Metropol 110 years

Late 19th - Early 20th century Birth of the Metropol

The Metropol was initially designed by a patron of arts, the owner of the Russia’s first opera, Savva Mamontov, as a “theater with a hotel”. Mamontov engaged the architect William Walcot, the artists Mikhail Vrubel, Nikolay Andreev and many other persons to develop the project.

More details

The Metropol was set up by “Savva the Great” - a businessman and a patron of arts, the owner of the Russia’s first private opera troupe,Savva Ivanovich Mamontov, who decided to build a palace of arts in the center of Moscow opposite the Bolshoi theatre featuring a grand opera hall accommodating three thousand viewers, art galleries, a grand hotel and a first-class restaurant.

Mamontov announced an open tender with the project of Nikolay Shevyakov and Lev Kekushev becoming the winner, however Mamontov decided to place the order with William Walcot who became just the fourth. Later after Savva Ivanovich had ceased to be a shareholder and the concept of the Metropol had been changed from a “theater with a hotel” to a “hotel with a restaurant”, Kekushev and Shevyakov joined Walcot. Mamontov offered the best artists of that time - Mikhail Vrubel, Nikolay Andreev, Sergey Chekhonin, Alexander Golovin - to decorate the facades and interiors of the Metropol.

The Metropol’s Architecture

The appearance of the Metropol is dictated by the main style of the turn of the century - modern, that easily combines architectural styles and historic epochs: the Metropol features both Gothic towers on its corners, and neo-Russian maiolica panels by Vrubel and Golovin, and classical bas-reliefs by Andreev and many other elaborated details.

More details

Opened in January 1905, the hotel attracts crowds of Muscovites like a giant magnet. The citizens would stand in front of the Metropol for a long time examining the maiolica panels by Vrubel and Golovin, the sculpture friezes by Andreev, the decorative vases by Vaulin, the curly gratings of the balconies and the huge glass dome by the engineer Shukhov trying to read the quote from Nietzsche along the facade; Moscow had never seen such a thing before.

1. The main decoration of the Metropol is the panel “Princess Gryoza”, a ceramic version of the painting by Mikhail Vrubel based on the plot of the play by Edmond Rostand. The painting was created for the Nizhniy Novgorod fair, was exhibited there in a special salon built by Savva Mamontov, was criticized by the public and to edify the barbarians a maiolica version of the painting was created in the Abramtsevo workshops and presented to the public on the hotel facade.

2. Apart from “Princess Gryoza”, the facade of the Metropol features another dozen of color panels of various size. Most of them were created by Alexander Golovin and Sergey Chekhonin (the maiolicas “The Thirst”, “The Life”, “Nature Worship”, others).

3. A quote of Friedrich Nietzsche runs below the windows and balconies of the fourth floor along the facade: “Always the old story. When a man has finished building his house, he finds that he has learnt unawares something which he ought absolutely to have known before he began to build”.

4. There is a frieze “Seasons” by the sculpture Nikolay Andreev running round the building at the level of the fourth floor.

1905 - 1917 The Metropol before the Revolution

Opened early in 1905, the Metropol featured all the achievements of the civilization - electrical lighting, hot water, telephones in rooms, elevators; the grand restaurant could accommodate up to two thousand guests at a time.

More details

By January 1905 the finishing works had been completed and the state-of-the-art hotel equipped with electricity, telephone communication, hot water and elevators was opened for guests.

The restaurant with the chef Edward Nignon from France was particularly popular: the Ryabushevskiys, Morozovs, Stakheevs would walk round the hall and studies, departure of Diaghilev abroad and the anniversary of La Toison d'or were commemorated by banquets that would be discussed by Muscovites for a long time, tables for hundreds of guests were placed in the Winter Garden of the hotel to hold greatest festivals in the city.

The Years of the World War I
The World War I that broke out in 1914 drastically changed the life of Moscow. The Metropol also changed: one of the hotel floors accommodated a hospital, waiters in the restaurant would now bring a cup for collecting financial aid for the army along with a bill. However the Metropol remained the social center of Moscow: while retail trade in alcohol beverages was prohibited, champagne and cognac were always in the menu of the hotel restaurant that was owned by a consortium of wine merchants by that time.

1917 – THE YEAR OF THE REVOLUTIONARY DISTURBANCE

During the October revolution junkers remaining loyal to the Temporary Government would turn the Metropol into a real fort. The forces were unequal and several days later junkers would retrieve leaving the hotel with broken windows and holes from gun shells.

During the October Uprising, the Metropol became one the centers of resistance against the Bolsheviks - junkers barricaded in the hotel would defend the approaches to the municipal duma and Red Square from the attacking Red Guard squads for almost a week, and only artillery could force the troops loyal to the Temporary Government to leave the building. The abandoned hotel looked ruined with the majority of the glasses broken, maiolicas damaged, walls dotted with bullets, however the Metropol kept on living - there were still guests in the rooms with the windows covered with wood boards, the kitchen still worked, supper was served in the restaurant.

The artillery firing of the hotel made great impression on the witnesses. One of the persons involved in the events recalled: “The picture was awful. Shells would hit against the hotel walls and explode cracking loudly. Bricks, iron items, glass would fall down on the pavement from the walls. It looked as if someone were crushing a clinking item in a giant mortar”. It is notable that at the height of the fighting civilians who suddenly became isolated by hails of bullets were living in the hotel. One of them was the future founder of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Masaryk. His memories of the events are: “I... found myself in the famous Metropol that was rapidly turned by junkers into a fort, I spent six difficult days there attacked by Bolsheviks. When junkers left unnoticed on the last day, and Bolsheviks captured the hotel fort (the hotel had a really solid construction with thick walls), I was elected parliamentary of the foreigners, and the Russians elected a Pole as the Russians were afraid of that function”.

The 1920s. THE SECOND HOUSE OF THE SOVIETS

In early 1918 the Government of new Russia moved to Moscow, and VTsIK (All-Russian Central Executive Committee) (the modern parliament) and some people's commissariats were located in the Metropol. The head of VTsIK Yakov Sverdlov just like his employees settled in the Metropol; the grand hotel in essence became the living community, its name changed to the Second House of the Soviets.

More details

After the revolution public authorities of new Russia moved to Moscow and settled in the city’s best hotels for some time. The Metropol was occupied by the Soviet parliament (VTsIK) and some people's commissariats, such as for foreign affairs or foreign trade. The new elite also settled there: party and government leaders (Bukharin, Sverdlov, Antonov-Ovseyenko, Chicherin, Krylenko) would settle in suites, employees of commissariats and members of their families would stay in lower-class rooms and restaurant studies turned into living communities. The Winter Garden was used for meetings of VTsIK (Lenin would often speak there), and the “American bar” was turned into the workers’ canteen.

A quote of Lenin was added on one of the hotel facades: “This is only the dictature of proletariat that can free the humankind from the capital pressure”.

Nevertheless the Metropol kept on functioning as a hotel (diplomats and foreign merchants had to live somewhere and the Soviet government had to share the dwelling area with them and they had to eat something - products would be got in some way or another, and the restaurant kept on working even during starvation when clients had to pay bills with gold). During the period of the New Economic Policy, after VTsIK had moved to a more suitable place, the restaurant was relocated to the Fountain Hall with stained glass ceilings and again became the most luxurious place of Moscow.

Besides the party and Soviet elite, orders for living in the Metropol would be issued to people of art who were lucky to be employed by Soviet institutions. The poets Ryurik Ivnev, Anatoly Marienhof, Osip Mandelstam (however I doubt that they lived in the Metropol) were among them. Sergey Esenin was a frequent guest of the Second House of the Soviets visiting his acquaintances and dining at the restaurant. In 1923 the poet together with a group of his associates imaginists opened a literature cafe “Kalosha” in the Metropol.

In 1925 the First International Chess Tournament in which the World champion of that time, the Cuban José Raúl Capablanca, took part, was held in the Fountain Hall of the Second House of the Soviets. The tournament was daily visited by about 2,000 persons, and those lacking seats in the hall were standing outside at the entrance to the Metropol and following the game over radio; there were so many fans that the traffic along Teatralny passage was closed for them to locate. The Invincible Capablanca was only the third, as the USSR champion Efim Bogolyubov became the winner. During the tournament Vsevolod Pudovkin shot his first work as a stage director - the film “Chess Fever” - where Capablanca played himself.

The Metropol in the System of the Soviet Intourist

In April 1929 Intourist, a public joint-stock company, responsible for attracting and reception of foreign guests in the USSR, was set up. Establishment of a company like that symbolized changes in the attitude to foreign tourists: foreign exchange was needed for the country industrialization and the Government was ready to do everything to get the currency. At the same time the best pre-Soviet hotels were united into the Hotel community that became a part of Intourist in 1933.

Naturally the Metropol could no longer remain the community of Soviet employees and it regained its pre-Revolutionary status of the best hotel of Moscow.

Bernard Show, Bertolt Brecht, Henri Barbusse, John Steinbeck, Marlene Dietrich, Claudia Cardinale, Jean Marais, Marcello Mastroianni, the pianist Van Cliburn would stay in the Metropol. The former emigrants Alexander Kuprin, Sergey Prokofiev, Alexander Vertinsky who came back from abroad also lived there.

In 1950 Stalin held an official reception ceremony for Mao Zedong to commemorate signature of the Sino-Soviet Treaty.

More details

Until the mid 1960s apartments of the families who had moved to the hotel during the period of the 2nd House of the Soviets were still located there. It was a puzzle how the two absolutely different worlds - Muscovites and foreigners - co-existed in the hotel.

The famous writer Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, the author of “Little Girl from the Metropol”, lived in the Metropol for many years in her childhood. In the 1940s the singers Vadim Kozin and Alexander Vertinsky had their apartments there.

From June 1948 to March 1949 there was an Israeli embassy on the third floor; the First Ambassador of the state and future Prime Minister Golda Meir, also lived in the Metropol. “This was a hotel for foreigners and it turned out to be a survival of another epoch. The huge rooms with glass chandeliers, long velvet curtains, heavy plush armchairs and even a piano in one of the rooms...”, she recalled later.

1986 - 1991 Second Birth of the Metropol

From 1986 to 1991 the hotel was reconstructed. Before the works were commenced, thorough historic and architecture studies had been carried out, the best restaurateurs of the country were engaged. Due to restoration of the unique historic interiors, the hotel preserved its uniqueness. At the same time complete technical reequipment was effected, so the Metropol became the Russia’s first hotel to receive a five star status. The Metropol is again among the leading hotels of world.

The Metropol in the Cotemporary History.

In August 2012 the Metropol became private again after almost a century of the public ownership. In 2013 a new team headed by the General Manager Dominique Goda launched the global renovation of the hotel to make it one of the most contemporary hotels in the world preserving its historic heritage.

In 2013 Andrey Shmakov became the chef of the hotel gaining high appreciation of international gastronomic guides (Gault & Millau, La Liste) due to his talent. In 2015 a restaurant of the modern Russian cuisine SAVVA was opened at the place of the historical American bar.

In 2017 the Metropol announced completion of the first of three stages of the global renovation and presented 28 renovated rooms. The interiors of the rooms were reconstructed based on the original projects of the early 20th century. The functionality of the new rooms complies with the global standards applicable to luxe hotels.

A year later the historical main entrance to the hotel was opened: just like in 1905 when the hotel was opened for the first time, one can drive to the Metropol and enter it from the side of the square of Revolution (former Voskresenskaya square).

In 2019 in total 70 rooms were renovated. Now guests have a wide choice of rooms: from renovated Executive Suites to Ambassador Suites. At the same time the unique historical rooms with original interiors of the early 20th century are thoroughly preserved.