Sep 15

MOSCOW – THE CAPITAL OF THE POWERFUL OLIGARCHS (МОСКВА)

In the past 20 years, the symbol – city of the former Red Empire has reborn in a way that former communist leaders such as Lenin, Stalin or Brezhnev would not have ever anticipated and it became the world capital of Western-like “decadent” refinement, designed to meet the demands of numerous millionaires who are now spinning wheels of power.

Luxury boom

The Soviet Union is now long gone and Moscow – as we know from the past times of pompous military parades celebrating with glittery propaganda the Victory Day or the Great October Revolution, or when MiGs flown over haughty official stand, where leaders of the Bolshevik Party, with their backs bent down from so many decorations and medals, were governing the scenery – has transformed into exactly the opposite as the Communist leaders and philosophers had imagined it would be for eternity.

Ex-communist metropolis is continually borrowing the made in USA commercial symbolism: from KFC to the Hard Rock Café. Becoming a center of big business, Moscow – although it remains in a proportion of 70% a gulag of the needy, hosts successive waves of expats, but also the local oligarchy out of which rows of Forbes nominees are being regularly recruited for the magazine’s charts. Logically, their lifestyle expectations have changed and there are already plenty of individuals and clans that do not exclude cosmopolitan luxuries or even daily extravaganza from their way of living.

The Russian economic growth rate, higher than in Western Europe, partly justifies this trade boom of luxury goods, considered until recently one of niche. Besides legal affairs, in Moscow also bloomed an impressive black economy with sophisticated transactions, including weapons of last generation. And the beneficiaries of this boom – “les nouveaux riches” -, when they don’t buy luxury residences on the French Riviera (where more than half of the restaurants are already displaying their menu in Cyrillic alphabet), they invest heavily in their personal comfort, ready to shell out any price for whatever latest fashion caprice that, only a decade ago, it would have seemed unthinkable.

Why should you get to Moscow?

Because it truly is a very beautiful city, whose center can be compared without any exaggeration, to any other major European capitals – Paris, London, Rome or Madrid. In addition, although today the capital of the East turned into the citadel of the oligarchs and demanding millionaires, it is not “so” expensive: a night in a decent 4 star hotel in close proximity to the center should not be more than 65 euros for 2 people , while prices in restaurants and bars are surprisingly low; and as for shopping, the ladies will have plenty of surprises: in malls and shopping spots in central Moscow there are crowded the most prestigious brands in the world and the prices here are usually consistently lower than those of Paris or Vienna. If money is not a problem, in Moscow you will find the latest collections of famous designers before they get to London or New York. Besides all these issues more or less questionable of “decadent capitalist consumerism”, Moscow has a special charm build upon the symbols that provide its identity:

The Red Square. It is the heart of the city and should be the first destination to visit to sample more of the consistent flavor of the metropolis. St. Bazil’s Cathedral is flanked by the State History Museum, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the most exclusive mall Moscow, GUM, and one of Kremlin’s walls. Basically, here you have comprised the quintessential of the city: ancient historical buildings, relics of communism and symbols of New Russia, all concentrated in a few square kilometers. For a leisurely visit to all locations embodied in the Red Square you will need at least two days. To make it easier, take the subway from one of the metro stations in the vicinity of Red Square: Ohotnii Ryad, Ploschad Revolutsii.

Old Arbat Street. At first glance it looks like a combination between a hardly digestible Turkish bazaar and an alley in the historic center of Naples, but Arbat but has its particular charm: it is crowded with cafes, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. The prices of the latter can be negotiated.

Bolshoi Theater. The price of a show is pretty steep, starting at 1,000 rubles, you can relax on the majestic fountain in front and admire the famous building.

Tretyakov Gallery. It is one of the largest and finest museums in the world – if you want to visit one museum in Moscow, you should definitely pick it up. Here you will find exclusively Russian art: paintings and sculpture the most famous Russian artists and the richest collection of ancient Russian icons.

Gorky Park. The biggest and most famous Moscow Park boasts impressive green spaces, promenades, statues and cafes. It is the most popular meeting and leisure place for city residents. During winter, most paths are decorated with statues of ice.

Photo source:

Picture 1: radissonblu.com; Picture 2: rubelli.com; Picture 3: almaty-kazakhstan.net; Picture 4: flikr.com; Picture 5: newmoscowtravel.com; Picture 6: youtube.com
Feb 10

Lenin’s Mausoleum

A while back, I have published an article on the website in which I have presented the famous Red Square in Moscow. Today, I ‘return’ to Russia and to the Red Square in order to depict more accurately  one of the attractions located here  which has only been mentioned in passing in the previous article.

I am talking about Lennin’s Mausoleum, which has been erected in the Red Square shortly after the death of Vladimir Lenin. Located in the center of Moscow, the mausoleum is a well-known tourist attraction, especially since visitors can actually gaze upon the communist revolutionery.

Shortly after his demise, which occured on the 21st of January 1924, a wooden burial chamber was constructed in order to lay to rest his earthly remains. But such a construction was not worthy of the Soviet ruler. Thus the architect Aleksei Shchuse was commissioned to erect a much appropriate and lasting mausoleum for Lenin.

http://www.onthegotours.com/Russia/holiday/Lenin%27s-Mausoleum

http://www.onthegotours.com/Russia/holiday/Lenin%27s-Mausoleum

The construction was completed in 1930 and it was exquisitely executed, inasmuch as it complements the Kremlin which stands behind it, the architect having used the same pallet of colors and materials, so that the two seem to be part of a unity. The pyramidal construction appears to be small which is quite a surprise taking into account the Russian masterpieces which impress not only through their architectural designs but also through their impressive stature.

But the eye is oftentime deceiving and that is the case in what concerns Lenin’s Mausoleum. Looking at it from the outside, the vault is relatively small, but exploring the mausoleum unveils that its width enlarges towards the underground. There are two levels underneath the building. One floor was designed as a resting space for public figures who visited the place and for Kremlin guards, while the other had administrative functions, more accurately it was used for supervisory purposes during the embalming procedure. Unfortunately for tourists, this areas is not open to the public, even if it has lost its initial scope and it is no longer used.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Lenin_Mausoleum_Moskau.jpg

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Lenin_Mausoleum_Moskau.jpg

One is allowed to enter into the funerary chamber, but items such as bags or cameras have to be left in the coatrooms because photographing or filming is forbidden inside the premise. Even though tourists get the chance to literally look Lenin in the face, this occurance is swift in the sense that guards rush visitors so that they do not glance at Lenin more than a few minutes. The reason? Well, there has been a lot of controversy in the past regarding this matter. Some have actually implied that it wasn’t actually the body of Lenin deposited in the mausoleum. At least not any more. It was rumoured that the body was substituted long ago by a wax figure and this is why visitors are ushered out of the funeral room so quickly. Whether or not this is the case is debatable. Maybe you should venture yourself on Russian territory and see the body with your own eyes. Then you can judge for yourself.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2139527/Vladamir-Lenin-poisoned-Joseph-Stalin-Russian-communism-founder-bumped-political-rival.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2139527/Vladamir-Lenin-poisoned-Joseph-Stalin-Russian-communism-founder-bumped-political-rival.html

Besides the fact that you cannot film inside the mausoleum, there is an etiquette you need not overlook. Respect has to be shown when inside the tomb which means no talking out load, no smoking, no keeping your hands in your pockets and no wearing hats (with the exception of women).

With the exception of Mondays and Fridays, as well as legal holidays, the mausoleum is open for visits daily from 10:00 until 13:00.  Tourists still wait in line to get access inside Lenin’s tomb and it is really no wonder because who would not want to visit the resting place of such an important historical figure?

Jun 15

The Red Square, Moscow (Piata Rosie, Moscova)

The Red Square is situated in Moscow, Russia, and it is “flanked” by the Kremlin, on one side, and the Kitai-gorod, a historical trade center, on the other side. Due to the fact that the most important streets and arteries derive from this square, it has led people to the accurate conclusion that the Red Square is the central point of Russia’s capital city, but also of the entire state.

The name of the square might be erroneously attached either to the color of the bricks which were used in constructing the square, or to the symbolical color of communism (‘red’). But in reality, the name of the square derives from the Russian word ‘krasnaya’ which has two meanings: ‘red’, on the one hand, and ‘beautiful’, on the other. However, this latter meaning is almost outdated.

http://hotel-moscow.biz

 

The name was initially used in reference to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, but it was later on reassigned to the square located in close proximity of the aforementioned cathedral. The original name given to the square was Pozhar, which stands for ‘burnt-out place,’ but this is considered to have been changed to ‘Red Square’ sometimes in the 1800s.

There are many events which revolve around this piazza and because of this the square is included in a multitude of paintings, some signed by Konstantin Yuon, Vasily Surikov, etc. Just to name a few, the Red Square was the place where coronation ceremonies of the Tsars of Russia were officiated, and were public announcements and different types of formalities took place (official ceremonies).

forum.tayyar.org

 

The Red Square had always played an important part in the history of Russia. During the communist age, the square was intensely used for military processions. An edifice that is reminiscent of the communist regime is the Mausoleum of Lenin, where the earthly remains of the former Soviet ruler rest in peace. Lenin’s body has been embalmed so tourists can actually gaze on the ruthless leader almost as he appeared before people in his lifetime. The mausoleum is part of the Red Square and it is a must-see location.

The 1930s were extremely relevant in the history of the square. Two important edifices were demolished (Kazan Cathedral and Iverskaya Chapel) with the purpose of enlarging the square so as to make it fit for imposing parades, but also to permit large military vehicles to traverse it. The good news is that the two buildings which were demolished had been reconstructed after the Soviet Union fell.

http://www.mygola.com

 

For the same purpose, Saint Basil’s Cathedral was about to witness the same fate. There is a legend according to which the person in charge of this project of expending the square, Lazar Kaganovich, brought the plan to Stalin in order to get his approval. But when Stalin saw the piazza without the cathedral, he said the now well-known quote: ‘Lazar! Put it back!’, as if he could not envisage the Red Square without that construction.        

The Red Square has been recognized for the great historical value it carries so it has been inscribed in the list of world heritages. Today, the square is a preserved monument, under the UNESCO National Cultural Heritage Law.