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The rebirth of GUM -- the once dowdy, now fancy arcade on Red Square -- is a lesson in the cycles of Russian commerce.
Built on a site used for centuries by small-scale traders, the glass-ceilinged, three-tiered arcade opened in 1893 in the waning years of Russia's czars as the Superior Trading Arcade. Its carved cornices, arching pedestrian bridges and scrolled ironwork rivaled the best in Europe.
It was shut within months of the Bolshevik Revolution and fell quickly into disrepair and ideological limbo. Although it reopened for about nine years as the State Department Store -- known by its Russian acronym GUM -- Soviet dictator Josef Stalin closed the store again in 1931, using its pastel-painted corridors for offices and a government printing house.
Several times the government discussed tearing it down altogether to make more room for the phalanxes of tanks that rolled through Red Square on holidays.
In part because of the distractions of World War II, GUM survived. It reopened after Stalin's death in 1953, and became the butt of tourist jokes.

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