By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
05 Dec 2008
Stalin planned to blow up more than 1,200 buildings including the Bolshoi Theatre and St Basil's Cathedral if the Nazis ever took Moscow, documents have revealed.
An exhibition of secret papers staged to commemorate 90 years of military counter-intelligence showed the extraordinary lengths the Soviet high command was prepared to go to if the city fell.
The documents were drawn from archives of the so-called "Moscow Plan" drawn up in the Autumn of 1941, when German forces were within 19 miles of the city.
Soviet generals had told Stalin that the capital was likely to be overrun and the dictator responded by forming the Independent Motorized Brigade for Special Operations – or OMSBON – to destroy the main landmarks and infrastructure.
The plan was based on a strategy originally drawn up by Tsar Alexander I as Napoleon's troops bore down on Moscow in 1812. The French forces found the city an uninhabitable ruin and were eventually forced to withdraw.
Destroying a 20th century metropolis presented a different challenge, so Stalin order OMSBON to rig 1,200 buildings in Moscow with explosives.
Booby-traps were laid in the orchestra pit of the Bolshoi theatre as well as around the Kremlin and Moscow's best known cathedrals. The Metropole and National hotels were also mined, as was the towering foreign ministry.
Under the elaborate plan, ballerinas and circus acrobats were armed with grenades and pistols and ordered to assassinate German generals if they attempted to organise concerts and other celebrations upon taking the city. The composer Lev Knipper was charged with the responsibility of killing Hitler if he got the opportunity. ...