Vorobyovy Gory, known as ‘Lenin Hills’ 1935–99, is one of the highest points in Moscow, reaching 85 m above the Moskva River, which is hidden by the trees in the foreground, and 200 m above sea level. It’s the site of the Moscow State University main building (well, 800 m back from this observation platform above the steep slope), 5 km from the city centre.
The overall impression from this panoramic view is of a fairly low-rise city, but it’s more that most buildings in view tend to be moderately high-rise – 10 storeys or more – with only a few exceptionally tall buildings standing out. The most striking are the ‘Seven Sisters’, Stalin’s answer to the USA landmark skyscrapers of the 1930s, which were built at key points around Moscow, to maximise their impact.
Each was designed according to Stalin’s specifications, in a distinctive ‘marriage-cake’ style featuring a horizontally-extensive building drawing the eye to a central tower, with patriotic decorations and mouldings. Stalin also insisted that each be given a spire, in order to distinguish them from their American counterparts: ‘super buildings for a super people’.
It’s also worth remembering that, like London, Moscow has a distinct skyscraper district, Moscow International Business Center, off the left of this image, That contains 3 of Europe’s 5 tallest buildings (7 of the top 10) and Moscow overall has 13 of the top 20.
Luzhniki Stadium (‘The Meadows’) is in the foreground, a kilometre away. Opened in 1956 as the ‘Grand Arena of the Central Lenin Stadium’, it was the main venue of the 1980 Olympic Games and, with a capacity of 81,000, remains the national (football) stadium, hosting the 2018 World Cup. To the left, the large, pillared, rectangular building is the 8,700-seat Malaya Sportivnaya Arena Luzhniki (‘Luzhniki smaller Sports Arena’), self-evidently part of the same complex, 1.1 km from here.
The only other obvious building in the foreground is the white building with a Classical facade: the SOHO restaurant, 720 m away on the far bank of the Moskva River.
Starting from the left of the background, the 1st landmark is one of the ‘Seven Sisters’, the Hotel Ukraina (today the Radisson Royal Hotel), 5 km away inside the tip of another meander. At 206 m and 34 storeys, it was the world’s tallest hotel 1957–76.
The striped chimneys are at the Tets-12 power station, 3.1 km away. Almost hidden by the left chimney is Ostankino Television Tower, 13 km away, whilst behind the right chimney is the Russian Federation Government House, the ‘Russian White House’, 5.4 km away, site of key events in 1991 and 1993.
To the right is another ‘Seven Sister’, the Kudrinskaya Square Building, 6 km away, half-hidden behind the Kontrol’no-Schetnaya Palata Moskvy government offices 5.4 km away.
Further to the right and rather nearer is the Novodevichy Convent, 2 km away on the near side of another meander in the Moskva. Built in the 1520s, it remains famous for its 5-domed cathedral and ornate bell tower.
The next ‘Seven Sister’ is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, ~5 km away at the western end of the Arbat and hence the edge of the tourist-friendly pedestrianised city centre.
This viewpoint and the stadium lie on a planned axis, starting beyond Lomonosovskiy Prospekt, 700 m south-west of the vast Moscow State University building (as mentioned, that’s ~900 m directly behind the camera), on across the river to the stadium then across a plaza to the 3rd Ring Road, ~700 m further away; in total, a 3½ km straight line through symmetrical landscaping and buildings.
From there, the street plan is less regimented, but the axis points straight towards the very centre of Moscow: precisely through the onion dome of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour 5½ km away and the midline of the Kremlin; the Ivan Velikiy (‘the Great’) bell tower is therein, 6.6 km from here.
To the immediate left of the Cathedral’s gilded dome, a 4th ‘Seven Sister’ is just visible on the skyline: the Red Gate Building, 9½ km away. Barely distinguishable to its left is another, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya hotel, 10 km away beside the railway station to St Petersburg (which isn’t visible!).
Behind the flat top of the stadium, 5¼ km away one can see the mast of the much-loathed 98m-tall riverside statue honoring Peter the Great and the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy. Essentially it’s a statue of Christopher Columbus aboard ship, which the sculptor couldn’t sell abroad so repurposed it after a head swap!
Finally, above the right of the stadium is a 6th ‘Seven Sister’, the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building 7½ km away.
And the seventh? As mentioned (twice), that was behind me: the Moscow State University main building is the biggest of them all.