Introduction to Moscow
From Russian Empire to the Soviet Union and back to Russia 2.0, one constant in the fluctuating fortunes, size, cultural and political landscape of this massive European country has been its capital, Moscow. Established in the 12th century, Moscow has seen rulers from medieval grand dukes to tsars to, just in the past 100 years, communist despots to, um, pin-up presidents.
Moscow is certainly a city of superlatives. It’s the most populous city in Europe with almost 12 million people, the northernmost megacity and contains the second-highest number of billionaires in one city (after NYC, not wanting to start any new Cold War tensions, of course!). With 6-hour queues when McDonald’s opened its first Russian restaurant at Pushkin Square in 1990, and the roaring black market trade in used Levi’s before the Soviet Union disbanded, it may be hard to reconcile the conspicuous spending of today’s Muscovites with the cultural, commercial and social restrictions of the Communist era when even The Beatles were banned!
With an easing into freedom from censorship and hardship, Moscow is experiencing a cultural renaissance with world-renowned museums and galleries on show alongside historic and unique period architecture such as the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral. Drab warehouses and bureaucratic buildings are getting a new lease on life as edgy art spaces and underground nightclubs, while theatrical, ballet and classical music performances are celebrated in centuries-old theatres and dedicated new venues.
With so much happening in Moscow, and at breakneck speed, know this – Muscovites walk fast and are always in a hurry as the city realises its ambition. Russia’s capital has always been a commercial centre and as one of the world’s most expensive cities, it’s come a long way from Soviet-era empty shelves and ‘90s Russian gangsters. Visit yourself to see how Moscow is kicking it in the 21st century