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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Red October move leaves bitter taste
By Martin Vennard

Alyonka image on Red October factory
Many Russians are fondly familiar with the image of Alyonka
It survived the revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the historic Red October chocolate factory in central Moscow is powerless to resist the seemingly relentless redevelopment of the Russian capital.

Situated by the Moscow River, opposite the city's main cathedral and with views of the Kremlin, the Red October factory - Krasny Oktyabr in Russian - sits on some of the most expensive real estate in Russia.

By the end of the year, the factory's production lines, which first started up at the end of the 19th Century, will have been moved out to the suburbs to make way for luxury loft apartments.

The company says the move is in line with the Moscow authorities' policy of moving industrial units out of the centre, and that its new factory will be more modern and efficient.

But some Muscovites see the move as part of the changes that have vastly altered the cityscape under Mayor Yury Luzhkov, in the 15 years since the end of communism.

Property boom

Anton Kalantarov, 39, grew up in an apartment building just a few hundred metres from the factory and went to the same nursery school as the workers' children.

Red October sign on factory
The landmark factory survived revolution and war
"It's a real shame that it's moving. Lots of people think the same, but it's all about money. Land is very expensive in Moscow.

"When I was small we used to walk past the ventilation pipes from the factory and it smelt like heaven," Mr Kalantarov said.

But despite his feelings he says he will remain loyal to the brand. "I only ever buy Red October sweets and chocolates and I will continue to," he said.

Magazine editor Galina Istomina, who also lived near the factory, agrees. "It's yet another change. We all grew up knowing Red October and they make the best chocolate in Russia."

She once met the grandson of one of the pre-revolutionary company's German founders, Julius Heuss, who is buried in the same cemetery as her own grandmother.

The Moscow Architectural Preservation Society (Maps) says that around 1,000 historical and 200 protected city buildings have been knocked down for redevelopment over the last five years.

Cautious optimism

Edmund Harris, who is a trustee of the society, said: "I can understand people's sentimental links to the factory and the resistance to change."

Misha chocolate bear
A Misha bear: The chocolates symbolise Russian national pride
But he says he is cautiously optimistic about the plans. "They say the main factory buildings will be preserved, and that some of the unlisted buildings on the site will be demolished."

The business was started by Theodore von Einem, who began selling sweets and chocolates in 1851. As it expanded he went into partnership with Mr Heuss, a successful businessman, before the current factory was built.

Its reputation grew and in 1913 it began supplying the Tsar. But after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution it was nationalised and renamed State Confectionery Factory Number One, before being given the catchier Red October name in 1922.

Despite the revolution the company maintained strong Russian traditions. A chocolate sweet called Misha Kosolapy was named after a brown bear and inspired by a painting of bears by the 19th-Century artist Ivan Shishkin. It is still made today.

During World War II it made supplies for the Red Army. Post-war some of its products won international awards.

End of an era

In 1966 they created the Alyonka chocolate bar, which is still one of the company's most popular products. It was named after the small girl whose picture features on the wrapper. Her face currently adorns a cover on the front of the factory building, while refurbishment takes place.

Visiting the red brick buildings, with their high windows, steaming chimneys and suspended passage ways, is perhaps as close as you can actually get to being allowed into Willy Wonka's fantasy chocolate factory.

The guide hands you boiled sweets and chocolates direct from the production lines. Some of the machines are ageing, while others are ultra-modern.

Production and about 3,000 workers are gradually being moved to the new site, where the company plans to make 120,000 tonnes of confectionery a year, mostly for Russia and other former Soviet countries.

It says it will keep a museum on the old five-hectare site, but to many Muscovites it will never be the same without the smell of chocolate wafting across the river.

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