For 42 years, a giant head-like building has loomed large over Kaliningrad, Russia. For 42 years, it's also been empty. Now, the House of Soviets is set to be demolished—and then reconstructed. Writing for the New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer has the fascinating story of the building, which sits in a port city sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania that was once under German rule. The Soviets seized the city during World War II and decades later decided to eradicate some of its lingering German history by blowing up what remained of the Royal Königsberg Castle. The House of Soviets went up in its place, poorly. It was intended as office space for the Communist Party but never got there. Construction—shoddy at that—was never finished due to funding issues in 1985, reports the Guardian; chunks of rain-soaked concrete have since broken off its 21 stories.
So why leave a crumbling mess standing there for decades? To avoid egg on the face, essentially. As Kramer puts it, "even in the post-Soviet period, local governments shied from taking the politically fraught step of removing the empty building because it would be in essence admitting a flaw in the Soviet effort to replace Germany’s cultural legacy." That has finally changed, with a regional governor giving the order to take the building down this spring. Over the years, there was talk of rebuilding the castle, but the sentiment behind that—"as a symbol of embracing the German past and European future"—eroded during the Ukraine crisis; now, Russia houses nuclear-capable missiles in the area. And so the building will come down but the foundation will remain, and on top of it, a near-copy will be erected. (Read the full story for residents' take on the plans.)