Moscow, Russian Moskva, city, capital of Russia, in the far western part of the country. Since it was first mentioned in the chronicles of 1147, Moscow has played a vital role in Russian history. It became the capital of Muscovy (the Grand Principality of Moscow) in the late 13th century; hence, the people of Moscow are known as Muscovites.
Today Moscow is not only the political centre of Russia but also the country’s most populous city and its industrial, cultural, scientific, and educational capital. For more than 600 years Moscow also has been the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Kremlin & Red Square
The very founding site of the city (and arguably, the country), the Kremlin and Red Square are still at the heart of Moscow – historically, geographically and spiritually. Feel the weight of this significance as you wander within the walls of the ancient fortress, marvel at the mind-boggling magnificence of St Basil’s Cathedral, and pay your respects to the revered leader of a now-defunct state. Moscow will move you. She’ll tantalize your senses, soothe your spirit, and boggle your mind; and it all starts right here.
What is more thrilling than watching a nimble ballerina defy gravity, as she leaps and spins across the stage at the glittering Bolshoi Theatre? Or feeling the force of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, just a few blocks away from where it premiered more than a century ago? Or oohing and aahing as circus performers soar under the big tent? The classical performing arts in Moscow are still among the best in the world. Nowadays, even the most traditional theatres are experimenting with innovative arrangements, reviving lost favorites, and hosting world premieres. Whether you appreciate the classics or experiment with the contemporary, the capital’s performing arts are sure to impress.
The remains of the Soviet state are scattered all around the city. Monuments remember fallen heroes and victorious battles, while museums attempt to analyze and synthesize the past. See Lenin and Stalin – off their pedestals – at the whimsical Art Muzeon. Step into the Socialist Realist fantasy at VDNKh. Descend into the depths of the Soviet system at Bunker-42 Cold War Museum. And remember the millions who suffered at the Gulag History Museum. Nowadays, many fun or clever retro clubs and cafes give their guests a taste of the Soviet experience. You can even try your hand at Soviet-era arcade games (beyond Tetris).
Nightlife and Fun
People like to talk about ‘the city that never sleeps,’ but they should talk about Moscow. You don’t have to be a high-heeled glamour girl or a deep-pocketed man about town to enjoy the capital by night. Moscow has a club or a cafe for everyone, from nostalgia-rich retro to rocked-out indie, from contemporary-cool art cafes to let-loose dance clubs. And no matter where you spend the evening, all are invited to gather in the wee hours to watch the sunrise over Moscow’s golden domes and silver skyscrapers.
Moscow – Top Attractions
St. Basil’s Cathedral
In the 16th century, a stone church of the Trinity with a small cemetery was situated in this place. The Blessed Vasily, who has dyed on August 2, 1555, considered to be foolish, was buried near this stone church. On October 2, 1552, Russian troops took Kazan – the capital of the Kazan khanate. In commemoration of this event tsar Ivan the Terrible ordered to construct 7 wooden temples on the Red Square, wherein 1555-1561 a stone temple, named after the Feast of the Protective veil, was erected (the assault on Kazan began the day of the holiday of the Protective veil, after two months siege).
The church, situated in the central tower, was devoted to this holiday. Four towers-churches are located on different sides of the world. The northern – in the name of St. Ciprian and Ustina; that was the day of the complete capture of Kazan. In 1786 under the petition of rich investor Natalia Hruscheva the church was consecrated in the name of St. Adrian and Natalia. The southern church is consecrated in the name of Nicola Velikoretsky, which is also connected with the Kazan campaign. The western church is consecrated in the name of the Input to Jerusalem, it is connected with solemn returning of the army to Moscow. Eastern church is consecrated in the name of Trinity, that is, the church, which was before situated at the cathedral place, was transferred into it.
The towers, located along the diagonals, are devoted to various events of the Kazan campaign: northwest church of the Grigory Armyansky (day of the capture of the Arskaya tower). Southeast church of Alexander Svirsky (rout of 30-thousand group Tatar cavalry under the command of the Tatar prince Japanchi); the northeast church of the Three patriarchs of Alexandria – the memory day of these saints are marked the same day as the memory day of Alexander Svirsky. Southwest church of Varlaam Hutynsky is the only church, which is not connected with the events of the campaign.
The central temple consists of tetrahedron, octahedron and is completed by an octahedral light drum with a gilded head. There is a covered promenade (gallery) around the bottom circle. Vaults of the promenade lean on the massive columns with decorative pediments on the top. The transition from the octahedron to a tent is decorated with a set of kokoshniks. Four towers – churches, located on the sides of the world, consist of each of three octahedrons, narrowed by ledges, and a drum with the figured head. Four small churches on diagonals are tetrahedrons, the transition to a drum is made out by three rows of semicircular kokoshniks.
The building has no expressed main facade and is designed for an all-round viewing, for the circular detour. Interiors of churches are simple. The cathedral is interesting in its appearance. As though it represents the fantastic “paradise town”. The temple is fairly considered to be a monument of architecture and construction art of world value. Till now the cathedral is a branch of the State Historical Museum. The first divine service was held on October 14, 1991, however regular divine services are not made.
The foundation of Bolshoi Theater traditionally dates back to the 6th of January of 1825, when a fine classical building with 8-columned portico crowned by the carriage of Apollon appeared in the Theater’s Square. The new theatre is considered to be the second-largest in Europe after the famous “La Scala” Theater of Milan. However, the theatrical company had already existed for a half of century. And in honor of the inauguration of the theatre this company performed “The triumph of Muses”.
The company was created by a province public prosecutor Petr Vasilievich Ursov in 1772. Later the company was headed by his partner energetic and enterprising Englishman Michael Medox. Thanks to him on the abandoned ground regularly flooded by the Neglinka river the new theatre was built. The second half of the 19th century is a period of national originality of Russian Art and Moscow Theater. The creative activity of such composers and directors as Alexis Verstovsky and Alexander Varlamov contributed to the unusual raising of the theatre. They formed the Russian Opera repertoire. The most favorite operas of that time were works by Michael Glinka “The Life for the Czar” and “Ruslan and Lioudmila”, which could survive and win the Italian Romania tendency of that time. And till now traditionally every Theater season begins one of the operas of Glinka.
As for the Ballet, the performances based on Russian themes were replaced by Western romantic themes in the middle of the 19th century. “Sylphide”, “Gizel”, “Esmeralda” were performed in Russia very soon after premieres in Europe. In 1853 the building of the Theater was badly damaged by fire. In May of 1855, the construction works based on the sketch of the architect Albert Cavos began. And already in August of 1856 the inauguration of the new theatre was celebrated by the premiere of the opera Bellini. The Italian performance was symbolic because the real holder of the Bolshoi Theater became Merelli who brought from Italy a very gifted theatrical company. The Russian public admired the Italian troupe very much.
The season usually began in September and lasted till the end of May (as now). However, the performances used to be presented twice a week. And only in the middle of the winter when all the nobility came back to Moscow, the operas and ballets were put on the stage more often. That was also a time of masked balls. Today the ballet and opera fans attend the theatre every night. The radical turn of the tastes of public happened in 1870, when gradually appeared the Russian operas “Demon” by Rubenstein (1881), “Eugeny Onegin” by Chaikovsky (1881), “Boris Godunov” by Mysorgsky (1888), “Prince Igor” by Borodin (1893) and other. In 1899 Fedor Chaliapin, a great Russian singer became a member of the company. Great Russian Opera Theaters are not only musical cultural centers but also academies of professional acting techniques. Trainees’ group of Bolshoi Theater is still existing to crown the joy of young singers, conductors, directors, leaders of a chorus.
It is situated in two territories, separated from each other by several city districts. It gives the opportunity to represent the whole history of Russian art from the ancient period to our contemporaries. Besides, the structure of the Tretyakov Gallery includes memorial museums: A. Vasnetsov’s flat, V. Vasnetsov’s.
The Lenin Mausoleum
For the burial of the Father of the Revolution, something special had to be arranged. Immediately after his death in 1924, a wooden mausoleum was erected on the square. In 1929, architect Aleksei Shchusev was commissioned to design a more lasting home for the body. The result unveiled a year later, is a squat but attractive pyramid in layers of red, grey and black granite that harmonizes remarkably well with the Kremlin buildings behind it, despite its clear Constructivist influences. In the 1930s, granite platforms were added around the sides of the mausoleum, providing a point for government officials to inspect parades, a sight that became famous throughout the world in the Soviet Era.
While the mausoleum is comparatively small from the outside, it has hidden depths. There are two underground floors to the structure, which used to house a rest area for VIPs and the Kremlin guards and the laboratory that was once used to supervise the ongoing embalming process. Sadly, though apparently no longer used, they aren’t open to the public.
Despite the attention of a team of scientists – and leaving aside rumors that he was long ago replaced by a wax model – Lenin is not the freshest-looking of corpses. Gone are the days when eager citizens queued round the block to catch a quick glimpse of the great leader. However, if you do wish to see the body, the process is far from simple. First, you have to leave bags and cameras – no filming inside – in the Kutayfa tower cloakrooms. Then you join the queue that runs along the Kremlin wall. Visitors are kept moving, so you only get to spend a few minutes inside the mausoleum before you’re hurried out by the guards. The funerary chamber is very dark and, on sunny days, the sudden contrast can be bewildering. Nonetheless, this is still something of a morbid necessity for visitors to Moscow. After years of rumor and controversy as to the fate of Lenin’s body, the mausoleum was reopened in April 2005, and it looks to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
The climate of Moscow is dominated by westerly winds from the Atlantic. Precipitation is moderate, about 23 inches (580 mm) a year. Snow is common, beginning usually about mid-November and lasting generally until mid-March; the city is well-equipped to keep the streets clear. Winters are long, yet they are significantly milder than in similar climatic regions of North America. Southerly airstreams occasionally bring days with temperatures above freezing. Conversely, northerly winds from the Arctic bring very sharp drops in temperature, often accompanied by clear, brisk weather with low relative humidity.
Thus, although the January average temperature is 14 °F (−10 °C), there can be considerable variation; temperatures have dropped to near −45 °F (−43 °C). Spring is relatively brief, and the temperature rises rapidly during late April. Summers are warm, and July, the warmest month, has an average temperature in the mid-60s F (about 18 °C); temperatures nearing 100 °F (38 °C) have been reached in August. Rainy days are not uncommon, but the summer rainfall often comes in brief, heavy downpours and thunderstorms. Autumn, like spring, is short, with rapidly falling temperatures.
Until the late 1950s, there was increasing air pollution in Moscow. Smog was common, often with heavy concentrations of sulfur dioxide. A major campaign to control noxious emissions was launched, assisted greatly by a changeover from coal to natural gas as the principal fuel. Some factories that had contributed to pollution were moved out of the city. Slight improvement in Moscow’s air had been marked, but since the 1980s the growing number of motor vehicles and the increase in the number of power generators have once again bolstered the concentrations of such exhaust pollutants as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide in Moscow.