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‘Moskova’, today’s capital of Russia has a history that dates back to 1147, and what a rich history it is. Russia’s most populous city, with over 11 million inhabitants, it was known as the heavyweight capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) until the union’s dissolution in 1991. Today the Muscovites (as residents are known – from the days when the city was the capital of Muscovy) have truly embraced capitalism with zeal and while history remains in the buildings and monuments, Moscow is a city moving forward into the future at an astonishing pace.
Moscow had emerged as the capital city of Russia by the late 15th century when the Kremlin became the centre of power. Through the 16th century, despite Ivan the Terrible’s military successes, the city was a target for attack and in 1571 the Crimean Tatars captured Moscow and burnt virtually everything to the ground, apart from the Kremlin. When the city was later rebuilt and strengthened, it became a place where artisans flourished.Read more
However, Peter I (Peter the Great) decided that Russia needed a new capital and in 1703 began planning the new, more ‘Western’ city of St Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland, making it the capital in 1712. Mostly burnt to the ground in 1812 when occupied by the French, the city was rebuilt again. In 1918, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin moved his Soviet government back to Moscow and the city has remained the capital ever since.
While there is little debate that St Petersburg is the prettier city, Moscow has reaffirmed its status as the capital. It has always been a centre for the arts with an unparalleled tradition of theatre, opera and ballet that is arguably the strongest in the world. It is also home to the legendary Bolshoi Theatre, Maly Theatre, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and superb art galleries, such as the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, renowned for its expansive international art collection and the Tretyakov Gallery known for its Russian collection.
Of course the most well known of Moscow’s monuments are in the Red Square. The seat of power, the Kremlin, overlooks the square and is an intimidating as it ever was, despite the towering glass skyscrapers sprouting from the city’s skyline behind. The splendid churches, Ivan the Great Bell Tower and the Cathedral of St Basil the Blessed with its colourful domes enlivens what would otherwise be an austere scene.
Indeed, while Moscow was once a sober city to visit, today it’s vibrant and glamorous, even flamboyant, filled with glitzy bars, swanky restaurants, funky cafes and colossal dance clubs, all as fashionable and contemporary as any other modern capital. Moscow today has a vitality to match any era in its long history.