Moscow is different things to different people. For Westerners, the city may look European, but its unruly spirit seems closer to central Asia. To Muscovites, however, Moscow is both a "Mother City" and a "big village", a tumultuous community which possesses an underlying collective instinct that shows itself in times of trouble. Home of one in fifteen Russians, it is huge, surreal and apocalyptic. Its beauty and ugliness are inseparable, its sentimentality the obverse of a brutality rooted in centuries of despotism.
Moscows identity has been imbued with a sense of its own destiny since the fourteenth century, when the principality of Muscovy took the lead in the struggle against the Mongols and Tatars who had reduced the Kievan state to ruins. Under Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible – the "Gatherers of the Russian Lands" – its realm came to encompass everything from the White Sea to the Caspian, while after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, Moscow assumed Byzantiums suzerainty over the Orthodox world. Despite the changes wrought by Peter the Great – not least the transfer of the capital to St Petersburg – Moscow kept its mystique and bided its time until the Bolsheviks made it the fountainhead of a new creed.
Since the fall of Communism, Muscovites have had to deal with "Wild Capitalism", which intoxicated the city as Mayor Luzhkov put into effect his Grand Project, consisting of major building programmes which changed the face of the city more radically than any time since the Stalin era. The brakes were applied after the ruble fall in August 1998, but this is just a slowing down, not a full stop.
Centre of the city, Moscow, Russia
With Lenin's Mausoleum, St Basil's Cathedral and the GUM department store, it seems to embody all of Russia's triumphs and tragedies.
10 Lavrushinsky Pereulok, Moscow, Russia
It is a Russian art gallery. From icons to the avant garde, this is a treasure house of Russian art with good shops and a café too.
, Moscow, Russia
This convent and cementery is the example of the Old Russia in the heart of New Moscow: sixteenth-century buildings, art, and burial place of Gogol, Chekhov and Bulgakov.
, Moscow, Russia
Four cathedrals, three palaces, two major museums and a presidential residence in the middle.
6 Bolshaya Sadovaya St., Moscow, Russia
Features events and projects in Moscow contemporary art; free distribution of XL catalogs available.
Tsvetnoy bul. 13, Moscow, Russia
Clowns are the unchallenged Russian forte, but you will either love or hate the numerous animal acts.
On the Garden Ring Road., Moscow, Russia
The most famous park in Moscow—famous in the West because of Martin Cruz Smiths thriller of the same name. It is southwest of the Kremlin and across the river. Approximately 300 acres/120 hectares encompass an assortment of carnival rides, cafes and beer gardens, buskers and skateboarders. In the summer, kids come to skateboard to the music blaring over the loudspeakers, and families rent paddleboats to splash around in on the small lake. In the winter, there is an ice-sculpture competition, and on a nice day at any time of year, it is a wonderful place to walk, with miles of unkempt but green paths.
Admission is about 10 rubles.