Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The former Soviet dictator loved vacationing in the coastal resort town.
With its warm weather, beaches, and forests, Sochi was an irresistible destination for former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Like current Russian President Vladimir Putin (who also vacations in Sochi), Stalin had hoped to turn the coastal city into a high-end resort village and had a villa built there for himself in 1937. It was a place where he could get away from the stress of Moscow, play billiards, screen Charlie Chaplin films, and walk around in a pool by himself (filled with nearby seawater).
The complex, part of what's known as the Green Grove sanatorium, fell into disrepair after his death in 1953 with few Soviet officials using it in the following years. In post-Communist times, it has become a museum of sorts. For a small fee, visitors can see how Stalin enjoyed his downtime. A wax statue of him welcomes those who walk up to his old desk.
Until recently, tourists could book a room there too, a rare opportunity for one to say they slept in the same bed as a head of state who oversaw the deaths of millions of people. According to Haaretz, the rooms are currently being renovated and under new ownership. The restaurant on-site serves the former dictator's favorite Russian and Georgian dishes.
The villa serves as one of the few places where you can experience Stalin's connection to Sochi. Despite the city's continued popularity as a resort town for Russians, his legacy around town is mostly limited to the neoclassical sanatoriums he had hoped for. As billions of dollars worth of modernizations have suddenly arrived under Putin, Stalin's Sochi appears more modest than ever.
A signboard of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s Villa is seen in Sochi, January 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk)