In This Review
Stalin’s Architect: Power and Survival in Moscow

Stalin’s Architect: Power and Survival in Moscow

By Deyan Sudjic

MIT Press, 2022, 320 pp.

Sudjic’s biography of Boris Iofan is a richly illustrated and highly readable story of Stalin’s favorite architect. Born to Jewish parents in Odessa, as a young man Iofan went to Italy to pursue an artistic education. In 1924, he became friends with Aleksei Rykov, a top-ranking Soviet official visiting Italy. Rykov persuaded Iofan to return to Russia, which was now the Soviet Union, where he soon rose to become a major figure in Soviet architecture and helped create an architectural model for socialist realism. Iofan designed the House of Government, a housing project for Communist Party elites and one of Moscow’s major landmarks. He and his family were among its first tenants. Soon, most of Stalin’s functionaries were killed in the purges, including Iofan’s neighbors and his friend and patron Rykov. That Iofan himself survived is a matter of good fortune and his savvy as courtier. Central to Sudjic’s narrative is the drama surrounding the Palace of the Soviets, a monstrous project that Stalin ordered to create the tallest building in the world. Iofan struggled to fulfill Stalin’s whims and in the end the palace was never built. He died in 1976 in a sanatorium he had designed 50 years earlier.