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Post Twelve - Moscow


After the beauty of St Petersburg, Moscow appeared to me like a big, sprawling, dirty city. In St Petersburg, the people smiled, the women were beautiful, dressed in furs and high black boots, and the city seemed prosperous in its dealings with the west. In Moscow few people smiled as they crowded around me on the subway. The people dressed in dark colors and their faces seemed to match the gray sky overhead. I got the sense that while their comrades in the east were enthusiastic about the future, the citizens of Moscow believed the glory days of their famous city were over.

Red SquareRed Square

It was quite a thrill to walk out onto the famous Red Square. Much of world history has been influenced by the events that happened here. It was a blustery day and I had the windswept square mostly to myself.

Lenin's TombLenin's Tomb

The guards to Lenin's tomb looked at me sternly as I snapped photos of the Kremlin behind. Ten years ago, such an action would have me in the local police station for questioning. Now, throngs of western tourists outnumber the Russians waiting in line to see Lenin's embalmed remains.

Soviet ShoppingSoviet Shopping

This shopping center on the north side of Red Square was built as a showcase of the success of communism. Unfortunately, during the communist era, the few shops that were open had mostly empty shelves. Today, after the embrace of capitalism, this shopping center could be mistaken for any other in the western world. It has fast food outlets, espresso bars, and several swank boutiques offering Swiss watches, French wines, and Russian caviar.

Onion DomesOnion Domes

These are the famous onion dome spires from one of the churches in the Kremlin. The Kremlin itself is still mostly off-limits to visitors. I would love to have seen the Soviet assembly hall or Lenin's former office but I had to settle for the many cathedrals that lie inside the Kremlin's walls and form the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church.

A Modern CathedralA Modern Cathedral

Amazingly, this cathedral was only completed in the past few years. Built to replace an earlier structure razed during the communist era, it is spectacular inside and out. I can't image where the cash-strapped city came up with the money to lay the football field-sized mosaic in the central chamber.


Behind Moscow's excellent modern art museum lies a graveyard for monuments and statues from the former Soviet Union. It must be pretty humbling to admit the ideology you followed during the boom years after the war was a mistake. Communism is a noble idea but people aren't insects mindlessly working for the common good of the group. It certainly didn't help that their leaders became as corrupt and power-drunk as the Tsars before them. Although Russia has leaped into democracy and capitalism, it will take decades to make up for all those wasted years.

Next Up: Irkutsk

Copyright 2002
Scott & Karen Semyan