• Michael Laxer

USSR at Expo 67

55 years after the historic Montreal Expo a look at the Soviet pavilion.


On April 27, 1967 Expo 67 opened in Montreal. The Expo was originally supposed to held in Moscow, USSR to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the revolution but these plans were changed and the fair was held in Montreal. It was a tremendous success.


The USSR still used the expo as a place to celebrate its incredible achievements over 50 years of socialist power.


Here, 55 years after Expo 67 we share some photos of the Soviet pavilion and an interview with one of the Soviet organizers of the event.


"One final word. EXPO-67 coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of Soviet power. Our exhibitions, as I have already said, will try to show the progress we have made in that period. Our visitors will get a better picture of the Soviet Union if they contrast what we were only a half century ago and what we are today, if they bear in mind that Russia was one of the most backward countries in Europe, that after the Revolution we had to go through a cruel civil war in the course of which we were invaded by foreign armies, that we suffered from famine and economic dislocation, that many countries would not recognise us for years and declared economic war on us, that we had to pull ourselves up from poverty, so to speak, practically by ourselves. Finally, visitors should bear in mind that scores of thou-sands of our cities and villages were destroyed in World War II. What I am getting at is that with some understanding of the difficulties and hardships we suffered, visitors to our pavilion will be able to evaluate our achievements more clearly and certainly more fairly."




Soviet life correspondent interviewed Georgi A. Fedyashin, Deputy General Commissioner of the Soviet Section of EXPO 67, before the fair opened:




Q. What, specifically, will be the Soviet Union's contribution to EXPO-67?


A. It will be many-sided, and I mean that literally. We will have our own pavilion and we will also be represented in the four inter-national pavilions dedicated to "Man the Explorer," "Man and Health," "Man and Production" and "Man the Creator."


Q. The theme of EXPO 67, I understand, is "The People's Earth." What is the theme of the Soviet Pavilion?


A. "All for the Sake of Man, for the Good of Man." The exhibits, whether they are ma-chines, instruments or structures, have been chosen not for any intrinsic merit they may have but because they are part of our every-day living, the tangible products of our society. Another point worth noting is that we have arranged them so as to show our country in development, to show what we have been able to do in 50 years and what we are working toward.


Q. The Soviet Pavilion at EXPO 67 occupies 215,000 square feet of space, slightly less than the one at the 1958 Brussels Fair. Does that mean this Soviet exhibition will be less representative?


A. Space aside for the moment, our pavilion is one of the largest. Soviet architects—Boris Thor, Rudolf Kliks and Ashot Mdoyants headed by Mikhail Posokhin—worked out a very ingenious solution to the usable space problem. But to explain the slight reduction in pavilion space: What we wanted to do at Brussels in 1958 was to show as many exhibits as possible. Today, as I have already said, our purpose is different, to give visitors an idea of the country's development in the 50 years of Soviet power. Each exhibit is meant to symbolize a stage of progress. Besides, it should be taken into consideration that besides the pavilion -- the straight display space--we will have a movie theater seating 600 and a restaurant accommodating 1100. We will also have an interfloor lens for 72 which will "hang" in the front part of the pavilion. All this will more than compensate.


Q. What is this "interfloor lens"?


A. A kind of spaceship of the future. Its "passengers" will take a simulated space trip complete with g-loads and even something like weightlessness. Looking through the port-holes, they will get a "space view" of the earth and other planets. The "space travelers" will be enveloped in a motion picture that creates the illusion of soaring in the cosmos.


Q: You mentioned a movie theater. What kind of films will it show?


A. We will show about 175 all told, mostly feature, and, of course, popular science films related to the exposition, travel films, children's films and cartoons.


Q. What are a few of the feature-length pictures?


A. Among the old masterpieces—Battleship Potemkin, Descendant of Genghis Khan, The Earth, Chapayev, Ivan Grozny. Among the films made in the last 20 years -- Othello, Don Quixote, Hamlet, The Cranes Are Flying, Ballad of a Soldier, The Fate of a Man, Seryosha, Ivan's Childhood, Nobody Wanted to Die and, of course, War and Peace. There will be special matinees for children.


Q. You said that there will be fetter exhibits than at EXPO-58. How many will there be?


A. About 6.000 big exhibits.


Q. How will the Soviet Pavilion be divided?


A. The first section will tell the story of our socialist country as a whole and of each of the 15 republics, their way of life, culture and tradition. Visitors will be able to follow the whole road our Central Asian republics have traveled from czarist colonies to the highly developed and equal socialist republics they are today. The main hall of the pavilion will be devoted to the country's economy, science and technology. The main emphasis here will be on power development. We have some unique things to show, one of them a model of a million-kilowatt turbine generator.


Q. What other exhibits fall into the "unique" category?


A. Quite a number. A working UN-3 installation and models of TAKOMAK and OGRA-2 installations are examples. Each of them serves a function in the search for methods of converting atomic energy. Thus, the first is a prototype of a thermonuclear installation of the future using water as an inexhaustible source of fuel. The development of such an installation opens truly staggering prospects for mankind, and the models on display will show just how close Soviet scientists have come to the solution of this problem. Another of our unique exhibits is a 70 Bev proton synchrotron. The peaceful uses of atomic energy is one of the concentration areas of our exposition -- the atom as a source of electric power, the atom used to make water potable, the atom in medicine. The development of the North is a task of prime importance not only for the Soviet Union but for several other countries. Canada among them. We will be displaying a model of the atomic icebreaker Lenin, which made the Northern Sea Route easily accessible. Incidentally, our exposition will also show a model of the Indigirka, which won a Gold Cane prize for being the first ship to arrive in Montreal in 1966.


Q. Will all these be in the section devoted to our economy?


A. Yes. The same section will show a diorama of the Donets Coal Basin and machines that can see through metals, walls and soil. A display of our country's fish resources will feature a three-foot-long deep-frozen beluga. A glass water tank, set into a model of a fish farm, will show how we multiply these resources. An electrified model of a Ukrainian village, dioramas and models of new towns and of war-ruined towns rehabilitated—all these will be on view in that same section.


Q. Well, that gives me a picture of the ground floor of our pavilion. but before we move up to the first floor—just for a change of display matter—would you say a few words about our contribution to the international pavilion dedicated to "Man the Creator"?


A. Certainly. Our museums are lending some of their works of art, chosen not to illustrate Soviet development in this case, but to illustrate man's creative genius from the early beginnings to the present day. They include a large golden altarpiece of the fourth or fifth century B.C. from the Hermitage collection, a "stone woman"—a Scythian tombstone of the eighth or ninth century B.C., The Flaming Ascent of Ilya the Prophet, an icon by a fourteenth century Pskov painter, Ruben's Stone Carters, canvases by Cezanne, Matisse, Delneka and Picasso. Models of some of our architectural monuments -- Kizhi, Nerl, Djvari, Sofia Kievskaya-- will also be exhibited. And for folk music lovers, we will have on display the many traditional musical instruments played by the peoples of the USSR, from the familiar balalaika to such exotic instruments as the khtukannel and tuidyuk.


Q. Will our progress in space exploration be reflected in the "Man the Creator" pavilion?


A. The detailed story of the work Soviet scientists and engineers have done in that field will be told by the displays on the first floor of our own pavilion. Visitors will be able to track our country's progress step by step -- from the first rockets built by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky to earth satellites and the Luna 9 automatic probe. There will also be a "Moon Room" where visitors will be able to take a walk on a simulated lunar surface, as well as the "lens" I mentioned previously.


Q. Will Soviet cosmonauts be at the exhibition?


A. Yes, our cosmonauts are expected to be there.


Q. Will the Soviet and American cosmonauts meet at the exhibition?


A. Quite possibly. Such a "rendezvous" is likely in outer space, too. As for a get together on Canadian soil, it is very probable what with the so-called "Space Bridge' between our and the American pavilions.


Q. What other sections of the Soviet Pavilion will vie for the visitors' attention?


A. Fifty years ago Russia was a country of almost total illiteracy. Its current achievements speak for themselves. The "Education" section will show the progress in that field right up to such new developments as programmed training and the cybernetic teaching machine. About 200 children were born in the Soviet Union while we have been talking. And the oldest Soviet citizen is 160. The "Health" section will concern itself with the newborn, the centenarian and the longevity of everyone in between. Those interested in the arts --painting, theater, music and ballet -- will be able to see modem Soviet paintings and stage sets of theatrical productions and hear tape-recordings by our best musicians. A polyscreen movie will show Soviet ballet.


Q. Will there be live performances also?


A. Of course. Several troupes and soloists will perform at EXPO-67.


Q. Could you be more specific?


A. Well, we expect the Bolshoi Opera Company, the Red Banner Song and Dance Soviet Army Ensemble, the State Circus and about 200 actors to perform.


Q. Some Western publications say the Soviet Pavilion will be a showcase to give visitors a rosy picture of the Soviet Union. Any comment?


A. It is characteristic that even before our pavilion opens, people hostile to the Soviet Union hasten to make such charges. To my mind, this in itself testifies to their prejudice, to their desire to play down at all costs the impression the Soviet Pavilion may make. It is impossible, obviously, to squeeze a whole country into one pavilion, no matter how big; hence our effort to show what is most typical, most representative -- and, of course, our best. But to attack the Soviet Union for putting its best foot forward, that is sheer hypocrisy -- I don't think we will be seeing a model of a slum in any of the pavilions. The idea of the exhibition is to show the achievements of man, the dynamics of a country's development.


Q. But what about unique exhibits? Can they be called typical?


A. Of course they can. The satellites and the Luna 9 automatic probe I mentioned are quite typical -- after all, they were actually used in space. More than that, anything that demonstrates the trend of the country's development and reflects its progress is typical.


Q. You talked of a restaurant seating 1100. How many of the national dishes of the Soviet peoples will it serve?


A. I think that even the most demanding gourmet will not be disappointed in the choices available. Unfortunately, I've tasted only a small fraction of what will be offered diners, but I remember some of the items on the menu: Russian blini (pancakes) Caucasian shashlyk. sterlet soup. Ukrainian borsch, Kiev vareniki. Uzbek pilau and, of course, the national beverages.


Q. How many Soviet tourists are expected to visit EXPO 67 at a guess?


A. Hard to tell. But my colleagues, directors of pavilions of several of the West European countries, tell me that the number of tourists will be limited by the fact that the fare to Canada is so expensive. Our Intourist agency will be arranging trips on easy terms, but the travel expenses will still be quite high. That is why we do not expect very many tourists from our country.


Q. Many of the foreigners who come to the Soviet Union buy souvenirs, furs, records, books, etc. Will any of the items exhibited be on sale?


A. Of course. We will be selling beautiful lacquered boxes made in the village of Palekh, Ukrainian ceramics, Central Asian embroidery, objects from Transcaucasia and such traditional Russian delicacies as caviar, vodka and canned Chatka crabmeat. As for books, we will have 150 titles on sale. Sholokhov's And Quiet Flows the Don and A Knight in Tiger's Skin by the classic Georgian poet Shots Rustaveli are examples. Also various albums of reproductions: woodcuts from the famous Favorsky, old Russian paintings from the Hermitage collection, French painters on display in Soviet museums, paintings by the well-known Armenian Martiros Saryan, photographs of the State Circus and of Igor Moiseyev's Folk Dance Ensemble.


Q. Will any booklets or pamphlets be given away free?


A. A great many, covering 41 subjects. Here are three of the titles taken at random: "Questions About the USSR Answered", "Hockey in Russia," "I Am 50 Years Old."


Q. Now will information on activities scheduled at the Soviet Pavilion—concerts, movie showings and the like—be publicised?


A. Bulletins will be issued by our press department to announce events scheduled. We also plan to put out a newspaper. One final word. EXPO-67 coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of Soviet power. Our exhibitions, as I have already said, will try to show the progress we have made in that period. Our visitors will get a better picture of the Soviet Union if they contrast what we were only a half century ago and what we are today, if they bear in mind that Russia was one of the most backward countries in Europe, that after the Revolution we had to go through a cruel civil war in the course of which we were invaded by foreign armies, that we suffered from famine and economic dislocation, that many countries would not recognise us for years and declared economic war on us, that we had to pull ourselves up from poverty, so to speak, practically by ourselves. Finally, visitors should bear in mind that scores of thou-sands of our cities and villages were destroyed in World War II. What I am getting at is that with some understanding of the difficulties and hardships we suffered, visitors to our pavilion will be able to evaluate our achievements more clearly and certainly more fairly.






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