Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's a big, a really big city

Moscow, my friends, is big. I don't think people realize just how big. It's huge. Dare I say it is the most sprawling city I've ever been to. Maybe rivaled by LA, but Moscow sprawls densely. Some compare Moscow to New York City. I don't see it. NYC is geographically constrained; Moscow has no natural boundaries. It just keeps growing and growing, turning once independent neighboring towns into measly suburbs.

People continue streaming to Moscow year after year. In Russia, there is nowhere but Moscow that Russians can move to find work and make a decent living for themselves. (Well, to be fair, a small handful of other cities, such as St. Petersburg, are staying afloat, but none of them offer the same breadth and scope opportunities as Moscow.)

And not just "ethnic" Russians, but also people from the Caucasus and CIS countries stream into Moscow. (FYI -- CIS means "Commonwealth of Independent States," or many of the countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.) People from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Caucasus, parts of Ukraine, and so on. Different groups assimilate differently and are perceived differently. In this process a labor divide has arisen; many of the immigrants from the south now do the dirty work Muscovites won't do. (Reminiscent of anything closer to home?)

This is more or less the current CIS (sans Georgia):

I'm not going to comment on the terrorist attack on Monday, January 24th at Moscow's Domodedovo airport; I just want to say that this is a big, complex, changing city with lots of complicated problems. This is not to say that the terrorist attacks are a Moscow-specific problem, the problem is bigger. But Moscow is a frequent locus of such tragedies.

I said that Moscow sprawls densely. Big cities almost always have a lot of big buildings, but Moscow feels particularly packed with them. Not only are there big buildings in the center, where political and financial goings-on go on, but high-rises continue out beyond the center into the outskirts of the city. Most of these multi-story complexes are apartment buildings. Apartment buildings packed with people, like this one that I'm currently packed into ☺:

Among the high-rises of Moscow I always find Stalin's Seven Sisters (or Stalin's vysotki 'high-rises') to be an interesting sight. This one is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

And this one is now a Radisson hotel:

And last, but not least among my photo collection, is Moscow State University's main building:

1 comment:

Christine said...

I love your observations about Moscow. It really illustrates just how very different it is. As I think you said before, "You know you're not in Kansas anymore." I read an article in one of those luxury travel magazines about how big pop art is there. It reminded me of your blog about new and old. It really sounds like a fascinating place.