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August 21 2014

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GUM Celebrates 120 Years in the Red Square, With Or Without Vuitton Luggage

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GUM

There’s more to Moscow’s Red Square than the Kremlin, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and Lenin’s tomb—for more than a century, it’s been home to GUM (short for Gosudarstvennyi Universalnyi Magasin, or Main Universal Store in English), Russia’s gigantic three-level, glass-domed department store, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last night.

GUM has had a long and often starry line of admirers over its century-plus in business. Tolstoy and Tchaikovsky bought their Patek Philippe watches there. It has survived closures (and opponents, like Stalin, who reportedly hated it), but has always come back. Ten years ago, Bosco di Ciliegi took over the monumental store and restored GUM’s nearly 300,000 square feet to its nineteenth-century splendor. That 19th century splendor is now home to some very 21st century luxury brands, including Dior, Hermès, Giorgio Armani, and Louis Vuitton. Tiffany & Co. is set to arrive next year.

Inside GUM

Much of the media coverage has centered on the fate of the giant Vuitton trunk that the label erected out in the Red Square, where the brand was planning to house its Soul of Travel exhibition. After protests from the Kremlin, it is now being dismantled and removed. (Vuitton plans to hold the exhibition elsewhere as soon as possible.) But the political brouhaha didn’t dampen GUM’s birthday mood. The retail center set up a rustic outdoor Christmas fair and staged a period costume party on its Red Square ice rink, which recalled the days of the tsars. Guests sipped hot mulled wine in the snow and snacked on Russian dumplings and crepes with salmon. Revelers even had the chance to mint their own GUM anniversary coins before indulging in the mammoth birthday cake and taking to the ice where a brass band played.

As the fashion on offer in Moscow remains alarmingly pricey due to Russia’s notably high import tax, the best luxury bet at GUM may be the store’s legendary ice cream. Despite the frigid temperatures, there were hordes of people waiting in line for some of the frozen treats. As Winston Churchill once put it, “You cannot defeat a nation that enjoys ice cream at minus-40 degrees C.”

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Dept. of Culture