House on the Embankment in Moscow

House on the Embankment (official name – House of Government; also known as the First House of Soviets, the House of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR) is a residential complex in Moscow built in 1931 on the Bersenevskaya Embankment of the Moscow River.

A monument of constructivist architecture.

Until 1952, it was the tallest residential building in Moscow. Known as the residence of the Soviet elite who suffered during the Stalinist repressions. It is repeatedly mentioned in the literature, in particular in Yuri Trifonov’s story of the same name.

The residential complex is located on Bolotny Island and two bridges – Bolshoy Kamenny and Maly Kamenny – connect it to the city. The building covers an area of 3.3 hectares and consists of eight buildings with a height of 9 to 11 floors, 505 apartments and 25 entrances overlooking Serafimovicha Street and Bersenevskaya Embankment.

The official address of the house is Serafimovicha Street, 2. Organizations located on the side of the river sometimes use the address Bersenevskaya Embankment, 2.


After the October Revolution, many civil servants were transferred from St. Petersburg to Moscow due to the transfer of the capital of the RSFSR in 1918. In the first years, they were settled directly in the Kremlin or in the houses of the Soviets, which were usually hotels – “National“, “Metropol“, “Loskutnaya”.

By the 1920s, it became necessary to free hotels for the needs of the city and evict employees from the Kremlin, which was to become the personal residence of Joseph Stalin and his entourage. The employees of the CEC, the Council of People’s Commissars, the Party Control Commission, the leadership of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, the people’s commissars and their deputies had to be resettled, so they decided to build a residential building with a full range of consumer and cultural services, intended primarily for employees of the CEC and the Council of People’s Commissars.

The construction of the house lasted from 1928 to 1931. Initially, Boris Iofan (main architect) planned to clad the walls with pink granite chips so that the color of the walls would be in harmony with the walls of the Kremlin, but due to the proximity of the boiler room of the tram substation, they decided to make the complex of buildings gray. To construct in the swampy area, piles were installed in the ground and materials were brought on carts and barges along the river.

The architectural plan of the building changed several times: first, the number of apartments was increased from 440 to 505 and then plans to demolish the nearby Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker on Bersenevskaya embankment were abandoned. However, gravestones from the nearby cemetery were used to build the foundation. During construction, a fire broke out in one of the buildings under unclear circumstances.

In 1931, representatives of the Soviet elite began to receive apartments in the house: party and state leaders, heroes of the Civil War, Socialist Labor and the Soviet Union, writers, employees of the Comintern, and participants in the Spanish Civil War. Among the residents of the House on the Embankment were the children of Joseph Stalin – Svetlana Alliluyeva and Vasily Stalin, the revolutionary Panteleimon Lepeshinsky and his wife, biologist Olga Lepeshinskaya, statesmen Alexei Rykov, Lavrenty Beria, Nikita Khrushchev, breeder Nikolai Tsitsin, poet Demyan Bedny, aircraft designer Artyom Mikoyan, shock miner, coal industry innovator Alexei Stakhanov, pilots Mikhail Vodopyanov and Nikolai Kamanin, writer Alexander Serafimovich (in 1933, Vsekhsvyatskaya Street was renamed Serafimovich Street).

The 1st and 12th entrances were considered the most prestigious because their windows overlooked the Kremlin. Apartments with a view of the power plant, dry cleaning or laundry were valued lower.

Servants and guards occupied the first floors of the buildings, and high-ranking residents settled in apartments from the second floor and above. Changes in working positions led to migration within the residential complex.

There were two apartments on each floor. They had from one to seven rooms and an area of 40 to 300 m² with a ceiling height of 3.7 meters, were equipped with gas stoves, telephones, radio points, garbage chutes, had a hot water supply, which in the 1930s was not even in the Kremlin, and also windows in toilets and bathrooms according to latest standards, many apartments contained rooms for servants. The house had central heating, and passenger and freight elevators. Entrance number 11 was non-residential, there were no apartments or elevators in it. There was a myth that the NKVD used it to spy on residents and wiretap the premises. However, in the 1990s, this legend was refuted and the apartments on the 12th, which were considered elite, were expanded.

Oak parquet was laid in each apartment and the ceilings were decorated with stucco and picturesque images that the Hermitage restorers designed. Furniture and household items were unified and leased by inventory numbers. When new tenants enter the house, they sign acceptance certificates and guarantees that consider everything – down to the latches and toilet lids.

In addition to residential buildings, the complex included a laundry, a first-aid post, a savings bank, a post office, a nursery and a kindergarten, an outpatient clinic, a library, a gym, tennis courts, and a distribution store. The basements were equipped with a snow melter and incinerators. Despite the large area of the apartments and the presence of all modern amenities in them, the kitchens were made small – from 4 to 6 m², and residents could get food in the dining room with coupons. Each kitchen had a hole in the wall for a samovar pipe and an exit for a freight elevator for a garbage removal.

In the courtyards of the house, there were flower beds and fountains. For the leisure of the residents, a club was organized and named after Alexei Rykov, and the Udarnik cinema for 1,500 seats, where the latest Soviet and world cinema was shown: unlike ordinary Muscovites, residents of the house could receive tickets for film screenings out of turn. The roof of the cinema was retractable, but it was only ever opened twice.

Despite the many privileges, the residents of the complex obeyed the internal routine: the commandants had to be informed about the reception of guests in advance, and visitors were allowed into the apartments after making a telephone call. Any celebrations ended strictly at 23:00 and guards with dogs patrolled the yards. Watchmen oversaw the elevators and visitors went upstairs with an escort. For the overnight stay of visitors, it was necessary to fill in documents – otherwise, the guests went to a hotel.

Since 1933, individual arrests of the residents of the house began, which took on a massive character during the years of the Great Terror, when the struggle against the alleged “enemies of the people” touched the highest state, military and party officials. Of the residents of the house, more than 700 were repressed, including marshals Mikhail Tukhachevsky and Vasily Blucher, Alexey Rykov and his wife Nina, and party leaders Pavel Postyshev, Osip Pyatnitsky and Moses Kalmanovich.

During the Great Patriotic War, the house was resettled and mined in case Moscow surrendered to the Wehrmacht.

In the war and post-war years, many prominent figures of the Soviet army lived in the house, including marshals Georgy Zhukov, Ivan Bagramyan, Ivan Konev, Rodion Malinovsky and Kirill Meretskov.

From 1942, the tenants gradually began to return to their apartments.

After the war, the second wave of repression began, ending only with the death of Stalin in 1953. Lesser-known people settled in the place of the repressed, and some of the apartments were converted into communal ones. Nevertheless, the house kept its elite status.

In the early 1960s, the premises of the Rykov Club were given to the USSR Ministry of Culture. In 1961, the Moscow Variety Theater occupied it.

Today the state protects the complex as an object of cultural heritage. In recent years, the residents of the house have been fighting to preserve its historical appearance, speaking out against the additions of the 1990s-2000s, for the restoration of historic lanterns and repair shops on the basement. As of 2018, in addition to residential apartments, the Moscow Variety Theatre, the Udarnik cinema, the House of the Russian Press and offices of various commercial organizations are located on its territory.


In the 1980s, an initiative group arose among the old-timers to create the House on the Embankment Museum. The museum was opened in 1989 in the former apartment of the security guard at the first entrance. The first director of the museum was Tamara Ter-Yeghiazaryan, who has lived in the house since 1931. The exposition was replenished with personal belongings, books, photographs and documents from different archives. The museum recreated the everyday atmosphere of the 1930s and collected lists of residents – victims of Stalinist repressions and participants in the Great Patriotic War.

In 1992, the House on the Embankment Museum received the status of a state museum. In the mid-1990s, memorial plaques to the residents of the house began to be installed.

In 2014, the Museum “House on the Embankment” became a department of the museum association “Museum of Moscow”, and since 2016 became part of the State Museum of the History of the GULAG.

How to get to?

Nearest metro: Tretyakovskaya, Biblioteka Imeni Lenina.

Attractions nearby: Stalinist skyscraper on Kotelnicheskaya embankmentKosmodamianskaya embankmentBolshoy Krasnokholmsky BridgeKotelnicheskaya embankmentBolshoy Ustinsky BridgeMaly Ustinsky Bridge, Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, Kremlin embankment, Sofiyskaya Embankment, Bolshoy Kamenny Bridge, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Patriarshiy Peshekhodnyy Most.

See also Architecture of MoscowPalaces and most historic buildings of Moscow.

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