Moisei Ginzburg began his career with acquiring architectural education: first in Milan and later in Moscow. After receiving a diploma in 1917, the young twenty-three-year-old architect accepts a customer's invitation and goes to the Crimea to perform his first professional project: the private manor of the Lokshins in Yevpatoriya. However, taking into account the historical context of Ginzburg's stay in the Crimea, it is reasonable to assume that the project was not implemented. After all, in his book “Style and Epoch” Ginzburg himself gives only a model of the manor, or its project as a matter of fact, but there are no photos of it having been built, whilst the edition presents plenty of photos.
However, the Crimean period of the outstanding architect's activity was specified not only by designing the manor, but also by such a breakthrough that gives us the insight into the young architect's ideas evolution. On returning to Moscow in 1921, Moisei Ginzburg publishes an article "Tatar art in the Crimea", in which he meticulously analyzes the trends the Crimean Tatar art was influenced by, having highlighted the role of ancient (‘archaeological garbage’) and Byzantine heritage, Goths, Arabic-Persian and Turkish styles. He pays considerable attention to sacral architecture, and cites as an example, the mosque of Juma-Jami (or Khan-Jami), and the tekke (monastery) of dervishes in Yevpatoriya. Ginzburg assumes that Juma-Jami is a majestic copy of a miniature dervish monastery, and concludes that despite the obvious borrowings from Istanbul, the architecture of old Gezlov has substantially national features, and the mosque and monastery are unsurpassed examples of Tatar monumental architecture.
From the other side, in describing civil architecture, Ginzburg cites only the example of the Khan's Palace in Bakhchisarai (metaphorically calling it ‘the house of the Gurians’, ‘the mine of joy;’), regarding dwelling houses as secondary ones and as being of low-value. Defining non-sacred Crimean Tatar architecture as the pavilion one, Ginzburg writes that such architecture has no purely architectural value, but delivers an example of decorative art. However, in his article in the magazine "Modern Architecture" published in 1926 he would write that the brilliant oriental mosques are dead material of history, while the unimposing dwelling of a poor Muslim is the starting point for the development of his (Muslim’s) new culture. The architect characterizes the Crimean Tatar housing as pavilions ‘scattered in the gardens’, forming ‘irregular buildings’, full of beauty and comfort, decorated in an inconsistent way though tastefully. Ginzburg also pays attention to the functionality of the apartment: the house has two or one and a half floors, where the lower floor is non-residential and upper floor is a gallery (usually glazed) or a terrace on wooden pillars. In his opinion, the Crimean Tatar house is characterized by asymmetry and ‘irregular’ distribution of volumes. However, despite the ‘pavilion’ style and lack of monumentality inherent in stone mosques, Ginzburg considers the Khan's Palace in Bakhchisarai to be literally a pearl. At the same time, he is aware of this, and several times draws the reader's attention to the fact that this was no longer the authentic Khan's palace, burned by Minich's troops in 1736. Ginzburg claims that in 1783, with the annexation of Crimea by Russia, a fairy tale of ‘Crimean Shaherizada’ abruptly breaks off, the lid of the ‘magic snuffbox’ closes forever. It is worth mentioning that he highlights the point that the appearance of the palace was changed not only as a result of multiple devastation and looting, but also because of reconstruction and restoration to match the pseudo-Arab-Persian style, that ‘painful agony’ performed by ‘Russian hands’.
The attentive reader would hardly fail to notice Ginzburg's piety before the Khan's period. He implies that it was during the reign of the khans that the Crimean Tatars experienced their ‘magnificent’ prosperity and rise of national life. Recalling the Juma-Jami in Yevpatoriya, Ginzburg claims that the period of construction of the mosque was the time of ‘national power’ being born. There again, what coincided with the general rhetoric in 1921 was already considered a rudimentary sentiment in 1926. In an article written for Modern Architecture edition, Ginzburg wrote that the Ulug-Bek Mosque in Samarkand was a ‘tombstone’ of the period of ‘autocratic Eastern tyrants’ who enslaved the ‘living force’ of Muslim workers, which presented a reflection of the atavistic national idea of the East. After all, in the young architect's essay on Crimean Tatar art, written in 1921, Crimea is also given as the embodiment of those days prevailing vision of the exotic East, namely its attractiveness and charm.
Despite the name ‘Tatar art in the Crimea’ the article by Ginzburg in fact analyzes only Yevpatoriya and Bakhchisarai. Obviously, the study of Crimean Tatar art was not the main purpose of his stay in the Crimea, so the question of what the young architect was doing during 1917–1921 remains unanswered. Still, it can be said without a doubt that this work publishing contributed to the promotion of Ginzburg's reputation as an expert on the Crimea. The architect's first project was the pavilion of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic at the first All-Russian (All-Union) Agricultural Exhibition in 1923. It is noteworthy that the Bakhchisaray Museum, namely its director, Usein Bodaninsky, as well as a representative of the Cimmerian school of painting, the Crimean artist Konstantin Bogaevsky, took part in designing the pavilion, which in fact imitated the Khan's Palace, but with a rigor that would later turn intoconstructivism feature. Thematically, the exhibition derived from agricultural and manufacturing exhibitions popular in the Russian Empire. However, unlike those mentioned above the exhibition pavilions of 1923 represented the achievements not of manufacturers, but freshly baked autonomous republics. Within a year, Ginzburg prepared a design for the USSR pavilion for the 1925 World's Fair in Paris, but he did not win the competition. It is reasonable to assume that such attention to the peninsula was fuelled by the desire to demonstrate the Crimea as a showcase for a successful socialist project of ‘the empire of affirmative action’.
Thorough attention to the innovative methods of Moisei Ginzburg, as well as his knowledge of the architectural heritage of the Crimean Tatars, let us conclude that the Crimean period in Ginzburg’s life and work was not only time of rethinking the rhythm and style immanent to classical architecture. It was also a period of his practical solutions which, perhaps, years later Ginzburg himself did not define as being specifically Crimean. At the same time, it is worth-while to assume, that a number of architectural elements used by him during the construction of the People's Commissariat of Finance were if not originated from, then at least concordant with similar solutions in the traditional architecture of the Crimean Tatars. The first thing that comes to mind is the pillars on which the house stands, they are so-called ‘Corbusier legs’, which Ginzburg, as it turned out, had used earlier than his French counterpart. In his project, the Soviet architect claimed that the use of pylons would allow to avoid constructing the plinth in an uneven area.
Indeed, in the foothills and mountainous areas of the Crimea, the lower floor of traditional Crimean Tatar dwellings did not have a back wall, instead of it they used a rock or slope on which the house was built. The use of pillars also makes it possible to divide the house into an economic part (first floor) and residential area (second floor), the stairway to which was made from the outside. The family could live on the first or second floor depending on the season. Thus, according to the level of the lower floor comfort, it could be used as a living space as well, while the second floor served as a guest room. In cities, the open or semi-open space of the first floor could become a shop or a cafe. Rather often the second floor protruded, forming a gallery, which was a characteristic feature of the Crimean Tatar houses. Boris Kuftin, who in 1925 published a study of the dwellings of the Crimean Tatars, wrote that such architecture made houses ‘airy-fairy'. The pillars on the ground floor and the galleries on the second were also used by Moisei Ginzburg in planning a typical economic housing, which was to replace the barracks as part of the Green City desurbanization project.
Also flat roofs, as well as their functional purpose, were typical for the traditional Crimean Tatar architecture. Erecting houses on the slopes, one after another, led to such a solution that the roof of one house could serve as a terrace for another, as Mikhail Dubrovsky noted in 1914. Kuftin claimed that you could often get to some houses only by the roofs. Inhabitants not only dry fruit on their roofs, but they also sleep there and gather for having coffee. Indeed, one of the characteristic features of the People's Commissariat of Finance's house was a flat roof, which, according to the design, was conceived as a terrace, or in other words a common space for the residents of the house. It should be clear that in the case of Crimean Tatar dwellings, flat roofs were a necessity rather than a whim. However Ginzburg in the design of his work was also guided by the principle of priority of function over form, he argued that functional architecture is impossible without a specific utilitarian goal. In accordance with the same principle, when designing his work, Ginzburg reflected on the modularity of residential equipment and their compactness. The traditional Crimean Tatar apartment also has signs of modularity, which the young architect, attentive to details, was sure to know. Thus, in the residential part of the house, usually in the part separated by a curtain, there was a suv dolab (suv – water, dolab – closet), a bath cabinet (actually, a prototype shower), which in rich houses was connected to a primitive sewer system. Also some niches built into the wall were common, they were used for storing utensils and food.
In the early 1930s, Moisei Ginzburg namely returns to the Crimea. In 1932, at the request of the State Institute of Urban Design (Giprogor), he headed a large interdisciplinary group of researchers (among them there was the Crimean Tatar architect Sadyk Nogaev) to perform the task of the Council of People's Commissars of the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on ‘the first in the USSR territorial replanning’. In 1935 the ‘interim report’ of the group work ‘Socialist reconstruction of southern coast of Crimea’ was published. The editorial preface to the publication (ed. SI Emirveliev) stated that the planning covers three national (Crimean Tatar) districts (Alushta, Yalta and Balaklava in part), and therefore it is the embodiment of Lenin's national policy. The actual embodiment was supposed to raise the material and cultural levels of native workers. It is not difficult to guess that we are talking about the Crimean Tatars. Despite the fact that in the introduction Ginzburg compares planning of the southern coast to the planning of the industrial area and indicates that instead of minerals those are the climate and nature of Crimea that become the productive forces, the Derzhplan (State Plan Body) conclusion writes on ‘broad involvement of local Tatar population’ to work in resorts and state farms. According to the scheme, the native population should have been settled between the resorts and the agricultural area, which would allow members of one family to work in both industries. The use by a group of researchers of geomorphological, climatic, and, ultimately, medical approaches to the zoning of the southern coast was not something new at that time. In fact, the project's contemporaries may have been surprised by bold decisions, such as building an airport on Ai-Petri, a railway from Simferopol to Yalta, or a network of railless roads. However, the ‘broad involvement of the local Tatar population’ included into the plan to transform the southern coast of the Crimea to ‘exemplary health resort’, has a familiar bitter taste of something different from raising the cultural level of the working masses. This was especially obvious against the background of the gradual shutting down of ‘Lenin's’ national policy (I’d like to remind you that it was only a few years before the large-scale persecution when the Crimean Tatar political and intellectual elite would be exterminated). The dark irony of the situation lies in the fact that Ginzburg himself in the introductory part points out to the tsar's colonial policy and considers it necessary to restore justice by giving the local population free access to the sea and park areas, which they were deprived of in ‘tsarist times’ yet.
With regard to namely architectural solutions, Ginzburg, who denied the ‘resurrection’ of old architectural decorative forms of the national style, relied in his project on the functional heritage. He argued that the first task of the architect was being aware of the area features. He strongly rejects the ‘pre-revolutionary’ practice of building palaces by ‘manufacturers from Moscow and St. Petersburg’. Instead he offers to pay attention to the experience of Crimean Tatar settlements for their skillful combining nature and architecture. He sets apart two possible systems that correspond to the traditional (intrinsic) of these areas laying out: a picturesque ‘mess’ of houses scattered like oases, and amphitheaters of villages in which houses are located on the slopes one after another. Therefore, for the first time since 1921, now being not only a theorist but also a practitioner, Moisei Ginzburg comes back to the vernacular architecture.
To sum up, we should note that a thorough study of the Crimean period (1917–1921) of Moisei Ginzburg’s work demands to involve new sources, while unfortunately, their availability is doubtless. However, his stay on the peninsula and his studies of traditional Crimean Tatar architecture not only boosted his career, but his creative work as well. The architect implemented the ideas inherent in traditional Crimean Tatar architecture, such as flat roofs, pillars, galleries, non-residential ground floor and modularity, into his projects. It seems that if the thesis of his borrowing the ideas appears too daring, then we can talk about his succeeding to the functional approach at least. Ginzburg's creative path was fulfilled against the background of changes in the national policy of the USSR evolving from national self-determination claims, to shutting down of Soviet localization policy (indigenization policy) and persecution of national elites. Thus, the project of Socialist reconstruction of the southern coast of Crimea, despite the Crimean Tatar architects taking part in it, and the planned improvement of locals’ living conditions, is rather a reproduction of the old ‘metropolis-colony’ discursive model, according to which the coast was not regarded as area for native people identity formation but as the all the Soviet union resort with healing sea and air, which spared only the minor role to Crimean Tatars. However, his interim project, presented in 1935, embodies not only Ginzburg's experience as a well-known architect then, but also his knowledge of Crimea and indigenous (traditional but at the same time functional) architecture which he acquired at the beginning of his creative career.