Exporting American Construction and Planning to Russia

One of the most curious series of construction dramas that reflect the growing pervasiveness and increasing scale of American architectural influence between the two World Wars was played out in the former Soviet Union. Jean-Louis Cohen (1993, 1995) and William Brumfield (1990) have written extensively about several dimensions of this influence. Brumfield's analysis of how Russians perceived American architecture from 1870 to the end of World War I concludes that '"enormous" and "efficient" define just the qualities that Russian observers valued in American architecture' (Brumfield, 1990, p. 43). He specifies how, from the 1870s to World War I, through architectural journals such as Zodchii (The Architect) and Nedelia stroitelia (Builder's Weekly), there was a black-and-white 'conduit for information on technical innovations' (Ibid., p. 44). Soon after the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876 Russian architects such as Sergei Kuleshov began to publish their impressions of American urban architecture, and these were supplemented by later descriptions penned by architects such as Aleksandr Dmitriev (Ibid., pp. 47, 59). In the 1890s the editor of Zodchii, Viktor Evald, published books and technical reports about skyscraper construction in the U.S. After the turn of the century, Roman Beker trumpeted the virtues of American architectural education in schools such as Cornell, MIT, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Armour Institute in Chicago (Ibid., pp. 47-56). Brumfield links these measures of American architectural influence to what he sees as 'shared ideals and common standards [where] . . . America is seen as the ultimate standard' (Ibid., p. 64) - he also explains that the onset of World War I brought with it a relenting of the 'visions of growth, progress, and technical development' (Ibid., p. 62). However, Cohen argues that from World War I until at least 1935 there were signs of ongoing interest in American urbanism by Russian observers such as the poet Vladimir Maiakovsky, who travelled to the U.S. in 1925 and wrote disparagingly about the colossal effects he saw there associated with American construction technology (Cohen, 1995, p. 102). In 1926 the Constructivist architect Aleksandr Pasternak argued that by virtue of the skyscraper, 'Americanism [would] leave its mark on the future cities of Russia' (Ibid., p. 124). Certainly that mark in the late-1920s and early-1930s was being made in the landscape of architectural commentary, as Cohen has shown by explaining how fervently Russian architects such as Nikolai Ladovsky, Vladimir Krinsky and Iakov Chernikhov were responding with words and designs to the idiom of the American high-rise, and by how energetically certain Russian architects responded to the 1929 competition for the Christopher Columbus memorial in Santo Domingo (Ibid., pp. 124-133).

Cohen has also explained how, by the early 1930s there was a proliferating Russian interest not only in American skyscrapers, but in broader-scale American city planning approaches, as shown in publications by David Arkin, Alexei Shchusev and L.E. Zagorsky (Ibid., pp. 151-153). Cohen and Brumfield's research, therefore, demonstrates many Russians' sustained fascination with American architecture, construction technology and city planning. What is also clear is how actively certain American industrial entrepreneurs and contracting adventurers in Russia were building upon that foundation of curiosity and inspiration. One of the most vivid and literal examples of that 'constructing upon a foundation' is found 265 miles east-north-east of Moscow where, in the late-1920s, the Austin Company, a successful, Cleveland-based construction firm helped plan and then build the first stage of a new industrial city, Molotov (also known as Gorky and Nijni Novgorod) whose raison d'être rested on the production of Ford Motor Company automobiles.

The project's genesis stemmed from many Russians' astonishing admiration for Henry Ford himself, not as a capitalist (as some might first assume), but instead as a revolutionary. 'Russia was a "have-not" nation and any man strong-willed enough to put such a luxury as an automobile into the hands of the laboring classes was held in high esteem' (Scoon, 1970, p. 1).

Even before the October Revolution of 1917 Czarists in Russia were more interested in U.S. automobile technology than that of any European competitors, partly because of how well tank trucks manufactured by the U.S.-based White Motor Company fared in trials over unpaved Russian roads in 1912, and also because of Czarists' suspicions about European businessmen during the War (Ibid.). In 1920, when the new Soviet government began to focus on agricultural and industrial production, it used money from then-U.S. Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover's 'anti-starvation program' to purchase over 24,000 Ford Motor Company 'Fordson' tractors. In 1923 an ex-Ford employee from Detroit who was deported to Russia for his Communist activities helped to build a small factory in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) where F-15 pick-up trucks were produced (Ibid.). Cohen has explained that in the early 1920s Ford had become nearly as popular in Russia as Lenin; by 1924 Henry Ford's memoirs had gone through four editions. 'Ford was as famous as Charlie Chaplin, and the vein of Fordist literature inexhaustible . . . Ford had become Uncle Sam personified' (Cohen, 1995, p. 72). By 1926 Ford was exporting so many Fordson tractors that the company was invited by the Soviet government to send an engineering team to Russia to investigate whether and where it might build a tractor plant. Although these plans were initially stalled, by late 1928, when Joseph Stalin ousted Trotsky and launched a Five-Year Plan of industrial expansion (which included a production target of 70,000 trucks and 30,000 cars by 1932), Ford was in a fortuitous position to gain a firmer foothold in Russia. However, that position was not completely assured until General Motors' six-cylinder Chevrolet was bypassed in favour of Ford's Model A. This occurred after a heated debate in the Supreme Industrial Council during early March 1929 when, at that same meeting, the Council's president M. Quibesheff also decided upon a manufacturing site, 7 miles from the medieval city of Nijni, near the confluence of the Volga and Oka Rivers (Scoon, 1970, p. 2).

A few months before that fateful meeting Soviet officials had selected the Austin Company to design and build not only the factories where American cars would be fabricated, but also Molotov, the city where those factories would be located. Some called it 'the first socialistic city of the world' (Davis, 1932, p. 84). Why Austin? 'Standard factory buildings', a hallmark of Austin's success since 1914, caught the Russians' attention and convinced them that Austin was the right company to build what became the then-largest

Industrial City Planning
Figure 4.12. The plan for the new industrial city of Nijni Novgorod, designed by the Austin Company, a Cleveland-based firm hired by Soviet planners in the 1920s. (Source: Greif, 1978, p. 107)

automobile plant in Europe: a structure 1800 feet long and 350 feet wide, equipped with six assembly lines, that was the focus for a complementary workers' settlement to house between 35,000 and 50,000 workers, covering 25 square miles.

Austin's trail from the Great Lakes to the Russian steppes was hardly pre-ordained. It began when the adventurous, itinerant British carpenter Samuel Austin sought his fortune by intending to settle in Chicago after that city's disastrous 1872 fire. Austin founded his company in 1878, when he suddenly fell in love with a young woman from Cleveland and sank roots there instead of in Chicago (Luce, 1959, p.6). Austin's son Wilbert became an engineer and after joining his father in business in 1900, convinced him to undertake the design as well as the construction of buildings for clients. This led to what the company called 'the Austin method of undivided responsibility', and it unwittingly placed the company in a vanguard of firms (such as Truscon, discussed above in Chapter 2 and below, in the context of China) that were commercially and technologically well-situated to benefit from the expansion of the U.S. automobile industry in the

Figure 4.13. Austin Company officers conferring around a conference table, c. 1913. Wilbert Austin (pictured second from the right), the son of Samuel Austin, the company's founder (seated at the head of this table) was responsible for leading the Austin Company into contracting ventures abroad. (Source: Greif, 1978, p. 24)

Figure 4.13. Austin Company officers conferring around a conference table, c. 1913. Wilbert Austin (pictured second from the right), the son of Samuel Austin, the company's founder (seated at the head of this table) was responsible for leading the Austin Company into contracting ventures abroad. (Source: Greif, 1978, p. 24)

early years of the new century. 'New concepts of mass production that accompanied the automobile industry's early growth led to the Company's development of standardized designs for singlestory factories' (Ibid., p. 8).

However, it was not just automobile production that fuelled Austin's rise. Large, open but enclosed spaces were also necessary for fabricating airplanes. One of Austin's projects that brought the company considerable fame was the Curtiss Aeroplane Company in Buffalo, New York which took Austin builders only 90 days to erect during the winter of 1915-16. During World War I Austin began selling its standardized buildings to the U.S. Army in France. As an Army subcontractor, the American Light Railways Company purchased several shops, planing mills, foundries, warehouses and a powerhouse to outfit the Army's operations at Abainville (Austin Book of Buildings, 1922, p. 55).

At the end of the War, Wilbert Austin invested more heavily in France, where he secured the company's 'first truly international project', the reconstruction of the Maubeuge glass factories at Rousies (Greif, 1978, p. 149). The early 1920s was a period of mushrooming growth for Austin's international operations. In 1920 the Standard Oil Company of New York purchased nineteen of Austin's standardized factory buildings, ranging in size from 40 feet by 50 feet to 100 feet by 500 feet, used as distribution centres for Standard Oil's expanding operations in Istanbul, Turkey; Bourgas, Bulgaria and Piraeus, Greece (Export News, 1, 1920, 1, March, p. 22).

By 1922 Austin was building actively upon its commercial success in France and the Balkans with a particular, although not an exclusive focus on oil company facilities. '[Since 1920] Austin Standard Factory Buildings have [also] been constructed in England, Canada, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Gibraltar, [Argentina] and Peru' (Austin Book of Buildings, 1922, p. 55).3 Also by 1922 the Cleveland-based firm had expanded within the continental U.S., opening offices in Chicago, New York,

Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Birmingham, Seattle, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Dallas. This geographic diversification not only facilitated Austin's servicing its domestic clients; the continental reach also helped the company satisfy the divergent needs of an international, largely industrial clientele. That the reach could also be trans-continental was demonstrated when Austin was hired to design Molotov, the industrial settlement near Nijni Novgorod. Part of the company's success in foreign arenas can be attributed to what Austin termed its 'completeness' and 'adaptability'. Regarding the former:

A complete shipment for an Austin Standard Building includes practically everything above the floor - fabricated steel, sash, glass, doors, roofing and, if desired, lumber . . . The Austin Company takes care of all routine attached to export shipments, securing cargo space, procuring necessary licenses and other documents. Cable, traffic and other departments are thoroughly organized, and experienced in every export requirement. Quotations are made and correspondence conducted in any language. This coordinated service relieves the purchaser of all divided responsibility. (Ibid.)

The company recognized, however, that not all clients would want to hand over complete construction control to a contracted customer. Therefore, to maximize its flexibility Austin created three plans for clients operating abroad.

Figures 4.14, 4.15 and 4.16. Industrialists from the Soviet Union were impressed by the Austin Company's proven track record in building large-scale industrial plants, such as the ones shown here in Buffalo, New York, for the Curtiss Aeroplane Company (figure 4.14), Tampico, Mexico (figure 4.15), and Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Source: Austin Book of Buildings, 1922, pp. 4 and 55; Greif, 1978, p. 75)

Figures 4.14, 4.15 and 4.16. Industrialists from the Soviet Union were impressed by the Austin Company's proven track record in building large-scale industrial plants, such as the ones shown here in Buffalo, New York, for the Curtiss Aeroplane Company (figure 4.14), Tampico, Mexico (figure 4.15), and Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Source: Austin Book of Buildings, 1922, pp. 4 and 55; Greif, 1978, p. 75)

Albert Kahn Architect Ford Review

Figure 4.17. As the Milliken Brothers Company had done 20 years earlier, Austin marketed many of its buildings as prefabricated units that clients could select from a catalogue that showed a wide variety of types, using both steel and concrete technologies. This one was a light machine shop. (Source: Austin Book of Buildings, 1922, p. 34)

Figure 4.17. As the Milliken Brothers Company had done 20 years earlier, Austin marketed many of its buildings as prefabricated units that clients could select from a catalogue that showed a wide variety of types, using both steel and concrete technologies. This one was a light machine shop. (Source: Austin Book of Buildings, 1922, p. 34)

[Under] Plan A, Austin assumes responsibility for the entire project - engineering, building and equipment. [Under] Plan B, Austin will ship all essential material and furnish an erection engineer who will supervise all construction. [Under] Plan C, Austin will ship all essential material and furnish plans, specifications and complete instruction for erection by local forces. (Ibid.)

In the outskirts of Molotov (Nijni Novgorod) those 'local forces' were proletarian Marxists, or what some called 'mujiks' (peasants). In 1928 the Supreme Industrial Council was impressed with both Austin's standardized industrial structures and its efficiency in shipping them from one of America's chief industrial heartlands. Despite their decade-long experience exporting standardized buildings to Europe, Austin executives were initially sceptical because of the unknown Russian terrain where they were being lured to build a city. If they could have foreseen the upcoming Depression in October 1929, they might not have been so reticent in accepting so large a commission. Leaving prophecy aside, in winter 1928 the Council dispatched a delegation to Cleveland to buttonhole Austin managers directly. The strategy worked. An Austin Vice-President was invited to survey the site, on a high riverbank near three villages, all of whose inhabitants were resettled and the villages razed. In summer 1929, the Council created 'Autostroy' (the administrative unit overseeing Molotov's construction) and signed the contract with Ford and Austin. Austin's contract provided the wide scope of designing the entire settlement; Ford's stipulated that the company's River Rouge and Highland Park plants near Detroit would be used as models (Scoon, 1970, p. 3; Wilkins and Hill, 1964, p. 220). Austin's challenging tasks, then, included the design and construction of 'all public utilities, such as the water supply system, storm and sanitary sewer systems, central power and heating plant for both plant and city, electric power and light systems, telephones, in fact everything required by the modern industrial city' (Davis, 1932, p. 83). The Soviets imagined that the project would take 4 years. However, Austin believed it could plan and build the settlement in 15 months which, if completed on time, would bring a handsome bonus. Construction began in August 1930 and was finished in early November 1931; Austin reaped the bonus.

The plans for Molotov's automobile plant were drafted at first by Albert Kahn in Detroit. Kahn's concrete reinforcing company, Truscon, therefore benefited directly from the contract. The plans were then finished in Cleveland, but the plan for the surrounding settlement was finalized in Russia (Davis, 1932, p. 83; Wilkins and Hill, 1964, p. 220). The joint-venture nature of the enterprise was a variant on the Austin Company's trademark qualities of 'completeness' and 'adaptability'.

Six of Russia's foremost architectural societies and institutions competed for the city's design,

Figure 4.18. Perspective views of industrial buildings designed by the Austin Company at Nijni Novgorod. (Source: Greif, 1978, p. 106)

ultimately awarded to the High Technical School, but that design only 'laid down the fundamental requirements of size, area per person [9 square metres] and the number and kind of functions to be provided in the city. [The School] then turned to American architects and engineers to "rationalize" the project, to use the parlance of the moment in Russia' (Austin, 1931, p. 10).

A sense of what contemporaries understood by that word 'rationalize' is found in the way in which a Russo-American engineer, in 1932, described how a well-administered construction office should react to unpredictable building realities.

A large construction office may be compared to the bridge of a battleship in the heat of a naval engagement. Emergencies arise on all sides, breakdown of essential equipment, rush supply orders, failures of men and mechanics to appear or properly carry out orders, disasters of flood and fire, accidents of explosion or collapse. Into the central office pour the vital messages about these situations. They must be immediately overcome. Every detail of expeditious handling must be arranged. In transmitting information, minutes means thousands of dollars and human lives. Communication is the vital nervous system . . . The Russian [offices] totally lacked this. (Gelb, 1991, p. 96)

Austin, then, stood at the helm of the 'battleship Molotov' and assisted their less-organized Russian counterparts in the planning of a new socialist settlement. The 'worker's city' at Nijni Novgorod was laid out using three interlocking geometries: a grid oriented roughly north-south; two major perpendicular roads that sliced through the rectilinear grid (somewhat reminiscent of L'Enfant's Washington, D.C. plan) and created a city centre where the roads met; and four circular arcs that helped enclose the settlement at its peripheries. The industrial plant, detached from the city to the north-east and located south of one of the city's main roads, was composed of a series of factory structures linked by several elliptical roads. Four-storey housing blocks, with 'Communes' placed on the top floor, were erected using reinforced concrete produced according to American specifications, but they were aligned in the city according to Soviet 'microrayon' planning principles (Kopp, 1970; Castillo, 1992). Therefore, schools, community buildings and recreation space were situated near the dense housing blocks. A 'House of Soviets', 'Palace of Culture', hospital, hotel, and department store were placed in a circular cluster at the city's main intersection.

To erect up-to-date American industrial forms and spaces, Austin's builders trained a workforce of approximately 40,000, 40 per cent of whom were women. Under the principles of Stalin's Five-Year Plan, they were conscripted to assist the Americans, but having been engaged previously in rural occupations, they first required instruction in U.S. construction methods. A journalist later described the scene:

Gangs of Russians who had been trained [to use] large American mortar trowels were pitted against Russians using the small native trowel. The greater quantity, if poorer quality of the American style mortaring was demonstrated. All construction workers at the A plant were paid on a piece-work basis so as to reduce the malingering which the American engineers had noticed on their earlier tours of Soviet factories. (Scoon, 1970, p. 4)

One contemporary Austin engineer characterized some of the contracting dynamics in this way:

A majority of 'mujiks' had very little education and no training or experience at all along mechanical lines. They only excelled in . . . excavation. The village carpenters were experts with a cross-cut saw and axe; all other tools, however, were foreign to them. . . .The Mujik, his wife and children, really furnished the labor power. The young people especially were taken as apprentices. This condition, combined with a very high labor turnover, caused a low production of labor, and good workmanship was obtained only under very close supervision. (Davis, 1932, p. 85)

Austin superintendents organized the site of the 'first socialistic city' according to U.S. construction standards. During initial stages, long lines of workers, their backs laden with sand and gravel came up out of the barges along the river and carried their burden to the railroad cars. Large logs were whipsawed into boards by hand. All kinds of building materials were carried up four stories on the backs of men and women. As the job progressed, all of this was modernized as far as possible. At the dock, materials were unloaded by power cranes, conveyors and skip hoists directly from the barges to railroad cars . . . All buildings were equipped with material hoists. American-made crawler cranes were used in the erection of the 14,000 tons of structural steel . . . Machine operators were sent from America . . . to teach Russian apprentices . . . The whole plant [was] a large trade school. (Davis, 1932, pp. 86, 88)

Monsanto House The Future

Nijni Novgorod became a series of object lessons demonstrating to Soviet Russians the 'rationalization' of American construction. Another lesson, one geared to the Austin Company, was that marketing U.S. construction materials and methods overseas could be both challenging and profitable. Wilbert Austin demonstrated that he was learning this latter lesson when, in 1930, he opened a branch office in Canada, followed 8 years later by one in London, when the company erected the British Technicolour laboratory. Allan Austin, Wilbert Austin's son who opened that London office, envisioned an even broader global presence for the company after World War II; in 1955 he established an office in Brazil, followed by the creation in 1960 of Austin International, which operated first from subsidiary

Austin Company Ussr

Figure 4.21. Austin Company advertisement, which graphically reflected the scope of the firm's building operations, from individual structures to entire settlements.(Source: Forbes, 1930, from Greif, 1978 p. 118)

Figures 4.19 and 4.20. Four-storey housing blocks and an industrial building under construction at Nijni Novgorod, erected by the Austin Company. (Source: Khvostovsky, 1931)

Figure 4.21. Austin Company advertisement, which graphically reflected the scope of the firm's building operations, from individual structures to entire settlements.(Source: Forbes, 1930, from Greif, 1978 p. 118)

branches in Britain, France and Australia, and subsequently in several other European cities, and in Argentina and Japan (Greif, 1978, p. 150). A proper context for these later expansions will be provided in the two chapters that follow. Nijni Novgorod became the key precedent that propelled Austin managers to seize opportunities to stake more transnational claims on construction possibilities.

In terms of what the Russians learned from Nijni Novgorod, the dimensions of the object lessons ranged from individual building elements to complex urban form. At the scale of building tectonics, Austin showed Russian workers how to weld high-quality structural steel members. In 1929, while one large Austin team was working in Russia, other Austin contractors in Cleveland were completing the first 'completely welded steel-framed commercial structure, a four-story building . . . [that] led to the use of welding for the erection of Austin standard design buildings and paved the way for wide use of welding in construction' (Shirk, 1978, p. 14). In terms of construction management, Austin's method of organizing the myriad tasks of construction, from material delivery to building completion, demonstrated to the Russians how they might jettison age-old construction methods in favour of imported American standards. However, given that some Russian workers were sceptical about and/or resistant to some of the material improvements and time/labour-saving methods introduced by Austin managers, the degree to which well-entrenched habits about construction were discarded in favour of American novelties is unclear (The Constructor, 1932, 14, May, p. 28). At the larger scale of the city, American architects and engineers assisted their Russian counterparts in solving the challenges of fulfilling socialist urban functions within capitalist structural shells. Stalin and his confidants were expressing what their South American contemporaries in less socialistic contexts were also sensing in the 1920s and 1930s

- that for cities to reflect their progress and novelty, they should incorporate materials, forms, spaces and places reminiscent of the United States. The advertisements of the Austin Company in 1930 graphically reflect the perceived links between industry, high-rise construction, progress and the American city.

Austin and Ford's commercial ventures were not the only ways in which American architectural and planning influence was being exerted on the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. Visits to Russia by American professionals was another means by which this influence was manifested. For example, just as Austin's contract at Nijni Novgorod was terminating in 1931, the noted Chicago urban planner Jacob Crane travelled to the Soviet Union to provide unspecified technical assistance (City Planning, 1931, 7, p. 124). A year later Robert O'Brien, one of the directors of the Cook-O'Brien Construction Company of Kansas City, Missouri toured the Soviet Union to see for himself the contracting possibilities offered by the Second Five-Year Plan (Constructor, 1932, 14, May, p. 28).

As a prelude to that Plan, Russian officials of the Amtorg Trading Corporation, the Soviet agency established in 1924 in New York City 'for the development of trade and industrial cooperation with American firms and individuals' (Gelb, 1991, p. 321), invited Americans involved in construction, such as Austin, to become more significantly linked to contracting ventures in the U.S.S.R. Because 'municipal economy received more attention' in the First Five-Year Plan, there were financial incentives for projects similar to those which Austin and Ford were doing, but more extensively throughout the Soviet Union (Khvostovsky, 1931).

One significant aspect of these projects is how wide-scale they were in terms of urban and regional development. 'In the main, the opportunities for American contractors are likely to lie in the fields of highway construction, municipal public utility construction or heavy engineering operations such as involve the construction of railroads, power and reclamation dams, canals, etc' (Ibid.). Some enterprising American companies were already responding to these incentives while others were being shown by this kind of prediction the possibilities offered by the next Five-Year Plan (Sutton, 1968).

Many American contractors and engineers were in that former category. For example, beginning in 1926 the civil engineer Hugh Cooper, under the terms of a Special Technical Assistance Contract, collaborated amicably with his Russian clients to construct the Dneprestroi hydroelectric dam in the Ukraine. When it was completed in 1931, Dneprestroi was the largest dam in the world, 20 per cent larger in mass than the Nile River Dam and with larger turbines than those at Niagara Falls, New York (New York Times, 1928, 21 July, p. 19; Gelb, 1991, p. 321; Rassweiler, 1988). One of the challenges Cooper faced was a shortage of steel, which required him to use wooden bins to hold materials for the American concrete mixers, wooden trusses to support those mixers, and wooden shelters to protect them (Constructor, 1932, 14, May, p. 28).

Another American firm that responded to Soviet clients' enticements was the Longacre Engineering and Construction Company. From 1929 to 1934 Longacre built several six-storey housing blocks in Moscow 'according to the latest American methods,

Figure 4.22. The Dneiper Dam was a massive hydroelectric project in the eastern Soviet Union, constructed by the Hugh Cooper Company. (Source: Pan Pacific Progress, 1930, 13(2), p. 57)

with American technicians and appliances [such as elevators], but [with Soviet labor]' (New York Times, 1929, 2 March, p. 1). A third American firm responding to the Soviet lure was the McCormick Company, which designed an American baking plant in Moscow (Constructor, 1929, 11, November, p. 54). Other American engineers 'entirely designed' the city of Magnitogorsk, east of the Ural Mountains (Gelb, 1991, p. 327; Scott, 1942, 1989). However, some of those engineers became so disgruntled with Soviet inefficiency, corruption and false accusations of blame that they returned to the U.S. before their terms expired (Gelb, 1991, pp. 114-115).

Zara Witkin, a young American engineer of Russian descent, exemplified this latter kind of situation. Between 1932 and 1934 Witkin's disillusionment with the realities he experienced in Stalinist Russia collided head-on with his heady idealism about contributing to the revolutionary cause of socialism (Gelb, 1991). A California-bred son of Russian émigrés, Witkin worked as a designer and engineer in Los Angeles during the early 1920s, when he became entranced by propaganda that glorified post-Czarist Russia. During the Depression, which Witkin viewed as confirmation of capitalism's failure, he turned more overtly towards socialism and began to work for Amtorg. At one of his life's major crossroads, he saw a Russian propaganda film in Los Angeles, became smitten with an actress playing the role of a revolutionary peasant, and vowed to find her in Russia, where he decided to contribute his contracting expertise to the cause of the Soviet Union. An expert in American prefabricated construction techniques, the 'talented, energetic and selfless' Witkin began working in Russia in several construction-related capacities. However, 'he came up against the pervasive lethargy, incompetence and outright corruption of Soviet industrial administrators' and within 3 years he became 'the victim of subterfuge, duplicity, laziness, venality, jealousy and stupidity' (Gelb, 1991, p. 7). He carried out several assignments at military construction sites, taught prefabricated construction and helped set construction priorities for the Second Five-Year Plan, but in 1934 his raw cynicism prompted him to return to the United States.

By 1935, a year after Witkin's demoralized self-repatriation, when Stalin's new Moscow plan was being formalized, American influence upon Soviet planners, architects and contractors was more palpable than it had ever been before. In terms of city planning, as Cohen explains,

The principal author of the general plan for Moscow, Vladimir Semenov, [had been] . . . attentive to American city planning developments since 1914. In 1935 he reproduced and commented on the sketches published by Hegemann and Peets in The American Vitruvius. In the same year, the Russians translated (though not without formulating some reservations in the preface) Thomas Adams's Recent Advances in Town Planning which outlined the Regional Plan for New York. (Cohen, 1995, p. 155)

However, as shown above, American planning influence pervaded the Soviet Union, from Ukraine in the west to Nijni Novgorod in central Russia, and at least as far as Magnitogorsk in the east. The examples of the Austin Company, Hugh Cooper, Jacob Crane and Zara Witkin during the years bridging the Depression reflect a spectrum of tangible, technological instances of American influence over planning and construction in a geographically broad, but uncoordinated series of Russian places. That spectrum was brought into sharper focus by Amstorg, the Russian agency promoting greater trade and urging Americans possessing construction expertise to bolster contracting, architectural and planning-related connections between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. As will be shown below in Chapter 5, as government-sanctioned agencies in the U.S. began operating much more pervasively and strategically after World War II, they (like Amstorg in the U.S.S.R.) created institutional umbrellas under which even more extensive, transnational, construction-related enterprises operated.

As American contractors enlarged the spectrum of their activities in Russia, they were unwittingly fitting within the kind of pattern that characterized their distant U.S. comrades who had chosen to work in Latin America at roughly the same time. The three salient trends seen there were also evident in Russia: cutting new industrial communities out of a country's whole cloth (as had been done with Chile's oficinas); selectively transplanting architectural and planning solutions (as had been done in Cuba and elsewhere); and creating a variegated spatial/ functional matrix of up-to-date industrial factories, higher-rise commercial and residential towers, and massive infrastructural interventions.

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