Location/Culture Reports

Location Report Moscow, Russia

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
- Winston Churchill (1939)

Setting: Caviar, snow, vodka, the Kremlin and big fur hats - most people have a mental image of Moscow as a frozen, enigmatic city. Of course, the real Moscow is all that and much more.

Moscow is the largest city in Europe, with 10.3 million people inside the city limits. Famous sights include St. Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and the Bolshoi Theater. The underground metro system has gorgeous artwork and architecture that make it a destination in its own right. Like many European cities, it is a study in contrast, with ancient stone buildings standing next to modern glass and steel monoliths.
The history of Moscow is long and bloody. It was first mentioned in surviving written accounts dating from 1147, when it was a small obscure village.
History: The history of Moscow is long and bloody. It was first mentioned in surviving written accounts dating from 1147, when it was a small obscure village. In the mid 1200s, the Golden Horde, a group of Mongols, sacked the city, burned it to the ground, and built a new city on the ashes of the old one. Skirmishes and empire building followed, with another sacking and burning in 1571. The Lithuanians moved in during the ensuing centuries and made Moscow the capital of the empire until Peter the Great built St. Petersburg in 1703.

Moscow became the capital again after the Russian Revolution of 1917, because Lenin feared an invasion in St. Petersburg. Moscow played a major role in WWII, contributing large numbers of soldiers to the war effort against the Germans. The Russians held off a German invasion in the Battle of Moscow. When the USSR was dissolved in 1991, Moscow became the head of the newly formed Russian Federation.

Climate & Environment: Not surprisingly, the climate in Moscow is described as "continental." It has all four seasons, and is famous for its brutal winters with deep snow and bitter cold.

The urban environment has seen a lot of recent degradation with the increasing numbers of cars and industry (petroleum, refineries, and heat power generation) in the area. Air pollution, in particular, has seen steady increases since the 1980s.

The People: Ethnically, the vast majority of people in Moscow are Russian by birth (90%). The rest of the population is made up of Ukrainians, Tatars, Belarusians, Armenians and Poles. Small populations of many other ethnicities exist throughout the city. The incredibly high economic growth rate in Moscow in recent years (as high as 20%), while other parts of Russia have been in a recession, has led to an urban/rural divide and increasing economic and political polarization. Even within Moscow, there is a large divide between the winners in the "new Russia" and those the economy has left behind. The country has a high rate of literacy (99.6%) and mandatory education.

Interesting tidbit: The use of public swimming pools is a tad tricky, as you have to have a doctor's certificate saying you're healthy enough to take the plunge!