Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
About the Embassy

American Embassy Moscow – Brief History

The idea of having an embassy complex in Moscow was first envisioned in 1934, not long after the United States recognized the Soviet Union. In January 1934 Stalin promised the first U.S. Ambassador to the USSR, William C. Bullitt, a new Embassy site on Lenin Hills in Moscow overlooking the Moscow River. Negotiations as to terms and conditions were fruitless and the Embassy staff moved into quarters near Red Square which they occupied until 1953 when they moved into the Existing Office Building (EOB) on Ulitsa Chaikovskogo (now Novinskiy Bulvar) after Soviet renovation of the property that was constructed originally as an apartment building.

Not long after move in, it became clear that conditions were cramped, inefficient and unsafe and negotiations in the 1960's benefited by Soviet reciprocal need for new facilities in Washington, culminated in an "Agreement for the Exchange of Sites" on May 16,1969. The Soviets tried to get new chancery sites in residential neighborhoods such as Chevy Chase but their attempts were successfully blocked, and they reluctantly settled for an 85 year free lease of 12 acres on Mt. Alto proposed by USG. The US Government repeatedly rejected Lenin Hills as too far from the action and was happy to accept a Soviet offer of an 85 year free lease of 10 acres on a site behind EOB slated for urban renewal. The Agreement also included the 1.8 acre site of Spaso House that had been on shorter term leases since 1933. Thus the chancery compound is centrally located where the action is and also near the Ambassador's residence.

The reciprocal Conditions of Construction Agreement with 120-day deadline set in the exchange of sites agreement was extended for 19 months during negotiation of unacceptable proposals of conditions by the Soviets. The conditions proposed were essentially the same as for other embassy facilities constructed in the Soviet Union including use of host country contractor to carry out and control all phases of construction with design to local norms, technology and standards. Getting no-where, a USG team in 1972 proposed a two stage process: host country furnishing materials and performing all basic site, foundation and structural work; and owner doing all else using host country workers and material source of choice. Respective chanceries eight stories tall would be inside finished above fourth floor by owner's choice of labor and material. The Conditions of Construction Agreement was signed by both parties on December 4, 1972 including a requirement for simultaneous construction and occupancy of both Chanceries.

On December 4, 1972, the Conditions of Construction Agreement typical of all embassies constructed in the USSR, was bilaterally signed governing construction of both the American and Soviet Embassies as a reciprocal arrangement with the requirement of simultaneous occupancy. The agreement included site work, foundation and structure built by host country with its materials, and other systems of the buildings built using host country workers under owner's supervision using owner's choice of materials except inside finishing of top four floors constructed entirely by the owner.

The American embassy celebrated the laying of the cornerstone of the New Office Building (NOB) in September, 1979.

In August of 1985 work was suspended on the partially completed NOB due to a security compromise of such consequence that there was serious doubt that the building, if completed, could be used for the purpose intended.

In 1986 the New Embassy Complex was completed except for NOB which remained under study until 1991.

The Moscow Embassy buildings Control Office was established in 1989 with its Director reporting to the Under Secretary for Management and responsible for planning, design, construction, security, acquisition, logistics, budget and schedules for the NOB project staffed by State and Intelligence Community experts.

The Soviet Union dissolved in December, 1991 and was replaced by the Russian Federation.

After long negotiation starting with the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation executed a bilateral Supplemental Conditions of Construction Agreement on June 15, 1992 permitting, among other things, the construction of NOB by Americans using American material pursuant to an American controlled design.

In FY 92 and 93, the congress appropriated a total of $240 million but precluded obligation of the funds until Congressional approval of a reprogramming notice detailing the plan.

Congressional approval was granted for the Secure Chancery Facilities (SCF) on October 6, 1994 (nicknamed "TOPHAT").

In January, 1995, Hellmuth, Obata & Kassebaum, P.C. (HOK) was contractually notified to proceed with design of the SCF: demolition of the 8 story building to the sixth floor slab; construction of four new floors plus penthouse; and transition on the fifth floor to the Controlled Access Area above.

On May 2, 1996, a fixed price award fee competitive contract was awarded to the American joint venture Zackry, Parsons, Sundt (ZPS) for the partial deconstruction of NOB, rehabilitation of remaining portions of the building, addition of the four new floors plus penthouse and completion of all systems of the building.

Deconstruction began in January, 1997 with new construction beginning in September 1997.

On the basis of certification of compliance with the requirements of Public Law 100-204 dealing with construction security, accreditation of the facility and certification that the building is substantially complete and all systems are functioning as designed, the Under Secretary for Management of the Department of State declared to the Ambassador that the facility may be occupied as of May 5, 2000.