Lubyanka Building

The Lubyanka in 2010

The Lubyanka (Russian: Лубя́нка; IPA: [lʊˈbʲankə]) is the popular name for the headquarters of the KGB and affiliated prison on Lubyanka Square in Meshchansky District of Moscow, Russia. It is a large Neo-Baroque building with a facade of yellow brick designed by Alexander V. Ivanov in 1897 and augmented by Aleksey Shchusev from 1940 to 1947.



Original headquarters building of the All-Russia Insurance Company, before 1917
Lubyanka during renovation in 1983, with the left half still lower.

The Lubyanka was originally built in 1898 as the headquarters of the All-Russia Insurance Company. It is noted for its beautiful parquet floors and pale green walls. Belying its massiveness, the edifice avoids an impression of heroic scale: isolated Palladian and Baroque details, such as the minute pediments over the corner bays and the central loggia, are lost in an endlessly repeating palace facade where three bands of cornices emphasize the horizontal lines. A clock is centered in the uppermost band of the facade.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution, the structure was seized by the government for the headquarters of the secret police, then called the Cheka. In Soviet Russian jokes, it was referred to as the tallest building in Moscow, since Siberia (a euphemism for the Gulag labour camp system) could be seen from its basement.[1][2][3]


During the Great Purge, the offices became increasingly cramped due to staff numbers. In 1940, Aleksey Shchusev was commissioned to enlarge the building. His new design doubled the Lubyanka's size horizontally, with the original structure taking up the left half of the facade (as viewed from the street). In addition he added another storey and extended the structure by incorporating backstreet buildings. Shchusev's design accentuated Neo-Renaissance detailing, but only the right part of the facade was constructed under his direction in the 1940s, due to the war and other hindrances. This asymmetric facade survived intact until 1983, when the original structure was reconstructed to match the new build, at the urging of Communist Party General Secretary and former KGB Director Yuri Andropov in accordance with Shchusev's plans.

Although the Soviet secret police changed its name many times, its headquarters remained in this building. Secret police chiefs from Lavrenty Beria to Yuri Andropov used the same office on the third floor, which looked down on the statue of Cheka founder Felix Dzerzhinsky. A prison at the ground floor of the building figures prominently in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's classic study of the Soviet police state, The Gulag Archipelago. Famous inmates held, tortured and interrogated there include Sidney Reilly, Raoul Wallenberg, Ion Antonescu, Genrikh Yagoda, János Esterházy, Alexander Dolgun, Rochus Misch and Walter Ciszek.


After the dissolution of the KGB, the Lubyanka became the headquarters of the Border Guard Service of Russia, and houses the Lubyanka prison and one directorate of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB). In addition a museum of the KGB (now called Историко-демонстрационный зал ФСБ России, Historical-demonstration hall of the Russian FSB) was opened to the public.

In 1990, the Solovetsky Stone was erected across from the Lubyanka to commemorate the victims of political repression.


  1. Советский политический анекдот [Soviet political anecdotes]. Асс. Спектрум. "О".
  2. Alef, 495-505, Chamah, 1993
  3. "1001 избранный советский политический анекдот (1001 selected Soviet political anecdotes)". Retrieved August 22, 2016.

Coordinates: 55°45′39″N 37°37′42″E / 55.76083°N 37.62833°E / 55.76083; 37.62833

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