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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

VDNKh Fountain Is Losing Its Luster

MTThe first signs of major decay in the 400-square-meter fountain appeared when water leaks reached over 150 cubic meters a day.
Urgent repairs are needed to prevent the Fountain of People's Friendship -- the giant, golden Soviet-era attraction at the center of the All-Russia Exhibition Center, or VVTs -- from crumbling to pieces, VVTs's technical director said.

The steel and iron-reinforced concrete fountain, which turned 50 on Aug. 1, now appears eaten away with rust.

Alexander Yegorov, VVTs's technical director, said a complete overhaul at an estimated cost of 450 million rubles ($15 million) is urgently needed.

The first signs of major decay in the 400-square-meter fountain appeared four years ago, when water leaks reached over 150 cubic meters per day, Yegorov said.

The fountain's eight pumps, which were designed to project 1,000 liters of water per second from 800 jets to heights of 22 meters, do not work properly, and some of the giant gold-plated sculptures depicting women holding sheaves of wheat are starting to tilt, he said.

Yegorov said city authorities last allotted money for repairs -- 1 million rubles -- in 2000. Apart from this modest help, VVTs, which is 70 percent owned by the federal government and 30 percent by the city government, has financed all repairs and annual renovations from its own funds.

VVTs, a sprawling shopping and entertainment center with numerous pavilions and attractions scattered around its grounds, is better known to most Moscow residents by its former name, VDNKh, or the Exhibition of the People's Economic Achievements. VDNKh was a popular destination in Soviet times, with dozens of stalls displaying ornate shrines to Soviet industry as well as many luxury goods only available to the bureaucratic elite.

Alexei Zhirov, a spokesman for VVTs, said the Fountain of People's Friendship has been on the list of federally protected monuments since 1992. But despite its protected status, repeated appeals to the Culture Ministry for cash to carry out restoration work have been unsuccessful.

Leonarda Orembo, deputy head of City Hall's department for preserving architectural monuments, said she is fully aware that the fountain needs an overhaul.

"It's an ownership problem," Orembo said. "The city is ready to allocate money for the repairs, but it needs guarantees."

The fountain, which has at its center an enormous wheat sheaf in a red granite bowl, is surrounded by sculptured figures of young women in the national costumes of the 16 former republics of the Soviet Union, including Finnish Karelia.

Vladimir Filonov / MT

Sculptures are made of bronze and overlaid with gold.

The sculptures are made of bronze overlaid with thin gold plating, and the central sheaf is made of gold-plated copper.

About 10 million people visit at the fountain and the VVTs's other attractions every year, Yegorov said.

Several smaller fountains in front of VVTs's pavilions, however, have been switched off for years.

Hopes for restoration of the fountains could receive a boost from Moscow's bid to host the World Expo in 2015. Mayor Yury Luzhkov has set up a special commission to examine restorations and new construction at VVTs as part of the city's bid.

Plans for VVTs include a new 40,000-square-meter pavilion and the restoration of pavilions of the former Soviet republics located around the Fountain of People's Friendship. Pavilions for Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Ukraine have already been restored and reopened.

But whether the Fountain of People's Friendship will be restored as part of the World Expo bid is unclear.