Preserving Warsaw under Socialism

Under the Soviet sphere, the acts of preservation or demolition became a form of propaganda. Miles Glendinning states that the three main problems that the Conservation Movement faced under Socialist leadership were one, the strong link between fascism and conservation; two, the question of if built heritage was linked to the value-system of the bourgeoisie; and three, how to relate the futuristic plans of the socialists with historic buildings. Soviet leaders attempted to solve these problems by appealing to the various countries sense of nationalistic pride by saving the monuments of their past and the creation of new structures that either reference historical architectural styles or are commemorative of moments from the war.

It is my belief that certain cities that were destroyed in World War II that found themselves under the Soviet sphere of influence were restored to the level that they are seen now only because of the influence that the socialists wanted to project over the nations that they were given control of. Instead of razing the remains of the city of Warsaw, Poland, the Soviet deputy Jan Zachwatowicz appealed to the Polish populations strive for freedom and independence by calling for the restoration of the city. By making this choice, Zachwatowicz was able to create a link between his own socialist duty, and the nationalistic duty of the Polish people.

By combining the ideals of Viollet-le-Duc and Socialist Realism, the architects and preservationists involved in the reconstruction of Warsaw were able to restore the historical integrity of the city, while also calling attention to the Soviet notion of planned order. The Old Town of Warsaw was stylistically unified, with no real thought of showing the difference between the enduring fabric and the newly added materials, but according to Zachwatowicz this is what made it into a living city. The Soviets, in restoring Old Town, created a monument that appealed to the people’s nationalistic pride. Their act of restoration formed a link between Polish and socialist ideals that, to me, was a stronger influence than the construction of the Palace of Culture and Science that was built in the Socialist Realistic style on the outskirts of the city.

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