Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Moscow is the Financial and Political Centre of Russia and the Former Soviet Union

Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent. Moscow is the northernmost megacity on Earth, the most populous city in Europe, and the sixth largest city proper in the world. Its population, according to the results of the 2010 Census, is 11,503,501. Based on Forbes 2011, Moscow had 79 billionaires, displacing New York City as the city with the greatest number of billionaires.

Moscow is situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia. In the course of its history the city has served as the capital of a progression of states, from the medieval Grand Duchy of Moscow and the subsequent Tsardom of Russia to the Soviet Union. Moscow is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, an ancient fortress that is today the residence of the Russian President and of the executive branch of the Government of Russia. The Kremlin is also one of several World Heritage Sites in the city. Both chambers of the Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) also sit in Moscow.

The city is served by an extensive transit network, which includes four international airports, nine railroad terminals, and one of the deepest underground tubes in the world, the Moscow Metro, second only to Tokyo in terms of ridership and recognised as one of the city's landmarks due to the rich and varied architecture of its 185 stations.

Over time, Moscow has acquired a number of epithets, most referring to its size and preeminent status within the nation: The Third Rome (Третий Рим), The Whitestone One (Белокаменная), The First Throne (Первопрестольная), The Forty Forties (Сорок Сороков). In old Russian the word "Сорок" (forty) also meant a church administrative district, which consisted of about forty churches.The demonym for a Moscow resident is Moskvitch, rendered in English as Muscovite.

The city is named after the river (old Russian: гра́д Моско́в, literally "the city by the Moskva River"). The first reference to Moscow dates from 1147 when Yuri Dolgorukiy called upon the prince of the Novgorod-Severski to "come to me, brother, to Moscow."

Nine years later, in 1156, Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy of Rostov ordered the construction of a wooden wall, the Kremlin, which had to be rebuilt multiple times, to surround the emerging city. After the sacking of 1237–1238, when the Mongols burned the city to the ground and killed its inhabitants, Moscow recovered and became the capital of the independent Vladimir-Suzdal principality in 1327. Its favorable position on the headwaters of the Volga River contributed to steady expansion. Moscow developed into a stable and prosperous principality, known as Grand Duchy of Moscow, for many years and attracted a large number of refugees from across Russia.

Under Ivan I of Moscow the city replaced Tver as a political center of Vladimir-Suzdal and became the sole collector of taxes for the Mongol-Tatar rulers. By paying high tribute, Ivan won an important concession from the Khan. Unlike other principalities, Moscow was not divided among his sons but was passed intact to his eldest. Moscow's opposition against foreign domination grew. In 1380, prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow led a united Russian army to an important victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo. The battle, however, was not decisive and only two years later Moscow was sacked by khan Tokhtamysh. Ivan III, in 1480, finally broke the Russians free from Tatar control, allowing Moscow to become the center of power in Russia. Under Ivan III the city became the capital of an empire that would eventually encompass all of present-day Russia and other lands.

In 1571, the Crimean Tatars attacked and sacked Moscow, burning everything but the Kremlin.

In 1609, the Swedish army led by Count Jacob De la Gardie and Evert Horn started their march from Great Novgorod toward Moscow to help Tsar Vasili Shuiski, entered Moscow in 1610 and suppressed the rebellion against the Tsar, but left it early in 1611, following which the Polish–Lithuanian army invaded. During the Polish–Muscovite War (1605–1618) hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski entered Moscow after defeating the Russians in the Battle of Klushino. The 17th century was rich in popular risings, such as the liberation of Moscow from the Polish–Lithuanian invaders (1612), the Salt Riot (1648), the Copper Riot (1662), and the Moscow Uprising of 1682. The plague epidemics ravaged Moscow in 1570–1571, 1592 and 1654–1656. The city ceased to be Russia’s capital in 1712, after the founding of Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great near the Baltic coast in 1703. The Plague of 1771 was the last massive outbreak of plague in central Russia, claiming up to 100,000 lives in Moscow alone. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the Muscovites burned the city and evacuated, as Napoleon’s forces were approaching on 14 September. Napoleon’s Grande Armée, plagued by hunger, cold and poor supply lines, was forced to retreat and was nearly annihilated by the devastating Russian winter and sporadic attacks by Russian military forces. As many as 400,000 died in the adventure and only a few tens of thousands of ravaged troops returned.
French invasion of Russia in 1812, Fire of Moscow, painting of Smirnov A.F., 1813

In January 1905, the institution of the City Governor, or Mayor, was officially introduced in Moscow, and Alexander Adrianov became Moscow’s first official mayor. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, on 12 March 1918 Moscow became the capital of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and of the Soviet Union less than five years later. During World War II (the period from June 22, 1941, to May 9, 1945 known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War), after the German invasion of the USSR, the Soviet State Defense Committee and the General Staff of the Red Army was located in Moscow.
Red Square, painting of Fedor Alekseev, 1802

In 1941, sixteen divisions of the national volunteers (more than 160,000 people), twenty-five battalions (18,500 people) and four engineering regiments were formed among the Muscovites. That November, the German Army Group Center was stopped at the outskirts of the city and then driven off in the Battle of Moscow. Many factories were evacuated, together with much of the government, and from 20 October the city was declared to be under siege. Its remaining inhabitants built and manned antitank defenses, while the city was bombarded from the air. Joseph Stalin refused to leave the city, meaning the general staff and the council of people's commissars remained in the city as well. Despite the siege and the bombings, the construction of Moscow's metro system continued through the war, and by the end of the war several new metro lines were opened.
Map of Moscow, 1784

Both German and Soviet casualties during the battle of Moscow have been a subject of debate, as various sources provide somewhat different estimates. Therefore, total casualties between 30 September 1941, and 7 January 1942, are estimated to be between 248,000 and 400,000 for the Wehrmacht and between 650,000 and 1,280,000 for the Red Army.

On 1 May 1944, a medal For the defense of Moscow and in 1947 another medal In memory of the 800th anniversary of Moscow were instituted. In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, on May 8, 1965, Moscow became one of twelve Soviet cities awarded the title of Hero City.

In 1980, it hosted the Summer Olympic Games, which was boycotted by the United States and several other Western countries due to the Soviet Union's involvement in Afghanistan in late 1979. In 1991, Moscow was the scene of the failed coup attempt by the government members opposed to the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev. When the USSR was dissolved in the same year, Moscow continued to be the capital of Russia.

Since then, the emergence of a market economy in Moscow has produced an explosion of Western-style retailing, services, architecture, and lifestyles. In 1998, it hosted the first World Youth Games.


Moscow is a large metropolis on the Moskva River, which bends its way through the city. Most of the main sites are on the northern bank of the river. The other major waterway is the Yauza River, which flows into the Moskva east of the Kremlin.
Much of Moscow's geography is defined by the numerous 'Ring Roads' that circle the city at various distances from the centre, roughly following the outline of the walls that used to surround Moscow. With Red Square and the Kremlin forming the very centre, the innermost ring road is the Boulevard Ring (Bulvarnoye Koltso), built in the 1820s where the 16th century walls used to be. It runs from the Christ the Savior Cathedral in south-west central Moscow, to the mouth of the Yauza in south-east central Moscow.

The next ring road, the Garden Ring (Sadovoe Koltso), derives its name from the fact that landowners near the road in Tsarist times were obligated to maintain gardens to make the road attractive. In Soviet times, the road was widened, and curently you will find no gardens there.

The recently constructed Third Ring is not much use for tourists but is a heavily used motorway which absorbs a bit of Moscow's traffic. It roughly follows the outline of Kamer-Kollezhsky val, the customs boundary of Moscow in the 18th-early 20th century. The outer edge of Moscow is largely defined by the Moscow Ring Road (widely known by its abbreviation: MKAD-Moskovskaya kolcevaya avto doroga), a motorway which is 108 km long and encircles the entire city (similar to London's M25 and Paris' Périphérique). Finally, a Fourth Ring is due to be built between the Third Ring and the Moscow Ring Road in the next years, using in places the right-of-way of the freight rail loop.


Museum of soviet arcade machines, Baumanskaya ulitsa 11 (Metro station Baumanskaya). Great new space full of old soviet fun! Go hunting, shoot torpedoes, drive cars, check your strength and much more... Price includes 10 15 kopek coins to enjoy the games. It also features a cozy cafe. 300 rub.

Main sites

Red Square - The heart of Moscow and the first destination for most visitors to the city. Surrounded by St. Basil's Cathedral, the State History Museum, Lenin's Mausoleum and one of the Kremlin's long brick walls. The cobbles that make up the square are black and not red; the name comes from another gloss of the Russian word "krasniy", meaning "beautiful". Metro: Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya or Ploshad Revolutsii.
Lenin Mausoleum - in the centre of the Red Square. Walk past the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin (who actually did not want any monuments to be built for him) and join the debate if it is still him. You must leave all cameras, phones and bags in the luggage office. Free admission. Open 10AM-1PM closed Mondays and Fridays.
St Basil Cathedral - in the south part of Red Square. Built in 1555-61. Inside is a museum, although it looks best from the outside, but if you have the time, take a peek inside.

Inside the Kremlin

The Kremlin – This gigantic site can not be missed. The Diamond collection in the Armoury is worth a visit on its own. There are several stunning churches that warrant a visit. Choose one or two to go inside, then enjoy the rest from the gardens. If you get a chance, the ballet in the Conference Centre has some very cheap matinee performances (and you can change seats in the interval). Tickets are 700 rubles to visit the armory and 350 rubles to visit everything else. Arrive early as tickets go on sale 30 minutes (10AM tour) or 1 hour (12, 14:30, and 16:30 tours) before scheduled tours. There are also rotating exhibitions which cost 200 rubles entry. The ticket office is closed Thursdays. Large bags must be left at a luggage office (60 rubles). Amateur photography and videotaping is prohibited. Metro: for tourist entrances - Biblioteka im. V.I.Lenina, Alexandrovskii Sad, Arbatskaya (Dark Blue line, east exit) or a short walk from Borovitskaya. For rest of the walls additional stations: Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya and Ploschad Revolutsii near norther tip of the Kremlin, following walk through Alexandrovskii Garden or through Red Square.
Old Arbat Street – Walk down this kitschy street full of souvenir vendors, tourist cafes, lousy restaurants, artists, etc. The prices of the souvenirs vary from reasonable to ripoff. Many of the vendors offer a very high higher price, but can be talked down if you speak Russian. The stores tend to offer the same merchandise but with fixed high prices. Metro: Smolenskaya (both blue lines), Arbatskaya (both blue lines, from Dark Blue line take west exit).
Bolshoi Theatre – Sit in front of the famed theater near the fountain, or catch a show inside if you can. Tickets start at around 1000 rubles. Metro: Ohotnii Ryad, Teatralnaya or Ploshad Revolutsii.
Tretyakov Gallery – One of the world's greatest museums, this is probably the one to choose if you only want to visit one museum in Moscow. In contrast to the worldwide collection of the Pushkin Museum, the Tretyakov is mostly a collection of Russian art. It has the best collection of Russian icons and many of the most famous pieces of modern Russian artists like Ilya Repin. Metro: Tretyakovskaya or Novokuznetskaya.

(NB: There are actually two Tretyakov museums now, the classic one and the 20th Century one. The classic one is where it has always been, the 20th Century one is in the Artist's House Cultural Center across from Gorky Park. They charge separate entry fees.)

Pushkin Museum is dedicated to Western art and has one of the world's most significant Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections, along with some Old Masters. The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were rather unfortunately relocated to an annex in 2007 across the street from the main building. Metro: Kropotkinskaya.
Novodevichy Convent – Both a convent and a fortress, Novodevichy was built in the early 1500s and has remained nearly intact since the 17th century, making it one of the best preserved historical complexes in Moscow. The adjacent Novodevichy Cemetery is one of Russia's most famous cemeteries. Famous people buried there include Anton Chekhov, Nickolai Gogol, Konstantine Stanislavski, Nikita Khrushchev, Raisa Gorbachev (the former President's wife), and Boris Yeltsin. Metro: Sportivnaya.

Church of the Ascension (Церковь Вознесения Господня). Built to commemorate the birth of Ivan the Terrible, Kolomenskoye's Church of the Ascension upended the Byzantine style with its wooden conical tower, and proved to be a milestone in the history of Russian ecclesiastical architecture. Since 1994, it has enjoyed a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Metro: Kolomenskaya or Kashirskaya, then walk through Kolomenskoye park.

Other Sites
Less essential sites, but very worthwhile if you have the time, include:

New Arbat Street – Located near Old Arbat Street, this street offers a contrast from the touristy pedestrian-only thoroughfare. New Arbat is perhaps where Moscow's rich are the most visible, as some of Moscow's most expensive restaurants and nightclubs are located here. There are some reasonably priced cafes, however. The street is lavishly lit up at night and is always very lively. Also, check out Dom Knigi (House of Books) on New Arbat. It's not as impressive as the St. Petersburg store, but probably the best bet for books in Moscow. Metro: Arbatskaya (both blue lines, take west exit for Dark Blue line).

Tverskaya Street – This street starts from the Kremlin itself and runs northwest in the direction of Tver (hence the name) and Saint Petersburg. For that reason the road was a very important thoroughfare in Tsarist Russia. It is now Moscow's most fashionable street, with several prestigious boutiques. It is also lined with cafes, restaurants, coffeehouses, a couple of theaters, and several hotels, including two locations of the Marriott. Most of the street's architecture doesn't actually have much history to it, though along the way you will find Russia's first, and the world's busiest, McDonalds. The statue of Pushkin at Pushkinskaya Square is a very popular meeting point. Walk its length. From Red Square to Belorusski Train Station is about one hour and is a great way to see the most famous street in Moscow. Take a peek inside the Yeliseev Grocery Store, Moscow's answer to Harrod's food halls, to see the restored ornate interior. Metro south to north: Ohotnii Ryad/Teatralnaya, Tverskaya/Pushkinskaya/Chehovskaya (Puskinskaya Square), Mayakovskaya (Triumfalnaya Square, sometimes called second Theatre square, containing Chaikovskii Concert Hall, Satire Theatre and nearby Mossovet Theatre), Belorusskaya.

Gorky Park – Easily the most well known of Moscow's many parks, Gorky Park is packed with a number of theme park rides, cafes, places to stroll, and a quaint-looking pond, all straddled alongside the Moskva river. Gorky Park is a very popular place for Muscovites of all ages. In winter it's a popular place to ice skate and it hosts an ice sculpture competition. Metro: Oktyabrskaya, Park Kultury (it's a walk along the Sadovoye Ring Road from either of them - an easier, downhill stroll from the former, or a more scenic route, over the Krymsky Bridge, from the latter).

Victory Park – This massive memorial to WWII was built for the 50-year anniversary of V-E day in 1995. On weekends, it is very popular with newlyweds. The park now has its own metro station of the same name (Park Pobedy, on the Dark Blue line). There is also a museum to WWII worth visiting if you like military history.

Vorobyovy Gory – The best place for a view of Moscow from the ground. Near the main Moscow State University building, there is a popular lookout point where one can see much of the city on clear days. Metro: A walk from either metro Universitet or Vorobyovy Gory. As alternative, trolleybus #7 (only before about 21:30) can also take you from/to Kievskaya, Leninskii prospect or Oktyabrskaya metro

VDNKh, aka VVTs. The Russian acronym "VDNKh" stood for "Exhibit of the People's Economic Achievements". It has been since renamed "All-Russian Exhibition Center" ("Vserossiyskiy Vystavochniy Tsentr"). However, it is popularly known by the Soviet abbreviations. Previously this was a massive exhibit of the advances and progress of the USSR. Now it is largely a marketplace for everything from computers to bicycles. However, many of the monuments and fountains here make the area a nice place to stroll. Bicycles and rollerskates rent is available. The main gates are a short work down the alley from VDNKh Metro station or even close from Vystavochnii Centr monorail station. Various other gates are accessible from Ulitsa Eizenshteina or Ulitsa Akademika Koroleva monorail stations. VVTs is part of large green recreational zone in the Moscow's North-East, including also Ostankino park with historical Ostankino Palace and Botanical Gardens. Access to Ostankino Palace and Park: Ostankino monorail station, trolleybuses and trams from VDNKh metro station (most convinient) or buses and minibuses from Alexeevskaya or Mar'ina Roscha metro stations. Access to Bothanical Gardens: metro Vladykino - central gate, a walk through newly forming park on Yauza river from metro Bothanicheskii Sad (south exit) - to a back gate, ask for directions, a walk from Ostankino monorail station or trolleybuses from VDNKh and 24 bus from Mar'ina Roscha metro to a gate on Botanicheskaya street. The borders of three areas in between have official VVTs to Gardens gate and a couple of semiofficial paths which are periodically closed - follow people trails to find them. Only official gates to Bothanical Gardens in summer half-year take some admission fee (not high).

Christ the Savior Cathedral – This cathedral, the tallest Orthodox church in the world (the largest being the Temple of St. Savain Belgrade), was blown up on orders from Stalin in 1931, with the view of building the gargantuan Palace of the Soviets, to be crowned by a 100 meter high statue of Lenin. The project ran into engineering and geological difficulties (the area used to be a swamp), then the War intervened, and the place was ceded to a year-round open-air swimming pool. The pool was razed and the cathedral rebuilt only after the fall of the Soviet Union, in the mid-nineties. There is an extensive museum underneath the cathedral documenting its history (the original was started in 1839 and consecrated in 1883). Metro: Kropotkinskaya.
Garden of Fallen Monuments – Where many infamous statues in Moscow were placed after the Soviet collapse. See Dzherzinsky, Stalin, Brezhnev, and others. Adjacent to the New Tretyakov Museum, which houses 20th century art. After the Pushkin Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery, this is worth seeing. Metro: Oktyabrskaya.
Russian State Library — One of the largest libraries in the world. Anyone (Russian or foreign) over 18 can view electronic media for free, other items may be viewed by purchasing a "Reader's Card" (a photo id to gain access to physical materials). Previously received a copy of every book, musical score, & map published in the USSR, it now only receives a copy of every Russian book. The military reading room receives over 15,000 readers a year. Metro: Biblioteka Im.V.I.Lenina/Alexandrovskii Sad/Borovitskaya/Arbatskaya (Dark Blue line, east exit)
Bunker-42 — Decomissioned cold war era soviet underground military nuclear bunker. Metro: Taganskaya (the bunker has an actual underground connection to this station, though it is unusable as a means to get into it)/Marxistkaya.

Parks and gardens

Kolomenskoye (Kolomenskiy park), (Metro: Kolomenskaya/Kashirskaya. From Kolomenskaya take south exit, than after exit from metro station proper in the underground passage turn left, and then right. Upon leaving underground passage continue going straight for about 300 meters (along east side of Andropov prospekt) to the entrance. Lack of direction signs may be confusing, ask for directions when needed. From Kashirskaya metro walk along the path in general east-north-east direction to the underground passage under Andropov prospekt, the entrance to the park will be right after it. During the summer season special boats operate on Moscow river. There are several loading docks along river. If you are in the center of Moscow, take boat to the south. There is a loading dock right in the park. Not all boats go there, so check it with the crew.), ☎ 8 (499) 612-52-17. This former imperial estate is now a very popular weekend destination for Muscovites. It is a vast collection of churches and other buildings from the 16 and 17th centuries, including some wooden architecture that was transported here by the Soviet government from Karelia. Free (the park and museum). There are individual fees for each exhibition ($2-$10 per exhibition).

State Museum-Reserve Tsaritsyno. A beautiful reserve in the southern part of Moscow, its nucleus being the largest palatial ensemble in Russia. Constructed between 1775 and 1796 to be the residence of Catherine the Great, the ensemble was abondoned after her death and turned into ruins during following centuries. A decision had been reached in 1984 to completely restore Tsaritsyno architectural and park ensemble. Majority of the architectural monuments have already undergone restoration, Grand Palace having completed by 2007. Exhibitions and expositions of the museum demonstrate various pages of Tsaritsyno history and rich collections of arts and crafts. Metro: Tsaritsyno, Orekhovo.

Park Sokolniki, Metro Sokolniki (It is a short walk from metro station to main gate along the alley. North of park is also accessible directly from Malenkovskaya train station or via a walk from Moskva-3 train station from Yaroslavl direction train line). A popular recreational park, which also hosts an exhibition centre. The place to go to experience the Russian nature without going far away from the center. THIS is the place to experience Shashlik (Russian/Geogeian kebab) at a very low price (compared with other places) they can be found selling under huge tents all over the park. The park has an amusement park for the kids so they don't get bored. For the want to be hunter there are two Tirs bibi gun shooting ranges with only $1.40 per five shots. If you have a lot of time explore the forest deeper in the park you will find hard-to-find-in-America Birch trees and many people picking mushrooms (a national hobby) if you want to taste real russian spirt this is the best sample. The area is now infested with many high clas hotels , such as Holdiay Inn and others. One might like to try the goring church of the Jesus Christ, adjacent to park.

Off the beaten track parks

Patriarshi ponds area, Metro Mayakovskaya (From metro walk along Sadovoye Ring, passing Satire and Mossoveta Theatres to Bronnaya street, then turn left.). There is only one pond left, but it is squared with buildings so it is quite peaceful here despite hectic Sadovoye Ring nearby. Here you can take a nice walk and enjoy the mysterious atmosphere, for which the area is famous - due to the novel of Mikhail Bulgakov Master and Margaret (Master i Margarita), which is well-known for its combination of demonology, mysticism, humour, satire, art and love as well as wonderful depictions of Moscow of the thirties. Some moscovites are eager to take a sit on a banch with their back to Malaya Bronnaya street, as it is a reference to the novel.

Aptekarskiy ogorod, Metro Prospekt Mira (it even had former name Botanicheskii Sad)/Suharevskaya (From Ring Line exit from Prospekt Mira station, turn left and walk 200 metres. After you'll pass the fence of Bryusov house museum, you'll see contemporary glass building (look for Valiano restaurant and flower shop). Turn left to the rampant after birches. The ticket-offices will be beyond glass doors, the entrance to the garder will be even further. On days of sports or other events in Olimpiiskii Sportcomplex as well as on Muslim holidays, a walk from Suharevskaya metro station is less crowded and more recommended. A walk from Kalanchevskaya train station along Groholskii side street is also possible.). (approximately) May-Sept 10:00-22:00, Oct-Apr 10:00-17:00. Garden may be closed for 2-3 weeks in April or in other time due to bad weather; for 1-2 weeks in September for gardening works; for day or several hours in case of various events.. One of the few paid-entrance parks in Moscow. Small but very cozy; very carefully maintained; popular for photo sessions on weddings and babies. 100 rubles/150 rubles after 18:00.

Japanese garden in Botanichesky Sad, (Closest metro is Botanicheskii Sad and entrance to Gardens via a back gate. Routes from Vladykino metro or Botanicheskaya street gate only slightly longer). Small and well-maintained; excellent for making photos. 100/150 rubles for workdays/weekends and holidays. 50/80 rubles for students and pupils. 10/20 rubles for pensioners.

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