in Arkhitektura SSSR—so far as is known, his last published article. As Willen observes, he relates the factor of subjectivism in the West ultimately to the enormous profits that big business had made from World War I. Constructivism was a style taken on to beautify the life of the rich and yet not to arouse the “indignation of the working masses.” Functionalism, on the other hand, developed in Germany as a result of the economies forced by reparations payments and represented a rationalization of the process that exploited the “toiling masses.” Western functionalism’s banishment of beauty (which the USSR was now obtaining by its new classicism) represented the decay of capitalism.

As his arguments, like those of so many of his compatriots, became more specious and contradictory he seems simply to have given up, to have stopped writing. There is little to suggest, however, that he ever accepted as completely as others did the new defense of traditional classicism as the vehicle of proletarian ideas. He seems always to have clung somewhat to the earlier direction and method of “transforming the way of life.”


We should add that in the pages of Sovetskaia Arkhitektura Miliutin published two projects for buildings designed by himself (Pls. 27–29).76 These are projects for a dining club and a standardized nursery building. The former, shown in Pl. 27, is more or less Constructivist in design, consisting of a series of connected rectangular units set into a hillside. Miliutin here stresses the use of new and inexpensive materials—as in Sotsgorod—and the avoidance of applied decoration.


His plan for a nursery (Pls. 28, 29) demands the proper choice of color, and notes the importance of considering the psychological impact of architectural forms upon children. The facade, for example, should present

a contrast of simple planes using the Golden Section in simple rectangular elements … the rhythm of these elements (columns, windows, frames, etc.) should range from adagio to moderato depending on the physiological and psychological age of the child.77

The reference to rhythm of architectural elements may relate to Ginzburg’s theoretical work, Rhythm in Architecture, while the emphasis upon color most probably stems from the theories of Chernikhov, for whom color was the subject of extensive study.78


By way of conclusion, what was the impact of Miliutin’s book?

Miliutin’s influence in Russia is difficult to assess. Although he had some basic and immediate effect on the Party line, it must be assumed that the neoclassic reaction of the thirties effectively suppressed any of his more advanced theories, including that of linear planning. After 1934, to open Sotsgorod and be confronted by full-page photographs of Le Corbusier’s projects or such renderings as Mies van der Rohe’s glass tower was enough to put most architects and students on guard even if they had got by the white square on black which served as end paper for the book and was a motif clearly appropriated from Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist paintings. There is no evidence that any industrial combine in the USSR was laid out according to Miliutin’s principles in his day.

His influence in the West seems to have been twofold. Most perceptible is the influence upon Le Corbusier, who in The Radiant City demonstrated a fascination with the concept of the “living cell,” who obviously relied on Miliutin for his own later cite linéaire industrielle, and possibly for some of the segregated functions in the CIAM Athens Charter for which Le Corbusier considered himself largely responsible.

Otherwise Miliutin’s Stalingrad plan became almost emblematic of linearism in planning, and it has appeared, as we have noted, in nearly all books on twentieth-century planning theory. It was at first cited as a curiosity, but since linear planning has become such a fad among architects in the 1960s, its influence promises to increase. A similar delayed reaction is now occurring within the Soviet Union. The Khrushchev thaw and the Russian publications that have been permitted to appear on the 1920s, along with the substantial publications abroad, will probably bring Miliutin’s Problem of Building Socialist Cities into a prominence in Russia that it was not fated to know when it first appeared in 1930.

As Arthur Sprague wrote shortly after his return from an extended stay in the USSR studying these matters:

At this writing, some thirteen years after Stalin’s death, the attitude of the Communist Party toward the work of this pioneer of Soviet architecture and planning appears to be changing markedly. The neglect of such figures as Miliutin, Leonidov, and others still unknown to the West has had a deleterious effect on building, both in the USSR and abroad, since dogma and censorship have prohibited any discussion of these earlier experiments in formulating new methods. The spontaneous and imaginative response of intelligent thinkers like Miliutin to the vast problems of building a new society, provoked by the First Five-Year Plan nearly forty years ago, could again today contribute ideas about the building of new cities. •

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