More than a ton of explosive could blow up Moscow's center yesterday

The placement of more than a ton of TNT in the heart of Moscow in the beginning of the 1930s will apparently remain a mystery forever

Disassembling the foundation of the first Soviet hotel, Moskva, which was built in the very center of Russia's capital and opened on 20 December 1935, a group of workers discovered several suspicious boxes. The news received an extensive coverage in the Russian media: “Bombs found in Moscow's center,” “200 kilos of TNT uncovered in Moscow.” Such headlines were later followed with similar message titles, although the quantity of the found explosive was increasing from 200 kilograms to 700, then to about a ton, and ended with 1,160 kilos.

The police cordoned the construction site situated next to the Moscow Kremlin and the building of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, within an extremely short period of time, to Muscovites and tourists' great disappointment. The chairmen of all Moscow's special services and federal officials arrived to the site of the incident.

Rows of boxes were found in the lower part of the hotel's foundation; each box contained 20 kilos of TNT. Specialists counted 58 boxes of explosive in total. This quantity of TNT is enough to level the whole center of Moscow – both surface and underground facilities. 

The administration of Moscow's Internal Affairs Administration started distributing quite an absurd version about the finding. It was said that the workers had discovered a hiding place of the WWII era. “When German troops neared Moscow in the fall of 1941, the Soviet government ordered to mine a lot of objects of state and military significance. There were neither fuses nor detonators found on the construction site. To all appearance, it means that the place was used to store the explosive in. There was no threat of explosion at all,” RIA Novosti quoted a spokesman for the Moscow police administration as saying.

Almost all Russian media outlets picked up the above-mentioned version in their news messages. However, there are several questions to be asked. The first one of them is obvious: what was the point of placing boxes of TNT in the lower foundation of the hotel? Furthermore, according to explanations from a spokesman for the Moscow police administration, there was no information left about the bomb depot, for it had been made in a hurry, when Nazi troops could occupy Moscow at any moment. If there was too little time to make the depot, why did they have to uncover the lower foundation of the hotel to place the boxes of TNT there? It would have been easier to use a construction pit, for the purpose, or another site of simpler access.

To all appearance, Moscow officials are dodging. The information about the TNT storage site found in the very center of Moscow would never be left unnoticed even under the condition of the possible capitulation of Moscow. Each cartridge and shell was highly valued during the war, taking into consideration the fact that they were made at quite a distance from actual battlefields. Fifty-eight 20-kilo boxes of TNT could have been placed anywhere, in compliance with adequate written instructions from headquarters. One shall presume that there should have been a notice about boxes of TNT left in the archives of the USSR's Defense Council.

However, none of the news reports about the reconstruction of Moskva Hotel (it was an object of strategic importance under the condition of street battles in the fall of 1941) mentioned its coordination with federal security services. One may suggest that there was probably no such coordination at all, because the reconstruction of the hotel is being funded by a little-known US-registered firm Decorum Corporation. The installation of the tapping system in the hotel was one of the main goals to reconstruct the building: the system was made during Josef Stalin's stay in the office and then was subsequently modernized by other Soviet governments.

Yesterday's myth from the police administration of Moscow about the urgent placing of trotyl in the fall of 1941, as well as statements saying that there were no documents about the depot found and that nothing was threatening Muscovites, can be easily destroyed with another version, which specialists of the Russian EMERCOM set forth in their interview with the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper.

They particularly specified that one could concrete something in the lower foundation, where the boxes of TNT had been found, only before builders started doing the brickwork. One may thus infer that the explosives had been placed there in the beginning of the 1930s, when the hotel was being built. The government's newspaper failed to conclude, though, what the explosive was meant for.

However, placing the bombs in the hotel looks a blasphemous, albeit a logic step to make against the background of the struggle for power in Soviet Russia at the end of the 1920s and in the beginning of the 1930s. Soviet authorities were destroying the buildings of the previous epoch during those years in Moscow. The leveling of the Temple of Christ the Savior became the most well-known event of that period of Russia's history. Moskva Hotel could be considered as simply a new building project, the value of which was zero under the condition of the struggle for power.

On the other hand, the explosion of the hotel, the construction process of which was personally controlled by Stalin, could become a weighty argument for his dethronement. One could assume, that bombs could be placed in many other buildings of Moscow to. It also seems clear, why there was no information left about the depot in the archives: authorities always conceal any traces of internal diversions.

Why wasn't the hotel exploded then? Only the repressed “people's enemies” may know the answer to this question. It is also possible that the people, who tried to terrorize Stalin and Muscovites, did not venture to perform the most horrible act of terrorism in the history of Russia. It is not ruled out that those people did not have enough time to perform the act.

At any case, the placement of more than a ton of TNT in the heart of Moscow in the beginning of the 1930s will apparently remain a mystery forever. One may hope to uncover the book collection of Ivan the Terrible, but this mystery will remain unveiled for good.

The center of Moscow could explode indeed. According to one of the leading specialists of the Central Intelligence Administration, the boxes of TNT had been placed in the lower foundation of Moskva Hotel rather professionally. The boxes were protected from dampness. In addition, if explosives are pressurized well, they can be stored for decades and blast from the work of a chisel hammer, for instance.

Every Moscow resident has a right to ask questions to those people, who initiated and approved the reconstruction of Moskva Hotel. Why was the finding so surprising? Why weren't adequate specialists involved in the process to demolish the hotel, a strategically important object of Moscow? Why was the depot found by a hit of a shovel, although such methods of handling explosives are strictly prohibited?

Pravda.Ru believes that Moscow Mayor, Yury Luzhkov, as one of the brightest initiators of the hotel's reconstruction is obliged to answer the above-listed questions both to Russia's security agencies and Muscovites, who voted for his stay in the office.

Pyotr Yermilin

On the NTV photo: The view of Moskva Hotel being demolished in Moscow's center and decorated with commercial banners

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Author`s name Olga Savka