The New Socialist City: Building Utopia in the USSR, 1917–1934

Mark D. Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Architecture and utopia have long been allies—not least in the history of imagining and building the new Soviet socialist city, an obsessive idea and project from before the 1917 revolution to the early 1930s. This essay explores these efforts as a determination to obliterate the poisonous cities of old and transcend the suffering cities of the present—as practiced utopia against the dystopia of the status quo. “Utopia” here is defined, drawing on Ernst Bloch, as perception, orientation, and critical method: the human impulse to “venture beyond” the “darkness of the lived moment” to discover the emerging “not-yet.” This essay examines Russian Marxist responses (including among workers) to the “hell” as well as the dynamism of the capitalist city, and examines, through the concept of “utopia,” visionary architectural projects and arguments, including Vladimir Tatlin’s monumental tower for the Third International (1919–20), “disurbanist” and “green city” plans in the 1920s and early 1930s, Georgy Krutikov’s flying “City of the Future” in 1928, the work of Moisei Ginzburg, and Boris Iofan’s “Palace of Soviets” in the early 1930s.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-449
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Critical Thought
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 19 2021


  • Cities
  • Russia/USSR
  • architecture
  • socialism
  • utopia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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