GUM Department Store

Moscow, Russia | C.1921

Photo Credit: @ohlala_its_muriel

GUM is the acronym for Gosudarstvennyj Universinyj Magazi­n, which translates to “State Department Store.” These stores existed across many Soviet Union cities. The most renowned GUM is located in Moscow, facing the Red Square, and has been a shopping destination since the 1920’s.

The structure started out as the Upper Trading Rows which opened in 1893, holding up to 1,200 stores. The largest passage, or covered shopping street, during the 19th century with a 242m (794ft) facade, its architecture was inspired by covered street bazaars of Arab countries.

However, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, trade was suspended and goods were confiscated. Vladimir Lenin would later introduce the New Economic Policy to restore relations with the West. Starting with the Upper Trading Rows, he signed the “Regulations on the State Department Store (GUM)” and so, GUM was nationalized.

Lenin tried, but twice failed, to have GUM demolished. After Stalin converted the store to an office space in 1928, the building languished through three decades of neglect. The store was renovated and reopened to the public in 1953. It became one of the few stores in the Soviet Union that did not have shortages of consumer goods, resulting in lines of shoppers often extending across the Red Square.

At the end of the Soviet Era, GUM was slowly re-privatized and the name changed to give it a new meaning. It is now the “Glavnyj Universinyj Magazi­n,” or “Main Universal Store,” which includes luxury boutiques, a movie theater, as well as its original Acronym.

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