Moscow is the capital and largest city of Russia, with its metropolitan area ranking among the largest urban areas in the world. Moscow is the country’s economic, financial, educational, and transportation centre. It is located on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District, in the European part of Russia. Moscow is the largest city in Europe. Historically, it was the capital of the former Soviet Union and the Grand Duchy of Moscow, the pre-Imperial Russian state. It is the site of the Kremlin, which now serves as the ceremonial residence of the President of Russia.
Moscow is rated as an alpha world city for its global influences in media, politics, education, entertainment and fashion. It also remains a major economic centre and is home to a large number of billionaires; in 2007 Moscow was named the world's most expensive city for the second year in a row. It is home to many scientific and educational institutions, as well as numerous sport facilities. It possesses a complex transport system that includes the world’s busiest metro system, which is famous for its architecture and design.
History of Moscow
The city is named after the river that flows through its center. The origin of the name is unknown, although several theories exist. One theory suggests that the source of the name is an ancient Finnic language, in which it means “dark” and “turbid”.
The first Russian reference to Moscow dates from 1147 when Yuri Dolgoruki called upon the prince of the Novgorod Republic to “come to me, brother, to Moscow.” Nine years later, in 1156, Prince Yuri Dolgorukyi of Rostov ordered the construction of a wooden wall, which had to be rebuilt multiple times, to surround the emerging city. After the sacking of 1237–1238, when the Mongols burned the city to the ground and killed its inhabitants, Moscow recovered and became the capital of an independent principality in 1327. Its favorable position on the headwaters of the Volga River contributed to steady expansion. Moscow developed into a stable and prosperous principality for many years and attracted a large number of refugees from across Russia. Under Ivan I the city replaced Tver as a political center of Vladimir-Suzdal and became the sole collector of taxes for the Mongol-Tatar rulers. By paying high tribute, Ivan won an important concession from the Khan. Unlike other principalities, Moscow was not divided among his sons but was passed intact to his eldest. However, Moscow's opposition against foreign domination grew. In 1380, prince Dmitryi Donskoy of Moscow led an united Russian army to an important victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo which was not decisive, though. Only two years later Moscow was sacked by khan Tokhtamysh. In 1480, Ivan III had finally broken the Russians free from Tatar control, allowing Moscow to become the centre of power in Russia. Under Ivan III the city became the capital of an empire that would eventually encompass all of present-day Russia and other lands. In 1571, the Crimean Tatars attacked and sacked Moscow, burning everything but the Kremlin. In 1609, the Swedish-Finnish army led by Count Jacobus (Jaakko) De la Gardie (“Lazy Jaakko”) and Evert (Eetvartti) Horn started their march from Velikiy Novgorod towards Moscow to help Tsar Vasili Shuiski, entered Moscow in 1610 and suppressed the rebellion against the Tsar, but leaving it early next year 1611, following which the Polish-Lithuanian army invaded.
The 17th century was rich in popular risings, such as the liberation of Moscow from the Polish-Lithuanian invaders (1612), the Salt Riot (1648), the Copper Riot (1662), and the Moscow Uprising of 1682. The plague of 1654–1656 had killed half the population of Moscow. The city ceased to be Russia’s capital in 1712, after the founding of St. Petersburg by Peter the Great on the Baltic coast in 1703. When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, the Muscovites burned the city and evacuated, as Napoleon’s forces were approaching on September, 14th. Napoleon’s army, plagued by hunger, cold, and poor supply lines, was forced to retreat and was nearly annihilated by the devastating Russian winter and sporadic attacks by Russian military forces. In January 1905, the institution of the City Governor, or Mayor, was officially introduced in Moscow, and Alexander Adrianov became Moscow’s first official mayor. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, on March 12, 1918, Moscow became the capital of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Soviet Union less than five years later.
During the Great Patriotic War (a part of World War II after the German invasion in the USSR), the Soviet State Committee of Defense and the General Staff of the Red Army was located in Moscow. In 1941, sixteen divisions of the national volunteers (more than 160,000 people), twenty-five battalions (18,500 people) and four engineering regiments were formed among the Muscovites. In November 1941, German Army Group Centre was stopped at the outskirts of the city and then driven off in the course of the Battle of Moscow. Many factories were evacuated, together with much of the government, and from October 20 the city was declared to be under siege. Its remaining inhabitants built and manned antitank defense, while the city was bombarded from the air. Despite the siege and the bombings, the construction of Moscow's metro system, continued through the war and by the end of the war several new metro lines were opened. On May 8, 1965, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the victory in World War II, Moscow was one of twelve Soviet cities awarded the title of the Hero City. In 1980, it hosted the Summer Olympic Games. In 1991, Moscow was the scene of a coup attempt by the government members opposed to the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev. When the USSR was dissolved in the same year, Moscow continued to be the capital of Russia. Since then, the emergence of a market economy in Moscow has produced an explosion of Western-style retailing, services, architecture, and lifestyles. Besides the historical traits of Moscow, it has many different agricultural attributes.
Moscow’s architecture and performing arts culture are world-renowned. Moscow is also well known as the site of Saint Basil’s Cathedral, with its elegant onion domes, as well as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Seven Sisters. The Patriarch of Moscow, whose residence is the Danilov Monastery, serves as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. For a long time, the view of the city was dominated by numerous Orthodox churches. The look of the city changed drastically during Soviet times, mostly due to Joseph Stalin, who oversaw a large-scale effort to modernize the city. He introduced broad avenues and roadways, some of them over ten lanes wide, but he also destroyed a great number of historically significant architectural works. The Sukharev Tower, as well as numerous mansions and stores lining the major streets, and various works of religious architecture, such as the Kazan Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, were all destroyed during Stalin’s rule. During the 1990s, however, both the latter were rebuilt.
The Stalinist-era constructions, usually in the central city, are massive and usually ornamented with Socialist realism motifs that imitate classical themes. However, small churches — almost always Eastern Orthodox - that provide glimpses of the city's past still dot various parts of the city. The Old Arbat, a popular tourist street that was once the heart of a bohemian area, preserves most of its buildings from prior to the twentieth century. Many buildings found off the main streets of the inner city (behind the Stalinist facades of Tverskaya Street, for example) are also examples of the bourgeois decadence in Tsarist times. Ostankino, Kuskovo, Uzkoye and other large estates just outside Moscow originally belong to nobles from the Tsarist era, and some convents and monasteries, both inside and outside the city, are open to Muscovites and tourists. Attempts are being made to restore many of the city’s best-kept examples of pre-Soviet architecture. These revamped structures are easily spotted by their bright new colors and spotless facades. There are a few examples of notable, early Soviet avant-garde work too, such as the house of the architect Konstantin Melnikov in the Arbat area. Later examples of interesting Soviet architecture are usually marked by their impressive size and the semi-Modernist styles employed, such as with the Novy Arbat project, familiarly known as “false teeth of Moscow” and notorious for the wide-scale disruption of a historic area in the Moscow downtown involved in the project. The world-famous Moscow’s museums and galleries with their collections, are some of the largest and most important in the world. Frequent art exhibitions thrive on both the new and the classic, as they once did in pre-Revolutionary times, and are derived from diverse branches of the arts - painting, photography, and sculpture.
One of the most notable art museums in Moscow is the Tretyakov Gallery, which was founded by Pavel Tretyakov, a wealthy patron of the arts who donated a large private collection to the city. The Tretyakov Gallery is split into two buildings. The Old Tretyakov, the original gallery in the Tretyakovskaya area on the south bank of the Moskva River, houses the works of the classic Russian tradition. The works of famous pre-Revolutionary painters, such as Ilya Repin, as well as the works of early Russian icon painters can be found in the Old Tretyakov Gallery. Visitors can even see rare originals by early-fifteenth century iconographer Andrei Rublev. The New Tretyakov, created in Soviet times, mainly contains the works of Soviet artists, as well as of a few contemporary artists, but there is some overlap with the Old Tretyakov Gallery for early twentieth century art. The new gallery includes a small reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin's famous Monument to the Third International and a mixture of other avant-garde works by artists like Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky. Socialist realism features can also be found within the halls of the New Tretyakov Gallery.
Another art museum in the city of Moscow is the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which was founded by, among others, Marina Tsvetaeva's father. The Pushkin Museum is similar to the British Museum in London in that its halls are a cross-section of world civilizations, with many plaster casts of ancient sculptures. However, it also hosts famous paintings from every major Western era of art; works by Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso are all sampled there.
The State Historical Museum of Russia is a museum of Russian history wedged between Red Square and Manege Square in Moscow. Its exhibitions range from relics of the prehistoric tribes inhabiting present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. The total number of objects in the museum's collection numbers in the millions. The Polytechnical Museum, founded in 1872 is the largest technical museum in Russia, offering a wide array of historical inventions and technological achievements, including humanoid automata of the 18th century and the first Soviet computers. Its collection contains more than 160,000 items. The Borodino Panorama museum located on Kutuzov Avenue provides an opportunity for visitors to experience being on a battlefield with a 360° diorama. It is a part of the large historical memorial commemorating the victory in the Patriotic War of 1812 over Napoleon’s army that includes also the Triumphal arch erected in 1827. There is also a military history museum that includes statues, military hardware, along with powerful tales of that time.
Moscow is also the heart of Russian performing arts, including ballet and film. There are ninety-three theatres, 132 cinemas and twenty-four concert-halls in Moscow. Among Moscow’s many theatres and ballet studios is the Bolshoi Theatre and the Malyi Theatre as well as Vakhtangov Theatre and Moscow Art Theatre. The repertories in a typical Moscow season are exhaustive and modern interpretations of classic works, whether operatic or theatrical, are quite common. State Central Concert Hall Rossia, famous for ballet performances, is the place of frequent concerts of modern day Russian pop-stars and is situated in the soon to be demolished building of Hotel Rossiya, the largest hotel in Europe.
Moscow International Performance Arts Centre, opened in 2003, also known as Moscow International House of Music, is known for its performances in classical music. It also has the largest organ in Russia installed in Svetlanov hall.
There are 96 parks and 18 gardens in Moscow, including 4 botanical gardens. There are also 450 square kilometers (174 sq mi) of green zones besides 100 square kilometers (39 sq mi) of forests. Moscow is a very green city if compared to other cities of comparable size in Western Europe and America. There are average 27 square meters (290 sq ft) of parks per person in Moscow compared with 6 for Paris, 7.5 in London and 8.6 in New York.
The Central Park of Culture and Rest named after Maxim Gorky founded in 1928. The main part with area of 689,000 square meters (170 acres) along the Moskva river contains children attractions, including the Observation Wheel water ponds with boats and water bicycles, dancing, tennis courts and other sport facilities. Izmaylovskiy Park created in 1931 is one of the largest urban parks in the world along with Richmond Park in London. Its area of 15.34 square kilometers (5.92 sq mi) is 6 times greater than that of Central Park in New York.
Sokolniki Park, which got its name from the falcon hunting that occurred here in the past, is one of the oldest in Moscow and has an area of 6 square kilometers (2 sq mi). From a central circle with a large fountain radiate birch, maple and elm tree alleys. Farther, after the Deer ponds, there is a labyrinth, composed of green paths.
Moscow has always been a popular destination for tourists. Some of the better known attractions include the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site, Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, which was built between the 14th and 17th centuries. Kolomenskoye is another popular attraction with its UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Church of the Ascension, which dates from 1532.
Other popular attractions include the Moscow Zoo, home to nearly a thousand species and more than 6,500 specimens. Each year, the zoo attracts more than 1.2 million visitors. The long days will also afford one more time to cover the immense wealth of historical, cultural or simply popular sites in Moscow.
There are 1696 high schools in Moscow, as well as 91 colleges. Besides these, there are 222 institutions offering higher education in Moscow, including 60 state universities and the Lomonosov Moscow State University, which was founded in 1755. The university main building located in Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) is 240 meters (787 ft) tall. The university has over 30,000 undergraduate and 7,000 postgraduate students, who have a choice of twenty-nine faculties and 450 departments for study. Additionally, approximately 10,000 high school students take courses at the university, while over two thousand researchers work. The Moscow State University library contains over nine million books, making it one of the largest libraries in all of Russia. Its acclaim throughout the international academic community has meant that over 11,000 international students have graduated from the university, with many coming to Moscow to learn the Russian language.
Bauman Moscow State Technical University, founded in 1830, is located in the centre of Moscow and provides more than 18,000 undergraduate and 1,000 postgraduate students with an education in science and engineering offering a wide range of technical degrees. Since it opened enrolment to students from outside Russia in 1991, Bauman Moscow State Technical University has increased its international enrolment to up to two hundred.
The Moscow Conservatory, founded in 1866 is a prominent music school in Russia, whose graduates included Sergey Rachmaninoff, Alexander Scriabin, Aram Khachaturian, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Alfred Schnittke.
The Gerasimov All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography, abbreviated as VGIK, is the world's oldest educational institution in Cinematography, founded by Vladimir Gardin in 1919. Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Aleksey Batalov were among its most distinguished professors and Mikhail Vartanov, Sergei Parajanov, Andrey Tarkovsky, Nikita Mikhalkov, Eldar Ryazanov, Aleksandr Sokurov, Yuriy Norshteyn, Aleksandr Petrov, Vasily Shukshin, Konrad Wolf among graduates.
Moscow State Institute of International Relations, founded in 1944, remains Russia's best known school of international relations and diplomacy, with six different schools focused on international relations. Approximately 4,500 students make up the university's student body and over 700,000 Russian and foreign-language books — of which 20,000 are considered rare — can be found in the library of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
Although Moscow has a number of famous Soviet-era higher educational institutions, most of which are more oriented towards engineering or the fundamental science, in recent years Moscow has seen a significant growth in the number of commercial and private institutions that offer classes in business and management. Many state institutions have expanded their education scope and increased their student enrolments. Institutions in Moscow, as well as the rest of post-Soviet Russia, have begun to offer new international certificates and postgraduate degrees, including the Master of Business Administration. Student exchange programs with different (especially, European) countries also have become widespread in Moscow's universities, while many schools within the Russian capital will also offer seminars, lectures, and courses for corporate employees and businessmen.
Moscow is known as one of the most important science centers in Russia. The headquarters of the Russian Academy of Sciences are located in Moscow as well as numerous research and applied science institutions.
In 2006, Mercer Management Consulting named Moscow the world's most expensive city for expatriate employees, ahead of perennial winner Tokyo, due to the stable Russian ruble as well as increasing housing prices within the city. Moscow is also famous for its wide range of industries, jewelry and handcrafts.
The Poljot Moscow watch factory produces reliable military, professional and sport watches well known in Russia and abroad. Yuri Gagarin in his trip into space used "Shturmanskie", produced by this factory. The Moscow Jewelry Factory and the Jewellerprom are important producers of jewelry in Russia. There are also many other industries located just outside the city of Moscow, as well as many microelectronic industries in Zelenograd.
For centuries Moscow has been the largest city in Russia and/or the Soviet Union, however the collapse of the latter has led to a decline in Siberian as well as many other Russian cities, so that Moscow's growth and dominance over St. Petersburg and the rest of the nation has become even more pronounced.
Due to a low birth rate and high mortality rate, the population of Russia has been declining by about 700,000 persons per year since the fall of the Soviet Union. In 2003 the number of deaths exceeded the number of births by approximately 49,400. While the birth rate has risen in more recent years, the average age of Moscow's population continues to increase. In 2004 there were more than twice as many people over the age of 55 as there were under the age of 14. Substantial numbers of internal migrants mean that Moscow's population is still increasing, whereas the population of many other Russian cities is in decline. Migrants are attracted by Moscow's strong economy which contrasts sharply with the stagnation in many other parts of Russia. In order to help regulate population growth, Moscow has an internal passport system that prohibits non-residents from staying in the capital for more than ninety days without registration.
Back to Famous Russian Towns and Cities