clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

HISTORIC STORE IN MOSCOW WILL GET A FACE LIFT FOR CENTENNIAL

Nearly 100 years after setting up shop on Red Square's historic market site, the GUM department store is trying to recapture its pre-revolutionary capitalist grandeur.

The three-story building - with its vaulted glass ceiling, etched glass storefronts and wrought-iron railings - is getting a badly needed face lift.Shelves are full for the first time in decades. And shabby, often shoddy, goods are being replaced with merchandise that shoppers want.

"This building needs to be fixed so that it can look like and be like a really high-class, posh store," said Alexander Bredikhin, executive director of the committee organizing GUM's centennial celebrations, which will pay for the renovations.

GUM's 100th birthday isn't until 1993, but it kicked off the celebrations Thursday night with a fashion show and the gala opening of three new Western stores - Samsonite luggage, Botany 500 menswear of the United States and Santens towels of Belgium.

GUM - pronounced Goom - is the largest department store in the former Soviet Union, selling 170,000 to 200,000 items to 250,000 Russians and 20,000 foreigners daily.

It looks more like a shopping mall than a department store, with individual shops arranged along three aisles on two floors. It hasn't had any major repairs since 1953, as its crumbling sculptures, worn stone stairs and faded mosaics can attest to. Many shoppers are put off by the semi-permanent odor of urine in some of its corners.

"GUM is an architectural monument. It will have to be restored the way it was originally," Bredikhin said. "Everything is breaking down. It's too old."

He said 75 percent of the money raised during centennial celebrations will pay for renovations aimed at making GUM Moscow's most exclusive shopping area.

The name GUM comes from the Russian initials for Glavny Universalny Magazin, or Main Department Store. It used to stand for initials for Gosudarstvenny Universalny Magazin, or State Department Store, until Moscow city government turned it into a joint stock company owned mainly by employees in 1990.

GUM was one of the world's first modern shopping malls, built from 1889-1893 to replace a market destroyed by fire in 1812, when Napoleon's troops occupied Moscow.

It was built using the latest technology of the time.

Its grand ceremonial entrance - officially opened Thursday for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution - looks directly across Red Square at Lenin's Mausoleum.

GUM was closed after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, reopened and nationalized briefly in the 1920s, closed again by Stalin and used as offices, and reopened after his death, in 1953.