A monumental boulevard
The Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin is a socialist boulevard built by the East German Government in the 1950-1960s. Part of a renovation project to repair the destruction from World War II, the original vision was of five-storey buildings with lots of green spaces between them. A year and two completed residential buildings later this vision dramatically changed, with a new plan to erect eight-story wedding-cake style buildings, all luxurious, spacious and beautiful - a style very popular in the Soviet Union - with most covered in architectural ceramics. To hide the two buildings already completed at this point, fast growing poplar trees were simply planted in front of them.
Before construction even began, the GDR decided to dedicate this luxurious stretch of the city to its ‘brother state’s’ great leader, Stalin. But after the great late Soviet leader fell from grace, and ‘de-Stalinization’ was being undertaken all over the Eastern Bloc, the boulevard was renamed Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin, and the famous 15-foot bronze monument celebrating Stalin was removed.
Running from Alexanderplatz to Frankfurter Tor, once completed the boulevard became popular with both residents and tourists alike for recreational activities. To say you were ‘taking the E line to the shops on Stalin Boulevard’ was a slogan that caught on. While the Berlin Wall was up, residents came here to find goods they couldn’t find elsewhere, making it a shopper’s paradise. People could also relax in the many cafes and restaurants, or catch a film at the Kosmos cinema.
Other interesting facts about the Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin
- In 1953, the Stalinallee became the focus of a worker uprising with builders and construction workers demonstrating against the communist government. The rebellion was silenced with Soviet tanks and troops, taking at least 125 lives.
- Most stores would not accept payment for purchased items without proof that the West German Marks had been exchanged for East German Marks at a rate of 1:1.