City Journal Autumn 2014

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Paul Starobin
Irrepressible Moscow « Back to Story

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a very moving and insightful piece!
True,true,true! Huzzahs to Mr. Starobin for his beautifully written and entertaining essay on a city of contrasts that appears to be stolid, but is teeming with passion. The only thing is, I wouldn't want to live there.
Wonderful piece. For better or worse, Moscow is alive.
@David: Poles have reason not to trust any other nation. Churchill took Britain into WWII ostensibly to defend Poland, only to deliver Poland into the vicious hands of the Soviet Union five years later. Some victory!
"Alcoholic spirits previously had been consumed in milder forms, such as mead, made of fermented honey and water"

Just be a usage nazi, mead, like wine, beer, cider, etc., is not an alcoholic spirit. That term applies only to distilled beverages.
Thank you, Mr Starobin.

That was evocative, poignant, entertaining and educational.

As a Leningrad/Petersburg boy myself, I have always preferred Peter's pharaonic experiment to the north, but... perhaps I should reacquaint myself with this most of Russian of cities.

Well done, sir!

(I toast your efforts with this half-a-dozen shots of vodka...)
How's that billion dollar investment to refurbish the Bolshoi going ???
excellent read,Moscow's always been a mysterious fascination,sounds like my kind of town...
Beautifully written
Name me one city in the world with a historical background, that hasn't go through so many changes? As as foreigner living in Moscow, and have lived in Mew York and London, I can easily share the same historical backgrounds of dirt, greed prostitution, and the only thing I wont be able to compare is with the cultural background of each.
Sure you can find alot of bad things to say, I guess something happened to Paul in Moscow that he truly finds reasons to 'hate' it, and using alot of historical reasons to do so.
Russia only exists for the past 21 years, and it's a country of its own. There's nothing wrong with it, other than trying to modernize it and become more competitive with other global cities. Paul can mock about the subway system, but its probably one of the best run underground systems in the world.
I can certainly say alot of negative things about New York, apparently Paul doens't know the history behind that city at all.
Moscow is a beautiful city that has gone through a re-birth, and with that, alot of new headaches. Add to it, Russia has been developing at the same rate.
As for David's comment below from his 'polish' grandmother, "never trust a russian", well, Im not about to start cracking up about Polish Jokes, Im sure he knows them. I would say more opennly, don't trust anyone out there in the streets, anywhere around the world. You really want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge? Think about it! While Russia and Moscow is rebuilding itself, the rest of the world is falling apart mighty fast! and if you dont believe me, come and Visit moscow and Russia... see it with your own eyes!
"Happy Easter All!"
Starobin's comments regarding vodka coming from the west are rubbish. There is no evidence to corroborate that, but plenty to show it was fist distilled in Poland. As for Moscow, since cavorting with criminals, tarts, drunks and thieves is not my thing, I'll pass on Moscow as a vacation spot again. 101 years ago, my Polish grandmother left her village (then part of the Russian empire) to go to America. She alway use to tell my mother: Never trust a Russian. Considering the vagaries of Russian/American history, I'd say it was advice well spoken.
Wonderful article, interesting, informative and just plain fun to read. The sweep of history lesson was unnecessary word padding however, all ancient cities would be unrecognizable to denizens of the modern world from Constantine’s Rome to Charlemagne’s Paris.

Barely 150 years ago, the world class city Mayor Bloomberg rules over would be an appalling embarrassment to modern day Americans. New York City of the 1870’s had an estimated 30,000 adolescents and teens running the streets unsupervised and uncared for. Crime, tainted food, dirt, crowding, endless noise and bizarre forms of public entertainment were commonplace in New York City of that era. And given the state of medicine back then, addiction to powerful narcotics was perfectly normal.

The good news here is that we can’t comprehend Russians and their unique culture. The most senior of our senior citizens will remember when the Soviet Union was our close friend and loyal ally. Joe Stalin was a kindly uncle surrogate and communism had a minor few faults but wasn’t all that bad according to our circa WWII mainstream media. Later, Russians were our unofficial mortal enemies during the Cold War decades. Today, we’re no closer to understanding the Russians and their modern culture.

Unlike our Canadian and Australian friends who are simply Americans-in-training, Russians go their own way. And unlike Old World Europeans with their underground rivers of constant resentment and perpetual inferiority complexes, the Russians seem destined to remain a unique and enigmatic people to Americans.

As far as municipal decadence and corruption go, a brief visit to Newark or Detroit would evoke the people who live in glass houses should avoid throwing stones advice.
Great article. It is the very best I have seen in capturing the true character of Moscow. It can be summarized in a recent quote by Henrietta Challinor, who answered the question of how she likes Moscow by saying "I absolutely love it. I don't love it. I sort of love it and sort of hate it."
Enjoyable and fascinating article! However, I'll still take New York City any day: Times Square, the tourists taking pictures of each other, the theater district, Central Park, the museums, the New York Public Library. A walk up thru the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side on a Sunday afternoon in the Spring. Lunch al fresco a can of no-name cola and a dirty-water dog smeared with imitation mustard.
Thank you, Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg for NOT making New York City like Moscow, or like any other city in the world for that matter.
PITY about that gratuitous sex opening, preventing spreading the article to the kids...

Moscow’s religious fervor inspired the construction of churches. Typically, there were no pews. On stone floors congregants stood close to one another in rooms perfumed by incense and the smell of unwashed flesh. If liberating of spirit, worship was also punishing of body.
Moscow is like Tokyo: a metropolis where most of the land is unavailable for residential development because of byzantine property laws, an oligarchy, and the lack of an honest land registry system. Consequently, workers in Moscow and Tokyo cannot afford to live there. The shortage of housing is an artificial phenomenon: in the absence of democracy, land is controlled by the oligarchs. Russia and Japan remain mired in the feudal era. This will never change because they are not modern countries.