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1.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
1. Export of Artwork and Antiques from Russia
Russian Federation customs require official export permits for certain items of artwork and all antiques - regardless of whether they were purchased in Russia or imported to Russia from another country.
2.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
b. Export Regulations for Dogs
You must be in the possession of a valid international veterinary document (international pet passport) for your dog with proof of vaccination against rabies and canine infectious diseases. The animal must have been vaccinated at least 1 month prior to leaving Russia, but no more than 12 months before departure. In addition to the pet passport, you must also obtain a health certificate from a state-licensed Russian vet, stating that the dog is healthy and fit to travel. This certificate must be issued no more than 3 days before the dog is due to be exported from Russia and is needed for Russian customs only.
In addition to the above, an official export permit must be obtained from the Russian Canine Association for any dog – regardless of whether you brought the dog to Russia with you or purchased / adopted the dog here, and regardless of whether you own a pure-bred dog or a stray. This permit must also be issued no more than 3 days before the dog is due to be exported from Russia.
3.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
1. Exporting a Motor Vehicle from Russia
Russian customs do not charge export duties for personal motor vehicles when taking them out of the country. The export procedure varies however depending on the status of the exporter and the status of the motor vehicle in Russia (e.g., brought into Russia under a temporary import regime; imported to Russia but full customs duties were paid upon importation; car purchased in Russia). The fact that a motor vehicle can be exported from Russia does not necessarily mean that it can be imported to your destination country. Import regulations vary: some countries have very strict regulations for the import of motor vehicles while regulations in others are less stringent. Many countries charge import duties for personal motor vehicles.
There might also be restrictions as to the number of motor vehicles that can be imported by one person within a certain period of time. Furthermore, restrictions concerning emission standards and other technical specifications might be in effect in your destination country.
Before making the decision to ship your motor vehicle abroad, make sure you are fully aware of the regulations regarding the import of your motor vehicle to your destination country, the amount of import customs duties involved (if any), the paperwork and documents that have to be completed as well as any physical changes to the motor vehicle that might be necessary to obtain registration in your destination country.
4.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
If you are leaving or coming to Russia with just a few suitcases and boxes and no artwork or antiques, you can probably get by just carrying your items as extra baggage. But if you are a family or professional moving your household, you need a reliable moving company with experience in Russia - such as Allied Pickfords. Shipping procedures and customs regulations are difficult and can change suddenly with little notice, and most of the necessary forms and declarations have to be completed in Russian.
5.Establishing a Business in Russia  
Form of legal presence in Russia influences all aspects of activity including possibility for making deals and tax consequences of the deals, financial and tax accounting and reporting, possibilities under customs, currency control legislation, ability to employ foreign nationals, repatriation of income, application of international treaties and many others. Therefore, particular attention must be paid to Russian business modeling to be made PRIOR setting up legal presence in Russia.
There are several forms for a foreign investor to start business in the Russian Federation. Foreign investor may set up (or register) a Russian legal entity in the form of limited liability company, joint-stock company (which can be private or public) or partnership. The other way is to register a representative or branch office of a foreign company in Russia.
In order to get more information on the different types of entities that you can establish in Russia click to Comparison table
6.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
2. Importing Personal Belongings to Russia
If you are planning to move to Russia, choose a company that provides full door-to-door services and that has an office or agent in Moscow. Make sure your moving company handles the import customs clearance into Russia for you.
Your moving company in your country of origin will provide you with all documents and document samples that are necessary to effect export customs clearance.
Before your personal belongings can be cleared through Russian customs, you must be in Russia. Your presence at Russian customs during the import customs clearance process is not required, but you will be asked to supply your moving company with a number of documents allowing them to handle the import customs clearance for you.
The number and kinds of documents required depend on the shipment method you have chosen (surface and/or air) and on your personal status in Russia (foreign citizen, Russian citizen, foreign diplomat, accredited journalist, etc.).
In most cases, the required documents will include:
• a Power of Attorney for Russian customs (authorizing the moving company to carry out all customs clearance formalities on your behalf).
• a letter to Russian customs from your company
• a copy of your passport
• a copy of your Russian visa
• a copy of your Russian accreditation card (if you have one)
• a Russian TD10 Customs Form (Declaration for Unaccompanied Luggage). This is the customs form that you have to fill in at the airport when entering Russia. The form must be duly completed, signed by yourself and stamped by a Russian customs officer, i.e. you must go through the Red Channel at the airport.
Your moving company's office or agent in Russia should supply you with samples of all required documents. The Power(s) of Attorney can only be obtained by yourself from a Russian notary in Russia and must be signed by you at the notary's office. The moving company cannot obtain any Power of Attorney for you on your behalf.
7.Reign of Peter the Great (Late 17th-18th Centuries)::The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Peter the Great
Peter the Great was probably the most discussed, most controversial and most extraordinary Russian Tsar. Determined to bring Russia back on her feet and to make her a modern European state, Peter the Great wouldn't stop at nothing, thus making Russia's way to progress rather painful.
As a child he had seen relatives murdered in Kremlin during the Streltsy rebellion (strelets - member of privileged military corps in the 17th century Russia). This may have affected his character developing his predisposition to fits of rage and a pathological distrust for Moscow. 16 years later Peter got the chance for revenge on the Streltsys, when he executed over a thousand of them after another rebellion. This was a perfect demonstration of how he used to deal with his enemies.
Hatred for patriarchal Moscow and desire to change stagnant way of living in Russia forced Peter the Great to carry out many crucial reforms. In order to get familiar with modern European technologies in shipbuilding and other fields, he became the first tsar ever to go abroad with the aim of studying. After this educational trip Peter got reforms going: he built Russian navy, reformed the army, restructured administrative system, supported the development of Russian industry and trade. He was also a very successful commander, defeating the Swedes, who had been a threat to Russia for more than a century, and the Turks, giving Russia free access to the Black and Caspian Sea. All this allowed to say that Peter the Great "hacked a window to Europe" for Russia.
Being an admirer of Western life, Peter the Great insisted on Western style clothing for his courtiers, literally shaved boyars' beards, which reminded him of so much hated old Russia. His reforms split Russian society into Slavophiles and Westerners; this division lasted for centuries. Peter's final step in fighting the spirit of old Russia was the removal of the capital from Moscow to recently built pompous St.Petersburg, a city standing on the swamps and bones of dead builders. For the next 200 years Moscow existed in St.Petersburg's shadow being Russia's second city.
8.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
1. Surface (Road and Sea) Shipments to and from Russia
The price for a surface (road or sea) shipment from and to Russia depends on the volume (usually expressed in cubic meters (m3), cubic feet (f3), or pounds (lbs). The weight of your shipment is usually of no importance. Depending on your origin and destination country, weight restrictions may apply for container sea shipments.
9.Dating Agency   
Dating Agency
Still single? Marriage Agency “Anastasia” will help you to find your soul-mate.
Everyone who visits Russia is immediately struck by the stunning beauty of Russian women.
Everyone who has ever been to Russia will agree - Russian women are not just beautiful; they are gentle, intelligent, well mannered and tender. Russian women make perfect wives: family is their highest value in life. To have a happy family, to love and to be loved – that is all a Russian woman needs. If you are tired of the ever-controlling power of the Western women – meet a Russian and you will find paradise lost!
We will make it easy for you to find you soul-mate in Russia!
10.The Origin of Romanovy Dynasty (17th Century)::The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians   
Tired of civil war and anarchy, Moscow leading citizens gathered to elect a new tsar. In 1613, a 16-year old Mikhail Romanov, grandnephew of Ivan the Terrible's first wife Anastasia, was named hereditary tsar. Romanovy dynasty was to rule for more than 300 years up until the October Bolshevik revolution in 1917.
Mikhail Romanov (1613-1645) ruled together with his father, Moscow patriarch Filaret. They made considerable efforts to help the country to rise from the ruins. Mikhail also founded the tradition of state loans from other countries, the tradition of which Russia still can't get rid of. During his reign the amount of foreigners working for Tsar of Russia increased. So-called German Village (Sloboda) appeared in Moscow suburbs; later it became the favourite place of Peter the Great.
Mikhail's heir, Alexey the Quiet (1645-1676) made further steps in modernizing Russia, carried out the codification of the law, although it was exactly during his reign that serfdom, actual slavery, was legalized. In 1654 the Ukraine joined Russia extending influence of the Moscow state to the South. The most important event of Alexey's reign was the schism in the Church between the reformers, led by Patriarch Nikon, and the conservative Old Believers. Difference of opinion concerned mostly ritual details but the schism echoed in following centuries splitting the country into two camps always at enmity.
11.Community Organizations:: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Democrats Abroad Russia
Democrats Abroad Russia is open to all Americans of voting age, as well as non-American "associate" members. There are no membership dues, and you are not required to be a registered Democrat or even have a past voting record in order to become a member. We meet every third Thursday of the month at 7:30 pm at Liga Pap restaurant at Bolshaya Lubyanka ul., 24 (M. Chistyie Prudy) for political conversation and debate, guest speakers, and networking. New members are welcome! For information about meeting locations, special events and voter registration, contact Chairperson Andrew Hardisty.
12.Business Groups :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association (CERBA)
The Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association (CERBA) has a network of four offices located in Moscow, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary, and a membership base of over 200 corporations and individuals in a wide range of sectors. As an association, CERBA provides an extensive network of contacts with frequent networking events, informative seminars on pertinent topics in the Eurasian market for Canadian companies, an annual National Conference, a quarterly printed Newsletter, committees of the Canada-Russia Business Council (CRBC), access to annual trade missions, as well as market intelligence, advocacy on government policy, and active, Canada-focused sector committees. Contact Regional Liason Alexander Grichine at 735-4132 or Regional Director Elena Settles at 735-4132.
Address: Putejsky tupik, 6, floor 2
Metro: Kurskaya
13.Community and Religious Organizations:: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Auski: Australians and New Zealanders living in Russia
Auski is a social group for Australians and New Zealanders living and working in Russia, in particular, Moscow. The group meets at least once a month to eat good food and have a laugh. By joining the Auski email list, you will be informed of any Australian/New Zealand events taking place in Moscow. For more information please e-mail Auski or join the Facebook group.
14.Palace Revolutions and Catherine the Great (18th Century)::The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Palace Revolutions

From the death of Peter the Great to the beginning of Catherine the Great's reign, Moscow throne was occupied by six different monarchs who came to power after dirty palace intrigues and palace revolutions. Two of them - Ivan Antonovich and Peter III - were deposed by force and assassinated. This period was the time of political instability, when the country was mostly ruled by women and minors (so-called "The Petticoat Period"). They all thought little of country's prosperity, paying attention to balls, luxury and fun; although that was good for Russian architecture: many palaces were built and some interesting architectural tendencies were introduced. That concerned mostly St.Petersburg as monarchs preferred to live in this Europeanized city. Only Elizabeth the First (1741-1761), daughter of Peter the Great, decided to live in Moscow periodically, presenting the former capital with a flurry of new buildings. This fun-loving empress is also the one to thank for the foundation of Moscow State University in 1755, the first University in Russia. She was guided by Russia's 18th-century Renaissance man Mikhail Lomonosov, the poet and the scientist in one.
Catherine the Great

In 1762 the wife of Peter III, a German princess, planned a conspiracy, as a result of which her husband was dethroned and killed. Under the name of Catherine II she proved herself as an energetic and intelligent leader. She was one of the most educated monarchs of her time, art and literature lover, even Voltaire and Didro were among her correspondents. Catherine the Great was known to share views of the Enlightenment ideologists, but in fact she was an adherent of Absolutism, Russia under Catherine the Great became a perfect example of an absolute monarchy. Catherine aimed to continue the centralization of power using rough methods, she liquidated self-government in the Ukraine, suppressed many peasant rebellions (Pugachev's Rebellion for example), made territorial gains at the expense of Turkey and Poland. At the same time she carried out a progressive reform of education in Russia, reform of Russia's legal system and some other innovations.
15.Present Times::The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
The 1991 putsch has changed everything. Suddenly the old system was dismantled and after a series of political decisions the USSR collapsed. The new Russia was born from the ashes, but it had a long way to go. The inflation was insane, people did not have enough money, no one knew what was going to happen. Slowly some economic reforms clarified the direction: in order to survive you had to become a hard-core capitalist and adjust to the new way of thinking directly.
Boris Eltsin was a very important figure back then. He emerged from the communist party, but was brave enough to stand on a tank during the Putsch and protect basic democratic freedoms of which nobody really knew back then anyway. His charisma and commitment made people click, and soon he became the first president of Russia. The years of wild capitalism followed, when you could grab as much as you could and a lot of people did. It was a crazy time with no rules, no definitions, no morals. A crash course into capitalism. By the time it was 1996 things got more or less settled and there was some hope for the new future.
The system overheated and another crisis followed in 1998. Many people lost their jobs, the inflation was several hundred precent. The economy was still too reliant on natural resources, the social system was non-existent, the international image of Russia suffered tremendously. On the 31st of December 1999 Boris Eltsin made his famous address to the nation, naming Vladimir Putin as his successor.
16.Ask your Visa and Travel advisor  
Are you going to travel to Russia, or do you plan to go abroad? Do you need to register your visa, or want to work officially and get a work permit? Or maybe you have other travel inquires and do not know how to fulfill your plans?
Please address your questions to your online Visa and Travel advisor Andrew’s Travel House. We really like the idea of helping people!
Just a brief company history, so you can rely on our services even more. The result of a successful merger between Andrew's Consulting and Travel House, Andrews Travel House is one of the oldest and largest corporate travel management companies in Russia, being active in this field since 1994. Andrews Travel House offers a complete travel service including flight booking, accommodation and visa services for foreigners wishing to travel within Russia, and for Russians looking to travel abroad.
In addition to providing one-stop corporate travel services, Andrews Travel House offers incentive programs, training seminars and special leisure packages for corporate clients and their staff, as well as high class FIT services for individual travelers via partner agencies.
For more information on any of our services contact Andrews Travel House
in Moscow: +7 (095) 916-9898, in St.Petersburg: +7 (812) 325-9400,
or in London: +44 (0) 20 77272838. E-mail:
17.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Relocation Guide: Informaton on Moving from and to Russia
18.October Revolution (1917)::The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
There were several reasons for the revolution in 1917. One of them was Russia's defeat in the Russian-Japan war in 1905, which considerably damaged the reputation of the Russian government. Poor living conditions of working classes, and government's refusal to satisfy people's requirements for better life resulted in a demonstration of protest on January 9th, 1905, which was ruthlessly shot by the governmental forces; more than a thousand people died that day. Today this event is known as "the Bloody Sunday". This execution gave impulse to the revolution of 1905. It was suppressed shortly after, some basic civil rights were promised, the first Russian parliament (Duma) was elected, but it was obvious that the situation was about to explode.
The final drop was Russia's taking part in the World War I. By 1916 the country had lost more than 3,000,000 men, and people had no desire to fight and die for the Tsar any more. The Bolsheviks (Russian communists) used this unstable situation and captured the wills of millions of Russian with promises to finish the war, to give land to peasants and to build a state of equality.
In February 1917 the entire world observed the end of monarchy in Russia: strikes broke out in St.Petersburg, people took the streets and finally the tsar had to abdicate the throne. Now the power was in the hands of Workers' and Soldiers' Soviets. Later the Provisional Government was elected but it was still unable to solve the main problems. Under these circumstances the Bolsheviks decided that their time had come and started an armed uprising. In the night, October 26th, the Bolsheviks took the Winter Palace in St.Petersburg, former residence of the tsar occupied by the Provisional Government. A new era began.
Bolsheviks kept their promise and took Russia out of World War I. But exhausted and depressed people were about to face a new disaster - the Civil War. Moscow was made capital again, and from here Lenin and his government directed the "Red army" against anti-revolutionary coalition known as the "Whites". By November 1920 the Whites were thrown out of the country; the living symbol of tsar's Russia, Nikolay II and his family, was brutally butchered in Yekaterinburg already in 1918.
19.Snow Arena Polo World Cup Moscow :: The virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians, Moscow, Russia  
Snow Arena Polo World Cup Moscow
February, 28-29
Central Moscow Hippodrome
Snow Arena Polo World Cup Moscow, to be held on February 28-29, 2004, in the Central Moscow Hippodrome, will be the first competition of its kind in Russia. Organized by the Moscow Polo Club, this will be a historic event in the sport of polo. Internationally renowned polo players and polo personalities have confirmed their participation. The list of invitees includes polo club owners, businessmen, politicians and polo fans from all over the world. One team from England and two teams from Italy will be battling for the honor of claiming to have won Russia’s first polo on snow tournament. The organizers expect this event to become an annual event and the final stop of the European polo on snow circuit which is played in France, Switzerland and Italy.
The aristocratic sport of polo has a long-established tradition in this part of the world. Russia’s first polo tournaments were held in the days of the tsars. However, the Bolshevik coup of 1917 caused a long break in this tradition.
Now, the Moscow Polo Club and its founding President Victor Huaco are reviving the sport of polo in Russia after nearly a century-long hiatus. The First Russian Polo Cup in 2003, which took place last September and featured some of the world’s best polo players, drew over 400 spectators. In that tournament, the ESN Group team emerged as the winner.
Snow Arena Polo World Cup Moscow will surely be one of the most exciting and spectacular events in Russia’s capital this year, in both the world of sports and the world of high society. – the web site of Moscow Polo Club.
Date: Saturday 28th and Sunday the 29th of February 2004
TimeEvent12.00-12.30Arrival of the guests12.30-15.00 Officially announce the Opening of the tournament
Welcome of the President Moscow Polo Club
Polo teams parade
Players presentation
Games15.00 Closing the tournament
Prize giving
20.Our partners :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Our partners
If you want to become our partner feel free to write us at
Founded in 1995, the AEB is an independent non-commercial association with a membership of over 550 companies from across the European Union and Russia. Their members range from large multi-national corporations to SMBs and are united by their commitment to forging stronger economic ties between the EU and Russia, as well as improving the business environment here in Russia.
A fortnightly English-language entertainment newspaper to connect you to the top events in Moscow's cultural life. Published since 2003, element has gained a following among Muscovites and expats for its up-to-date reporting on concerts, movies, restaurants, clubs, sports, theater and other cultural happenings. Offers independent reviews, original horoscopes and engaging interviews in the newspaper every other Thursday, as well as a full-color Russian-English restaurant guide four times a year.

French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Russia
The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Russia (CCIFR) was born in 1997, initially as a French business club, Le Club France. CCIFR is a private, non-profit association, designed to facilitate business between France and Russia. Its mission is to help to increase French investments into Russian economy, to create a better environment for development of French business in Russia and of Russian business in France. Now CCIFR has more than 200 corporate members and keeps growing further. CCIFR organizes many events, such as weekly petits dejeuners targeting topical key business issues. CCIFR works with many Russian regions, such as Saratov, Omsk, Kuban.
The Russo-British Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1916 as a private, non-profit making organisation, designed to facilitate business between Britain and Russia. We are uniquely placed to assist our members in both countries, drawing on our 90 years of experience in this field. Our team will help you find potential partners and assist in marketing your products and services. We also provide business information and compile reports on request. The RBCC organises its own independent events, including exhibitions, conferences, seminars, and trade missions. With senior representation at Advisory Council and Board level from both UK and Russian business, the RBCC is uniquely well-inofrmed.
Russia Profile
An English-language information service offering expert analysis of Russian politics, economics, society and culture. A joint project of RIA Novosti and Independent Media, the service consists of a print magazine and a free online supplement providing comments from a Weekly Experts' Panel, statistics from a Resources Section, a Global Russia Calendar of Events, and Book Reviews. The magazine is published ten times yearly, each with a central theme and distributed for free to any location.
Russia Today
Russia Today is the first 24/7 English-language news channel to present the Russian point of view on events happening in Russia and around the globe. RT provides viewers with breaking news, stories on politics, business, and public affairs. Among Russia Today’s indisputable achievements are fast and high-quality direct coverage of crucial events, as well as exclusive interviews with high-ranking personalities, leading economists, politicians, and prominent figures in culture, art, and sports. Russia Today started broadcasting in December 2005. Since then, RT has earned the respect of its viewers and fellow journalists all over the world for its commitment to independent journalism.
21.Visas :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
One of the most immediate considerations a foreign national will face upon coming to Russia is compliance with Russia’s immigration system. This overview of the Russian immigration regulations sets out the procedures needed to be taken by a foreign individual, and his employer, to try to ensure that individual fulfils the requirements of the Russian legislation whilst he is visiting and/or working in Russia. However, the system is somewhat Byzantine in its complexity, and immigration regulations are evolving rapidly, both in technical terms and, more importantly, in how they are practically enacted. Hence, constant vigilance is required to keep abreast of the current status. There is significant risk in assuming that a process that has worked in the past will work again in the future, even where there are no formal technical changes to the regulations.
There are four main areas of compliance required for most foreign nationals and parties linked with them when coming to (and leaving) Russia. These are:
- Visa;
- Immigration card;
- Enrollment;
- Work permits/Residency permits.
Types of Visas
Basically, the type of Russian visa is determined by the individual's purpose of visit; this, in turn, governs the scope of activities that an expatriate may be engaged while in Russia under the certain type of visa.
Business Visas
A business visa is foreseen for foreign nationals coming to Russia for business purposes, including participation in negotiations, conferences and consultations, making contracts and professional improvement. A business visa does not empower foreign individuals to hold official positions in Russian legal entities, represent them, or perform work in Russia under the civil or employment agreements. Importantly, business visas also cover some persons coming on “montage” or “chef-montage” activity, where they are helping put imported machinery into production or servicing it for the foreign vendor. Generally, business visas are issued based on invitations from Russian hosts and issued via Russian consulates outside Russia. The validity period of a single or a dual business visas is three months.
Multiple-entry business visas, like work visas, are valid for 12 months. However, these are restricted, so they only allow the foreign national to be present in Russia for no more than 90 days in any 180-day period. Once the visa expires, the foreign individual has to leave Russia, as business visas cannot be reissued in Russia. Russia has a number of immigration treaties, most notably with the EU (excluding the UK, Ireland and Denmark), which can extend the length of the validity of business visas up to five years.
Work Visas
A work visa is intended for foreign individuals coming in Russia to work or render services under an employment or a civil agreement respectively. By contrast with a business visa, a work visa allows an expatriate to occupy a position in the Russian company (or representative office or branch of a foreign company) indicated in the individual work permit and to act in an official capacity for this company. Initially, a single-entry work visa is issued by a consulate outside Russia for three months only based on the employer's invitation. The employer may further apply for an extended multiple-entry work visa upon expatriate’s arrival in Russia.
Foreign nationals are required to stay in Russia during the application process and issuance of the multiple entry work visa. The validity period of a work visa is linked to the validity period of the expatriate’s work permit (or accreditation card issued for accredited person working in a representative office or branch of a foreign company), but cannot exceed one year. If the employment agreement remains in force upon the visa's expiry, a new multiple-entry work visa can be obtained, provided that there is a new individual work permit.
Visa for "Inosotrudniki"
This is a special type of work visa issued for accredited expatriate employees of foreign companies operating in Russia through its representative offices or branches. In practice, this is an easier visa to obtain from an administrative perspective, as it separates the visa application from the work permit.
Family Visas
Spouses and children of relocating expatriates can apply for visas in the same way as the executive. An ‘Accompanying Spouse Visa’ and/or ‘Dependent’s Visa’ can be obtained at the same time as the expatriate applies for his/ her own visa. Talk with your HR department to make certain that this process is carried out at the same time as your visa application.
Immigration Card
Upon arrival in Russia, each foreign national should complete and retain the stamped half of the immigration card. This card contains information about the arrival and departure of the individual in and from Russia, as well as the period of his or her stay in Russia. This document is delivered to each foreign citizen by the Russian border control authorities. The foreigner should keep the immigration card during his whole stay in Russia. If the immigration card is damaged or lost, the foreign national should notify the local immigration authorities within three days, and they may further issue a duplicate upon presenting the documents based on which the individual entered Russia (passport and visa, if applicable).
Upon departure from Russia, the foreign national should return the original immigration card at the Russian border control. Failure to return the immigration card is considered to be a violation and may lead to the formal deportation of a foreign individual from Russia. If deported, the individual will not be able to enter Russia for the next five years.
Enrolment and De-enrolment Procedures
Enrolment is the process of notifying the immigration authorities of a foreign citizen’s whereabouts (international travel as well as internal trips within Russia). Upon arrival in Russia, each foreign national should be enrolled (registered) in the Russian migration system at his host location. Enrolment, as well as de-enrolment should be completed in respect of the foreign national by the hosting party: either by hotel, or by employer (visa sponsor), or landlord (whichever is applicable). In practice, most landlords are unwilling to perform this role.
This process is to be completed within 3 business days upon arrival, each time an individual arrives to the country or travels to another region within Russia for more than 3 business days. The de-enrolment process should be completed within 2 calendar days of the departure, every time a foreign national departs from Russia or leaves for another region within Russia for more than 3 business days. It is recommendable that the individual hold a copy of the enrolment/de-enrolment form while travelling in Russia or outside.
Further, as the fines for non-compliance with the enrolment requirement are rather high, each foreign employee will typically need to notify his or her employer on any trip within or out of the country, even if this is personal trip, so that the procedure can be carried out.
22.Financial Adviser  
Uniastrum Bank, one of the market leaders in banking for foreigners in Russia, has announced a new account program called Janus. Named after the Roman guardian of gates and the god of beginnings (he gave his name to the month of January), he is represented by a double-faced head.
23.Russia in the 19th Century::The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
In 1812 Napoleon army invaded Russia. Russia had already taken part in the war against Napoleon but suffered defeats against France, such as the Battle of Austerlitz (1805), and signed the humiliating Treaty of Tilsit in 1807. This time everything was different. This critical situation united Russian people and helped them to find powers to expel Frenchmen out of the country. The weather was also on the Russian side as Napoleon had underestimated severe climate in Russia and, left without supplies, hundreds of thousands French soldiers froze to death during their winter campaign. In order to save the country and not to let Napoleon enjoy triumphal entry to the ancient capital, the great Russian commander Mikhail Kutuzov decided to sacrifice Moscow. Deserting the city, Russian troops set Moscow on fire; as a result two thirds of the wooden city were destroyed. Left without food, which they hoped to find in Moscow, French soldiers were forced to abandon the city and start their terrible retreat.
Later Moscow's architectural look was completely changed; a brand new architectural plan was introduced by Osip Bove, the chief architect of Moscow reconstruction after 1812. Rebuilding the historical centre of the city, Bove introduced extremely patriotic Empire Style, mostly presented in noble mansions.
The Napoleonic wars were a turning point in the history of the Russian Empire, as many soldiers returned from Europe "infected" with liberal ideas. Moscow became a fertile environment for the seeds of growing political discontent, which resulted in so-called "Decembrists Rebellion". The Decembrists strove for the freedom of the serfs, constitutional monarchy and other civil rights. But this small group of liberal noblemen couldn?t change the situation; instead they provoked a period of reaction and stagnation during the reign of "the Iron Tsar", Nikolay I (1825-1855).
Finally the Big day for Russian peasants came: 1861 is the year of the Emancipation of the serfs. Slavery in Russia was officially over and some other liberal reforms by tsar Alexander II (1855-1881) opened the way for capitalism in Russia. Anyhow, former serfs were too poor to buy their own land and were forced to go to Moscow and other big cities searching for a job, as it was the time of rapid advances in industrialization. They worked at factories 14-16 hours a day, while their families were starving at home. Their miserable existence was one of the reasons why the Bolshevik's revolution was accepted so easily by the working classes.
24.Europ Assistance :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Medical assistance
• 24 hour telephone orientation by English speaking doctors
• Highest standart, fully equipped, on-call ambulance
• Hospitalization to leading clinics in Moscow
• Emergency evacuation from any location in Russia, CIS and the World
• Delivery of medicines
25.The History of Moscow::Ivan the Terrible and the Times of Troubles (16th-17th Centuries)::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Ivan the Terrible

In 1533, a three-year-old boy mounted Russia?s throne - Ivan IV (1533-1584), later known as Ivan the Terrible. He was the first Russian Grand Prince to call himself Tsar of All Russia (the word tsar is derived from Caesar). Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan and Astrakhan khanates expanding the territory of Russia to the Urals and Volga region and opening the way to Siberia. He also initiated many reforms that led to further strengthening of tsar?s absolute power: administrative reforms, first steps to serfdom, restructuring of the army etc. Some reforms were clearly positive for the country but they were all carried out ruthlessly; Ivan?s crusades still shock with their relentlessness and cruelty.
Ivan the Terrible was also the founder of Russia?s first police state ("Oprichnina"), which was supposed to suppress every real and potential enemy. Black-hooded agents with dog?s heads, tied to their saddles as a symbol of loyalty to the Tsar, inspired horror and fear in the country. It was the time of terror when every sign of discontent caused ruthless reaction. Thus Moscow rising in 1570 caused executions of several hundred people. The culmination of Tsar's paranoia was the murder of his only competent son, whom Ivan the Terrible stabbed to death with his own hands. That hastened the end of the Ryurikovichi dynasty.
The Times of Troubles
After the death of Ivan the Terrible in 1584 his retarded son Fedor became Tsar but the actual ruler was Boris Godunov (1598-1605) who mounted the throne after childless Fedor's death in 1598. Godunov carried on rather successful foreign policy; during his reign new lands joined Russia, several military campaigns against Crimean Tatars were crowned with success; the patriarchate was instituted in Russia demonstrating the independence and maturity of the state; Moscow and other boundary towns were fortified. But Boris Godunov missed the most important thing ? people's love. He was accused of killing Ivan the Terrible's youngest son Dmitry and seizing power illegally. His sin was said to be the reason of horrible natural calamities, which caused failure of crops and famine in the country. Several peasant risings flared up and were ruthlessly suppressed; that only enhanced hatred for Boris Godunov.
Finally a pretender to the throne appeared claiming to be Ivan the Terrible's dead son Dmitry. He sought support from Poland, which was always at daggers drawn with Russia, and marched on Moscow with a big army (the Poles cleverly used unstable situation to conquer Russia). Godunov escaped execution as he suddenly died himself in 1605, but his son and wife were murdered and "False Dmitry" was proclaimed Tsar. Not for a long time though. He was killed by the boyars (the highest class Russian nobles) and replaced by boyar Vasiliy Shujsky. Shujsky in his turn had to deal with "False Dimitry No 2" and his Polish "patrons".
The Poles finally reached Moscow in 1610; Shujsky was then deposed. In addition to that the Swedes got active in the North capturing Novgorod. And only then, in those devastating circumstances Prince Pozharsky and his compatriot Kozma Minin managed to awaken the spirit of patriotism in Russians and to expel the Poles in 1612. This period of deposed tsars, false pretenders to the throne, wars and disarray is known as "the Time of Troubles".
26.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
The Pre-Move Survey
In order to obtain a detailed written quotation for your move, your moving company will offer you to carry out a pre-move survey of your personal belongings at your residence. This survey should be carried out by a qualified moving consultant; it should be free of charge and should not put you under any kind of obligation toward the moving company.
The purposes of the pre-move survey are to:
Provide your moving company with a good idea as to the volume and nature of your shipment (personal belongings, artwork and antiques, motor vehicles, pets, etc.).
Confirm the final destination (city and country) for your shipment and supply you with information on your destination country, including information on the import customs regulations.
Inform you of the various available shipping methods for your relocation, including approximate transit times to your destination country. Based on your personal requirements, moving schedule and budget, your international moving consultant will help you determine the best shipping method or combination of shipping methods.
Discuss your moving schedule, including your prospective packing dates, your personal departure date from Russia / your origin country), your personal arrival date in your destination country / Russia, and the required delivery dates.
Tell you about the customs formalities that are necessary to clear your shipment through customs at both ends of your move.
Explain the Ministry of Culture procedure for the export of artwork and antiques to you (if your move originates in Russia).
Answer any questions you might have regarding packing & packing materials, including special packing and/or wooden crating for fragile or high-value items.
Explain the insurance cover offered by your moving company.
Discuss any special requirements and answer any additional questions you might have concerning your upcoming move.
All of Allied Pickfords Moscow's moving consultants are completely bilingual (English / Russian), with some also speaking German and French. In fact, all of our moving consultants around the world speak English - in addition to the language of their native country.
Please contact the Allied Pickfords Moscow anytime at (+7 095) 796-93-25, or send an e-mail to to set up a date and time for a free survey of your personal belongings. If you are moving to Russia from another country, please also contact our Moscow. We will then put you in touch with a qualified moving consultant from our office in your origin country.
27.Newslinks :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
News Links
News about Russia and the CIS from Leading World News Media.
Click on a link to open a new window and read the article.
Some sites may require registration, and some links may expire.
28.Sport & Recreation :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Misogikan School of Aikido
The Senior teacher of the Misogikan School of Yoshinkan Aikido is David Eayrs from England who has lived in Russia for more than 10 years.
Address: Leninsky prosp., 30
Metro: Leninsky Prospect
Tel: 8 926 204-8855
29.Environmental Assessments  
8. Did you know?
• Mobile phones might cause the number of cases of illnesses involving the nervous system and brain tumours to increase over the next 10-20 years.
• So far this year, 180 people have died from legionnaire's disease in France.
• Telephone substations are a likely cause of miscarriages, oncological illnesses, cardio-vascular problems and an increase in the overall mortality rate.
• In Russia, 109 million people (73% of the population) live in poor sanitary and hygienic conditions.
• From 1953 to 1976, the US embassy in Moscow was exposed to low-level microwave radiation, the alleged aim being to make its employees nervous.
30.Beaches & Swimming Pools :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Swimming pool Moscow. Find a swimming pool. Swimming pool locations. Indoor swimming pools. Public swimming polls. Pools in Moscow.
Note: At most swimming pools in Russia, you must show a spravka, a medical certificate saying that you have no diseases and that it is safe for you to swim in pools. In most cases, this can be obtained at the swimming pool.
31.Airports::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
1) Your baggage limit is strictly imposed at 20kg and there is no discretionary limit. You will be charged Excess Baggage for even 1kg above your limit, and this will be collected in the most bureaucratic, time consuming way imaginable. It is strongly suggested that you try not to travel with more than your baggage limit if you want to avoid wasting time and_money.
2) Some domestic flights still have Unreserved Seating, which often results in pushing-and-shoving battles to get onto the plane first. You may have to participate in order to get your chosen seat.
3) You MUST KEEP YOUR BAGGAGE RECEIPT. You will only be allowed to reclaim your checked baggage in your destination if you can show the baggage receipt (usually printed on a piece of card) that you were given at Check-In.
4) Most domestic flights are non-smoking. Very few have any entertainment (music, film etc) during the flight- even on very long trips. It's wise to bring your own book, CD player, etc.
5) Many flights to distant or less-visited destinations now operate as "hub-and-spoke" from Moscow - you will change planes in another city en-route, very often Novosibirsk (Sibir' Airlines) or Krasnoyarsk. Your baggage must be reclaimed and re-checked at the transit airport, as it will not be tagged through to your end-destination. Some airline staff participate in a scam to overcharge you on baggage, by claiming that your checked baggage allowance is 15kg inclusive of your carry-on bag. This is an on-going problem that seems to operate with the collusion of the airline's management (particularly at Krasnoyarsk airport), and there is almost no way to avoid it, although a VERY severe argument and a lot of shouting has been known to work. In fact throughout Russia's provincial airports foreigners are seen as an "easy target" for over-charging on fake accusations of "excess" baggage, and you should assume that they will attempt to over-charge you, so prepare for this situation.
6) Forget any notion you had that you are a "customer". On Russian domestic flights, passengers - along with their views and their custom - are seen as slightly less important than hunks of meat, and are treated very much the same way, despite the high price charged for tickets.
Listed below are the main air terminals located in Moscow, along with the telephone numbers of their respective information desks and public transportation routes to each terminal.
32.Holidays & Dialing Codes :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
To call outside of Russia dial 8 and wait for a second dial tone. Then dial 10, the country code, city code and telephone number.
• To dial the US: 8-10-1 + Area Code + Telephone Number
• To dial England: 8 -10-44 + Area Code + Telephone Number
CountryCode Arab Emirates
Bosnia & Gercegovina
Congo (Zaire)
Costa Rica
New Zealand
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
South Korea
United Kingdom
Yugoslavia 971
33.Clothing Sizes :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Women's Clothing, Dresses, Pants Russia
International 40
S 42
S 44
M 48
L 50
L 52
XL 54
34.Patriarshy Dom Tours :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Capital Tours is the first company in Russia organizing regular daily City Bus Tours, weekly Kolomenskoye Estate, Lubyanka and Gulag tour, Metro tour, Red Square and Kitai Gorod tour (including St.Basil's Cathedral). Regardless of the weather, we are always at your service. Capital Tours offers you a commentary by an English-speaking guide. Moscow All Around (The Moscow City Bus Tour): 7 days a week (even if it snows) Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:30, 13:30; Monday, Wednesday at 10:30 only. Adults: in the office 950 Rbs, on the bus 1000 Rbs, children: in the office 450 Rbs, on the bus 500 Rbs, Lubyanka and Gulag tour: every Thursday from 14:00 to 16:30. Adults: 1000 Rbs, children: 800 Rbs, Kolomenskoye Estate: every Thursday from 10:30 to 13:30. Adults: 1000 Rbs, children: 800 Rbs; Metro Tour: every Sunday from 11:00 to 13:00. Adults: 700 Rbs, children: 500 Rbs; Red Square and Kitai Gorod tour: every Sunday from 14:00 to 17:00. Adults: 1000 Rbs, children: 400 Rbs.
Address: Gostiny Dvor, Ilyinka ul., 4, vkhod 6, 7. Tel: 232-2442, Fax: 234-2717;
At the Russian-American Cultural Center we offer unique group tours, led in each case by an expert in the field. We offer other services, including hotel reservations, special private tours tailored to individual interests, both in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We also offer group or private Russian language classes for all levels as well as interpreting and organizational support for business negotiations. You can also book plane and trane tickets with us.
In Russia:
Tel/Fax: (501/495) 795-0927
E-mail: alanskaya@co.ruIn the United States:
Tel/Fax: 1 650 6787076
35.In Case of Emergency::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
In Case of Emergency
1. Prepare for Emergencies
Keep your insurance/assistance company card with you at all times. Make a personal emergency response plan, have it translated into Russian, and keep it in your car and your wallet/billfold. This plan should answer the questions: "What would I want people to do if they found me unconscious"
2. Call your insurance/assistance company early in the event of a problem
Make a "check" call when you are not in trouble to ensure the phone number is valid and that you can reach someone who speaks your language. Check that they can do what you would want them to do in the event of an emergency. Do they have the necessary authority to act, and sufficient local personnel and infrastructure to act quickly?
If you have medical and evacuation insurance - and it is recommended that you have both - be sure that the company will agree to evacuate you or repatriate you in the event of a serious medical emergency. Disregard the marketing brochures; fax them a scenario or two and ask them to tell you what they would do. If they will not agree to commit in writing, find a better provider.
3. In the event of an emergency, speed up the response by volunteering the minimum required information logically and clearly
Name and telephone number where you can be reached if the line is cut off
Membership number of company affiliation
Brief description of the medical problem and what kind of help you need
Location of patient and location of passport (vital for overseas medical evacuation)
In certain circumstances, it may be required or recommended to go abroad for medical reasons. As in many other countries, one cannot leave Russian without proper travel documents. Therefore, have your travel documents up to date and accessible at all times. To obtain a special authorization to leave and enter countries without proper travel documents is a difficult and time-consuming process and success cannot be guaranteed.
At all times know the status and whereabouts of your and your family's passports. Never allow your travel documents to be taken from you overnight or over the week unless you know you can retrieve in an emergency.
Important Phone Numbers
Fire fighters 101
Police 102
Ambulance 103
Emergency Gas Service 104
Intercity phone calls 107
Information 109
Time (automatic clock) 100
Emergency rescue service +7 (495) 937-9911 or 911
International SOS (The Moscow Clinic, 24 hour service to its clients)
American Medical Centers (24 hours service)
European Medical Center (French, British and American experts)
International crisis Line
Tel: 8 926 1133373
This is a free English-speaking telephone counseling service for expatriates people in distress. Available 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
In case you ever have to call the fire fighters, the police, or an ambulance, make sure that all family members can correctly pronounce your complete address in Russian.
Post a piece of paper with your full address details and phone numbers in Russian and translation into your native language on the wall next to your phone.
Also make sure that your children know how to reach you or another adult you trust in case they get lost or have an emergency.
Note that in Russia there is difference between the police (militsiya) and the traffic police (GIBDD, formerly GAI). The police are not responsible for regulating traffic or handling car accidents, and the traffic police do not handle criminal offences that are unrelated to traffic.
Pharmacies (Apteki)
Finding a pharmacy in Moscow is definitely not a problem. In fact, quite a few number of them are open 24/7. The prices vary from one pharmacy to another, but the difference is not very significant.
Information on pharmacies in Moscow
Embassies and Consulates
Your country's embassy or consulate can:
Provide information on Russia's foreign-residency requirements;
Renew an expired passport or replace a lost or stolen one;
Report a birth in Russia to your home country;
Provide guidelines for getting married in Russia;
Help make arrangements in the case of a death;
Assist in voter registration and obtaining absentee ballots;
Register its citizens residing in Russia (so that they can be contacted in case of an emergency);
Certify copies of documents in you home country's language.
Please remember that anyone temporarily or permanently residing in Russia is subject to Russian legislation. Any private or public disputes must be settled through the Russian legal system. Diplomatic or consular officials are not authorized to practice law or to act as an attorney or agents in private matters. They should, however, be able to provide you with contact details for attorneys who can represent you in court.
36.Relocation Guide :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
2. Local Residential Moves
If you are planning to relocate within Moscow, or to another city in Russia, Allied Pickfords Moscow can meet all your requirements at excellent rates. Please call us for a free survey and quotation for your local door-to-door move. The initial process for a local move is similar to that for an international relocation: We normally carry out a pre-move survey in order to determine the volume of your move and the items involved, and to find out about any special requirements you might have. After the survey we will provide you with a detailed written proposal for your move. At your request, Allied Pickfords Moscow will dismantle your curtain rails, curtains, blinds, and light fixtures and can re-install them at your new residence. Likewise we can re-hang your paintings in your new home. Full replacement insurance cover is available.
37.The History of Moscow::Ancient Times and Rise of Moscow (5th-15th centuries)::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Ancient Times

In the 5th-6th centuries the ancestors of Eastern Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians) spread over vast territory from the Carpathians in the West to upper Don-river in the East and from Ladoga lake in the North to the region of the Dnepr-river in the South. On their way the Slavs assimilated many tribes, for instance, Finno-Ugric. Signs of these international contacts are still registered in the Russian language, even the toponym Moscow is said to be of Finno-Ugric origin. The Slavs gradually formed big tribal unions (polyane, drevlyane, vyatichi), powerful enough to make raids on the greatest empire of those days, Byzantium, forcing Byzantian leaders to write manuscripts "How to fight Slavic barbarians".
In the 6th-7th centuries one of those unions, led by Kiy, established the city of Kiev, which was to become the capital of the ancient Russian State known as Kievian Rus. Princes of many small principalities were constantly fighting for power so an interesting decision was made to solve the problem: the Varangians (Vikings) were invited to rule the country. One of them, Ryurik, settled in Novgrod to found a dynasty, which would lead Russia to prosperity and glory, Ryurikovichi dynasty. Among his famous descendants were Prince Oleg and Prince Vladimir. Prince Oleg, the great warrior, conquered Constantinople and united Novgorod and Kiev establishing Kievian Rus. In 988 Prince Vladimir baptised Russia into Orthodox Christianity predetermining the future of Russia for many centuries.
Moscow was mentioned for the first time in chronicles under the year 1147. It was a small fortress and didn't play any important role until the 14th century.
The Mongol-Tatar Invasion
Kievian Rus consisted of many principalities, each with a prince eager to reign in Kiev. Their avidity and thirst for power caused many bloody intrigues and intestine strives. This led to disunion and weakening of the state. As a result in 1237 Russians fell easy victims to the well-organized Mongolian troops under the leadership of Batu Khan. In 1237 Tatar-Mongolian army occupied Ryazan, then Moscow, Vladimir, Kozelsk and finally in 1240 "the Mother of Russian cities", Kiev, was conquered and burnt down by the bellicose nomads. The fall of Kiev signified the decline of the Kievian Rus. For the next 240 years abased Russia paid exorbitant yearly tributes to the khans, though Russian princes were allowed to govern the country themselves.
Rise of Moscow

A proverb says: "Every cloud has a silver lining". Indeed, this difficult situation gave Moscow a chance to rise and to become one of the most influential principalities. In the 14th century Moscow Prince Ivan I Kalita ("Moneybags") was appointed chief "tax-collector"; this fact obviously gave Moscow supremacy over its neighbours. Yet Moscow was advantageously situated in the centre of many trade routes, which allowed the city to flourish. Ivan Kalita (1325-1340) was a very clever and cruel ruler, able to move heaven and earth in order to get what he wanted. During his reign Metropolitan See was transferred to Moscow to prove its importance; gradually Moscow became the richest principality and turned out to be a real threat to the Tatar-Mongolian power.
50 years later Mongolian army suffered their first ever defeat (known as the Battle of Kulikovo) from the reunited forces of many separate principalities led by Ivan Kalita's grandson, the Grand Prince of Moscow Principality Dmitry Donskoy (1359-1389). The centralization of Russian lands around Moscow began.
Anyhow, it was not until the reign of Ivan III (1462-1505), Dmitry Donskoy's grandson, that the unification of Russian principalities around Moscow was completed and the Tatar yoke was finally shaken off. Ivan the Third married Sofia Paleolog, the niece of the last Emperor of Byzantium, that had fallen to the Ottomans in 1453. Probably Sofia presented the country with the coat of arms - double-headed eagle - which is said to be of Byzantine origin. Ivan's marriage provoked the idea of Russia being the one and only successor of the Great Constantinople and the only true defender of Orthodoxy. Moscow was often referred to as "the Third Rome": the "First Rome", or the ancient one, perished because of its adherence to paganism; the "Second Rome" - Constantinople - collapsed because of its treason of Orthodoxy. Moscow became the "Third Rome" and the "Forth one" would never appear. Ivan the Third initiated the reconstruction of Kremlin in stone and he was also the one to thank for the erection of brick walls around Kremlin and the area of Kitai-Gorod.
38.Visas :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
One of the most immediate considerations a foreign national will face upon coming to Russia is compliance with Russia’s immigration system. This overview of the Russian immigration regulations sets out the procedures needed to be taken by a foreign individual, and his employer, to try to ensure that individual fulfils the requirements of the Russian legislation whilst he is visiting and/or working in Russia. However, the system is somewhat Byzantine in its complexity, and immigration regulations are evolving rapidly, both in technical terms and, more importantly, in how they are practically enacted. Hence, constant vigilance is required to keep abreast of the current status. There is significant risk in assuming that a process that has worked in the past will work again in the future, even where there are no formal technical changes to the regulations.
While it's become a lot easier to get a Russian visa, don't think your problems are over when you've received yours. If you make a false step while running the gauntlet of registration and (if necessary) getting a work permit, you face fines, hassles and maybe even arrest and deportation. This is why Expats who can afford to, take a more expensive, but far less stressful route: they use one of the many visa services. The agencies stay abreast of the changing rules and regulations and can cope with the bureaucracy, from start to finish.
Getting a Visa
First, plan ahead. It usually takes anywhere from four to six weeks to get a Russian visa, although it is technically possible to get one in as little as one day. To get a visa, you need first to get an invitation from a Russian organization. This can be a Russian firm, government organization, educational institution, or a representative office of a foreign firm. Some international hotels can also arrange a visa invitation. The invitation is issued through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Moscow, which in turn either sends a telex to the specified Russian consulate abroad instructing that a visa be issued or gives you a invitation which you can then take into a Russian Consulate. Visa service organizations are in the business of issuing these invitations for a fee (which includes the fee paid to the MFA for processing the invitation). Keep in mind that the Russian consulate abroad also charges a fee, which is in addition to the fee you pay to the visa service company.
Once you're notified that your telex has arrived at the consulate, bring your passport, a completed visa application form, and the required fee (it varies from consulate to consulate). If you're applying for a multiple entry visa, you are officially required to present the results of an HIV test conducted during the preceding three months. Most Medical Centers in Moscow offer this service. The truth is that not all consulates bother to ask for one, but in case you are asked, it's better to be safe than sorry. The fees you pay for the issuance of the invitation and for the visa itself vary, depending on how quickly you want to receive the document.
Tourist visas are usually issued for one month, while the others are issued for anywhere from three months to one year. The short-term visas are almost always single entry-exit visas, while the longer-term visas usually allow you to make three trips into and out of Russia. Multiple-entry visas allow you to enter and leave the country as many times as you wish.
In some countries the Russian Consulate may have franchised-out the job of issuing visas to a specialized agency or computer-centre. In this case you can no longer apply directly to the Consulate, but must take your documents to this agency instead. In theory this is supposed to streamline the application process, but in practice no real improvements have been noticed. There will usually be Consular Officers of the Russian Federation working at the centre, supervising the clerical work done by the staff and resolving any procedural queries.
There are four main areas of compliance required for most foreign nationals and parties linked with them when coming to (and leaving) Russia. These are:
Immigration card;
Work permits/Residency permits.
Basically, the type of Russian visa is determined by the individual's purpose of visit; this, in turn, governs the scope of activities that an expatriate may be engaged while in Russia under the certain type of visa.
Transit Visa
If your travel plans take you through Moscow on a connecting flight (or train) to another country, you are entitled to obtain a three-day transit visa. This will enable you to get out into the city instead of remaining in the transit hotel. You will need to evidence your journey at the Consulate with the actual air ticket (original - photocopies, itineraries, or email confirmations are not accepted). You can only obtain a transit visa if you are going via Moscow to somewhere else - a straight return ticket to/from Moscow would not be sufficient. Again, a visa agency or hosting organization can arrange this for you in advance, and will have someone meet you when you step off the plane. It is technically possible to obtain a transit visa when arriving at major airports, although in practice this is not so easy.
Business Visas
A business visa is foreseen for foreign nationals coming to Russia for business purposes, including participation in negotiations, conferences and consultations, making contracts and professional improvement. A business visa does not empower foreign individuals to hold official positions in Russian legal entities, represent them, or perform work in Russia under the civil or employment agreements. Importantly, business visas also cover some persons coming on “montage” or “chef-montage” activity, where they are helping put imported machinery into production or servicing it for the foreign vendor. Generally, business visas are issued based on invitations from Russian hosts and issued via Russian consulates outside Russia. The validity period of a single or a dual business visas is three months.
Multiple-entry business visas, like work visas, are valid for 12 months. However, these are restricted, so they only allow the foreign national to be present in Russia for no more than 90 days in any 180-day period. Once the visa expires, the foreign individual has to leave Russia, as business visas cannot be reissued in Russia. Russia has a number of immigration treaties, most notably with the EU (excluding the UK, Ireland and Denmark), which can extend the length of the validity of business visas up to five years.
Work Visas
A work visa is intended for foreign individuals coming in Russia to work or render services under an employment or a civil agreement respectively. By contrast with a business visa, a work visa allows an expatriate to occupy a position in the Russian company (or representative office or branch of a foreign company) indicated in the individual work permit and to act in an official capacity for this company. Initially, a single-entry work visa is issued by a consulate outside Russia for three months only based on the employer's invitation. The employer may further apply for an extended multiple-entry work visa upon expatriate’s arrival in Russia.
Foreign nationals are required to stay in Russia during the application process and issuance of the multiple entry work visa. The validity period of a work visa is linked to the validity period of the expatriate’s work permit (or accreditation card issued for accredited person working in a representative office or branch of a foreign company), but cannot exceed one year. If the employment agreement remains in force upon the visa's expiry, a new multiple-entry work visa can be obtained, provided that there is a new individual work permit.
Visa for "Inosotrudniki"
This is a special type of work visa issued for accredited expatriate employees of foreign companies operating in Russia through its representative offices or branches. In practice, this is an easier visa to obtain from an administrative perspective, as it separates the visa application from the work permit.
Family Visas
Spouses and children of relocating expatriates can apply for visas in the same way as the executive. An ‘Accompanying Spouse Visa’ and/or ‘Dependent’s Visa’ can be obtained at the same time as the expatriate applies for his/ her own visa. Talk with your HR department to make certain that this process is carried out at the same time as your visa application.
Upon arrival in Russia, each foreign national should complete and retain the stamped half of the immigration card. This card contains information about the arrival and departure of the individual in and from Russia, as well as the period of his or her stay in Russia. This document is delivered to each foreign citizen by the Russian border control authorities. The foreigner should keep the immigration card during his whole stay in Russia. If the immigration card is damaged or lost, the foreign national should notify the local immigration authorities within three days, and they may further issue a duplicate upon presenting the documents based on which the individual entered Russia (passport and visa, if applicable).
Upon departure from Russia, the foreign national should return the original immigration card at the Russian border control. Failure to return the immigration card is considered to be a violation and may lead to the formal deportation of a foreign individual from Russia. If deported, the individual will not be able to enter Russia for the next five years.
Registering your Immigration Card
The process for registering your immigration card will be exactly the same as it was for registering a visa. If you are staying in an apartment, you will need a notarized letter from your landlord
Once you've arrived in Russia, you are legally required to register within three working days (72 hours) with OVIR, the agency that registers foreigners in Russia. This is done a number of ways depending on where you will live while staying in Russia and whether your visa is multiple entry or not. If your visa is multiple-entry, you must register at the Central OVIR. Bring the original letter of invitation from your sponsoring organization, your migration card, passport, and a notarized letter from your landlord.
If you lived in a hotel during the first few days of your stay and then moved to a private residence, do not make the mistake of thinking you are registered. You still need to have your card registered at OVIR at your permanent address in Russia. And if that's not enough, you might need yet another letter if you've gotten your visa invitation from a foreign rep office. This will need to be a letter from the Russian organization that accredits the rep office.
For single and double entry visas, you can register simply by having your sponsoring organization stamp your migration card. You will need a Central OVIR registration as well, however, if you intend to marry in Russia or buy a car. If you are living only in a hotel during your stay, the hotel will register you. But count your stamps. Your card will be stamped once when you check in, and a second time when you check out. Some people think that the first stamp is sufficient. It is not. Most visa service companies will handle the OVIR registration process, saving you the wait in line.
What Happens if you Don't Register
You can be fined if you don't quite get your registration right and in some very rare cases can even be deported. And if you are found out at the airport, it can cost you several hundred dollars in fines not to mention the hassle of having to miss your flight and spend a couple of more days in Moscow to get an exit visa from Central OVIR.
Enrolment is the process of notifying the immigration authorities of a foreign citizen’s whereabouts (international travel as well as internal trips within Russia). Upon arrival in Russia, each foreign national should be enrolled (registered) in the Russian migration system at his host location. Enrolment, as well as de-enrolment should be completed in respect of the foreign national by the hosting party: either by hotel, or by employer (visa sponsor), or landlord (whichever is applicable). In practice, most landlords are unwilling to perform this role.
This process is to be completed within 3 business days upon arrival, each time an individual arrives to the country or travels to another region within Russia for more than 3 business days. The de-enrolment process should be completed within 2 calendar days of the departure, every time a foreign national departs from Russia or leaves for another region within Russia for more than 3 business days. It is recommendable that the individual hold a copy of the enrolment/de-enrolment form while travelling in Russia or outside.
Further, as the fines for non-compliance with the enrolment requirement are rather high, each foreign employee will typically need to notify his or her employer on any trip within or out of the country, even if this is personal trip, so that the procedure can be carried out.
When your Visa Expires
Visas can be renewed for a week or two when they are expiring - long enough to allow you to finish what you're doing and leave the country. If your visa cannot be renewed you need to apply for a new one. This usually necessitates a trip out of the country, although some agencies do offer visas that don't require you to leave. As a rule the more established visa firms do not offer such services. Given the lead time to obtaining a new visa, allow at least one month between the time you apply for a new visa and the expiration of your current one.
39.The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
The History of Moscow
The first reference to Moscow dates back to 1147 when Yuri Dolgoruky called upon the Prince of Novgorod-Seversky: "come to me, brother, to Moscow". Nine years later, in 1147, Prince Yuri Dolgorukov of Rostov ordered the construction of a wooden wall - which was to be rebuilt multiple times - to surround the emerging city. The city replaced Tver and became the capital of Vladimir-Suzdal during the reign of Ivan I. In 1480, Ivan III won a great victory against the Tatars and made Moscow the capital of the new Russian Empire that soon included all Russia and Siberia. Despite destruction by fires and Mongol and Tatar invasions, Moscow expanded until it became the national capital in the 16th century - when Ivan IV, Prince of Moscow, took the title "tsar". Peter the Great moved the capital to St.-Petersburg in 1712, and a consequent period of decline followed in Moscow. The city was burnt down again in 1812 during the war with Napoleon's France but was rebuilt and expanded rapidly as an industrial and communications center. After the 1917 Revolution Moscow again became the national capital in 1918 and has continued to grow in both size and influence, particularly since the end of WW2, to become the country's leading industrial, cultural and political center.
Ancient Times and Rise of Moscow (5th-15th Centuries)
Ivan the Terrible and the Times of Troubles (16th-17th Centuries) The Origin of Romanovy Dynasty (17th Century)
Reign of Peter the Great (Late 17th-18th Centuries)
Palace Revolutions and Catherine the Great (18th Century) Russia in the 19th Century
October Revolution (1917)
Soviet Union (1920-50s)
From Thaw to Perestroika (1950-90s)
Present Times
40.Real Estate Primer::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Real Estate Primer
The majority of people who come to Moscow on a long-term employment contract are faced with the problem of finding a proper residence. You can opt for staying downtown and enjoying the entertainment, shopping and night life options the city has to offer. Families that come to Moscow with children would rather opt for staying in Moscow outskirts, the so-called cottage settlement, in order to provide safer ecological conditions for the children, sacrificing a considerable amount of time towards travelling to and from work.
Unlike many other larger cities, there is no real division between residential and business areas in Moscow yet. This means that wherever in the center you choose to settle, you will have easy access to shopping centers, supermarkets and cultural life. At the same time you will be able to enjoy the many smaller parks, quiet side streets and yards, and the historical charm of central Moscow.
In Russia, residential properties are categorized to the total number of rooms. Kitchen and bathrooms are not included in the room count (i.e. they are not counted as separate rooms). For example, a three-room apartment is an apartment with a living room and two other rooms (e.g. a bedroom and a study or two bedrooms), as well as kitchen and one (or more) bathrooms. Apartment size in Russia is indicated in square meters (m²). There are 10.7 square feet to one square meter.
In Russia, the concept of a ground floor is not common. Floor numbering usually starts from the very first floor, which may be residential or commercial. The first and the top are usually the least desirable, and rent should be cheaper that on the floor in-between.
Electricity: The power supply is 220V AC, 50 Hz.
Gas: While gas heaters are quickly disappearing from Moscow's apartment buildings, gas is still commonly used for cooking.
Water: Water is piped and, although officially safe to drink, is better avoided.
Heating: The heating system in Moscow is central and turned off from mid-April to mid-October.
Pre-Revolutionary Buildings
There are many beautiful pre-revolutionary apartment blocks in the center of the city, and many of the apartments have been tastefully renovated. The apartments in the pre-revolutionary buildings are very popular among expatriates due to their spaciousness, charm, and character. The major attractive features of these buildings include their traditionally high ceilings and large windows.
Stalin Buildings
Specific features of these buildings include high ceilings, large windows, and green yards. They tend to be nice and warm in winter due to their thick walls. The Stalin Blocks include the so-called Stalin Skyscrapers, of which there are seven in Moscow. Four of them are apartment buildings. One is located right outside metro Barrikadnaya, close to the US Embassy; one is on Kotelnicheskaya nab.; one is right outside metro Krasnye Vorota; and the last one is part of the Radisson Royal Hotel (former Ukraine Hotel), located right at the beginning of Kutuzovsky prosp. The combination of their architecture, spectacular views, and good security make them popular with expatriates.
Ministerial Buildings
Most of these buildings were built in the 1970s and early 1980s and were considered the first VIP blocks in Soviet times. Today they are popular for their clean entrance, good security (most of them have a fenced-in yard and twenty-four hour security), secure parking, large windows and balconies, and lots of built-in storage space.
VIP Apartment Buildings
This new generation buildings include Western developments and newly-constructed elite compounds. These buildings usually have a concierge, nice entrance, as well as equipped kitchens, air conditioning, and electronic alarm and fire control systems. Many also feature twenty-four hour security, an underground parking garage, or a private fenced-in yard. Some have a gym, sauna, and/or swimming pool.
Western Developments
While some are located in the city center, others are located outside of the Garden Ring. They offer professional on-site property management and good security. Townhouses in gated communities catering to expatriates and the Russian nouveau riche are also available. There are bargains to be had. Rental prices can sometimes be reduced by 10 to 30% from the original price depending on how long the apartment has been on the market; what the landlord's main interest is (price or timing); the type of building and its location; and the season. The basic rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the center of Moscow or to a metro station, the more you will have to pay.
What You Can Expect to Pay for Rent
Rental prices in Moscow can range from $ 600 a month for a Soviet-style studio or one-bedroom apartment far from the city center to $10,000 and $20,000 a month for a luxury apartment in downtown Moscow. Generally, rental rates for Western-style housing in Moscow are very high and are comparable to those in downtown New York, London, or Tokyo. Prices also depend on whether the neighbourhood is industrialized and polluted or green with parks and trees. Remember to ask your real estate agent whether taxes, such as VAT, are included in the quoted rental price or not.
What You Should and Should not Pay for
Expatriate residential expenses in Russia usually consist of monthly (or quarterly) rental payments. Rent should include all municipal facilities such as water, heating, and building maintenance. Electricity, gas bills and the monthly phone line subscription fee are usually excluded from the monthly rent because the final sum depends on how much, e.g. gas or electricity you use each month. Charges for electricity and gas are still very low in Russia and shouldn't add more than a few dollars to your monthly rental costs. In addition to this, you will of course have to pay the phone bill for any inter-city and international phone calls, as well as the monthly subscription fee for satellite TV.
When renting an apartment through a real estate agency, be prepared to pay a commission fee equal to one month rent. When making the first rental payment to the landlord, you will usually also be expected to pay a one-month security deposit, which is then used as the rent for the last month of your stay in the apartment or house. When negotiating your rental contract, make sure it clearly states who has to pay for what in order to avoid problems later on.
41.Tourism::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Moscow has a growing number of first-class international hotels and several smaller hostels that offer quality accommodation at more reasonable price. A hotel can be called a "gostinitsa" or an "otel" in Russian. If you intend to stay at a hotel with your pet, make sure that this is possible - not all hotels in Moscow allow pets.
The present Moscow hotel market in general can be divided into 5 groups:
luxury 4-5-star hotels;
tourist-class hotels;
small private 3-4-star hotels;
former ex-Soviet and present hotels of the state departments;
country hotels.
As for 4-5-star hotels, the majority of them are owned or managed by the western hospitality companies (such are "Marriott", "Sheraton", and "Kempinski"). But though some of them in fact belong to the city and are administered by purely Russian management, it doesn't mean a low quality of service.
Hotels of the second category in most cases still carry some features of Soviet time. It is reflected in general management, as well as in the level of service and equipment. Anyway central hotels of this category have no problems with visitors. This determines their price policy: $100-350 per day for a room.
The service standards in 4-5-star hotels have much in common with the western ones. The compulsory set of the facilities includes: parking, safe, room service, satellite TV, business centre (with internet access, copying, faxing, etc.), air conditioning, telephone, mini-bar, different stalls. Depending on the hotel you may be offered a fitness-centre, swimming pool, beauty salon, conference-halls, no-smoking rooms, concierge's services. Unfortunately most of the hotels, even expensive ones, have no conveniences for disabled people.
The prices in the majority of Moscow hotels are quoted in USD, but will be charged in roubles at the prevailing rate. Be careful: many hotels don't include 20% VAT into their prices. According to Russian laws all the payments are received in roubles. The rate of exchange in the hotel may be higher than one for which you've changed money.
Nearly all the hotels accept credit cards, but there are hotels and restaurants which for some reasons don't accept American Express cards. Travelling with children, you should check the amount of the additional payment, which may vary from 0 to 50% depending on the hotel and a child's age.
Movements of Personal Effects
An individual can temporarily bring goods weighing up to 50 kg and valued up to EUR 1500 duty-free into Russia. Individuals shall be charged 30% of the customs value of the imported goods exceeding EUR 1500, but not less than EUR 4.0 per kg in excess of the limit.
Travel Agencies
There are hundreds of travel agencies in Moscow: some specialize in ticket sales, others offer full tour and vacation packages, some specialize in tours to certain countries or continents, and yet others specialize in adventure and nature travel.
Car Rental
If you do not have your own car and feel like doing a bit of driving on your own after having settled in and having acquainted yourself with the Russian style of driving and traffic regulations, you may want to rent a car for a few days to explore Moscow and its surroundings on your own.
While you may come across a map with a bilingual street index, good English-language maps of Moscow are very difficult to find. In order to use maps you will have to know the Russian alphabet - otherwise you won't be able to look up streets in the index. You can purchase these maps at many bookstores, magazine and newspaper kiosks, and gas stations. The larger bookstores should also have maps for Moscow's suburbs and other cities in Russia.
Address in Moscow
While looking for a certain house in Moscow you should keep in mind the following things:
1. You need to know whether the house you are looking for is on the street (ulitsa), a lane (pereulok), an avenue (prospect), a boulevard (bulvar), an embankment (naberezhnaya).
2. Several streets in Moscow have numbers in front of them. For example, there is a 1st, a 2nd , 3rd and 5th Tverskaya-Yamskaya ulitsa.
3. You must also know whether a house is, for example, located on Bolshaya (big) Ordynka or Malaya (Small) Ordynka. There are many other examples of streets and lanes which exist twice - as a "big one" and a "small one".
4. A house (dom) can have several buildings (korpus or stroenie) to it. Usually the individual buildings are numbered (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), but sometimes they may have letters such as A, B, V, G, D.
5. Also make sure you ask for the entrance number. (There can be up to 20 of them in one house).
6. Google Maps cover Moscow very well, and the Russian search-engine Yandex has a similarly good street-finding map service.
If you were happy with the food and the service at a restaurant, a 5 to 10% tip is appropriate. Try to tip your waiter in cash; if you add the tip to your credit card bill, the waiter will most likely never see the money. (In practice the way that credit-card payments are processed in Russia doesn't permit you to add tips in the huge majority of restaurants anyhow). You may also want to give small tips to handymen and plumbers.
Taxi drivers are not usually tipped, but you may want to pay them some extra money if they help you to carry your bags. Hotel/restaurant coatroom attendants are not normally tipped, but as these are often elderly ladies or men, they may appreciate a small token of appreciation. You don't tip coatroom attendants in public buildings, theatres, etc. It's usual to tip guides and interpreters if you've been satisfied with their work - very often their agency will be taking a large part of the fee you've paid.
Russian is the basic language spoken in Moscow and in Russia in general, but you may hear many other languages spoken on the streets as Moscow welcomes lots of immigrants from the former CIS republics. A basic course in Russian comes highly recommended as in most cases, signs, road names and practically everything you see in Russia will be written in Cyrillic, so getting a good grip of the alphabet is key.
Even if you don't learn Russian, being able to read the alphabet will make a quantum improvement in your ability to move around independently, and will quickly repay the time spent in real savings. Practice by writing-out familiar words (your name, address, your friends, etc) using the Russian alphabet.
42.Communication & Postal Services::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Communication & Postal Services
Russian post services handle all kinds of communications, including local and international postal services, registered mail (incoming and outgoing), stamps, telegrams, intercity and international phone calls, newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Box rentals, intercity and international call services may only be available at the Main Post Office. Post offices (pochta) are located all over Moscow; each neighbourhood has at least one.
Moscow's Main Post Office (Moskovsky Glavpochtamt) is located at Myasnitskaya ul., 26, metro Turgenevskaya or Chistye Prudy. It is open 24/7. A convenient, centrally located post office is the Central Telegraph (Tsentralny Telegraph) at Tverskaya ul., 7, just up the hill from the National Hotel. Moscow's Main International Post Office is located at Varshavskoye sh., 37, metro Nagatinskaya.
Sending and Receiving Mail
If you want your friends and relatives to send you mail from abroad to your home or work address, make sure you provide them with the complete address. One of the most important items in your address is the postal index (equivalent to zip code), which consists of six numbers. Find out the index of your home address from your landlord; that of your work should be printed on your business car. An incorrect index will result in your mail being sent to the wrong post office in Moscow, which will delay delivery as your mail will have to be re-sent to the post office that handles your area.
For incoming mail, it is okay if the address is written in English. Ask your friends to clearly print all letters. (Capital letters are best). You might also want to e-mail or fax them your address in Russian printed letters so that they can copy in onto the envelope. Outgoing international mail can obviously also be address in English, but it helps if you spell out the name of the country to which you are sending your postcard, letter or parcel in English and in Russian.
If you want to send a letter or parcel from Russia, you should address it as follows:
country (only for international mail, including that to the former republics);
index and city;
street, building number, entrance number, apartment number;
last name, first name and patronymic (the latter only if applicable).
Public mail boxes are blue with the word "Pochta" written on them in white letters. They are available all over town and each post office usually has one outside (attached to the wall) and one inside. Regular mail will be delivered to the mail box (pochtovy yashchik) inside your building or to your office reception.
If someone sent you a registered letter or parcel and you are not at home when the post office attempts to deliver it, they will put a slip of paper in your post box notifying you of its arrival. The paper will also say at which post office you can retrieve your mail. You must complete the back of the slip which asks for your name, address in Moscow, passport details (issued where, when and by which agency). You must then show your original passport to receive your mail. If you fail to show up within several days of the notification, you might have to pay storage charges.
The Russian post service is still a bit unreliable - an airmail letter from Moscow to another country can take anywhere from three weeks to three months to arrive; the same applies to incoming mail. Important items and documents should only be sent by registered mail. A registered letter is called "zakaznoye pismo"; a registered parcel is called "zakaznaya pasylka". The best (but also the most expensive) option will be express mail company.
Making Phone Calls within Moscow
When dialed from your home landline, phone calls within Moscow are still free of charge. Unless you live in a residential compound or hotel, which might require you to dial a number such as 0 or 9 to get access to an outside line, you just pick up the phone and dial the number. The majority of landline phone numbers in Moscow consists of seven digits. As Moscow has two area codes (495 or 499), sometimes you have to dial eleven digits (if case with 499 code). The same applies to making a phone call to a federal mobile number.
Making Phone Calls to Other Cities in Russia
Phone calls to other cities in Russia are still quite affordable. To reach a phone number in another city in Russia, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 55 or 53, then dial the area code of the city you are calling followed by the local number. For example, to call someone in St.Petersburg, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 55 or 53, then dial 812 (the area code for St.Petersburg) and the local phone number.
Making Calls to Other Countries
It is fairly easy to make an international phone call from a standard Russian telephone line, and normally you will get through even to remote locations. To access an outside line, dial 8 and wait for the tone. Then dial 10, followed by the country code, the city code and the local phone number you want to reach. For example, to call a number in the US, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 10 followed by 1 (the country code for the US) followed by the area code and local number.
If the city code starts with a 0 (e.g. in the UK and Germany), do not dial the 0 and start with the first non-zero number after it. For example, to call London, you would dial 8-10-44-208 followed by the local number (instead of 8-10-0208). When giving friends abroad your phone number in Moscow, remember to tell them the country code for Russia is 7 and the area codes for Moscow are 495 or 499. Your landlord will for sure tell you your area code. If you have a seven-digit home or office number or a direct Moscow mobile number, they need to dial +7 495 111 11 11.
Information on international dialing codes
Mobile Phones and Mobile Communication
The mobile phone market works slightly differently in Russia than in other countries, particularly the US. Service companies do not throw in the handset for free as part of your sign-up package. When you sign-up for service, you will receive a SIM card, which contains all of your account information. The card can be inserted into any unlocked handset (the great majority of handsets on sale in Russia are unlocked). When you purchase your SIM card and phone, be sure to keep all of the paper work that you are given in a safe place. If you lose your phone, call your service provider immediately so that they can freeze your account. In most cases, they can reissue you a new SIM card and you can retain your old number, service package and account balance. Mobile phones are available from numerous stores and shops all over town. At most of them you can get your new phone connected on the spot through the provider of your choice. There are 3 major phone operators in Moscow: Beeline, Megafon and MTS. They all offer a wide range of services and payment plans.
Two different kinds of mobile phone numbers are currently available in Moscow: a direct number and non-direct/federal number. A direct number is a seven-digit number, just like any other Moscow number, and can be accessed from any home, office or other mobile phone. A federal number consists of the number 8 followed by a three-digit area code such as 916, 926, 960 and a seven-digit number. Service charges for a direct number are more expensive than for the non-direct/federal number option. All major phone operator in Moscow offer an international roaming.
If you want to send an SMS to a direct Moscow mobile number you need to enter +7 495 followed by the seven-digit number.
You can top up your mobile phone in a variety of ways:
You can purchase mobile phone cards, that are sold everywhere from supermarkets to kiosks.
You can use multi-kassas - special devices that are on every corner and that look a little bit like ATMs. Usually when you pay with multi-kassa, you have to pay extra commission about 2-5%. In some mobile phone shops (like Svyaznoi) there are multi-kassas without extra commission.
You can top up your phone in any mobile phone shop. No commission is taken.
You can pay by your credit card directly via ATM.
You can top up your phone transmitting money form your bank account via Internet-banking.
Pay Phones
A pay phone is called a "taksofon" in Russian. You will find several different types of pay phones in Moscow. Some work with tokens, which are sold in kiosks and in metro stations; others work with pre-paid phone cards. Some allow you to make local, national and international calls while others are only for local calls. A particular kind of phone card will only work with particular kinds of pay phones, i.e. there are no universal pay phone cards.
Internet Service & Satellite TV Providers
There are many internet service providers in Moscow offering high-speed broadband internet access, as well as ADSL high-speed access with Akado, Stream and Corbina being the most popular ones. Prices for internet access are moderate compared to Europe and USA with the cheapest tariff rates starting from about 250 Rbs. Moscow features lots of free Wi-Fi hotspots available in restaurant, cafes, clubs, hotels and other public places, though internet cafes with wired internet access are also at your service. Satellite TV is getting more and more popular in Moscow. Major satellite TV providers are listed here.
43.International Dialing Codes :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
International Dialing Codes
Making Phone Calls Within Moscow
When dialed from your home landline, phone calls within Moscow are still free of charge. Unless you live in a residential compound or hotel, which might require you to dial a number such as 0 or 9 to get access to an outside line, you just pick up the phone and dial the number.
The majority of landline phone numbers in Moscow consist of seven digits. As Moscow has two area codes (495 and 499), sometimes you have to dial eleven digits (depending if you're calling between the two). The same applies to making a phone call to a federal mobile number.
Making Phone Calls to Other Cities in Russia
Phone calls to other cities in Russia are still quite affordable. To reach a phone number in another city in Russia, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 55 or 53, then dial the area code of the city you are calling followed by the local number. For example, to call someone in St-Petersburg, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 55 or 53, then dial 812 (the area code for St-Petersburg) and the local phone number.
Making Calls to Other Countries
It is fairly easy to make an international phone call from a standard Russian telephone line, and normally you will get through even to remote locations.
To access an outside line, dial 8 and wait for the tone. Then dial 10, followed by the country code, the city code and the local phone number you want to reach.
For example, to call a number in the US, dial 8, wait for the tone, then dial 10 followed by 1 (the country code for the US) followed by the area code and local number.
If the city code starts with a 0 (e.g., in the UK and Germany), do not dial the 0 and start with the first non-zero number after it. For example, to call London, you would dial 8-10-44-208 followed by the local number (instead of 8-10-0208).
When giving friends abroad your phone number in Moscow, remember to tell them the country code for Russia is 7 and the area codes for Moscow are 495 and 499. Your landlord will for sure tell you your area code.
If you have a seven-digit home or office number or a direct Moscow mobile number, they need to dial +7 495 111 11 11.
You can buy international prepaid calling cards (in kiosks around Moscow, notably the orange "A La Carte" kiosks) which offer considerable savings on calls. Some cards have optimized tariffs for different countries, so buy one which suits your needs best. The quality of connection can sometimes be spotty with the cheapest of these cards.
Paying your Domestic Phone Bill
Once a month you'll find a small slip of paper in your mailbox with some printing on it. That's your phone bill for long distance and international calls - no envelope, and very easy to miss in the clutter of junk mail.
To pay the bill:
You can go down to the local Sberbank and get in line;
You can use multi-kassas - special devices that are on every corner and that look a little bit like ATMs. Usually when you pay with multi-kassa, you have to pay extra commission about 2-5%;
You can pay by your credit card directly via ATM;
You can transmit money form your bank account via Internet-banking.
Once you've paid your bill be sure to save it. And if you wait too long to pay the service is cut off.
Bosnia & Gercegovina
British Virgin Islands
Burkina Faso
Congo (Zaire)
Costa Rica
Cape Verde Islands
Cayman Islands
Central African Republic
Christmas Island
Diego Garcia
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Faeroe Islands
Fiji Islands
French Antilles
French Guiana
French Polynesia
Hong Kong
Ivory Coast
Korea (North)
Korea (South)
Maldives Islands
Marshall Islands
Mayotte Island
Myanmar (Burma)
New Zealand
Netherlands Antilles
New Caledonia
Norfolk Island
Papua New Guinea
Reunion Island
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
Sierra Leone
Sri Lanka
Solomon Islands
Seychelles Islands
Tonga Islands
Trinidad Tobago
United Kingdom
U.S. Virgin Islands
Vatican City
Western Samoa
Wallis & Futuna Islands
44.Residential Complexes :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Moscow Oblast, as the Region is called, surrounds the city of Moscow. Combined with the city, the total population is estimated at 12 to 14 million making it the largest and most exciting) city in all of Europe. As Moscow takes its place on the world stage, it is experiencing all the growing pains along with the opportunities.Out-of-town housing has become the housing of choice for well-to-do Russians. Expats have followed them in search of clean air, peace and quiet, and the opportunities that a healthy lifestyle provides. The abundance of new shopping centers includes supermarkets, movie theatres, and an amazing list of internationally known brands.Why live outside the center?Increasingly people choose to live outside for the same reasons as any other major world center: quality of life. The air is fresh and clean, nature is close by, and security concerns are much less. And there is space; space to play with your kids, space to walk the dog, space to relax and the homes themselves are usually bigger than anything in the center. And, it is quiet.Away from the noise and space constraints of the city, children can ride their bikes and enjoy their friends. Cross-country skiing, swimming, horseback riding and tennis are all readily available. The coaching and trainers in Moscow are second to none. Ballet, gymnastics, or the martial arts are all taught in the great Russian sports tradition.Schools are available to kids by school bus or carTwo major schools: The Anglo American School and the school at Rosinka are both located on major residential campuses. This provides a safe learning environment for your kids. School bus transport is available depending on where you live. Shopping is growing rapidlyMany new malls and supermarkets are opening monthly and almost weekly. Out of town locations are easily accessible and have become retailer’s first choice in Moscow. The availability of internationally-known brands is readily comparable with the world’s other great cities.Commuting is comparable to any world capitalThere are morning and evening rush hours. If you leave before or after these times, your commute will be pleasant. Most out-of-town locations are close to the city in terms of actual distances. Take local holidays and seasonal trends into consideration when planning your schedule and all will be well.
The availability and quality of out-town-homes varies widely. Chaotic development, a construction boom, and strong demand make finding the proper community difficult. Traditional dachas are usually stand-alone wooden (old) or brick (new) and are numerous in style and price. However, a word of caution: they come unfinished with little or no support services. Increasingly, dacha communities are springing up trying to address minimum levels of services or security in a slightly more organized fashion.Rosinka, your home in RussiaAlso in the countryside, but just 24 km from the Kremlin is Rosinka, a family-oriented community. We have nearly 270 families from more than 30 nations living on our 54 hectares (140 acres) of countryside. Surrounded on two sides by a National Park and a Federal Forest Reserve, Rosinka is anideal choice for those seeking a healthy lifestyle in a secure and beautiful setting.
Our homes are of the highest quality ranging from 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms to 5 bedrooms, with 5.5 bathrooms. We are clearly the leaders in the suburban residential market. Our motto is that our clients come first - and we have a committed team dedicated to this goal. Rosinka is home to more than 400 children. In 2002 we built a brand new building for our more than 50 pre-schoolers. It is equipped with six classrooms, plus an art-room, playroom, and a kitchen for cooking lessons.
Our Pre-School is adjacent to a beautiful 13,500 square meters (145,000 square feet) Sports Center. There’s a 25-meter heated indoor pool,world-class tennis courts, squash courts and weight room. Kids and their parents can enjoy international level instruction in ballet, gymnastics, karate, judo, yoga, aerobics, swimming, tennis and other sports and activities. A medical doctor has offices in the center and is available round the clock.
For more information on Rosinka Complex contact: Russia, 143442, Moscow rural, Krasnogorsky region, village Angelovo. Tel: (+7 495) 730-3200, Fax: (+7 495) 730-3232 E-mail: Web:
45.Work Permits :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Work Permits
Work Permit Quota Application
Companies wishing to employ foreign nationals in Russia must submit information regarding foreign labor needs forecast (quota applications) to the employment authorities by 1 May of the previous year. Such applications should be broken down by position and by nationality. So, companies have to go through a rather difficult exercise and predict far in advance whom they plan to employ during the next year, and in what role. The authorities would only allow those positions and nationalities that are indicated in the application and are officially allocated to this particular company as quota. This means that a company will be unlikely to be able to change its mind and, for example, seek to hire a French rather than an Italian manager, in the event that the quota application was for an Italian.
The local employment authorities responsible for reviewing these quota applications must, initially, advise failed applicants by mid July, and successful applicants prior to August. Each region then passes its consolidated approvals up to a Federal level, and the national quota is meant to be set (in a database listing each successful company, by location, by position and by nationality) by the end of October for the following year. Approvals made in August can be superseded by this consolidation process. Unfortunately, for the two years in which this practice has been operational, the procedure has not been followed exactly by the authorities. For 2009, the database was not published in the autumn of 2008, and the exact mechanisms for quota allocation were indeed not clear until well into the spring of 2009 itself. For 2010, most regions of Russia completed the summer 2009 rejection and approval notifications, with Moscow being a notable exception.
In early December 2009 the final database setting out the quota for 2010 had not yet been published. 2009 also saw some cuts to the quota during the course of the year, somewhat to the surprise of those companies affected. Companies that experience errors in their quota, or who are newly formed or have registered new divisions in new locations in Russia, or where there is a need to add or change the quota can apply to the Interdepartmental Commission on Migration matters for the region in question. A reserve level of additional quota is kept back at a Federal level to facilitate this, but good arguments do need to be made to the Commission if additional quota is to be granted, or the perceived error corrected.
Experience shows that cases are generally reviewed upon their merits, but the process can still take time, even where successful. The Law governing work permits also allows the authorities annually to publish a list of positions which are exempt from quota. These have in past years covered senior executive positions and one or two technical IT roles. However, this list does need to be annually renewed, and it is not always operational at the start of the year, but is rather disseminated at some point in spring. However, this can be a useful means of adding flexibility for persons whose roles are covered.
Draft Law 2010
The Draft Law concerning highly qualified specialists was approved by the Federation Council on May 13th, 2010 and has been sent to the RF President for signing. The Draft Law will come into force on July 1st, 2010. The Federal Law amending the Law on the legal status of a foreigner in the Russian Federation and Budgetary and Tax Codes has brought a lot changes to the existing system of working conditions of foreigners in the RF.
Work permits and permissions to employ foreign workers - based on the new system, highly qualified foreign workers shall be exempt from the quota application procedure. The new system would just require an employer to submit an application to the respective state body for such highly qualified workers. Such an application must be considered within 14 days. High qualification shall be determined based on the salary threshold (starting from 2 mln. RUR per year) and documents proving it (diploma, reference letters, etc.). It should be especially noted that the 2 mln. RUR should be received from Russian sources only.
The duration of the work permits is extended to 3 years for the highly qualified workers, in accordance with the period of the labor agreement's duration.
The registration procedure has been substantially simplified. An employer no longer has to notify the migration service every time its foreign worker leaves the city he is working in.
The list of professions (positions) that are exempt from the quota system will not be subject to change.
Highly qualified workers will have the right to obtain residence permits for themselves and their family members for the period of labor agreement's duration.
Work visas for the highly qualified worker will be issued for 1 year, with a possibility of an extension of up to 3 years.

One Window Approach
For members of certain business associations, the authorities have sometimes expedited regimes; whereby, applications fro work permits and visas can be submitted at some place and time with the Federal Migration Service, making the processing time significantly quicker than usual.
Non-CIS Citizens
Under the current provisions of the Russian immigration legislation, each employer engaging foreign nationals from countries for which visas are necessary to enter Russia, is obliged to obtain Russian individual work permits for them. The starting point is for the employer to register with the employment authorities and submit an initial report on job vacancies. In order to apply for work permits, the company must fulfil the following obligations in the following order:
1) Update information on job vacancies with employment authorities; wait one month;
2) Apply to the Federal Migration Service fora corporate permit for the engagement of foreign labor; the Federal Migration Service will then confirm with the employment authorities that the positions for which permission to hire foreigners is sought have been listed as vacant for one month, and that no appropriate Russian candidates have been found; one month later the corporate permit will be issued;
3) Apply to the Federal Migration Service for an individual work permit; one month later the individual permit will be issued.
At the third stage, the application will tend to need to include, for executive and technical positions, some sort of certification of the foreigner's competence to hold the position. This will be a professional qualification or a certificate of higher education, which will need to be apostilled in the home country and submitted with a Russian notarized translation. The foreign national will also need to submit certification of his health, including confirmation from a medical facility that he is free from an extensive list of conditions and diseases.
From start to finish, therefore, assuming quota exists, obtaining a work permit should take no less than three months, but in reality the process can be significantly slower, especially if all documents are not in exactly the right order that the authorities require. The precise details of what is required are also subject to change, which can make the process highly frustrating.
Any individual work permit (regardless of the citizenship of its holder) is valid only for the region within Russia where that foreign employee is going to work. It is also possible to apply for a multi-regional work permit. In this case, the company needs to register with the local employment authorities in each region for which the work permit is needed. However, each stage of the application then needs to be completed by each region concerned; this can cause delays.
Once the individual work permit is obtained and an employment agreement with foreign national is concluded, the employer is obliged to inform the following state authorities about fact of employment of a foreigner:
Tax authorities (within 10 business days);
Employment authorities (within 1 month);
State Labor Inspection (within 1 month).
The individuals themselves do not have such notification obligations.
CIS Citizens
As concerns most CIS countries for citizens of which visas are not necessary to enter Russia, the individuals themselves are obliged to apply for their individual work permits prior to applying for a job with any employer. The employer should not apply for a corporate permit for the engagement of foreign labor in respect of CIS nationals.
There are three possible options for CIS citizens to apply for an individual work permit:
apply in person;
apply through an organization officially authorized to assist foreign nationals with employment;
authorize a third party, to be a representative of the individual in applying for his/her work permit.
There are also notification requirements with regards to non-visa expatriates; whereby, companies should notify various state bodies, including:
Immigration authorities (within 3 days);
Tax authorities (within 3 days);
Employment authorities (within 3 days).
Exemption from Work Permit
Work permits are not needed for the following categories of individuals:
Citizens of Belarus;
Permanent residents of Russia (those who hold permanent residency permit);
Employees of diplomatic missions, consulates and international organizations;
Employees of foreign companies (manufacturers or suppliers) engaged in the installation, installation supervision, servicing, war ranty servicing and after-guarantee repairs of installed equipment (montage and chefmontage);
Journalists accredited in Russia.
Temporary Residence Permit
Temporary residents reside in Russia on the basis of temporary residence permits. Such permits are issued for three years and empower foreign nationals to temporarily reside in Russia prior to obtaining the permanent residency permit. Temporary residence permits are issued subject to an annual quota established by the Russian Government. Some categories of foreign nationals, most notably those married to Russian nationals, are exempt from this quota.
There is a different registration requirement applicable to temporary residents; whereby, they should be registered at the address of their residence. Temporary residents must register on an annual basis. There is special type of visa based on which a temporary resident may enter the country. It is issued at the time of his or her registration as a temporary resident in Russia. Under this registration, they can obtain only a single-entry visa, issued for 4 months, which can then be prolonged for the period of validity of the temporary residency permit. However, the most important complication related to this visa, is that each time the individual leaves and re-enters Russia, he must apply for an exit-entry visa.
Temporary residents cannot change the place of their residence and work away from the region of Russia for which the temporary residence permit is granted. Temporary residence permits are valid for up to three years, but there is no procedure for their extension. The inherent assumption is that a temporary resident would progress on to becoming a permanent resident. The same procedures for work permit applications applies to temporary residents.
In summary, therefore, becoming a temporary resident confers no material advantage compared with persons who are temporarily located in Russia on work visas and work permits. Work permits are still required, and the visa regime is more restrictive rather than less so. The main advantage of a temporary residence permit is therefore that it enables the holder to apply for a permanent residence permit.
Permanent Residence Permit
A temporary resident can apply for the permanent residence permit, provided he resided in Russia for at least one year on the basis of a temporary residence permit. Permanent residents are allowed to travel in and out of Russia without any restrictions, as no Russian visa is required in this case. No work permits are needed for permanent residents, and they may therefore be employed by any employer within the region concerned without restriction.
Permanent residence permits are issued for five years and may be re-issued for a similar period an unlimited number of times. As with temporary residents, permanent residents are subject to annual re-registration in Russia.
Sanctions for Non-Compliance
Even for minor violations in the immigration area, the authorities have full rights to the draconian penalty regime set out in the Administrative Code. The obvious intention of the above is to reinforce the responsibility of the foreign nationals visiting and working in Russia, as well as their employers for staying compliant with the Russian immigration and labour laws. In practice, these fine levels are not always imposed, with lesser (though still substantial) levels often being used, but this is entirely at the discretion of the authority concerned.
Sanctions are imposed separately for each violation in respect of each foreign employee engaged unlawfully and include:
Sanctions for engagement by employers of foreign citizens without work permits (up to 5,000 Rbs for the individual, 50,000 Rbs for the executives, 250,000-800,000 Rbs for the company or suspension of activities of the company for up to 90 days);
Sanctions for engagement by employers of foreign citizens without a corporate permit to engage foreign labour (similar as above);
Sanctions for not notifying immigration/employment/labour/tax authorities on engaging a foreign citizen, or upon the early termination of a foreign national (up to 5,000 Rbs for the employing individual, 50,000 Rbs for the responsible executives, 400,000-800,000 Rbs for the companies);
Sanctions for violation of immigration related enrolment rules (up to 5,000 Rbs for the hosting individual, 50,000 Rbs for the responsible executives, 400,000-500,000 Rbs for the company).
Common Pitfalls
Immigration compliance in Russia remains a complex and frustrating area. The current situation at any time should not be assumed as a permanent one. The Russian immigration authorities tend to change the procedure and requirements of any application in the course of the application process, which, with tight time deadlines, can force companies to restart the procedures from the very beginning. Even if companies follow all requirements of the Russian employment and immigration authorities, this can never guarantee successful results.
2010 is likely to see an even worse environment, with a reduced overall quota approved, late publication of the detail, and increased scrutiny of the authorities in relation to work permit applications, supporting documents, notifications in respect of hiring and termination of foreign individuals, registration requirements, and an increased level of immigration audits. More and more foreign citizens are now looking for possibilities to apply for Russian temporary and then permanent residence permits to avoid the number of immigration related requirements and procedures.
Organizations should be prepared; the process will be time and resource consuming, sometimes undefined and varied, but should also remember that by now, most companies ma nage to achieve the required results, or a practically acceptable workaround. Individuals, in turn, should also be prepared for some unexpected additional requirements with regard to immigration documents, medical tests, their arrivals and departures to, within and from Russia.
The most common incorrect assumptions and practical problems include:
"Working" in Russia on a business visa is acceptable;
Persons obtaining an "Inosotrudniki" visa do not need a work permit;
It does not matter if you forget to complete the enrolment and de-enrolment procedures each time the expatriate enters and exist Russia;
Provided you have one work permit then you can fulfil multiple roles or work for multiple different group entities or locations;
Work permits can always be expedited provided you have the right contacts;
It is always the fault of HR/Admin/External Immigration Service Provider if something goes wrong.
46.National Holidays & Celebrations::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Russian Holidays
January 1: New Year
January 7: Russian Orthodox Christmas
February 23: Defenders of the Fatherland Day
March 8: International Women's Day
May 1: Holiday of Spring and Labour
May 9: Victory Day
June 12: Day of Russia
November 4: National Unity Day
Non-Working Days in 2021
New Year and Christmas holidays: January 1-10
Defenders of the Fatherland Day: February 21-23
International Women's Day: March 6-8
Holiday of Spring and Labour: May 1-3

Victory Day: May 8-10
Day of Russia: June 12-14
National Unity Day: November 4-7
Russians love to celebrate and take most of their national holidays very seriously. New Year is the most widely celebrated holiday, followed by Orthodox Easter (which is not an official holiday), and Orthodox Christmas. Remember, though, that over 100 ethnic groups live on the territory of the Russian Federation and that each of them has their own colourful holidays and celebrations. Western holiday and festivals, such as Valentine's Day and Halloween are also gaining popularity in Russia, although they are not marked by days off work. When National Holidays fall over weekend dates, one or more adjacent weekdays will usually be declared as Public Holiday(s) - but the decision on which days is often not announced until a month beforehand. Shops and supermarkets don't usually observe any National Holidays except New Year's Eve, however.
New Year
The biggest Russian holiday is New Year and is celebrated on the night of December 31st to January 1st. Many Russians have what foreigners usually call a "Christmas tree" for New Year (either a real tree or an artificial). The tree is called a "yolka" in Russian. You may buy trees outside of metro stations at a so-called Christmas tree bazaar, at IKEA (natural fur tree), the Detsky Mir shopping center and many other places across town. At midnight, the President's New Year speech is broadcast on all national TV channels, preceded by lot of musical shows and followed by show-biz variety programming until morning. Most Russians exchange gifts on New Year's Eve. This means that you will be purchasing New Year's gifts for your Russian friends - instead of Christmas gifts. Celebrations on the night of December 31st continue until the early morning of January 1st. January 3rd, 4th and 5th are public/bank holidays. In combination with January 1st and 2nd and January 7th, Russia enjoys an entire holiday week at the start of the New Year.
As this holiday is children's favourite, special shows for children called "yolki" are organized throughout town in the weeks around December 31st. On New Year's Eve, some parents hire a Grandfather Frost or "Ded Moroz" and his assistant Snow-Maiden or "Snegurochka" to visit their homes to deliver previously purchased gifts to the children. The way this usually works is that Snegurochka arrives first, preparing the children for the arrival of Ded Moroz. The children then call for Ded Moroz, who arrives with a bag full of gifts. The children only get their gifts after singing a song or reciting a poem for Ded Moroz or after solving one of his riddles. If you want to order such a service for your children, make sure to place your order in advance.
Normal service is suspended in most restaurants and cafes on the evening of 31st December, and you can only get a table that evening by pre-booking (often several weeks before) and by pre-buying a "ticket" for their New Year's Eve programme - which includes a multi-course meal (usually a set menu), drinks and live entertainment. The prices often bear no resemblance to the usual prices on any other day of the year, but there is intense demand nonetheless - book ahead or go hungry. Those not inclined to spend their New Year's Eve this way often choose to gather in the city's larger open public spaces - Red Square, Poklannaya Gora, etc. - and celebrate in impromptu street parties - these can often be packed too, and in recent years police have limited crowds in Red Square in the interests of public safety, so go early.
Russian Orthodox Christmas
January 7th is Russian Orthodox Christmas. After Easter this is the biggest Christian religious holiday. It is traditionally celebrated at home - families and friends will gather on the evening of 6th January, to mark the festival's arrival at midnight.
Defenders of the Fatherland Day
February 23rd is non-official Men's Day. This public holiday is officially called "Defenders of the Fatherland Day". All men in Russia are liable for call-up to military service, so they all consider themselves celebrities to a certain extent. On this day women usually give men small gifts.
International Women's Day
International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8th. In 1910, German socialist Klara Zetkin proposed an International Women's Day. Instead of men treating women nicely, the women went on strike and marched through the streets. On March 8th 1917 Klara Zetkin and her Russian counterpart Alexandra Kollontai, held a women's strike "for bread and peace" in St. Petersburg. This was soon followed by a general strike that triggered the March Revolution which brought down Tsar Nikolai II. Today the holiday has lost its political significance and has become popular for other reasons. Men are supposed to give women gifts on March 8th. They are also supposed to do all the housework on this day - at least in theory. Gift-giving to female colleagues and co-workers is considered largely obligatory.
May Day - Holiday of Spring and Labour
May 1st is the Holiday of Spring and Labour. During Soviet times, huge demonstrations were staged on this day, and everyone was obliged to show their loyalty to the state. (It's widely, but wrongly, thought that May Day in Russia is the day with the big parades, but in fact these come on May 9th - see below).
Victory Day
May 9th is Victory Day. This is the day on which Nazi Germany capitulated in 1945 after the war with the Soviet Union and other countries. A minute of silence is announced on Central TV in memory of the deceased at 21:00 and fireworks are held thereafter. Large May Day parades are held each year, but, for most part, they are not open to the public - instead grandstand places are by VIP invitation. The public can then watch the Parade as it leads away through the city. Usually the entire city center in Moscow is closed to traffic. The best place for non-VIPs to view the Moscow Parade is the section of Tverskaya nearest to Red Square - go early to grab a place. The holiday continues all day with open-air music, street events, and culminates in an enormous firework display, usually at 22:00. (In the rest of Europe, this day is usually called "V-E Day"; "Victory in Europe Day" and is marked on May 8th. Russia celebrates on May 9th because due to the time-difference between Moscow and Berlin, the late-night announcement occurred in the early hours of May 9th by local time in Moscow. The USSR remained engaged in military conflict after May 9th 1945, playing a crucial role against Japan - but Russian military historians name the subsequent hostilities "The Eastern War", and consider that WW2 ended on May 9th for the Soviet Forces.) In contrast the sombre Ceremonies of Rememberance in Western Europe, Russia celebrates May 9th as a huge victory and celebration - this may come as a surprise to foreigners. The Parade crowd can usually be heard chanting "spa-see-bo!" ("thank you!") to the ranks of veterans as they pass.
"The May Holidays"
The fortunate proximity of the May 1st and May 9th holidays above - especially if they fall luckily over weekends - offers many Russians the chance to take an entire week off work whilst only using 1-2 of their days of annual holiday allowance - and over a week usually associated with nice spring weather. This prompts a huge burst of vacationing both in Russia and abroad, and travel prices over this week can be extortionately more expensive than in the adjacent weeks - flights to popular destinations will usually sell out long in advance. Getting any kind of paperwork processed in a Govt organisation over this period usually comes to a dismal standstill.
Day of Russia
June 12th is Day of Russia, also referred to as Independence Day. This became an official holiday in 1994. No particular traditions or festivals are associated with this day.
National Unity Day
November 4th is National Unity Day. This new holiday was introduced in 2005. It replaces the Day of Accord and Reconciliation formerly called the Day of the October Revolution, which was traditionally celebrated on November 7th.
City Days
Every city in Russia has its own City Day, usually celebrated on a date associated with some happy occasion for the city in question - each city has the right to choose its own date. There is usually some kind of parade, open-air music and merry-making, and a firework display after dusk. Some cities have unusual or unique events linked to the date in question - Moscow, for example, has a recreation of the Battle of Borodino, a turning-point in the war against Napoleon, whilst St. Petersburg has a naval display.
"Catholic Christmas"
Although much of the rest of the world is celebrating Christmas on 25th December, the Russian Church calendar dates Christmas as 7th January (see above, "Orthodox Christmas"). Russians name 25th December as "Catholic Christmas" (even though other faiths are also celebrating too) but it is not a public holiday in Russia. Believers often go to their own church services, and these can be the centre of some expat social life too. Bear in mind that branch offices of non-Russian companies (including airlines) may close in any case on 25th -26th December, or operate an emergencies-only service. Since many Russians choose to go away for the New Year holiday, the 25th-26th December closure of foreign Consulates for Christmas adds to the difficulty of getting visas for the great New Year getaway for some. Some expats feel somewhat deflated that 99% of Russia doesn't even realize that 25th December is a major holiday elsewhere - you may want to make your own plans, and nightspots and restaurants catering to foreigners will often have parties anyhow. The good news is that getting a table and paying the regular prices are no problem at all on December 25th, which is "just another working day" in Russia.
Old New Year
The Old New Year is celebrated by many on January 13th. Before the revolution of February 1918, Russians used a different calendar. The difference between the Julian (European) calendar was 13 days. After the Soviet government adopted the Gregorian calendar, Russians started to celebrate many holidays twice: once according to the old style, but with many still choosing to celebrate on the day when the holiday would have fallen prior to the Calendar Reform... the "old" New Year.
Maslenitsa (Whitsun)
It is a traditional Russian spring celebration also referred to as "Pancake Week" or "Butter week". It comes right before the seven-week Orthodox Lent. The word "maslenitsa" refers to the Russian word "maslo" meaning "butter". It refers to the fact that numerous different foods, including butter, cream and other fats, had to be used-up before the start of the seven-week Orthodox Lenten Fast. Many Russians - not only believers - will observe this Fast, and eat an entirely vegan diet - most cafes will offer an alternative Lenten Menu. Originally a pagan holiday celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring, pancakes were baked as a form of worship of the life-giving sun. Today this colourful celebration is once again gaining popularity, and numerous celebrations are held during this week.
Right after Maslenitsa comes the seven-week Lent leading right up to Easter. Orthodox Russians who take this fasting period very seriously will not consume any milk, eggs, or meat, with fish being eaten only on special occasions. Believers attend a very long and elaborate midnight church service that starts on the evening before Easter Sunday. The traditional greeting, if translated from Russian, says "Christ had risen from the dead/is alive". The reply to this is always "He has truly risen from the dead/is truly alive." Special round-shaped sweet Easter cakes are baked. Around Easter these cakes (called "kulich") are on sale in nearly every bakery and supermarket bread section. Eggs are coloured, with a red egg being considered the symbol of Easter. The red colour is achieved boiling the eggs with beets. To colour eggs yellow, boil them in onion husks.
April Fool's Day
April 1st is Fool's Day, literally meaning Day of Laughter. This is a day of fun and laughter but not a public holiday. People tell jokes to each other and newspapers and TV publish/run funny stories and jokes. The motto of this day is "Don't trust anyone on April 1st".
47.Taxes :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Every foreigner coming to work in Russia has numerous points of interest regarding the Russian social security and personal income tax consequences that may arise for him and his employer as a result of his assignment. Here is a brief overview of many of the requirements in Russian tax law that need to be considered with regard to an individual assigned to work in Russia. However, the Russian tax system is fluid, requirements apparent in the law may not be what happens in practice, and there is wide scope for different interpretations by different chief accountants, tax inspectorates and tax inspectors. There is therefore, a real need to avoid assumptions and to check carefully before determining the likely tax consequences of any particular event.
Tax Residency, Rates and Scope
The starting point for analyzing an individual's Russian tax position will tend to be his tax residency status. This affects both the scope of income subject to tax, and the tax rates to be applied in Russia. However, there is a problem in this area, in that practice is not consistent with the Law. Under the Law, a tax resident is a person who is physically present in Russia for more than 182 days during a consecutive twelve month period. There is provision for absences caused by situations such as medical illness to continue to be counted as presence in Russia. However, the tax authorities view residency as determined with reference to presence in a calendar year (which was, interestingly, the old rule before the Law was changed).
Therefore, based on the tax authorities' current interpretation of the residency rule, if an individual spends at least 183 days in Russia in a calendar year, then he is tax resident and is taxable in Russia on most types of his worldwide income at the resident tax rate of 13%. Otherwise, he is a non-resident taxable in Russia at the 30% non-resident tax rate on his Russian source income.
Russian source income is generally defined as income arising from assets in Russia, or earned in Russia, irrespective of where the income is paid. There is also some debate as to the definition of a day of presence in Russia. The conservative position would be that days of arrival do not count in determining total presence in Russia, whilst days of departure do. However, a number of letters from the Ministry of Finance indicate that a taxpayer is viewed as present in Russia on both days of arrival and departure.
Taxable Income
The general philosophy of the Russian tax system is that all income is subject to tax, but there are nuances beyond this. To create the general picture on what may be included in the taxable income for Russian tax purposes, the most common income items subject to Russian income tax are set out below.
Employment Income
Employment income consists of compensation, whether received in cash or in kind, including, but not limited to, salary, bonuses and various expatriate allowances and benefits. Tax residents are entitled to certain types of deductions from income. Sometimes, reimbursements, which might be viewed as business expenses in other jurisdictions can be viewed as taxable income in Russia. The only material tax exempt type of income is employer provided insurance, but the details of this need to be checked dependent upon the specifics of each employer's programs.
Options and Equity Programs
Based on general tax principles, at the time of exercise of an employer-provided stock option, an employee recognizes income equal to the excess of the fair market value of the stock over the exercise price. Stock Grants are generally viewed as received for tax purposes at the point that all restrictions are lifted, and the value at that date is used to determine income. However, there are no specific rules for the taxation of, or sourcing of the income from, equity programs, so great care needs to be taken with the specifics of each particular plan.
Self-Employment and Business Income
The income of individuals engaged in self-employment activities is subject to income tax. Tax is levied on the individual's annual self-employment income, which consists of gross income, less documented expenses associated with the performance of the work. Under certain circumstances, a simplified tax regime may apply.
Investment Income
Dividends received by residents are subject to tax at a rate of 9%. Russian dividends received by non-residents are subject to tax at a rate of 15%. At the time of writing, consideration was being given to removing the 9% rate and reverting to 13% for residents.
Interest income on bank deposits held in the Russian Federation that exceeds the Central Bank's refinancing rate increased by 5 percentage points on rouble deposits (or for foreign-currency deposits, interest that exceeds 9%), is subject to tax at a penalty rate of 35%. Most other bank interest is exempt from tax.
Capital Gains
Income from the disposal of assets is included in regular income and from this it is possible for tax residents to deduct costs related to the asset's acquisition and sale. Special, but similar, rules apply to income from the disposal of securities. A separate capital gains tax does not apply.
Income received by foreign nationals working in Russia may be subject to tax withholding at source if delivered by a company registered in Russia. Under current tax law, all Russian companies, and foreign organizations operating in Russia through a representative office or a branch must act as a tax withholding agent, which usually means they must withhold the personal income tax at source.
The tax authorities view tax residency as ultimately being determined for a calendar year. However, for withholding, the tax agent must review the presence of the recipient of the income over the preceding twelve months. This potentially means that all newly arrived individuals are considered non-residents for Russian tax withholding purposes until they reach 183 days in Russia in the twelve months prior to a particular payment; thus, the non-resident tax rate of 30% applies to their income for tax withholding purposes. Individuals who arrived in Russia at the end of a previous year may be subject to 13% tax rate in the next year upon confirmation of their exceeding the 183-day period. However, future intention to stay in Russia for 183 days or more in the following twelve month period, even if he or she has a signed contract for this period with a company operating in Russia, does not allow an employer to use the 13% resident rate starting from the day of arrival of this individual. This rate can be applied only after the individual has actually spent 183 days in Russia in a 12-month period. At the time of each payroll payment during the year, the employer must verify the residency status of each employee and withhold income tax at the appropriate rate in accordance with the number of days the employee has spent in Russia in the 12-month period preceding the date of payment.
If Russian income tax is withheld from the expatriates' entire remuneration, then he may not be required to file a tax return in Russia, unless he has received other income subject to tax in Russia, but not subject to tax withholding.
Double Tax Relief and Tax Treaties
Russia has an extensive (and continuously expanding and revising) network of double tax treaties with many jurisdictions around the world.
Under these treaties taxpayers may be either exempt income from the payment of Russian tax or foreign tax paid may be credited against Russian tax payable, but the foreign tax credit may not exceed the Russian tax payable on the same income. To obtain an exemption or a tax credit, the taxpayer must submit a Russian tax return actively claiming the benefit, and present a certificate of residency from a country with which the Russian Federation has a double tax treaty, and a document certified by the tax authority of the foreign country proving that the income was received and the foreign tax was paid.
In practice, obtaining such reliefs can be problematical, and care needs to be taken in optimising the chances of success for any such claim.
The Russian Tax Code foresees standard, social, professional and property-related tax deductions available for tax residents.
Social Tax Deductions
These deductions include annual deductions for certain charitable contributions (up to 25% of income), education expenses for the taxpayers and their children (up to 50,000 Rbs per child per taxpayer), medical expenses for the taxpayers and expenses related to contributions to licensed Russian non-state pension funds.
Property-Related Tax Deductions
The most visible tax deductions are related to property. Income received from the sale of real property, which was in the ownership of a taxpayer for three years is effectively exempt from taxation in Russia, though this must be actively claimed on a tax return. If, however, this minimum holding period is not met, the gains derived from the sale of property are taxable in Russia as regular income (gross income less documented expenses). The ability to deduct costs or obtain special tax benefits tends to apply only to tax residents.
The taxpayer may alternatively elect to pay tax on the proceeds less a fixed annual deduction. In the case of real estate held fewer than three years, the maximum fixed deduction is 1 million roubles; in the case of other property (except securities) held fewer than three years, the maximum fixed deduction is 125,000 Rbs (250,000 Rbs starting January 2010). Income derived from the sale of securities is subject to special rules.
Income from the sale of a car which was owned by an individual for more than three years is no longer taxable from 2010.
Also, each tax resident individual claim a property-related tax deduction for the expenses incurred to construct or purchase certain real estate in Russia on a "once in a lifetime" basis. The deduction is limited to 2 million roubles. Mortgage and certain other interest payment are deductible in addition to the 2 million roubles.
Starting January 2010, tax residents are entitled to additional property-related tax deductions in the amount of interest on loans used for the acquisition of a plot of land, where residential real estate is located/constructed; in the amount of interest on the refinancing of loans used for the new construction/acquisition of a house; and in the amount of expenses incurred in connection with the preparation of design for residential real estate.
Tax Filing and Payment Procedures
The tax year in Russia is the calendar year. Tax returns must be filed by both tax residents and non-residents, who have at least one source of income subject to tax in Russia on which income tax has not been withheld by a tax agent. The final tax return must be submitted by 30 April of the year following the tax period with no extension available. The final tax must be paid no later than 15 July of the following year.
If a foreign individual plans to cease to engage in activities that generate income taxable in Russia and then leave the country, the individual must submit a departure declaration no later than one month before the individual leaves Russia. Tax due on the basis of the departure tax declaration must be paid no later than 15 days after the declaration is filed with the tax authorities.
Whilst there are no specific restrictions on amending tax returns, such amendments will inevitably attract attention, particularly, if the level of income is reduced, and the general course of prudence is to ensure that a return is correct before it is filed.
Currently, individual taxpayers pay taxes on a self-assessment basis. The Russian tax authorities are not obliged to issue official tax assessments. However, sometimes they do issue tax notifications (effectively the same thing), and very rarely, there may be some discrepancies between tax assessments made by the individual and the tax authorities.
Paying tax can be quite complex, and is best done directly from the personal Russian rouble bank account of the taxpayer directly to the accounts of the tax authorities. Importantly, companies cannot safely settle the personal tax liabilities of their expatriates, which presents logistical issues for those on net pay or tax protected or equalised compensation programs. There are numerous different accounts and other reference numbers and codes, and the taxpayer needs to make sure these are correctly included on the payment order. Payments often go missing within the tax authorities' system, and it is worthwhile checking that they have been properly credited to the taxpayer's account a few weeks after the payment is made.
Sanctions for Non-Compliance
There are certain fines established for non-compliance with the tax rules. Failure to submit tax returns after the filing deadline would result in a fine of 5% of the tax due under the return for each full or partial month of delay for the initial 180 days of delay and accelerating to 10% of tax due per full or partial month thereafter with no cap. Fines of 20% or 40% can also be imposed for under-declaration of income dependent upon whether this was accidental.
Late payment interest is charged for each day of late payment of the tax and is calculated as the amount of underpayment multiplied by 1/300 of the current Central Bank refinancing rate (currently 1/300 * 10%) per day.
Social Security Contributions
Under the current Russian law, all Russian companies or foreign organizations operating in Russia through a representative office or a branch, which make payments to individuals (including foreign individuals) under the employment or civil-law agreements are obliged to pay Unified Social Tax (UST) from the income delivered to the employees. The tax is paid entirely by the employer and there is no concept of matching employee contributions in Russia.
Due to the recent changes in the Russian law, starting January 2010, the UST will be replaced by social security contributions to the Russian various statutory funds, including the Pension, Medical and Social Insurance Fund. However, the remuneration paid under employment agreements and civil-law contracts to foreign citizens temporarily located in Russia (most expatriates on assignments in Russia who do not hold temporary or permanent residency permits) will not be subject to social contributions, since such foreign citizens are not entitled to the relevant benefits financed by the social funds.
In addition to the UST (or social security contributions starting January 2010), an employer must pay separate contributions to the Social Insurance Fund on behalf of all its employees, including foreign employees, insuring against accidents at work and professional diseases (the rate depends on the class of the professional risk for specific employer and vary from 0.2% to 8.5%). For most office employees the rate is 0.2% and this will continue for foreign nationals under the new regime.
In current Russian tax system, there are various pitfalls, which the unwary may encounter. Some of the most common of these are set out below in what is a far from comprehensive list.
The 183 Day Myth
There is common understanding that no tax would apply if an individual stays in Russia for fewer than 183 days. This may or may not be true. Non-residents are still taxed in Russia on their Russian source income. If all income subject to tax in Russia delivered through the local payroll, then tax would be withheld at source with no further need to submit tax return. If, however, the individual is paid by an offshore employer for his work in Russia, then it may be necessary to submit a Russian tax return.
No tax would apply if the individual's assignment and pay structure satisfies certain provisions of the relevant Double Tax Treaty (if this is the case). However, even in this situation, tax relief technically needs to be applied for by means of tax return submission. In order to claim a relief, an individual has to go through the long procedure of submission of various documents without any guarantee of the positive result.
Russia Only Has 13% Taxes Myth
This is not true. The tax rate for residents is 13%, but it is 30% for tax non-residents. Given that the definition of a tax resident is a matter for technical debate, great care is needed to ensure that the 13% rate will apply, particularly, for expatriates in the year of their arrival or departure. Whether a person arrives in the second half or the year or leaves in the first half of the year, achieving the necessary presence in Russia to be a tax resident can be logistically impossible. Many expatriates are also surprised to find that, even where they qualify for the 13% rate for a particular year, they do not receive the benefit of this immediately through payroll, at least in the early part of their assignment, but, instead, have to wait until they have been physically present in Russia for over 183 days. They then receive the refund of the "over-withheld" 17%, but the cash flow disadvantage can be an unpleasant surprise.
No Tax Deductions for Non-Residents
The current Tax Code does not foresee tax deductions for tax non-residents. These are available for tax resident individuals only. In this connection, tax non-residents cannot benefit from the most visible deductions related to the purchase or sale of a property in Russia. This is a particularly unpleasant surprise for persons disposing of property after they have left Russia, especially, where they have been waiting to qualify for the three year exemption before selling. There is a significant difference between paying no tax at all, and paying 30% on the full proceeds of sale without even a deduction for what one originally paid for the property.
Investment Income is not Tax Exempt
Offshore income received by Russian tax residents can be relieved from Russian tax in case the individual is either a tax resident in another jurisdiction or has paid tax there and a relevant Double Tax Treaty is in place. Depending on the situation, Russia might have the right to only tax income earned in Russia, or may give a credit for foreign taxes. However, offshore income is not just "tax free" as of right, and care needs to be taken to manage liabilities in this regard.
Equity Income May be Taxable in Russia, but No-One Really Knows How
There is great uncertainty as regards the taxation of various different types of employee equity plans. Such plans are usually operated by the employing group, but often by a (non-Russian) entity (or employee benefit trust) other than the actual employer. It is very rare that such programs are managed locally with tax withholding through Russian payroll. This places the requirement to determine tax treatment onto the individual, and he will have difficulty determining how much income he has received, when he receives it and to what duties this income relates. It is hard to determine the "right" answer to these questions as whatever arguments could be used could be countered through different logic. In reality, many taxpayers have used the arguments that suit them best, which would tend to analyses that suggest they have no receipt of income, or that the income has nothing to do with Russia, or that the level of that income is as low as possible. This has led to something of an urban myth that income from equity programs is exempt from Russian tax, but this can be a dangerous assumption. There is increasing transparency in Russia with regard to the allocation of the costs of corporate equity programs; hence, aggressive or even non-compliant tax filing positions that may have proved successful in the past are no longer safe.
How Will They Know?
In a self declared, self assessed tax system, where tax scrutiny tends to fall upon those who file tax returns rather than those who do not, some individuals may well ask the question of why they should file a return and what tools the tax authorities may have to find out about non-compliance if they do not.
There has been a general drift to improved compliance in recent years, particularly, amongst expatriates. This has been partly driven by corporate policy of good governance, but also because with its low tax rates, declaring income and paying tax in Russia has proven good tax planning in assisting with the avoidance of tax on that income in other jurisdictions. This does mean the tax authorities have been improving their knowledge, because they are seeing more. The quality of the record keeping at the tax authorities is also improving, and becoming more computerized (the authorities are asking for individual tax returns for 2009 to be submitted with an electronic copy, as well as the traditional paper forms), making data easier to find.
However, greater risks arise through the increased transparency of accounting and corporate recharging, where the costs of an expatriate's remuneration paid outside of Russia need to be made more explicit and clear at the level of the host Russian business so as to minimize the level of risk of that business being denied a corporate tax deduction. Whilst the specifics of tax cases are different, the general trend has been for corporate taxpayers to win in court, where the documentation for recharged costs is clear and open, but to lose where it is opaque and the costs of expatriates remain more obscure. Hence, an assumption by an expatriate that the authorities will not know about his offshore paid income is dangerous, as his employer may well be providing documentation that specifically evidences this.
Recent years have also seen a significant rise in the level of contact between the Russian tax authorities and other jurisdictions, with voluntary sharing of data about persons with tax affairs in both. Particular contact has been noted with France, Germany and Finland, with countries using the mutual co-operation provisions of tax treaties to help them identify potential tax evasion. This trend echoes a more general global pattern, and whilst Russia remains well behind many other jurisdictions in the sophistication of its tax control, it is improving quite rapidly. Non-compliance is increasingly risky, whilst the tax cost of actual compliance is low, even if the administration of it remains burdensome.
48.Health Care::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Health Care
General Information
The Russian health care system has seen major improvements in recent years, both in technologies and pharmaceuticals. Moscow hosts a number of Western medical clinics that can look after all of your family's health needs. The clinics are spread out over the city; therefore, regardless of your location, there is sure to be medical provision in the vicinity.
When coming to Russia, bring a good supply of any prescription medicine needed. Ensure you can continue that supply from a local facility or that you can find a local substitute acceptable to your original prescribing physician.
Early in your stay - when there is no emergency - identify the closest medical facility with English-speaking personnel. Ascertain its working hours and its reputation, if possible. If in Moscow for the first time, bring a copy of your medical records with you to assist your new doctor in becoming familiar with your past medical history. The approach to the provision of medical care as a service to both the population and the individual may be quite different to what you are used to.
Unless absolutely necessary, as in major medical emergency, it is suggested that you do not go to the local hospital on your own without first contacting your medical assistance company; if you must, at least ensure you have a Russian speaker to assist you. Unsure that you have enough money to guarantee any admission fees that may be charged.
Many medications can be purchased here over the counter that would only be available by prescription in your home country. However, in most cases the manufacture is different and, therefore, the drug is identified by a different brand name. Know the generic (chemical) name of your medicines if you think you are going to need to restock locally. Bring the package insert from your previous prescription with you. Fraudulent drugs are not a major problem in Russia, but be careful and check the dispensed drug before you pay for it.
Some medications including controlled drugs and drugs of dependence (i.e., sedatives and hypnotics; medications to treat the hyperactivity disorders of children; strong pain relievers; and some drugs for diabetics and epileptics) are simply nor available in Russia. If you are on such a medication, please speak to your physician in your home country and a physician at one of the medical clinics in Moscow to find out how to best handle this situation.
Russia has no vaccination requirements, but it is a good idea to keep your shots op-to-date. If you need a shot while here, please contact one of the medical centers in Moscow. The following vaccinations are recommended for individuals traveling to or living in Russia for linger periods of time:
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
Hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or are exposed through medical treatment.
Typhoid. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected.
As needed, booster doses for tetanus, diphtheria and measles. Outbreaks of diphtheria have been reported in states of the former Soviet Union.
Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral infection of the central nervous system that occurs in the southern parts of the non-tropical forest belt in Europe and Asia, including Russia. Travelers are at risk who visit or work in forested areas during the summer months and who consume unpasteurized dairy products.
Rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking or cycling or engaging in certain occupation activities.
Skin Care
Newcomers frequently have difficulty in adjusting to the dry air conditions in their apartments. Ladies complain of dry skin, broken fingernails, etc. Most women find that they use extra face cream. An electric humidifier helps a great deal. It is also useful to place pans of water around you apartment.
Eye Care
Dry, cold and polluted air is hard on eyes, especially if you wear contact lenses. Users are advised to give eyes a rest from contact lenses from time to time. It is advisable to have spare lenses or glasses with you. You can purchase all kinds and brands of imported prescription and non-prescription contact lenses (including Johnson & Johnson, Bausch & Lomb, etc), colored contact lenses, contact lens cleaners, glasses (including designer frames) and sunglasses at any larger optician's.
Most of them have qualified opticians or ophthalmologists and sophisticated equipment and will carry out a complete eye exam before fitting you with contact lenses or glasses. Fees for the eye exam are usually very moderate. Do not expect the ophthalmologists or consultants to speak English though. If you have just started you Russian lessons, take someone along who can communicate in Russian. Most pharmacies carry imported contact lens cleaners and moisturizing eye drops, while contact lens containers may only be available from specialist shops.
Digestion Care
Generally, it is advisable not to buy meat or diary products from anywhere other than a reputable market or shop. Meat purchased in the market should be inspected carefully to ascertain its freshness, and particular care should be taken in the summer months because of lack of refrigeration. Any meat bought at a market should be well cooked. Diary products bought at outdoor markets may not be pasteurized and should not be given to young children or consumed by pregnant women. All fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating. Water from the tap is suitable for cooking, but people normally filter drinking water or use bottled water.
Health Care Insurance
Before coming to Moscow, make sure you have full medical and dental insurance coverage for yourself and all family members that will cover any emergencies (and medical evacuation) that occur during your stay in the Russian federation. Western medical and dental services in Russia are very expensive if you are not covered.
If you are not insured when coming to Russia, please contact several Moscow medical centers to find out whether they offer their own insurance plans, or ask them for recommendations of reputable companies in Moscow or abroad that offer health insurance for expatriates. If you already have insurance, call the medical or dental clinic you intend to visit to make sure that they accept and have a direct billing agreement with your insurance company and which, if any, restrictions apply in an emergency situation. If you are not insured or your insurance plan requires you to pre-pay all services for later reimbursement, check which credit cards are accepted or whether payment must be made in cash.
Note that coverage with foreign insurers must be purchased abroad, under Russian law it is illegal to sell insurance policies that are issued by an insurer that is not licensed in Russia. Before you choose a health care insurance provider, whether local or foreign, make sure you read the fine print and discuss any questions you have. Many insurance companies do not pay for health problems pertaining to pre-existing conditions, which might include any chronic health problems such as diabetes. If you use a foreign insurance provider, deductibles may apply. Since the cost of medical services in may medical centers in Russia is lower that abroad, the doctor's consultation fee may fall under deductible.
Most foreign health care insurance providers have contracts with a limited number of medical clinics in Russia. This could mean that through your insurance policy you are forced to use a certain health care provider in Moscow. Unless your insurance company has a direct billing agreement with the medical clinic you intend to use, you will have to advance the payment and then claim reimbursement from the insurance company later. Some providers require pre-authorization, meaning that you must contact the insurance company before using medical services in Russia.
Clinics and Dental Care
Several Western medical centers and dental clinics operate in Moscow. Most have at least some expatriate doctors and friendly English-speaking support staff and are equipped to handle both minor and major medical emergencies. Some also offer house calls and medical evacuation services. Most clinics are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week or at least provide emergency services during the night.
While most Russian hospitals are not up to Western standards, Russian doctors are generally very good. Several Russian hospitals in Moscow have special arrangements with GlavUPDK (the main administration for the foreign diplomatic corps in Moscow) and accept foreigners for checkups and treatments at more moderate prices that the Western medical clinics.
Psychological Care
Living in a foreign country is always challenging and stressful. Everyone - from the working partner to the spouse and children - can be affected, and there is absolutely no shame in turning to professional help, which is available in Moscow. Problems frequently experienced by expatriates on international assignments include stress, anxiety and loneliness. A problem specific to northern countries, such as Russia, is SAD (Season Affective Disorder). If you find yourself in any situation you feel you cannot cope with on your own, please call someone. This someone can be a friend, a member of your women's club's newcomer's team, a nurse or a doctor at your medical center or some professionals.
General Information
If you are an expecting mother who is moving to or currently living in Moscow, you will need information and advice for the period of your stay in Moscow. One option is to join a "mother-to-be" support group to share experience and useful information. Contact details and useful information can be obtained through one of the international women's clubs in Moscow and - if you have older children that are attending school - through your school's community liaison office or school newsletter.
You can attend childbirth education classes for further advice on pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding, and baby care and to learn about what to expect in Moscow. Most classes offered in Moscow are held in Russian, but you can contact any of the Western medical clinics in Moscow to find out about English-language pre-natal classes.
Hospitals and Doctors
Not all hospitals have maternity wards, and even less have neonatal care units. On the other hand there are several hospitals that cater exclusively to future mothers and their babies. A maternity hospital is called "roddom", meaning "house of birth". Most hospitals in Russia require visitors to wear plastic shoe covers. These are usually available from the concierge or at the coat check area near entrance for a small fee.
To make arrangements to give birth at a hospital in Russia, you will need to sign a contract and pay a deposit. Some Russian doctors speak good English (less frequently German or French), but if you need language assistance during labor and birth, you can make arrangements with an English-speaking healthcare provider in Moscow for an interpreter to be present during labor and childbirth. Make sure the hospital of your choice is aware of this arrangement.
Many things are done differently here than in your own country. The layout of the delivery room, for example, is different from those in American or European hospitals and usually offers less privacy.
Once you have chosen a doctor you will be issued a certificate regarding your pregnancy to carry with you. This certificate includes all pertinent information on your pregnancy and prenatal visits. Information on the birth itself and data for the newborn baby will be added later on. The certificate is issued in Russia, and it helps to avoid additional testing on admission to the maternity hospital. It provides the doctors and nursed with all the information they need to ensure a safe delivery and good prenatal care for your baby.
Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay in hospital is between three and five days; if you want to leave earlier you will be asked to sign a special form. After the baby is born you should contact your embassy to receive citizenship for your child and to apply for a passport.
The Russian public health care system provides a local pediatrician for the first time home visit and a few follow-up visits by the district pediatric nurse. You can make an appointment for the well-baby visit in most family clinics. Some clinics in Moscow provide pediatric house calls. However, if you live a great distance from the clinic, please, check with your pediatrician if this service is provided.
You can have your baby vaccinated through a private clinic or you can have vaccinations done for free (Russian-made vaccines) through the public health care system. Most expatriates prefer to use private clinics for their baby's immunizations where only Western-made vaccines from the world's leading manufacture are used. In Russia, a few days after birth a BCG vaccine is administered. You should discuss with your doctor whether you want this vaccination to be done or not. The immunization schedule in Russia differs from that in America and Western Europe - Hib, Varicella and Hepatitus A vaccinations are not on the national immunization calendar.
Private medical clinics will let you follow the immunization schedule from your home country, and most vaccines are readily available. Many local day care centers and play schools will ask you to provide your child's vaccination certificate, and many schools in Moscow test children for tuberculosis (PPD skin) on an annual basis.
49.Children in Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Children in Moscow
Some Formal Issues
Children born abroad to expatriate parents may find their citizenship rights affected, either by laws in the country of assignment or those of their home country. It is, therefore, important to check on both sets of regulations well before the child is born. Your embassy should be able to provide you with all the information you need.
If the baby is born in Moscow you should contact your embassy to receive citizenship for your child and to apply for a passport.
Circumcision can be performed in a maternity hospital, but you should discuss this with your doctor before birth so that the necessary arrangements can be made.
If you are interested in adopting a Russian child, your first step for advice should be your doctor/medical clinic in Moscow. They should be able to provide you with contact details for reliable adoption agencies. The Russian Ministry of Education and Science has an official adoption website at with detailed information on the adoption process and information on thousands of children in orphanages across the country that are up for adoption.
There are over 1800 high schools and 110 colleges in Moscow. Beside these, there are over 200 institutions offering higher education in Moscow, including 60 state universities and the leading Russian University - the Lomonosov Moscow State University, which was founded in 1755.
Moscow has a number of international schools and nurseries, which are popular with the expat community. All schools are fee-paying. The fees depend on the grade level, period of enrolment and whether or not your child requires any additional support programmes. In general, it varies between 3000 and 7000 Euro. The admission procedures for all schools are quite complex and consist of several steps (application form, test, interview etc); therefore, it is better to begin to do it well in advance. The academic year lasts from September 1st to the middle or end of June with summer vacations from July 1st to August 31st.
The majority of bookstores have vast sections of children's books but mostly in Russian. Luckily there are some bookstores offering a selection of children's books in English, German and French.
In Moscow you may find anything you need for your child (from an infants to teenagers) as there are plenty of stores to buy children's goods in: from markets and small local shops to large shopping malls and boutiques offering branded children's clothes and shoes. Note that closing and shoes sizes differ in Russia, Europe and USA.
Clothing SizesAge (y.o.)
Height (cm)
Size 1-1,5
- Russia
Europe 13
50.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Moscow Neighbourhoods
The city is divided into ten administrative okrugs (regions) and 123 districts. Nine of the ten administrative regions, except the City of Zelenograd, are located within Moscow's main boundaries. All administrative okrugs and districts have their own emblem and flags, some districts also have elected head officials.
The ten administrative okrugs of Moscow are: 1) City of Zelenograd; 2) Northern okrug; 3) North-Eastern okrug; 4) North-Western okrug; 5) Central okrug; 6) Eastern okrug; 7) Southern okrug; 8) South-Eastern okrug; 9) South-Western okrug 10) Western okrug.
In addition to the districts, there are Territorial Units with Special Status, or territories. These usually include areas with small or no permanent populations, such as the case with the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, the Botanical Garden, large parks, and industrial zones. There are no ethnic-specific regions in Moscow. And although districts are not designated by income, as with most cities, those areas that are closer to the city centre, metro stations or green zones are considered more prestigious. Moscow does not yet have any exclusively residential or commercial neighbourhoods with most central districts providing a mix of residential and office buildings along with retail space.
Boulevard Ring
Krasnaya Presnya
Lubyanka Patriarshiye Prudy
Pushkinskaya Square
The Kremlin Area
51.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Moscow Neighbourhoods
The city is divided into ten administrative okrugs (regions) and 123 districts. Nine of the ten administrative regions, except the City of Zelenograd, are located within Moscow's main boundaries. All administrative okrugs and districts have their own emblem and flags, some districts also have elected head officials.
The ten administrative okrugs of Moscow are: 1) City of Zelenograd; 2) Northern okrug; 3) North-Eastern okrug; 4) North-Western okrug; 5) Central okrug; 6) Eastern okrug; 7) Southern okrug; 8) South-Eastern okrug; 9) South-Western okrug 10) Western okrug.
In addition to the districts, there are Territorial Units with Special Status, or territories. These usually include areas with small or no permanent populations, such as the case with the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, the Botanical Garden, large parks, and industrial zones. There are no ethnic-specific regions in Moscow. And although districts are not designated by income, as with most cities, those areas that are closer to the city centre, metro stations or green zones are considered more prestigious. Moscow does not yet have any exclusively residential or commercial neighborhoods with most central districts providing a mix of residential and office buildings along with retail space.
Boulevard Ring
Krasnaya Presnya
Patriarshiye Prudy Polyanka-Yakimanka
Pushkinskaya Square
The Kremlin Area
52.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Tverskaya::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Moscow's main artery and the most luxurious area during the Russian Empire epoch. Tverskaya Street has long been considered a benchmark for luxury and prestige. In the 14th century, it was a trade road from the Kremlin to Tver - one of the most important and influential cities at that time. The first name of the street was Tsarskaya ("Tsar's"), as already by the 17th century it became the main street of the Russian capital. Of course, central and extremely prestigious location attracted the highest class of nobility; Tverskaya of the 18th century was the street of sumptuous palaces and estates built by Catherine the Great's grandees. The 19th century added the firm spirit of commerce to the charming atmosphere of aristocracy: various luxury shops, confectioneries, boutiques, fashionable hotels and restaurants spread along Tverskaya.
Many innovations in Moscow started from Tverskaya street, though not all of them were beneficial to the ancient capital and its culture. It was completely reconstructed in the 1930s. In 1932, the street was named after Maxim Gorky, a proletarian writer. This was a present from the Stalin government made during the writer's lifetime.
Soon, Tverskaya street obtained a tragic fate; it was the first street reconstructed according to the infamous master plan of the socialist reconstruction of Moscow. Subsequently, it lost not only its original name, but its personality. This was the result of Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich's (a powerful "architect of socialism") vision. Some erections were built up a little, smartly moved deeper into the courtyards, and, if necessary, even carefully rotated. But nevertheless, many buildings were simply demolished (not a single church survived on Tverskaya), and the appearance of the street completely changed: it became wide and airy, but too straight and boring, built up with typical grey houses.
It is from Tverskaya street that capitalism began to encroach on Russia. It is here near the site of the National Hotel that the first "fartsovshiki" (illegal street vendors) started their risky business of swapping Russian matryoskha dolls for US-made jeans, and it is here that dollars were traded for rubles under the table.
A certain "face of the city", now it brilliantly reflects the mixed and controversial "soul" of 21st-century Moscow, full of modern western innovations and still firmly basing on the ancient roots.
Tverskaya has a limited number of residential buildings; therefore, the prices for living here are very high.
The modern Tverskaya remains the most important commercial, business and cultural street of the capital, with the most expensive and luxurious hotels being located here: the Ritz-Carlton, the Marriott, the Sheraton, etc. At the corner of Mokhovaya and Tverskaya one can see "National" hotel, one of the best examples of Russian Art Nouveau. Designed and built in 1903 by A. Ivanov, it is one of the oldest and most famous hotels in Russia. In 1918 the hotel was for some years turned into "Prime House of Soviets" and permanently hosted the members of the Bolshevik Government, including Lenin who lived in number 107.
State Duma (Parliament) stays right opposite "National", at the corner of Tverskaya and Okhotny Ryad. Former building of the Soviet Ministry of Labour and Defence, it provides a brilliant example of transfer from Constructivism to the Soviet neoclassic style. Its characteristic feature is abandonment of any decoration, because the edifice should be beautiful of its own accord.
Another sumptuous building on Tverskaya, Moscow Central Telegraph (architect I. Rerberg), possesses the status of an architectural monument and historical - Revolution of 1917 in Moscow started by taking the Central telegraph.
The building No 9 on Tverskaya designed by the architect Zhukov is faced with granite captured from the Germans in December 1941. The Fascists had brought the granite to Moscow from Finland to erect a monument to their supposed victory in the centre of Russian capital. Then they, already as prisoners of war, faced the building with that granite themselves.
The Moscow City Administration was built in 1770 by Matvey Kozakov, famous master of Moscow Classicism. Former residence of Moscow governor-generals, after the revolution it housed the Moscow Council (Soviet). During the reconstruction of 1935 the building was moved 13 meters back and two more stores were added.
In front of the City Administration there is Tverskaya square with a monument to Prince Yury Dolgoruky, which has become a symbol of Moscow. The square was formerly called Skobelevskaya due to the monument to General Skobelev, a hero of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. In 1918 before the May Day parade the "White General" was removed and the pedestal was turned into a platform. Soon Skobelev's place was occupied by the monument to Constitution (a woman statue, a kind of Soviet "Statue of Freedom") and Skobelevskaya square became Soviet square. The bronze monument to Yury Dolgoruky appeared here in 1954 in honour of Moscow 800th anniversary; in 1990s the square was renamed back to Tverskaya.
The house No 14 was also created by Matvey Kozakov. The "Palace on Tverskya" belonged to Zinaida Volkonskaya, a beautiful and intelligent woman, who established a very popular literature salon here. In 1898 powerful merchant Grigory Eliseyev bought the house, reconstructed and opened as "Eliseyev's Store and Wine Cellar of Russian and Imported Wines." Very soon the shop was nearly closed down for illegal sale of wine: the distance between the entrance to the wine cellar and the Church of St. Dmitry Solunsky (now non-existent) did not comply with the legal minimum. It needed one night to separate the wine cellar off the shop and make a new entrance from Kozitsky lane. In 1917 Eliseev emigrated from Russia and the shop was expropriated by Sovets ("nationalized") and renamed. But the people still called it Eliseyevsky through habit and came here just to admire the famous interior. Since the fall of the Soviet Union the Eliseyevsky store has been officially given its name back.
One of the oldest buildings on Tverskaya is a luxurious classicistic one behind the fence with lions. Built in late 18th century, this mansion of earls Kheraskov and Razumovsky from 1831 to 1917 housed the Moscow English club, and now the State Museum of Contemporary History of Russia is located here.
Triumphal Square
Triumphal square is named after the Triumphal Gate constructed in 1721. Peter the Great entered the capital through it after his victory in North War. Hereafter there were constructed few more wooden Triumphal arches, and all of them had burnt. And the only remained arch was built at the Tverskaya Zastava square; later it was moved to a new place near the museum of Borodino battle. Now the only triumph of this square is the theatres located here. One of them is the Tchaikovsky Concert hall. Formerly Meyerhold's theatre was placed here, but in 1938 Meyerhold was arrested, the theatre was closed and the building was given to the Moscow Philharmonic. The Theatre of Satire is located at the building of the former Circus.
Lanes around Tverskaya
While you may find Tverskaya itself too busy and too noisy, there are a number of pretty lanes with beautiful old apartment buildings and small gardens that are popular with expatriate.
Kamergersky lane has lately become a pedestrian area, and it has a real chance to be included into the Guinness' Book of Records as a shortest pedestrian area in the world. House No 3 is now occupied by Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre (MKhAT). The theatre traces its history since 1882, when the modern building of the theatre, former mansion of Prince P.I. Odoevsky and S.A. Rimsky-Korsakov, housed Russian Drama Theatre. In 1885 Savva Mamontov's Private Russian Opera made its debut here. In 1902 another Savva, now Morozov, paid for reconstruction of the theatre after Fyodor Shekhtel's project, and in 1902 MKhAT opened its doors for theatre-lovers.
Brusov lane is remarkable for its red and white Church of the Resurrection of Slovushchy on Uspensky Vrazhek, which was built in the first half of the 17th century. This church is one of the few ones not closed during the Soviet period; it has retained its original interiors.
Stoleshnikov lane leads from Tverskaya to Bolshaya Dmitrovka and then continues as a pedestrian lane to Petrovka. As many other streets in Moscow, it is named after the profession of the people who used to live here. "Stoleshniki", who occupied this area in the 16th-17th centuries, made table-cloths for the Royal Court ("stol" in Russian stands for "table"). House No 9 is famous for its outstanding dweller - "the first Moscow digger", Vladimir Gilarovsky. Gifted historian and talented writer, he was affectionately known and beloved by Muscovites. Here he was visited by Tolstoy, Gorky, Chekhov, Bunin, Mayakovsky.
53.Driving in Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Driving in Moscow
General information
There are over 3 million cars in the city on a daily basis. Recent years have seen a significant growth in the number of cars, which has lead to traffic jams and unavailability of parking space. Driving in Moscow can be a daunting experience for the uninitiated. Traffic accidents (and resulting deaths) are more numerous that in North America and most European countries - despite the fact that there still are fewer cars). Russian drivers regularly ignore traffic lights, road signs and traffic regulations as well as pedestrians, so you have to be very careful and drive defensively at all the time. Random stop-n-checks by the Traffic Cops are regular, and you need not have committed any kind of irregularity to be (legally) pulled-over in this way.
Many Russian drivers have not obtained their driving license in an official way - it is, unfortunately still relatively easy to "buy" a driving license in Russia. For all of these reasons, many expatriates choose not to drive in Moscow. They often make use of a driver provided by their employee, hire a private driver, or use public transportation.
Moscow Road System
Road conditions in Moscow are not too bad but they get worse as you leave town. Generally little attention is paid to paving, maintenance and roadside facilities. Moscow has a complicated road system with three major ring roads: the MKAD or Moscow Ring Road, which goes all the way around Moscow; the Garden Ring which encircles the city center and the Third Ring in-between the MKAD and the Garden Ring. There is also a smaller half-ring road (half because it doesn't form a closed circle), which is called the Boulevard Ring and is located in the city center. The city center consists of a complicated network of smaller streets and lanes, many of which are one-way streets. The Fourth Transport Ring is to be built in the future.
Documents to Carry with You
Drivers must always carry the following documents with them:
Passport (foreigners must also have their original Russian visa and migration card)
Driving license
Registration certificate
Motor vehicle insurance
A Power of Attorney if the car does not belong to you. If you are driving on office are, the Power of Attorney will normally only be valid for several months at a time and must be renewed on a regular basis.
Technical inspection card
Things to Keep in Mind
Many street signs are in Russian only and finding as address can be tricky. It is better buying a good Moscow street atlas, preferably a larger one that shows all individual buildings. You can also now obtain reliable GPS devices covering Moscow and surroundings.
The whole streets can be closed off when the president or another important person is expected to drive by. Rubevo-Uspenskoye shosse, Kutuzovsy prospect and Novy Arbat are especially prone to these situations, as are the roads to international airports if a major dignitary or delegation is arriving or leaving.
You should take travel routes to and from work into account when looking for an apartment or house in Moscow.
The GIBDD (State Inspection for the Safety or Road Traffic) is the Russian traffic police. Formerly called GAI (State Automobile Inspection), they are still referred to as such by many. The GIBDD is a separate police entity and has nothing to do with the regular Russian police. A traffic police officer is commonly referred to as a "gaishnik". Despite the official difference between the GIBDD and the Militia, their emergency phone number is the same - 02.
Arbitrary checks by traffic police are frequent. They can stop you to check documents, make sure your technical inspection card has been renewed, etc. While fines for minor violations, such as not wearing a seatbelt, are extremely rare, other violations, such as crossing a solid white line are subject to hefty fines (by Russian standards). Technically, you can also be fined for not having a first-aid kit or a fire extinguisher in your car.
The GIBDD frequently stops drivers on weekend and Monday mornings for alcohol checks. If you fail the breathalyzer test, you will be required to give a blood sample for further analysis. In such instances you want to include one or more sterile syringes in your first-aid kit. Procedures for paying fines are subject to frequent change. Any GIBDD officer must introduce himself (there are almost no female GIBDD officers in Russia) with his title (e.g. sergeant) and his last name upon request, he must show his badge.
Driving Licence
To be on the safe side, you should obtain an International Driver's Permit (IDP) before coming to Russia. Foreigners staying in Russia for less than six months can use their national driving licence, but must have the licence translated into Russian. The translation must be notarized. Foreigners intending to stay in Russia for longer than six months must obtain a Russian driving licence.
Normally any foreigner wishing to apply for a Russian driving licence must provide the following documents:
His/her passport and valid Russian visa with the OVIR registration stamp
A medical certificate (available from any major health clinic)
His/her national driving licence, a notarized photocopy of the licence, and a notarized translation
If the original (national) driving licence is still valid, the applicant only has to take and pass a theoretical driving test. If the applicant's licence has expired, he/she must also pass a practical driving exam before a Russian licence can be issued. Exams must normally be taken in Russian.
If you do not have a driving licence, you can obtain one in Moscow. However, in order to do so, you must be fluent in Russian: the theoretical and practical instruction is conducted in Russian. Some schools may allow you to bring an interpreter, but this may be difficult. Before enrolling in a local driving school, make sure that the school is recognized by the GIBDD and will register the students for the state driving exam. Getting a driving licence in Moscow is still quite affordable when compared to the West.
Obtaining a first-time driving licence in Russia involves enrolling in a local driving school, passing a medical test, going through two months of theoretical and practical driving instruction, and taking (passing) state driving exams. The exam is the same for both Russian nationals and foreigners, but foreigners have to take the exam in a different place.
If you are involved in an accident and there is serious damage to your or the other side vehicle(s) and/or people are injured, stay right where the accident took place - even if you are in the middle of a busy intersection - and wait for a GIBDD officer. You will either have to call the GIBDD yourself (possible only if you have mobile phone and you speak Russian) or ask somebody else (e.g. the other driver involved in the accident, your office, your friend to call them. Do not expect the GIBDD officers to speak English.
To report an accident, call the police at 02 and provide them with all details of the accident (location, number and kind of vehicles involved, injuries, etc.) If necessary, call an ambulance at 03. Remember that leaving the site of an accident in which someone was injured is a criminal offense.
If the damage is small, you may settle the dispute with the other involved party on the spot. Many people prefer doing so as filling a police report even for a traffic accident can be a major nuisance in terms of lost time and formalities. Bear in mind that repairing a foreign car in Moscow can be expensive. If the damage is extensive, you must wait for the GIBDD. If you leave the scene of the accident without a detailed, written report from traffic police, you will have no chance of recovering money for damages to your and other side vehicle from your insurance company.
If you decide to involve the GIBDD in an accident, they will draw up a detailed accident report that will include sketch of the scene. If you do not speak/read/understand Russian, call your office and ask for an interpreter to be sent to the site of the accident as soon as possible. You will be asked to sign the accident report, but you should not do so if you do not understand what it says; you will need it for your insurance company. It may be wise to very discreetly take down the officer's name and badge number.
Note that it can take a long time for the GIBDD to arrive at the scene of an accident - even if the accident is causing major traffic problems. Provided that no personal injuries were reported, the officers often don't seem to in a hurry. However, once they arrive, they are usually quite good at handling the situation. If you are hit by another car and that car drives off, do not chase it. Stay, call the police, and file the report. Disputes over accidents have to be settled in court.
On July 1st, 2003, mandatory car insurance was introduced in Russia. According to this new law, every car owner must have an insurance policy certifying that he/she is insured against third-party liability. However, as this mandatory insurance policy only provides coverage up to certain mount and does not include coverage for car theft and vandalism, it is advisable to purchase additional (voluntary) insurance. Ideally, you should purchase both mandatory and voluntary insurance through the same company.
Licence Plates
Most cars in Moscow have white licence plates with black letters. Red licence plates with white numbers and letters are reserved for diplomatic cars. A "CD" on such a licence plate stands for "Chef de Mission Diplomatique", a "D" for diplomat, and a "T" for "Trade". Blue licence plates with white numbers and letters are reserved for Russian officials and the police.
Traffic Jams
Moscow heavily suffers from the traffic jams. Many people have even missed their flights because they didn't plan on getting stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. Major traffic jams occur regularly on all larger thoroughfares leading into and out Moscow, as well as on the ring road mentioned above. Traffic is particularly heavy going into town on weekday mornings and to the suburbs on weekday afternoons and evenings. The Garden Ring (Sadovoe Kol'tso) suffers from traffic jams all day long, although they are usually worse from about 8.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. and then again from about 4.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. on weekdays.
Late spring to mid-autumn is dacha season in Russia. The outbound dacha traffic starts early Friday afternoon and can last well into Saturday morning, with the return traffic starting Sunday afternoon and often lasting into the late night. Monday mornings are also problematic during this season as many people go to work straight from their dachas, therefore, if you live on or along one of the large highways leading into/out of Moscow, expect to face this problem on a weekly basis for about five months every year.
Another problem related to the dacha season are the so-called "podsnezhniki". These are drivers who do not touch their cars all winter long. The word means "snow-covered" and stems from the fact that many drivers leave their cars outside covered by snow throughout the winter. These drivers and their cars can be a traffic hazard because the cars are old and because many of these people do not drive at least half the year and are out of practice come spring.
Parking is another consideration if you own a car. Since cars can be the target of break-ins in Moscow, it is important to have a secure parking space, which can be very difficult, particularly if you live in downtown Moscow. Many streets and lanes are very narrow, and you may not be able to park your car in front of or in the yard of your residential building, or - for that matter - your office. Things get worse in winter when snow piles up on the sides of the street.
Some apartment buildings have a small parking lot where parking spaces are allotted for tenants. If possible, negotiate the parking space at the same time you negotiate your apartment lease. Some of the newer buildings have underground garages; others have guarded yards. Residential complexes, such as Pokrovsky Hills and Rosinka, have private garages.
Buying a Car
Unless you are a fully accredited foreign diplomat, it is very difficult and expensive to import a car to Russia. In many cases your moving company will not be able to assist with the import customs clearance of your car, and you will have to pay very steep import duties.
If you can not live without a car, you can purchase one in Moscow. However, several difficulties are involved in this. If you have a foreign passport and want to buy a car, you can register the car in your name, but you will have to de-and re-register it each time you receive a new Russian visa. The other option is to register the car in a Russian friend or colleague's name and then have that person provide you with a general Power of Attorney allowing you to drive and sell your car.
You can either purchase a new car or a used vehicle. In either case make sure you purchase the car from a reputable car dealership. If you want to purchase a used car from a private individual, have it checked very thoroughly at a good car service station before buying it.
Also keep in mind that it will be difficult for you to re-export a car from Russia (unless you are a fully accredited foreign diplomat).
If the car is registered in another's person's name, you will first have to sign a sale contract with that person (so that you can prove that the car is actually ours). You must then re-register the car in your name and de-register it before it can be exported from Russia. You will also have to carefully check what the requirements for the import of motor vehicles in your destination country are.
Before winter arrives, have your car protected with extra undercoating and fitted with heavy-duty batteries, heavy-duty shock absorbers, and winter tires. Do not wait until the first snow - that's when most drivers remember and lines at service stations will be very long. Have your car checked on a regular basis. A number of good car maintenance services are available in Moscow. Many of them specialize in one or more vehicle brands (e.g., Volkswagen or BMW).
A gas station is called a "avtozapravka" or "A Ze Es" for short. Gas stations are almost not-existent in the city center, particularly within the confines of the Garden Ring. Therefore, if you live in the city center, make sure you know where the closest gas stations are located. You should only fill up at reputable gas stations, such as BP (British Petroleum), TNK (Tyumen Oil Company), Yukos, or Lukoil.
The price for petrol in Russia is still significantly lower than in Western Europe and North America. Most Russian cars run on 92 or 95 petrol; foreign cars normally run on 95. Since there has been an increase of Russians driving foreign cars, this type of higher-octane petrol is readily available.
Technical Inspection
All cars on the road in Russia have to undergo a regular technical inspection, called a "tekhosmotr" in Russian. Currently, cars that are under five years old have to be inspected every two years; cars that are over five year old have to be examined once a year. The last number on your car's licence plate indicates the month in which your car must undergo the inspection. For example, if the last number is a 9, your technical inspection will be due in September.
The process is a bit complicated for people who do not speak Russian. Unless you know exactly what needs to be done, ask a driver of someone from your office to help you. If your car has passed all tests successfully, you will be issued a plastic technical inspection card, called a "talon tekhosmotra". Whoever is driving the car must carry this document with him/her at all times - along with all other necessary documents. Failure to undergo the technical inspection and/or not having the card may result in confiscation of your car or at least a heavy fine.
If you are caught driving while intoxicated; refuse to take an alcohol test; cannot produce your driving licence, your car registration papers, the documents confirming ownership of the car, or a valid Power Attorney; have illegally stopped or parked your car in a non-stopping and non-parking zone; or if your car has faulty brakes or a faulty steering system, traffic police can impound and tow your car. If your car is towed, you will have to pay a fine for the offence you have committed; pay for the towing costs; and pay an hourly fees for the time your car was impounded. These costs can amount to 10,000 Rbs or more very easily, and you will need cash to pay - no cards are accepted and there are no ATMs at the "Special Car Park". If you are not present when the car is towed, you may find it very difficult to retrieve/find it later.
Winter Driving
Driving in Moscow in winter can be a tricky and dangerous affair, especially if you are not used to such weather conditions. If you have never driven on snow, slush, ice, you may want to take a few driving lessons with an experienced driver before hitting the roads on your own. Due to huge piles of snow lining the sides of streets and yards, parking in winter is even more difficult than in summer months. Whereas a street may have two lanes, it may be reduced to one lane in winter, again because of the snow. Driving through small streets in the center can become very difficult, and cars going in opposite directions often get stuck because nobody is willing to back up.
Things to keep in your car during winter include a good heavy-duty snowbrush, a defroster for locks, and a roll of paper towels in case condensation builds up on the windows inside the car. You should also carry an extra canister of anti-freeze liquid in your trunk at all times.
Do's on the Roads
Do carry all required documents with you (along with your passport, visa, and migration card). Traffic police can make stop you anytime to check your documents. You are obliged to carry the original documents with you at all times - photocopies are not acceptable.
Do make sure that you have a first-aid-kit (including a sterile syringe, which is not mandatory), a fire extinguisher, and a sign for emergencies in your car. The traffic police can fine you if you fail to produce any of these during a roadside check.
Do drive on the right hand side of the road. This takes some getting used to when you are arriving from a country where driving is on the left.
Do drive defensively.
Do adhere to the speed limits of 60 km/h (37mph) in built-up areas and 90 km/h (55 mph) elsewhere.
Do fasten your seatbelts at all times. While regularly ignore buckling up is mandatory in Russia, you can be fined for not wearing a seatbelt. You can also be fined if your passengers are not wearing seatbelts.
Do turn your headlights when going through a tunnel.
Do look out for potholes - they can cause serious damage to your car. They may also cause drivers to weave dangerously in attempt to prevent damage to their cars.
Do stop when the GIBDD (traffic police) motions you to do so. (This can be a patrol car, but more usually a pedestrian officer at the roadside with a baton). They can stop you just to check your documents. Failure to stop can have very serious consequences, including being fired upon by the officers (who have the right to do so).
Do watch where you park in the center of town. Cars may be towed away or clamped.
Do be careful where you leave your car at night - break-ins do happen. Do not leave anything lying around the car. Put things that must stay in your car into the trunk.
Do make sure that your car is properly insured through a reputable insurance company. Carrying the Insurance Certificate with you at all times is a legal requirement.
Do remain flexible.
Do keep your license plate clean - you can be fined for a dirty/illegible license plate.
Do Not's on the Road
Don't drink and drive! Russia has a 0.3 pro mil in blood (0.15 with a breathalyzer test) alcohol policy for drivers and police are very strict about this. The GIBDD has the right to check your blood alcohol level on the spot. 0.3 pro mil of alcohol is about one bottle of light beer, but remember that alcohol effect different people in a different way. The more well-grown the person is, the faster alcohol digests. So, you never know if you have exceeded the norm or not. It is better not risk.
Don't turn left or do a u-turn unless this is clearly specified. You must drive until the next U-turn sign, no matter how far it is, to turn around, then come back and make the right turn.
Don't ever cross a solid double white line - you can have your driving license revoked for several years for doing so.
Don't turn right on a red light - this is illegal in Russia.
Do not allow children under the age of 12 to travel in the front seat.
When approaching circulatories ("roundabouts") incoming traffic has priority over cars already on the circulatory, who must give way to them. This is a considerable difference to many other countries, so take note.
54.Moscow Neighbourhoods::The Kremlin Area::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
The Kremlin
The Kremlin traces its history since 1156 (first mentioned in chronicle), when prince Yury Dolgoruky built wooden walls of future fortress on Borovitsky hill. Moscow didn't play any important role in the country till 1328, when Ivan Kalita, son of Moscow Prince Dmitry, became the Grand Prince of Russian State. He broadened the fortress and built a new oak wall around it. That time citadel has got its modern name, the Kremlin ("kremnik" means "forest" in old Russian), and became the residence of Metropolitan and Grand Prince. But the wooden walls, although invulnerable, suffered from fire, and in 1367 fortifications of white stone were built around the Kremlin by Prince Dmitry Ivanovich (later named Donskoy). Since then Moscow is called "a white stone city".
In the end of the 15th century Italian craftsmen built the new walls and towers of red brick, and, according to the evidences of foreign travelers, the Kremlin looked like a medieval castle. Even when Peter the Great moved the capital to St. Petersburg, the Kremlin kept its significance: Russian emperors were still crowned in the Assumption Cathedral, and the whole Moscow gathered here for the great church festivals. In 1918 Moscow became the capital again. The Kremlin was occupied by the Bolshevik government, and it became impossible to enter it without special pass. Only in 1955 the gates of the citadel were reopened to public, and the government residence became an open-air museum of history and architecture.
Now this symbol of Russian State is the official residence of the President. It is a preserved area, protected and guarded by the State and included in the UNESCO List of Cultural and Natural Heritage of the World.
Manezhnaya Square
Sculptor Zurab Tsereteli was awarded the privilege to embellish Manezhnaya square with heroes of Russian folk-tales and to place bronze horses surrounded by a cloud of water-drops in the fountains. The bronze horseman near the Red Square is one of Soviet greatest commanders - marshal Georgy Zhukov, the hero of the Great Patriotic War. An interesting red building in Pseudo-Russian style serves as a background for the Zhukov monument: it is the State Historical Museum, a quaint creation of architects V. Shervud and A. Semenov. Passing by the Historical Museum don't forget to stand on the 'zero kilometer'; from this point all the distances in Russia are said to be measured.
Teatralnaya Square
Petrovskaya, Tsvetochnaya, Teatralnaya, Sverdlova and again Teatralnaya - the name of the square changed many times as well as its architectural appearance. In the 1820s architect Osip Bove completely reconstructed Teatralnaya square; as a result, Moscow got rid of a stinking cesspit that the square had been turned into and now is proud of having such a marvellous place. Bove planned to create an architectural ensemble which would consist of five buildings in the late classicism style. The dominant of the square would be the Bolshoi Theatre. Unfortunately Maly Theatre is the only Bove's edifice that survived until now.
Petrovsky theatre, the "ancestor" of the Bolshoi Theatre, opened in 1780 and burnt down in 1806. Osip Bove's creation burnt down as well. The third attempt was the successful one. Reconstructed by architect Kavos in 1853, the Bolshoi Theatre is still one of capital's main attractions. It was also in 1853 that the theatre got its symbol: four bronze horses on the roof. Author of this chariot was famous sculptor Peter Klodt. The Bolshoi Theatre is a world-famous cultural centre and its ballet and opera stars get standing ovation all over the world. The reconstruction of the theatre is due to be finished in the late 2011.
Across the street there is another sight of Teatralnaya square - a luxurious hotel "Metropol" (architects I. Valkott and L. Kekushev). Mosaic panels on its walls were designed by Mikhail Vrubel, a fabulous Russian artist of the early 20th century. The original painting is now in the collections of Tretyakov gallery.
Red Square
Voskresenskie vorota ("gates") are the last obstacle on the way to the main square in Russia - "Krasnaya Ploshchad". The name of this symbol of Moscow suits it perfectly: "krasny" in Old Russian meant "beautiful" and it is beautiful indeed, though its modern look was gained with certain difficulties. Once the Red Square was a centre of trade spangled with motley stalls whose boisterous owners offered pan-cakes, kvas, candles, cloth and other goods. But shops and wooden churches in the Red Square were of great fire hazard so they were destroyed and a trading square turned into a place for open-air merrymaking.
Wooden buildings haven't preserved, but some architectural masterpieces are still seen to the delight of Muscovites and tourists. Probably the most famous Russian church stands here - the Cathedral of St. Basil. Monument to Minin and Prince Pozharsky stands in front of the cathedral reminding every Russian about difficult moments in its history. Before 1936 the monument was placed in the centre of the Red Square, but in Soviet times it impeded the military parades. There was an idea to destroy the statue, but it was only moved to the Cathedral of Intercession. It was the first monumental statue in Russia depicting not a nobleman, but "a common citizen".
Not far from this monument there is a stony area surrounded by a low barrier of white stone with a cast-iron fence known as "Lobnoe Mesto". In 1786 this construction replaced the ramshackle brick erection with a hipped roof, which was built in the first half of the 16th century. Situated on the highest place on the Red Square, it symbolizes the Golgotha Mountain, where Jesus Christ was crucified (Golgotha means "forehead" - "lob" in Russian). For ages it functioned as a rostrum from which Russian tsars addressed the nation on special occasions. The legend that it was used as a scaffold is not completely true: no one was ever executed on "Lobnoe Mesto", but the special scaffolds were usually built quite near by.
Across the Square it is the last haven of the first Soviet leader - Lenin Mausoleum. After his death in 1924 it was decided to preserve the body and to construct a special building to keep it. Designed by Shchusev, a pyramid of cubes cut from red granite decorated with marble and black labradorite replaced experimental wooden mausoleum. After the disintegration of the USSR the Mausoleum lost its significance and in 1996 guard of honor near it was cancelled. Although some political leaders repeatedly suggest to bury Lenin as a regular man, the Government still has not made a final decision about it.
In the middle of the Red Square one of the biggest shops of the country attracts millions of visitors every year - Main Universal Store (GUM). This place, known before the Revolution as Upper Trade Rows, has been "a shopping center" of Moscow for ages. An old building of the Upper Trade Rows, designed by O. Bove, was erected in 1815. But as it was owned by several traders, they could never come to a decision to repair the building, and so it gradually went to pieces. At last in 1890 the government forced the owners to erect a new building, and in 1893 the project of A. Pomerantsev came to reality. Built in pseudo-Russian style, it consists of three passages, each three-storied, now called lines. A unique round glass roof 14 meters (43 ft.) in diameter, designed by V. Shukhov, and the front decorated with dummy joint makes GUM one of the symbols of the Red Square, now easy recognizable for every Russian.
Close to GUM the beautiful Kazansky Cathedral makes you want to stand for a moment. It was built after the victory over Polish invaders in 1612 but its heroic background didn't save it from demolishing in 1936. Fortunately it was brought back to life in 1993.
Mokhovaya street is a continuation of Okhotny Ryad street, lying between Tverskaya and the Kremlin. Long ago it was a place where dried moss ("mokh") was sold from stalls; this is the reason for such an unusual name. Moss was used in ancient Russia to pack joints between the beams of traditional wooden house ("izba"). Since the first half of the 19th century this street is closely connected with Moscow State University - its first building was situated on the Red Square, right in the place of contemporary State Historical Museum. During the Moscow fire of 1812 that building was completely destroyed, and professors with their students moved to Mokhovaya, to the new building designed by Domenico Gilardi. In 1832 one more building, the Pashkov family mansion, was bought for the University by Nikolay I; since that Mokhovaya street became a University campus.
Right opposite to the old University the building of Manage demonstrates all the amenities of the Empire Style: pompousness, sumptuousness, spirit of patriotism and war glory. In 1825 great architect Osip Bove managed to create a perfect "palace" for parades, practice manoeuvres. Today Manage is used with more peaceful purpose: it is an exhibition hall, constantly displaying modern art.
It is one of the oldest streets in Moscow: it is known to be here already in the 13th century. In the end of Vozdvizhenka that faces Arbat an unusual building in Mauritanian style provokes curiosity. Its wonderful name is the House of Friendship between Nations of Europe ("Dom Druzhby"). Architect V. Mazyrin built this luxurious mansion for Arseny Morozov after Morozov's trip to Spain and Portugal. It was known among Muscovites as "Spanish castle" and gossip was spread about wild parties thrown by the owner. Another well-known rumour says that Morozov's mother, who lived nearby, once expressed her admiration for this house in a rather unusual way: "Before, only I knew you were a fool; now the whole Moscow will know." In 1959 the House of Friendship opened its doors for visitors, at that time the first woman-astronaut Valentina Tereshkova held the post of the director.
55.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Boulevard Ring::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Today boulevards are Moscow integral part, and it is difficult to imagine that only two centuries ago there were no trees and park benches but an assailable fortress wall, the wall which surrounded the area of the Kremlin and Kitai-Gorod. It was built of white stone, therefore the enclosed city was named Bely Gorod, or "White City". For many centuries this wall, built in the end of the 16th century, scared away the enemies with its imposing size - 10 metres (33 ft.) high and 5-6 (16-19 ft.) metres thick. By the 18th century it had lost its defensive significance and started to dilapidate; that is why it was dismantled and replaced with the Boulevard Ring.
The Boulevard Ring is comprised of the following boulevards: Gogolevsky Boulevard, Nikitsky Boulevard, Tverskoy Boulevard, Strastnoy Boulevard, Petrovsky Boulevard, Rozhdestvensky Boulevard, Sretensky Boulevard, Chistoprudny Boulevard, Pokrovsky Boulevard, Yauzsky Boulevard. It forms a semi-circle around the center of Moscow and is ideal for leisurely strolls. A walk along the boulevard ring's park-like areas is a great way to explore the city center, undisturbed by traffic. The park strip is situated in the middle of the road, in-between traffic lanes. Scores of beautiful old buildings are located along this route (and down the side streets leading off the Boulevard Ring), and there are plenty of benches to sit and relax on along the way. It is also well worth venturing into some of the side streets branching off from the ring - you will find lots of pretty lanes with interesting buildings there.
Gogolevsky Boulevard
Gogolevsky Boulevard is the only one that preserved some features of former Moscow landscape: boulevard's inner side is much higher than its outer side. It is a lovely place for a promenade and a favourite place of dating couples. Close to Arbat there is a monument to one of Russia's greatest writers - Nikolay Gogol, whose name was given to this boulevard.
At the corner of Znamenka street and Gogolevsky boulevard there is a reconstructed mansion of Apraksiny, one of the richest families in 19th century Moscow. Their house was famous for its theatre where some of Russian greatest actors appeared on stage for the first time. In 1812 French officer of the Napoleon army Henry Beil stayed in this house. This officer was to become the world famous writer Stendhal. House No 10 is famous for secret meetings of the Decembrists (the first Russian revolutionaries). Today it is occupied by Russian Chess Association.
Petrovsky Boulevard
Petrovsky boulevard was named after the Vysokopetrovsky monastery. But buildings here are not as old as the monastery. The oldest one is dated 1786. Once it was a palace of count Tatishchev, noble grandee of Catherine the Great. Magnificent balls attracted all Moscow aristocrats here and even Tsar Pavel I favoured Tatishchev with His Majestic visit. Elegantly looking house No 17 was built by R. Klein. Probably once it attracted as many people as Tatishchev's balls: it was a famous wine-shop owned by Dupret.
House No 14 at the corner of Neglinnaya street and Petrovsky boulevard is a "permanent address" of Melpomene and Thalia - famous Moscow theatre "School of Modern Play". Before the revolution it was an institution more appropriate for a residence of the Cooking Muse: beloved by Moscow intellectuals restaurant "Hermitage" offered its delicious dishes here. Petr Tchaikovsky enjoyed it enough to organise his own wedding here in 1877. And the whole Russia must be grateful to the chef of this restaurant Lucien Olivier for inventing a salad later known in Russia as "Olivier" and in the rest of the world as "the Russian salad": a mixture of potatoes, eggs, meat, cucumbers and plenty of mayonnaise. And another fine tradition began here: the day of Tatyana, students' day, was celebrated here for the first time.
Petrovsky Boulevard runs into Trubnaya Square. In the 17th century there was once a deep hole in the wall of the White City: Neglinka river used this hole to carry its waters to the White City and the square used this hole or pipe ("truba") as a name. In 1840s the first pet market ("Ptichy rynok", literally "bird's market") appeared here and brought a nice tradition: every year on the Annunciation day people would let doves free.
Rozhdestvensky Boulevard
Rozhdestvensky boulevrad is the next link in the chain of boulevards. Once it was a steep bank of Neglinka river. The boulevard was given its name after ancient Rozhdestvensky convent which is situated at the corner of the boulevard and Rozhdestvenka street. It is said to be founded by Prince Ivan Kalita's daughter-in-law, countess Maria in 1380s. She was the proud mother of Vladimir the Brave who was a hero of the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Many wives and widows of those who had taken part in the battle helped to build this convent.
Most of the ancient buildings have not preserved because of numerous fires that the convent had been through, but some churches survived. The Cathedral of the Nativity of Mother of God was erected in 1501-1505 and in the 19th century one lady donated a sum of money which allowed architect Kozlovsky to add a bell-tower to the architectural ensemble of the convent. In the beginning of the 20th century Fedor Schechter himself was involved in the construction works. When communists came to power they closed the Rozhdestvensky convent to organise communal flats, police office and a club for policemen here. 70 years later it was returned to the Orthodox Church.
Sretenky Boulevard
Rozhdestvensky boulevard used to be a part of Sretensky boulevard but it split off and Sretensky boulevard became the shortest boulevard in Moscow (it is only 214 metres (0.1 mi.) long). Historically, this area was a home for market and trade, with craftsmen living and working here. Nowadays, there are a lot of reconstructed old buildings in that part of Moscow. So, if you are interested in living in the "old city", you should choose the Sretenka street area. In the 17th century, the area of Sretenka was built up by benches of dealers and workshops of handicraftsmen - a new, large Sretensky village. The length of the whole modern Sretenka is only 800 meters (0.5 mi.), but it is literally cut up by lanes: on the left side of the street there are seven, and on right - nine. There are also lanes that do not lead directly to Sretenka, but are in immediate proximity. The area of Sretenka is characterized by a big number of reconstructed buildings, which have in most parts kept the historical facades that are typical for old Moscow. The paradox of the area is that there are a considerable amount of dilapidated buildings, often adjoining modern and reconstructed structures. The area's buildings are concentrated along the streets Sretenka, Trubnaya and Tsvetnoy boulevard, where coffee houses, restaurants and shops are located.
Chistoprudny Boulevard
People come to Chistye Prudy ("Clean Ponds") searching for "Moscow idyll": cosy boulevard, lime-trees and lilacs, boats sliding over the pond and children feeding swans and ducks. A couple of centuries ago everything was quite different. Those "clean" ponds were once a big dirty puddle and butchers, who inhabited the district, used them as a sewage place. Logically the first unofficial name of these ponds was "Foul Ponds".
In the 18th century Alexander Menshikov, Peter the Great's favourite, became owner of this area. His delicate scent couldn't bear terrible stench coming from the ponds, so Menshikov ordered to clean them; since then they have been known as "Clean Ponds". In summer people come here to swim in a boat, and in winter the pond turns into one of the most popular skating-rinks with lovely illumination.
Chistye Prudy gave name to one of the cosiest Moscow boulevards - Chistoprudny boulevard. As well as other Moscow boulevards, in 1820s it replaced the brick walls of the ancient White City. It begins with a monument to one of the best Russian playwrights Alexander Griboedov. He was a person of versatile talents: he sang, brilliantly danced, was successful in studying all the fields of knowledge; he was a master of fence, dashing horseman, and a gifted writer (his most famous play is "Grief from Mind").
To the right from the monument one can see a pink bell-tower with something like a golden cone on the top. It is the Church of the Archangel Gabriel on Arkhangelsky lane. The man who had cleaned the ponds, Alexander Menshikov, ordered to build a cathedral higher then the Ivan the Great's Bell Tower in the Kremlin. At that time it was regarded as an unbelievable impertinence and impudence. Moreover, Menshikov bought a gigantic chiming clock and placed it on the wall of the church. Such arrogance was punished very soon: during a storm lighting hit the tower and the burning debris fell down, crippling and killing the innocent parishioners. Couple of years later Menshikov became seriously ill and fell into disgrace.
Chistoprudny boulevard and its surroundings was a residential area for Moscow nobility; many of their mansions are still seen here. In Bolshoi Kharitonievsky lane there is an imposing 17th century house with fabulous cast fence, which once belonged to a wealthy grandee Yusupov. Yusupov was famous for his fantastic collection of art, not less fantastic collection of mistresses in his harem and his extravagant behaviour.
Considerable part of local buildings appeared in the late 19th - early 20th century. One of them, former apartment house No 14 is a remarkable example of Moscow Art Nouveau. Here architect S. Vashkov tried to revive the spirit of pagan Russia, placing mysterious mythological creatures on the facades. Once this house belonged to the Church of Trinity on the Mire, named after its location on the muddy banks of the Rachka river. During its tercentennial history this church has survived many destructions and reconstructions; as a result of all this it has unfortunately lost its dome. In another former apartment house, No 23, the great film director Sergey Eisenstein, who influenced not only Soviet but also the world's art of film making, lived from 1920 to 1934.
Pokrovsky and Yauzsky Boulevards
Quiet and cosy, they lead down to the Moscow-river; now it is hard to imagine that not far from this peaceful and pleasant area once was situated Moscow underworld, criminal headquarters, true inferno. The district between Pevchesky and Petropavlovsky lanes, known as Khitrovka, inspired fear and horror into the entire city. Thieves, murderers, prostitutes, convicts and fugitives inhabited dark lanes and dirty dens, and even policemen were afraid to step down into this hell. Only in 1923 Soviet police organised a massive raid to Khitrovka and managed to get rid of this pit.
56.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Lubyanka::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Novaya Ploshchad ("New Square")
Novaya square forms a kind of border between Kitai-Gorod and Lubyanka. Long pale building in Pseudo-Russian style on Novaya square for many years has been a centre of scientific, cultural and social life, housing Polytechnic Museum. The edifice that we see today was created in 1874 by architects I. Monginetti, N. Shokhin and I. Mashkov. Polytechnic Museum became a place where public lectures were given, scientific experiments were demonstrated, conferences and debates were organised. In the 60s it also was a "centre point" of poetry: in its auditoria many fabulous poets of this "poetry boom" period (Evgeny Evtushenko, Bella Akhmadulina, Andrey Voznesensky) captivated people's souls with magic power of words.
At the end of Polytechnic Museum one can see a monument to heroes of Plevna, Turkish city famous for a crucial battle between Russians and Turks in 1877. Today this place is known to be a meeting point of gay scene. At the low end of the little boulevard Great Brothers Cyrill and Mephodius are holding a bronze book with their own Cyrillic alphabet.
Staraya Ploshchad ("Old Square")
Saint Brothers are standing on Staraya square. As many Moscow street names it deludes tourists: first of all it has nothing to do with a square and, secondly, it is actually newer than Novaya ("New") square. In the end of the 18th century Staraya square was a flea market, in the 19th century apartment houses appeared here like mushrooms after the rain. Today the Administration of the President occupies houses No 2-8 (former Moscow Merchant Association, hotel and a trading house). Among these buildings there is the Church of the Trinity in Nikitniki.
Lubyanskaya Square
Lubyanskaya square inspired several generations of Muscovites with fear and horror. House No 2 reconstructed by the author of mausoleum A. Shusev remembers almost all secret services in Russia. During the last 80 years it has changed name more than 10 times from CheKa to FSB and today the first thing that crosses the mind of any Russian when he/she hears "Lubyanka" is prison, tortures and pain. Here people were brought for interrogations, beaten, tortured and later sent to camps of GULAG (The Central Administrative of the Labour Camps) in Kolyma; millions of prisoners never returned. They were kept in special inner prison of this scary house and taken for a walk to the roof. As a result a sad joke was born: "What is the highest building in Moscow? - "Lubyanka, one can see Kolyma from its roof."
For a long time the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of CheKa stood on Lubyanskaya square. In 1991 it was removed to the garden near the Central House of Artists and joined other statues of not-wanted communistic politicians. Instead of Dzerzhinsky Solovetsky stone was erected on Lubyanskaya square as a monument to all those who suffered from the totalitarian regime.
Bolshaya Lubyanka
Bolshaya Lubyanka street also knew bloody moments in its history. In the courtyard of houses No 7-9 one can still see boyars Khovanskiye's brick chambers built in the 17th century. In 1682 Ivan Khovansky headed the Streletsky riot ("strelets" was a member of special military corps in Muscovite Russia); when the rising was put down, tsarina Sofia ordered to execute Khovansky and many other leaders of the riot. On the basis of this story Mussorgsky wrote his opera "Khovanshchina". House No 14 is a magnificent mansion built in the late baroque style. This reconstructed house used to be the residence of Prince Dmitry Pozharsky - the hero of Russian-Polish war of 1612.
One of Moscow ancient monasteries is located on Bolshaya Lubyanka. Its name is Sretensky monastery and it was founded in the 14th century. As the legend goes this monastery was built on a place where in 1395 Muscovites came to meet the holy icon of Our Lady of Vladimir. The icon was brought to Moscow to help people in their struggle against Tatar invaders. The miracle happened - the Tatars suddenly left Moscow. After the October revolution many edifices in the monastery were destroyed. Only the Cathedral of Vladimirskaya Icon of the Mother of God erected in 1679 and monk's cells are preserved.
Rather non-appetizing name (literally "butcher street") was given to this street after the representatives of this profession who lived here in the 16th-17th centuries. Myasnitskaya was "ennobled" in the 18th century when Tsar Peter's retinue began to settle here in hope to deserve majestic attention: Peter the Great used this road when he visited his favourite German village in Lefortovo.
At the corner of Myasnitskaya street and Lubyansky passage one of the most unusual museums is waiting for those who are curious to know more about bright and tragic life of the extraordinary Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
House No 26 for more than 300 years allows people to keep in touch with their beloved ones wherever they are - it is Moscow General Post Office. It was founded in 1700 although modern building was constructed in 1912 by Munts.
Kuznetsky Most
Kuznetsky Most street connects Bolshaya Lubyanka and Neglinnaya streets. Once its name ("most" stands for "bridge") was perfectly suitable: this street used to be a bridge over Neglinka river. Today both the bridge and the river are history.
Kuznetsky Most used to be (and still is) fashion "heaven": all the noblemen would come here to buy a hat or a dress of the latest style. Mostly Frenchmen were owners of the shops and that saved Kuznetsky Most when Napoleon army set Moscow on fire before leaving the city: French soldiers had mercy on their compatriots. Now Kuznetsky Most is perfect for shopping: a large number of (mostly luxurious) clothing and shoes stores can be found here.
Frenchmen were trendsetters not only in fashion but in restaurant business as well. At the corner of Kuznetsky Most and Neglinnaya streets there is a house No 9 in which in 1826 Frenchman Trinkle opened the legendary restaurant "Yar". Alexander Pushkin and his friends were among its visitors. House No 11 is the right place for those who are looking for gifts and souvenirs. It is the Moscow House of Artist with a little market inside offering all kinds of knick-knacks.
Neglinnaya street replaced Neglinka river that was enclosed into an underground pipe in 1818. The legendary Sandunovskiye Banyas are located on Neglinnaya. They were founded in 1806 by the famous actor Sila Sandunov and they were popular from the very opening. The last owner decided to turn it into a true Temple of Cleanness with marble swimming-pool, majestic architecture and fabulous decorations. No wonder that people wait for hours to enjoy a hot bath at "Sanduny".
57.Charities::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Private charities were outlawed during the 70 years of communist power. When the Soviet Union began to collapse, and the social safety net unravelled, Russians found themselves scrambling to build an NGO culture from scratch. Expats have been involved in a big way - and many have specifically come to Russia to help out. Others who are already here see overwhelming needs every day that they cannot ignore. Here's how to get involved.
If language is a barrier, volunteer or fund raise through any of the myriad of community or religious organizations.
Russian speakers can go directly to a Russian charity or help an expat group find new projects to support.
Beware if you are moved to write checks at the site of photos of needy children staring helplessly from the front of a slick brochure. Sometimes the most effective Russian charities can't afford Madison Avenue and some of those who can may not be what they seem.
Some do's and don'ts
Do realize that the Russian tax law doesn't grant NGOs the kinds of benefits they enjoy in the West. Thus, instead of creating a project to fill a need, charities target needs that the law allows them to address.
Don't donate money without thoroughly checking out the recipient organization. NGOs that balk at transparency may not be what they seem.
Don't assume that because an NGO is based abroad it is more effective than a home grown Russian NGO. Often the opposite is true.
Do network.
Moscow is a home to a large number of charitable organizations that are always happy to welcome new volunteers. If you want to volunteer or if you have furniture, clothing, shoes, bedding, toys, kitchenware, appliances or items you no longer need, please contact one of the charitable organizations listed below. Many are always looking for in-kind donations for the projects they support. Some may be able to pick up your donations from your home or office.
AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW)
AIDS Foundation East-West (AFEW) is a Dutch, non-governmental, public health organization working in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) to reduce the impact of HIV among vulnerable populations. AFEW has developed a system of replication, which adapts successful international HIV programmes, based on best practices to the local conditions in other countries across the region. Currently, AFEW carries out programmes in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Tel: 250-6377
AMUR - Working to Save Russian
Tigers and Leopards from Extinction
AMUR is an Anglo-Russian charity promoting the conservation of Amur (Siberian) tigers and leopards and was officially launched at the British Embassy by the former British Ambassador, Sir Roderic Lyne, in May 2001. The Amur tigers and leopards are extremely endangered with only about 450 adult tigers and 35 adult leopards living in the wild in the Russian Far East. AMUR works to raise money and awareness for conservation projects in the Russian Far East, where these two extremely rare big cats live. Amongst other things, AMUR is working to create new protected reserves, promote eco-tourism, carry out education projects and help with much needed research. Volunteers can get involved by joining the AMUR Committee, holding fund raising events (all money raised will go directly to projects in the field), helping organize events, making a donation, etc.
Address: Myasnitskaya ul., 35a, office 46
Metro: Chistie Prudy
Tel: 768-8065
Action for Russia's Children (ARC)
Action for Russia's Children (ARC) is an all-volunteer charity dedicated to helping children - particularly the under-privileged, disabled and homeless - and supports Russian initiatives that offer an alternative to institutional care. ARC works with day centers, therapy centers, specialist schools, a foster family project and toy library to establish alternatives to the internat system and to support parents who have made the difficult decision to keep a special-needs child at home. ARC's volunteers give support to ten projects helping children and young people in Moscow who have all kinds of special needs: physically and mentally disabled children, orphans, the homeless, and those of mixed race who suffer from discrimination.
Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)
Charities Aid Foundation is a non-commercial organisation committed to efficient giving. It works to raise the profile of giving, lobby for tax breaks and provide an increasingly broad suite of services to charities and their supporters. The Russian office of the Foundation - CAF Russia - has been a successful charity in Russia since 1993. In close collaboration with the leading Russian and international companies and foundations, it realises around 40 programmes a year. Since the beginning of its work, CAF Russia realised over 300 initiatives aimed at the resolution of a considerable range of social problems, from aiding organisations for the disabled to developing local foundations in 26 regions of the country. Over 44 million dollars went to such ends. The total value of the projects supported by CAF exceeds 120 million dollars.
Address: Tverskaya ul., 24/2, str. 1, podiezd 3, floor 5
Metro: Pushkinskaya
Tel: 792-5929
Diema's Dream
Diema's Dream was founded in 1998 as a result of Mary Dudley's charitable work with orphanages in Moscow while she first lived here from 1994 to 1997. It was during this time that she met Diema, a charming little boy who had hydrocephalus and was paralyzed from the waist down. When Diema turned 5, he was sent to an Internat for children from the ages of 5 to 18. The founder had lost Diema in the system. Through her search to find Diema, Mary met Leonid Mogilevsky. Diema was one of the lucky children to have been saved by Mogilevsky from one of the worst internats in Moscow. Today Diema's Dream is a non-profit, all volunteer US and UK foundation providing financial medical and educational support for physically and mentally disabled children in Russia and the former Soviet Union states. The larger goal is to support changes in society and government in order to create social and medical support programs that will allow parents to raise their children at home instead of living in institutions. Diema's Dream has sponsored educational seminars for the staff and teachers of the Charity House Program.
Address: Borisovskiye Prudy ul., 16, korp. 4
Metro: Kashirskaya
Tel.: 340-0100
Downside Up
For decades Russian children with Down syndrome had no early intervention services, and their needs were ignored. In 1996 Downside Up, a Russian-British charity, began its daily free programs for Russian families that raise children with DS. Downside Up provides free educational and social services to several hundred Russian children with Down syndrome and their families. Volunteers are involved in charity fundraising events, such as an annual bike ride in Moscow and a Kilimanjaro Climb, and do volunteer work with the children at the center.
Address: 3rd Parkovaya ul., 14a
Metro: Izmailovskaya
Tel: 8 499 367-1000
Address: Leningradsky prosp., 26, korp. 1
Metro: Belorusskaya
Tel: 988-7460
Guide Dogs - Dogs as Assistants to Disabled People
Guide Dogs is an independent non-profit charity called "Dogs as Assistants to Disabled People" that provides a free humanitarian service to disabled Russians. The volunteer trainers train both guide dogs for the blind and help dogs for physically or mentally disabled people. Those who receive dogs get them for free. New dog owners also receive free instruction to learn how to work with their four-legged companions. The guide dog services are provided free of charge, but since Guide Dogs Dogs receives no governmental assistance the center relies on donations to continue its important work.
Tel: 8 499 145-2261
Hope Worldwide
Hope Worldwide supports orphans, disabled children and pensioners, veterans of World War II and the elderly. Volunteers are always welcome.
Address: Botanicheskaya ul., 33, korp. 5
Metro: Petrovsko-Razumovskaya
Tel: 977-7375
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
IFAW's mission is to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats and assisting animals in distress. IFAW seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the wellbeing of both animals and people. Today IFAW's programs include a campaign to save the critically endangered Western population of Gray whales at Sakhalin Island, the IFAW Mobile veterinary clinic that spays/neuters and treats stray dogs and cats, the IFAW Orphan Bear Cubs Project that rehabilitates bear cubs orphaned after the cruel winter den hunt.
Address: Smolenskaya pl., 3, Smolensky Passage
Metro: Smolenskaya
Tel: 937-8386
International Women's Club (IWC) Charities
The International Women's Club of Moscow supports many different charitable projects with the assistance of a group of dedicated volunteers. These projects fall into different areas that include baby houses and internats (orphanages), children, the elderly, families and individuals, foster families, handicapped and hospitals, soup kitchens, street children, the homeless, women's issues and a donations office. Volunteers are always needed and very welcome! The IWC Charities Group holds regular general meetings at which you can find out more about the work of the group and the many projects the IWC supports.
Kidsave International
Kidsave believes that every child needs a family. Consistent with its mission to end the harmful institutionalization of children, Kidsave has been working since 1999 to help move orphaned and abandoned children into permanent families. Volunteers are always welcome to help.
Kitezh Children's Community
Kitezh was established to place children from Russian orphanages into loving adoptive families living in an idyllic village some 300 km southwest of Moscow in the Kaluga Region. This therapeutic community is recognized nationally and internationally for the outstanding work that it does in healing traumatized children. Ten years ago, Kitezh was virgin forest. Slowly, a village of log cabin homes and a school came into being. The school is fully recognized by the government, and there are classes in computing, English, art and icon painting, personal development, as well as Russian, math, history and geography. The children learn traditional Russian dances and perform musicals such as "My Fair Lady" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" in the original English. Some of the first children to come to Kitezh from orphanages ten years ago are now university students - an outstanding testament to the loving success of this community.
Tel: 8 916 9751603
Maria's Children
The Maria's Children studio was established in 1993 when director Maria Yeliseeva began her volunteer work with orphans. Kids from different orphanages in Moscow attend the art studio to team art and life skills. They create murals, paintings and other artwork that has been exhibited in Russia and abroad, and their teachers practice art therapy and musical therapy with children challenged by disabilities. The studio also has a psychologist who works with the children. Maria's Children provides an atmosphere where children learn trust, love and friendship. They learn to paint and in doing so, are empowered to change their lives. Every year, Maria's Children sells adorable postcards and wall calendars. Volunteers who are interested in doing artwork with children are always welcome.
Address: Dmitrovsky per., 2/10
Metro: Okhotny Ryad
Tel: 692-4870
METIS Inter-Racial Children's Charity Fund
The mission of METIS is to improve the lives of mixed-race children through humanitarian assistance, education and training programs, and other avenues of social advocacy and support. It is the only organization of its kind in Russia. Current METIS programs and projects include computer classes; English and French language classes; donations of food packages to needy families; financial support to individual families; monthly ethnic gatherings for children and families excursions to theatres, museums, and other cultural venues; distribution of a semi-annual newsletter; holiday celebrations for children and families; donations of clothing, toys, and household items, summer camp sponsorship etc. Volunteers are always needed for the above programs and projects.
Tel: 343-0813
MiraMed Independent Living and Social Adaptation Center (MILSAC)
Since 1991 MiraMed has been assisting displaced and orphaned children in Russia, helping them make the transition from state-run institutions to society. The organization's social protection programs for Russian orphans include humanitarian aid, education and training at MiraMed Centers for Social Adaptation in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Uglich that help orphans re-enter society with the skills they need to live a safe and meaningful life. MiraMed's short and long term volunteer programs give adults from around the world the opportunity to live and work in Russia and make a personal difference. MiraMed founded the Angel Coalition, the first and now the largest, most successful anti-trafficking coalition in Russia whose members provide public education and training and support for the rescue, return and rehabilitation of trafficking survivors. There are opportunities to work with pregnant single young mothers, single moms with young children, teenagers, and young adults, or with a professional staff of teachers and psychologists.
Address: Kotelnicheskaya nab., 1/15, korp. B, office 52
Metro: Kitai-Gorod
Tel: 915-4614
Moscow Animals
Homeless dogs and cats are a big problem in Moscow. There are still no Western-style SPCAs in Moscow. The aims of Moscow Animals are to provide in-kind and financial support to a number of private and semi-private dog and cat shelters in Moscow and to assist the shelters and private individuals that rescue animals off the street in finding new homes for their furry friends. Volunteering at animal shelters in Moscow is possible, though operating conditions will usually be nowhere near those in Western countries. If you would like to adopt a dog or cat, please visit the dog and cat pages on the Moscow Animal website.
Tel: 763-0012
Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy (MPC)
The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy funds and operates soup kitchens that serve hot lunches to hundreds of Moscow's elderly each weekday in a number of locations around Moscow. In addition to running soup kitchens, the MPC distributes groceries to African refugees and underprivileged foreign students and prepares food packages for families from METIS, an inter-racial children's charity fund. Volunteers are always welcome.
Tel: 8 499 143-5748
Nastenka Foundation
Nastenka Foundation is based at the Institute of Pediatric Oncology and helps children suffering from cancer by providing their families with medical, financial and psychological assistance. Nastenka tries to help by providing the families with financial assistance; raising and providing funds for the purchase of medications, prostheses and medical equipment; providing funds for the treatment of individual children; providing the children with additional nutrition; providing the children with clothing and toys as well as educational supplies; arranging parties and entertainment at the hospital and excursions for the long-term resident parents; and involving volunteers in all aspects of the Foundation's work. Nastenka is always looking for volunteers to assist with fundraising, distribution of donations and raising awareness about their cause.
Tel: 585-4101
"NAN" - No to Alcoholism and Drugs
Founded in 1987 by a group of psychiatrists who specialize in drug related problems, NAN now has more than 40 different chapters across Russia. The fund concentrates on developing, testing and approving various spiritually oriented methods of preventing alcoholism and drug-use, venereal diseases and AIDS. It works with abandoned "street" children. NAN has been a leader in NGO development in Russia and played an active role in preparing various federal and Moscow city laws regulating charities. NAN is a recipient of the Euro-American Award for Democracy and a Civil Society.
Address: Shvernika ul., 10a
Metro: Akademicheskaya
Tel: 8 499 126-3475
Operation Smile
Operation Smile is a leading international charitable medical organization which provides free, high quality, reconstructive facial surgery to children around the world born with cleft lip, cleft palate, and other facial deformities. Founded in the United States in 1982 by plastic surgeon Or. William Magee and his wife, Operation Smile has since operated on almost 80,000 children in 22 mission countries free of charge. Operation Smile donates medical equipment and supplies to in-country host hospitals. All Operation Smile doctors are volunteers, donating their time and services. Operation Smile has been recognized by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as the largest organization of volunteers in the world. Nominated by former US Ambassador to Russia Thomas Pickering, Operation Smile was awarded the first Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1996.
Address: Smolenskaya pl., 3, Smolensky Passage, office 708
Metro: Smolenskaya
Tel. 933-8377
Russian Children's Welfare Association (RCWS)
The Russian Children's Welfare Society is dedicated to assisting disadvantaged Russian Children improve their lives. Our organization was formed in 1926 to assist Russian children and families who emigrated to the West. Today the RCWS focuses on helping to improve the lives of children at risk in Russia. During the 2007-2008, the Society disbursed approximately 2 million dollars in direct aid to children in Russia by supporting orphanages, homeless shelters, hospitals, rehabilitation centers for disabled children and schools. More than 20,000 children have been helped by the Society, and over 600 grants have been made to children's organizations.
Address: Bakuninskaya ul., 81/55, str. 1
Metro: Elektrozavodskaya
Tel: 8 499 261-1868
Russian Orphan Opportunity Fund (ROOF)
ROOF is a pioneer in providing high-quality education for children and young adults from Russian orphanages with programs aiming to eradicate traditional prejudices against this group by integrating them into society and enabling them to take care of themselves. ROOF needs volunteers to help with fundraising, translating materials, raising awareness about the problems faced by orphans in Russia, etc.
Address: Voznesensky per., 8
Metro: Pushkinskaya
Tel: 629-5100

Taganka Children's Fund (TCF)
Taganka Children's Fund supports over 1,200 of the most disadvantaged children and single parents in Moscow to prevent children from entering institutionalized care or ending up alone on the city streets. Taganka Children's Fund is always looking for volunteers to assist with fundraising, PR grant writing and development projects. Much of the work can be done in English.
Address: Bolshoi Rogozhsky per., 10, korp. 2
Metro: Marksistskaya
Tel: 911-7449
Therapeutic Riding Society
Therapeutic riding is a physical and a social activity that helps cure or ease many diseases and problems and that brings together the healthy and the handicapped. Equestrian therapy lessons include creative games and sports and contribute to a sense of well-being and self-reliance. The society is a non-profit charitable organization that aims at giving comprehensive help to disabled people. The program of rehabilitation and social adaptation provides riding sessions; rehabilitation exercises; lessons in clay modelling; embroidery; drawing; singing; pottery; ceramics; woodcarving; as well as playing sessions, lessons in basic horse grooming, stable keeping and horse tending. Members of the club regularly take part in national and international riding competitions. As the assistance the society provides to the disabled is free of charge, it relies on donations and grants from national and international organizations and private individuals.
Tel: 781-4668
United Way Moscow
United Way Moscow is a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to improving people's lives in Moscow and eventually in Russia. The United Way marshals volunteer monetary resources to make a positive impact on the lives of children, teens and seniors. It also lobbies for government policies in Moscow and throughout Russia and promotes the concepts of philanthropic giving in Russia.
Address: Nizhnaya ul., 14, str. 1
Metro: Belorusskaya
Tel: 780-9717

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia
Founded in 1961, WWF is one of the biggest non-governmental conservation organizations in the world. WWF's mission is to stop the accelerating degradation of Earth's natural environment and to help its human inhabitants live in greater harmony with nature. Established in Russia in 1994, the main programs that WWF Russia is working on include forests, climate change, rare species, nature protected areas, ecological legislation development, education, and toxins. The WWF needs volunteer help in their office.
Address: Nikoloyamskaya ul., 19, str. 3
Metro: Taganskaya
Tel: 727-0939
Although we believe all of the charities listed above to be reputable organisations, please bear in mind that a listing does not guarantee the bona fides of the organisation concerned.
58.Shopping::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Food Shopping
Shopping in Moscow could be done day and night and you can find anything you want. Food shopping is very easy, and the choice of supermarkets - both Western and Russian - and products is huge. There are a number of shopping opportunities, ranging from small convenience stores located close to apartment blocks and metro stations to huge shopping centers found everywhere, including the city outskirts.
For those who like to shop in supermarkets, there is a variety of different chains, offering a wide range of products, including some that are popular particularly within the expatriate community. There are also farmer's markets where you can buy fresh goods directly from the producers.
Last but not least, you will find numerous smaller "kiosks" (small booths or stalls) all over town. Concentrations are particularly high outside metro stations. Some sell a variety of beverages, cigarettes and chocolates while others specialize in bread, fruit and vegetables, meat products, or toiletries. Some sell products made by a particular factory (meat and sausages in particular).
Many supermarkets are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Smaller food stores and food markets are also usually open seven days a week but many close around 9 or 10 p.m. Payment is accepted in rubles only, some of the larger supermarkets accept credit cards (usually they will ask for some photo-ID document). Along with food items and beverages, most supermarkets also sell a variety of other household items - from toiletries, cleaning liquids, detergents, and small selections of kitchenware to pantyhose, magazines and toys.
You should be able to find most of the items you're used to in Moscow. In addition to the locally produced goods, vast numbers of imported food products, and beverages are readily available here. Russian bread, milk products, sausage meats, salads, pancakes and frozen food (such as pelmeni, filled pancakes, vegetable patties, frozen dough, etc) are of excellent quality and taste great.
Carrying large bags, satchels, briefcases or similar bulky items is not allowed in most shops - small lockers are provided near the entrance, which you should use. In some supermarkets there are no lockers but at the entrance you will find a man or a woman with plastic bags of different size - you are supposed to put your bags (satchels or briefcases) in the plastic bag that will be sealed with a special device, and keep it with you while shopping. Most supermarkets charge a tiny fee for carrier bags - others provide very poor ones for free, while offering more substantial ones for a small price. Few Russians have heard of the issue of voluntarily limiting the use of plastic bags for ecological reasons.

Food Markets
What is a Russian "rynok" (market)? This word refers to a typical Russian farmer's market. These markets are located throughout the city and vary in size and pricing, but they all operate year round, seven days a week (except public holidays). Most farmer's markets have separate smaller buildings for such staple crops as potatoes, cabbage, onions, and carrots and for marinated garlic, cucumbers and wine leaves. The main hall usually has plenty of fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs, milk products, honey, fish, meat and poultry. Note that the word "rynok" can also refer to a wholesale market, which mostly has canned, boxed and pre-packed foodstuffs along with various household items; to a clothing market; or to a building materials market.
Things to Remember while Shopping at Markets
Bring a basket - you'll probably end up buying more than you planned.
Many vendors will offer you a sample of their product. Bear in mind that fruit and vegetables at the market have not been washed if you accept this offer.
Make sure you understand whether the price is for a kilo (za kilogram) or for one item (za adnu shtuku).
Don't forget to bargain, especially when buying fruit and vegetables. Many vendors at the market come from the Caucasus, where bargaining is an essential part of shopping.
Be careful when purchasing meat in the summertime - it is often not refrigerated.
Check you change - mistakes can and do happen.
Markets tend to be crowded, so beware of pickpockets. Do not carry your keys, passports and money in a lady's purse. Stow them away in a safe place. Never put documents, keys or money in the back pocket of your pants.
Buying Caviar
Be aware that black caviar (sturgeon caviar) is now under very tight legal controls which make it effectively impossible to purchase in Russia - Russian policy has changed, and they now take the Endangered Species of sturgeons very seriously. Do not get involved in buying it - in addition to the moral issues involved, you can end up in jail. Red caviar (salmon caviar) on the other hand is completely legal to purchase (and to take abroad with you) and is just as delicious.
Russia produces a large variety of chocolates, bonbons, other candy, and cakes. Large supermarkets often have a separate section selling cakes. While Russians prefer to buy entire cakes, many stores now sell individual pieces. The most famous Russia chocolate factories are Krasny Oktyabr, Rot-Front, Babaevsky. Russian chocolate is of highest quality.
Wines, whisky, and other quality alcoholic beverages are now widely available in Moscow - but only from shops. Street kiosks and stands cannot sell anything stronger than beer by law. Russian-produced wines may be different to the taste you are used to, but you might like to try them - there are no bargains here, and the cheapest ones are cheap for a reason. In addition to a dazzling array of vodkas, Russian-produced cognacs can be enjoyable - once again, avoid the low-priced stuff if you can.
Reading Expiration Dates
Figuring out expiration dates for food products and beverages can be tricky affair in Russia. The vast majority of imported products have the expiration date stamped, printed or engraved on either the top or bottom of the container or can or on the lid. Some (for example, baby food) have both the production and expiration data. Some local producers have already switched to this system. However, you need to be aware of the fact that some Russian companies still print the production and not the expiration date on their products, which can cause confusion. In such cases you will find the production date printed and a message saying: "This product can be kept for 'x' months/years from the production date" somewhere on the can, container or packaging. This most often applies to eggs, Russian canned goods, Russian chocolate, some milk products and pre-packaged bread. Yet other products (for example, some Russian juices and milk products) may come with both the production and expiration data). As everywhere in the world, check the dates if you are suspicious
Peculiarities of Communication with Vendors
You may find that vendors become impatient when you are unable to explain to them what you want. Please don't be offended - this is not because they don't like you personally. Shop assistants are paid to serve the public, but not to be especially polite or charming to the customers - don't take their offhand attitude personally. In privately-run shops, or at kiosks being run by the owner service can sometimes be charming, especially if you become a "regular" - you may even begin to enjoy "privileges" such as them keeping-back the best fruit for you, or saving something for you in case you drop by.
Clothing and Accessories
Clothing, shoes and accessories can also be purchased everywhere, with the options ranging from everyday affordable to designer and haute couture. The most expensive outlets such as Chanel and Hermes are located on Tretyakovsky passage and Stoleshnikov lane; while the less expansive clothing lines, such as H&M, Zara etc. can be found in many Moscow shopping centers, e.g. Mega Mall, Stockmann, Metropolis. In the last 2-3 years a range of city-centre shopping malls have opened where you can find franchises of international chains like Fat Face, Benetton, Marks & Spencers, Uniqlo etc. The two largest malls are Evropeisky (adjacent to Kievsky station) and Atrium (adjacent to Kursky station) - these have substantially superceded the previous generation of malls, whose weary ranges are still on sale to those who haven't yet found the better places.
Among the great variety of shops, boutiques, fashion salons and galleries in modern Moscow there are those that enter the "must see" category. Along with Kremlin and the Red Square they head the list of the main tourist attractions. Among them are GUM, TsUM, and Okhotny Ryad.
GUM (Main Universal (Department) Store)
Known before the Revolution as Upper Trade Rows, GUM has been "a shopping center" of Moscow for ages. Its luxuriant edifice houses three arcades of shops under a glass roof. Recently renovated, it lost all the traces of Soviet stagnation and now houses some top Western trade chains along with speciality shops and boutiques. GUM's image has mutated considerably from soviet grot to opulent elegance - it's now a location for premium brands. Russians coming to Moscow from other cities still come to GUM to shop, but Muscovites have mostly moved-on from GUM's overpriced and somewhat snooty outlets. It is worth coming here to see the extraordinarily beautiful building itself, and perhaps have a coffee in one of the upper galleries - but there are better places for actual shopping these days.
TsUM (Central Universal (Department) Store)
Another large department store of Moscow, TsUM, traces its history since 1880s, when Scotsmen Archibald Merilees and Andrew Muir founded the branch of their trading company "Muir and Merilees" in Moscow. In 1892 "Muir and Merilees" department store welcomed the first customers in the new building on Petrovka street. The modern building was erected in 1908 after a project by Roman Klein; that time it was considered to be a technical breakthrough and an architectural masterpiece. Moscow tour guides usually classify it as "one of the last samples of European Gothic, slightly influenced by Art Nouveau". Completely reconstructed in 1997, TsUM now complies all international standards of service, though it's too expensive for most ordinary Muscovites. Muscovites in-the-know generally consider TsUM better than GUM as an upscale retailer of premium-priced branded goods - but no-one does their daily shopping at either.
Okhotny Ryad
Located right near Kremlin, this underground three-storeyed shopping palace serves also as one of the main tourist sights. Plenty of shops and boutiques, offering wide range of goods, are located in this shopping centre. World most famous brands, such as Mexx, Calvin Klein, Tissot, along with less famous but also less expensive, are represented in "Okhotny Ryad", satisfying taste and requirements of customers of different personal income. The noisy and hot, sticky atmosphere isn't appreciated by all, although a teenage public likes to hang out there. But most shoppers are increasingly attracted by the much wider range of shops, and nicer facilities and services, at Evropeisky or Atrium, or the out-of-town malls like Mega.
59.Moscow-at-a-Glance::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Moscow is a city of contrasts, and its fascinating history offers its inhabitants and guests a variety of adventures - business, economical, cultural, recreational and much more. Moscow is the capital of the largest European country and is situated in the heart of what is known as European Russia. Consequently, this capital city, being the epicenter of life for people of different nations and parts of the world, takes the best of east and west. Moscow has seen foreign invaders come and go. It was the capital when Mongol Tatars overran the Russian lands. The Crimean Tatars destroyed the fledgling city in 1751, as did Poles in the 17th century. During the war with Napoleon, three-quarters of the city was burned in the wake of the French occupation - but as a result, a stately Empire-era city arose in its place, still studded with the remains of the city's medieval splendour. Two further upheavals have helped shape the city's extraordinary appearance - the wave of "suprematist" monumental architecture undertaken during the "boom" period of the Communist era, and the corresponding oil-funded "rebuilding boom" that followed the fall of Communism, and continues today.
The City's Name
Moscow was named after the Moskva River (in Russian the name of the city is pronounced as "Mosk-va"). The origin of the name itself is unknown, although several theories exist. One of the theories suggests that the name originates from the ancient Finnic language, in which it means "dark" or "turbid". Yet another theory tells that the name comes from the ancient Slav language and means simply "wet". Either way, the etymology of the word is related to water.
Geographic Area & Size
The size of the city is about 1100 (425 sq.mi), with the central part of the city - over 800 (309 sq.mi) situated inside the Moscow Outer Ring Road.
Location, Streetplan, and Arterial Road Scheme
Moscow is located directly at the centre of European Russia at the northwest segment of Russia's most densely developed and populated region. The Moskva River crosses through the middle of the city and is itself a tributary of the Volga River.
Like the cross-section of a tree with its yearly rings, Moscow has grown outward from the Kremlin since the 12th century. There are five concentric "rings" that shape the city's streetplan - the most central being the former moat of the Kremlin, Moscow's medieval citadel. Beyond the Kremlin, the oldest ring is the Boulevard Ring Road; closest to the center, it contains the Kremlin within it, and the oldest part of the city. The Boulevard Ring is not a complete ring, but more a horseshoe shape with both ends terminating at the Moskva River. A middle ring road, the Garden Ring (Sadovoe Kol'tso) forms a closed circle around the downtown areas - a massive 6/8-lane highway that carries the huge bulk of Moscow's traffic, and at rush-hours becomes a gigantic circular stationary gridlock of frustrated motorists.
The city's Outer Ring Road ("MKAD" - the Moscow Circular Car Road) diverts intra-national traffic away from the city centre and was intended as a "city boundary for the 21st century" - but the city keeps expanding and some new settlements that are located outside of the MKAD also count as Moscow. The MKAD is located about 28 km (7.4 mi) from the city center and is 100 km (62 mi) long. The newest ring is called the Third Ring Road, once again forming a circle, running between the MKAD and the Garden Ring, conveniently connecting some of the densely populated but not so central parts of Moscow. Most of the Third Ring Road is built as a flyover.
Moscow city: 10.5 million (as of July 01, 2009)
Moscow region: 6.7 million (as of January 01, 2010)
The official population of Moscow slightly exceeds 10 million, but as in so many other world cities, the actual number of the population is much bigger. The whole Moscow conurbation is probably home to nearer 15 million - the discrepancy is due to official "city limits" that fail to encompass the new housing estates on the outskirts; former suburban towns which have effectively been "swallowed" by city-creep; and a huge unrecorded transient population of visitors, short-term visitors, migrant and seasonal workers, "unofficials", semi-legals and illegal immigrants, on whom there are no official stats.
The vast majority of Muscovites are ethnically and culturally Russians - well over 80%. As the country's most affluent city (unofficial estimates claim that 80% of the country's wealth is in Moscow) it is a magnet for newcomers wanting to further their careers and get the high-paying jobs on offer - many of the Russians living in Moscow have moved here from elsewhere in the country, and "native Muscovites" have a certain pride about having been born in the city.
Moscow is home to many other nationalities, especially Armenians, Georgians, Asiatic Siberians, people from the Caucasus regions and many others whose families migrated to the capital during the Soviet era, when it was all just one large country. Their cultures and languages, and especially their cuisines are all part of the rich melting-pot of Moscow life. Native-born Muscovites often have a pronounced local accent which marks them out, and which is frequently the butt of jokes made about the capital's population throughout the rest of the country.
It ought to be mentioned that there is no great love for Moscow among many Russians from other cities - who habitually associate the city with the imagined misrule and economic inequalities they blame on Moscow and its rulers. In fact, this is a historical tendency - exactly the same was said of St. Petersburg when it was the capital in the 19th century.
Moscow has a humid continental climate. The average temperature of the year is 5.4 degrees Celsius (°C), with an average temperature of -9°C in January and +18°C in July. Moscow's climate really consists of two extreme seasons: winter and summer. Spring and fall are often negligibly short.
Average temperatures are based on 30 years observation period. Table values are in degrees Celsius (°C). T,°C
Monthly average
Variations Jan
60.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Kitai-Gorod::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
"Kitai" in Russian means "China", but Kitai-Gorod is not China-town! There are several theories explaining the origin of this name: according to the most popular one the word "kita" in Old Russian meant a "fence" and this area was in fact surrounded by a big wall; another theory claims that Italian builders brought the word "citta"("city") to Moscow. People started to settle here already in the 11th century. By the 14th century it was an area densely populated by craftsmen and merchants. In order to protect people of the Kremlin and Kitai-Gorod from Tatar and Lithuanian invaders Elena Glinskaya, mother of Ivan the Terrible, decided to dig a moat around the district. Later the moat was replaced by a big stone wall which was constructed in 1538 and destroyed in Soviet time. Inside the walls numerous shops, stores and markets appeared; thus Kitai-Gorod turned into a very important business and trading centre. Three main streets of Kitai-Gorod (Nikolskaya, Ilyinka and Varvarka) split duties a long time ago.
Nikolskaya street may be called the "Place of Enlightenment". It was the location of countless bookshops and "residence" of famous second-hand booksellers where you could find everything from an ancient manuscript to a recent edition of some famous writer. And it was not by accident: in 1564 the first ever Russian printed book "Apostol" came into the world here, in the first ever Russian printing-house run by Ivan Fedorov. A monument to Fedorov is located in Teatralny passage. Later the Institute of History and Archives was built on the place of the first printing-house; in its ornamentation it is still possible to detect motives typical for the old printing-house.
The first Russian high school opened on Nikolskaya street in 1687. Students of Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy could find any book on Nikolskaya and could study diligently. Greeks were professors of the academy and they raised future "father of Russian science" and founder of the Moscow State University - Mikhail Lomonosov.
The shortest street in Moscow, Tretyakovsky passage, embellished by a beautiful arc in Russian style, connects Nikolskaya street and Teatralny passage. Today it is a centre point of the fanciest and most expensive boutiques.
The central street of Kitai-Gorod, Ilyinka, has always been a commercial street. First it was the location of the biggest Moscow market that offered wide range of products; that is well seen in the names of local lanes (Rybny lane ("Fish lane"), Khrustalny lane ("Crystal lane"), Vetoshny lane ("Old Clothes lane"). In the 19th century Ilyinka also became a business centre when biggest banks in Russia and Moscow Stock-Exchange ("Birzha") opened here. Today the imposing Classical-style building of Birzha houses the Russian Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
In the beginning of Ilyinka there is one of the most important trading centres in Moscow - Gostiny Dvor. The word "gost" ("guest") used to have the meaning "merchant" and Gostiny Dvor, sumptuous creation of architect Giacomo Kvarengi, gathered hundreds of representatives of this profession.
The street was named after the Church of St. Varvara, the patroness of trade. The church stands in the very beginning of Varvarka since the 16th century. Imperishable relics of St. Varvara were said to cure people for serious diseases. Another famous Church of Maxim the Blessed was built in the 17th century and is known as "Moscow Pisa Tower" due to its sloping walls. Russia has always treated the so-called "blessed" people with a special care as they were believed to be able to prophesy.
One of the oldest civil stone buildings in Moscow is situated on Varvarka - it is the Old English Court. It was built in the 15-16th centuries by merchant Bobrishchev who was actively trading with Britain. Ivan the Terrible presented the chambers to British merchants but after 100 years of owning this house they were forced to leave it: Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich was filled with indignation by the execution of Karl I in England and ordered to deport British merchants.
In the 16th century house No 10 belonged to boyar Nikita Romanovich Zakharyin-Yuriev, grandfather of the first Russian Tsar of Romanov dynasty - Mikhail Romanov. This family also owned Znamensky monastery; Znamensky cathedral has preserved to our days.
Other famous streets of Kitai-Gorod area are Pokrovka, Maroseika and Solyanka.
Pokrovka street crosses the boulevard ring between Chistoprudny and Pokrovsky boulevards. At first Pokrovka was a small countryside road with the river Rachka, which was constantly bursting its banks and leaving everywhere a lot of mud and silt. This unattractive road led to Rubtsovo and Izmailovo, favourite estates of many Russian tsars, and later many grandees from the tsars' retinue settled here. Obliging noblemen tried to make royal trips as pleasant as possible, that is why Pokrovka was "ennobled", the road was paved and new beautiful houses were built. In the end of the 19th century noblemen were ousted by merchants, and countless shops and little markets flooded the area. When Kursky railway station was opened in 1860s, Pokrovka street became cluttered with cheap hotels, inns and workshops.
Some signs of Pokrovka's "noble" past are preserved till now. Magnificent blue-white palace, often called "the chest of drawers" is a rare sample of Elizabethan baroque designed by architect Ukhtomsky. A legend tells that Alexander Pushkin used to take dancing classes this very building, which by then belonged to his relatives Trubetskiye. In 1861 a gymnasium opened here; it brought up such outstanding students as the father of modern theatre Konstantin Stanislavsky and the founder of Soviet aviation Nikolay Zhukovsky.
Maly Kazenny lane, once famous for a hospital for the poor, runs parallel to Pokrovka street. Here in the middle of the 19th century doctor F. Gaaz, "the holy doctor", helped hundreds of people in need. Gaaz was also the head doctor of Moscow prisons, and criminals adored him for his love of people and kindness to outcasts. His motto "Don't be late to do good" is written on the monument to this great person.
Pokrovka originally was longer, but in the 17th century it was divided into two parts, one of them kept the old name, the other became Maroseika street. Actually it was called Malorosseika (Malorossiya is an old designation for the Ukraine), but later the name changed a little bit. The Ukraine joined Russia in 1654 and many Ukrainians migrated to the new capital. They were (and still are) humorously called "khokhly" ("tufts of hair") due to their extravagant haircuts: they used to shave heads leaving a long tuft of hair on the top. Local street names still remind us about them: Khokhlovskaya square, Khokhlovsky lane, Church of Trinity in Khokhlovka. Ukrainian commanders, hetmans, used to stay in Maroseika during their visits.
Embassy of another neighbouring country, Byelorussia, occupies magnificent palace with beautiful stucco mouldings and sumptuous interiors. It was built in 1780-1796 after a project by Vasily Bazhenov for field-marshal Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky, hero of Russian-Turkish war. Across the street, right opposite the Bazhenov's palace, there is the Church of Kozma and Damian by Kozakov. Another church stands in the beginning of Maroseika, the Church of St. Nikolay in Blinniki. Its name has a rather appetizing story: once the smell of pancakes spread around the neighbourhood making people's stomachs rumble, as pancakes-sellers came here with their tasty goods ("bliny" means "pancakes"). This traditional Russian food gave the name Blinniki to the area and later to the church.
While walking along Maroseika check Starosadsky lane with the magnificent Ivanovsky convent. Lost in Moscow courtyards, it was founded in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible's mother Elena Glinskaya. This convent served not only as a shelter for nuns, but also as a prison. It remembers mysterious Princess Tarakanova, claimed to be the daughter of Tsarina Elizabeth and Count Razumovsky. Tsarina Catherine the Great regarded her as a threat to own power and kept Princess Tarakanova in solitary confinement for many years.
Another famous prisoner of this convent was Darya Saltykova. This serf owner showed incredible "creativity", making up new kinds of tortures for her serfs. In the 20th century this prison tradition was carried on, this time the CheKa brought here its victims.
The Maroseika area is the one to keep in mind while choosing the apartment. Despite its proximity to the city center and being dominated by offices and retail stores, this district is surprisingly quiet and very convenient. Most of the apartments in this area are spacious and have high ceilings.
Once Solyanka laid among beautiful royal gardens, but the growing city had no mercy for those green plantations. Houses supplanted trees, exhaust replaced oxygen and fresh air, and quiet countryside road became a busy city street. The name Solyanka literally means "Salty Street", and it was the "saltiest" street indeed: many salt warehouses were located here.
Not only gastronomically important objects were found in Solyanka. House No 14 was once occupied by the Board of Guardians; orphanages, hospitals, almshouses, and banks in Russia were under its jurisdiction. Sumptuous and monumental, the building is a marvellous sample of Moscow Empire Style, built by architects Gilardi and Grigoriev. Today it houses the Academy of Medical Science.
One of the foundling hospitals, managed by Board of Guardians, was once in the next house. It was established in 1763 with special permission of Her Majesty Catherine the Great. Children-orphans studied different subjects, reading, writing, drawing, later some of them were sent to work in workshops and factories; others continued their academic carrier in university, Academy of art, medical schools; most talented ones were sent to study abroad. The motto of this institution is depicted in two allegorical figures, guarding the entrance, "Charity" and "Education".
Kitai-Gorod adjoins the Taganka area.
The district "Taganka" is located between the rivers: Moscow and Yauza. In 1632, this settlement combined 93 courts. But the street Taganskaya itself has an earlier origin - from the 14th century. It was a part of the road to Kolomna, Ryazan and other cities. After a fire in 1812, many large and beautiful stone houses were built along the street. Some of these houses were converted to factories by their owners. In 1867, more than 60% of the houses belonged to merchants, some of whom were at the time already bestowed the title of honorary citizen. Taganka acquired industrial features and the first decade of the 20th century finally turned Taganka into one of the largest industrial areas of Moscow. Although, by that time, the inhabitants there were no longer merchants, but the working class. After the revolution, the area was called "the Proletarian" up until 1936, when it was named "Taganskaya".
61.Soviet Union (1920-50s)::The History of Moscow::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
In December 1922 the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics was proclaimed; Moscow became capital of the new state. Within a very short time the Bolsheviks had shown that they cared about democracy and civil rights as much as the tsar, ignoring the existing Constitution, establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat (in fact the dictatorship of the Communist Party), and setting up one of the most frightening and blood-thirsty secret services in the world history, the CheKa (the ancestor of KGB).
The first person to govern the Soviet Union was Vladimir Lenin. Being a charismatic speaker, he managed to captivate millions of souls with his obsessive communistic ideas. For many decades Lenin was almost God to Russians; the entire nation went crazy: songs were written about Lenin, thousands of monuments to him were erected all over the country and icons were replaced with Lenin's portraits.
After Lenin's death in 1924, Iosif Stalin took his position as General Secretary of the Communist party. A real paranoiac and sadist, Stalin gradually removed all his enemies and possible rivals. Most of his comrades-in-arms ended up in prisons, labour camps or were simply executed. Several waves of purges brought millions of innocent people to labour camps, where most of them died of inhuman treatment and starvation.
Meanwhile in the countryside the collectivisation of agriculture began. Peasants were obliged to give up their land and property to collective farms and work for them for a small salary or even for no salary. People were forced to give up all corn that they had; that caused famine in 1931-32, when more than 10 million starved to death.
Stalin's regime encouraged denunciation and spying. People were afraid to speak in their own houses, always waiting for a neighbour to overhear something and tell the CheKa. Secret agents could come in the night and take anyone with them without explanation; people arrested by the CheKa were mourned as murdered victims.
The Great Patriotic War (1941-1945)
Stalin put too much into his dirty business dismissing more than three quarters of army officers. The Great Dictator got the chance to regret it when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. In 1939 a secret Non-Aggression Pact was signed by Germany and the Soviet Union therefore the Soviets were caught by surprise by the summer invasion. While the country tried to summon up its powers, the Germans advanced rapidly and by December of 1941 they were already near Moscow. But Hitler, just as Napoleon 130 years before, underestimated the harshness of Moscow winter and outstanding courage of Russian soldiers. After a famous battle, partly ruined, Moscow escaped destruction. So did Leningrad (former St.Petersburg) but it paid a horrible price: the city was besieged for more than 900 days; almost no food supplies were left and people were dying of hunger in the streets. More than two thirds of city's population never saw the end of the siege.
In 1943 after the battle of Stalingrad it was already clear that the victory of the Soviet Union was only a matter of time. In 1945 victorious Soviet Army occupied Berlin and on May 8 Germany signed capitulation. The war of 1941-1945, which caused death of more than 20 million Russian people, is known in the history of Russia as the Great Patriotic War.
But while the whole world celebrated the victory over the Nazis, Stalin got the wheel of repressions going again, as he wanted to get rid of those who had seen what it was like in so called capitalistic world. The terror lasted until his death in 1953.
These new times brought new major changes to Moscow architecture: in 1935 the General plan of the Moscow reconstruction was accepted. Its aim was to change the appearance of Moscow according to the new political doctrine. At the same time tens of churches and cathedrals were being destroyed; new times brought new religion: the belief in Soviet "bright future".
62.Russian Alphabet & Pronunciation :: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Russian Alphabet & Pronunciation
The Russian language is a member of the Slavic group of the Indo-European family of languages. Other languages belonging to this group are Belarussian, Bulgarian, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Slovenian and Ukrainian.
The principal language of administration in the former Soviet Union, Russian is spoken by about 170 million people as a first language. It is used by an estimated additional 100 million as a second language in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent State and of European Europe. Because of its large number of speakers and its leading position in the former Soviet Union, Russian is one of the chief languages of the world. Used officially by the United Nations, it is important in scientific writing as well. The great literature works written in Russian also have made the language culturally significant.
The Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet has augmented from Greek uncial script, using the older Glagolitic alphabet for sounds not available in the Greek language. Cyrillic and Glagolitic were invented by Greek brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius. It was considered that while Cyril may have enhanced Glagolitic, his students, possibly from the first literary school in the medieval Bulgarian Empire (Preslav Literary School), developed Cyrillic from Greek during the 890s as a more suitable script for church books.
Historical Development of Russian
The historical development of Russian is not easy to trace because until the 17th century the religious and cultural language of the Russian people was not Russian but Church Slavic. However, within Russia the latter language became sufficiently altered by the vocabulary and pronunciation of spoken Russian to be transformed into a Russian form of Church Slavic adapted to Russian needs. The earliest existing document containing Russian elements is and Old Church Slavonic text from the 11th century.
When Peter the Great undertook to westernize Russian in the early 18th century, the Russian language was subjected to Western influences and absorbed a number of foreign words. Peter was the first to reform and simplify the Cyrillic alphabet used for Russian.
In the late 18th and 19th century, partly as a result of the work of the great Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, the Russians succeeded in throwing off the dominance of Church Slavic and developing their own tongue into a literary language, which was, nevertheless, influenced and even enriched by the Church Slavic legacy.
Literary Russian is based on the dialect used in and round the city of Moscow, which became the leading cultural center. Extensive reforms, aimed at simplifying and standardizing Russian writing and grammar, took place after the Revolution of 1917.
Cyrillic Alphabet
The Cyrillic alphabet became increasingly widespread over the 12th century. During the next ten centuries the Cyrillic alphabet was adapted because of changes with spoken language developing regional variations. You can find languages across Eastern Europe and Asia written using the Cyrillic alphabet.
The Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters, 11 vowels, 20 consonants and 2 letters which do not have a sound (instead they make the word harder or softer). It is not that easy to master Russian pronunciation because the accent is free, i.e., it can be placed on any syllable. Thus, there are no set rules for stress. The accent of each word has to be learned separately. In fact, the position of the accent on a given word may vary as the word's case and number change when it is inflected. Some words that are spelled alike are distinguished only by a different stress. In addition, no significant differentiation is made between long and short vowels.
Grammatically, Russian is highly inflected. The noun has six cases with an occasional seventh case, the vocative. There are three declensional schemes and three genders. Although the verb has only three tenses, it is enabled by a feature called aspect to express numerous subtle shades of meaning, some of which cannot be rendered in other languages. In addition, The Russian verb has five moods and four voices.
Russian is a very rich language with a very large number of slang words and expressions. New words and expressions appear on a constant basis with many being derived from the English language.
Teenagers have their very own slang, as do members of various professions. If you are going to work in an office environment, you will hear a lot of words that sound English but aren't. If you want to understand more of what people and teenagers talk about, ask your Russian teacher for help.
Many teachers are reluctant to teach slang (not to mention swear words), but you can always turn to your Russian colleagues and friends for explanations and translations of words and expressions. When learning and using slang, remember that there are many shades of politeness, not-so-politeness and rudeness.
63.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Prechistenka-Ostozhenka::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
The area has a rich historical background and several exceptional sides: it is situated on the river bank near the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Kremlin, Red Square and some of the most popular museums. The architecture of the area corresponded to the unpretentious tastes of its inhabitants: modest apartment houses were side by side with taverns and bars. Over many centuries of its existence, it has earned the reputation of the most expensive, prestigious and fashionable area of the city. Moscow's guests are attracted by its proximity to the historic walls of the Kremlin and the domes of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The area is very calm and cosy.
Prechistenka and Ostozhenka streets seem to be twins: their names are always mentioned together but their role in Moscow history was different.
Prechistenka was popular among nobility and it is still well seen in local toponyms: many streets wear names of famous noble families (Gagariny, Lopukhiny, Naschekiny). Best architects were invited to design patrimonial palaces for them. Luckily many of the mansions survived through all the fires and historical cataclysms and today allow us to enjoy this corner of old Moscow. In the beginning of Prechistenka an old house called Krasnye Palaty ("Red Chambers") is hiding behind the monument to Engels. Built in the end of the 17th century former residence of prince Lopukhin was completely forgotten. Only in 1972, partly ruined and partly reconstructed, it was discovered by accident among the houses prepared for the demolishing due to president Nikson's visit. House No 11 which is now Tolstoy museum and house No 12, Pushkin Museum, have more in common than just being museums of great persons: these former noble mansions were both built after projects of architect Grigoriev and they are both known as masterpieces of Moscow Empire style.

The Academy of Art occupies house No 21; until 1917 it belonged to a member of the famous manufacturer family - Ivan Morozov. Love to art was in the blood of this family and Ivan was not an exception: being a true admirer of Impressionism, he possessed one of the best collections of modern European art in Russia (Manet, Sisley, Van Gogh, and Renoir). He was also the first patron of Mark Chagall.
Prechistenskiye Vorota Square
If you go around the Cathedral than at the corner of Soymonovsky passage and Prechistenskaya embankment there is one house that stands out among others - Pertsov's house (No 1). This unusual apartment house was designed by Malutin, the official author of "matreshka". He attempted to revive the world of pagan antiquity and tried to create the spirit of pre-Christian times by using the symbols of the chief deity of the pagan pantheon and mysterious sombre colours. From 1908 to 1915 it housed a legendary cabaret "The Bat" and remembers Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko and many other actors as its visitors. Now Pertsov's house belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ostozhenka appeared as part of the old road from "Kievan Rus" to "Vladimir-Suzdal Rus", directly adjacent to the crossing of the Moscow River, the so-called Crimean bridge. In contradiction to Prechistenka, Ostozhenka was rather modest street. Apartment houses, inns and cheap eating places - that is Ostozhenka of the 19th century. Moscow aristocracy disliked decent Ostozhenka and began to settle there only in the 18th century and in the first quarter of the 19th century. Although the fire of 1812 demolished most mansions, the spirit of ancient medieval times still lives on in the narrow winding quiet lanes, old yards and houses that stretch down to the Moscow River. Today Ostozhenka is a beautiful, safe and very convenient neighbourhood adjacent to the Arbat area. Within walking distance, you will find Kremlin, Pushkin Museum, Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
As every street Ostozhenka has its legends. According to one of them merchant Filatov decided to quit drinking and as a result of this crucial decision we see a symbolic wine-glass turned upside-down on the top of his apartment house (house No 3 at the corner of Ostozhenka and Obydensky lane). One of Moscow's most interesting styles in architecture was Art Nouveau, or Modern, and Ostozhenka is a proud "owner" of such a beautiful sample of it as Kekushev's mansion (No 21). Kekushev together with the architect of Moderne Fedor Schechter created true architectural masterpieces in the beginning of the 20th century.
Matvey Kozakov designed an impressive residence for P. Eropkin, Moscow Commander-in-Chief during the reign of Catherine the Great. He suppressed a "plague riot" in 1771 when frightened people were about to destroy the city. Today his house is an alma mater for future polyglots: the Moscow University of Linguistics. Pozharny lane boasts proudly rising bronze Peter the Great surrounded by fogs of the Moscow River. This surreal sight sometimes shocks foreign visitors.
64.The Russian Mind-Set::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
The Russian Mind-Set
For most Russians, transitioning into new democracy with its associated freedoms has not been an easy task, and for many particularly members of the older generations, the change was not a welcome one. The failure of communism brought with it freedom that many were not prepared to exercise. Not all have welcomed the substantial restructuring of the social order that followed the implosion of the USSR - for mainly apolitical reasons (worsening of conditions for pensioners, state health care patients, educational institutions, cultural organizations, etc).
Russian Personality
Because the Russian personality has so many faces, it is difficult to define. Defeated by harsh weather, a tumultuous history and the general malaise that ensued, Russians seem to value the status quo and are reluctant to change. Security, stability, and conservatism were always held in high regard; but at the same time you will see new phenomena such as the absence of concern about the future, free spending and easy and quick adaptation of foreign practices in the younger generations in larger cities. Many foreigners find the Russian people an enigma - surprisingly nostalgic about their past yet cautiously optimistic about the future - patient but curious about the possibilities of freedom.
As some things in Russia are almost impossible to explain, there is a very good saying that you will hear over and over again as first response to your questions: "Rossiyu umom ne ponyat" which can be translated as "Russia cannot be understood with your mind" (a quotation from the poet Tyutchev).
Russians are strong people, able to endure hardship and extreme climate with submission and patience. Generally, Russians are very well educated and have a sound knowledge of literature, history and politics. The majority of the country's population lives in European Russia (the part of Russia lying west of the border with Siberia) with the largest population centers being Moscow and St. Petersburg. Most families have no more than one or two children, who are the center of the family focus.
The Russian people have traditionally been molded and directed from cradle to grave, creating individuals who assumed little responsibility for themselves. They are slowly learning how to take charge of their own lives, but the chasm between the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick and the skilled and the unskilled continues to widen.
Traditional Russian values and core beliefs include: love of children, respect for the old, sense of humour, strong people-orientation, importance of friendship, generosity, pride, patriotism, love of literature and arts, nostalgia, self-sacrifice, apathy, conservatism, aversion to change, caution, collectivism, pessimism and cynicism.
There is widely accepted notion in Russia that there is a "soul" that makes Russians different - a sort of sadness born of oppression that demands a different social order. Whether or not this proud melancholia is fact or fiction is arguable, but the belief is almost universally held with great pride. Acres of print have been devoted to the topic, with no very firm conclusions.
Russians love and value going to the theatre, opera, ballet and concerts. The arts are avidly devoured by all sections of society - the idea that plays or classical music could be "difficult" or unpopular is rarely encountered. They also enjoy attending readings of literature and poetry. Russians love reading everything from classical literature to translations of contemporary foreign authors. They read on the metro, while they wait, and at home. You will find that your Russian friends can easily recite entire poems or passages from their favourite books. They generally have a very good knowledge of world history, geography and the arts, and this is true regardless of the person's education or occupation.
Behaviours You May Find Puzzling
There are some behaviour patterns you may find very different from those you are used to. Some things may shock you initially, but they can usually be explained through Russia's history and your Russian friends will make efforts to help you understand why things are done the way they are. Always remember that what you consider normal behaviour may seem strange to your Russian friends.
Two things that newly arrived expatriates often find particularly troubling are the fact that Russians can seem very rude and that they rarely smile in public. Rudeness in public situations is still common. You may encounter it at supermarkets, at the post office, in public transport. Please do not let this discourage you and always remember that this is nothing personal.
Smiling at strangers is a rarity in Russia. 70 years of history taught people not to trust anybody and to guard their own territory. Just recall the famous Soviet poster "Ne Boltai" (Do not Chatter) and you will understand the roots of not smiling at unfamiliar persons. There is also an inherited notion from "village Russia" that people who smile for no reason must be simpletons. However, while people tend to be introvert or aggressive on the outside, you will find that they are extremely kind and helpful if you get beyond their first suspicion. Keep going to the same supermarket, the same bank and the same dry cleaners over and over again, keep smiling and do say "hello" and "goodbye" every time you arrive and leave - people will eventually start remembering you and most will start smile back. They are often not used to people being polite and nice to them and your efforts will be appreciated. It may just take some time, so don't give up.
Russians seem to have very different concept of what it means to stand in a line. They tend to be pushy while getting on public transport and in the metro you will find that people try to get on while others are still trying to get off. The same applies to lines at meat and cheese counters in supermarkets, where it can be difficult to figure out where the line starts and who is there first. When you go to pay utility bills at a Russian bank, you may find that when it is almost your turn one or two people show up who had "reserved" a place in the line and then took care of something else at another counter or just sit down while waiting for their turn. It is common practice to reserve a place in a line simply by telling the person in front of you "you are behind them" ("ya budu za vami"). This practice dated back to Soviet times when lines for just about everything were so long that it was impossible to get something done if you just occupied one single line.
Houses entrances, rest rooms and some other public areas may not be well cared for. You may, for example, see a beautiful apartment in a building with a dilapidated entrance and filthy staircase. In Soviet times, this was not the case: the streets and public areas were clean and littering was basically unheard of. Today people do not seem to care for anything that happens outside of the limits of their apartments. However, things are slowly starting to improve.
Drivers in Moscow are generally very aggressive, and you may find this pretty daunting if you come from a country where drivers are polite and abide by the rules. There seems a comprehensive spirit involved in driving - everybody wants to be the first one to take off from a red light.
Russians love to comment and give advice. Don't be surprised to get unsolicited advice on how to dress your children in winter or on the necessity of wearing a hat in cold winter.
People - both men and women - still drink beer in pubic. While this is not publicly frowned upon, the government is trying to change this habit, but so far the efforts have not led to any noticeable results. Restriction of shopping hours for alcohol was never previously known in Russia, but sterner measures have been introduced from 2009 onwards, mostly by individual cities - the results vary from strict (St. Petersburg, 23:00 total ban) via haphazard (Moscow region) to utterly invisible (most of the rest of the country).
While Russians devote considerable time and cost to their own personal wardrobe and grooming, they are relatively unjudgemental about others - figuring that a person' soul is the most important, and taking a very liberal line on allowing for differing customs elsewhere. An odd Soviet throwback, however, is a private habit of awarding unmentioned merit-marks to the quality and shine of the shoes other people wear. You can make a good first impression with very little effort in this field. Sports footwear is poorly regarded in general, and is often cited (by doormen) as fair reason to deny entrance to fashionable clubs or restaurants.
While Russians can be secretive when dealing with foreigners, they can also be very curious. You may find yourself in situations when people just met ask you how much money you make. In the vast majority of cases there is absolutely no criminal interest behind these questions, but you may still not want to divulge too much personal information about your family and yourself unless you know your conversation partner very well. Very often such questions arise from "fellow professionals" who are keen to know how their profession might be valued abroad.
When you come to a Russian home you will most certainly be offered tea or coffee along with something to eat. If you arrive around lunch and dinner time, you may be invited to join the family for the meal. When inviting Russian friends over your house for drinks make sure you have some good food to offer - drinks accompanied by cheese and grapes just don't do.
Concepts of Space and Personal Space
On the one hand, Russians live in the world's largest country and think big in many ways. They tend to make big plans, even if they know that they will never be able to implement them. At the same time, they usually stand very close to each other in conversation or when standing in line. This may be a remnant from the Soviet past when people had to be very careful about what they said and always made sure that no one else was listening. Standing close to each other allows you to speak more quietly and to feel that others aren't able to hear what you are talking about. When someone has something very important to tell you and you are speaking to that person over the phone, you may still hear them say that "this is not a phone conversation", meaning that they prefer to tell you in person because they are still afraid of someone else may be listening. The reason why people stand close to each other in lines is more difficult to explain. It might have something to do with a feeling of getting to the front of the line sooner as there is less distance to the "target". Touching, hugging, and kissing friends and close acquaintance is common. You may find this uncomfortable if you come from a no- or little- contact culture.
As people still pay very little money for electricity and hot water, these resources are literally wasted. Russians will do the dishes under running hot water instead of letting them soak in the sink. Nobody will complain if you take a hot shower for half an hour or a hot bath twice a day. At the same time that electricity is still very cheap, Russians seem to prefer dim lighting. You will notice this in the metro, on the streets, in staircase, and even in people's homes where the lighting could often be a lot brighter. Street lights are not very bright, and often entire yards have no lighting for weeks on end.
These days light bulbs in public areas of apartment buildings usually have to be replaced by residents, who are often hesitant about replacing something that is not for their own use exclusively. If you want the housing department or your neighbours to replace the broken light bulbs, you may be in for a very long (and dark) wait. If you encounter such a problem in your apartment building, just buy some light bulbs and replace the broken ones - Russia has no laws (yet) on expensive energy-saving bulbs, and regular clear-glass bulbs cost just pennies. You may win the friendship or respect of your neighbours if you occasionally mop the landing area between the lift and your door.
Dacha is a term that refers to a summerhouse and can stand for pretty much everything from a small wooden shack without running water, gas or electricity to a lavish multi-story house in the countryside. While not everyone has a dacha, most people have relatives, neighbours or friends who do, and everyone who can normally jump at the opportunity to leave the city on weekends and escape to cleaner air and nature. Dachas are usually big projects that require the involvement of the entire family. Most dachas are not used in winter, but as soon as the last snow has gone people set out to repair and prepare their dachas for the coming summer. The majority of people who have even a small plot of land still plant vegetables and herbs at their dacha and many also have apple trees and berries. These of course require constant maintenance all the way to late autumn when the plots and trees have to be prepared for the coming winter. In short, a dacha is often not a place to relax and lie in the sun but rather a second full-time job.
Shashlyki (barbecues) are a very popular activity on summer weekends when Russians often invite friends to their dacha for a barbecue.
Over the centuries, the Russian banya (bath house) has served people not only as a place where they could clean themselves, but also as a place for restoring health. It is believed that by visiting the banya many health problems can be cured. Among other positive effects, the steam in the banya helps expel fat from the body, restores the tonus of blood vessels and clean pores.
The difference between the Russian banya and the Finnish sauna lies in the kind of steam. The steam in the Russian banya is humid, and in order to reach the best effect, hot water is poured onto hot stones. The temperature inside a Russian banya can reach 60°C (140°F). The steam in a Finnish sauna, on the other hand, is dry, and the temperature can reach up to 100°C (212°F). After having spent some time in the steam room, banya visitors will jump into a pool with gold water as a kind of contrast treatment.
A very important banya attribute is the "venik" (a kind of broom made from dried birch, oak or fir branches and leaves), which banya visitors beach each other with. Apart from a positive effect on health, the banya also is a place where friends get together to relax. While at the banya, Russians like to drink beer, which is often accompanied by "vobla" - a kind of dried fish. Sometimes people have too much fun at the banya - a great example of this is provided in the very funny and highly recommended Soviet comedy "The Irony of Fate".
Mushroom Collecting
It is a tradition dating back to ancient times. Russia has a lot of forest areas where different kinds of mushrooms grow in abundance. While mushrooms have always been an important component of the national diet, they have also become a substitute for meat during the Orthodox Christian Lent. Over 200 kinds of edible mushrooms grow in Russia. Apart from protein and fats, mushrooms also contain a number of minerals such as iron, calcium, and zinc. However, there are also about 25 poisonous types of mushrooms in Russia, so unless you are very experienced you should never collect and consume mushrooms without consulting with an expert in this field. You can tell that mushroom season has arrived when you see them being sold outside metro stations. While you should never collect and consume mushrooms that grow in Moscow or within a 30 km radius of the city, the Moscow region is considered relatively safe.
A mushroom collecting trip usually involves a long car or train ride to ecologically clean area outside Moscow. If you want to get there before others do, you have to leave home in the wee hours of morning. Remember that forest areas are very popular with mosquitoes so make sure you bring sufficient amounts of mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeved shirts. The most common kind of edible mushrooms are chanterelle, oyster mushrooms, porcini and yellow boletus. A mushroom-hunting trip is often an excuse for a fun trip to the country, and if you fail to find any you can always quietly buy some from sellers at the roadside, and claim you found them yourself. Be ready to cook them into dishes or freeze them when you get home - they won't keep more than a day without spoiling. The same trip can also be a good chance to pick some forest wild berries - blackberries, redcurrants, and many others flourish within just an hour of the city limits.
Cross-Country Skiing
It is a very popular winter activity that often the whole family participates in. Children learn this sport at school from an early age. You can engage in cross-country skiing in any of Moscow's larger parks.
While you will see people fishing in the Moskva River, fishing is not recommended in Moscow due to highly polluted rivers and ponds. You can however go fishing at any of the larger water reservoirs river parts outside of town.
Grandchildren are a very popular activity for any grandmother (and grandfather). It is very common in Russia for grandparents to take care of their grandchildren while their parents are at work. They will take the children for walks, take them to the playground, to/from kindergarten or school, will cook them lunch, and often even supervise their homework assignments. Many grandchildren spend the entire summer at their grandparents' dacha, giving the parents some time for themselves. While this may seem very convenient, it sometimes results in problems as parents and grandparents often have very different ideas on how to best raise a child. Russians traditionally lived in extended families in one big house until very recently, and many of the grandparents involved will have been raised in that way.
Ice Swimming
It is a less common, but nevertheless very interesting pastime. An extreme way of keeping fit, the ice swimmers (called "morzhi" - walruses in Russian) are very proud of their "sport" and consider it a way of life. Even babies and toddlers are subjected to short immersion in ice cold water to make them strong, and may people in their 70s and 80s still regularly engage in this invigorating activity on a regular basis. The roots of ice swimming date back to pre-revolutionary times and have links to the Russian Orthodox Church as a way of cleaning sin. Every winter during religious festivals, worshippers would submerge themselves in icy waters to erase all sins from their bodies. For contemporary "morzhi", however, ice swimming is part of everyday life rather than a religious practice. When ice forms on lakes and rivers, these enthusiastic sportsmen will cut swimming holes in the ice that are carefully maintained so that bathing is possible throughout the winter. Each session is very short but a challenging experience for the uninitiated. If you want to try ice swimming, please consult with your doctor before jumping into the icy water. While this is a stimulating and energizing activity, it can easily send your body into spasms and causes severe joint ache.
New Russians: Who are They?
As a result of the changes this country has undergone since the early 1990s, a class of so-called "new Russians" has developed. These people acquired a lot of wealth very quickly (whether legally or not is another question) and have become somewhat conspicuous consumers. Very western in their dress and manner, these new captains of Russian commerce are demanding and getting the attention of others who are not in the same position. People who do not belong to this circle of the chosen few usually (and understandably) do not approve of their flamboyance.
These are very influential people purchasing prime property in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, France, and many other countries along with soccer clubs and other sports teams. If they don't own an airplane, they will fly first class. They go on dream vacations while their children attend top European private schools and universities. The best customers of Moscow's five-star hotels are Russians - not foreign businessmen.
While many wealthy people abroad try not to show off their wealth in public, rich Russians still like to show what they have and can afford - a habit that isn't always advantageous for them. You will see an amazing number of very expensive foreign cars in Moscow's streets and you may be stunned at the suburban houses these people build - complete with swimming pools, tennis courts, bodyguards and housing for staff. While the gap between rich and poor in Russia is getting wider all the time, recent years have seen the development of a small middle class. Its members are characterized by a good education, relatively well-paying jobs and entrepreneurial spirit.
With all it luxurious new VIP residential buildings, expensive stores and restaurants, you may be under the impression that people in Moscow are quite well off. In reality this is not the case. While the country's elite tends to settle in Moscow and there are a lot of rich people living here, the majority of Muscovites (and those in the rest of Russia) are struggling very hard just to feed and clothe themselves and their families. And just as New York isn't the USA, Moscow isn't Russia. If you want to see what the real Russia is like, you have to travel to the provinces and villages outside of Moscow, in Siberia and the Far East - although these regions have their own "new rich" too.
General Attitudes
The mindset of the younger Russian generation is not as much pro-anything, as it is anti-communist. Difficult times and general uncertainty are accompanied by the feeling that democracy is better. This does not mean that Russians are not complaining. While they are critical of the slow pace reform and of the new leaders, they are nonetheless loyal and optimistic about the future of their country.
Making the transition from a society completely dependent upon the state to one in which the individual shares responsibility has been a very difficult and traumatic process for Russia and her people, and the Russians don't yet seem to have a clear picture of their selves. The demise of communism has hugely affected life in Russia, and the sometimes-halting democracy that has taken its place is still developing. Under communist rule, the State was responsible for everything - even for piffling things. Today people must make decisions and take responsibility for them - not an easy task for those who have been raised to follow, not to lead.
Attitudes in the Workplace
The older generation of Russians - although for the most part well-educated, hard-working and disciplined - is a product of the communist system in which workers were not rewarded for personal incentives nor punished for being non-productive. Not having been raised to "get ahead" and to amass personal fortunes, they may respect these traits in foreigners but generally abhor them in their Russian colleagues. You may hear the phrase "initiative is punishable" from members of the older generations and it can be difficult to convince them that personal initiative and doing your own thinking is not only welcomed, but is a necessity in the new Russia.
The attitudes of the younger generations are for most part, very different. Achievements in the workplace are highly regarded. You will find many highly trained young Russians who, on top of having an excellent education, speak fluent English and/or other foreign languages. Many choose to further their education and qualifications voluntarily at evening classes at their own expense.
Attitudes toward Foreigners
Russians generally respect and admire the business expertise and technology skills and tools of European, North American and Asian companies and are interested in doing business with them.
In some quarters Russians tend to blame Western influence for the hard times brought about by reform. The economic disparity between foreigners and themselves may also raise the hurdle of understanding. Russians have historically feared and distrusted foreigners, but today's foreign community in Moscow lives in relative harmony with the locals. Some Russians may respect their presence, but most appreciate the efforts of foreigners to modernize the local economy.
While Russians are well aware of the fact that things in Russia aren't perfect, they do not appreciate it when foreigners criticize their country, or boast excessively about the alleged superiority of their homelands. Very often questions about how things are managed overseas will actually be a delicate appeal for some positive comments about how things are by comparison in Russia - a tactful reply, without toadying, will be appreciated. It is useful to have some pre-prepared compliments about some neutral topics - the affordability and frequency of public transport, the low cost of public amenities, etc.
Attitudes towards Women
The communists maintained the equal status of men and women in the classless society, and many women had (and still have) the dual responsibility of adding to family income through a full-time job and of caring (shopping, cooking, cleaning) for the family. In the workplace opportunities for women have been slow to surface. While women in Russia have always had the opportunity to pursue higher education and many have at least one degree, they do not typically fill leadership positions yet.
Foreigners working in Russia often find that Russian women who have reached managerial positions are more serious, harder working and more creative than their male counterparts. However, radical changes must occur for the Russian mentality to accept women in positions superior to men. The male network in business is unwilling to allow women to progress.
Foreign businesswomen might encounter some resistance. Conservative dress and demeanour and a serious attitude will be helpful in dealing with Russian men, keeping a certain distance rather than being too friendly is advisable. It is also best to ignore the inequality between the sexes that exists in Russia, instead behaving as if business were transacted in the west.
Men are still the "dominant" gender in Russia and many Russians are uncomfortable with very strong women. A woman who stays aloof will be respected, whereas overly friendly behaviour may be misinterpreted.
Attitudes towards Human Rights
Although the 1993 Constitution guarantees basic human rights, the progress toward internationally-recognized human rights for all citizens is by far not yet complete. Large gains have been made on the domestic side, but abuses have been reported within the military and police forces. Conditions in Russia detention facilities are far below acceptable standards. While reforms are ongoing, the process is slow.
Attitudes toward the Disabled
Moscow and Russia on the whole is not a great place for physically disabled or mentally challenged children and adults. If you have a child with a severe physical or mental disability, you should think twice before moving to Moscow.
Generally attitudes toward disabled people in Russia aren't very good. As there aren't many opportunities for the disabled, they usually stay at home. You will, therefore, hardly ever encounter disabled people on the streets. It is not uncommon to encounter disabled people begging on public transport - particularly military veterans. You may want to prioritise generosity over any feelings of "patronizing" them - they get little other help in their lives.
State assistance to people with disabled family members is very limited. Consequently, a large proportion of women who give birth to a disabled child decide to give it up right after the child is born. These children are then condemned to a sad existence in state-run orphanages and will receive little to no physical or mental development support.
Educational opportunities for disabled children and adults are extremely limited. Even the private foreign schools in Moscow will only accept children with very minor disabilities. It is almost impossible to get around Moscow physically in a wheelchair as building entrances; sidewalks and public transportation are mostly not wheelchair-friendly.
Russian Names and Titles
Russian names have three parts: a first name (forename), a so-called "patronymic" middle name, and a surname. The "patronymic" derives from the father's name followed by the suffixes. These are "evich" or "ovich" for a son (meaning son of) or "evna" or "ovna" for a daughter (meaning daughter of). Example: A woman's full name might be Tatiana Ivanovna Smirnova. This means that her father's first name was Ivan. Her brothers' name could be Sergey Ivanovich Smirnov. Patronymics refer strictly to the child's biological father, and would not change on the mother's remarriage, on adoption, etc. (In the old Russian villages, where perhaps just 2-3 families and their descendants made up the whole village (the law forbade peasants to leave their owner's employ or land - so people didn't travel) a person's surname was almost immaterial - it was more useful to say you were "Pavel, Ivan's son", or "Irina, Ilya's daughter" by way of introduction.)
An "a" is added to the end of most (but not all) surnames of Russian females.
It is common and considered polite to address people you do not know very well and/or that are older than you by their first name and patronymic. Russians rarely refer to each other by their first and last names, although some - especially the younger generation - will call each other by their last names. You might hear children shout something like "Hey Smirnova" or "Hey Smirnov". If you are trying to find someone and only know that person's first and last name, you can ask for "Gospozha Tatiana Smirnova" (Mrs. Tatiana Smirnova) or "Gospodin Sergey Smirnov" (Mr. Sergey Smirnov).
A Russian woman usually adopts her husband's last name after marriage, but there are exceptions.
Common female names are Anna (Anya), Ekaterina (Katya), Elena (Lena), Irina (Ira), Yulia (Yulya), Maria (Masha), Natalia (Natasha), Olga (Olya), Svetlana (Sveta), Tatiana (Tanya), etc. Names of females are often altered even further, especially in terms of endearment between close friends. Thus Masha can turn into Mashenka, Lena into Lenochka, and Anya into Anyuta. Lyuba can become Lyubochka, and Yulia is often called Yulka or Yulechka. Coining these "pet-name" versions is an art in itself, and the mutual freedom to use them is considered part of the friendship bonding process. You may find your own (foreign) name converted to a nickname version - don't be offended, it is a sign of warm friendship.
Common male names are Alexander (Sasha, Shura, Sanya), Dmitry (Dima), Eugeny (Zhenya), Ivan (Vanya), Mikhail (Misha), Nikolai (Kolya), Sergey (Seryozha), Victor (Vitya), Vladimir (Volodya, Vova), etc. Often the names in parentheses are shortened even further, Seryozha can turn into Seryozh or Seryoga, Mikhail into Mish or Misha.
A modern friendly jokey way of referring to friends (rather than merely "colleagues") at work (but not superiors!) is to employ 19th century habit of using a shortened version of their patronymic - the way 19th century employers would talk to their servants. Thus Nikolai Ivanovich might be "Ivanych" to his work chums, and "Elena Ivanovna" might be "Ivanovna". Wait until you are proficient in Russian before using this in practice. If you can pull it off in practice, it will win you friends. Obviously it has to be done with a sense of fun - or it would cause offence.
The shortened names given in parentheses are commonly used, but you should never use them without asking permission. Not every Elizaveta wants to be called Lisa and not every Vladimir likes being addressed as Vova - it would be considered as "excessive familiarity". Beware of using them to people "lower in the pecking order" than yourself - you might end up patronizing people instead of befriending them as you hoped.
The shortened names Sasha and Zhenya are used for both females and males.
Another important thing to remember is that the Russian language - much like French and German - has two separate pronouns for the second person singular, differing in degrees of politeness. Technically, there are two words for the second person singular: "ty", which is used in the same sense as the French "tu" and the German "du"; and "Vy". Note that this word starts with a capital letter, which is similar to the French "Vous" and the German "Sie". Except for children you should never address anybody with the personal "ty" without asking for their permission. The word for the second person plural pronoun is also "vy" but it is spelled with a small letter.
The best way to avoid unpleasant situation is to ask individuals how they would like to be addressed. If you would like to address someone as "ty" instead of "Vy", you should ask "Mozhno na ty?" ("Can I call you "you"?")
The most common form of address in today's international office environment is first names in combination with the formal "Vy"; colleagues occupying the same rank may also use the personal "ty".
Russian Customs, Etiquette, and Popular Superstitions
Even if you are not planning to be in Russia for long, you should make every effort to learn at least a few basic words and phrases in Russian. You colleagues, neighbours, friends, and others will be impressed and the gesture will be highly appreciated. Russians generally consider their language to be a very difficult one for foreigners to learn. With the exception of your Russian teacher, they will not expect you to become fluent in Russian, but they will be amazed if you are able to carry on a simple conversation a few months after your arrival.
Even if you fail to learn much Russian, learning the alphabet (there are only 31 letters plus two silent symbols) will make a quantum improvement in your ability to move around independently. Russian is laden with imported words from other languages - once you can decode the letters, these words ("bar", "restoran", "stadion", "musey") appear to you, as if by magic.
Never shake hands with or kiss someone over the threshold of the doorstep or you will quarrel with this person (an old superstition).
Take off your gloves when shaking hands.
Returning home if you forgot something brings back luck. If it happens that you must return for something, looking in a mirror before leaving again dispels the "bad luck".
Before leaving the house on a trip, it is customary to sit down on one's suitcase for a minute or so to reflect on the trip (silently, for 4-5 seconds) and to recall whether you have forgotten anything.
It you are not married, never sit down at the corner of a square table. If you do, you will not get married for seven years.
Spitting three times over your left shoulder prevents bad luck. (You my hear Russians say "tfu-tfu-tfu" - a "spitting" incantation against bad luck.) So does knocking on wood.
Do not put your hands in your pockets.
Do not sit with your legs wide apart.
Do not cross your legs with the ankle on the knee or put your feet on the table. It is considered impolite to show others the soles of your shoes.
Whistling is regarded as a sure way to guarantee that you will soon part with all your money.
Never light a cigarette from a candle. This is also said to bring bad luck.
Never pour wine backhanded. It is impolite and also signifies that you will "pour" your money away.
If you spit salt on the table, you will be plagued by bad luck unless you throw three pinches of salt over your left shoulder immediately.
Always bring a gift for the hostess if invited into a Russian home. A box of candy and/or flowers are traditional gifts for the hostess, as is a bottle of good wine, cognac or vodka for the host. Arriving "with empty hands" is considered the poorest manners.
Never give an even number of flowers to someone - even numbers are for funerals only!
When entering a Russian home, offer to take off your shoes. In most cases your host will provide you with slippers (called "tapochki" in Russian).
Be prepared to accept smoking.
Be prepared to accept all food and alcohol when visiting friends. Refusing a drink or toast is a serious breach of etiquette. An open bottle often has to be finished. However, Russians will understand if you do not drink at all (e.g. for health reasons or because of religious beliefs, or because you have to drive later).
Be prepared to give toasts at dinners and presentations. Do not say "Na Zdoroviye" ("To your health" - this is actually a toast only in Poland) - the correct form is "Vashe Zdoroviye" ("Your health"). Russian toasts can be very long and elaborate. For birthdays, weddings and other important events, friends and colleagues often write poems for the person they wish to congratulate. You don't have to do that of course, but it helps to be prepared to at least say a few sentences. While the toast is being sad, do not continue eating or drinking. You are expected to listen, regardless of the length of the speech. An easy and amusing toast a foreigner can make is that the host's fame has spread abroad, and they are now known in your country too. Chinking glasses with everyone else (or as far as you can reach) is considered usual.
At birthday parties, by tradition, all the toasts are to some aspect of the birthday boy/girl - try to think of some witty compliments. There may often be a toast to their parents, "who gave him/her to us" - even if they aren't present. If one or other of the parents is no longer alive, you don't chink glasses for this toast.
If you plan on visiting a Russian Orthodox Church, dress conservatively (no shirt skirts or shorts). Women must cover their hair before entering the church, so bring a headscarf. Men, on the other hand, must remove headwear (hats, caps). Some extremely severe monasteries may insist on women donning a wraparound long skirt - if so, these will be provided on free loan at the gateway entrance, and using them is obligatory. Better to wait outside if you don't wish to respect their dress code requirements.
On public transportation, younger men and women should give up their seat to mothers with small children, pregnant women and elderly people. Certain seats may be marked for the use of these categories of people anyhow.
Men should offer to carry parcels and heavy bags for women they accompanying. This is local custom, regardless of what you may be used to or believe in at home.
That conveniently free seat on the jam-packed tram or bus is for the conductor - you are not allowed to sit there!
When going to the theatre or a concert, you are expected to check your coat and any larger bags at the coat check. When squeezing past others into your seat, take care to face them as you pass - doing it "the way you are used to" is regarded as "shoving your ass in their face" in Russia, and is a social no-no.
Always emphasize the good and the beautiful things you like in Moscow and Russia, try not to criticize and compare. Russians know that there are a lot of problems in this country, but they are also very proud of their history and culture. They will highly appreciate it if you show them that you like it here - or at least like some of it!
Small gifts are much appreciated. Keep a list of people who have been nice and helpful to you, such as your concierge, parking lot attendant, your favourite vendor at the supermarket, a friendly neighbour, etc. Give them a small gift such as a box of chocolate or candy or a small souvenir from your home country for major holidays, such as New Year's. Only women are given gifts on March 8th and flowers will be much appreciated, along with a nice card. Pretty calendars and company gifts such as coffee mugs and pens are also good. And, of course, don't forget about your driver, nanny, housekeeper and other friendly helpers. Along with a "real" gift, they will also appreciate a cash bonus.
Along with your baggage, bring a good amount of patience, sympathy, tolerance, and your sense of humour. These should get you through most difficulties. Russians are used to long centuries of foreigners bringing their eccentric habits and peculiarities with them to Russia - and they will tolerate almost any accidental indiscretions if you can manage a friendly grin as you commit them.
Based on the materials from the book "Living in Moscow" by Barbara Spier.
65.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Zamoskvorechiye::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
The area in the city centre beyond the Moscow River - this should be the shortest definition of this area. Zamoskvorechiye (literally it really means "beyond the Moscow River") with its peculiar spirit of old Moscow outskirts stands apart from other Moscow districts. For a long time this area had not been a prestigious one, as every spring it was vastly overflowed. In the 16-17th centuries Zamoskvorechiye was mostly occupied by artisans and craftsmen, who lived in small separate settlements - the so-called "slobody". Each sloboda took its name from the main business of its inhabitants: for example, Sadovaya ("Garden" where gardeners lived), Ovchinnaya ("Sheepskin"), and so on. The names of now non-existent slobodas gave the names to contemporary streets and lanes: Ovchinnikovsky lane, Kosachiy ("Cossack") lane and others.
Zamoskvorechiye began to change rapidly in the late 18th century, when Vodootvodny ("Drainage") channel was constructed. Since that merchants began to build their mansions here; for a very short time they managed to set up quite a new district with a peculiar patriarchal spirit. Those of nobles who preferred solitude to sumptuous balls or those who had no money to live in the centre also settled here; for example, young Lev Tolstoy used to live on Pyatnitskaya street.
This area is composed of buildings of different types, both old and modern. There are also a lot of museums and churches in the area. Thanks to the flat topography and low building height, the Kremlin hill is clearly visible to the southern outskirts of the city. With a sharp bend of the river, from the coastal hills to the South-West and South-East of the Kremlin, it offers magnificent views. The significant development that took place in this area up until 1917 contributed significantly to the erection of many a building in the area. After 1917, Zamoskvorechiye was very densely populated; all the old mansions and apartment houses were turned into communal apartments. Nationalized by the Soviet power, Zamoskvorechiye always had the glory of the industrial district. In the last decade of the 20th century extensive work on the restoration and reconstruction of the Zamoskvorechiye was done, with the aim of preserving and revitalizing the architectural appearance of the area.
Now many Russian banks have their headquarters here and there are some great new residential buildings in this area. A number of cultural attractions are located here, including the world-famous Tretyakov Gallery.
The Embankment of Moscow River
In 1783, when the spring tide caused damage to Bolshoi Kamenny bridge ("Great Stone bridge"), Moscow River was drawn aside its bed to the specially constructed channel to repair the piers of the bridge. This event gave birth to one of the most picturesque sites of Zamoskvorechiye - the island between Moscow River and Vodootvodny channel.
Crossing Moscow River via Bolshoi Moskvoretsky bridge ("Great Moscow River bridge"), we come to Bolotnaya ("Swamp") street. To the left there is Balchug street; its name comes from the Tatar "balchuk", which stands for "mud". It was really muddy here till Vodootvodny channel drained the surrounding swamps.
The popularity of this place rose steeply in 1552, when under Ivan the Terrible the first "kabak" (Russian equivalent of what we now call "pub") in Moscow was opened here. "Kabak" also functioned as a pawn-shop, and alcohol-lovers here had a unique opportunity to drink away not only their money but even clothes.
Times passed, the street became dryer and, as a result, much more prestigious. In 1898 sumptuous Balchug Hotel was built here to become the main site of contemporary Balchug street.
Sophiiskaya embankment lies between two bridges: Bolshoi Kamenny and Bolshoi Moskvoretsky; it got its name from the Church of St. Sophia dated late 17th century. Placed right opposite the Kremlin, it provides a brilliant view of its churches and towers.
Bolotnaya square (literally "swampy square") earlier was called simply Boloto ("Swamp") due to the regular floods occurring here. In winter it used to be covered with ice; in the 16-17th centuries fisticuffs were held here. Fisticuffs were a very special affair of pre-revolutionary Russia: neither a sport affair, nor they were aimed to harm anyone. It was simply a way to relieve the stress and "relax" for the mighty Russian men. Sometimes even tsars came to Boloto to observe the daring fighters. In the 17th century the square was drained; here in 1775 Yemelian Pugachev, the head of anti-tsarist rebellion, was executed. Now the best sight of the square is the monument to Repin, the famous Russian artist.
Across the road, on Serafimovicha street, there is more than huge house No 2, designed in 1928 by Boris Iofan. It consists of several residential parts (totally 24 porches with 5050 flats), also houses food store, Estrada Theatre and Udarnik Cinema. Here lived Members of Soviet Government, marshals, admirals and other members of the Soviet elite. It is hard to say whether they were happy to live here: all flats were furnished with absolutely identical state furniture; all the phones were tapped. 1930s was the time of troubles for this house: most of its inhabitants became victims of Stalinist repressions. The walls of this house carry more than 20 memorial plaques: more than anywhere in Moscow.
"House on Embankment", as Yury Trifonov called house No 2 in his book of the same name, still has many secrets. For example, porch No 11 had been always closed and it is known that there is not a single flat in it. The purpose of this porch remains a thrilling mystery.
Right near the "House on Embankment" the Chambers of Averiky Kirillov look tiny and not so impressive; it is a rather beautiful Old-Russian Style building though it also has its bloody history: in the 16th century Maluta Skuratov, the most dreadful executioner Russia ever knew, lived here. In the 20th century large underground rooms with various torture devices were found nearby; historians believe that they also belonged to Skuratov. Near the chambers there is the Church of St. Nicolas the Miracle Worker on Bersenevskaya embankment built in the same style with the chambers.
Bolshaya Ordynka
It was long ago, in the 14th century, when Prince Ivan Kalita began to unite the principalities of former Kievian Rus, conquered by Mongols, under his dominion. He got a right to gather the tribute himself, not accompanied by Mongol tribute-collectors. That time the road to South appeared to convey the gathered goods to Golden Horde ("orda" in Russian).
Now only the name Ordynka reminds us of those severe times when this street was the main road to the Mongol capital. Poorly settled in medieval times, in the 17th-19th centuries it was rapidly occupied by rich merchants and nobles, who didn't want or had no money to live on the other side of Moscow River.
The first remarkable sight on the street is the Church of Resurrection in Kadashi. Five green onion domes of this Baroque building are visible from all over the neighbourhood. Presumably designed by Sergey Turchaninov in 1678, it presents a very special style of church building, rarely seen in Moscow and more widely presented in Yaroslavl and Nizhny Novgorod. Airiness and grace of the church are related with Western Gothic, although here this spirit is created by quite different technique. This church, along with neighbouring Kadashevskaya bell tower of the same style, was paid for by rich merchants Kondraty and Longin Dobryniny who lived somewhere nearby. Now the building houses All-Russian art and restoration centre.
Church of the Consolation of all Sorrows was paid for by Dolgovy, another rich merchant family, who lived in the opposite Neo-Classical mansion dated 1770. Dolgov's son-in-law, architect Vasily Bazhenov, designed the belfry and the church itself in 1787; later, in 1833, it was reconstructed in Empire style by Osip Bove, a chief architect of Moscow reconstruction after the fire of 1812. Yellow round church surprises with its rather "civil" architecture: its facade brilliantly suites any noble's mansion. The belfry and refectory remained unchanged since the late 18th century: in Soviet time it was under the patronage of Tretyakov Gallery, and its staff did their best to preserve the church.
Passing through Bolshoi Tolmachevky lane you will come to Tretyakov Gallery. The gallery was gifted to Moscow and Muscovites by wealthy merchant Pavel Tretyakov; it still remains the largest collection of Russian art. Close to the gallery stands the Church of St. Nikolay in Tolmachi, where Pavel Tretyakov's funeral service was held.
The house No 34 hosts several buildings of Marfo-Mariinskaya Cloister. The main sight here is the Church of the Intercession of the Mother of God. It looks extremely old and reminds medieval churches with their mighty walls and black domes. In fact it was built in 1908 by Alexey Shchusev.
The church was donated by the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Fedorovna, sister of Empress Alexandra. After her husband was assassinated on the Senatskaya square of the Kremlin in 1905, she became abbess of Marfo-Mariinskaya Cloister. She spent all her life and money for charity and had an indisputable authority over all the Muscovites. But Bolsheviks didn't take it into consideration: in 1918 she was murdered. Along with many other relatives of tsar's family, Elizaveta Fedorovna was blindfolded, thrown into a mine and bombarded with grenades. In 1992 she was canonized by Russian Orthodox Church.
Malaya Ordynka
The unpretentious wooden house on Malaya Ordynka street hosts the Museum of Ostrovsky. Nikolay Ostrovsky, the famous Russian playwright, was born here in 1823. As he was the first writer to depict a unique spirit of this region beyond the Moscow River, he was often called "Columbus of Zamoskvorechiye".
Right opposite the Museum of Ostrovsky there is the Church of St. Nikolay in Pyzhy. It was constructed in 1670-1672 for Streltsy regiment headed by Bogdan Pyzhov; Streltsy themselves provided funds for construction. The church is lavishly decorated and the domes are covered with pure silver. The church's slender bell tower is one of the most beautiful ones in the city.
Pyatnitskaya street appeared in the early 16th century, when the Kremlin was enlarged and a new bridge over Moscow River was built. Part of the old road to Ryazan, Pyatnitskaya was named after the Church of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa, which was formerly located at the place of contemporary hall of "Novokuznetskaya" metro station.
The Church of Ioann Predtecha pod Borom (literally "John the Baptist under the Pine Forest") at the corner of Pyatnitskaya street and Chernigovsky lane is the oldest building on the street. It was built by Aleviz Fryazin (his full name is Alvizo Lamberty da Montagniaco) in 1514. The name of this Italian architect is mentioned in chronicles extremely often: for example, only in 1514 he managed to erect about fifteen various buildings: this pretends to an absolute record in architecture.
Across the Chernigovsky lane there are two more attractive buildings: the Church of Mikhail and Fedor Chernigovskiye and 17th-century chambers. The Church of St. Clement the Pope, designed is an unusual example of the so-called "Elizabethan" baroque style. This five-domed red church was built in 1774 in honour of Elizabeth Petrovna's enthronement by Bestuzhev-Rumin, Russian chancellor and one of tsarina's favourites.
66.Public Transport::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Public Transport
When it first opened in 1935, the system had just one line. Today, the Moscow metro contains 12 lines, mostly underground with a total of more than 175 stations. The metro is one of the deepest subway systems in the world. It is a great, fast, efficient, and cheap way to get around town, with stations close to most major places of interest in the city center. Trains run every couple of minutes from early morning to late at night. They can get very crowded during morning and evening rush hours. Stations that are always crowded are those adjacent to railway stations and bus terminals (for example, Kievskaya, Belorusskaya).
Many of Moscow's metro stations were designed and embellished by prominent Russian architects, artists and sculptors and are incredibly beautiful - especially those in the city center and the ones on the brown circle line, which connects seven of Moscow's nine railway stations to each other. When you start exploring Moscow on the metro, take some time to get off at each station to have a closer look. The metro runs from 05:35 to 01:00. Intervals between trains during the day are usually no more than a few minutes but can be longer in the early morning or late evening.
Brief History of the Moscow Metro
The story started in the beginning of the 20th century. The first and very unusual project of the underground was offered by engineer Peter Balinsky in 1902. According to his plan trains were supposed to pass across the Red Square over the heads of the astonished people in horse-carriages, but this project was rejected as well as many others. Only in 1931 the dream of many architects and progress adherents came true and the construction began. On May 15th 1935 the first line covering the distance from Sokolniki to Gorky Park was opened for public use. The lucky owner of the ticket No. 1 presented this precious piece of paper to the Museum of Moscow Metro.
Finding a Metro Station
Metro entrances are easy to find - they are indicated by big red letters "M", which are illuminated at night.
Metro Tickets
Fare: 26 Rbs per ticket (as of June 2010). Children under the age of seven travel free of charge.
The fee for 1 trip is fixed, i.e. it does not depend on the length of your journey, you can make as many line-changes as you wish, and stay down in the metro as long as you like - it is valid until you exit the metro system. Tickets are available for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 60, 70 rides and there is also a common ticket for 70 rides in all kinds of transport. You can also buy season tickets of different kinds: season tickets with limited number of rides for 5 days (1, 2 rides), season tickets with limited number of rides for 45 days (5, 10, 20, 60 rides), season tickets with limited number of rides for one calendar month (70 rides) and season tickets with unlimited number of rides: for 30 days, for 90 days and for 365 days.
Metro tickets can be obtained from the "kassas" (ticket booths) that are located inside each metro station. The tickets come in the form of smart cards. To enter the metro system, touch the yellow circle on the turnstile with your ticket. After you touch the yellow circle, the other circle a bit lower will show in green light how many rides are left (or illuminate in green if you have the season ticket). The red light on the ticket-barrier will go out briefly, and you can now enter through the turnstile.
If your ticket is not valid, the turnstile will make a buzz sound and the red circle will be still on. If you are sure that your ticket is valid, but the turnstile won't let you in, do not be desperate; just touch the yellow circle of the same turnstile one more time. Normally, if the ticket is valid, the turnstile will work. You don't need your ticket to exit the metro.
Moscow Metro Peculiarities
In one way the Moscow metro is definitely different from all other underground railways in the world: it was planned not only as a comfortable and easily accessible transport but also as powerful means of propaganda. The idea was to immortalize the greatness of socialism; as a result Moscow underground became one of the most grandiose phenomena of the Stalin era. Its pompous architecture and sumptuous designs allow Moscow metro to remain one of the most popular tourist attractions.
Each central station has its own unique style. For example Teatralnaya station is decorated with majolica bas-reliefs picturing folk dances. In the niches of Ploshchad Revolutsii there are 76 bronze statues imaging the creators of the communism. Kievskaya and Belorusskaya are adorned with national ornaments of Ukraine and Belarus.
Among other sumptuous metro stations Mayakovskaya is a true pearl of underground architecture. It is included in the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Silvery steel columns match beautifully with red and pink shades of rhodonite. The ceiling has 36 mosaic panels made of coloured glass created by very famous Soviet-era artist Alexander Deineka.
As money becoming tighter during the 1960s and 1970s the opulent designs of new stations were sacrificed in favour of better geographic coverage and investment into rail technology - the stations of this era look far more prosaic by comparison. However, in the Medvedev era funds are being found to build new stations - some of which are built in a "fake-Empire" style glorifying Russia's 19th-century past (e.g. Trubnaya), while yet others illustrate contemporary minimalist design styles (e.g. Vorobyovy Gory). Money is now finally being found to restore the first-generation stations (such as Mayakovskaya) to their original glory - and to invest in new rolling-stock and track.
Finding your Way around the Metro
It is not very difficult to find your way around on the metro. For convenience, each metro line has its own distinct colour. Information boards on the station walls show the stations that are served by the particular line you are on. They also indicate all possible transfers to other lines. Signs inside metro stations are in Russian only. Each train car has a metro map close to one or more of the doors. These maps are bilingual (Russian, English).
When you are on the train, the driver will make the following announcement "Ostorozhno, dveri zakryvautsya, sleduyuschaya ostanovka (for example) Smolenskaya". This means "Careful, the doors are closing. The next stop is Smolenskaya". You should be able to understand the station names. In case a station has transfers to two or more other lines, stay calm and try to find the information board indicating the needed station. If it doesn't work, ask someone for assistance.
Many stations have two or more exits leading onto different streets. The exit signs list nearby streets, places of interest, department stores, etc. It helps to find in advance whether you have to get off at the first or last metro car to get to your destination. When meeting someone inside the metro, make sure you are very clear about where exactly you will meet. Some stations are very big and can be very crowded, which can make finding someone a difficult task.
Light Metro
Since 2004, Muscovites are able to enjoy new means of city transportation - the light metro (monorail). The first line is in Butovo and can be accessed from metro Bulvar Dmitriya Donskogo. The second line is in northern Moscow and runs between metros VDNKh and Timiryazevskaya. The tracks are an elevated structure with an average height of 7.5 m (25 ft). Each train can hold about 300 passengers. The average speed is 40 km (25 mi) per hour.
In view of the fact that metro stations outside the city centre are far apart in comparison to other cities - up to 4 km (2.5 mi) - an extensive bus network radiates from each station to the surrounding residential zones. Also, Moscow has a several bus terminals for long-range and intercity passenger buses, with a daily turnover of about 25000 passengers serving about 40% of long-range bus routes in Moscow.
Moscow has an extensive tram system, which first opened in 1899. Its daily usage by Muscovites is low (approximately 5%), although, it still remains vital in some districts, especially, in the centre for those who need to get to the nearby metro station. Increasingly tram-lines are the victims of road-widening schemes, and the tram-system's coverage is steadily decreasing. Buses and trolleybuses run from about 06:00 to 01:00, trams from about 05:30 to 01:00.
Public Transportation Ticket Options
One ticket covers one-way transportation on only one bus, trolleybus or tram (regardless the distance). If you transfer to another bus, trolleybus or tram, a new ticket will be required. Tickets for public transportation can be purchased from kiosks on the street. They are typically grey in colour and have a big sign saying "Proezdnyue Bilety" meaning "Public Transportation Tickets". These kiosks can be found outside many metro stations.
Bus, trolleybus, and tram tickets cost 24 Rbs for 1 ticket; 48 for 2 tickets, 90 for 5 tickets; 180 for 10 tickets, 369 Rbs for 20 tickets, 700 Rbs for 60 tickets (as of June 2010). The more tickets you buy, the cheaper the individual ticket gets. If you plan on frequently using public transportation, you may want to purchase a so-called "yediny" which costs 2140 Rbs. This pass is valid for one month and can be used for up to 70 rides on the metro and unlimited tram, bus, and trolleybus rides.
Another option is to purchase a so-called TAT or "proyezdnoi". The letters TAT stand for Tram, Autobus (bus), and Trolleybus. A TAT costs 830 Rbs (as of June 2010). As TAT tickets are not valid for the metro, you will have to purchase metro tickets separately.
You are strongly encouraged to obtain your bus/tram/trolley tickets before you travel. However, you can obtain a ticket on-board, in return for some practiced tutting and grumbling. If you buy a ticket directly from the tram, bus, or trolleybus driver, it will cost you 28 Rbs (as of June 2010). The drivers only sell the tickets during scheduled stops, and you should try to have the exact change on hand.
To enter the tram, bus or trolleybus you have to use a turnstile entrance within the vehicle, located past the driver's seat. All buses, trolleybuses and trams required you to enter through the front door and exit through the back door.
Hundreds of routes in Moscow are served by microbuses (small passenger vans). In Russian these are called "marshrutnoye taxi" or "marshrutka" for short. Their only similarity to a taxi is that they can - in theory - be hailed at the roadside without having to be at a stop, and they can drop you off anywhere along their (fixed) route that the driver considers safe. The routes normally start outside metro stations, and the drivers will stop anywhere along their route at passenger's requests. These small buses often go to places where there is no metro, such as many micro-neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Moscow. They often run long after the metro has closed - but with no guarantees, as the drivers are free agents, and can pack up and go home if it is a quiet evening with few clients.
While these small buses often are a quicker alternative to regular buses, their drivers are often overworked and/or drive recklessly. Accidents involving microbuses are frequent. Pricing on board is entirely up to the companies offering the route - usually they are posted on the buses' windows, along with information on the route and the micro bus number. A very large number of marshrutkas are offering a "private" alternative to specific public bus or tram route - and number themselves the same as the bus- or tram-number they are cloning. Since the public services are not-for-profit anyhow, they rarely complain about this competition - which relieves congestion on already-groaning main routes. Marshrutka offers travelers a slightly quicker journey, less crowding on board, and a guaranteed seat instead of having to stand (no standing is allowed in marshrutkas, for safety reasons). You have to tell (i.e. holler to) the driver in advance of where you'd like to stop.
Moscow has nine large train stations. All of them serve long-distance trains as well as short-distance commuter trains called "elektrichkas" that go to various suburbs of Moscow.
Commuter Trains ("Elektrichkas")
When visiting a location outside of Moscow, make sure you know which train station your elektrichka departs from. Not all elektrichkas travelling to the same destination will spot at all of the smaller stops in-between. Large boards on the main platform usually list the trains that are going to be leaving within the next couple of hours, and they normally mention whether the train will stop everywhere or not. If in doubt, ask! Suburban trains run relatively frequently and are usually on time.
If you plan on frequently travelling to the same destination by suburban train, you may want to purchase a timetable for that particular route; they are very cheap and available at the ticket counters. Generally there are more trains during morning and evening hours when people travel to and from work, and on summer weekends when entire families travel to and from their dachas. During summer the trains can get very crowded, and seating is limited. Note that most of these trains have no toilets; neither do the majority of the small station stops along the way.
Long-Distance Trains
Moscow's nine rail terminals (or vokzals) are:
They are located close to the city centre, each, dealing with trains from different parts of Europe and Asia. Tickets in general are relatively cheap.
If you contemplate a long-distance or overnight train journey make sure you buy a first or a least second class ticket. Some short- and medium-distance trains till have a third class, called "obshchy vagon". This is a carriage without any compartments, and you might end up sleeping next, above or under a noisy party of travelers - or military recruits on their way home on leave.
There are also different categories of train: "skory" ("fast", an outdated title in most cases, as it is rarely the fastest option), "express", and "firmenny" ("flagship service" - the highest category). Tickets cost more on better trains. You cannot buy a ticket merely specifying the route you want - you have to specify the train and time you intend to use, and you will be given an assigned wagon and seat (or berth, if the train is a sleeper). All long-distance routes longer than 24 hours are "compulsory sleeper" services - there is no "couchette" option. Firmenny trains are not only faster - they have greatly increased levels of comfort on board, nicer restaurant-wagons, and clean toilets, usually modern "airline-type" toilets. A useful "rule of thumb" when choosing trains - if you only know their numbers - is that the lowest-numbered trains are usually the best ones (firmenny). Faced with a choice of train 9 or train 371 on the same route, you'd be best to pick train 9. Some routes (e.g. Moscow - St. Petersburg) have competing commercial train operators, offering you a wider choice of services and prices.
Toilet facilities on non-firmenny Russian trains are not great, and it is absolutely essential to bring your own toilet paper and small pre-packed moist towelettes (the kind you get on airplanes). You might also want to bring some food and drink, especially if you are going to on longer trip. Routes longer than 24 hours always have a dining car - these tend to be either "nice but prohibitively expensive" or "cheap but grim" - almost all of them are nowadays operated as franchised businesses. Russian standard cafe fare is usually the extent of the menu - vegetarians are likely to fare quite poorly, even on better trains.
When travelling overnight, make sure you lock your compartment door. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially your passport and your wallet - thefts on trains can and do occur.
Most expatriates prefer not to use trains for long-distance travel; it is much easier and faster to fly. Overnight train rides to St. Petersburg, however, are a great experience, especially if you travel on one of the luxury trains (there is a choice of 5-6 premium-end train operators).
Apart from using public transportation, official and private taxis are the safest way to get around town. There are two different kinds of taxis in Russia, all of which are commonly referred to as "taxi": official and private taxis, and gypsy cabs.
Official and Private Taxis
Taxis come in various shapes and colours. The main feature of an official taxi is the presence of a meter, together with an official taxi sign either on the roof and/or on the doors. Official taxi drivers are supposed to switch on their meter when they pick you up and should charge you according to a "per km" rate (with a certain minimum charge), but many prefer not to do so. You may, therefore, have to agree on the fare before getting in. The same applies to gypsy cab drivers.
Note that in contrast to many countries, you cannot just get into an official taxi in Moscow and expect the driver to take you where you want to go. He may not be interested in taking you, particularly if you are going somewhere far from the city center.
Official taxis can be difficult to catch on the street - there aren't that many. If you expect that you will need a taxi, order one ahead of time. Private taxis will normally only pick up passengers who have ordered a car by phone or over Internet. Many of these cars also have taxi sign, but they usually do not have a meter.
Private taxi companies usually have a fixed charge - usually per 20 minutes. The taxi company should inform you of the charge when you order a car. Unless your company has a contact with a particular taxi company, you must pay a driver in cash. Few companies accept credit cards. If you need an official receipt, ask whether one can be provided before placing you order - not all companies provide this.
Gypsy Cabs
In Russia, the difference between hailing a cab (taxi) and simply hitchhiking is vague. Generally,
wherever you are, at any time of day or night, you can get a "cab" in a matter of minutes or seconds by holding out your hand. Normally, you tell the driver where you are going and negotiate an amount, with you naming the first price. For many locations, giving the closest metro station is the best. Keep in mind though that very few drivers speak English. "Chastniki" (gypsy cab drivers) drive their own cars that do not have any taxi signs on them.
Taxi Rules
To flag down a taxi or a gypsy cab, stand on the curb of the street and hold out your hand.
When a car stops, make sure that there are no other passengers in it.
Tell the driver where you want to go (e.g. name the street and the closest metro station). You will then be asked how much you are willing to pay for the trip.
If the driver is happy with your offer, he will say "Sadites" or "Poyekhali" (meaning "Sit down" or "Let's go").
Gypsy cab drivers often don't need instructions on how to get to your destination.
Few taxi drivers speak English or other foreign languages, so if your Russian is limited, ask someone to write your destination down for you in Russian and mark on a map so that you an show it to the driver.

There are over 3 million cars in the city on a daily basis. Recent years have seen a significant growth in the number of cars, which has lead to traffic jams and unavailability of parking space. The MKAD (Moscow Circular Car Road), along with the Third Transport Ring and the future Fourth Transport Ring is one of only three freeways that run within Moscow city limits. However, as one can easily observe from a map of Moscow area, there are several other roadway systems that form concentric circles around the city. You might want to rent a car to explore Moscow as a driver. Try one of the following car rental companies.
Moscow has two passenger riverboat terminals (South River Terminal and North River Terminal or Rechnoi Vokzal), serving regular ship routes and cruises along Moskva and Oka Rivers. Due to winter ice, the rivers are navigable from early April to mid-October for passenger transport, and for cargo - a little longer. Cruise ships, connecting Moscow with St. Petersburg, Astrakhan, Rostov-on-Don and other cities of the Volga region depart from the North River Terminal (Severny Rechnoi Vokzal). From the South River Terminal ships depart to Ryazan & Konstantinovo, on the Oka River to Nizhny Novgorod; ships for the Volga River leave from Severny Rechnoi Vokzal. Additionally the suburban ships "Raketa", "Moskva" serve Severny Rechnoi Vokzal to the recreation area of the reservoirs of the Moskva Canal, and on one-hour excursions on the Khimki Reservoir.
67.Moscow Neighbourhoods::Pushkinskaya Square::Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Pushkinskaya Square
Pushkinskaya square is situated at the intersection of Tverskaya street and Tverskoy boulevard. Up to 1932 Pushkinskaya square was called Strastnaya after Strastnoy Monastery, which was demolished after the revolution, like all other churches on Tverskaya. Now on the place of the former monastery one can see a monument to the greatest Russian poet Alexander Pushkin; it is beloved all over Moscow and serves as a usual place for meetings. The idea to create it appeared already in 1837 just after Pushkin has lost his duel with Dantes. It required three competitions of sculptors to choose the finally realized project by A. Opekushin.
Now "Pushka" (informal name of the square) is in not only the place of historical interest; it is literally filled with different cafes and small restaurants. The huge building of Pushkinsky cinema never leaves cinema-lovers in peace: it possesses the biggest screen in Western Europe, and almost every show here is a national premiere. If you prefer noisy and fussy meals, the first and the biggest MacDonald's restaurant in Russia is waiting for you here.
Bolshaya Dmitrovka
Bolshaya Dmitrovka street runs parallel to Tverskaya from Okhotny Ryad to Strastnoy boulevard. The part of the ancient road to Dmitrov, it was named after this old Russian town. In the 18th-19th centuries members of aristocracy, who didn't grudge money for their sumptuous mansions, chose to settle here. Unfortunately, few of their houses survived till now; nevertheless the remnant part still provides an opportunity to imagine how this street looked like before.
In 1970s the entire pavement was covered with special black glass. It looked like a regular asphalted pavement, but it was quite a special affair. Unfortunately, later for some reasons glass was removed. In the 1990s various boutiques, shops, restaurants and small cafes rapidly spread around it, and the spirit of luxury returned to Dmitrovka.
Before the revolution House of Unions was occupied by quite an opposite organization - Moscow Assembly of Nobility. Balls given here were famous all over Moscow; Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Liszt and other remarkable composers used to arrange their concerts here. Magnificent building in Classicism Style was erected in 1780 by Matvey Kozakov; in 1790 it was completely reconstructed, enlarged and the celebrated Column Hall was added.
Bolshaya Dmitrovka is lucky with theatres. One more home of Melpomena is located at No 17: it is the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko musical theatre. Originally built for count Saltykov, governor-general of Moscow, in 1839-1909 it was a place where the members of the Merchants' club had their meetings. Merchants' club was second in popularity after the famous English club; here rich merchants used to gamble their money and eat out in luxury restaurant, famous all over Moscow for outstanding cuisine. After the revolution this building was occupied by the Dmitrovsky theatre; since 1926 troupes of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko used this stage together; these two troupes finally united in one musical theatre in 1941.
Malaya Dmitrovka
Passing two blocks from Bolshaya Dmitrovka via Bolshoy Putinkovsky lane, you get to Malaya Dmitrovka, a cosy narrow street, although a bit noisy. White hip-roofed Church of Nativity in Putinky stands right in the beginning of the street. Despite rather small size, it usually arrests attention of architecture lovers with a splendid lightness of the snow-white walls. It was the last church in Moscow employing the spire architectural style, before it was banned by Patriarch Nikon.
The building next door to the church is one of the best Moscow theatres - Lenkom (Theatre of Lenin's Komsomol). The building was erected in 1909 by Ivanov-Shitz for the Merchants' club, which moved here in 1909 from Bolshaya Dmitrovka.
Bolshaya Sadovaya
Not far from the corner of Tverskaya and Bolshaya Sadovaya streets there is a charming "Aquarium" garden. Formerly there was a "Chicago" garden here; after its reconstruction of 1896-1898 a lot of little fanciful fountains, artificial springs and waterfalls appeared here. All of them flowed into a big aquarium, from which the garden took its name. In the Soviet time after constructing a new building of the burnt Mossovet Theatre all of the water inventions disappeared, and the name Aquarium lost its sense. During the preparations to the Moscow's 850th anniversary the garden was at last rebuilt and now houses two theatres: the above-mentioned Mossovet Theatre and the Variety-Theatre.
The house No 10 on Bolshaya Sadovaya street has the well-known flat No 50. Mikhail Bulgakov lived here in 1921-1924, and this very flat he described in his famous novel "Master and Margarita". The walls and the doors of the porch are covered with very interesting inscriptions and the flat itself is a place of endless pilgrimage. There is a kind of Bulgakov's museum there, supported by alms and kept by enthusiasts.
Petrovka street was once a bank of Neglinka river and it was not exactly a pleasant place for a walk: in the spring overflowed river would make this street a big puddle of mud. But Neglinka was put under the ground and Petrovka became a fashionable shopping street. Petrovka was named after Vysokopetrovsky monastery which looks a bit lonely surrounded by 19th and 20th-century buildings. Prince Dmitry Donskoy founded it in 1380 after the legendary "Battle of Kulikovo". As the legend goes Donskoy had a vision of a high mountain covered with white snow; he considered it to be a divine sign and decided to build a cathedral which later became the main church of the monastery. Vysokopetrovsky monastery was under special patronage of the Naryshkiny family, in particular mother of Tsar Peter the Great Natalya Naryshkina. And the architectural style of the monastery is known as "naryshkinskoye" baroque.
House No 25 is one of the best samples of Moscow Classicism. Build in 1790 by architect Matvey Kozakov, this beautiful mansion was occupied by Kreisman's gymnasium which was famous for accepting students that had been expelled from other schools because of their free-thinking. Today it is a museum of Modern Art headed by Zurab Tsereteli.
Probably the most famous building on this street is house No 38. The phrase "Petrovka, 38" brings to mind signals of police cars and oaths of captured criminals. This used to be Moscow Criminal Investigation Department immortalized in one of the most popular Russian movies "Place of a Meeting is not to be Changed" starring Vladimir Vysotsky.
Karetny Ryad
Karetny Ryad street is Petrovka's continuation. Once it was a street where wagons were made. Progress went on, crude wagons were replaced by elegant carriages ("karety") and this street got its name. The main sight here is Hermitage Garden. It was opened in 1894 by Jakov Shchukin, former servant who had become an entrepreneur, and used to be a place where theatre performances, shows and fetes were arranged. It was here that in 1896 Muscovites could see the famous train arrival in the first ever movie by Lumier brothers. And in 1898 the premier of the play "Tsar Fedor Ioannovich" commemorated the beginning of Moscow Arts Theatre. Today there are several theatres, one opera theatre in "Hermitage" and in winter a skating rink with several cafes.
68.Parks & Estates:: Moscow's virtual community for English speaking expats and Russians  
Parks & Estates
There are ninety-six parks and eighteen gardens in Moscow, including four botanical gardens. There are also 450 (174 sq.mi) of green zones besides 100 (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 on average twenty seven 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.
Moscow has many large and pleasant parks. Some are plain parks, others have ponds or beaches and yet others contain old palaces/estates or other places of interest. Some are great for hiking, cycling, rollerblading and/or cross-country skiing. Most parks are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Note that most neighborhoods also have smaller local parks, some of which have playgrounds.
Aleksandrovsky Sad (Garden)
The capital's most central park runs along the Kremlin's western walls. Aleksandrovsky Sad is directly accessible from the metro station bearing the same name. Picturesque gardens with shady trees and broad lanes were designed and set up in 1821 by O. Bove, one of the chief architects of Moscow, who reconstructed the city after the Great Fire of 1812. First called the Kremlin Gardens, they changed the name in 1856 after the crowning of Alexander II. On the central square of the gardens you can see the "Ruines" grotto, a peculiar memorial of the revival of Moscow after the devastation in 1812. It contains the Grave of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame, where you can watch the hourly changing of the guards. To get to the garden, take the metro to the station Aleksandrovsky Sad; it is also just a 3 minute walk from the metros Teatralnaya, Okhotny Ryad, Ploshchad Revolutsii, and a 5 minute walk from Borovitskaya.
Metro: Aleksandrovsky Sad
All-Russia Exhibition Center (VVTs - formerly called VDNKh)
This huge exhibition center and park containing samples of monumental Soviet architecture and oversized statues was established in 1937. There are over 80 pavilions that used to display communism's latest achievements in science, agriculture, industry, and technology. Most pavilions have been turned into miniature shopping centers, but some still function as exhibits, for example the "Sadovodstvo" (Gardening) pavilion. Do not miss the impressive Fountain of People's Friendship (Fontan Druzhby Narodov) right in the center of the park. It consists of 15 gold-covered statues representing all 15 republics of the former Soviet Union. There is also a Museum of Astronautics; that is definitely what Soviet Union had reasons to be proud of. There are many legendary objects on display including first ever astronauts - stuffed dogs Belka and Strelka. The museum is located in the monument to the Explorers of Space. And, of course, recently restored Vera Mukhina's 24.5 meter (80 ft.) "Worker and Kolkhoznitsa" monument is a must-see sculpture. The VVTs features Russia's biggest Ferris wheel and many other attractions. When you get tired of wandering around this seemingly endless territory, you can sit down to enjoy a shashlik or plov at one of the many outdoor and indoor cafes. To get to the exhibition center, just take the metro to the station VDNKh - VVTs is a 3 minute walk from the metro.
Open: 08:00 - 22:00 (summer); 09:00 - 19:00 (winter)
Metro: VDNKh
Tel: +7 495 544-3400
Aptekarsky Ogorod (Apothecary's Garden)
This is Moscow State University's (MGU's) oldest botanical garden (founded in 1706 by a decree from Peter the Great). You can also visit the greenhouse and laboratory. To get to the garden, take the metro to the station Prospekt Mira, take a short walk along Prospekt Mira and turn to Grokholsky pereulok, the entrance to the garden is just a 1 minute walk after the turn. The entry price of 300 RUR. For children under school age the entry is free.
Open: 10:00 - 18:00 (winter); 10:00 - 21:00 (summer)
Address: Prospekt Mira, 26
Metro: Prospekt Mira
Tel: +7 495 680-6765 / 7222 / 5880
Excursions: +7 967 2089878 (10:00 - 18:00, 11:00 - 16:00)
Bitsevsky Les
This is a large park and silver birch forest in the south of Moscow. It has two ponds with beaches, and although swimming is not recommended, you can still enjoy the beach atmosphere. The park also features volleyball, basketball, and badminton courts; and you can hire a rowboat, paddleboat, or bike. Further into the forest there is an equestrian center. Great for sledding in winter. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Novoyasenevskaya (the park is just next to the station); the park is also accessible from the metro station Ulitsa Akademika Yangelya - once out of the metro, walk along Akademika Yangelya ulitsa for about 1 mile or take bus 680, 118 or minibus 566M to the station "Ulitsa Akademika Yangelya", then take a 3-4 minute walk to the park.
Address: Novoyasenevskiy tupik, 1
Metro: Novoyasenevskaya, Ulitsa Akademika Yangelya
Tel: +7 495 426-0022, +7 499 739-2705/07/08
Botanichesky Sad (Botanical Garden)
Rose garden, arboretum with exotic trees and bushes, greenhouse with orchids, lilies and lotuses, Japanese Garden. Founded in 1945. To get to the garden, take the metro to the station Vladykino, once out of the metro, walk for about 200 meters (0.12 mi) to the main entrance. The garden is also accessible from the metro VDNKh - take trolleybus 73, 36 to the station "Botanicheskaya ulitsa 33", or minibus 324M to the station "Glavny Vkhod Botanicheskogo Sada".
Open: 10:00 - 20:00 (garden summer only, except Mon, Thu); 10:00 - 16:00 (hothouse except Thu, Sat, Sun)
Address: Botanicheskaya ul., 4
Metro: Vladykino
Tel: +7 499 977-9145
Bulvarnoe Koltso (Boulevard Ring)
Bulvarnoe Koltso is comprised of the following streets: Gogolevsky Bulvar, Tverskoy Bulvar, Strastnoy Bulvar, Petrovsky Bulvar, Rozhdestvensky Bulvar, and Sretensky Bulvar. It forms a semi-circle around the center of Moscow and is ideal for leisurely strolls. A walk along the boulevard ring's park-like areas is a great way to explore the city center, undisturbed by traffic. The park strip is situated in the middle of the road, in-between traffic lanes. Scores of beautiful old buildings are located along this route (and down the side streets leading off Bulvarnoe Koltso), and there are plenty of benches to sit and relax on along the way. It is also well worth venturing into some of the side streets branching off from the ring - you will find lots of pretty lanes with interesting buildings there.
Metros: Kropotkinskaya, Chistye Prudy, Turgenevskaya, Tsvetnoy Bulvar, Pushkinskaya
Ekaterininskiy Park
Pond with ducks and boat rentals, tennis courts, the House of Culture, the Museum of the Soviet army with planes and military equipment and much more. Nearby there is a health center for veterans. Playgrounds are concentrated in the side. Amongst playgrounds there is a large-scale concreted area for bicycles, scooters and roller skates.
Open: 06:00 - 23:00 (summer), 09:00 - 17:00 (winter)
Address: Bolshaya Ekaterininskaya ul., 27
Metro: Prospekt Mira
Tel: +7 495 600-6460 / 6391
Great park for walking, hiking, and cycling. The famous Gorbushka shopping center is located right outside metro Bagrationovskaya. Centrally-located Filyovsky Park runs along the banks of Moscow River and covers 266.6 hectares with 90% of it being perfectly green area. Once it was the estate of Naryshkiny noble family that owned the estate for 175 year. The restored palace of the 18th century is a beautiful reminder of those days. Filyovsky Park is a great place for both quiet contemplation of nature and active recreation. Different parts of the park are accessible from 4 metro stations: your options are to take the metro to the station Bagrationovskaya, once out of the metro walk for about 450 meters (0.3 mi) to the park along Barklaya ulitsa, or to choose the metro station Filyovsky park and a 0.3 mile walk along Minskaya ulitsa, or you can take the metro to the station Pionerskaya and walk for about 250 meters (0.16 mi) along Polosukhina ulitsa, and finally you can come to the metro station Kuntsevskaya and walk for about 600 meters (0.4 mi) along Rublevskoe shosse (duplicate).
Adress: Bolshaya Filevskaya ul., 22
Metro: Bagrationovskaya, Filyovsky Park, Pionerskaya, Kuntsevskaya
Tel: +7 499 145-5155 / 0000
Goncharovskiy Park
There are four playgrounds, fitness and dance floor, a stage for the holidays. The central object which attracts visitors here, is the place for squirrels. A renewed outdoor furniture and free wi-fi make this park convenient not only for recreation but also work.
Address: Rustaveli ul.
Metros: Timiryazevskaya, Dmitrovskaya
Open: 07:00 - 23:00
Tel: +7 499 908-3500
Gorky Park
Moscow's most famous park runs along the banks of the Moscow River. Gorky Park is truly one of the most popular places for families to spend their week-end. Numerous fairground attractions such as the Big Wheel, switchback (for unknown reason known in Russia as American Hills), swirling see-saw make children's heads go round of joy while their parents are screaming of fear. There are also horses, boats to hire and caf?s. An ice-skating rink operates in winter. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Park Kultury and cross the bridge over the Moscow River, or take the metro to the station Oktyabrskaya and walk for about 400 meters (0.2 mi) along Krymsky Val ulitsa.
Open: 24/7
Address: Krymsky Val ul., 9
Metro: Oktyabrskaya, Park Kultury
Tel: +7 495 995-0020 # 6
Hermitage Garden
Three theatres are located inside this very centrally located park - the Hermitage Theatre, the Novaya Opera, and the Sfera. Outdoor dancing hall and several open-air cafes. Lots of flowers and benches, alleys and the fountain create a special atmosphere of peace and quiet. To get to the garden, take the metro to the stations Chekhovskaya, Tverskaya, or Pushkinskaya and then walk along Malaya Dmitrovka ulitsa and turn right to Uspensky pereulok.
Open: 24/7
Address: Karetny Ryad ul., 3, str. 7
Metro: Chekhovskaya, Tverskaya, Pushkinskaya
Tel: +7 495 699-0849 / 0432
Izmailovsky Park
Izmallovsky Park consists of a vast area of parkland (over 1500 hectares) and a large forest consisting of pine trees, birch woods, and ponds. It is 6 times larger then the central park in New York. This is where the Russian tsars once had their summer estates and hunting grounds. Other attractions include a large skating rink in winter. The park is great for family picnics in summer. It is located adjacent to Izmailovsky Vernisazh - Moscow's famous outdoor souvenir market. The park also features a wide variety of attractions for children. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Partizanskaya (the park is just next to the station) or take the metro to the station Shosse Entuziastov, once out of the metro, take a 3 minute walk along Elektrodny proezd.
Address: Alleya bolshogo kruga, 7/A
Metro: Partizanskaya, Shosse Entuziastov
Tel: +7 499 166-6119
Khamovniki Park
Khamovniki is one of the greenest and most picturesque areas of Moscow. Here is park named Mandelstam, another name is the Estate of the Trubetskoy family in Khamovniki - well-kept green area with a playground, pond, tennis courts and an aviary for protein. Park "Novodevichy ponds" is nearby, the sport and recreation complex "Luzhniki" and the famous Neskuchny Sad (Garden) are along the bordering area of ​​the Moskva River.
Open: 09:00 - 21:00
Address: Usacheba ul., 1A
Metro: Frunzenskaya
Tel: +7 495 637-0048
Krasnaya Presnya Park
Open: 09:00 – 22:00
Address: Mantulinskaya ul., 5
Metro: 1905 Goda, Vustavochnaya
Krylatskie Hills
Located in the West of Moscow in one of the capital's few ecologically clean areas, this park has grassy slopes that are great for cross-country skiing and sledding in winter. Good hiking trails and a challenging cycling track are ideal for summer sports. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Krylatskoye and take a 5 minute walk from the metro to the park.
Metro: Krylatskoye
Kuzminki – Lyublino
The park is located in Kuzminki Estate which traces its history from 1702. Muscovites call Kuzminki Estate "the Russian Versal"; this wonderful architectural ensemble was created by celebrated architects Matvey Kozakov, Vasily Bazhenov and the Gilyardi family. Church of the Vlakhernskaya Virgin is an outstanding architectural masterpiece. In winter you can ride a dog team here or take part in the traditional Russian amusements; in summer you can make a bike-excursion about the estate or sail over the Kuzminki ponds and watch splendid flowerbeds planted for the flower festival. You can also rent the picnic area or picnic point.
Address: Kuzminskaya ul., 10
Metro: Kuzminki
Tel: +7 495 258-4560, +7 495 377-3593
Losiny Ostrov
Russia's first national park used to be the nobility's favorite hunting ground. Some wild animals including moose, wild boar, and beavers still live here. There are three ponds with different kinds of fish. The park is also great for hiking. "Los" in Russian means "elk", and there are many elks in the park indeed. The visitors may watch them in their natural habitat. Excursions in English are available. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Shchelkovskaya, once out of the metro take trolleybus 23, or minibus 583, or bus 257 to the station "Uralskaya ulitsa 19", and then take a short walk to reach the park.
Address: Poperechniy prosek, 1G
Metro: Shchelkovskaya
Tel: +7 499 268-6045
Excursions: +7 903 7445855
Milutinskiy Park (Garden)
Cozy courtyard is like old pictures. Roundabouts, sandboxes, playgrounds and wooden houses. The Center of aesthetic education is located in the houses where there are dozens of different clubs for children from 5 to 18 years.
Open: 07:00 - 21:30
Address: Pokrovskiy bulvar, 10, entrance from Khokhlovsky pereulok
Metro: Chistye Prudy
Tel: +7 495 917-9013
Moskovsky Park Iskusstv "Museon" (Moscow Park of Arts)
Founded in 1993, this open-air sculpture museum has a collection of over 700 sculptures. Here you will find many Soviet-era monuments that were removed from their pedestals in Moscow's squares and parks after 1991, including the controversial statute of the Soviet Union's first KGB chief Felix Dzerzhinsky that used to stand right in the middle of Lubyanskaya Ploshchad in the city center. The park is located next to the Central House of Artists, across the road from Gorky Park. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Park Kultury and cross the bridge over the Moscow River, or take the metro to the station Oktyabrskaya and walk for about 400 meters (0.2 mi) along Krymsky Val ulitsa.
Open: 24/7
Address: Krymsky Val, 10
Metro: Oktyabrskaya, Park Kultury
Tel: +7 495 995-0020 # 6
Neskuchny Sad (Garden)
This garden consists of terraces sloping down to the Moscow River and provides scenic hiking trails. It houses a wooden playground, an open-air theater, and plenty of benches. The name of the park translates as "Never Boring Garden." Once a noble estate, it is one of the oldest parks in Moscow. In the 18th century there were three mansions which belonged to Prince Trubetskoy. All that is left is part of the park and a "Hunters' house". In the middle of the 19th century a new owner, Prokofy Demidov, built a palace here. Originally it was designed in Baroque Style, rebuilt in the time of Classicism and its interiors are typical for the Empire Style. Here on the bank of the Moscow-river one of the largest in Europe Botanic gardens appeared; among its trees several historical objects are found today: the house of Count Orlov (1796), a vaulted bridge, and the house with rotunda. You can get to this park either through Gorky Park or take the metro to the station Leninsky Prospekt and take a 2 minute walk to reach the park.
Metro: Leninsky Prospekt, Oktyabrskaya, Park Kultury
Tel: +7 495 995-0020 # 6
Park of the 50th Anniversary of October
This densely wooded and impressive size park is the ideal place for picnics. Playgrounds are basic. No attractions. The cafe "Central Park" with friendly staff and tasty sandwiches works at the entrance to the park.
Adress: Udaltsova ul., 22A
Metro: Prospekt Vernadskogo
Park Pobedy (Victory Park)
This huge park, also referred to as Poklonnaya Gora was established in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union's World Two victory over Nazi Germany. Once it was a hill where all important guests of the capital were met with a bow ("poklon" means a bow). It contains the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War, an art gallery, the Cathedral of the Great Martyr Georg, a mosque and a synagogue erected in memory of those Muslims and Jews who have perished in the horror of the war. Moscow famous sculptor Zurab Tsereteli has placed here one of his most monumental masterpieces: the statue of St. Georg spearing the dragon. Another thing that attracts visitors is the chain of fountains illuminated in bloody red in the evening; this symbolizes the floods of blood shed by Soviet soldiers. Skateboarders love to use perfectly smooth marble surface for their exercises. On May 9th (Victory Day), Muscovites gather here to celebrate the triumph over Nazi Germany. The park is great for walking, rollerblading, skateboarding, or reading a book. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Park Pobedy, the park is just next to the station.
Open: 10:00 - 18:00 (museum Tue-Sun)
Address: Bratiev Fonchenko ul., 7, Poklonnaya Gora
Metro: Park Pobedy
Tel: +7 499 148-8300
Web: www.
Perovskiy Park
Address: Lazo ul., 7
Metro: Perovo
Tel: +7 495 309-5342
Fax: +7 495 309-5163
Pokrovskoe-Streshnevo Park
Pokrovsky-Streshnevo is the former family estate near Moscow with an adjacent park.
Address: Ac. Kurchatova ul.
Metro: Shchukinskaya
Presnenskiy Park
The park with modern playgrounds, chess town, a sports complex and flowerbeds. The unique fairy-tale characters will not leave anyone indifferent!
Open: 07:00 - 22:00
Address: Druzhinnikovskaya ul., 9, str. 2
Metros Krasnopresnenskaya, Barrikadnaya
Serebryanny Bor (Silver Pine Forest)
This is a huge forest and park area that contains Moscow's most popular beaches. It features changing rooms, clean sand, beach volleyball areas, and boat, scooter and paddleboat rental. There are plenty of outdoor cafes and ice-cream stands. Note that the water may not be 100% safe for swimming. Serebryanny Bor is also great for cross-country skiing in winter. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Polezhaevskaya and take trolley bus 20, 21, 65 or minibus 65 to the stop "Serebryanny Bor", or you can take the metro to the station Oktyabrskoe Pole and then take minibus 15M to the station "4aya Liniya".
Open: 09:00 - 21:00 (beach)
Address: 4aya Liniya Khoroshevskogo Serebryannogo Bora
Metro: Polezhaevskaya, Oktyabrskoe Pole
Tel.: +7 495 789-2570, +7 929 9990415
Severnoe Tushino Park
Table tennis, dance floor, video arcade and children playground with attractions. Bicycles, roller skates and rackets on hire.
Address: Svobodi ul., 56
Metro: Planernaya
Tel: +7 495 640-7355
Excursions: +7 926 5221596
Fax: +7 495 640-7354
Sokolniki Park
This 600-hectare park surrounded by a forest is where the tsars used to bring their falcons (a falcon is called a "sokol" in Russian) to hunt foxes and other small animals. The first path was cut through the forest on the initiative of Peter the Great and since that all paths have the name "proseka" (cuttings). Today there are seven cuttings: Birch Cutting, Maple, Elm and others; they all form radial structure of the park. More than 500 kinds of plants and 70 kinds of animals inhabit this thicket. The international exhibition center in this park often holds large trade fairs. The spacious green areas with ponds, pavilions and playgrounds allow for nice walks. Fun fair, horseback riding, restaurant. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Sokolniki, and take a short walk along the alley.
Address: Sokolnicheskiy Val, 1, str. 1
Metro: Sokolniki
Tel: +7 499 393-9222
Taganskiy Park
Park of clture and leisure "Taganskiy", a comfortable and eco-friendly island of fresh air, is located in the center of Moscow, in the heart of Taganskiy district. For the past years, the park is cultural, recreational and sports center of the district.
Open: 07:00 - 23:00
Address: Taganskaya ul., 40/42
Metro: Taganskaya
Tel: +7 495 912-2717
Troparyovo Park
A green oasis in the South of Moscow, this park has a beach, changing rooms, refreshment stands, a chess club, open-air stage, and ping pong tables. Canoes and paddleboats are available for rent. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Tyoply Stan, then walk for about 400 meters (0.2 mi) to reach the park.
Metro: Tyoply Stan
Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills)
Located adjacent to Moscow State University (MGU), this area is great for walking and rollerblading in the summer with a magnificent view of the city on a smog-free day from the platform across from the University. Birds have nothing to do with the name: in the 15th century one noble lady bought a village here from a priest called Vorobey. Vorobey's name has outlived the glory of the Great Soviet leader Lenin, whose name this hill wore in the Soviet times. In front of the facade of MSU facing the Moscow-river there is a big square and a lovely alley decorated with busts of famous Russian scientists. The alley leads to the best observation point of the city. Many newlyweds will visit this famous place after their official wedding ceremony. In winter you can also observe snow-boarders and alpine skiers on the hill underneath. On weekend nights, the roads between the platform and Moscow State University are the scenes for impromptu car races. Souvenir vendors are always on the platform. To get to the park, take the metro to the station Vorobyovy Gory, then walk up the hill to the observation point.
Metro: Vorobyovy Gory
Vorontsovskiy Park
The park is located on the territory of the former Vorontsovo Estate. Vorontsovo is the landscaped park with linden alleys, benches, woodpeckers, squirrels, and cascading ponds - the rare thing for a Moscow park design.
Open: 09:00 - 23:00 (summer), 10:00 - 22:00 (winter)
Address: Vorontsovsky park, 3
Metro: Novye Cheryomushki
Tel: +7 495 580-2678
Abramtsevo was mentioned in official documents for the first time in the 17th century. In 1843 Abramtsevo became property of a famous Russian writer Sergey Aksakov and after Aksakov's death it was bought by a successful manufacturer and patron of arts Savva Mamontov. At this estate you can see a collection of ceramics made by Vrubel and exhibitions dedicated to the estate's famous visitors (Turgenev, Repin, Vrubel, and others). Today Abramtsevo occupies about 50 hectares (0.2 sq. mi) along with a park and picturesque outskirts of the Vorya River and comprises architectural monuments created in the 18-19th centuries. The museum's collection features more than 25,000 items: pictures, drawings, sculptures, arts and crafts, photographs and archives of previous owners. To get to the estate, drive along Yaroslavskoe shosse from the city center, reach the 60th km of Yaroslavskoe shosse, watch for Khotkovo direction sign and turn left or you can take electric train (elektrichka) from Yaroslavsky railway station to the station "Abramtsevo".
Open: 10:00 - 21:00 (park), expositions: 10:00 – 18:00, Sat until 20:00
Tel: +7 495 993-0033, +7 496 543-0278
Excursions: +7 916 2784542, +7 496 543-2470
Arkhangelskoye Museum Estate
Arkhangelskoye is referred to as the Versailles of the Moscow region. At the beginning of the 18th century, the estate belonged to Prince D.M. Golitsyn. After his death, it was purchased by Prince N.B. Yusupov (1751-1831), one of Russia's richest noblemen. Prince Yusupov was a well-known art lover and collector and moved his art collection to Arkhangelskoye. It included over 500 paintings by European masters from the 17th to the 19th centuries, many of which are still on display at the estate today. The collection also includes rare books from the 16th to the 19th centuries, as well as sculptures, bronzes, clocks, furniture, porcelain, etc. The Church of Mikhail Archangel built in the 17th century stands on a high bank of the Moscow-river. There is also a theatre with decorations by famous artist P. Gonzaga, and, of course, The Colonnade. To get to the estate, go along Rublyovo-Uspenskoye shosse and turn right at the first traffic light after the village of Zhukovka onto llinskoye Shosse, drive 5 more km, or take the metro to the station Tushinskaya, then take bus 549, 541 or microbus 151 to the stop "Sanatory".
Open: 10:00-20:00 (Wed-Sun)
Metro: Tushinskaya
Tel: +7 (495) 363-1375

Izmailovo Country Estate
Country residence of Russian tsars in the 17th and 18th centuries. The estate is located on the unique man-made island that was created at the behest of the tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, the father of Peter the Great. In 17th-18th centuries it was a summer residence of the tsar family where in 1666 Aleksey Mikhailovich organised an agricultural paradise with arable farming, bee- and poultry-keeping and other rural pleasures. Tsar's famous gardens became the prototype for future botanic gardens in Russia. The museum "Izmailovo and Russian Tsars" holds historical and dramatized excursions. The Mostovaya (Bridge) Tower, built in 1670, served as the main entrance to the Izmailovo estate and was part of an arched stone bridge across the Serebryany (Silver) Pond. The Tower's composition is typical of the middle-age architectural style of the second half of the 17th century and similar to some of the Moscow Kremlin towers. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station Partizanskaya, then take trolleybus 22 to the stop "Glavnaya Alleya".
Open: Exhibitions: Apr-Sep: Tue–Fri, Sun: 10:00 - 08:00, Sat: 11:00 - 19:00; Oct-Mar: Tue–Sun: 10:00 - 18:00. Mon – day off.
Address: Gorodok imeni Baumana, 1a
Metro: Partizanskaya
Tel.: +7 499 165-1236 / 0972, +7 499 782-8917/21
Kolomenskoye Open-Air Art Museum and Nature Preserve
The Kolomenskoye estate was once the royal summer residence of the Grand Princes of Moscow Vasili III and Ivan IV, and was turned into a museum and nature preserve in 1923. While the wooden summer palace was pulled down under Catherine II after it fell into disrepair, some of the churches built in the 16th and 17th centuries remain intact and serve as monuments to important stages in development of Russian church architecture. Among them are the Church of the Ascension (1532) and the Church of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan (1644-1670). Several examples of Russian wooden architecture have been moved to Kolomenskoye and are also displayed in the park, including the wooden house of Peter the Great dating back to 1702. The 390-hectare park is also famed for its alley of ancient oaks and linden trees - some purportedly more than 200 years old. It is ideal for family outings and picnics. Kolomenskoe, a small calm green island in the boiling ocean of the big city, has a very long history. The first known reference to Kolomenskoe village was found in the will-chart Moscow Grand Prince Ivan Kalita, dated 1339. But, according to archaeological evidence, the first settlement here was founded already 2.5 thousand years ago: it was so-called "Dyakovo Gorodische", the oldest settlement found on the territory of modern Moscow. Nowadays Kolomenskoe is included in the UNESCO List of World's Cultural and Natural Heritage. Among the other historical monuments in Kolomenskoe are the bell-tower of St. George (16th century), the Falcon Tower (1627) and Peter the Great's cabin (1702), brought here from Arkhangelsk. Some of the architectural monuments house the museum's expositions, changed from time to time. Various musical performances and festivals are arranged for numerous guests of Kolomenskoe. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station Kolomenskaya, then take a 10 minute walk along Prospekt Andropova.
Open: 24/7
Exhibitions: Apr-Sep: Tue–Fri, Sun: 10:00 - 08:00, Sat: 11:00 - 19:00; Oct-Mar: Tue–Sun: 10:00 - 18:00. Mon – day off.
Address: Prospekt Andropova, 39
Metro: Kolomenskaya
Tel: +7 499 782-8917/21
Excursions: +7 499 615-2768/71
Kuskovo Estate and Ceramics Museum
Entering the Kuskovo estate gates, you find yourself in a different dimension. It feels like you have come into the 18th century by a time machine. Kuskovo occupies the territory of about 32 hectares. Towards the 1750s, following new trends in lifestyle, Count Petr Sheremetev, an important member of nobility at the Russian Imperial Court, turned his family estate (dating from the 16th century) into a residence, or "chateau de plaisir", which amazed his contemporaries by its splendour. Up to 25,000 guests would flock here to lavish celebrations. Yet, Count Sheremetev had the mansion built as a recreational summer residence, as well as a focus for different art forms appreciated by connoisseurs. Exhibits displayed here form a large part of his vast collection of fine and applied art. Nowadays the museum stock counts some 34,000 items, including a huge collection of ceramics and glass from different countries, from antiquity up to the present day. Architectural composition of the estate unites the Palace itself, three pleasure pavilions in the shapes of a Dutch house, an Italian villa, a Chinese pagoda and some other buildings. Baroque gardens and park landscape are geometrically laid out in the English style near the Large Pond. The Neo-Classical style Palace is one of the best parts of the estate preserved till now. The dancing hall is the largest and most beautiful parlor in the palace. The whole interior looks very festive due to the white and gild decorations of the walls, mosaic parquet and crystal chandeliers. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station Ryazansky Prospekt, then take bus 133, 208 or minibus 157 to the stop "Muzei Kuskovo".
Open: 10:00 - 20:00
Exhibitions: 10:00 - 18:00
Address: Yunosti ul., 2
Metro: Ryazansky Prospekt
Tel: +7 (495) 370-0160, 375-3131
This estate traces its history from 1702, when Peter the Great presented this land to his favourite Grigory Stroganov. Muscovites call Kuzminki Estate "the Russian Versal"; this wonderful architectural ensemble was created by celebrated architects Matvey Kozakov, Vasily Bazhenov and the Gilyardi family. Church of the Vlakhernskaya Virgin is an outstanding architectural masterpiece. Famous Peter Klodt and Ivan Vitali decorated the estate with their sculptures. In late 18th - early 19th centuries some landscape modifications took place: a "Star" park, English garden and a Chinese pond were laid out. The museum's exposition shows us life of the Russian nobility of the 19th century. In winter you can ride a dog team here or take part in the traditional Russian amusements; in summer you can make a bike-excursion about the estate or sail over the Kuzminki ponds and watch splendid flowerbeds planted for the flower festival. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station Kuzminki, once out of the metro take a 7-8 minute walk to reach the estate.
Open: 24/7, museum: 10:00 - 18:00
Address: Topolevaya alleya, 6
Metro: Kuzminki
Tel: +7 495 377-9457, +7 495 372-6066, +7 495 657-6585
Lefortovo park is connected with the history of a separate district in Moscow counting some 300 years. At first this area in the outskirts of Moscow on the bank of the Yauza River was called Nemetskaya Sloboda (German settlement). This district was created by Ivan the Terrible especially for foreigners standing on Russian service, so that they could keep their habits of living. Time went by; New Sloboda appeared in this area under Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich, father of Peter the Great. Later on, this district beyond the Yauza River was named in the memory of Franz Lefort, a Swiss of French origin, close friend and fellow-champion of Peter the Great. The history of Lefortovo is also connected with the name of Yakov Bruce, the first Freemason in Russia and (as the legend tells) the offspring of Druids. In the 18th century Lefortovo was the residence of Russian Emperors and Empresses. Later Lefortovo became the base of some elite troops of the Russian army and a military school; military hospital was also built in this district. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station Baumanskaya, then take tram 37, 50 to the stop "Lefortovsky Most".
Open: 24/7
Exhibitions: Apr-Sep: Tue–Fri, Sun: 10:00 - 08:00, Sat: 11:00 - 19:00; Oct-Mar: Tue–Sun: 10:00 - 18:00. Monday – day off.
Address: Krasnokazarmennaya ul., 3
Metro: Baumanskaya
Lublino Estate and Park
This lovely park and palace are mysteriously little-known by even native-born Muscovites. In the 17th century the lands had been a hunting park owned by the infamous Godunov family. By the end of the 18th century ownership had passed through the Razumovskys to the Durasovs, who built the present palace in the first decade of the 19th century. You can take a picnic and walk about the banks of the extensive Lublino Lake which forms the centre of the semi-landscaped park. Although Lublino's territory is adjacent to Kuzminki, it's a different estate with a different history, and is most easily accessed from a different metro station: Volzhkskaya. There is an extensive series of light classical concerts on weekend afternoons in summer, and even (free) outdoor performances of complete operas. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station Volzhskaya, once out of the metro, take a 5 minute walk to reach the estate.
Open: 09:00-18:00 (park); 10:00-17:00 (palace)
Metro: Volzhskaya
Tel: +7 495 350-1553, +7 499 722-7189, +7 499 614-2083
Ostankino Estate Museum and Park (closed for restoration)
Ostankino was mentioned for the first time in the 16th century, but the oldest preserved building, the Church of Trinity, is dated 17th century. This beautiful palace belonged to Count Sheremetyev and is located on the shore of a lake right near the Botanical Garden and the VVTs Exhibition center. In the estate one of the first theatres in Russia was organised; all the actors here were serfs. This theatre still has one of the best acoustics in Moscow; moreover, it is the only preserved theatre of the 18th century. A considerable part of the Ostankinsky Park is occupied by the main Botanic Garden of the Russian Academy of Sciences with more than 2000 kinds of roses, 400 kinds of lilac, plenty of exotic plants, a 300-year-old linden alley and three ponds. The palace is not always open to visitors and is usually closed in winter months. Concerts in summer months. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station VDNKh, then take tram 17, 11 to the stop "Ostankino" or trolleybus 37 to the stop "Ulitsa Akademika Koroleva".
Open: 11:00 - 19:00 (museum in summer)
Address: 1aya Ostankinskaya ul., 5
Metro: VDNKh
Tel: + 7 495 602-1852
Tsaritsyno Museum and Nature Preserve
The name of this estate and park comes from the Russian word "tsar" and is home to the romantic ruins of the unfinished palace that Ekaterina II (Catherine the Great) ordered in 1775. The architect fell out of grace with Ekaterina and the incomplete project slowly fell apart. Its trees overlook the waters of the Upper Tsaritsyno pond, which together with the Shipilovsky and Borisovsky ponds form the largest cascade of ponds in Moscow. Tsaritsyno is the largest museum-reserve and historical and cultural monument of the federal level in Moscow, occupying over 700 hectares. A tremendously rich complex of architectural objects is gathered here - the historic village sites, plowed fields, barrows dated from the VI thousand years B.C. to the beginning of the XII century. To get to the estate, take the metro to the station Tsarityno, once out of the metro take a 5 minute walk to reach the estate.
Open: 06:00-24:00
Museum: Tue–Fri: 09:30-18:00, Sat: 09:30-20:00, Sun: 09:30-19:00. Mon - day off. The entrance from 10:00.
Address: Dolskaya ul., 1
Metro: Tsarityno
Tel: +7 495 322-4433
Excursions: +7 495 322-4433 # 1142
69.Institute for Contemporary Development 
Institute for Contemporary Development
70.Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul 
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul Church - Lutheran Cathedral in Moscow, which is the main cathedral of the regional Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia with the Department episkopaDitriha Borisovich Brauer as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. The cathedral is one of the two existing official Lutheran churches in Moscow, along with the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity in the Vedeno cemetery. The parish church of Saints Peter and Paul in Moscow - one of the oldest Lutheran congregation in Russia.
71.Residence of Deputy Chief of US Mission in Russia 
Residence of Deputy Chief of US Mission in Russia
72.Canadian Embassy 
Canadian Embassy
73.Museum of Contemporary History of Russia 
Museum of Contemporary History of Russia
Open: Tue, Wed, and Fri 10:00-18:00,
Thu, Sat 11:00-19:00, Sun 10:00-17:00.
Closed: Mon and the last Fri of each month.
74.Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce 
Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce
Registered Association Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce (FRCC) was founded in 1946. It is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to promote companies’ business and competitiveness as well as economic relations in Russia and Finland.
75.Exhibition and Memorial Department "Presnya"  
Exhibition and Memorial Department "Presnya"
Exhibition and Memorial Department "Presnya" of State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia
76.Radisson Royal Hotel 
Radisson Royal Hotel
A gem among hotels in Russia, the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow boasts landmark status in the heart of the capital city. This elegant Moscow hotel was built between 1953 and 1957 as part of Stalin's Seven Sisters project and showcases Soviet Neo-classicism architecture. Soaring at 206 metres high, it was the largest European hotel of its day.
Children Venues
77.Museum of Contemporary History of Russia  
Museum of Contemporary History of Russia
Open: Tue-Fri 10:00-18:00,
Tue, Sat 11:00-19:00,
Sun 10:00-17:00.
Closed: Mon, the last Fri of each month.
78.P'tit Cref  
P'tit Cref
Trilingual centers (Russia, English, French) for preschool children. Native-speaking teachers, psychologist, speech therapist, extra-activities, workshops.
79.American Embassy Childcare and Preschool  
American Embassy Childcare and Preschool
Daycare for children age 15 months to 5 years old and full-day Preschool/Pre-K for children 3-5. Summer camp offered mid June to early August. Enrollment allocated to children with at least one US citizen parent resident in Russia or foreign diplomat parent. Children within the embassy may be enrolled in daycare starting at 6 weeks.
80.Brookes Moscow & Brookes Saint Petersburg  
Brookes Moscow & Brookes Saint Petersburg
Brookes Moscow & Brookes Saint Petersburg are next-generation international educational establishments in the heart of Russia. Members of the Brookes Education Group (BEG), a global family of IB schools with seven campuses around the world, including major ones in Cambridge (founded in 1982), Vancouver and Seoul. The 800-pupil capacity Brookes Moscow site and its sister site of 250 capacity in Saint Petersburg welcome local and international students from age 2 to 18 to its campuses and offer the chance to study for the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. Students also have access to BEG’s family of schools and the opportunity to study abroad.
Phone Directory
Open: 09:00-18:00. Air tickets to any destination worldwide, air terminal passenger service, railroad tickets, passport and visa support, hotel bookings in Russia, CIS countries and abroad, reception and catering for foreign guests in Russia, business trips throughout Russia and abroad, arrangement of exhibitions, conferences, seminars, incentive-tours, VIP air transportation, regular and charter airfreight flights, transfers and car rental services.
82.ABU Accounting Services  
ABU Accounting Services
One-Stop Shop for Finance and Accounting Outsourcing in Russia. Local partner of ADP Streamline® in Russia.
83.Way to Russia Guide  
Way to Russia Guide
A guide to Russia and travel services directory: Russian visas, transport, tours, destination guides, travelers' forum.
84.Way to Russia Guide  
Way to Russia Guide
A guide to Russia and travel services directory: Russian visas, transport, tours, destination guides, travelers' forum.
85.EMC Garantpost  
EMC Garantpost
Express delivery throughout Russia; courier service; international delivery to any point of the world; cargo delivery throughout Russia, CIS and foreign countries; insurance; Free phone line for calls from regions: 8 800 200 6565.
86.Morgan Stanley Ltd.  
Morgan Stanley Ltd.
Since 1994, Morgan Stanley has been building relationships and expanding its product offerings in Russia. Morgan Stanley did not leave Russia after the 1998 financial crisis, and its uninterrupted presence has fostered trust and credibility with key governmental and corporate decision makers. In addition to its long-existing representative office, Morgan Stanley has recently established a local trading platform and opened a Russian subsidiary bank in October 2005 allowing it to provide a full suite of financial services to its clients in Russia.
87.Visa to Russia. Russian tourist visa. Russian visa support. Russian visa.Visa Russia. Visa services. Visa for Russia. Russian visa application.   
Visa to Russia. Russian tourist visa. Russian visa support. Russian visa.Visa Russia. Visa services. Visa for Russia. Russian visa application.
88.Visit Russia  
Visit Russia
Full Russia visa services for US tourists, visa support for all tourists. Offices in Moscow, St-Petersburg and New York. Contacts: Toll Free within the USA: 1-800-755-3080; 1-718-841-7505 - New York.
Full service incoming tour operator (DMC Russia). Travel services for expatriate families in Russia: guided tours in Moscow and its suburbs, ideas for family holidays around Moscow, snowmobile tours in Karelia, adventure tours to Lake Baikal and Kamchatka.
90.Go to Russia  
Go to Russia
Russia's full service travel management company (offices in Atlanta, San Francisco and Moscow). Visa support and full visa processing, registration, own network of managed short stay apartments, hotel accommodation, Moscow sightseeing tours. English-speaking managers.
91.Attorney Evgeny Swarovski  
Attorney Evgeny Swarovski
Attorney licensed in California, New York and Russia: Litigation in Russia and the US, Contracts, Commercial transactions, Business disputes, Prenups, Divorces. Contact Evgeny Swarovski, email only – response within one business day.
92.Go To Russia Travel  
Go To Russia Travel
Russia's full service travel management company (offices in Atlanta, San Francisco and Moscow). Visa support and full visa processing, registration, own network of managed short stay apartments, hotel accommodation, Moscow sightseeing tours. English-speaking managers.
93.IMS International Moving Services  
IMS International Moving Services
International Moving Services is a full-service moving and transport company headquartered in Moscow, Russia. Professional western-European management and friendly local service make IMS the perfect choice for commercial, governmental and residential moves to, from or within Russia.
94.East West Tours  
East West Tours
Travel to Russia with East West Tours. We offer a selection of tours to Russia and the Ukraine, including Moscow travel, St Petersburg tours, and Volga river cruises.
Meet beautiful Russian women interested in marriage and romance. Find your Love in Russia. Beautiful women are waiting for you. Russian dating and marriage agency is offering romance calls to Russia, introduction and translation services. Talk with your Lady from Moscow and any other russian cities.
96.Vision Relocation Services  
Vision Relocation Services
Vision is an independent company specialising in providing assistance to foreign asignees and their families to settle down in Russia and helping them to adapt to local living conditions easily and comfortably. Vision is a member of American Chamber of Commerce in Russia. Vision provides a comprehensive range of relocation services. The depth and flexibility of our programs allows clients the ability to choose which services are required and tailor them to meet specific needs in the easy and cost-effective manner.
97.SolidWorks Russia  
SolidWorks Russia
98.Event Planning Russia  
Event Planning Russia
99.Bank of Cyprus  
Bank of Cyprus
On October 31, 2008 the Bank of Cyprus Group acquired an 80 percent stake in Uniastrum Bank for $567 mn. Established in 1899, the Group is a major international holding commanding leadership positions in the banking and financial services sector in Cyprus and Greece and over 30% of the domestic banking market. As a result of the transaction, Uniastrum’s charter capital increased by $50 mn. The Group’s purchase of an 80% interest in the Bank remains the biggest investment in the Russian banking sector by a Cypriot or Greek financial institution. The transaction was finalized once permission was granted by the central banks of Cyprus and Russia, as well as by Russia’s Antimonopoly Service. On November 19, 2008, against the backdrop of official talks between the Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, and the President of Cyprus, Demetris Christofias, Uniastrum Bank and the Bank of Cyprus Group signed a Memorandum to implement a joint three-year (2009-2011) SME lending program in Russia worth 15 billion rubles. Many branches in Moscow. Find the appropriate on the web site.
100.Russia-On-Line (ROL)  
Russia-On-Line (ROL)
Dial-up Connection.
101.Perevozka Zhivotnikh   
Perevozka Zhivotnikh
Pet transportation to and from Russia.
102.Outsourcing Solutions  
Outsourcing Solutions
Business support in Russia.
Integrated marketing solutions for Russia.
104.Royal Ahrend Russia  
Royal Ahrend Russia
Office furniture.
105.Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association  
Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association
106.McCann Erickson Russia  
McCann Erickson Russia
International advertising agency.
107.WELLcome Abroad  
WELLcome Abroad
All in-house solutions for a transition to Russia.
Mail delivery services (Moscow, Russia, CIS).
109.UCMS Group Russia  
UCMS Group Russia
Payroll Outsourcing, HR Administration, Accounting.
110.Avis rent-a-car  
Avis rent-a-car
Avis Russia is the official licensee of European Avis branch Avis Europe Plc. Avis Russia currently renders transport services in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Kaluga, Kazan, Samara, Sochi, Yekaterinburg, Khabarovsk. Being a member of worldwide Avis Rent a Car, we offer safe cars, high quality service, advantageous conditions of booking, and we support various discount and bonus programs for our regular customers. Addresses in Moscow: Downtown location: 4th Dobryninsky Pereulok 8, ground floor; International Airport Sheremetyevo II arriving hall Terminal D; Domodedovo Domestic Airport; Vnukovo Airport, Terminal A, Arrival Hall, Counter number 34.
Express-delivery (correspondence, parcels, cargoes). Russia, CIS, worldwide.
Visas to Russia, work permits for foreigners, citizenship in RF.
113.FAB Russia  
FAB Russia
Serviced apartments for short-term vacations or business rental.
Flower and gift delivery service in Russia and worldwide. 24/7 support.
115.Dollar Thrifty Russia   
Dollar Thrifty Russia
Car rental. Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Audi, Ford.
Full service visa processing for individuals and groups travelling to Russia and Belarus.
117.Mobile TeleSystems  
Mobile TeleSystems
The leading telecommunications group in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Quality apartments in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Additional services - transfer, visa support and translation.
119.Maria Rachko  
Maria Rachko
Complete range of services for video and film production in Russia, Ukraine and other CIS countries.
Our agency operates in Russia and aims at helping Russian women and girls intending to have a family and build serious relations with men from abroad.
121.Harmony at Home International  
Harmony at Home International
Helping families in Russia find the highest quality English Nannies, tutors and governesses.
Founded in 1990, Alfa Banking Group offers a wide range of products and operates in all sectors of the financial market, including corporate and retail lending, deposits, payment and account services, foreign exchange operations, cash handling services, custody services, investment banking and other ancillary services to corporate and retail customers. Alfa Banking Group is headquartered in Moscow, Russia, with branch network consisting of 617offices across Russia and abroad, includes a subsidiary bank in the Netherlands and financial subsidiaries in the United States, the United Kingdom and Cyprus, and employs approximately 25,093 people. Alfa Banking Group is ultimately owned by 6 shareholders through ABH Holdings S.A. Many locations throughout Moscow. Find the appropriate on the web site.
The global leader in express, freight and logistics. Numerous locations across Moscow. Extensive coverage across Russia & CIS. Integrated network in over 220 countries.
124.Accountor Group  
Accountor Group
Accounting, payroll & HR outsourcing, company registration, tax & legal advisory, auditing, transfer pricing services in Russia.
125.Event Planning Russia  
Event Planning Russia
Temporary office, seminars and conferences, local staffing service, travel and transport services, translations and interpreters.
126.TJ Travel  
TJ Travel
Fully authorized and licensed tourist company providing a wide range of shore excursions and city tours in St Petersburg, Russia.
127.Monomax Congresses & Incentives  
Monomax Congresses & Incentives
Professional Conference Organizer and Destination Management Company for Saint Petersburg, North-Western Russia, Moscow and Sochi.
128.ROSNO - A company of Allianz  
ROSNO - A company of Allianz
Full range of retail and corporate insurance products. Individual approach and quality client service Russia wide.
129.City Express  
City Express
Express delivery of mail and cargo all over Russia and worldwide. Open: 08:00 - 20:00.
130.Saatchi & Saatchi Russia  
Saatchi & Saatchi Russia
Part of the international network with 135 offices in 35 countries.
131.TNT Express  
TNT Express
Express delivery of documents, parcels & freight all over the world and to more than 5500 locations within Russia. 24/7.
132.Flip Post  
Flip Post
Express delivery (Russia, CIS, worldwide), mail services, customs services.
Many locations throughout Moscow. Find the appropriate on the web site.
134.Rockwool Russia  
Rockwool Russia
Insulation of all kinds including sound insulation.
135.Global Assistant  
Global Assistant
Full-scope administrative and business support to expats in Russia. Great experience in the field of assistance and recommendations from well-known Russian and foreign businessmen.
136.Pony Express  
Pony Express
Express delivery; freight services; logistics solutions; Russia, CIS, worldwide. Multiple locations.
137.Country of Tourism  
Country of Tourism
Russian combat jet flights, space holidays, extreme tours, and traditional cultural tours in Russia.
138.EZSolutionS LLC  
EZSolutionS LLC
Payroll Outsourcing Services in Russia. Outstaffing. Tax & Accounting. HR Outsourcing. Visas and Work Permits. Executive Search and Recruitment.
139.TIM Services  
TIM Services
TIM Services is the first professional migration agency in Russia. Areas of expertise cover visa support and work permits' processing.
140.Dancing Bear Tours  
Dancing Bear Tours
Professional private guided city tours and visa free shore excursions in St. Petersburg, Russia.
141.Business Service Club  
Business Service Club
Invitations to Russia, visa registration, work permit, tourist voucher, excursions, visa support, hotels.
142.Express Line  
Express Line
Business trips support, reception of foreign partners and delegations in Russia, corporate and social programs, programs for youth and students.
143.Alpha Travel & Migration Management  
Alpha Travel & Migration Management
Professional migration agency. All types of invitations to Russia & CIS and work permits, temporary residency permit and citizenship in RF.
144.English Nanny  
English Nanny
30+ years experience placing professional child carers and teachers from the UK and other countries. We have successfully placed thousands of professionals with high profile families in UK, Russia, UAE, the Ukraine, Switzerland and all over the world.
145.Attida Consulting  
Attida Consulting
Invitations to Russia (commercial, business, tourist visa support). Work permit in Moscow. Registration in Moscow. Guarantee to get allotment for your company.
146.Polyglot Family  
Polyglot Family
Recruiting agency engaged in the professional selection of native speaking nannies, governesses and tutors. They provide staff for high profile families and individuals in Moscow, Russia and worldwide.
147.Munro Productions  
Munro Productions
English-Russian company. Video production services across Russia. English-speaking crews with equipment. News, documentaries, music videos, promos.
148.Real Russia  
Real Russia
Tourist visa, business visa, visa support documents.
149.Zmeinoe Logovo Kitesurfing Club  
Zmeinoe Logovo Kitesurfing Club
Kitesurfing pioneer in Russia. Training, selling, rent. The shop is open from 11:00 until 20:00. Kitesurfing school - 7 8 916 855-1787, trainings in Moscow region.
150.Liden & Denz Language Centre Moscow  
Liden & Denz Language Centre Moscow
Russian language courses in Moscow, Russia. Special expatriate rates.
151.Action Film  
Action Film
Production of high-budget television advertising, television programs, music videos and movies. Studio carries out projects in Russia, the CIS, Europe, Asia, South Africa and America.
152.VISTA Foreign Business Support  
VISTA Foreign Business Support
Professional visa support based on core knowledge of legislative and practical requirements. Full support during the personal legalization of foreigners in Russia.
At most swimming pools in Russia, you must show a spravka, a medical certificate saying that you have no diseases and that it is safe for you to swim in pools. In most cases, this can be obtained at the swimming pool.
154.Anglo Computer Repair  
Anglo Computer Repair
Specializes in helping expats with slow computers or virus infections. Our expert IT engineers can connect to your PC remotely - anywhere in Russia - to make it run like new again. All brands, all Windows operating systems, home and office. Rated N° 1 in the UK. 30-day guarantee.
155.Anglo Computer Repair  
Anglo Computer Repair
Specializes in helping expats with slow computers or virus infections. Our expert IT engineers can connect to your PC remotely - anywhere in Russia - to make it run like new again. All brands, all Windows operating systems, home and office. Rated N° 1 in the UK. 30-day guarantee.
156.Congress Center of World Trade Center Moscow  
Congress Center of World Trade Center Moscow
World-class venue that is considered to be the most advanced, professionally equipped and complete convention site in Russia.
157.Psychotherapy Online  
Psychotherapy Online
Online psychotherapy for English-speaking expats. Licensed psychologist (New York State) and Nationally Certified Counselor with three years' experience living in Russia.
158.Hellevig, Klein & Usov  
Hellevig, Klein & Usov
Practical solutions for business administration needs as well as clear guidance for risk management in Russia and Ukraine. Legal issues facing a company and its executives operating business on the Russian and Ukrainian markets.
159.AB-Russia with Love  
AB-Russia with Love
Tours and travels in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Golden Ring cities (Sergiev Posad, Vladimir, Suzdal). Private tours with experienced and not boring guides. Many languages are available. Business interpreters services.
160.Capital Concierge  
Capital Concierge
Capital Concierge Services providing modern and convenient concierge service for each and all. One of the priority directions of activity is adaptation and support of expatriates in Russia.
161.A3 Group Law Firm  
A3 Group Law Firm
Independent law firm, since 1998 rendering legal services to foreign companies operating in Russia. Highly experienced lawyers in following practices: migration law, corporate and labour law, real estate and arbitration proceedings, tax law and intellectual property.
162.A3 Group Law Firm  
A3 Group Law Firm
Independent law firm, since 1998 rendering legal services to foreign companies operating in Russia. Highly experienced lawyers in the following practices: migration law, corporate and labour law, real estate and arbitration proceedings, tax law and intellectual property.
163.Cultural Adaptation Counselling  
Cultural Adaptation Counselling
Professional psychologist provides counselling to English-speaking expatriates on cultural adaptation in Russia and culture shock related difficulties. Natalia Bakhtiarova.
164.Misogikan School of Aikido  
Misogikan School of Aikido
The Senior teacher of the Misogikan School of Yoshinkan Aikido is David Eayrs from England who has lived in Russia for more than 10 years.
165.Farringdon Group Ltd.  
Farringdon Group Ltd.
Established in 2007, Farringdon Group has grown to become one of the most respected providers of Private Wealth Management and Personal Tax Planning solutions for individuals across Asia Pacific, Russia and Central Asia.
166.Gelos Auction House  
Gelos Auction House
The largest auction house in Russia. The company carries out appraisals and makes expert examination, holds auction sales, sells antiquities from its galleries and salons, forms private and corporate collections.
167.Express Ru  
Express Ru
Express delivery, mail delivery in Russia, freight.
168.Travel to Russia  
Travel to Russia
US travel agency based in New York and with specialists in Moscow and St-Petersburg. Full-service visa processing. Contacts: Toll-free anywhere in US and Canada: tel: 1-800-884-1721, fax: 1-888-607-4442; Toll-free anywhere in UK: tel: 0800-242-5155.
169.Recruiting companies. Recruiting agencies. Head hunters. Recruitment firm. Job agency.Recruiting consultants. Recruitment Russia. Jobs in Moscow. Staffing companies.  
Recruiting companies. Recruiting agencies. Head hunters. Recruitment firm. Job agency.Recruiting consultants. Recruitment Russia. Jobs in Moscow. Staffing companies.
Full service visa processing: business invitations, tourist vouchers, visa support, visa registration in Russia and CIS. Work permits for a company and personal work permits.
171.Arco Consulting  
Arco Consulting
Full service visa processing: invitations, tourist vouchers, visa support, visa registration in Russia and CIS. Hotel accommodations, sightseeing tours, theater tickets, air and rail tickets, river cruises. Offices in Moscow, New York, Toronto.
172.Galkin Law  
Galkin Law
Private and business legal assistance for expats and international entrepreneurs in Moscow, Russia. Migration services; employment law & unfair dismissal; legal support of real estate transactions; business incorporation; corporate & commercial law advice; dispute resolution; legal representation.
173.Smile English School  
Smile English School
Smile English School (est. 2012) can help with getting working visa for teaching in Russia, organizing it quickly and for a reasonable price. Business visa as well for a short-term visit or is you are fine with leaving the country every 3 months.
174.M&TM Freight  
M&TM Freight
Founded in 1995, with offices in Moscow, St Petersburg, Hamburg and London, offers Relocation, Storage, Export/Import formalities and certificates, Insurance, Removal services from anywhere in Russia to anywhere in the world and back. Deals with direct and consolidated shipments of commercial and household goods, art work, pets, vehicles and plants by water, air, road and rail.
Professional visa consulting services and legal support: labor migration – work permits, labor visas, migration registrations, letters of invitation to Russia – business and tourist purpose of trip. VIP Services at the most important airports: personal assistance during all procedures from and to the airplane.
176.WatersOAG, Law Firm  
WatersOAG, Law Firm
Member of American Chamber of Commerce in Russia - WatersOAG, Law Firm B2C desk services legal needs of individuals, including foreign nationals covering matters related to labor activity and entrepreneurship, real estate, family and divorce law, and other matters. Our lawyers speak English.
177.Braiden Consulting  
Braiden Consulting
Company provides a wide range of legal, accounting, and all related services for foreign citizens residing in Russia Legal entity establishment. Non-profit organizations establishment. Representation in court proceedings. Tax advice and planning. Due diligence. Obtaining a temporary residence permit. Bankruptcy services.
178.Insurance Moscow. Moscow insurance companies. Life insurance. Automobile insurance. Insurance for foreigners.Insurance for expats. Medical insurance. Travel insurance. Insurance Russia. All risk insurance. Construction insurance.  
Insurance Moscow. Moscow insurance companies. Life insurance. Automobile insurance. Insurance for foreigners.Insurance for expats. Medical insurance. Travel insurance. Insurance Russia. All risk insurance. Construction insurance.
179.Flightman & Priest  
Flightman & Priest
Moscow-based boutique law firm with a strong focus on supporting foreigners in Russia. Offers exceptional legal expertise coupled with thorough understanding of the Russian and international business and political environment. Can assist you on a vast majority of legal issues in the field of labor, tax, corporate, real estate law, as well as wealth planning and dispute resolution.
180.Dental Land  
Dental Land
Dental Land, headed by Dr V.F. Prikuls, Honoured Doctor of the Russia, affiliate member of American Dental Association (ADA) is a dental centre of Moscow State University of Medicine and Dentistry. Treatment and restoration of teeth, dental surgery, prosthetics, tooth bleaching, periodontal diseases, bite correction.
181.Elite Educational Development  
Elite Educational Development
Elite Educational Development specialises in the placement of VIP nanny and governesses in Moscow, Russia and worldwide. They work with only the most qualified and experienced English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Chinese nanny, governess and governor candidates. This agency will find the perfect fit for you and your family.
182.AIG Russia   
AIG Russia
Corporate and personal property insurance, construction insurance, liability insurance, financial lines insurance, marine cargo insurance, contaminated products insurance, corporate and individual auto insurance, group personal accident and travel insurance.
183.American Embassy Childcare and Preschool  
American Embassy Childcare and Preschool
Daycare for children age 15 months to 5 years old and full-day Preschool/Pre-K for children 3-5. Summer camp offered mid June to early August. Enrollment allocated to children with at least one US citizen parent resident in Russia or foreign diplomat parent. Children within the embassy may be enrolled in daycare starting at 6 weeks.
184.Bel-Rose International  
Bel-Rose International
Specialises in the placement of Childcare, Educational and Household Staff for families and individuals in London, Russia and around the world. From Nannies, Governesses, Tutors, Qualified Teachers (PGCE/B.Ed) to Household Management. All staff fully vetted. Professionally qualified teachers (PGCE/QTS) with industry experience spanning 30 years enabling to understand the specific needs and requirements of clients and candidates.
185.Moscow hotels. Hotels in Moscow. Luxury Moscow hotels. Hotels in Moscow Russia.Full list of hotels in Moscow. Cheap hotels Moscow. 5 star hotels Moscow. Discount Moscow hotels.  
Moscow hotels. Hotels in Moscow. Luxury Moscow hotels. Hotels in Moscow Russia.Full list of hotels in Moscow. Cheap hotels Moscow. 5 star hotels Moscow. Discount Moscow hotels.
186.DC Travel Club   
DC Travel Club
Accommodation in hotels in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and other cities of Russia, CIS and Baltic States, airtickets, VIP services, railways tickets, gGuided sightseeing tours in Moscow, S.-Petersburg and other cities, entrance tickets to all kinds of entertainments, visa support for inbound Diners Club Card members, arranging conferences at the best business halls in Moscow and St. Petersburg, transfers and rent-a-car in Moscow and St.Petersburg.
187.Parallel 60  
Parallel 60
Travel company founded in 2006. Officially authorised to provide travel services for incoming foreign travellers in St.Petersburg, Moscow and all over Russia. Offices in St.Petersburg and Moscow. Travel services: Tours and excursions in St.Petersburg and Moscow; Shore excursions in St.Petersburg for cruise passengers (visa-free); River cruises St.Petersburg - Moscow (and backwards), Valaam, Kizhi, Solovki, etc.; Organizing meetings, incentive programs, conferences and exhibitions.
188.Angel Taxi  
Angel Taxi
English-speaking operators and drivers in Moscow's premier taxi dispatching per-km service with over 1000 drivers in Moscow and over 200 drivers in St. Pete. Individual tours in English around Moscow, Sergiev Posad, Golden Ring. "Standard", "Comfort", "Business". Intercity trips from Moscow and St. Pete across Russia. Corporate events, cost-efficient and cost-manageable corporate taxi.
189.Kursky Railway Station  
Kursky Railway Station
Long-distance trains to Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Russian destinations include Kursk, Orel, Perm, and Vladivostok and other southern and southeastern and eastern destinations in Russia and the CIS countries. Commuter trains to Balashikha, Elektrostal, Fryazevo, Kupavna, Noginsk, Petushki, Reutovo, and Vladimir (all belong to the "Gorkovskoye" direction); Chekhov, Podolsk, Serpukhov, and Tula (all belong to the "Kurskoye" direction); Nakhabino and Volokamsk ("Rizhskoye" direction); and Golitsyno, Mozhaisk and Zvenigorod ("Smolenskoye" direction).
190.Visa to Russia  
Visa to Russia
Complete Russian visa support: expert Russian / CIS visa processing, single, double and multiple-entry business visas, same-day tourist Russian visa invitations, registration upon arrival in Moscow and St-Petersburg, worldwide consular services: express courier service in Washington, New York, San-Francisco, Seattle, London, Edinburg, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Bonn, Munich, Hamburg, Rome, Prague, Tokio, Seoul, visas to all CIS countries via direct arrangements with local authorities.
191.Voerman International  
Voerman International
Voerman International is an International Moving Company. The Headquarters is situated in The Hague, The Netherlands. Since 1991 Voerman International has been successfully working in Russia providing our customers with the following range of services: office removals, international/domestic removals of household goods, warehouse storage, commercial cargo forwarding, cargo insurance, customs formalities, relocation services (orientation tour, home search, school search, settling in, visa and immigration, language/cultural training, etc.).
192.Sergey Ershov, Attorney-at-Law  
Sergey Ershov, Attorney-at-Law
Legal services for individuals: Litigation in Real Estate, Insurance, Losses, Damages, Injuries, Private Debts; Labour Attorney; Family Lawyer (Marriage Contracts, Divorce in Russia, Division of Property); Criminal defense; Legal consulting in the Real Estate (Leasing, Purchase) and Insurance (Cars, Real Estate, Life). Registration Nr 77/9326. For further information please follow the link.
193.Absolut Bank   
Absolut Bank
Absolut Bank was established in 1993 and since 2007 is a member of a major international financial group KBC (Top-5 in Central and Eastern Europe). The Bank offers a wide range of banking services including deposits, VIP banking, free consulting on personal finance management etc. English-speaking managers are available. Absolut Bank has an extensive network in Moscow, the Moscow Region and 23 other regions of Russian. ATM network exceeds 2000 machines in Moscow and other cities of Russia conveniently placed (including the metro stations). Please find the appropriate location on the: web site.
Dining Out
194.Mumiy Troll Music Bar  
Mumiy Troll Music Bar
A music bar right in the heart of Moscow, within walking distance from the Kremlin. Open 24 hours. The Mumiy Troll Music Bar in Moscow is part of Ilya Lagutenko's (frontman of Mumiy Troll band) project for an international chain of live music bars. The first of these has been successfully running in Vladivostok since 2011. It's a great place for meeting friends and having a good time.The house specialty is Pacific cuisine, including Pacific whelk, sea cucumber, laminaria, fernbrake sautéed with meat and veggies pacific style and other delicacies. The international bar offers a unique selection of Asian drinks such as Korean beer and soju, Chinese lagers and Japanese whisky. Meals are available 24/7, including early breakfasts. Free wi-fi. Menu in Russian and English. Get taxi service. Live performances by Russian and foreign bands every night. DJ programs. Superb live sound and a broad selection of performers from the Asia-Pacific region and Russia's Far East. How to get here: Metro "Okhotny Ryad", "Teatralnaya", follow the direction to hotels The Ritz-Carlton and National, Ermolova Theatre, Central Telegraph. Just 1 min walk.
195.Temple Bar  
A bit of Ireland - next to the Kremlin
Temple Bar touts itself as having an Irish flavor. It is, after all, named after an area of Dublin. However, despite their best efforts - waitress in Irish-style serving uniforms and convincing interior decor, for example, plus the magnificent view of the Kremlin (Temple Bar is located right by the monument to the Unknown Soldier) - it's a perpetual reminder that you are in Russia, not on the Emerald Isle.
After turning into Temple Bar from out of the still-chilly Moscow evening air, my dining partner and I checked our coats and took a seat. This was more difficult than we had anticipated... Temple Bar, though opened only a month ago, already draws a large crowd, no doubt because of both its location in the city's tourist Ground Zero, and positive word of mouth.
As starters, I ordered a Caesar salad (230 rubles) and my partner opted for Mozzarella and tomatoes topped with Parmesan (170 rubles). (Temple Bar may be an Irish venue in name, but the menu is far more eclectic.) Perhaps the word "starter" is a misnomer? My Caesar salad was - not to mince words - huge. And delicious, especially due to the addition of bacon alongside the traditional ingredient, chicken. The Mozzarella was also top-notch.
For main courses, we went with rabbit with vegetables under sauce (340) and shrimp, tomatoes and onion drenched in white wine sauce (550 rubles). The rabbit was satisfying - that is, what little of it I could get down my throat after the enormous salad - but the shrimp superb, though my dining partner, a person of no mean manual dexterity, did have problems extracting the shrimp from their shells. But, as they say, effort just makes things sweeter in the end. The complimentary basket of bread, obligatory in Russia, was an order of magnitude better than the typical fare.
For drinks - no teetotalers we - ordered martinis with pineapple juice (80 rubles) and the classic Sex on the Beach (120 rubles). As one can see, prices at Temple Bar, while not low, are not at all wallet-busting.
All in all, a satisfying evening out, and I will definitely be back. A mild complaint, however - volume. The live music, at least on the night we were there - slow jazz with an added be-bob flavor - was good, but it was far too loud. One does not come to a restaurant primarily for the music. One comes for the food, atmosphere and conversation, and the music should be just that - background.
But that's a minor quibble. All in all, Temple Bar has good food (and good service), a great atmosphere and a spectacular location. And, all food - including the bread - is produced on site. It is a great new addition to Moscow's spots to dine out.
Russians who learned their English with the help of Jane Austen (or more likely the smouldering Colin Firth as Mr Darcy) probably know Cheapside best as a London location sneerily dismissed amid the snobbish banter of the Bennett sisters. The issue was its connection with ‘trade’, a lowly pursuit inappropriate for persons of true wealth and breeding, even though they had no scruple about buying goods in what was once London’s most fashionable shopping street.
Today, of course, trade has fewer negative connotations outside of the blue-blooded aristocracy, and the commercial hub in Belaya Ploshchad is one of Moscow’s more conspicuously busy business districts.
As a result it’s also picked up a cluster of bars and cafes – including a few representatives of Moscow’s burgeoning gourmet fast food trend – to feed the Stakhanovite shock troops of the new economic era in between vigorous sessions on tablet and Mac.
Cheapside Josper Bistro, the latest addition to the Coffee Mania portfolio, fits this branding well. The decor, described in one Russian magazine as ‘restaurants for successful men’ is loft-inspired: the kitchen, like at the owners’ Italian restaurant Barmalini, is open, although staff slaving over a hot grill make for a less exciting show than the dough-juggling pizza chefs at the partner venue. Elsewhere its bare brickwork, a retro fan and a large communal table dominating the room with a scattering of side tables for slightly more privacy. The restaurant seats 52, but there’s an expectation that people will hunker down together rather than isolate themselves on individual tables.
The menu is similarly unpretentious: meat and fish, cooked over an open flame. Pride of place goes to the burgers, with a wide assortment of diverse approaches to the old beef-in-a-bun formula. We went for the Mexican (700 RUR), which was a surprisingly unspicy affair, even allowing for Russia’s general wariness of hot food. However, this wasn’t really the aim: instead of powering up the chili and letting rip, the chefs aimed to create a more subtle combination of flavours with a hint of fresh lime giving an unexpected lightness to the palate. Not quite as expected, but pleasant. The meat was good, among the best I’ve tried in Moscow and certainly tasty enough to encourage repeat visits to explore the other burgers on offer. Prices might be uppish compared with the old favorites at Starlite Diner or Beverly Hills, but there’s more imagination in how the burgers are put together and – on this evidence, at least – the service is a bit more attentive than can sometimes be the case as the longer established chains.
Unlike most burger joints in town, sides are ordered separately; there’s no standard burger set slapped down whether you like it or not. So, if you want fries, make sure to order them for an extra 150 RUR. Coleslaw (250 RUR) is one of the options and it also opened up one of the great mysteries of Russian kitchens. Cabbage and carrot are key features of local food. Few Russian salads are complete with a generous slathering of mayo. So why is it that coleslaw, that stable of carrot, cabbage and mayo, always comes out very different here? This one was an impressively healthy, low fat option with just a hint of mayo to keep it together. Once again, not bad, but not quite as expected.
There’s also a small grill menu offering meat and fish. The salmon (800 RUR) here was a success, the duck (800 RUR), sadly, was unavailable. Vegetarians who don’t eat fish might struggle to find much on the menu to attract them, however. There’s no veggie burger and meat-free options are limited to a few salads and starters. This is a kitchen that knows what it wants to cook and is happy to focus strongly on that alone.
That straightforward ‘I know what I like’ approach is part of what makes Cheapside work. Rather than try to cover too many bases, it focuses on a small group of dishes that it can do well and chases a clientele that will go for it. Ultimately Cheapside Josper Bistro is a very masculine place to eat. Maybe it’s the plate-glass surroundings of Belaya Ploshchad, redolent of the thrusting world of smart-suited business conquistadores. Maybe it’s the meat-heavy menu. Maybe it’s the TV sport quietly playing in the background.
Whatever, this isn’t really the kind of place you’d pick for a girlie cocktail night even if there are three basic cocktails listed on the menu. Indeed it’s probably not the place you’d pick for a night out anyway. This has the feel of a lunchtime haunt; a cut above fast food or the dubious merits of the bizniz lanch, without burdening itself with the pretentions of a full-blown restaurant experience. That’s where it performs most strongly, and is likely to be the root of its future success in this location.
197.Nedalny Vostok (Not Far East)  
Nedalny Vostok – suave & sophisticated asian-fusion dining
If Moscow is a city of playboys, then Nedalny Vostok is where they go to play. It’s another in the eaterie empire of Moscow’s most ubiquitous and successful restaurateur, Arkady Novikov. Novikov-spotters will already know that he never repeats himself, and the formula for each of his projects is always something entirely innovative and unique. But the guiding hallmarks of uncompromised quality and excellence unite these hugely disparate dining-places – any surprises you get in them will only be happy ones.
Nedalny is still headed-up by Executive Chef Glen Ballis, who first opened the restaurant several years ago. It’s a welcome contrast to the quality nosedive swiftly taken after opening by most other new restaurants in Moscow – the warmth of the welcome at Nedalny, and the piquancy of the menu haven’t flagged in the intervening years… if anything, they’ve even picked-up. It’s something they are acutely aware of at Nedalny Vostok – “You’re only as good as the last meal you served!” comes the self-reproving cry – and at these prices, the customers have a right to expect perfection every time. Ballis’s wide experience cooking throughout SE Asia serves to enliven an Australian approach to cuisine that’s already refreshingly unfettered by convention. But innovative combinations of simple ingredients only work if those ingredients are astoundingly, enviably fresh, and of unimpeachably top quality. It’s a winning combination for those whose credit-cards will stretch to the experience – and that’s quite a stretch.
If other Novikov restaurants are about showing-off, or sealing the deal, then Nedalny is more a place you’d come with your friends. The low ceilings and delicate lighting add an intimacy to what might otherwise be an intimidating space – and placed at the very centre are the chefs themselves, doing their stuff right in front of your very eyes. This warm and social atmosphere is encouraged by the menu – the Asian roots of many of the dishes make them ideal for sharing. The interiors are achieved with stylish contemporary Japanese elegance, and everything is calculated to put you at your ease – there’s no stiffness or standing upon ceremony here. The presentation has a graceful oriental simplicity that makes lingering over dishes a pleasure – this is food for enjoying and savouring, and not for showing-off about fish-knives or crab-crackers.
Offered a choice from the cocktail menu, Marusya’s eyes shot swiftly to the Chef’s Specialities – something I’ve learned from experience to avoid. Barmen worldwide haven’t come up with classic cocktails just by chance, and pretenders to the throne have to try extra-hard. A Seka (870 RUR) promised lush fruity tastes, but turned-out to be unduly sweet – my choice of a Mai-Tai (770 RUR) turned out to be wiser, and it was a real classic of the genre, deliciously made.
We ate lightly at lunchtime, and all the dishes were ideal for sharing – so we did. If a tomato carpaccio sounds rather unexciting – especially at 790 RUR – in fact it was my favourite dish of the entire meal, due to superlatively succulent beef-tomatoes and a coriander-miso dressing that turned them into a gourmet treat. Another of Glen Ballis’s dishes with a secret magic ingredient was the Crunchy Beef Carpaccio (640 RUR) – which turns-up slightly arranged on delicate crisps with an appealing aroma of truffle oil and a grated parmesan topping, and it all disappeared very easily indeed. Hearing of my veggie inclinations, the chefs rustled up a Tofu with SE Asian Spices & Edamame Beans, with a delicately light texture – not on the menu, but available anyhow for 590 RUR. Another item which we took on the restaurant’s recommendation was Tiger Prawns with miso mayonnaise (490 RUR). These came with a scattering of very strongly-flavoured ham shreds, which divided opinions – personally I felt they wrecked the delicate taste of the prawns. Marusya felt less strongly about this – well, she finished the plateful, so clearly she enjoyed them.
In the hands of an Australian chef in Russia, I couldn’t resist trying his own special take on a dessert created for the ballerina Pavlova’s gala performance in Sydney – Pavlova (590 RUR). And it delivered its very own pas-de-deux, brought to life with coconut meringues replacing the traditional ones, raspberry coulis, and pistachio ice-cream at the centre. But Nedalny’s Confectionery Chef is a star in his own right, Kobayashi Katsuhiko, and Marusya was more tempted by his Violet, which was a panna cotta with raspberry mousse - modest and dainty at a mere 490 RUR.
The brasserie style of the menu makes Nedalny Vostok an ideal location for anything from an elegant light snack with a friend through to an engaging multi-course meal with your business guests. The lighthearted decor favours a more social context for your meal, and in the evening there are DJs from 9pm onwards. For a very upscale dining experience, it’s up there among the world’s top eateries.
198.Food Embassy  
Celebrity chefs are steadily taking over the world’s eating habits – and Russia is no exception. But it’s not all about high profile openings from international brands, like Jamie Oliver’s recent arrival in Moscow. There’s also a strong batch of local contenders, with celebrated actress Julia Vysotskaya leading the way.
Vysotskaya comes from the ‘yummy mummy’ school of cookery, one of those domestic goddesses who manages to whip up delicious looking food on long-running TV shows while still looking effortlessly gorgeous in the process. The brand, which has long encompassed cook books, culinary tourism and signature kitchenware, also powers the Food Embassy restaurant – one of the flagships of Moscow’s post-pafosny food revolution.
The Vystoskaya brand seeks to promote an idealised yet attainable life – and that principle is obvious from the approach to the restaurant. It fits well into the switch in focus in the city’s dining scene, where an exaggerated homely vibe is steadily – and thankfully – replacing the overdressed to impress venues of recent years. As such Food Embassy, with its plain wooden interior and artfully arranged ‘babushka’s dacha’ knick-knacks cleverly plays on the illusions of what life might be like for Moscow’s middle class if it wasn’t stuck in cramped apartments in a sprawling metropolis. Even the weekend entertainment for kids is aspirational – clowns and balloons replaced by classes in Oshibana, a Japanese art of making pictures from pressed flowers, leaves and seeds. Large windows, lots of natural light and views of a botanical garden from the upper levels complete the effect – it’s not an unattainable Rublyovka mansion, it’s just a slightly nicer version of the family ‘cottedzh’ you might be able to afford yourself.
That’s very much the charm of the place. The menu, which has echoes of a gastro-pub that perhaps reflect the legacy of the English chef who helped set up the kitchen here, offers dishes that are interesting, and more complicated than you could be bothered to cook for yourself, but that nonetheless don’t leave you feeling lack a slack-jawed yokel in the presence of great sophisticates. And, after all, if you enjoy your dinner you can always buy the book, keep it in your kitchen and never quite around to recreating the feast for yourself.
Most importantly, though, the food is excellent. Whether the image strikes you as sublime or ‘Stepford Wives’, there’s no arguing about what arrives on the plate. The Rabbit in the Woods looked terrific, with a green foam of pureed fennel and clusters of berries creating a sylvan backdrop for the meat. And what meat! Tenderly cooked to perfection, sliding off the bone at the first touch of a fork and melting in the mouth. The recipe books, no doubt, suggest that this is straightforward; experience shows that serving any meat like this demands a chef on top of his game.
That dish alone would be worth returning for and its quality suggests that the rest of the menu deserves greater attention. However, the supporting acts also justified their place on the cast list. Warming, nourishing soups for the winter months – the Creamed Pea and Smoked Ham Soup was a rare treat, especially for someone who isn’t a big soup lover. A diverse range of salads that combines local favourites – herring, beetroot and potato could hardly be more stolidly Russian without being slathered in mayo – and international hits. That doesn’t just mean yet another Caesar; the list also includes Food Embassy’s take on the flagship Cobb Salad inspired by the famed 192 Notting Hill restaurant in London.
The drinks selection is also worth browsing – and this is a place that takes care to offer a good range of non-alcoholic drinks as well. My wife was intrigued and impressed with a halva-flavoured coffee, setting aside her common grumble that coffee should taste of coffee (and, by implication, halva of halva) for this unusual but effective combination. The ginger lemonade, a fairly common feature on Moscow menus, was also one of the best examples I’ve tried: a refreshing lemony kick to start with and a slow, warming tang of ginger in the after-taste rather than the oversweetened, under-flavoured offerings found elsewhere. For a lunch meeting or a designated driver, the soft drinks menu is a winner; for those on the booze, the cocktails come with a good reputation.
There’s an extensive terrace and, as mentioned above, it’s next to the botanical gardens on Prospect Mira. With our long-awaited spring finally looking like it might be here to stay, Food Embassy is coming into its own as a place for good food in the open air and is definitely worth checking out for a lazy weekend lunch or a convivial catch-up dinner with a group of friends.
199.Lebedinoe Ozero (Swan Lake)  
Rain, Rain Go Away…
This has been one of the rainiest summers I can remember in Moscow. I am not used to carrying around umbrellas in the summer, and unfortunately have a habit of constantly forgetting them when I do – already on my fourth one. Thankfully we finally now seem to be seeing real summer weather, providing this often grey city and its inhabitants the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and its many outdoor cafes that sprout up in summer like mushrooms after a, er, hard rain.
Lebedinoe Ozero, “Swan Lake,” is one such cafe worth a visit – even if the skies are cloudy. Nestled in a corner of Neskuchny Sad behind Gorky Park, on the bank of the Golitsyn Pond, Lebedinoe Ozero provides a quaint sanctuary from Moscow’s bustle, and a quiet, more civilized spot away from some of Gorky Park’s carnival atmosphere establishments and crowds. The fact that Lebedinoe Ozero is not easy to find is in fact one of its highlights.
Created by the same folks who brought this city Solyanka (see my past review) and the successful project club Kak na Kanarax of last summer that was moored a stones-throw away nearby on the Moscow River, Lebedinoe Ozero is a unique fusion mix of food and interior. Outfitted with rustic wooden furniture from Thailand, a tiki torch lighted walkway, sheet metal roof, bright fabrics and pillows, and even a small swimming pool, Lebedinoe Ozero recreates a summer vacation atmosphere of a small, hidden beachside hut you would retire to after a day of swimming in the surf, or – as we did – spending a relaxing rainy afternoon waiting for grey clouds to pass.
With summer sandals on our feet, my dinner companion – one of Moscow’s PR professionals (what’s with all the PR people in Moscow these days?) - and I enjoyed a recent cloudy Sunday afternoon under Lebedinoe Ozero’s tin roof contemplating our summer vacation plans. Although quite easily accessible by the pedestrian bridge connecting Neskuchny Sad with Frunzenskaya Naberezhnaya, we arrived via car (convertible in fact, courtesy of my PR companion, to add to the inner vacation experience) through a hidden driveway of off Leninskiy Prospekt and parked under said bridge (courtesy of a 100 ruble note to a park security guard who suddenly appeared).
The open-air restaurant is sheltered by a small thicket of trees, and appears as if a clearing in a small “jungle a la Russe.” We settled in at a slab wooden table overlooking the pond, an idyllic scene completed with weeping willows whispering in the breeze, a mother duck and her chirping ducklings, and the namesake swans gliding about on the water’s surface. The menu, not too surprisingly, resembled that of Solyanka’s, a mix of Asian, European, Russian-Caucasian (lyula kebab, 360 RUR, and Osetinskiy Pirog, 320 RUR), and Lebanese. As if an answer to my scorn for pseudo-Japanese cuisine in this city, there was – thankfully – no sign of Philadelphia rolls and other forms of ever-present Moscow sushi.
After ordering a pina colada (310 RUR) and a pot of tea (260 RUR) from their extensive cocktail & drinks menu (fresh juices – 280-390 RUR), we perused the eclectic selection of appetizers (160-640 RUR) including toast tips and salmon (240 RUR), tongue salad (360 RUR) and agreed on the hummus and pita bread (220 RUR) to encourage our appetites. The portion of hummus itself was in fact not enough for two, leaving us to cross swords of rather oily and chewy pita bread for every bit of the yummy bean paste goodness that, while tasty, was not quite at the standard of other hummus dishes around town.
I seemed to have lost that battle, but was soon consoled by what was perhaps some of the best okroshka (without meat – 250 RUR) – a perfect soup for summer (Russia at least does have soup right) - that I have had in Moscow. My dinner companion skipped ahead right to the main course of steamed salmon (420 RUR), a big succulent filet of pink fish flesh that received good PR at the table. Although the other main courses (290-470 RUR) of fish, chicken, and meat, were tempting, I gave into the appeal of a salad with sliced tuna (470 RUR) – another dish befitting summer.
The light summer meal made for an ideal way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, and for a few moments I felt as if indeed I was thousands of kilometers away in waterside cafe in southeast Asia waiting for the rain to pass and the sun to appear – and in fact it soon did, but not warming us enough to take a dip in the pool by the bar. However, the on-site Thai massage service – administered by, what I was told, true Thai professionals – was an attractive post-meal option that we did, alas, forgo this time.
Now that the sun and weather do seem to be giving us a real summer, I intend to make a return trip – perhaps as a pre-club spot for a long weekend night. Lebedinoe Ozero offers a good menu of some tasty dishes, but its true appeal is its relaxing, casual atmosphere for an evening with friends or an afternoon of summer dreaming. Alas, in Moscow, summer goes by much too fast. Enjoy it while you can.
200.Chito Grito   
Hurray! The season of the shashleek is upon us! The weekend exodus of hordes of Muscovites, creating traffic jams as they head to and from their summer Dachas can mean only one thing: The smell of barbecued pork will pervade the country air for miles around! For those of us unfortunate enough to be stuck in the city, or for others who merely have an aversion to mosquitoes and grass in their food, the best way to satisfy the Shashleek urge is to head to one of Moscow's many Georgian restaurants. Last week I threw caution (and weeks of dieting!) to the wind, and opted for this urban version of the meaty feast.
As we all know, the wide variety of Georgian restaurants in Moscow ensures that both the quality of the food and the impact on the wallet (and the waistline!) can vary considerably, although it is generally possible to find good Georgian fare for very modest sums. With a prime location just off the Novy Arbat, it is no surprise that Chito Grito rates slightly higher than usual on the price scale, but did we get a juicier shashleek or a cheesier hachipuri for our money? Unlike the salad - the verdict was mixed.
Our hearts sank as we entered the restaurant and saw the all too familiar "table in a stable" type decor which seems to invariably define the Georgian dining experience. While I could ignore the cart wheel light-fittings and faux-rural wooden furniture, I chose to sit with my back to the stuffed yak's head which peered disconcertingly down onto the tables below. Call it "urban nonsense" if you will, but I like my dead animals stuffed with rice and mounted on a bed of greens, rather than suspended on the wall above me as I carve up their distant cousin for dinner. My companion and I eagerly diverted our attention from the decor to the (Russian language only) menu and were thankfully reassured by the wide choice of dishes on offer.
We selected some of the most traditional dishes in addition to a few of the house specials. Our stunningly beautiful Osetian waitress, elegantly dressed in traditional black gowns, was helpful and informative as she took our order, offering to start the preparation of our first courses while we continued to deliberate over our choice of mains. Much to our rumbling tummies delight, this system worked well, and our cold starters soon appeared with a steaming hachipuri hot on their tails.
The Green lobio with nuts (130Rbs) was tastier than many of the bland offerings I have tried in the past, but as usual, it was impossible to eat more than a few mouthfuls before tiring of the all too rich and thick consistency. The Chicken satsivi (190Rbs) on the other hand, was a delight to the taste buds: tender strips of chicken in a delicately spiced creamy sauce, chilled to perfection, providing a cool and refreshing dish perfectly suited to a warm summer evening. The Hachipuri (190Rbs) was served sizzling on a hot plate, and proved to be a fine example of this, one of the all-time favourites of Georgian cuisine. The Harcho soup (130Rbs) was nice albeit somewhat uninteresting; although the huge chunks of "melt in your mouth" beef which were to found hiding under the surface were a pleasant surprise indeed.
Being the self-confessed "cheese addict" that I am, the highlight of the dinner (and the ultimate halt of the calorie counting) came for me, in the form of the Fried sulugini "on a kesi" (120Rbs). Wow!! A "kesi" is a type of hot plate on which the strong and salty cheese is melted, then served bubbling and sizzling, ready to be scooped up with a spoon and eaten with such pleasure as is rarely afforded to cheese lovers in Russia! For those of you who have eaten a French raclette and wondered why you have to put up with the potatoes and sliced sausage, just to be able to have the melted cheese - then this one's for you! Believe me, it's sinfully good!!
Enough about the cheese! What about the meat? Well, we ordered a Pork shashleek (300Rbs) and a Lamb shashleek (450Rbs). The lamb was definitely the better of the two: It was tender and tasty, whereas the pork was overcooked and dry and tasted just like a chicken shashleek I had in Rostiks the other day! The portions were fair, and the sauces were tangy, though my favourite was the Adzhika sauce (70Rbs) which had more of a chilli kick to it. The fresh vegetable Georgian salad (250Rbs) we ordered to accompany the meat was an overpriced, disappointing bowl of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers - a boring array of vitamins, if ever I saw one! All in all - the main course did not live up to the promise of the starters.
We passed on desert (my guilty conscience suddenly got the better of me!) and went straight to coffees. As we sipped the rather good Turkish coffee (70Rbs) my companion and I decided that despite the substandard salad and pork (and of course, the aforementioned decor!), Chito Grito's good service, genuine Georgian recipes and reasonably sensible prices would leave most customers satisfied and coming back for more. And if it's a business lunch you're after, then I'm sure the 3 different options (140, 160 and 200Rbs) would be pretty hard to beat.
In any case: Forget the dacha! Forget the meat! Forget the diet!! I know where I'll be headed when I need my next fix of cheese.
201.Kavkazskaya Plennitsa  
In a city where restaurants come and go with alarming speed, only a few stay in business for long enough to deserve the title of “Moscow institution”. But, with 14 years of toil over a hot stove, Kavkazskaya Plennitsa (The Prisoner of the Caucasus) has proved its staying power, long before the recent crop of Georgian cafes began to pop up all over the city. The name is taken from a popular Soviet-era film (known in English as “Kidnapping, Caucasian style”), a 1967 comedy based loosely on a Pushkin poem, which trades heavily on the exotic charms of the frontiers of the former USSR. Rustic scenes and references to the movie inform much of the décor of the restaurant.
No prizes for guessing that Georgian cuisine dominates the menu here. Head chef Olga Gulieva grew up in Sukhumi, the principle city of Abkhazia, and the flavors of her homeland are deeply engrained in her kitchen. Georgian food is best sampled via a large assortment of dishes, ideally shared around the table – shashlyk and khachapuri are essential, but it’s also worth experimenting with a few starters. Here the Chicken Satsivi (430 RUR), a kind of cold, creamy chicken soup with a piquant, nutty flavor, was hugely impressive. The meat was done to perfection, with none of the slightly unnerving sense that it might be underdone which often undermines this dish. Other eminently snackable starters include lobio – green and red varieties here – delicate balls of aromatic, fresh-flavored goodness built around beans (the type of bean determines the color, although the flavors come as much from the herbs as anything else), and fresh fruits and veg (eggplant, prune and more) stuffed with ground walnuts and similar treats.
No Georgian meal would be complete without a Khachapuri, and the Adjarian version (570 RUR), topped with an egg frying merrily on the piping hot cheese is the king of this staple of trans-Caucasian cuisine. Once again the Kavkazskaya Plennitsa version was impressive – and apparently became Steven Seagal’s favorite dish when he visited Moscow and dined here. Clearly he chooses his dinners better than his scripts.
And, just as it’s impossible to avoid khachapuri, so Shashlyk – the much-loved flavor of fresh-grilled meat – is also an integral part of the Caucasian dining experience (and one rapidly adopted by the rest of the Imperial Russia). Again, this isn’t something you’d struggle to find on a menu elsewhere in Moscow, so quality is the key, and the staff recommended the lamb. And again, the freshness of the ingredients makes the New Zealand Lamb Chops (1400 RUR) a juicy, finger-licking joy (yes, fingers. Nobody should attempt this with a knife and fork). The Lamb’s Tongue (1050 RUR) was a surprising treat. Not having had tongue since childhood (when it made the short journey from tin to sandwich to infant disapproval), I was impressed with the tenderness of the meat when served in a more natural state.
In a crowded market, Gulieva’s dishes stand out for their quality: a cut above many of the Georgian cafes which have opened around town over the past 18 months or so and on a par with the best I’ve tried in this city.
With several rooms, ranging from a cozy nook for private parties to a large dining hall complete with a stage and a live band (a band which taps directly into the nostalgic feel with a repertoire of slightly saccharine songs which clearly mean a lot to locals but are largely unknown to expats) there’s something for everyone. And the summer terrace, sharing a leafy border with the neighboring park, feels a world away from the bustle of Prospekt Mira. The restaurant is proud of sourcing fresh, organic meat, but the chickens cooped in one corner are not on the menu – only their fresh-laid eggs do find their way to the kitchen. Although the overall theme is taken from the movie, complete with a model donkey and even a discarded shoe preserved in memory of a crucial plot twist, its appeal is not limited to movie buffs. Instead it manages the neat trick of combining a hint of the exotic with a strong waft of nostalgia, meaning for foreign guests it is both adventurous and reassuring at the same time.
Even on a chilly Tuesday, the place was busy with a mixture of besuited businessmen draining the company expense account and family groups who look like regular clients. The crowd is far from the cutting edge, hipster types who flock to the self-conscious venues around Krasny Oktyabr or ironical haunt the slightly arch retro-chic of the Kamchatka beer bar (like Kavkazskaya Plennitsa, operated by the Novikov group).

Verdict: Kavkazskaya Plennitsa is a great place to try Georgian food – or come back for some old favorites. Prices might be a bit higher than some of the competition, but in general you get what you pay for and the food is good enough to justify the mark-up. This place feels like somewhere which would be a success with visitors to Moscow – much like GlavPivTorg it is foreign enough to be intriguing, without becoming intimidating for the uninitiated. And with some of the highest quality Georgian cuisine in town, it’s worth coming back more than once.
202.Syostry Grimm (Sisters Grimm)  
Syostry Grimm (Sisters Grimm)
Do not let the name turn you off – there is nothing grim about Sisters Grimm (SG). While not out of a fairy tale like the Brothers Grimm, SG is a great place to peacefully spend an hour or two in the chaos of downtown Moscow. I will not hide it – I liked SG a lot, and if really good food and a relaxed atmosphere are your culinary opiate, you can stop reading now. Call SG, get a table, and you will walk away happy.
Going into this review, I did not quite know what to expect. My last review was an encounter with the worst, expensive burger that I have ever had, anywhere, so when SG prominently touts its burgers on its website, I thought, “Oh, great, more 500-600 ruble dung in a bun.”
Location for SG is tricky, and not tricky at the same time. From a map, you can understand where it is located, but the street view is different. We took the metro and enjoyed the short walk. On our next visit to SG a few days, we drove – and finding parking can be a minor headache, so diner bewares.
Walking down Stoleshnikov, the pedestrian arch to SG is on the opposite side of Simachev Bar, about mid-way down the cobblestone lane. Looking through the arch, you will see Gogol Café – walk towards Gogol Café, go around it to the right, and the bright pastel colors and latinesque music mean SG is near.
The interior – or rather, exterior – of the summer veranda is a refreshing break from many stuffy or crowded Moscow summer seating areas. Over the course of the meal, we commented to each other that, “This just does not feel like downtown Moscow.” I said it feels like a seaside alley in Croatia or Venice; my dining partner agreed, but said it seemed more like a pleaantly secluded summer spot you are apt to find in Saint Petersburg.
Inside SG the motif is rather carefree with specials written on the wall and ample seating. I venture that SG is also very pleasant in the non-summer months. A window seat on a nice snowy day with flakes coming down like Pacino in Scarface comes to mind.
From the minute we approached SG, we were greeted by a friendly hostess who not only made sure we found a table just right for us, but actually explained the specials for the day and other menu offerings. This is in stark contrast to the “hostess sits you down and flees, and waiter comes 5-10 minutes later (and is clueless)” at many Moscow restaurants as of late.
I asked her what she recommended, and she told me all 4 sangrias are good. Moreover, she told me why, and I settled on the cherry sangria (180 RUB) for the opening salvo. My dining partner went with a mouth-watering strawberry smoothie (250 RUB).
In general, I can tolerate – although not happily – really bad service if the food at a restaurant is even better. SG, thankfully, offers both attentive staff and food that is off the chart. And, honestly, what really matters at a restaurant when the check arrives is whether the food was good or not.
SG offers a diverse menu with hot and cold appetizers, salads made to order, and soups. I chose a salad with beef (340 RUB) and my dining partner went with a beet and cheese salad (320 RUB). While the names are remotely appealing, at best, in English, the salads were exquisite. I commented that mine was a perfect mix of tangy and sweet. The beet salad had two awesome cheeses – I believe goat cheese and a sharp parmesan type – and my fork was deftly fended off several times during repeated incursions.
We also ordered a quiche with eggplant (180 RUB) since the description begged us to try it. While the quiche met expectations and was good on its own, I would suggest instead getting a different salad from the menu to share – the salads truly are refreshingly good. A complimentary basket of fresh bread was served the salads and quiche also.
At that point in the meal, I was already raving about how “I really like that place” and already texting friends that we should meet up at SG later in the week, as none of them had heard of it either.
For entrées, we went with the aforementioned duck, duck, lamb – my dining partner chose the leg of duck (455 RUB) with grilled vegetables (180 RUB), and I went a bit out of my comfort zone and chose the Dagestani burger with lamb (495 RUB). And, thus the Lamburger Revolution began – with an innocent, “I think I will try this…”
The lamburger was the best burger I have ever had in the past 30-plus years of gorging myself on nearly every kind – or so I thought – of burger in North America, Europe, or Russia. If it is red meat or airborne, I was under the impression that I had eaten it before SG, and I was wrong.
The lamburger tramples all Moscow places offering expensive burgers. Chicago Prime, Frendy’s, and Starlite – all very good burgers. However, the lamburger at SG puts them all to shame from the first bite. To top it off, it is served with enough ketchup to make my heart smile since neither rationing for my fries AND burger nor paying an additional side charge was required. Call it the ketchup soapbox upon which all burger joints in Moscow are judged – and Starlite’s bottle of ketchup on your table reigns king – but I am tired of paying what amounts to $3-4 for ketchup on a burger that is already costing me about $15.
The duck received very high marks too – and I ate a good portion of the grilled vegetables. Duck is not in my culinary starting line-up, but my lady loves it. To wit, last time we had duck as paying customers, she said it tasted like one of the ducks that eat garbage in a drainage pond, so she said never again. However, SG was given the chance to save, or not save, all the ducks in Moscow, and SG delivered admirably.
I followed with a white wine sangria (180 RUB) and carrot cake (210 RUB) for dessert; my dining partner went with a fresh lemonade (180 RUB) and blueberry crème pie (195 RUB). While at this point already satiated, the drinks and dessert were superb.
In closing, total bill was 3165 RUB. For the quality of food and refreshingly non-Moscow atmosphere, it would have been well worth it even if we were paying customers. To this extent, we were back two days later with friends, and I relished the opportunity to give SG more hard-earned money because SG both values the business and delivers a mouth-watering, good memory-forming dining experience, and the second time was just as good as the first.
The name? Well, it's an untranslatable weary pun, mixing the colloquial word for “bye!” with the name of cabbage soup. It's one of those extremely contrived jokes that you hate the moment you hear it, and it gets worse with repetition – particularly since “bye!” (rather than maybe “hello!”?) is weak name for any kind of eaterie. But though it's hard to swallow – we don't have to eat the name.
The location is superb – directly opposite the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum – if you'd come here two centuries earlier, the artist Tropinin would have been living next door, where he had his studios too. It's even located so that you can see an exhibition, saunter down the small side-street where the Museum's exit is located, and topple through the front door (take care when crossing the road, however). Unlike the Pushkin, across the road – which is mainly Western art, with a bit of Russian – Shchisliva mainly features traditional Russian dishes. However, they are served with a loving delicacy and lightness of approach, that you'd hardly recognise them if you've been bombarded with their greasy canteen counterparts. This is Russian food prepared with aplomb, and served with the aesthetic beauty the neighbourhood inspires.
They don't – yet – have a liquor licence, although they're allowed to serve you beer (they have a good range of international beers, in fact). If you want anything stronger, you can bring it yourself (a grocery street around the corner on Lenivka), and they charge a 500 RUB corkage charge per bottle. There's a range of home-made lemonades – the pear-flavoured one (250 RUB) was quite pleasant, and a large glassful, instead of the usual thimbleful.
The décor is minimalist-Scandinavian – primarily geometric pine furniture and avocado-green fabrics that add a probably unintentional 1970s feel to the place – you expect to see Diane Keaton waiting for Woody Allen to show up? And rather like Greenwich Village in the 1970s, you have to go outside if you want to light up – it's a 100% no-smoking venue, which suits me fine. Wi-Fi is free, has no fiddly passwords, and goes like the clappers.
Following our established pattern, Emilia cross-examined the waiter about the most complex and outlandish dishes on the menu - whereas I prefer to see how they cope with established classic dishes. The result is usually that Emilia gets left with some outré experiment while I tuck into something nice – but the tables were turned today! The idea of Anchovy in Spicy Battered Leaves of Sage (240 RUB) sounded like something from a fish-and-chip shop to me - but it arrived as elegantly light tempura-style wafers without a hint of grease to them at all. However, if I'd been expecting a Russian-Railways style “salat” (i.e. “leftovers in mayonnaise”), I was delighted to find that Salad of Herrings & Mustard Sauce with Cherry Potatoes (260 RUB) was a tangy and light collation, with lots of crispy Cos lettuce leaves, al-dente potatoes, and delicious herring as the magma core of this extensive volcanic portion. I particularly enjoyed the contrasting textures of crispy lettuce alongside smooth potato, and the mustard sauce was the tongue-tingling masterstroke that brought it all together. I could quite happily have cut straight to the coffee and the bill after that, and felt more than satisfied.
However, our lunch was only just beginning. Although Shchisliva was pretty full for a weekday lunchtime, service was enviably brisk and charmingly shy. With seamless refills of our drinks in hand, we'd decided to try a sampler portion of Okroshka (250 RUB) – Russia's beloved summer soup. It's usually assembled at the table, and can be made with either kvass, or kefir. We tried a little of both, and Emilia came down firmly in favour of the kefir version – which is home-made, the waiter confirmed, although the menu doesn't say so. Since Emilia is something of an okroshka maven at hope, it was a testing moment to discover if they could make it as she likes it? Happy smiles and eager enthusiasm resulted, and the restaurant's reputation was instantly confirmed.
On to the hot main dishes, and once again, I'd chosen a taster portion of two different dumpling dishes. Dumplings with North Sea Fish (440 RUB) were tender and very pleasant, but a bit monotonous on their own – they really needed the foil of some kind of side dish? However, the Fried Dumplings with White Oyster Mushrooms (360 RUB) were my star find of the day, and served in a creamy savoury sauce that sets new records for calorific content. As a Brit reared on my mum's pie and gravy, this was like a Freudian regression into childhood bliss - and I even minded my manners and didn't talk while I was eating it. Culinary satisfaction was in evidence on the other side of the table too – with the arrival of Home-made Smoked Duck with Mashed Parsnip (470 RUB). Although it looked a little bare on the plate, the duck was deliciously tender – although visually the decoration of cranberries might have been better replaced with some kind of jus of them instead? The parsnip easily won the Best Supporting Vegetable Award – creamy, buttered, and just the way your mum made them.
And at that point, we had to admit defeat. It had all been so delicious that we'd sent the plates back scraped clean of every last morsel. The desserts all sounded tempting - but they'd have had to send us home on wheels if we'd given in to temptation.
Shchisliva serves reliable, appealing food without any silly pretentions, in a pleasant and modern setting with attentive service. The prices are rather less than we expected for such a ritzy location, and the atmosphere is relaxed and laid-back, with no particular dress code at all. The strict non-smoking policy is slightly unusual for Moscow, but we found it a major plus.
Shchisliva has an appetising line-up of items for breakfast, and instead of a “business lunch” promotion it offers 20% discount on the entire menu from 12-4pm on weekdays.
204.La Bottega  
Wine + Russians = does not compute. Of course it shouldn't be so, because Russians have loved the fruit of the vine for centuries, the Tsars themselves owned vineyards – although Mikhail Gorbachev dug them up and burnt them, and was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize for doing so. Russia even produces decent wines, although you have to look hard for them (the Krasnodar Krai is a rewarding place to begin your search – where Australian winemakers are now guiding the process). Yet despite all this, it's hard to think of the Hollywood movie where the Russian character's favourite tipple is an elegant Barolo. Wine is – in the final analysis - an alien pastime for many Russians – a fact to which La Bottega are neatly attuned. Even the blackboard of specials chalked-up outside is in English. Bottega is aimed very clearly at an expat clientele, plus those Muscovites who hanker after their summer holidays in Andalucia as they trudge through the snow. The staff are English-speaking and greet guests cheerfully in English. If you're an expat in Moscow, then this place was made for you. How well was it made? Well, let's see....
The location at White Square – outside Belorusskaya Circle Line Metro – is almost purpose-made for La Bottega's target market, scattered at the feet of the Towers of Mammon that loom above. Prosperous pin-suited yuppies go scampering homewards past La Bottega's doors – and on the evening we visited there seemed to be an exclusively foreign clientele filling out the place.
It's a warm, cheerful and unashamedly louche venue with lots of soft furnishings and red crushed-velvet curtains – they may be serious about wine, but the atmosphere is far from stern and severe. There's a mixture of 1970s retro with 1920s Berlin cabaret playing on the sound system – this is a barfly lounge where lounging is positively encouraged.
La Bottega is primarily a place you come to enjoy a glass of wine, so we eschewed the other drink options and went straight for the wine list. The wine list is extensive, and their website has the whole thing if you want to check it out. If you aren't in the mood or the visitor-numbers for a bottle, they have a good range of some of their most attractive wines available by the glass – and for prices that stand up very well by Moscow standards, with some even coming in under 300 RUB per glass. It's a pricing policy that keeps you there for a second or third glass, and encourages sampling several. I found the Allegrin Veneto Soave 2010 crisp and attractive – served ideally chilled, with some fruity notes to it, and priced to enjoy at only 370 RUB per glass. Emilia's preference for reds led her towards a Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2009, further up the price-scale at 470 RUB - but worth it. This is wine that stimulates the palate and prompts the appetite, and so we were quickly surveying the food menu.
As a Wine Bar, La Bottega's menu is extensively slanted towards smaller and lighter dishes you might have on the side with your glass of wine – and we enjoyed these appetiser dishes rather more than the main courses. If I went back to Bottega, next time I'd order two starters and skip the main course altogether – there's a panache and inventiveness among them that is somehow missing amid the worthy standards of the mains. Outstanding among the starters, and The Most Outrageously Delicious Thing I've Eaten in Months was the Mellow Figs Baked with Gorgonzola & Walnuts (450 RUB). My relentless curiosity often leads me into ordering the strangest stuff on the menu “just to try it” - but this time, for once, it paid off – the Odd Coupling of tangy fruit with attention-grabbing intense cheese is an unbeatable duo that I've never seen anywhere before – you have to try this! In fact it was so magnificently delicious that Emilia ate most of mine. And with good reason – she'd ordered a Mixture Of Green Leaves with Parma Ham Gran Riserva & Sheep's Ricotta (570 RUB)... but the green leaves were mostly chopped Chinese Leaves of clunky unloveliness, and they went unmunched. Surely they could get nicer salad leaves than this? My local supermarket sells them. The salad was crammed into a small deep bowl that made it hard to eat - and barely showed it in an attractive way. A better partner for a serious red wine was the Pear & Gorgonzola Quiche – a substantial slice for 320 RUB, and a meal in itself. It looked a little forlorn just plonked on a dish without even a lettuce-leaf for company, and might have benefited from more attractive presentation – but it delivers the goods on the fork.
The wind whistling in from the front door – which it does with some ferocity, straight into the seating area – was causing a little discomfort by now, and they'll need to fix this before winter draws in. We fortified ourselves with hot dishes and more wine, moving on to a Laughing Magpie Australian d'Arenburg 2007 – satisfyingly full and rounded, and worth the 450-RUB price-tag that accompanies it. The main courses which came along with it were less satisfying, however. I'd never seen a veal medallion the size or shape of those which appeared as Veal Medallions in Marsala Sauce (590 RUB). Full marks for getting the classic Marsala Sauce right, but the veal was very average. I had high hopes of Papardelle with Porcini and Cream Sauce if it was priced at 530 RUB – but it, too, was very ordinary. Scant on the porcini (in a bumper year for porcini), and not very creamy at all. We shared a quite decent panna cotta dessert for 290 RUB. The fare is bog-standard wine-bar stuff, in fact.
Overall, we felt that La Bottega would be good for sharing a glass of wine with friends, perhaps with a snack course on the side – the tables in the bar area are too small for eating main courses anyhow. There's a good selection of wines at prices that encourage you to linger. Unless you are unduly fond of fresh air, you might want to seat yourselves at the larger and more convenient tables which are further from the door. The staff is friendly and cheerful, but you have to keep on their case to make sure they bring what you actually ordered. The huge volume of passing trade from the adjacent office-blocks will probably keep La Bottega packed without them having to try harder than they do.
If you go out for a nice meal in Amsterdam, then you eat Indonesian food, of course. In Berlin, you'll find the best Turkish food in the world, and there's no finer Indian cuisine than that served in Manchester. And in the same way, in a tradition rooted back in the soviet era, it's hard to go wrong in Russia if you go for Georgian food - the best-loved ethnic cuisine of the former USSR. Stories of Stalin's legendary all-night revels (he and his henchman Beria were both Georgians themselves) are already legendary.
Of course, the soviet days when only a few Georgian restaurants might reliably have any food available are long gone. Moscow is almost awash with Caucasian cooking - I've got a choice of three places within 100m of my house. It's hard to have a disappointing Georgian meal, however humble the establishment - the traditions of hospitality prevent it happening. However, with instructions from the Expat Site's latest glamorous assistant in hand, I trekked down to the other end of town in search of a "classic of the genre" - Suliko.
Suliko is anything but humble - it's grand and imposing, with that special combination of comfort and swagger that makes the Georgian heart pulse faster. The interior is uniquely Georgian - polished stone walls in different colours, bright lighting, whimsical carved wooden beams, the obligatory fountain flowing from the mouth of a clay urn. If the decor says anything at all, it says "this has cost a stack". The welcome is warm but politely muted - they're there when you want them, but they stay out of your face. Everything is pristine, and Suliko would make the perfect place to entertain visiting clients who've been emailing you to ask if they ought to bring their own soap or perhaps some food supplies. Even the most cautious faultfinder would visit Suliko without a new tale to tell afterwards. It's not only appropriately grand in style - there is something slightly soviet about the expansiveness of the place - but there's another handy benefit too. If your cautious clients are boring you to death, just position yourselves in the rear, larger dining-hall -“ and a live and rather dominating floorshow of Georgian singing will spare you from having to listen to any more of their stories. If, on the other hand, you actually want to be able to hear them, then request a table in the first hall instead.
The convivial style of Georgian eating lends itself best to dining in small groups. A meze of hot and cold starters is laid, and this is, in effect, the main part of the meal. Somewhat later - in fact quite a lot later sometimes - a hot main course will appear, but very much in a supporting role to the delicious selection of appetisers and starters you've already had. These are not cleared when the main course comes (unless you've finished them - which is unlikely, given the portion-size) - the main course simply arrives as reinforcements, just when you thought you were finally making some indentation on the starters.
This point is especially worth bearing in mind when looking at the prices. The financial outlay on the starters might seem out of balance - but considering that a single main course, without side-dishes, will then be easily enough for two, the final bill is not the shock you first feared. Even so, Suliko is overtly catering to the well heeled, so if you need to impress - this is the right place.
It's very easy to over-order, or to pick too many heavy items - so we took the waiter's advice, and still over-ordered. The adjapsandal (spicy tomato stew) (250Rbs) was juicy and lush, with lots of fresh bite left in the tomatoes. One of the selection of Georgian cheeses (450Rbs) was extremely salty, so the adjapsandal came in handy - as did the deliciously chewy Georgian lavash bread, which is rather similar to ciabatta in texture. My own personal favourite amongst the starters were the Aubergines Stuffed With Nuts (200Rbs) - melt-in-the-mouth tender, but not greasy in the slightest, and lightly flavoured with cardamom.
Frankly, in terms of amounts, this would already have easily been enough for the two of us. However, because Georgian food is traditionally served with a huge variety of dishes on the table, we'd been encouraged to order more dishes - and they were, it's true, excellent companions to those we already had. The problem, in a nutshell, was not too much food - but too few diners to consume it. If we'd been Georgians, of course, we'd have arrived with a whole extended family to tuck into it all.
Some satsivi (300Rbs) came next - another Georgian classic, filleted cubes of chicken served in a Circassian sauce - ground walnuts, garlic, onion, ground coriander, and some more garlic, and left to marinade (it's served at room temperature). It's on this kind of dish that Georgian restaurants divide into the men and the boys - Suliko's manhood was unquestioned, and the chicken pieces were soft tender top-quality fillets. Lobio (180Rbs) has been a vegetarian lifesaver in Moscow since the Brezhnev era at least, and Suliko's is a hearty bean stew served in an individual clay pot.
Another great Georgian tradition is vegetable pates (300Rbs for a selection-plate of three different pates), and Suliko's are some of the best. One was based on beans and garlic - another had tiny baby carrots in it.
Georgia is - as any Georgian will tell you - the home of the grape, and claims to be the first country where wine was made. Almost certainly you've already tried the worst of Georgian wine - it turns up at parties where Russians seem to love the thin, acerbic yet semi-sweet reds. It doesn't have to be like this - if your taste is more for a French-style red wine, then pick a nice Saperavi. The more robust body of Saperavi is the perfect accompaniment to Georgian food. Suliko also serve wine by the glass if you prefer.
Finally, when you have chatted, and idled, and nibbled at all the starters, and listened to the musicians, comes the main course. We shared a single main course and there was still heaps left over - tsiplyata v ezhevichnom souse, chicken in a loganberry sauce (500Rbs). Brought to the table in its terracotta casserole, the outside is as crunchy as the inside is tender.
Suliko is the perfect set-up for upscale Georgian, and your mission - if you choose to accept it - is to find the right occasion and group of diners to enjoy it. It's not especially cosy, and you'd feel a bit exposed there on a lover's tryst. But if you have foreign guests over - especially if they already sick of sour cream and accordions - it would be a super treat for corporate-level guests that offers them a cuisine they'll not have tried elsewhere.
206.Chemodan (Suitcase)  
By the mid-C19th, central Siberia was booming. Settlers rights, unlimited free land, freedom for runaway serfs, and tolerance for religious minorities banned in European Russia were just some of the reasons...a gold rush, diamond mines, the post-road to Moscow, and rumours of untold and untapped riches had even stronger appeal. In place of shady taverns and shoddy flophouses, fine eateries and respectable hotels sprang up to cater to Siberia's new bourgeoisie - mine-owners, factory magnates, railway tycoons and families like the Demidovs, whose commercial interests ran far and wide.
“Chemodan” isn't just a Russian-cuisine restaurant – it's specifically a Siberian restaurant, with a menu featuring the freshest river-fish from Siberia's vast rivers and lakes, game dishes from the riches of the taiga forests, pickles and preserves featuring mushrooms and berries that barely even have dictionary names in English. In fact “Chemodan” in Moscow is a branch of the same restaurant in Krasnoyarsk. Well-known actor Oleg Menshikov visited the restaurant there and went in for supper – and loved it so much, that he decided to open another in Moscow. Very frequently movie-actor-owned restaurants are great ideas that fail to work in reality – but in this case, the established know-how and local Siberian expertise that made Chemodan a success in Siberia has transplanted superbly to Moscow.
The individual triumph of Chemodan offering delicious cuisine at medium-high prices (certainly not cheap - but you could easily spend double on dross in Moscow) and without the vacuous ostentation of its rivals. If you want to treat your visiting relatives or business colleagues to fine traditional Russian food, then this is the new pretender to the throne. No waiters in fake C19th livery, no hokum chandeliers, and no twaddle with calling clients “Milord” - this is honest, excellent cooking, on attractive plain white porcelain, with charming and personable multilingual staff in plain black shirts. The dining-room echoes upright provincial excellence of the mid-C19th – no nonsense, but very charming and atmospheric, and a welcome relief from the Theme Park interiors elsewhere. The food is served with quiet, confident pride and expertise – some of the staff are Siberians themselves. The table staff can tell you which rivers the fish come from, and what gives each recipe its special flourish. Restaurants further round the Boulevard Ring will be looking to their laurels – Chemodan will keep them on their toes.
On our waiter's recommendation, we took some house specialities as appetisers – but be warned, some of these dishes come in Siberian-sized portions, and a single appetiser would easily feed two. Emilia instantly warmed to the tenderness of the Venison Carpaccio (490 RUB), while I dived into a truly Siberian experience – stroganina, cold cuts of naturally-frozen fish. I'd had it before in Siberia with friends, but the Chir – translated on the menu as Blue-Back Salmon Stroganina, 590 RUB – exceeded all expectations. With an accompanying dipping sauce and seasoning, this was truly delectable eating – fat-free, carb-free, and guilt-free. In fact lightness, delicacies are hallmarks of Chemodan's menu, in sharp contrast to what you may have expected.
Although there's an extensive wine-list, I strongly recommend you to leave it unopened – the correct accompaniments to Siberian food are plain or flavoured vodkas, or the fruit-flavoured alcoholic tipples found in Siberian homes of the nineteenth century. The menu not only lists them, but gives an insightful account, in endearingly wonky English, of how they are made, and the lore and traditions surrounding them. Even long-term expat stalwarts are unlikely ever to have tried Erofeich – but these potent liqueurs were the staple of the Siberian table from the C17th onwards... and pack a powerful 56-percent-proof punch. A superlative accompaniment to my stroganina, in every sense! However, with ladies present we restricted our other drinking to the fruitier tipples with marginally lower alcohol content – Emilia's Honeysuckle Nalivka(196 RUB) – 26-percent-proof and coming in at a mere was pleasantly tart, while my own Blueberry Nalivka (180 RUB) was attractively and authentically sweet.
Salads aren't part of the Siberian scene, and probably we should have gone with the delicious-sounding soups on offer instead. Emilia had a Salad with slightly salted Whitefish, Avocado and Sweet Pepper (490 RUB) – nice enough if you wanted it, but rather out-of-place amid the Siberian specialities. This dish wasn't really too different from what you might make yourself at home. We had a few reservations about the limp green lettuce-leaves, however. They also topped my Warm Salad with Tiger Prawns, Mussels, Mushrooms under Garlic-Soy Sauce (690 RUB), but were only there for decoration, and I didn't bother with them. Once again, we'd blundered into ordering food that isn't Siberian – unless prawns now live there?
But things were firmly back on an even keel with our waiter-recommended main courses. Steamed Siberian Whitefish (890 RUB) is one of the most delicate things I've tasted in many a year. In fact it's been smoked before steaming, and was both succulently tender and sophisticated in taste - I could happily eat this every day. And once again – easy on the waistline, served with mouthwatering mushrooms. Emilia found her Grilled Cutlets of Siberian Stag (890 RUB) a trifle too pink in the middle – but you may find them to your taste, or might request them more well-done? Delicious aromatic black bread came on the side.
For dessert we shared a Walnut Soufflé, especially as the recipe came from “Exemplary Cuisine of Krasnoyarsk, 1892” - the source of quite a few other house specialities. To go with it while we had very pleasant espresso, and a pot of Guan Yin Iron Bodhisattva Tea (390 RUB).
Fine food, fine service, and a warm, relaxed atmosphere – what's not to like? All the ingredients of a memorable meal in Moscow are here – the only thing missing is you. Word is already out about Chemodan, and the place was packed when we went midweek - so be sure to book in the evenings. Or pop along for their 450 RUB Business Lunch (12pm–17pm) instead?
Barmalini – a new pizzeria cafe from the owners of Coffeemania
My credentials for reviewing Russia’s pizza-places are unshakeable - I was at the opening night of the first-ever pizza cafe in the USSR - in Leningrad, in 1984. It was an unforgettable night – they had a black-&-white chequerboard tiled floor (they’d painted it by hand!), they had Italian music playing, the place was packed with revellers. The only thing they didn’t have was pizza – they’d sold out by lunchtime. But you could bring your own drinks (back then private cafes couldn’t get liquor-licences), and everyone was having a great time - the welcome was warm and heartfelt, and Paolo Conte was on the cassette-player.
Fast-forward a quarter century and slightly to the south, I confidently stride into Pizzeria Barmalini near Paveletskaya. There are funny pictures on the walls and stuffed dolls and toys for the kiddywinks – not exactly the expectation I had of a pizzeria, and Barmalini is the exact opposite of my Leningrad 1984 experience. They do, indeed, have pizza. And it’s great pizza! But some other things you might expect alongside are missing.
My glamorous co-reviewer Emilia Marty arrived late – she’d walked straight past the place, not realising it was the pizzeria she was hunting for. The menu is just a simple single-sided list of pizzas only. If you want a salad, a dessert, or anything to drink, then you can pore instead through the Coffeemania menu, since Coffeemania own Barmalini and are operating full-on the other side of the adjoining partition. Avid pizza fans may well find this to be enough – especially if you’ve just popped in for a lightning lunch (and the service is indeed enviably presto). But I love classic Italian starters like tricolore, or marinated artichokes, or a delicious bruschetta – and somewhat surprisingly, you can’t get them at Barmalini. This seems an odd decision, but presumably it’s to encourage patrons not to linger at lunchtimes? The same idea might be behind not having wi-fi either?
In many small pizzerias or trattorias in Italy, a glass of house wine comes free with the Set Meal, and it’s house wine that the owner will drink himself. Sadly this democratic approach to wine doesn’t apply at Barmalini. We were finally induced into trying a glass each of their red and white offerings - but at ten euros a pop they’re not something you ask them to bring more of. You won’t spend long choosing, though – because in fact they only have one Italian red, and one Italian white on the menu. The price of 490 roubles isn’t for a bottle – it’s for a single glass of Chianti Classico (or 450 roubles for the white choice – an Orvieto San Giovanni Classico). I can’t help thinking that this pricing policy is going to encourage diners to skip wine altogether.
I was in utter ignorance about Barmalini – apparently (or so Emilia told me) he was Pinocchio’s nemesis. His cartoon picture is all over the walls. The rest of the interiors consist of exposed red-brick walls and the ho-hum-seen-it-before exposed high-tech steel ducting and lighting. After seeing the latest venues unveiled by Barmalini owners Coffemania – for example their outlet in the shopping centre at Trubnaya – I was really surprised by the simplistic decor.
We ought to mention the pizzas - which are indeed excellent! Emilia took a Campagna (490 Rbs for a single-serving pizza) – a classic Italian line-up. It came on an authentically thin base, topped with a fragrant tomato sauce and a lavishly generous covering of salami milano. The balance of flavourings, herbs and olive oil was masterly, and this is truly excellent pizza-making, although Emilia had some reservations about having so much salami on one single pizza. Barmalini’s menu offers two pizzas prepared on black dough – although surprisingly they tell you nothing at all about, err, why it’s black? I took a Quattro Mare (450 Rbs for a single-serving pizza) which came on a deliciously thin, black-hued base. The entire area of the pizza is elegantly arrayed by segments of different seafood toppings – there’s tuna, salmon, seafood cocktail and shrimps. Better than this pizza doesn’t get, believe me – a treat for the eyes and tastebuds alike. The pizza bases themselves are enviably crisp and authentically thin, coming from a gleaming pizza oven whose substantial appearance dominates the entire kitchen area. Part of the fun of Barmalini – as in the best pizza places – is that you get to watch the pizza-making as it happens, and the kichen area is at the centre of attention in the cafe’s layout. And you certainly get the real thing here – all of the ingredients are top-quality and delicious, and the sumptuous taste delivers every expectation from enticing appearance and aroma. The difference between factory-made and hand-made couldn’t be more convincingly made – this is the pizza that Momma used to make.
There are no Italian desserts on the menu (in case you had a hankering for panna cotta, or a choice of gelateria?), but you can order desserts from the Coffeemania menu instead. I took an It Girl dessert (310 Rbs) – a raspberry mousse decorously draped with green fronds and with a pineapple centre – a tried and tested Coffeemania favourite. Emilia wasn’t so keen on her Fortunella (290 Rbs) – a concotion of Philadelphia cheese with mandarin and kumquat.
Paveletskaya is keenly short of eateries, and getting a lunchtime table in any of them is a ticklish business. The area all around is lined with the corporate office-blocks of Russian and foreign companies. Anyone who succeeds in opening a cafe here is going to make money – without trying especially hard.But Barmalini are trying hard, and the difference counts. The service sacrifices the personal touch in favour of ruthless efficiency – which might suit you, on occasion?
Barmalini delivers great pizza, reliably and speedily – making it an ideal place for a business-hour lunch. You’ll get a great lunch easily even if you’re pushed for time, without any fingernail-chewing about whether you’ll get back to the office on time. They’re clearly aware of the competition locally for the lunchtime trade. Where I have reservations, however, is the evening. With a major multiplex cinema around the corner, and the concert-hall/theatre complex of Dom Muzyky across the road, there’s another clientele around who might be more keen to see a wider menu (perhaps with more Italian appetisers or desserts) on offer, and whose main priority isn’t merely speedy service. This might be an area which Barmalini are looking to cover later on?
Meanwhile what’s on offer at Barmalini is pizza made to the highest standards, and not for the lowest price. That makes Barmalini a lifestyle choice, because there is certainly cheaper pizza available down the street. Yet the originality and high quality of what Barmalini is offering is worth the small extra cost, and certainly didn’t seem to be deterring diners on the day we visited. Whether they convince you to become a regular or not, Barmalini sets the benchmark for creatively-designed top-quality pizzas, and their local competitors will have to sharpen up their act to remain in contention.
Culture Reviews
Berlin-based Scottish musician, Nick Currie, aka Momus, played one of the year’s most entertaining concerts last Friday night at Art Garbage/Zapasnik. But it nearly didn’t happen. The previous day he had been turned back at Sheremetyevo airport for a visa irregularity. He missed his Friday press conference and only made it to the club with a few hours to spare.
His mesmerising performance was quite unpredicted. What can really be expected from a man who writes about female emancipation, describes his music as electronic folk, is interested in cartoon characters and wears a dodgy eye patch?
Reviews on his website describe him as ‘subversive’ and ‘a spoken word artist’ – both of which start the alarm bells ringing. Usually a ‘spoken word artist’ speaks because they cannot sing and are ‘subversive’ because it is the only way they can legitimately attract attention to their music. However Momus was different. His voice was a clear as any of today's best pop singers. His spoken word pieces weren’t the mindless incomprehensible drivel that alternative artists like to produce. Instead his were melodious in a Noel Coward-sequel way: softly spoken rhyming ditties that disguised viciously biting lyrics.
It was his first visit to Russia, and Momus was scheduled to play two concerts, the first in Moscow and then a second in the Siberian city of Izhevsk. This rather peculiar choice of destinations, along with his obsession for the soviet cartoon character, Cheburashka, seemed to be typical of Momus. He is a performer who likes to do things differently but who has a genuinely nice side. The ‘scruffy, cool, I don’t give a damn’ attitude he gave out as he was sitting at the bar before the concert was a complete fa?ade. Both his manner and music is likable and he even wears the eye-patch because he is blind in one eye and not for any trashy fashion reasons.
Despite the fact that Momus himself had never been to Russia nor knew much about it, the word of his music had obviously got out to the wider reaches of the Moscow concert-going public. The venue was jammed full, with long lines stretching out of the doors and into the courtyard. Long before Momus took the stage, the dance floor and surrounding terrace were heaving. Getting to the bar was difficult and working through the crowd to the toilet was simply impossible. However the mood was friendly even amongst the poor people being slowly squashed and asphyxiated by BO at the front.
At least those people had the best view in the club. They really could appreciate what they were seeing. His performance was as much cabaret as it was concert. Many of his songs were accompanied by strange hand movements and robot style manoeuvres, which Momus described as dances. This quirky stage manner and his subtle sense of humour helped him quickly establish a witty repartee with the crowd.
The identifiable influences in his music were numerous; ranging from traditionally classical in “I hear a Little Schubert” to the Japanese bubblegum pop of “Monroe” to the obvious references to his Scottish background with the highland sounds of “The Laird of Inversecchie”.
The success of his music was even more impressive when taking into account his lack of backing musicians. His affection for Japan and its culture had obviously rubbed off on him as well as his music. He had all his backing tracks stored on his PC. When his set had come to an end, he opened it up to the crowd for requests. With a quick press of a mouse button he was able to bring up any of any song from his impressive discography. It served to further highlight the talent of this very able and entertaining performer. He was able to sing from memory even the songs that were composed nearly twenty years ago at the very beginning of his career.
The cheer that accompanied the end of his concert was fitting appreciation from a knowledgeable crowd. They understood that the hype surrounding Momus was justified and that hoped that maybe one day he might return to Russia to continue his search for the Cheburashka that he was so fond of.
It was a packed house on the night of the Pelageya concert at 16 Tons. The Friday club atmosphere was its usual cool, but the crowd started to get restless once it hit 11 o’clock: howling, clapping, and crying out Pelageya’s nickname for her and the band to start performing. It’s amazing to me how at only 17, she can inspire such enthusiasm in a place where she legally wouldn’t even be allowed in.
So just what is it about Pelageya, exactly? What makes her so special? According to a long-time fan, she is considered to be a national treasure here in Russia – so much so that since the age of 10, she has performed for numerous personalities in the past, including presidents and patriarchs. And yet by earnestly thanking her fans for their support over the years, it just might be that this 17-year old is not only famous and gifted, but humble as well. Such a glowing reference indeed, but if you’re still not convinced, just wait until you hear her sing...
Pelageya began the night with an aria, singing a capella and giving her band enough time to quietly set up and watch her in admiration. When the song was finished, she had left the crowd motionless for about a second or two before they started clapping. In a show of humility and unselfishness, she then quickly proceeded to introduce her bandmates one-by-one before they properly carried on. They began their set in the same manner at the Festival Avant a few weeks ago, and it was just the perfect way to prepare uninitiated onlookers and tag-alongs to their music.
Just like a few weeks back, the band played in fine form. Once again, the star is unmistakably Pelageya herself, but there’s no denying that she is surrounded with exceptional talent. Each band member could easily carry his own weight, and was given an opportunity to do so. I got the impression that their unique sound was a combination of different musical backgrounds and interests as well as endless hours of practice and rehearsal. This was made more evident with a song that had Pelageya singing over what sounded like ethnic music from Borneo. The combination of Malaysian instrumentation, obscure Russian folk lyrics, and Pelageya’s banshee-like delivery for this song seems impossible to pull off, but the band didn’t even break a sweat.
The next song sounded at times Middle Eastern, and at times Indian. It had somewhat of a sensual quality to it, and it featured Pelageya’s singing at its most seductive, kind of like Mata Hari reincarnated. They then did a popular number that demonstrated Pelageya’s 4-octave vocal range over an accordion-laced cover of the Mission: Impossible theme. This song had the crowd going bananas afterwards. However, the band knew they were in complete control, so in the next song they responded by going the other way…
Introducing the song with a groovy 70’s style bassline, the band seamlessly moved into a reggae vibe, topped with Pelageya’s angelic vocals. Her singing was serene, and her power to captivate became more evident with each song that passed. Songs that invoked all sorts of emotions and reactions, from agony, to silence, to wonder – it was all there. The band met her power with different musical landscapes, from Africanesque rhythms, to Miami conga beats, to Bossa Nova smoothness. The Russian-folk-rapping was there too, and so was Fifth Element chorus, again without the aid of computer audio enhancement. It was an awe-inspiring show, and the crowd was feeling it the whole way through.
In a short interview after the concert was finished, Pelageya told me that her main aim is to educate Russian youth about the beauty of Russian music. I myself grew up never having heard one Russian song, but it’s easy for me to say that this group is one of the best I’ve ever seen. They have such an uncanny ability to merge diverse musical styles from all over the world and fuse them with nearly-forgotten folk songs from the farthest reaches of Russia. Take this fresh, unique sound and add Pelageya’s unequalled vocal prowess, and I believe you have a group that has international success stamped all over them.
Russian or Expat, if you’re reading this review and you’re just a little bit curious, do yourself a favour: cop her albums, watch her and her band perform live. You won’t be disappointed. Pelageya is not only a national treasure but also Russia’s gift to the world.
210.LO'JO Interview and Concert Review  
LO'JO Interview and Concert Review
LO'JO came to give a single concert in Moscow last Thursday. We couldn't miss such an event and sent our journalist there to share her impressions with us. Before the concert Anya Wolf went along to interview Denis Pean of LO’JO on behalf of "The Moscow Expat Site". And that's what she has found out...
AW: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. First question, what does Lo’Jo mean?
DP: Nothing.
AW: Nothing?
DP: Yes, nothing. Just a word coming from my imagination.
AW: Is this your first time in Moscow?
DP: Yes. It’s my first time in Russia.
AW: And how do you find it?
DP: It’s my first day in Moscow, because we arrived, but very late.
AW: Is it not too cold for you here?
DP: (laughs) No, not too much. It’s good for me!
AW: Have you been able to see any of the city today?
DP: Yes, a little bit. And I have a good friend in Moscow; we played with him in France a few years ago. His name is Anatoli Gerasimov, the saxophonist. He played in this place (B2) about five months ago.
AW: Will you perform anywhere else in Russia or only in Moscow?
DP: Yes, tomorrow we will go to Riga and then the day after that, St. Petersburg. When I was a teenager I dreamed of going to St. Petersburg.
AW: I’ve read that you are the ‘shaman in chief’ for Lo’Jo. You come from a catholic background though, so how did this title come about?
DP: (laughs): Yes, I’m the old one in the band, the one that gives direction, who has organised the band and the direction. Now we are a collective and we all imagine the songs together.
AW: The old one. Do you see yourself as the father of your collective?
DP: Yes!
AW: Do you consider yourself still Catholic?
DP: No, originally with my grandparents, but now no. I believe in all things.
AW: But no specific religion?
DP: No, I’m interested in all different religions, all different people, and enjoy communicating with people of all faiths.
AW: In ten years, do you still see yourself making music with Lo’Jo?
DP: I’ve been making music with Lo’Jo already twenty years, and I hope that I will still be making music with them for twenty more.
AW: What makes a band able to stay together for twenty years?
DP: Passion. Love about the way the band travels and our image in music, we fit together like family. We like to be together, to compose music together, to organise our lives together.
AW: Do you have any influences?
DP: Many. All of the things I’ve heard in my life, but sometimes we don’t know which things give influence. I’m interested in modern music, hip-hop, pop, all music coming from many centuries ago. When I was a teenager I played all music, then after I played classical music. Some of my favourite music is coming from jazz music.
AW: Any specific jazz artists or just jazz as a genre?
DP: Not all of it. Just some.
AW: As a child you studied at a music conservatory. Were you trained in just classical or all genres?
DP: Classical.
AW: Has this had any influence on Lo’Jo’s music?
DP: Yes, some part. I like Claude Debussy, etc. and the harmonies have influenced me.
AW: Are you ever influenced by places you’ve visited?
DP: Yes, we traveled many times in Africa, and we got power and magical vibes, which I like very much and which now I have in my body all these vibes. We have now this instrument from Africa, for example. The violin player from Lo’Jo is now playing this little violin coming from the Sahara, traditionally played by the nomadic people in the desert. Yamina now plays this kind of harp that’s coming from West Africa. We have many influences from playing a long time with this band, a voodoo band coming from Benin.
AW: So do you think you’ll be inspired by Russia?
DP: Sure, of course! The trip is short, but after this we will tour in Great Britain for one month. But we hope to come back here.
AW: Does it bother you to be traveling so much? Do you have a family at home waiting for you?
DP: No. My family is the band, my wife is music, and my father is sound.
AW: As far as venues, do you prefer to play clubs, or concert halls, or festivals?
DP: I don’t like crowds so much; I like to be close to the people. This kind of place (B2) is good. It depends also on the quality of the sound. If we have good sound, and a good crowd, then it’s all good.
AW: If you had only one word to describe your music, what would it be?
DP: (long pause) Harmony. Because you can find harmony in music, and in life and relationships too.
AW: The last question I have for you, Denis, is if you were not making music, what would you be doing?
DP: Ah I’m interested in many things. Education for children. That I can do with music. Sometimes I work in jails with young people and teach them about music and poetry. All education for children is important, in this modern world, we need education to continue on.
AW: Agreed. Merci, Denis, and I look forward to the show tonight!
And here what it was like:
Before the show, I had the pleasure of interviewing Denis Pean, the founder and shaman-in-chief of Lo'Jo, who carries the vibes of the entire planet in his small frame. From the moment we sat down, I could feel that this is a man with 10.000 melodies in his mind, who has the unique gift of taking the songs of the world and channeling all of them into one amazing harmony. The crowd at B2 was diverse, and while it wasn’t a packed house, the crowd very easily and quickly began feeling the vibe of Lo'Jo.
To try to contain Lo'Jo within a genre is impossible, because Lo'Jo IS a genre. This isn’t the kind of music that you would put on as background noise, as from the opening notes, Lo'Jo takes you by the shoulders and demands all of your attention. The talented sextet plays a dizzying array of synthesized and acoustic instruments that they have acquired from all four corners of the world. Lo'Jo’s beat is unusual and infectious; it’s impossible not to tap your toes or move to the rhythm. Denis has a uniquely melodic voice which, combined with sisters Yamina and Nadia on backing vocals, makes for songs that will long stay in your mind. Although they sing in Arabic, French, and English, Lo'Jo’s music transcends any language and nationality. The two-hour performance went by too quickly for me, and even after two encores, I found myself wanting more.
Lo'Jo as a band is not for everyone, but there is something in their music that everyone can get into. In their songs, it’s easy to pick out strains of rap, hip-hop, Arabian, classical, funk, jazz, and African, but it’s Lo'Jo’s unique ability to combine these very different genres that have enabled them to be a French tour de force for 20 years. Although this trip to Russia (they are also performing in Riga and St. Petersburg) is short, they will most certainly be back. Kudos to B2 for their continuing ability to find the best of world music and bring it to Moscow.
More background info and tour dates for Lo'Jo can be found on their website,
Love, Martini, and Playboy
At one of the hippest events to hit Moscow this summer, California based duo SuperCasanova spun their unique mix of lounge, surf, and 60's pop for a choice crowd at Italian restaurant Settebello on Saturday. It was more an intimate party than concert, and SuperCasanova could not have been happier about providing the music.
With an audience relaxed by the elegance of Settebello, and the abundant free drinks provided by Martini and Rossi, the show began around eleven as SuperCasanova manned two turntables in the restaurant’s stylish garden. The records they began to spin were at first so unobtrusively soothing that few attendees took notice, but after a few minutes the crowd began to respond. Partygoers sitting inside emerged to see the band, and the atmosphere lightened as conversations at tables picked up in time to the buoyant music of SuperCasanova.
The group filled the warm summer night with clean, flowing drums overlaid with saxophone, flute and lush strings. Subtle but infectious melodies were put through effects processors that shaped, but didn’t distort, the obscure retro-pop records that were the foundation of the set. The duo describes their style as “similar to the lounge sample groups like Ursula 1000, Nicola Conte and Dmitri from Paris” but also explained that they do not limit themselves to sampling records. “We take it to the next level because we have a vision of instruments. We have guys play and jam.” While so many DJs today spin either formulaic techno or chaotic experimental electronic, SuperCasanova in the end manages to be fresh while still adhering to traditional musical basics like rhythm, melody and harmony.
SuperCasanova is the newest creation of professional musicians The Millionaire and Eric Bonerz, both experienced players in the Los Angeles music industry. Their debut album should be released by Black Cat Records within the year. “We’re always working on something,’ said The Millionaire, who took a break from working on a soundtrack for a new film to appear at Settebello, ‘but SuperCasanova is our main project.” The group came to Moscow specifically for the show, and was set to return to Los Angeles the next day. “This is our one day tour. We got here yesterday, I think. It’s hard to tell because we’ve been doing so much. But I like it. It’s great for impressing our friends. ‘You’re going to Russia?!’ was all they could say,” laughed The Millionaire.
As the show progressed the mood of Settebello got lighter and lighter. “It’s the best show I’ve ever played,” said Eric Bonerz mid-performance while sorting through records. The event was part of Martini and Rossi’s “Viva La Vita” party series- co-sponsored by Playboy- and the young, affluent and distinctly elite audience seemed to understand the concept of a proper Lounge Party: good drinks, urbane conversation, and excellent music. The audience became relaxed enough that groups of people began to slowly make their way to the turntables to ask questions, or just chat with The Millionaire and Eric. The pair took it all in stride, the music never skipping a beat.
It was SuperCasanova’s first appearance in Russia, though The Millionaire had visited Moscow previously to perform a DJ set at Justo. “We love it here,’ said Eric, ‘this is our kind of place.” With the stunning atmosphere of Settebello, the great music, free Martinis, and beautiful people all around, the audience definitely agreed.
What kind of band starts on time? Perhaps conditioned by the abuse of Madonna, who was slated for 7:30 p.m. and went on at 9:30, the majority of concert-goers rolled in an hour late, paid a 500-ruble cover and ascended the kitschy stairs of Ikra to find the Melomane gig near over. Not me, though - 8 o'clock means 8 o'clock (or at least 8:30) and I was posted up at the bar with a whiskey cola to enjoy the Brooklyn pop-noir group's entire set.
Fronted by Paris-born Pierre de Gaillande, the sextet has been called "the most European band in America." But this is sort of a groundless accolade, as their sound draws primarily from Elliott Smith (American), Leonard Cohen (Canadian) and Nick Cave (Australian). The impetus for Melomane's visit to Moscow is that Soyuz Music recently released their third album, "Glaciers." Unsurprisingly, most of their set consisted of songs from this album, and Pierre made sure to mention several times that there was a stand by the door where you could purchase it. After voicing his longtime affinity with the great country of Russia, he dove into "Ballot is the Bullet," the obligatory anti-Bush ballad. Lyrics like "love is patient and kind but the powers that be are violent and blind" were painful „? I preferred the simpler "Kill Kill Kill," which consisted only of "Kill kill kill, no no no. Love love love, yes yes yes."
Had anyone in the audience heard them before? Unlikely, as Melomane's not too big outside the Brooklyn indie music scene. They don't even have a Wikipedia page! But even run-of-the-mill Williamsburg scenesters are a novelty in Moscow, and the crowd seemed to be enjoying itself, so much so that when the keyboardist, Quentin Jennings, repeatedly asked that someone fix the stage light blinding his eyes, no one could be bothered. So he finished the set with a pained face turned towards the wall.
More injury: bassist Daria Klotz was stool-ridden on account of a broken collarbone. Incidentally, Klotz does have a Wiki entry, in addition to Rude Girl bangs, sleeve tattoos and the perfect retro name. She used to play in queercore group God Is My Co-Pilot, but couldn't do any thrashing tonight. So it was a relatively mellow showing from Melomane. They tried to close the set with a more balladry but, egged on by a mouthy bald freak by the bar, agreed to stay for a few more songs, descending into a garage rock sound. At 9:30 p.m., Ikra fed into "Sol," the club's new Thursday series of drum 'n' bass parties.

Like most small bands that come to Moscow, Melomane was approachable and looking to throw down post-concert. When I told them I was from Rolling Stone and scribbled down DOES NOT PAY FOR DRINKS on my notepad, the alcohol started flowing freely. Many hours and many vodka shots later, I learned that the American Embassy subsidized their trip to Russia (Daria); Daria broke her collarbone falling over drunk (Quentin); if all the members of Melomane had to die and he could only spare one, it'd be Pierre (Brad, the trumpet player); and Ikra has a "No Bathing Suits Allowed" hot tub backstage (Pierre). Rather than stick around to find out firsthand, I disappeared in the confusion who exactly ordered the 300-ruble Red Bulls on the tab.
Too many visiting acts pitch up in Moscow on yet another cash-in tour; heavily changed line-ups, old songs only, and an audience which quietly dreads hearing anything recorded this century. This plays into the culture of a city which is keen to consume, yet not always sure how to do it. Music becomes a label, a trademark; once a song gets the seal of approval it cannot go wrong, just as a designer brand redeems even the ghastliest of sartorial errors (especially and including ones involving the emblazonment of said brand over the garments in question). This is why Russia’s domestic music scene, in the words of one critics, is aggressively opposed to generating new stars: from Bilan to Baskov, the mainstream relies on heavy rotation of a narrow, approved playlist where even the quirky outsiders (think Zemfira, think Mumy Troll) are licensed court jesters. And it’s why too many audiences here are more comfortable looking to the past when exploring music from across Russia’s many borders. A certain cultural herd mentality inspires concert bookers to play safe, hire the fossilized remains of bands still capable of karaoke-ing their greatest hits from the hypothetical good old days when foreign cool could be defined simply in terms of not being Bad Boys Blue.
Amid the nostalgia, therefore, it’s a relief to hear a real, active band – one which combines longevity with a past it actually believes in. And that’s exactly what Garbage brought to Moscow at the start of the promo-tour for its new album, “Not your kind of people”. It’s been a long wait – seven years all told – and some might argue it’s been even longer since the blazing arrival of Shirley Manson as the thinking man’s rock goddess in the “Stupid Girl” / “Happy when it rains” era of the mid-90s. Back then, angst was real angst, and Manson stood tall as a ball-breaking battle-axe easily capable of sending the average timid emo-kid to scuttle behind mummy’s sofa until the scary people went away. A mid-career dip led to the just-ended hiatus, and prompted fears that the return to action might be little more than a chance to sing along to the old favorites with merely a fig-leaf of new material to be quickly dumped early in the set when half the crowd is parking their cars, topping up their drinks and not really paying attention.
Happily, Garbage bucks the stereotype. Not only is the band back, it is happy to be so and has produced new material which it clearly believes in. No dutiful contract fulfillment; the 2012 edition is self-released, with the band calling the shots and going back to its archetypal indie-rock, buzzy guitar sound. “Dirty Little Secret” is even billed as the new “Stupid Girl”, with Manson talking up the new songs as enthusiastically as the band’s calling card is discarded early in the show. Maybe it’s a lack of familiarity – on behalf of both band and audience – but the grand claim isn’t quite justified yet. If “Stupid Girl” snarls across the stage with a kind of juddering, throbbing bass that calls to mind something akin to an alt-rock take on the shuddering shock Giorgio Moroder applied to the more sensitive parts of the musical world, “Dirty Little Secret” is still a whisker too polite. But the potential is there, and by the end of tour one suspects it could grow up to be a monster.
There’s an engaging freshness about the other new tracks which get an airing: “I hate love”, “Blood for Poppies” and “Battle in me” all have plenty to recommend them beyond novelty alone, and it’s little surprise to see advance copies of the new release doing a brisk trade in the foyer both before and after the show. That old illuminating darkness remains intact for the new songs, and they in turn dovetail well with the old ones.
Despite a sometimes glacial public image, Manson is happy to talk to her crowd. Between songs we hear of long-lost cousins flying all the way to Moscow to hear the band for the first time. A protracted retuning break prompts a mock-exasperated “no wonder it took us seven years to record an album”, while returning to theme of passing time also brings a seemingly heartfelt endorsement of how much the band enjoyed the 2005 concerts in Russia. Long-time Moscow residents can reflect for themselves on how much has changed since then, and how much remains the same; for the crowd, asked what has changed, what adventures they’d enjoyed, the response was a gallows humor cry of ‘Putin won!’. But if the return to the Kremlin sparks fears of stagnation and another airing for 12 years of accumulated Greatest Hits, the return of Garbage offers a whiff of an accomplished project continuing to develop itself anew.
214.The Scriabin Museum classical performances  
The Scriabin Museum classical performances
The young lady I tutor in English asked me the other day if I hated Russia. "You always grumble about being here . . ."
Shocked by her observation, I explained it's due to disenchantment with world politics, but innerly resolved to re-adjust my attitude. Henceforth, in line with a fresh attempt to seek out and savour the "other Russia" (as she put it), I vowed to breathe culture weekly.
Wednesday evenings at seven, modest concerts are held in the cozy hall of Scriabin Museum. The Museum is hidden in a little alley off Stary Arbat. You can find it by walking towards Arbatskaya from the McDonalds and turning left onto Bolshoi Nikolopeskovckiy pereulok. The Moscow State Academic Philharmonic provides performers while about seventy blue-plastic footed housewives compose the audience. They're really cute.

Once we all settled into the warm, golden walled hall, an adorable Russian lady with blue eye-shadow and halo hair stood up to announce the program. She kept mixing up what she was supposed to say but only because she was lost in the joy of presenting such talented artists. "Tonight an award-winning young lady will sing for you." "!!!!Play the piano!!!!" "Oh yes, of course, a pianist."
Chopin must have sat and listened a lot to rain fall, and brooks babble and rivers rush. So we sat and listened to lots of interlocking patterns of complicated water drops. Scriabin’s portrait benevolently surveyed the proceedings. Chopin had been a spring of inspiration for the late composer so he seemed pleased with the rendition.
Have you ever read a novel about Russian aristocrats? Along with sitting in drawing rooms speaking French, they go to the theatre and inevitably attend balls. Old dames’ gossip. Little Masha gets excited about her entry into society. The gentlemen smoke cigars and plan who to propose for a whirl. Meanwhile, corseted coquettes in jewels and satin, wax melancholy imagining their vexation if adored Alexandr doesn’t ask them to dance the Mazurka.

Ever intrigued by why the mazurka so appealed, it was a delight to hear about ten variations of the Polish folk dance. It almost seemed unusually rigid for a favourite song (there were surprising light moments in the rhythm), but apparently it's accompanied by foot stomping and heel clicking. The girls must have had a thing for that. The Mazurka would also be the last number . . .

Scriabin is a composer to be respected, especially as he allows Muscovites to use his home for concerts - so along with offering him a bouquet of red roses, the pianist dedicated an entire half show to his compositions. I had never heard Scriabin's work before. What marvellous ruminous music! This man was a thinker. He pondered how the melody felt while forging the line's progression instead of just intuiting it. The first song sounded like a plough tilling a field while leaving the top layer of soil unturned. In the second it was the same mechanism, but now mixing the soil and the plants above. I thought it was great. I'm going to buy a Scriabin CD and listen to it when I think about politics.
The Scriabin Museum hosts classical performances every Wednesday at seven. For a taste of Russian culture in a comfortable setting surrounded by unpretentious people, check it out. In February, the second and twenty-third will be vocal performances. On the ninth a quartet playing Shostavovich and on the sixteenth a chance to hear Scriabin, Ravel, Poulenc and Mussorgskii pieces.
215.The Rolling Stones  
The Rolling Stones
As far back as 1989, when the Rolling Stones were on the Steel Wheels tour and I was a wageslave teenager who turned down a gig rigging their lights at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, they were already the butt of old-age jokes, such as some wag renaming the tour "Steel Wheelchairs." Well, the level of exaggeration in those jokes has stayed high as far as I'm concerned. The Stones are still to be taken seriously, even in their 60s, and they proved it at Saturday night's appearance in historic Palace Square in St. Petersburg.Naturally, anticipation was high, with a 50,000-strong crowd, which featured about three generations of people from all over Russia. The band had only been to Russia only once before, nearly nine years ago (August 11, 1998) and that was in Moscow. They were supposed to play St. Petersburg last summer, but had to cancel due to complications from Keith Richards' coconut tree incident.In a manner typical to Russian control-freak promoters, the square was divided into uninviting, enclosed cattle-pen sectors, with reserved seating on either side of a runway that would accommodate the stage moving forward, with a small, standing-room only area called the Fan Zone directly in front of the end of the runway. The lowest-price general admission tickets were even further away, behind the Fan Zone and totally separated from the other ticket sectors by a metal barrier lined with security guards.Bursting suddenly onto the stage about an hour after the comparatively anaemic opener Steve Harley, the Stones started in with the appropriately titled and high-powered "Start Me Up." The lithe and wiry Mick Jagger, who had just celebrated his 64th birthday in town two days earlier, moved as fast as lightning most of the time, prancing, dancing and even running his way through a set that was kind to those of us wanting to hear the time-honored cuts off greatest-hits records such as Rewind. Richards, whose physical appearance showed his age more than the others, was nevertheless in fine form as well, showcasing his surprisingly good singing voice in "You Got the Silver" and "Little T & A."During "Miss You," the moveable stage moved to the front end of its runway, staying there for "It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It)," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and most of "Honky Tonk Women." This part of the show, which should have been the icing on the cake for those of us (myself included) in the Fan Zone, was hampered by sound problems probably associated with the stage movement. The snafu rendered this part of the concert muddy and incoherent. Still, for a few fleeting songs, Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie were only a few feet away from us with no security barriers in between, and squinting my eyes, I could just imagine how they would look playing one of their trademark short-notice club dates.The highlights of the show came after a short break, starting with "Sympathy for the Devil," containing the famous lyric about the Devil in revolutionary St. Petersburg, which Jagger wisely sang without any particular emphasis or lingering. Here the Stones went all out with the theatrics, using their elaborate stage show to the hilt with a red color scheme, a video screen depicting symmetrical snakeskin patters, with the spaces between the ribcage protrusions from the screen as an extension of images on the screen, fireworks and finally Mick Jagger in a long and shiny red lam? coat with tails. It was a smart, contemporary version of the song and Jagger let the theatrics accentuate the well-worn stanza that cemented the associations with Palace Square being the key site of the October Revolution of 1917. The high point of "Sympathy for the Devil" turned into a double whammy when the band segued into the equally if not more powerful "Paint It Black," arguably the most well known Stones number in Russia, with every other teenager belting it out on acoustic guitars in the staid and stagnant Soviet '70s.The best aspect of the concert's sound was the seemingly painstaking effort to pull off numbers that featured a bigger sound on record in a form fairly close to their studio versions. The renditions of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Tumbling Dice" and the James Brown cover "I'll Go Crazy" featured keyboards, brass and backing vocals provided by the formidable backing band consisting of bassist Darryl Jones, guitarist Blondie Chaplin, R&B diva Lisa Fischer, jazz musicians Bobby Keys, Bernard Fowler and Tim Ries and ex-Allman Brothers keyboardist Chuck Leavell, all of whom Jagger introduced individually after "Tumbling Dice."Date: Saturday, July 28, 2007Location: Palace Square, St. Petersburg, RussiaStart: 21:31End: 23:37Set List:Start Me UpYou Got Me RockingRough JusticeBitchShe's So ColdYou Can't Always Get What You WantMidnight RamblerI'll Go Crazy (James Brown cover)Tumbling Dice[Bandmember intros]You Got the SilverLittle T & AMiss You [stage moves to the front]It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It) [stage in front](I Can't Get No) Satisfaction [stage in front]Honky Tonk Women [stage moves back to the rear]Sympathy For The DevilPaint It BlackJumpin' Jack FlashBrown Sugar (Encore)
216.Eric Truffaz Quartet  
Eric Truffaz Quartet
Legendary French cross-genre trumpeter Eric Truffaz made an all-too-brief appearance with his quartet (Marcello Giuliani, bass; Marc Erbetta, drums; and Patrick Muller, Fender-Rhodes) at Chocolate this week. How would the diners at this louche, lounge-lizard venue take to Eric’s latest material... which extends his exploration of rock idioms and experimental sounds?
They lapped it up, and begged for more. “It’s great in Russia – people come up on stage afterwards and hug and kiss us, they’re so pleased we came” explained Marc Erbetta. “It’s so different here to anywhere else”.“Yeah, we were in Nizhny Novgorod six years ago... and like, they drive you around the same block where the venue is three times, and then they kinda hint there is some special reason they did that? It’s definitely different here!” added Marcello Giuliani.
The same personnel line-up has been playing together now for 6-7 years – since the time of their last appearance in Russia, on a venturesome itinerary featuring Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Yaroslavl and Arkhangelsk as well as Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. All their material is original – they don’t play “standards” or covers – and evolved in extensive jamming sessions in a joint creative process. All the titles – released on the Blue Note label, and available in Moscow through the online store – carry joint credits for all the band members. This Moscow gig at Chocolate was a one-off however – for which the band had come specially, largely in connection with latest album Walk Of The Giant Turtle.
Although it’s barely visible, there’s extensive use of live electronics in the set. Sounds are sampled live, and then set-down as a track over which further extemporisation takes place. Eric pushes the trumpet’s ranges to the limits, with unconventional techniques like extreme pedal notes, and extensive half-valving to produce softened textures with delicate timbres... and wired mutes that feed to the huge soundboard that masters the overall sound. Every single texture is there for a purpose, and the result is a luscious lyricism that makes the horn sing seductively above a delicate matt-weave of sound.
The material is eclectic... hints of Miles and Zorn peer through, mixed-up deliciously with rocky rhythms or laid-back cool, free-form numbers follow on from melodically wistful explorations. “This is the good side of globalisation – we can mix it up however we want, a little of this and that” says Marc. The result is like a warmly-blended scotch – soft-centred, subtle, but with a unique identity of its own, rather than an uncomfortable mix of disparate parts. Ambient features too, especially in the final number – mixing samples from the natural world (frog-calls, Eric’s own voice) with trumpet-generated whale-calls, keyboard layovers and a final rocky adventure kicked into motion by Marc Erbetta’s joyful swingy drum-riff. Whole-tone scales added an other-worldly ethos of pointilliste mellifluousness – like Debussy after a few absinthes.
Chocolate is a pricey venue – the interior is an instant guide to the menu-prices. But you don’t have to dine, or even sit, and drinks at the bar for those who chose to chill-out on the comfy sofas are priced to encourage extensive lounging. The venue’s staff went out of their way to accommodate all-comers – whether the diners plunging into vintage champagnes over their exotic mains, or the beardy jazz-buffs cradling a four-dollar beer around the bar for the 90-minute set.
Come back soon, guys.
It might have been the glittery red jacket. Erasure vocalist Andy Bell, who achieved a certain notoriety back in the day by performing in a snug-fitting leotard with a tinsel-covered crotch, took to the stage wearing an item that even Nikolai Baskov might have considered a little bit too much. And, in single gesture, made it clear to a packed house at A2 that this was authentic, old-time Erasure in action: the voice, the synths, a couple of backing singers and - crucially - the hits.
Inevitably the jacket didn't last long in the heat, but after a slightly uncertain start which drew heavily on the latter - less prepossessing - half of the band's career, the show steadily crescendoed into the kind of night that made you understand why live music is worth bothering with. And it thrilled an impressively varied crowd: crusty Soviet-era survivors who, we fondly imagined, had thrilled to the strains of "Sometimes" as a contraband clip from an alien culture were rubbing shoulders with the bright young things of modern Moscow, for whom the 1980s exist merely in the history books. And, come that magical midway tipping point that every great show spirits on to the set list, they were all dancing together merrily like it was simultaneously 1987 and 2011.
It helped enormously that this tour - bringing the band to Russia for the first time - was not even pretending to sell new material. Although Erasure never broke up, it felt more like a triumphal reunion show, returning to the old favorites for the fans. And, earning extra credit, Bell went far beyond most visiting frontmen in his efforts to speak Russian to the masses. If the majority struggle to get as far as a hesitant "spasibo", Erasure wanted to have a go at full sentences. Admittedly several of them might have been in Chinese for all the sense they appeared to make, but the gesture was the key thing.
The other big bonus was just how well the back catalog stands up over the years - the likes of "Ship of Fools", "Oh l'Amour", "Stop", "Sometimes" or "A Little Respect" have defied those who dismissed Erasure as a cheap, overly flamboyant and ultimately disposable version of the darker, more intellectually minded Pet Shop Boys. And, for all the poppy sensibilities, this is audibly removed from the mindlessly chirpy early 80s musical world defined in one direction by the gaudy camp of Adam Ant and in the other by the unthinking good times of Wham! In Erasure's England the early 80s bubble had burst and the beat was taking on a more urban bent. This is the sound of a generation realising that the promise of "Club Tropicana" is never going to be delivered; the dream turns bittersweet.
Then, of course, we come to "Love to Hate You". This particular track is indelibly associated with Russia for me, thanks to an early 90s school trip over here where it was simply inescapable. Every taxi, every shop, every restaurant or bar: life was accompanied by the fate of all those unsatisfactory lovers. And now, 20 years on, it's probably the band's best-loved release, representing the zenith of their popularity before that middle-aged drift into declining relevance and the slow death of the nostalgia circuit. Bravely they popped it in the middle of the set: pre-show predictions made it a certain encore. And it worked beautifully. Conventional wisdom defied, it fired up the audience to the point where simply reciting from the phone book would have sparked further riotous acclaim.
Too many aging acts come to Moscow with little more than a pay-off in mind; the result is top-dollar ticket prices for performances phoned in with little enthusiasm or animation. Even though Erasure's carefully programmed electro-pop doesn't exactly demand to be heard live in the way the balls-out frenzy of heavy metal might, they delivered a perfectly tailored show, restoring the faith of the most jaded gig-goers.
218.The Fiery Angel / Sergey Prokofiev /  
The Fiery Angel / Sergey Prokofiev /
“Is this the same Tatiana?” exclaims Evgeny Onegin - unable to believe the captivating heart-throb in front of him is the gauche girl he rejected so recently. “Is this the same Bolshoi?” was on everyone’s intermission lips – surely this wasn’t the same house where the acting was more wooden than the scenery, and the band appeared to be sight-reading?
After multiple false starts, and a wait of three years, Alexander Vedernikov this evening unveiled a reborn Bolshoi Opera. The premiere was the Bolshoi’s first staging of Prokofiev’s “Fiery Angel” – stupendous singing, credible realistic acting, gripping ensemble action, eye-popping sets, dazzling lighting – and above all, committed performances from the Bolshoi Orchestra and Chorus. From standards that would disgrace a provincial Rep, Vedernikov has staged work which is not merely worthy of a national centre of excellence – this is world-calibre work, at long last.
Careful musical preparation is evident everywhere. Prokofiev’s kaleidoscopic orchestration is allowed to shine with magnificent playing, and new sense of pace that stretches from beginning to end. At long, long, last, there is an ensemble cast of soloists, partnering and counter-balancing each other – instead of the weary parade of “I have done it this way for 30 years, laddie, and I am not changing now” which has been the Bolshoi’s wretched hallmark so sadly often.
Oksana Krovitskaya excels in the title role – lyrical and melodic where needed, confrontational and spasmodic where the character demands it. At last we have characters on the Bolshoi stage, who evolve and change as a result of the action, and emerge as different people at the end. Valery Alexeev’s credentials were clear as one of the few worthwhile aspects of the recent disastrous Mazeppa. As Ruprecht he reveals an ardent burning lyricism with an effortless upper range – world-class singing indeed. But whereas a normal Bolshoi cast would then oscillate between the excellent and the execrable, this cast is uniformly spot-on, with no weak links. Vyacheslav Voinarovsky quickly won audience favour as a preening and petulant Mephistopheles, a foil to the powerful and arresting performance of Vadim Lynkovsky as the Inquisitor. Larisa Kostiuk brought both vocal and emotional gravitas to the Mother Superior, and Roman Muravitsky wrestled successfully with the dense orchestral texture accompanying Agrippa’s refusals to aid Ruprecht. Maxim Merkulov made a compelling performance from the entirely mute role of Prince Heinrich. It would be even better to be able to report that this was a Bolshoi Theatre cast – but most of the main roles were invited performers of other theatres (Alexeev from Mariinsky, Krovitskaya now works entirely in USA, Kostiuk from Helikon etc). However, at least the pressing need to hire able singers who can credibly act their roles has finally been heeded and acted-upon.
The set is a phenomenal achievement in its own right – designed by Georgy Tsypin, it begins as a decrepit Petersburg courtyard (complete with crummy soviet lift), and ends with collapsing walls, huge folding rooms spilling-out from the upper storeys, and Renata ascending into heaven on the lift, now neon-lit and teetering precariously forwards. Quick-changes are effortless – Agrippa’s alchemical laboratory is especially effective. If this set does not scoop the Awards, there is no justice in heaven. But upon it is the outstanding work of Francesca Zambello, directing the action with a power and conviction that would embarrass many “straight” theatres – the most exciting work to have been seen in the Bolshoi since her Turandot, in fact.
No, thank God, this is not the same Tatiana, and it is not the same Bolshoi. This is the Bolshoi which Russia deserves and needs – a vibrant, living, ensemble which plays genuine theatre, and not backward-looking “concerts in costumes”. Its coming is long overdue, but it is at last here – and let Russia rejoice that finally you can see work on Theatre Square that’s the equal of the finest anywhere in the world. Welcome home - we’ve missed you.
219.Dead Can Dance  
Dead Can Dance
One of the problems with visiting acts in this city has always been the uncomfortable combination of high ticket prices and bands which, as often as not, come with a whiff of ‘final pay-check’ about them. It’s an uneasy compromise which does little for performer or audience: whacking up the cover charges leads to half-empty halls, which in turn does little to inspire the kind of performance that would justify the cover charge, kick-starting a vicious downward spiral.
Happily, though, Dead Can Dance at Crocus – typically one of the worst offending venues for this – broke the mold and got a near sell-out crowd to trudge to the far-flung reaches of MKAD. The lure was two-fold: sensible prices, with seats starting at 1000 rubles (compare the recent Guns’n’Roses concerts where the cheapest admission was three times that) combined with a band not previously seen in Moscow and which enjoys a reputation for rigorous musical standards which have survived a 15-year hiatus and emerged triumphant with this year’s comeback album, “Anastasis” and the accompanying tour. For loyal fans, it was an offer too good to miss, and amid a rapturous reception Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard delivered a show which lived up to all hopes.
Dating back to 1981, the Aussie duo has tended to plow an alternative furrow. Its wide-ranging take on World Music, fused with a strong sense of contemporary electronica and dance music, probably won’t find much favor among the bearded devotees of the anthropological study of strange noises made by foreigners that clutter up many of our conservatories and academies. But it does create a sound of constant reinvention, one which takes listeners from 13th century Andalucia to depression-era Greece (the 1930s edition, rather than the current austerity-stricken one), via swirls of middle-eastern strings and trance-influenced percussion which takes it beat from the ancient ritual of the shaman, rather than the pompous noodlings of The Shamen. Intelligent dance music, sure, but with beauty as well as brains.
Much of the beauty comes from Gerrard’s imperious vocals. Back in the 80s and 90s she went a long way to defining the sound of indier-than-thou label 4AD, a much-loved home of music which tended to drop jaws with unfailing regularity. Today, returning to much of that material, it’s a delight to report that her voice is as strong as ever – to the point where the sound system struggled to cope when she and Perry adopted close harmony in the monumental “The Host of Seraphim”. Too powerful for the sound system, in a nutshell, this is a singer who goes some way beyond 11, in terms of both range and the ability to fill a room with glorious verbal resonance. Alongside her, Perry’s rich baritone is a powerful counterpoint, even if his penchant for slightly hippy-dippy lyrics (see “Children of the Sun” from the latest album) can undermine this: best heard in ancient Arabic or some other obscure where meaning doesn’t interfere with the sound.
The conflict of sound and meaning takes on extra resonance in Russia at the moment, of course, and Dead Can Dance dutifully joined the ranks of touring artists to pledge support for Pussy Riot and freedom of speech, dedicating a performance of “Amnesia” to the cause. The choice of song was interesting, being a meditation on the crucial importance of societies retaining a sense of their past in the headlong rush to the future – a curious echo of some of the rage unleashed on the controversial recital in the cathedral, which some conservative commentators interpreted as a deliberate slur on Russia’s own history. As befitting the largely young, internationalist crowd at the concert, Perry’s statement of support was applauded warmly, but not overwhelmingly. Either the issue is losing its traction in Russia, or Russians themselves remain in two minds about the simultaneous demonizing and championing of the punk protests.
By that point, though, the audience was already happily sold on this show, and not without justification. Including four encores, the band was onstage for the better part of two hours, giving a thorough round-up of old favorites interspersed with a solid selection from Anastasis. The new material, praised for its continuity and the effectiveness with which it functions as an album, perhaps grew slightly repetitive in its live incarnation: the eight-track CD gains hugely from the ever-growing relationship between each song; on stage, separated from their siblings, stand-alone tracks are perhaps robbed of some of their cumulative power.
Admittedly, though, that’s a minor quibble from a show which combined a high level of musicianship from all concerned – including the evening’s support act the Nadishana-Kuckhermann Duo, a two-man demonstration of virtuousity on a vast range of ethnic objects to be banged or blown – to delight existing fans and win new ones for the band. It wasn’t a performance for lovers of great on-stage drama, since Dead Can Dance is happiest when letting the music speak for itself without dragging along a whole army of special effects and flashing lights. But as a display of musical talent which manages to sound at once timeless and fresh, it was hard to beat.
In music, longevity is no measure of quality. Music fans have long memories and deep pockets and bands are too often guilty of trying to exploit their adoring public. Moscow‘s gig-goers seem to have become particularly popular targets. You can barely go a week without another minibus full of wrinkled has-beens turning up to peddle old rope in a “definitely our last tour (we promise)” special appearance.
In the last couple of months we’ve had Slade (twice), the Bee Gees (despite one member having snuffed it), the KLF (please), and this summer even the creativity-proof Rolling Stones will be hitting Russian shores. With this in mind I think I can be forgiven for presuming Sparks’ first appearance in Russia, 35 years after their first album, was scheduled simply to shake the charity collection box in a new precinct. I could not have been more wrong.

Split over two nights at B2, Sparks in Moscow was an unqualified triumph. Indeed the reception on Monday night was so overwhelming that it prompted front man Ron Mael to pledge to return in the summer. 35 years to get here, and now they want to come back in 3 months. I can only hope for those that missed out that they got a double-entry visa; this was one of those concerts you felt a warm sense of smugness at having attended.
In my opinion, the remarkable success of the gig owed as much to a smart choice of play-list as the quality of the material itself. Facing an audience expecting some of their older floor-fillers (listened to on vinyl whilst sneaking out of Communist classrooms according to one reveller) you would have expected a heavy back catalogue bias. Instead, the American brothers split the concert 50:50.
First came a full run through of the less familiar (twentieth) new album “Hello Young Lovers”. The disc is brand spanking new, released on 6 February and bearing all the hallmarks of Sparks’ experimental, innovative genius, it is as refreshing as a spring dip in Lake Baikal. The fans warmed to the new stuff immediately with several singing along despite the album having been overlooked by radio stations in Europe let alone Russia. For me, “Perfume”, “Dick Around” and “(Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country” are some of the catchiest, cleverest tunes I have heard for ages and their omission from the mainstream is baffling.
Nevertheless, if the music wasn’t enough there was the colourful spectacle of straight-man Ron’s battles with his own video screen image or bursts on the air guitar to entertain. The band also used the screen to flash up their powerful lyrics and add a dose of slapstick to ease them through the album’s more difficult moments. There weren’t many.
In any case, anyone who did find the opening 90 minutes difficult to swallow had a whopping great bucketful of sugar to follow in the second half. The band cleared the stage and set about blasting the crowd into orbit with some of their most popular oldies. Beginning appropriately with “Aeroflot” and moving through “Happy Hunting Ground” and “Bon Voyage” to “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth”. Then a familiar introductory tinkle from Ron’s keyboard heralded the gig’s deafening crescendo - “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us”. Though he has probably done it more times than my Gran has had hot dinners, Russell delivered this 1974 hit with all the enthusiasm of a teenager doing his first gig.
Throughout this second half jamboree, Ron assumed his traditional waxwork pose at the keyboard whilst younger brother Russell jumped around like a jack-in-the-box. In both looks and mannerisms, they make an intriguing double act; like Alan Greenspan teaming up with Austin Powers. Backed up by a group that includes former Faith no More guitarist Dean Menta and Redd Kross bassist Steve McDonald the band’s music may defy categorisation but the sound is of unquestionable quality.
For thirty years Sparks have been the midfield workmen behind strikers like Queen, the Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode. Their new material is now setting the agenda for a whole new generation of rockers; Goldfrapp being one example. At the same time they put on one hell of a show, making them a must-see act regardless of their bulging back catalogue. If bands, like sportsmen, are only as good as their last performance, Sparks are at the top of their game. If you were remiss enough to miss out this time, make sure you catch them if immigration lets them back for a second go in the summer.
221.British Sea Power  
British Sea Power
Moscow - or at least a section of Moscow's hip young things - has long been in love with the rock music of my native England. Maybe it's a subconscious throw-back to the days when learning the language with freshly smuggled Beatles discs was a subtly subversive gesture; maybe it's an abstract homage to the heady days of the early 90s when the Iron Curtain rusted in time for the golden age of Britpop, before Tony Blair's "Cool Britannia" reduced it all to propagandistic parody. Perhaps it's just a lingering symptom of having Elton John arrive as the first Western rock star to appear for a stony-faced army of politburo apparatchiks back in the grey days. Or, more likely, none of the above. Whatever the reason, the sounds of foggy Albion still carry a resonance in these parts - and even a group like British Sea Power, some way from being Blighty's biggest names, can draw a committed crowd to a Moscow venue.
The Brighton-based, Cumbrian-conceived band arrived with a reputation as one of England's best live acts, and their sound - part raucous terrace chanting, part miasma of overdriven guitars - is transformed on stage. Even a slightly sludgy sound mix - which robbed set opener "Who's in control" of any clarity - couldn't hinder the show once it got into its stride. Roared on by a word-perfect crowd of dedicated local fans enjoying the band's return to Russia after a seven-year gap, BSP rose to the challenge admirably to put in a blistering set for the opening night of Avant Fest 2011.
Unlike many touring acts, they looked genuinely pleased to be back; "Can you understand me at all?" asked Yan in a fairly broad accent of the fells. Approving cheers. "Fuckin' marvellous!" Fellow vocalist Hamilton added: "Youse are much better at clapping in time than the English." A pause. "This is not a man who gives compliments lightly - this means something," from Yan.
Musically BSP are hard to pin down. The name sounds like a diplomatic threat hanging over a 19th-century European peace conference to remind the Spanish that Gibraltar is going to continue helping Britannia rule the waves, and there's a certain wistful preoccupation with a sepia-tinted era of semi-rustification. It's almost "Dig for victory" meets "Withnail and I", with t-shirts on sale pledging "I'm a big fan of the local library". But the sound is more timeless than retro. It has a bovver-boy swagger and stomp - "easy, easy!" - allied to a shoe-gazing wall of distortion-heavy sound. But that is infused with the sort of energy that suggests My Bloody Valentine pumped full of Red Bull and amphetamines to create something which encloses the audience rather than puts them on the other side of the creative barriers.
Most of the set was drawn from the most recent album, "Valhalla Dancefloor", recorded in a bleak midwinter in a farmhouse in Sussex. Big skies and snow-covered fields infect its lyrical pre-occupations; musically the original four-piece has been expanded to six, with the permanent addition of violins and keyboards, plus the occasional bit of brass. New material was no challenge for the crowd: even "Zeus", an EP track unreleased in Russia, was immediately taken up by the download-ready locals.
But it was perhaps the older songs which really took flight. "No Lucifer" and "Flag Waving", from 2008's "Do you like Rock Music", perfectly marked the transition from concert into gig - that vital and elusive moment when the crowd stops listening and becomes part of the show. "Carry On", from the early "Decline of British Sea Power", lost its dreamy recording studio sheen to re-emerged as a brute of a live track, the original undertow overwhelmed in a mass of sound.
By the time the finale rolled around - "We're all in it" - the words became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tomato-flinging guitarist Noble crowd surfed his way across the sweaty hordes, pausing to hoist himself onto a low-slung ceiling support as the masses bellowed the chorus, helped along by the band. Britain's naval power may have begun its decline a century ago; British Sea Power remains as buoyant as ever, no matter how unfamiliar the port in which it docks for the evening.
222.Alexei Aigi & 4’33  
Alexei Aigi & 4’33
Alexei Aigi’s youthful good looks barely belive the ten solid years of gigging Russia and beyond that he clocked-up in May this year, as frontman and violinist of his own band. I asked him what a classically-trained violinist listens to for fun? “Mainly Frank Zappa”, he confesses readily, but a quick checklist of seminal C20th musicians has him happily nodding with enthusiasm on everything from the classical academic avant-garde of Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, by way of David Byrne and Laurie Anderson to John Zorn and Jim Morrison. It would be an easy but pointless game to play “spot the influence” in Aigi’s own music, but the more remarkable thing is the individual voice he’s carved for himself in a world where critics will tell you “it’s all been done already”. They definitely find plenty in Aigi’s music to enjoy in France – the band is just back from rave receptions at the Finistere’s Celtic Music Festival. Celtic, of course, is one thing they ain’t – but their repertoire now sports some Celtic numbers reworked into their highly original personal style.
“What I enjoy most is gigging itself” – as though the beaming joy on Alexei’s face when he says this could possibly mean otherwise? “But I dream of releasing a really amazing concert-album on disk too – that’s what I’d really like to do” – although the band already have more than a decent clutch of albums out. “No one knows where to shelve us in record-shops – we don’t fit a single standard genre” he admits glumly. “Here in Russia they put us in the jazz section” (a barely-visible wince crosses his face), “but in France they list us as Electro” (another wince). “But that’s absurd” I reply – “with a line-up of violin, cello, trumpet/flugel, trombone, and rhythm section, you’re the most acoustic band in town!” “I’ve played-around with electric fiddles, but – well, they’re just not expressive enough, the tonal range is like, nothing, compared to a classical fiddle”.
The crowd barely notice the concert begin… as the opening number just grows organically as an extended improvisation on the violin and cello tuning-up notes. Out of this Aigi plucks a terse-rhythmed figure with adrenalin-coated bite, and with a leap in the air whilst still playing, it’s suddenly clear we’ve been under way for a minute or two already. On the heels of this we’re suddenly in a different world, a pseudo-baroque across-the-strings scrubbing duel between violin and cello, soon propelled forwards by the super understated drumming and bass-lines laid underneath… like the Venus de Milo in Ray-Bans. Most of the material is originated by Aigi himself, and it then acquires shape and style in rehearsals and improvisations within the band. In its ten-year history the personnel has inevitably evolved – so the repertory evolves along with them. The next number illustrates this perfectly, a sumptuous flugel solo from horn-man Andrei, floating a marshmallow-soft melodic line over some decidedly Jarrett-sounding harmonies. The subsequent numbers maintain this dazzling eclecticism, with a rhythmic ostinato number that could easily be from the Californian world of Laurie Anderson - segueing quickly into a reworked Celtish dance number, “C’etait bon”, a souvenir from the band’s recent French tour.
Ten years of near-continuous creative output inevitably creates stylistic differences between latest work and earlier pieces – in “Loft” the insistent rhythms of minimalism blaze through in some energetic spiccato playing from Aigi and the cello… I’m not the only one to hear some homage to Michael Nyman in this - although when I ask Alexei about it afterwards, he says it owes more to Philip Glass?
Just when he has the audience in the palm of his hand, the technical limitations of seventeenth-century instrument-building double-cross him - and an e-string breaks on the fiddle mid-number. The band takes it in their stride, and an extended improvised cello solo covers the equivalent of changing a wheel whilst the car’s still moving. It’s a new string, and as we all know… it’s going to streeeeeetch for hours, but somehow Aigi keeps it all under control. The closing number features an enormous bass solo from birthday-boy of the evening Sergey “Begemot” Nikolsky, pitted against inventive drumming and sampled sounds from the synth – a carefully controlled “build” number that has the audience on its feet cheering by the end of its joyous frenzy.
Aigi’s performances aren’t just concerts, they’re happenings, with a cult following. Luckily for us, they happen reasonably frequently – you can hear the band in a program of many Zappa and Morrison at Central House of Artists on September 6th if you want to catch their next outing? But only if you want to have a really good time…
223.Afisha Picnic  
Afisha Picnic
When is a gig not a gig? At Afisha Picnic, when it turns into a therapy suggestion. With its arts and crafts, sports and food, the Moscow all-dayer is more than just a music festival – but it took the intervention of Courtney Love to transform it into a hitherto unexpected episode of Jerry Springer – albeit one with musical interludes.
It didn't get off to a great start, with Love strutting on to stage only to confess that Hole hadn't really been doing much for a few months and were "a bit rusty". And how. Before long we were into uncomfortable territory - fluffed lyrics and rambling monologues between songs, which gave the impression that in Love-world it's still roughly 1994. Her solo album, "America's Sweetheart", from 2004, was slammed as druggy babblings, and it seems that this is the version which came to Russia.
Even where the music was OK - and there were fleeting glimpses of the song-writing ability which makes her more than Mrs. Kurt Cobain - it was hard to escape the sense of watching a car-crash in slow motion. Picking out the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as "the second song I ever wrote", before conceding that it was not, in fact, her work but merely "felt like it", set the tone for an astonishingly self-referential set which might have been better suited to the psychiatrist's chair than the festival stage. The bitterness of the long-forgotten row with Billy Cogan, evoked once more in her preamble, highlighted the extent to which Love is living in her own tortured past; a long riff about how weird it was to see Kurt's face on a t-shirt in the front row just came across as absurd: it would take an improbably sheltered life not to have seen a Nirvana shirt at a gig any time in the past 15 years or so. And, as we all know, Love is not the sort to live a sheltered life. Troubled? Clearly. Ready to perform? Sadly, not.
On a day overshadowed by the death of another troubled star, Amy Winehouse, Hole’s set was overshadowed by two other female vocalists who polarized opinions among festival goers. On the Galaxy Stage controversial US electro-clash star Peaches produced what many described as the performance of the day. Everything about her is spiky – from music to dress sense to attitude – and her show got the audience going from the start. The only disappointment was that she was shunted away on the second stage and not given a spot in front of the biggest audience.
At the same time local hero Zemfira, back on stage after almost three years of virtual silence, was given the main stage headliner slot, and delighted her army of fans with a premiere of a new song – ‘Dengi’ and a run-down of the hits. But the new, slick arrangements robbed her sound of the raw edge that characterized those early days in Ufa; even as her devotees went away happy she left the uninitiated slightly unconvinced.
Happily, the great thing about a festival is there's always something else to listen to: while Courtney was tumbling into a deep Hole, Russia's own Mujuice was showing why some regard him as the future of local rock music over on the other side of Kolomenskoye. With the release of his "Downshifting" album earlier this year, the electro wizard found himself being compared with the likes of Mumiy Troll's Ilya Lagutenko and even the great Viktor Tsoi of Soviet-era legends Kino. If there is a flaw with his music, it is simply that it has a downbeat, autumnal vibe: not ideal for a festival crowd on a baking summer's day. But the set did just about enough to overcome that.
Over at the Big Gig stage, Russia's love of Britrock was getting an airing: while London's New Young Pony Club and The Wombats were the star attractions, the likes of local hopefuls Brandenburg, The: Paisley and 19:84 betrayed a love of the sounds of the Cool Britannia era, along with an idiosyncratic approach to punctuation. But it was back on the main stage that the real thing was enjoying a triumphant afternoon.
Marina and the Diamonds, followed by Kaiser Chiefs, displayed two contrasting yet wholly successful approaches towards tackling the festival challenge. From the Diamonds' distinctive sound, blending indie cred with pop sensibility, to the Chiefs' anthemic barnstormers, the two bands delivered precisely what the audience demanded.
In the case of Kaiser Chiefs, despite the recent release of "The Future is Medieval", that meant hits, and plenty of them. Sensibly keeping the new material to a minimum, they were on top, riot-predicting form with Ricky Wilson demonstrating that he is a frontman on top of his game. It's not just the blast of potently shout-along choruses, it's the stagecraft and - especially with the crowd stretching halfway up the hill, the camerawork. Wilson, well aware of the need to keep the big screens busy, was always well aware of which lens was trained on him and played up to it with aplomb. Reeling out all the old favourites - Ruby, The Angry Mob, Every day I love you less and less, Never miss a beat, Modern Way - they produced a crowd-pleasing hour which topped our party's poll for gig of the day. It's a far cry from the band's first Moscow appearance, seven years earlier, when with one single under their belts they found themselves, somewhat bemused, whisked off to Kitaisky Lyotchik for an improbable one-night stand. Both they, and Moscow's scene, have grown impressively since then.
Earlier Marina and the Diamonds delivered a set long on charm, if short on focus, leaving with promises to return and play a full gig. If it happens, it will be worth listening to: with a sound influenced by the likes of Kate Bush and Florence and the Machine, Welsh-born, Greek-rooted singer-songwriter Marina Diamandis is carving out a reputation for merging indie cred with a fine pop sensibility. It's early days, and more confidence in the detail of her arrangements would have enormously, but the potential is clearly there. Tracks like "I'm not a robot" and "Drinking champagne" grab most attention, but beneath the poppy melodic tics there is evidence of some carefully worked orchestration waiting to be unleashed. Keep listening...
With organizers hailing the biggest crowds yet at the festival, Afisha Picnic has established itself as a don’t-miss event for any serious Moscow culture vulture. And the 2011 edition completed the event’s transformation from self-consciously ‘alternative’ to musical behemoth, creating a vibe more closely associated with the likes of Glastonbury than the chin-stroking pontification of a Krasny Oktyabr bar or the beery excesses of Nashestviye.
224.Avant Festival 2004  
Avant Festival 2004
“So, how do you feel about today’s big event?” Very casually, I asked Maxim this question, at which point he turned his attention towards an ominous-looking dark cloud that had appeared just above us. He signaled to one of his staff, pointed above, and abruptly rushed off, leaving me behind. Without so much as uttering a single word, my question was answered. On that freezing cold Saturday afternoon at Gogol, the concern on his face showed one thing: for Avant to be a success, the weather gods had to be merciful.
Maxim (of Vega Dreams Promotion) is the head organizer of Avant, an alternative music festival sponsored by the Russian music site The aim of this festival was to bring to stage a wide variety of acts and display an assortment of styles, from drum & bass to alternative rock to acid-jazz. Various bands from all over the world were invited to play in the 8-hour festival, most notable among them Russia’s own Tequilajazzz.

The First Half
As one would expect, the first half of the event was not as interesting as the second, as there weren’t as many people yet. In spite of this, the earlier (mainly local) acts were eager to show what they were made of. The opener was Silence Kit, a local experimental rock band whose sunglass-wearing cello player made me immediately assume so. Their music seems to have this somber, ethereal quality to it, as if it came straight out “The Crow” movie soundtrack. Because of their eccentricity, this was a good choice as a first act of an alternative music festival.
After the opener, the crowd had to wait more than half an hour of in-between time before the next band was to perform. This became the precedent, and I soon learned that the bands actually took more time for setup than actual performance.
The next act to perform was Iva Nova, a band that produced sort of a Russian progressive-rock sound. Their style had contained many elements of traditional Russian music, particularly the accordion and the babushka-like vocal stylings of the lead singer. After this was Nebo Zdes', which sounded like how Pearl Jam would if Eddie Vedder was born in Russia. Their music had more of a jazz-lounge feel to it though, but this was the only way for me to separate them from the numerous clones inspired by Pearl Jam.
The Second Half
In the second half, amidst all the waiting, exiting, and re-entering, I treated myself to a sprinkling of the foreign bands, on what sounded like some space-age electronica stuff. Among them, I was most impressed with Schwarz, a Spanish band with a German name. They seemed to have a psychedelic feel to their music, and I could sense some Hindu mysticism and 60’s California surfing culture in it, too. Around this time, the crowd had gotten bigger, and the vibe definitely livelier. It might have been because of the interest in the foreign bands, but personally, I was happier to have witnessed one Russian band in particular: Pelageya.
Earlier in the day, I had watched them rehearse, and I was eager to see them live in front of the crowd. They did not disappoint. They represented the best that this festival could have hoped for: truly exceptional, fearlessly experimental music that left the crowd thirsting for more. Their music was a fusion of many different elements. Aside from the regular drum/bass/guitar configuration, the band also had an accordionist who played virtuoso-style, and a percussionist that played the cowbell and Congo drums with wild abandon. They had enticed the crowd by beginning with their unique rendition of the familiar “Mission: Impossible” theme, and owned it with a variety of rock arias, Russian rapping, and ska-infused folk songs. The only time the crowd seemed unhappy was when their demands for an encore proved of no avail.
There was no doubt in my mind that each band member was in top form, but clearly the lead singer stood head-and-shoulders above her band mates. Pelageya Khanova’s style and vocal range were amazing – at times even superhuman – going from angel to banshee in one breath. I couldn’t help but have images of the blue alien opera singer in “Fifth Element” playing in my mind. It was my first exposure to this remarkable talent. To me, and perhaps the other initiates that were present, her vocal prowess made me think love at first sight. I look forward to the opportunity to seeing them perform again.
The Finale
Later at 10 pm, the main headliners Tequilajazzz stepped on stage, and met with immediate approval from the crowd. It was at this point that the festival seemed the largest; it looked like about 300 people were in attendance. The edgy alternative rock style of the band was ironically ‘safe’ compared to the other acts in the festival, but they were mainly invited to draw crowds in the first place. The band was definitely given finale treatment, with lots of smoke, colored lights, and cameras flashing. The fans gave the band a lot of love, and despite the fact that it was freezing cold outside, Tequilajazzz gladly turned up the heat.

Overall, the festival was good, and the organizers were successful in attracting the right variety of people to attend. Thankfully, there were no suits, who tend to ruin the vibe of any party. The main complaint I had with this event though would have to be the amount of setup time in between acts; as there was far too much waiting around in such a small place. But in the end, the crowd atmosphere and band artistry made the event a hit. Maxim should be happy; the weather gods let us have fun tonight.
225.Vremena Goda Orchestra/Bulakhov  
Vremena Goda Orchestra/Bulakhov
The Seasons Italian-Russian Festival in St Petersburg (& Moscow)
Italo-Russian Festival triumphs with new works, young performers and unusual repertoire.
By Neil McGowan
Innovative programming is a rarity in Russian classical music these days. The demise of the USSR (and its funding for the Arts) unexpectedly resulted in not more interesting listening, but less – now that orchestras have to be more-or-less self-financing, the same trend towards “Classical Pops” is happening in Russia as elsewhere.
All the more welcome, therefore, is the annual appearance of Moscow’s Vremena Goda orchestra in “The Seasons” Festival in St Petersburg – this year’s theme being Italo-Russian music.
The opening concert took place in the Great Hall of the St Petersburg Philharmonia – a venue which still requires some mental concentration to avoid calling it “The Leningrad Phil”. Viktor Kuleshov gave a dazzling account of Vivaldi’s “The Seasons”, playing all four concerti without a break. No less remarkable was the quality of string playing from the orchestra itself, honed to a fine standard by maestro Bulakhov – it cannot be coincidental that he’s a former violinist himself. The second half of the program was given over to Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. The work itself is somewhat uneven, and the excellent chamber choir LEGE ARTIS didn’t really have enough to get their teeth into. The soloists are more generously provided-for – Svetlana Rossiyskaya was particularly stylish in the mezzo arias, although Giovanna Manci seemed a little unwell in the soprano pieces.
A highlight of the Festival was Tchaikovsky’s Souvenirs de Florence (op 70) in a spirited performance with Bulakhov at the helm. The last movement kicked off at a lick that seemed impossibly ambitious at first, but with careful pacing the adrenalin was still coursing through until the final bars, bringing plaudits from the audience that were richly deserved. Contemporary composer Mikhail Bronner’s “And tomorrow will be better than yesterday” (for alto saxophone, trumpet and orchestra) seemed a little over-extended, but was given a bravura performance by two soloists yet to reach the age of twenty – Sergei Kolesov (saxophone) and wunderkind trumpeter Kirill Soldatov (still aged only 17, but already appearing as a soloist both with Vremena Goda and Virtuosi Moskvy).
Another new work in the Festival was the piano concerto “A Game of Chess” by the exciting young Krasnoyarsk composer Irina Belova (b. 1975). It’s a remarkable piece which develops the tradition of the “soviet piano concerto” into something that is thoroughly contemporary, yet clearly acknowledging its legacy to works like the Khachachurian Concerto, and the Shostakovich Concerto No 1. Ksenia Ovodova (also from Krasnoyarsk) skipped through the phenomenal technical requirements of the work with ease and grace, and found the l Pounce, where are you? yricism lurking beneath the spikier surface. It’s a sobering thought that she’s only 14. However, Alexandra Elina in Sammartini’s Recorder Concerto displayed no lesser technical prowess – and Alexandra is only 9.
A complete change of medium and mood was offered by the Italian piano-duet brothers, Aurelio and Paolo Pollice. Personally I would have preferred their program presented in the reverse order? Their staggering rendition of the Stravinsky’s piano-duet version of The Rite Of Spring was a piece-de-resistance, but the first half made-up of lollipop items (primarily arrangements of Italian Opera numbers for C19th domestic performance) would have been better coming afterwards.
The vocal highlights finally came from Madama Manci, however, who offered a bel-canto treat including Tosti, Bellini and Verdi. The central item was the closing scene of Norma (Act 2), in which Manci was joined by Svetlana Rossiyskaya as Adalgisa – in the true spirit of an Italo-Russian festival, the combination of an Italian soprano with a Russian mezzo, orchestra and conductor produced a completely convincing and stylistic account which brought the house down. It would be unfair not to mention in the same program a super performance of the little-known Rimsky-Korsakov arrangement of “Three Arias from Glinka” for Chamber Orchestra, with a sparkling cello solo as an added bonus.
Muscovites unable to attend the St Petersburg part of the Festival had the chance to hear some of the highlights at a special concert in the Concert Hall of the Tolstoy Museum on 19th February, including Svetlana Rossiyskaya (this time partnered by fellow Helikon Opera soloist Marina Andreeva) in the Norma extract, the Souvenirs de Florence, and the Rimsky/Glinka pieces. Alexandra Elina had another chance to charm too.
Orchestra sponsors Gorodissky & Partners, and Festival Sponsors Optima-Invest are to be congratulated on a progressive policy of supporting new work and young performers that not only bucks the trend of “pops with imported stars”, but delivered artistic rewards in spades. The theme of the 2005 Festival is French Music – since French repertoire appears even less regularly than Italian in Russia, we await it eagerly.
226.The Strokes  
The Strokes
Did an urban hipster population materialize when The Strokes struck DK Gorbunova? Or was it merely people from the office who had taken the time to put on Converse sneakers and muss up their hair in the mirror before stepping out to see the mop-topped quintet from New York City? At any rate, the venue was packed with people who had paid good money (2,000 rubles and up) to watch 2001's hottest band with a head-nodding cool worthy of CBGB. Except for the guy who snuck in an American flag and waved it enthusiastically from the VIP rafters - he wasn't cool.
The Strokes went on way after the scheduled 7 p.m. start time, so stragglers who had to stay late at work and couldn't find DK Gorbunova way out by Bagarationovskaya metro only missed opening Russian rock group Blast and had ample time to down 40-ruble Smirnoff Ices and re-muss up their hair in the bathroom. Taking the stage, The Strokes plunged into a block of songs from their latest offering, "First Impressions of Earth," the album for which they are touring internationally, and which landed them with us in far-away Moscow on the Fourth of July. For a band continually plagued by issues of its own indie authenticity, The Strokes could not have asked for a more punk venue than DK Gorbunova. The speaker quality was awful, straight Velvet Underground. Drummer Fabrizio Moretti was completely enveloped in a cloud of theatrical fog. Bouncers violently tackled crowd surfers, causing lead singer Julian Casablancas to look around distressed for reassurance from the wings. "Welcome to Russia!" we yelled.
They knew they couldn't get away with just doing new stuff, and didn't even try. All the hits from "Is This It," the album that made them wildly MTV famous, were played: "Last Nite," "Take It or Leave It," "New York City Cops." When they started into "Someday," I raced upstairs from the bathroom line to scream along to the lyrics and wave a lighter with the rest of the Anglophones. (The British Embassy had a solid showing.) Julian prowled the stage in skinny jeans, punctuating the awkward silence between songs with "Spasibos" and "You guys are great." I assumed they'd been instructed to keep the banter simple out of language considerations, but my friend who had seen them before said no. They just don't have much to say.
But the camaraderie of indie musicians needs no words. The Strokes saw the cool of the audience and respected it, putting on an earnest show even in little old DK Gorbunova with its busted speakers. Before surrendering the stage, Julian took the liberty of pashing a girl sitting on her boyfriend's shoulders in the audience. That was cool.
227.Jay-Jay Johanson  
Jay-Jay Johanson
What does it take to get the city’s Big Swedes out in full force? Any remotely Scandinavian event – The Rasmus concert, “Mamma Mia” premiere, Night Flight 15th anniversary party – and they’re there in all their well-manicured glory. Last Thursday, Ikra was brimming with polite, antiseptically beautiful Teutons for the first night of Swedish musician Jay-Jay Johanson’s double-engagement performance.

The impetus for Jay-Jay’s return to Moscow is the release of “Prologue,” a greatest hits compilation that retailed on Ikra’s fold-out table for 300 rubles. It’s decorated with Futurist graphics because, see, Jay-Jay and Russia have a special relationship, dating back to the turn of the century when he was a freaky deaky androgyne of a trip hop DJ. (And “freaky deaky androgyne” isn’t a term you can just throw around. Google 2003’s “Antenna” album cover for a truly disturbing image of Jay-Jay looking like a sexless sewer creature.) But, the Jay-Jay of autumn 2006 is a new man. He’s cleaned up, taken growth hormones or something and changed musical directions, now focusing on lounge-y vocal tracks.

And, man, he needs a hug. Sounding like the lost Scandinavian member of Coldplay, Jay-Jay delivered an hour-long meditation on romantic rejection. There was “The Girl I Love is Gone” (“The girl I love is gone / And solitary fills my home”) and “Far Away” (“Far away, once so close / But now you’re far away”) and then that rousing ditty
“Alone Again” (“How could a love like ours come to an end?/ I’m alone again”), all very melancholy material on a timeless theme. Yet, on the other hand, he wasn’t contributing anything interesting to the vast collection of songs for the lovesick. Who wants to hear Jay-Jay moan “I’m so saaaaad” when you could be exploring the wide and wonderful spectrum of ways to deal with unrequited love, from the anger of Ani DiFranco (“Fuck you and your untouchable face”) to the ironic distance of Nada Surf (“There’s still a feeling of rejection / When someone says she prefers the company of others / To your exclusive company”) to the creepy obsession of The Smiths (“The more you ignore me, the closer I get”)?

Actually, everyone wanted to hear it. You wouldn’t necessarily expect it, but there’s a big market in Moscow for simple, forlorn music that you can drink vermouth to before killing yourself, especially among the Swedes. At his performance the next day, Jay-Jay played a DJ set of upbeat stuff from his freaky deaky androgyne days. It filled Ikra like never before – OK, like Coldcut two weeks ago – though you kind of got the feeling that people wished he would go back to poking their profound emotional bruises.
For Thursday night’s encore, Jay-Jay delivered one final ode to misery, “She Is Mine But I’m Not Hers,” about that special girl he, you know, “likes” but who just wants to be his friend. Plus, her meathead husband is beating her. Naturally. That’s the way, Jay-Jay. Bring the pain. It makes us feel alive.
228.Statsky Sovetnik (Councilor of State)  
Statsky Sovetnik (Councilor of State)
Directed by Filipp Yankovsky. Written by Boris Akunin. Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Mashkov, Oleg Menshikov, Nikita Mikhalkov. Russia: 125 min (cinema version)/208 min (TV version). English subtitles.
By Sam Gerrans
Review top sheet: a fast-moving, somewhat bewildering caper featuring Fandorin, the Russian Holmes-Poirot hybrid mutation.
The author, Boris Akunin, is famous for his highly successful series of books with Fandorin as the centrepiece who masterfully deduces his way through carefully constructed – some say contrived – sets of circumstances not unlike a three-dimensional crossword puzzle. This film is cut of the same cloth. But does it work?
Yes and no.
Will you like this film?
• Yes, if:you’re a Tretyakovskaya Gallery enthusiast and culture vulture keen to up your ratio of Russian-to-Western film intake (or at least make that one Russian film) and are willing to do whatever it takes to say you’ve seen one
• No, if: you don’t understand Russian fluently and are relying on the subtitles to keep you in the picture
• Maybe, if: you’re an Akunin junky – and there are plenty – and are keen to know how it all works on the big screen
Comments: this film starts well, has a great cast and – visually, at least – is tastefully and skilfully put together. But the fact that the cinema version is essentially a cut-down version of the real version (i.e. what will be shown on TV once the cinema demand peters out) really tells. The strain of such a mammoth edit (a full quarter of the film) leaves the cinema experience sparse – even threadbare – in places.
Whoever engaged the subtitles translator should be shot at first light. It ought to be obvious, but quality written translations are only possible by a native speaker of the target language. But the producers of Russian films still think that if a first-year student delivers them an “English” translation featuring English words which he, the producer, personally doesn’t understand, then it must be okay. The trouble is, no one who really does speak English can understand it either.
Even with fluent Russian, the film is a jerky, uncompelling fiction fortified to some degree by Mikhalkov’s person charisma and idiosyncratic dialogue. Vladimir Mashkov makes an appearance, reheating the mad-dog intensity of his Ragozhin in the objectively excellent 2003 Russian production of “The Idiot”. Menshikov is reserved and controlled – as per type – but ultimately uninteresting. I respect and like him as an actor, but his distant and cerebral Fandorin failed to engage me.
We can’t blame Akunin for being unaware of the excellent Western antidote to this entire genre in the person of the hopeless Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the Pink Panther films. If he had been, he would have thought twice about giving Fandorin a Japanese martial arts expert as a houseboy. As soon as the oriental domestic sidekick came on, the Western section of the audience thought the same thing: Cato!
Then we were left half-expecting a swift descent into farce which never came.
Out-of-five star ratings:
• Story: **
• Dialogue: ****
• Substance: *
• Film craft: ****
Story comments: the film kicks us into the plot superbly in the first ten minutes, but it’s pretty touch-and-go thereafter.
Akunin is a writer, he’s not a screenwriter. They are different disciplines and I wonder whether he was really the man for the job of screenwriter here.
Be that as it may, the story failed to hold me – much of it being circumstantial, superficial and contrived – and I satisfied myself with Mikhalkov’s highly entertaining performance.
Dialogue comments: the dialogue is great. Funny, apposite, and in some ways descriptive of Russian attitudes in general.
As is common with whodunnits, characters don’t so much arc as unpeel which Mikhalkov’s character, Pozharsky, does in a most engaging manner.
The rest of the cast – and their related roles – flail about in an attempt to imbue their worlds with significance, but I wasn’t convinced.
Substance comments: whodunnits don’t really need theme, but they do need plot. The problem in this case is that it’s all too complex and convoluted for us to get our teeth into the full meat of the plot because we are working with a stripped-down version of the real, fuller version for TV.
Instead, we satisfy ourselves with personality, namely that of Mikhalkov’s Pozharsky.
Now, Mikhalkov has a view, and whether he was technically the director or not, you can be sure he was top dog on set. And he’ll be damned if he’s going to charm us for 125 minutes without giving us a good dose of what, for him, constitutes the chief causes of the beleaguered state of Mother Russia. It’s a form of ranting and you can indulge in it if you’re as accomplished as he is.
But I wish he would stop. My feeling is that if Mikhalkov stopped trying to save the Russian people he would start making better films. His thesis is that if everyone got with the Mikhalkov program national suffering could be reduced.
I beg to differ on the basis of national character rather than politics. Eight years in this country have shown me that – whatever they might profess – deep down, Russians have an ingrained passion for avoidable tragedy. If they didn’t they would learn to drive properly and wear seatbelts. Without the constant possibility of imminent and superfluous calamity something is just not quite comfortable in the Russian mind. At the very least they get bored. And no amount of Mikhalkov cinema is going to induce them to stop – perhaps unconsciously – straining to experience something which, in truth, they like. We all strive to make our lives significant the best we can, and this is but one tack.
The great works of Russian literature and cinema explore and demonstrate this strain of weirdness in all its festering destructiveness. Historically, however, the works which have seriously tried to effect a change of any kind have been uniformly mediocre.
Film craft comments: beautifully shot. Perhaps not quite on a par with “The Return”, but still a highly pleasing – though somewhat absorbedly patriotic – visual experience.
A taste of the story: Fandorin (Oleg Menshikov) gets drawn into a distilled version of what must have been at some point a more convincing and fully-baked whodunnit (not to mention, whosdoingit) plot.
Sam Gerrans is a freelance writer and translator:
229.The Dead Brothers  
The Dead Brothers
They may not be brothers, and they are certainly not dead, but Swiss ensemble Dead Brothers did bring the lighter side of passing into the beyond to Moscow club B2 last Thursday as part of a two-stop tour (with a second gig in St. Petersburg).
Formed in Geneva as part of the Swiss experimental-music scene (yes, there is such a thing), Dead Brothers put out their first record in 2000. Heavily influenced by genres and musicians as diverse as Kurt Weill, cabaret, French chanson, psychobilly and Tom Waits, Dead Brothers brought their signature mix of high concept, low sleaze and just a good old time to the stage. In keeping with their motto — “dead music for dead people,” in a nod to a similarly named album by those icons of punk-rockabilly, the Cramps — they came out decked in their trademark pallbearers’ outfits and proceeded to treat the audience to a unique evening.
Dead Brothers’ songs tend to be about, well, death. But it’s by no means a melancholy group — no, the Dead Brothers approach to our universal final end is closer to that of an Irish wake, a celebration of our mortality. And celebrate they did, belting out both originals and classics (including the old blues number “St. James Infirmary” and the Cramps’ wall-crawling “Human Fly”) on guitar, drums, accordion and tuba. Hailing as they do from Switzerland, probably one of the most polyglot places on Earth, there is no surprise that they sang in English, French, German and Italian — though not in Russian, unfortunately though they did suggest that a Russian interviewer join the band and perhaps do some translation service. The lyrics were done in the raspy, nicotine-coated whine/growl/bellow style that did so much to propel Tom Waits to as close to the level of stardom as one can get on the cult stage — and which has become de rigueur for so much experimental music that tries to stir up blues, country and roots into a single eclectic mix.
That cabaret had a strong influence upon the group was evident as well by the theatricality of their stage show, which involved much hamming and shuffling about the stage in a (presumably) staged alcoholic stupor — think “The Threepenny Opera” with attitude and on a three-day drunk, and you’ll get a good approximation of what the band is like on stage.
B2 was a good choice of venue. Dead Brothers is something of a dance band, its dismal theme notwithstanding, and has got to be one of the only groups I have ever seen that can turn a funeral dirge into a no-holds-barred foot-stomp.
There is no word as to when and if Dead Brothers will be back in Russia. The band members themselves say that, though they have always tried to play further south, something about the Northern climes seem to draw them there. After all, celebrations of darkness may seem more relevant at a latitude where, in winter, the sun can be just a hazy recollection than in balmy Italy or Spain. In any case, if they do come back, don’t miss the opportunity so see them — after all, who knows when the bell will toll for any of us? It could be your final chance.
230.Les Hurlements D'Leo  
Les Hurlements D'Leo
If you expect the unexpected and see where it may take you, then perhaps you are ready to experience the music of Les Hurlements D'Leo, the French sensations who invaded the stage of Moscow's B2 Club, Tuesday, January 18.
French, though useful in understanding some of their animated speeches and heartfelt words, is not a requirement. These guys are clearly more concerned with the musician's individuality and knowledge of their own instrument, not only to connect with each other on stage but more importantly with the audience who in turn catches this uplifting, self-confident electricity.
All pretenses seem to evaporate when watching Les Hurlements and you suddenly find yourself among a group who hasn't only come to hear mindless punk or "ska gypsy," music, two established definitions of Les Hurlements, you have entered a room where you will see, listen to, and feel a thoughtful, stylistically unique performance of complex highs and lows.
There is no escaping the "Frenchness" of it all which is perhaps the very core of Les Hurlements. Picture it: The trademark accordion plays its nostalgic carnivalesque tunes. The flag of three thick vertical red, white, and blue bands is draped across the black backdrop containing the words "La Republique de France en Russie." The girls upfront do the can can on the dance floor, and the people sitting at the elevated tables sip red wine instead of the usual club cocktails or beer. Luckily, there is always the boisterous shout of "DAVAI!" to remind you that you are still in Moscow.
Characteristically, each song begins with its melodic and slow overture as if the guys are just fine tuning and warming up their instruments for what is about to come. While each member radiates this punk sense of indifference and true spontaneity when the songs finally take off, during this seemingly calm start, there is a very professional, deliberate, and complete awareness over the group as if they are whimsically testing the air not only with the audience but more importantly, with each other. This may be one of their most impressive and expressive qualities which demonstrates the fact that they are no newcomers to the stage.
Once this equilibrium is found, there is no holding back. Most songs explode into a surge which inevitably rips through the room. Not only does each musician take on his own spirit and moves but suddenly the way in which he handles his instrument transforms into something of a special, almost intimate nature. Sometimes nurturing and gentle. Sometimes harsh and violent.
Overall, the performance lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes--nowhere near enough for fans who have just started to break a sweat and want to dance some more. When forced to return for an encore, not only does the band come prepared with shots of vodka and beer, they came with another 45 minutes of pure energy and commotion leaving themselves breathless, and the audience finally exhausted.
Scheduled to tour through Russia until the end of the month, there is no doubt that Les Hurlements d'Leo will go out with a bang when they return to Moscow for their final performance on January 30, at OGI but then again you never know what to expect with this eight piece French punk band and that's the way they like it.
231.Mouse On Mars  
Mouse On Mars
Returning to Russia for their second time, the avant-garde electronic group Mouse on Mars hypnotized the crowd and left the house screaming for more at a packed B2. The show was incredible, and the Expat Site was also lucky enough to talk with one of the most intellectual and humble bands to ever come out of Germany. The members, Jan St.Werner and Andi Toma, took a break from recording their upcoming album to play an energy saturated set in Moscow, and their coming has pushed the club scene here one step closer to what it should be.
In case you haven’t heard their music, you may have a hard time imagining what exactly Mouse on Mars is like. Explained Toma: “There’s something going on with non-linear dynamics order from chaos. Trying to understand forms and structures, and building it all up. It's music that feeds the music. We don’t have a clue what music is, but it's so complex that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it just slips away.” In other words, Mouse on Mars can’t easily be put into any category. “Maybe there’s a file for what we do, but we don’t know” added St.Werner.
At midnight exactly Mouse on Mars took the stage. Hunched over their table, side by side, a cigarette dangling from St.Werner's mouth, they began their set with sounds like a distorted and undulating Moog Keyboard. For several minutes there was nothing but that particular sound of controlled chaos as the audience seemed to size up what would happen next. Booming bass frequencies swelled up from oblivion while Toma whispered and clicked into a small microphone. His voice came back from a sampler as crisp as a snare drum sonically and repeating hypnotically as a quick and spontaneous drum line. True to the bands philosophy, their set at B2 was pure experimentation; a manifestation of music as stream of consciousness.
They performed standing over a single table that overflowed with samplers, synthesizers, drum machines and a laptop computer all wired together into a swirling mass of synchronization. Their first song ended as ethereally as it had begun. They didn’t play their way through a predetermined set, but simply let the sounds take shape and evolve spontaneously. When I had asked if they felt that their music was more intellectual or more emotional they responded that ‘life is physical and immediate and the music is about that. We don’t really compose, we just let things out… our music is immediate.’ What this meant for the audience was a set not of songs in the traditional sense, but of a process of trying to take in the building, layering, progression, and regression that the band spontaneously creates.
The music of Mouse on Mars was unique in its honesty, and the mostly young and male audience demonstrated their intellect by cheering for encores that kept the show going until just before two in the morning. The impressive sound system at B2, one of the best in Moscow, did the music justice throughout all of its sonic u-turns from scream to whisper, low-pitch to high, and the visuals projected behind the band were mesmerizing. A hip audience, a daring band, and a great venue made for the type of concert that Moscow needs to see more often.
232.Arthur H   
Arthur H
As Arthur H, the charming and indeed enigmatic French poet, lyricist and of course performing artist, pondered my next question I became fully aware that this was not a man who was just showing up in Russia for the first time to say been there done that, but instead a man of real principle and drive.
Within an hour Arthur H would be performing for the first time in his quite distinguished career in front of a Russian crowd, in one of the trendiest, coziest and altogether aesthetically pleasing nightlife venues that Moscow has to offer. He told how he found Moscow to be a richly cultural city before mentioning he was impressed by the interesting Stalin inspired architecture despite the fact he had only arrived there 2 days previously.
The third floor sushi bar and restaurant of the four-floored enthralling B2 nightclub was the setting for the questions posed to Arthur H as he casually made his way through his meal while pensively reflecting upon each question. This was clearly not a new thing for him to do as he seemed un-phased by the situation before giving what appeared to be well thought responses.
How long do your tours usually last and do you still enjoy touring as much as you always have? I asked as an opening question awaiting what I thought would be a planned reply, but instead Arthur H showed just how thoughtful he is. “I tour for sometimes as long as 1 or even 2 years. Well, I love touring but it’s a lot of stress. I also love the simple life.” When asked more questions concerning both his life and himself he answered once again charismatically with typical French verve saying how “life (to him) is never very normal but I try to be normal…my life is chaotic.” He went on to describe his creative nature and how people need a curse to be creative, in which I am sure everyone can see a kind of truth.
A self confessed “searcher” looking to “free his own ecstasy”, Arthur H finds he does this by enjoying equally the writing and performing of his work and suggests they provide a “warm link” to a man with an inbuilt “personality for music.”
Having spent some time talking to the man I developed an increasing interest to see if he could not only talk the talk but to also walk the walk so to speak. I can say he didn’t disappoint. The fourth floor mini concert hall of the B2 complex set the scene for an intriguing and warmly welcomed act with the audience still arriving as the show was beginning. When he was performing Arthur H and his music indeed encompassed each other in their search for creating the “dynamic and emotional landscape” that he had earlier spoken about. The mass of people who had come to see his performance were at times unable to understand his more abstract ideas perhaps due to language barriers but did appear completely and conscientiously attuned to what Arthur H had decided to perform for them.
His style of music I feel is too difficult to label under any one category but its fair to say that there were shades of a number of Arthur H’s influences that were artfully and skillfully combined for a successfully effective show that provided proof he is as he says “searching to meet myself”.
What now for the almost philosophical Arthur H? Well, currently coming to the end of his tour he has China for a following destination before he plans to start work on a new album which is firmly on his agenda.
233.Avant Festival 2011  
Avant Festival 2011
Very occasionally even the most jaded of gig-goers hears something which harks back to that mysterious ground zero and recalls the day when music leapt beyond the Top 40 and became something which mattered. These mini-epiphanies can happen anywhere, but the more unlikely the venue, the more powerful the resonance. And so, towards the end of Asobi Seksu's Saturday night headline slot, a cover of The Jesus & Mary Chain's "Never Understand" suddenly transported this reviewer back to a formative teenage trip to a converted ice rink for an evening of feedback-driven, shoe-gazing noise.
The New York band, fronted by diminuitive Japanese singer Yuki Chikudate had already shown a good grasp of My Bloody Valentine-based guitar overdrive. Throw in some slightly ethereal vocals - at times it was unclear whether the lyrics were in English, Japanese or some hybrid of the two - and you get a striking soundscape which is perhaps three parts solid indie to one part Bjork-inflected otherness. And the Mary Chain cover somehow brought the whole set full circle.
It was the first time Asobi Seksu (the name loosely translates as 'playful sex') had ventured into Russia, and claiming a 17-hour journey (from New York? did they come by seagull?) they had to tackle jetlag and a smattering of culture shock. But, rising to the challenge admirably, the only thing which gave them cause for alarm was the ever-present tide of 'pukh' drifting across the outdoor stage. "What is this stuff? I can hardly breathe up here!" protested Chikudate in between diligently practicing her 'spasibos' for an indulgent crowd.
The contrast with Sunday's headliner, Chinawoman, could hardly have been greater. Set up by Canada's Michelle as a YouTube hobby band, it's basically a one-girl show. But from the moment she came on stage, toting a retro radio set like a character from a St. Etienne B-side we were embraced by a set which resembled more of late-night cabaret recital than a bill-topping festival slot. While critics have likened Chinawoman's debut album to a Velvet Underground-related faded grandeur, the on-stage effect is closer to a sequence of contemporary torch songs. Along the way, Moscow audiences might be forgive for hearing a hint of Alla Pugacheva in full 70s balladeering bombast: Michelle is a child of Russian emigrants, and some of the old songs made the trans-Atlantic trip along with Mama and Papa. Performing in Russia for the first time, she enjoyed a good reception, but the set perhaps ran out of steam a little too early.
The same couldn't be said of Finland's On Volcano, a female-fronted pop-rock outfit which could be one killer hook away from becoming the next Blondie. Their current crop of songs has the same cruel cool that Ms Harry and the boys used to tout back in the day, with all the benefits of an updated sound that leaves the 70s behind. Most of the components are in place, and once they stumble upon that truly memorable, can't-get-it-out-of-your-head chorus, this volcano is set to well and truly erupt.
Beyond the headliners, one of the great thrills of any festival is unearthing something new and unexpected - and Avant Fest provided three diverse treats from the ranks of hopefuls on the undercard. And the good news is they are all fairly regular visitors to Moscow, and are likely to be back again in the foreseeable future.
From Belarus, a land not noted for its fine pop sensibilities, Kassiopeia don clownish fancy dress for an adult fantasia of lewdly perverse lyrics supported by strangely memorable keyboard-heavy riffs. From the reggae-inflected "Yesli" to the catchy "Kinzhal", with its shout-along chorus, their Sunday afternoon set marked the point where the crowd's attention switched from beer to stage. Vocalist Ilya Cherepko-Samokhvalov was back later on Sunday evening with his rockier Petlya Pristrastiya, but it was Kassiopeia who made the greater impact.
Petersburg, long regarded as the spiritual home of all that's interesting in Russian rock, kept up that reputation with two diverse but fascinating shows. Surtsey Sounds, with a name evoking a volcano, combine a post-rock ensemble with a classical string trio to great effect: imagine the likes of Alexei Aigi's 4'33" shackled to the likes of 65daysofstatic and you're getting there. From a slow start this music builds and builds to a shattering conclusion of overwhelming sound, like an ocean storm refusing to blow itself out.
And the northern capital's other star contributor, Chikiss, is another slow-burning. Female singer-songwriters tend to get alligned into a narrow set of stereotypes: either kooky Tori Amos late, strident Kristin Hersh-alikes or self-consciously weird Nordic types prone to inexplicable bouts of incoherent shreiking. Chikiss, despite a piano which points alarmingly towards Amos, avoids the worst excesses of all three, delivering tight, well-constructed songs which burn slowly but powerfully, like a conversation accompanied by autumn rains blowing against a twilit window.
Eight years in, and now with a permanent home in the Artplay na Yauze complex, Avant Fest is going from strength to strength. This year's edition, kicked off with a blistering set from British Sea Power, maintains the happy tradition of combining the best of the local alternative scene (the real one, not the version that A1 TV pretends is alternative) with a well-chosen selection of international acts which are committed to making music which is interesting rather than commercial. The crowd - perhaps a bit self-conscious in their hip-ness to begin with - lapped it up; bring on Avant 2012!
234.Sam Paglia  
Sam Paglia
Bugsy Malone with Extra Pepperoni -
Sam Paglia Storms
Sam Paglia looks like a cross between an extra from a 1930's gangster movie and an Italian pizza chef. This larger than life character played a set of his distinctive Hammond Organ jazz/funk/lounge music late last Friday night in Settebello. Being a restaurant gig it was utterly exclusive and so the Beautiful People emerged from wherever it is that they hide during the day to create an uber-cool setting for an uber-cool musician.
Long-legged girls were draped in a distracting manner on the quasi-Venetian chairs, prodding their tuna carpaccio with their forks. Photographers and journalists mingled
among the men with high, Italian style collars who had sacrificed their outside tables to come inside and enjoy the show. Music that can cause people to lose their inhibitions is always fun to experience. And so it was exciting to see the Beautiful People smiling, relaxing and, during the really funky numbers, actually jigging. In fact at one stage a whole table stopped eating and jumped to their feet to dance which made a fantastic sight in front of the huge illuminated Leonardo’s Last Supper which dominates one wall of the restaurant.
Paglia didn’t really make any fuss when he started playing. He just gathered his musicians and began; saving the song and dance for his audience. He maintained a wonderfully still expression on his face which meant everything seemed effortless. It was a shame not to be able to see the keyboard in action, to see just how nifty his fingers were. Drums, congo, sax and shakers completed the band together with a synthesizer which may have made it hard for the untrained ear to differentiate particular instruments at times, but gives Paglia’s music that famous film-score edge.
I think the most touching moment of the evening when Settebello’s chef was lured out of the kitchen to watch the self announced ‘King Master of Lounge Music’ play. Paglia was the star of the show and whilst he is a showman, he is modest. There was no great scene at the end of the set, it was just the end of a great set.
My post show chat with Paglia mostly concentrated on two things: fashion and family. He was wearing white shoes, a grey suit and a raspberry coloured shirt with tie. Interested in his outfit, I asked him about his thoughts on fashion and its relationship to the stage and learnt he strongly believes that a musical performance demands respectful dress, hence the gangster get up. And I discovered that essentially he was a family man and hugely fond of home. “I miss the air and the sea and the smells of Italy when I tour”. This was Paglia’s second visit to Russia. He first was two years ago and when asked what has changed since then his initial reaction was that the traffic has got worse. He reckons the people here are angry, but that he likes the place because he finds it exciting.
He is a straightforward straight-talking kind of guy who simply loves music. To what extent does music dominate his life? “Absolutely and completely”. But with music as funky as his, that is surely no bad thing.
235.Michael Mayer  
Michael Mayer
Michael Mayer is a well-respected man in the world of techno and electro dance music. His Cologne-based Kompakt label releases 12”s and albums that receive general praise. The label’s so-called “minimal techno” or “micro-house” is considered a true heir to the legendary Detroit sound from the late eighties-early nineties, although Michael Mayer himself has categorized it as well as “just give me a 4/4 beat and from there anything goes”. The playful, cheery and down to earth manner in which he and his fellow DJ’s approach their music only adds to the appreciation: a welcome, badly needed alternative to big business superstar DJ’s and mega-clubs.
Kompakt also acts as a distribution-channel for numerous small independent labels and the combined efforts of this unique conglomerate allows for fresh new music virtually every week. Most of these productions are recorded with the dance-floor in mind, so when Michael Mayer, who in his own words is “a proud father of successful children” plays his sets, he obviously is making good usage of the Kompakt pool of artists. Nights with Michael Mayer behind the turntable tend to be exciting stuff, not in the least because he himself is the first one to thoroughly enjoy the music, which usually results in playing air-guitar and riding invisible motorbikes!! He is a much-liked guest in many parts of the world: The week before his performance in Moscow, he played in Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and Dortmund was already eagerly waiting for his return to Germany.
October last year Michael Mayer was invited to mix number 13 of the London based 'Fabric' international DJ series. For someone who has been active for almost two decades in dance music, his own recordings are somewhat limited, but “Fabric 13”’s appearance put his name as one of today’s most original DJ’s strongly on the map.
The album captures what DJ-ing is about: Great music for dancing people, but it is also typical for Michael Mayer that he considered the recording mainly to be an opportunity to bring 'his' labels to the attention of a broader audience.
Russia’s DJ Kubikov, with work released on Kompakt, invited Michael Mayer to play in Moscow. And no better location than the Phlegmatic Dog, next to the Kremlin and the Red Square where the last time that a German landed a surprise was back in 1987 when Matthias Rust put his lightweight Cessna in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum.
Michael Mayer played a 3 hours set, making it one of the most memorable “techverg” nights in the Dog’s history. A fakey fashion-tv loop that ran during the set on a screen above the bar appeared bleaker and bleaker with each track and soon no one was paying attention anymore to the Monte Carlo models of the year. It is always nice to see when an audience knows what it is coming for and that they are not disappointed. This certainly was the case this night. Turntable skills, pumping techno beats, humor, eclectic sound-effects ranging from ‘clicks’ and ‘bleeps’ to twisted voices and Scorpions-type of guitar loops, a full Depeche Mode (!) song, some gothic melancholy, pulsating basses and lots of good music: ‘Stop’ is not a word in Michael Mayer’s vocabulary and it kept everybody dancing for the full three hours.
Happy people and an upbeat atmosphere: What else could one wish for?
And yes: Michael Mayer was playing air-guitar while riding invisible motorbikes with Kubikov ultimately happy in the back-seat.
Colorful yet low key. Thoughtful yet spontaneous. Jazzy yet soulful. With so many delightful and obvious contrasts that simply blend together while performing, it's no wonder Muscovites keep receiving Spanish band Refree with open arms.
Fresh off the plane and fresh off sleep - as singer/songwriter/guitarist, Raul Fernandez, later admitted - the eclectic quartet first graced the stage of Club Avant (35mm) on Friday, December 10, for the first of two scheduled performances in Moscow. It would prove to be just the warm up they needed for Saturday night's gig at Kitaisky Lyotchik Dzhao Da. Dubbed by some critics as the "Catalan Radiohead," Refree seems to take on a more classical American rock style/jazz mix of its own.
Their storytelling, contemplative songs didn't seem to work as well under the cold blue lights on the bigger, slightly elevated, more distant Avant stage. However, their candid easy-going style, and well-composed smooth music between Spanish accented English explanations and jokes, still managed to get the equally eclectic and interested crowd of young and old Muscovites smiling, clapping and on their feet begging for more songs. Most of their music selection came from their album "Quitamiedos" and some from their latest album "Nones" including a cohesive series of highs and lows made clearly distinguishable through the melancholy keyboard and accordion, slightly reminiscent of the Doors.
This seemed to be more audible Saturday night at Club Lyotchik where the band let loose, playing freely in the compact living room-like setting crammed with chairs and people encircling the smaller, warm, dimly-lit stage..."the perfect setting" for Refree as keyboardist/accordion player Baldo later described it, "We definitely felt better tonight...we like to play in smaller venues with a closer crowd."
"People are different here [Moscow]," Fernandez explained, "You are naked when you play, it is more natural...It's different than in Paris or Barcelona where people are more accustomed to concerts and people need to know you to come...people here just come, knowing or not knowing...they are more happy." Baldo added, "There is a feeling of calm and peace when I come to Russia...people can find solitude here."
Perhaps it was the overall setting and attitude or perhaps it was the fact that this was the first place Refree played upon coming to Moscow 18 months ago as the first foreign group, band manager Maxim Silva-Vega stated, which gave them this sense of comfort and ease on stage. Which ever the case, there was no pulling the four off once they started at Lyotchik and there was no need to as the whiskey colas kept rolling, the cigarettes kept burning, and the crowd kept cheering. Though Fernandez would threaten the audience with announcements like, "Ok this is our final song," he was quickly and easily persuaded into another as the roomful of responsive Muscovites pleaded, "Niyet! Niyet!"
True to his genuine, open, soft spoken, poetic stage presence, Fernandez made it a point to share, "I think it's stupid when musicians go off stage and come back for a final song...if you want us to keep playing, we'll play!"
Even though the Barcelona-based group had to go back home to fine tune a few things on their new album, with such a positive, supportive response here, it may not be long before Refree will find themselves back in Moscow hearing those same enthusiastic Niyets of this past week-end.
237.Stereo Total  
Stereo Total
Stereo Total’s third Moscow appearance celebrated the fifth anniversary of the club Art Garbage – reviews of recent gigs elsewhere promised an entertaining Friday evening.
French born Fran?oise Cactus, (Van Hove) and Berlin native Brezel G?ring are Stereo Total. Together for almost ten years, the pair has established a strong following, evident in the large number of people filing into the courtyard area of Art Garbage from the early hours of the evening.
The open outdoor area of Art Garbage gives a very comfortable European feel, maybe spoiled somewhat by the very ‘naff’ yellow sun umbrellas. The retro lounge music played live on original vinyl created an enjoyable atmosphere in which to eat and drink in the lead up to the main act.
The crowd eagerly awaited the start of what promised to be a great show, and handfuls of Russian locals, a few arty Ex-pats and a lot of French and German cult followers began jamming into the side room from 10pm.
In contrast to the outdoor area the room itself has a very Russian design. A small, square shaped room made of brown brick; it has a shelf close to the ceiling which boasts a number of clay sculptures, portraying some recognizable people of Russia’s past.
10:45 pm, into a room already clouded with smoke, Brezel G?ring took the stage with an appreciative roar. Clad all in black - PVC pants, leather jacket, short sleeved business shirt and tie, he is in stark contrast to his partner who appears dressed casually in jeans and a flowery shirt.
The set made up of a wide mixture of songs ranging from 70’s disco, to punk, to garage rock, to rockabilly, and in languages including French, German, English and Japanese, is performed with a chemistry that certainly proves why they have been together for almost 10 years.
The pair very casually spoke earlier of their coincidental meeting in Berlin. Already involved with musical projects (Brezel was in a band called the Sigmund Freud Experience, Fran?oise in a garage band called The Lolitas), they wound up living on the same street, where passing hellos turned into regular conversation, and ended with the recording of their first single “Allo j'?coute”, and eventually becoming Stereo Total.
Driven by their desire to travel, and need to connect with audiences in their own language Stereo Total proceeded to develop a wide variety of styles and sing in a number of languages, casting the net very widely indeed.
A crowd favourite from Friday’s performance was definitely Supergirl. Brezel enjoyed winding the crowd up with his soft voice and lively rhythm, while Fran?oise charmed with her own brand of comic satire while playing everything from the tiny drum set to her red heart shaped guitar.
If nothing else Stereo Total gave this crowd an experience with no musical boundaries; short catchy song tunes in more languages then were understood by most (sorry, no Russian… yet!) , and they managed to entertain the packed room with no particular stage effects of any kind. Devoted followers and new Russian fans can look forward to Stereo Total’s new studio album to be released later this year.
238.News from Helsinki: LCMDF & Kira Lao  
News from Helsinki: LCMDF & Kira Lao
Finnish music is not generally noted for its sunny side - making LCMDF possibly the least Finnish band ever to emerge from Helsinki. If Moscow audiences are familiar with the flamboyantly OTT operatic metal of Nightwish or the lo-fi indie of bands like Husky Rescue, an onslaught of shouty bubble gum pop from a vivacious pair of sisters came as something of a shock to the system. Far from the crystalline sounds of the frozen north, or the quirky ruminations of a society on the fringes of Europe's cultural mainstream, this was an all-out, in-yer-face assault of summery vibes. British readers of a certain age may recall the annual Radio 1 Roadshows, bringing a couple a big name broadcasters to seaside towns with an agenda to disperse perky pop music to fun-starved provincial audiences: LCMDF would have fitted that bill perfectly.
The music is mostly a blast of mouthy rap, hollered out over bombastic synth sequences, with lyrics about everything and nothing, in the finest pop traditions. Unkind critics might hear echoes of the notorious Spice Girls, although without the polished sheen of mass production; a more generous view might evoke rising Russian girl duo Obe Dve, fellow members of the vanguard of socially acceptable pop for people past school age. And yet there is also evidence of musicality in the mix - during one of the few less frenetic moments of a high-energy set, the two sisters close harmonize with real skill, albeit briefly.
Otherwise, though, it's up-and-at-'em stuff, with vocalist Emma Kempainnen taking every opportunity to leave the small stage in China Town and mingle with a crowd which was slightly too hipster-ish to be seen dancing. And on-stage energy was not without its pitfalls: barely halfway through the opening number a flailing mic stand took out one of the spotlights. "It's my first time in Russia, and I've broken something already," Emma mused.
Not only did LCMDF offer a stark contrast with many of the other artists brought here in the on-going "News from Helsinki" concert series, they also offered a stark contrast with Russian support act Kira Lao. The elfin vocalist has garnered a growing underground reputation after winning last year's Indyushata prize and earning high prize from influential local critic Artemy Troitsky. Meanwhile, over the course of the past year, her music has changed in emphasis, with her initial dark folk steadily making way for a heavier, rockier sound.
Naturally, 'rockier' is a rather relative term: the presence of a cello and a gusli (a Russian folk instrument similar to a zither) on stage is testament to a broadranging palette. But if Kira Lao's concert performances of a year ago were rather reflective, delicate affairs, the Dec. 2011 model is louder and more abrasive then before. Throw a few torch songs into the mix "Drunk Tango with a misanthrope", "Not your cup of tears" and the closest thing to a political statement of the evening, "He was a woman", introduced with an explanation that while "most people are protesting against Putin, we're protesting against guys who act like girls". For the moment, however, Kira Lao still seems to be better served by the recording studio than the live stage. Problems with the mix affected the start of the set, and while Kira herself is a powerful vocalist she still seems slightly awkward on stage at times. But there are already ample signs that the music deserves the buzz growing up around it.
Stagecraft is one of the great mysteries of music. How is it that some acts, apparently by force of personality alone, attempt to belie the limitations of their material by hiding it under layers of performance trickery while others offer next to no acknowledgement of an audience but still put on a good show? Long ago, goth godfather Andrew Eldritch talked of his early exploits with the Sisters of Mercy, admitting that much of it might not even have sounded like songs, but combined with the onstage smoke and mirrors they created a space "in which you could lose yourself, or more probably find yourself". Nobody, therefore, could accuse Eldritch of being anything less than pretentious.
But his words came to mind in the somewhat unlikely surroundings of a new restaurant-brewery on Novy Arbat when Russia's veteran electro-rocker Dolphin took to the stage. The venue, the recently opened Maximillians, seems to be working hard to blend two seemingly incompatible ideas - a pseudo Bavarian bierkeller with a playlist of alternative Russian rockers. It seems paradoxical, combining mass-market dining with acts who struggle for airtime in the shiny new world of Russian pop, but good luck to them. For years Novy Arbat has been the garishly-lit home of fading Fabrika Zvezdy no hopers with little to offer beyond long legs and over-produced chart fodder; now there is at last a chance to hear something worthwhile without plunging into the hipster hotspots of Krasny Oktyabr.
Which brings us back to Dolphin. If the moody synthpop of Mujuice is what is currently exciting the Afisha crowd, Dolphin, Andrei Lysikov to his friends, is the sorceror to whom the new kid has been apprenticed. He belongs to that wave of Russian acts which hit its peak around the turn of the millenium - perhaps at the point when the likes of Leningrad, Mumy Troll, Zemfira and the like were at their finest. Now these guys can seem half-forgotten, or trading bravely on past glories as a new generation outshines them. But, on looking at that new generation, it quickly seems that a decade of Putin-inspired stability has changed Russian music - or its audience - radically. Where there was once a mass market for bands trying to be different, the country is now in the depths of a retro revival which sees Stas Mikhailov's crooning rated as the acme of influential celebrity. So-called "Alternative" music gets itself invited to chummy little singalongs with the president (yes, Mr Samoilov, I do mean you), and a generation of listeners looks abroad for something to stimulate its ears.
Or looks to the past. Dolphin might be old news, but he still draws a Friday night crowd large enough to turn an intimately-sized restaurant dancefloor into a scrum which gives the evening most of the disadvantages of an arena gig (hardly anyone can see anything) without the benefits of that larger scale and a big stage to exploit. Which raises the whole stagecraft question. Dolphin prefers not to address his audience, or even make himself particularly visible behind his drum kit as the stage is strafed with strobes or plunged into violet gloom depending on the whim of the lighting crew. Inter-song repartee is replaced with white noise or chugging drumbeats which slowly morph into the next number - so slowly, on occasion, that the band has time to slip off for a quick drink before returning to action. And yet, like those early Sisters gigs, it works. Beneath the unprepossessing exterior lies a heart of synth-rock menace, studded with echoes of Depeche Mode (because no Russian musician growing up in the 80s could escape the DM influence) and carrying forward the darker shades of the electro movement. Fans of The Faint will find much to admire, followers of Front 242 might pick out something worth hearing. And those who like good beer and good music will be back at Maximillians in due course to sample more from a venue where appearances can be deceptive.
240.Steven Bug  
Steven Bug
It’s always a good sign when you see a DJ dancing behind the decks. I don’t wish to imply that those who stand still or who seem deep in concentration aren’t enjoying themselves, but the chances are that if the DJ is dancing and visibly taking pleasure in his music – then you will be too. From the minute the German DJ and producer Steve Bug took his position behind the decks and Final Scratch console at Mio on Saturday night, he could be seen bobbing up and down, smiling and generally looking quite pleased with his set and with his crowd. By 5 am I too was dancing, jumping up and down, and smiling right back at him from across the dance floor. Though I have to admit that he was slightly quicker off the mark than I was…
When I arrived with a friend at midnight, the party had obviously only just started. We managed to get a table next to the as-yet empty dance floor, so we ordered a beer and settled into the big comfy couch for a gentle start to the long evening ahead. Much to our dismay, the beer was decidedly dodgy. A strange taste and an even stranger aftertaste meant that we quickly moved on to better stuff. The Zolotaya Bochka, at 90rbs for 0.5l was the cheapest drink on the menu. Conveniently enough for the club’s cash registers, I doubt if much of it was ordered that night! Our vodka with red bull cost 200rbs which, despite the fact that it could rival any of the London clubs’ pricelists, seemed like relatively good value for money. I should know by now that a night out in Moscow is not for those faint of heart or light of wallet!! With a 500rbs entrance fee and 50rbs at the cloakroom, Mio proved to be no exception to the rule.
But I liked the club. True, it didn’t need the plasma screen showing the usual catwalk parades (why do the clubs all have this??) but generally it seemed pretty unpretentious, with a d?cor and lighting done in relatively good taste. Nothing too adventurous - but here that makes a refreshingly nice change! I was also pleased to see that the crowd, which progressively grew until the club was full, seemed, for the most part, genuinely to be there for the music and the party, and not just to show off their new Gucci shoes. Refreshing indeed!!
By 2.30am, action on the dance floor was in full swing. DJ Helga was on fine form, playing deep house tunes which were really getting the crowd going. By the end of her set, she was playing with her audience as much as she was playing with her vinyl, making them whistle and shout as she teased them with the techno beats. Steve Bug was impressed by her performance and we agreed that if she is representative of Moscow’s up and coming talent, then there is hope after all for the music scene in Russia.
Steve himself took over the reigns at 3am. Full of high hopes at the prospect of a rare chance to listen to a world class DJ in a city which can only be described as an electronic music backwater, I have to admit to being disappointed as he dropped the tempo. I wondered what his time with the legendary Ritchie Hawtin had taught him, and puzzled at the need for the 700 tracks he claimed to have on his Final Scratch software. Why waste some of the most state-of-the art music technology, and access to some of the finest tunes ever to grace clubland, if you’re going to play an uninspired set with complete disregard for the mood of the crowd you are playing to? He may have been dancing behind the decks, but I was definitely only lurking half-heartedly on the sidelines.
Oh ye of little faith!! It soon became apparent that there was method in his madness, and soon after that it became physically impossible not to dance! My impatience had obstructed the understanding that he was constructing his set in the manner of a true artist. A DJ’s set, like a piece of musical prose, has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end… with all the nuances of poetry and the highs and lows of a dramatic novel. It’s not just a case of finishing off what somebody else has started. More to the point, we’d have never made till so late in the night if we’d peaked too soon! It’s not an unknown phenomenon that to delay the climax is to prolong the pleasure…
And a pleasure it was indeed! He played a safe set- nothing too risky, but good, bouncy tunes which progressed to deep, penetrating hard house beats. By 5am, I had seen and heard enough. He was good – no doubt about it. I’d had a great dance and a very good night: My smiles and rosy cheeks were testament to that! By the time I left, he was still going strong. The audience was loving every minute of it, and visibly so was he. As I said before…It’s always a good sign to see the DJ dancing behind his decks!
241.Black Rebel Motorcycle Club   
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
I fell in love with a sweet sensation
i gave my heart to a simple chord
I gave my soul to a new religion
Whatever happened to you?
Last Thursday, something serious happened, something really important. The two great religions of modern man collided in a moment of cultural fury. Football met rock'n'roll in a face-off, and football lost. I'm not going to speak about Russia's loss to Spain in the European Championship. No. I’m on about something less cataclysmic, but more immanent, warmer. A shot in the arm delivered in 2 hours, equivalent in potency to the 10 day seismic party that shook this great nation as their heroes pirouetted over the fields of Innsbruck, Salzburg and Basel, where they tragically came a-cropper.
I'm talking about rock'n'roll. This was rock'n'roll. If the Cure, right, if they totally loved Led Zeppelin when they were young... no... if The Cult were Cureheads.. no, if Spiritualized ever got their shit together or Oasis really, really had balls.... no no no. You see, I'm grasping at straws, because I'm starting with a British band. Let’s face facts. Today, the 4th of July 2008, it is appropriate that we remind each other that America gave rock’n’roll to the world. Europe didn’t, Africa neither, and Russia not at all. America did. And this is why so many British or European bands who love rock’n’roll have to, at some stage, go to America. It’s a pilgrimage. Some understand the journey (Stones, Led Zep, U2) and mature as artists as they reach back into their own roots. Others fail embarrassingly (Oasis). America is the melting pot, it’s the bridge for wherever you want your rock’n’roll to go. Europe could never handle something as twisted and lonely as the American South to have emerged. There’s not enough space.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC), who’s performance at Moscow's B2 last Thursday is presently under discussion, are American. They live in LA, and hail from San Fran. But lately they’ve spent some time in the South. And that’s really important. I came across some comparisons with Oasis, and frankly find that very hard to accept. BRMC's music is a much more evolved, astute and intelligent beast than the shouters from Manchester. To use the aborigine expression BRMC trace a song line from their urban west coast roots to the heart of the American South. This is the revolutionary music of the southern swamps, the bridges, the heat, and this is why they should be proud. They are American; their music has a seamless undeniable sprit that traces an audible path from college radio to Lomax anthropological recording.
“If you look directly at something, it’s in-apprehend able”
In the documentary Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus musician Jim White looks under the rocks and stones to find some truth about the American South: “To find the gold tooth in God's crooked smile”. It is a profound film about real people and the stories they tell each other about themselves. BRMC brought their blues with them and generously shared it with us – dragging up from the swamps an evening of such sonic intensity (respect to B2 as the sound was SUPERB), such feeling, that I simply closed my eyes and listened, and what I heard was a thing of beauty. Rancid angry guitar-lead verses punctuated by euphoric beach boy harmony choruses, finger picking soulful blues, 8 minute atmospheric guitar workouts, delivered out of a barrel of a gun.
Robert Levon Been (Bass), Peter Hayes (guitar), and drummer Leah Shapiro (who frankly does a better job live than the temporarily indisposed drummer Nick Jago, if the evidence on You Tube is to be believed), literally beat us into submission in a venue that delivered atmosphere and conviviality in equal parts. Been and Hayes share vocals, often alternating verses and chorus in what I can't resist calling a “twin vocal attack”, for the laugh. They enjoy it too by the looks of things and do it, I would suggest, because they can.
”Weapon of Choice” burned the room with a white noise chorus perfectly contrasted against a “get-yourself-arrested” low down dirty riff underpinning (shared) verses. How refreshing it was to be in a Moscow club and listen to 300 music lovers chant “I won’t waste my love on a nation” in unison. From there it was into an 8 minute ”Ain't no easy way”: a primal southern juju hoe-down played (live) with a delayed electric (not a resonator) and death-echo harmonica. Think Black Sabbath playing Muddy Waters in an echo-chamber. During ”Spread your Love” they came closest to Spiritualized, who I've seen twice, but decimated the British pretenders with a burning driven piece of blues, where Been and Hayes once again shared verses and joyously combined in a chorus. Stipe had Mills, these guys have each other. They of course played ”Love Burns”, a genuine crowd pleaser and followed it up with “Need Some Air”, in an obvious nod to heroes the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Hayes then treated us to two solo finger-picked pieces of southern blues poetry that sadly lamented the losses, admitted his failings “I been living on a fault line”, and humbly gave thanks for the here and now, commanding respectful silence in a venue almost full to capacity. “Faultline” has us all singing. Been provided an enjoyable cameo when, sitting on a monitor, he tuned his guitar for about 3 minutes before delivering “Weight of the world” (“It has to be right!” he explained).
It was all carried off effortlessly. These guys are the real deal – members of the church. Every song, however, broody, mean, vulnerable or angry, possessed the essence of a great pop song, that instant mind erasing quality where all you can hear, is all you can feel.
Churches, prisons, bars, forests, mountains were almost perceptible in the black noise delivered from the stage. People openly turned to me and started explaining how lucky they felt to be there. There was a little crowd surfing (why not?) and a lot of respect for a band that have to be amongst the best in the world at the moment.
Each band member played with a punk intensity matched by the others, but each had their own style, made their own noise. To fully apprehend this group you listen to the parts but are moved by the whole (Pixies, Beatles, Smashing Pumpkins). I honestly have not heard anything so utterly convincing, so demanding of attention, since the Pixies humiliated the Red Hot Chili Peppers in front of 120,000 people in Dublin’s Phoenix Park in 2004, or Motorhead doing the same to Black Sabbath in 1981 Dublin's Dalymount Park. They may be young lads, but BRMC is maturing into a deeply powerful black wall of sound that embraces, cajoles, suffers and inspires. This is life-affirming blues, anger is a gift, remember. “Suicide is easy, what about the revolution?”
BRMC rightfully espouse a musical politics that is angry, that seeks revenge for the travesties perpetrated on American culture by American politics. And they are one of the reasons why I am jealous of my American friends. This cocktail of roots, blues, rock, roll, Jesus and mind-twisting California was enough to make my skin tingle and my ears happily bleed. This was a communion, and it was a privilege to be there.
I told Polina twice that the gig was like the first and last chapter of a book, where all the routes and roots that stretch out from the beginning return, the same, but different, having been on the journey. If you love rock'n'roll you have to see this band.
242.Soul Mekanik  
Soul Mekanik
In ’96 raves were all the rave for kids in Carolina. It was new to us, an oh-so rebellious alternative to race cars and chicken fights. Sadly, as we aged the scene degenerated into mass candy-pop orgies whilst our boys who once dreamt of ruling the turntables turned into well, waiters.
Nine years later, I was all grown-up, gone, and after a rough week in Russia my recently-Dostoyevskian soul was in dire need of catharsis. Where was the dance music we used to love so much? I took it to seek out the cult of sound in the art of Soul Mekanik.
Lucky soul. Danny Spencer and Kelvin Andrews (Soul Mekanik) brought good vibes to the city. The pair’s appreciation and dedication to Acid house shined through not only in performance, but also in attitude. They were excited to be in Moscow and no wonder, they were in a nice part – DJ Caf? MIO.
MIO is chill – smooth lines, comfortable color scheme and pleasant staff. I arrived early to absorb the surroundings and sip a ten-dollar port. (Out of Jerez.) Nowhere yet available to lackadaisically lounge about, I perched properly along a free bar. Based on black tiles laced with neon blue lights, I gazed ahead into a tempting umber-couched hookah den. At 10:00 to the left, industrious house deejays were discretely tucked back in their tiny black booth. And at 9:00, two curved portals beckoned minimalist glances into a fine Japanese restaurant.
Around one-thirty, Kelvin – bright blue eyes piercing like a prophet, welcomed me to his table for a chat. “House is the original music, it comes from deep down,” he beamed. “It’s a gift from an higher power.” Although in agreement, I still couldn’t resist teasing a little, “So how will you guys purify my soul?” He grinned. “Well, go dance tonight and hopefully we’ll play a song that stays with you.”
I’m an obedient girl. I bid adieu and hid my purse behind a couch guarded by a passel of acquiescent Russian parnya. Once the show began, I reluctantly moseyed on down to the dance-floor to do my duty. (I usually prefer to recline on sofas and smoke.) Surprisingly, all the work was worth the effort. Dancing so exhausted me limbs that my mouth had to keep ordering vodka shots. That, or I’d drop – which leads us to the best part of the bar – the bartender. Shall we say professional and sweet? When asked for a little lemon and sugar, he actually brought a dish, four slices and a smile – all five times. (Brim shots no less.)
Back to the floor. . .
House can be conducive to introspective grooving, and it was refreshing to find a venue that provides space a little less like Gansevoort market’s historical forte. Most guys were amazingly respectful, leaving me to move in peace. (Well, or they’d get whacked.) The specific sounds and style of Soul Mekanik were more complex than remembered back from stateside teenage years. Slightly difficult just to plunge into, the infusion proved intriguing nonetheless. Ultimately unable to resist this subtler pull, and despite aforementioned exhaustion, I only escaped anti-gravity once for a plop on an orange cushy cube.
For an evening’s singular complaint: it may be that I flail about wildly while dancing and don’t notice, but certain dudes kept randomly ramming my ribs with elbows – they and their entourage of rude dudettes. Exceptions now noted; the rest of the guests turned out to be amusingly well mannered: cavalier Italians, performers in Angel suits and silver, regular folks, tall pointy people. The scene was neither too pretentious, nor overly arty. Oddly spiffy perhaps?
Content with the crowd, refreshed by the music and pleased with the venue, I’m looking forward to stealing a seat on MIO’s sofa and sipping weeknight scotch sometime soon. As far as my poor soul, well it sure ain’t pure, but definitely polished.
A veritable volcanic eruption took place in the Club Na Brestckoi last Saturday night: 9 members of the cult French group Magma unleashed a storm of violent and energetic musical talent during their first-ever Russian live performance. Highly original and deeply penetrating sounds and voices oozed from the musicians on stage, leaving the crowd to smolder and melt in their wake.
Magma, the brainchild of drummer and composer Christian Vander, was created in 1969 and has since been hailed as the most adventurous prog-rock band of the seventies. But the paradox of the geological magma is also that of the music of Magma – it is rock, but in a different form. In effect, Vander uses rock, jazz, classical, folk and Eastern European influences to create a music which defies definition.
This blurring of musical boundaries is key to the concept of Magma. The music is meant to surpass the limits of our human experience, inviting us to make a journey in space and time to the imaginary planet of Kobaia, set several centuries into the future. Vander had a vision of the spiritual and ecological decay of Earth, and so set out to tell the story of a group of enlightened humans who decided to leave their homes and create a new utopian society on the planet Kobaia. The planet’s new inhabitants eventually develop their own language and peaceful way of life, but are frequently dragged into conflict with Earth, whose people see their endeavour not as a new hope for the future, but as a threat…
I had no idea what to expect of Magma. Nevertheless, I headed eagerly off down to Brestckoi, armed with a notebook and a very open mind. I was one of the first to arrive, but was soon to be joined by a very mixed crowd. At 10pm the band members, all dressed in black, quietly and discreetly arrived on stage. We were then treated to 1 ? hours of some of the most challenging yet strangely beautiful music I have ever heard.
Magma played 2 pieces (you can’t really call them songs). The first, a piece called ‘A.K.’ written in 1972 but as yet unreleased, lasted 50 minutes. The second was their famous ‘Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh’. Both were sung entirely in Kobaian. The singers were amazing:
One male and three female voices mixed beautiful harmonies with dissonant chord clusters, hisses and trills, evoking a wide array of events and emotions. The musicians were all of the highest quality, although the bass guitarist in particular provided us with an absolutely stunning solo indeed. However the star of the show was undoubtedly Vander himself: The volcanic crescendos of his drumming were the core to the music and his energy was the fuel for the flames. He played like a man possessed - in trans - his face contorted with the effort and the feeling for the music both within and around him.
Magma has no official distribution in Russia (although pirate CDs are of course
available!) but that deserves to soon be put right. The 100 or so people in the audience included a few obvious fans, but the majority was, like me, unsure in the beginning then progressively consumed by the power of the performance. I can’t say I completely understood the music - I don’t think any first-timer could – but no one could deny that it was an outstanding show, which left many of us wanting to hear more.
Before the start, I spoke to Stella Vander, Christian’s former wife and current lead singer. She was sensibly dressed with nice hair and no make-up, well-spoken and articulate (we spoke in French) and from the start it felt more like chatting to a friend’s Mum than interviewing a rock star from the seventies! I asked her about whether or not there are differences between their current performances and those of 30 years ago. She answered:” There have been many different band members since the original line-up in the seventies. We have recently regrouped after having pursued other projects, because we realized that there is a new generation that wants and needs to see us live. But within the group, there is the same energy. On stage it’s just as powerful now as it was back then. It just takes us a bit longer to recover after the show, that’s all! Now, we don’t go to parties after we play, we go straight back to our hotel rooms and go to bed!!”
This was not to be the case on Saturday, however! As the audience clapped and whistled with the hope of an encore, Stella came back on stage and apologised, explaining that they had to rush to catch the night train to St Petersburg! As for Moscow, well, Magma came and went, leaving a trail of red-hot fans in their wake…
On Thursday night at 11:30 pm, Moscow nightclub B-2 hosted Brazzaville, a cool-jazz pop group from Los Angeles. Earlier in the day, lead singer and composer David Brown shared some of the band's history at a press conference at internet-cafe in Soyuz music shop.
A diminutive figure in a peaked cap and pencil-thin moustache, Brown dealt calmly with questions such as whether he liked Moscow ('yes') and if he would like to play in Brazzaville, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo ('if I had enough security'). When one journalist asked Brown why he named the band as he had, he explained that the word 'Brazzaville' seemed uneasy to identify. He chose it not so much for the African city as for an imaginary city 'that would seem like a good place to escape to in an alternative world in terms of music and art'.
Brazzavile grew out of L.A.'s thriving coffee-house culture, and all the band members had been friends or acquaintances before joining. The six-piece group resembles a jazz ensemble more than a pop group, with double-bass,brass and accordion joining the traditional drums and guitar. Brown cites his influences as including punk, French Impressionism and Jorge Ban for his willingness to repeat phrases over and over, inducing a meditative state.
Brown also talked about anunusual project of his: rigging a ship with a stage and living quarters for musicians to tour the world by sea. He envisages that the cargo ship (fueled by used peanut oil) will stop at major port cities and give concerts to on-shore audiences.
For now, however, Brazzaville is on tour promoting their second album,'Rouge on Pock-marked Cheeks'. The album consists of eleven songs, all composed by Brown. To my ears, the music seems unremarkable: soporific jazz for pop fans. Retro kitsch, with the use of bongos, mellofton, and faftisz organ seemed inviting in the first song 'Motel Room' but palled after four songs with more of the same.
Another problem is the lyrics, which are educated but riddled with bad rhyme and cliches. In 'Rainy Night', Brown exploits the glamour of drugs and male prostitution under the pretext of wringing his hands at them:
At 14
He was an adolescent
Beauty Queen
Slammin' speed
& working on the NY streets
Oh dear!
Oh dear? Men of Brown's age and origin and are not supposed to talk like that! 'Genoa' is a political song about the last three meetings of the International Monetary Fund, which were crowded with protesters. Brown lets his feelings be known in ambiguous language:
Gunships in Genoa
Not me
It's not clear what the last line actually means. Luckily, he explained his political stance at the press conference, saying 'I'm not "anti" anything. I'm anti-globalization but I'm also anti-anti-globalization.'
But who ever said that a pop star has to be a rocket scientist? If you can forgive Brazzaville’s weak lyrics, there is a certain attraction in its relaxed rhythms and muted rock sounds. And indeed the band has an international following, the Brown-sound overcoming cultural barriers to strike a common chord: no easy task for any band.
On the big night there was a crush at the door and the concert hall was absolutely packed. A Russian translator introduced the band, the other band members arrived on stage and started tuning up and jamming, preparing the ground for David. He came on stage, dressed in his trademark peaked cap, to loud cheers and whistles. Then the band started up. Unfortunately the sound was a bit garbled--I don't know if it was due to the acoustics of the venue or to the mixing. It didn’t matter much, however, as everyone was having a great time swaying to the music or simply gazing at the stage and soaking up the groove.
Reportedly Brown had no idea how the Russian audience would receive him. He must have been relieved and amazed by the warmth and appreciation of the huge crowd at B-2. Hundreds of music lovers, along with the best-known music critics, gathered to listen to and applaud his music. A high-up representative of Afisha, Russia’s most respected music mag, appeared in person to see one of his shows. If this fine welcome is anything to go by, Brown has gained many firm fans on the seventh continent. Perhaps we'll see him again, when his ship hoves in to Saint Petersburg harbor.
If, as Faithless and Pink would have us believe, God is a DJ, then he has had enough of Russians converting to his faith. Either that or he had a very bad week. Seven days after Moscow was bathed in the most glorious bebeleta sunshine, some of the biggest names in house music came to town and the Big Man upstairs responded with a storm of biblical proportions. It began almost as soon as the first acts appeared on the four outdoor stages dotted around the Hermitage Gardens and did not let up until darkness had fallen. By then the headliners were dusting down their record boxes, ready to take the decks suggesting that perhaps the typhoon was sent simply as a trial by ordeal for the undercard. Sadly on this showing the majority will be taking the “down” escalator when the clubbing judgement day arrives.
For the Brits in the crowd, the rain did at least have one positive effect. In the UK no festival is complete without a therapeutic roll around in the mud and by the time the downpour had relented there was an inviting pool of the stuff developing on the lawn in front of the Bedrock Arena. The Russian festival-goer appears however to be less inclined to partake in a cheeky slide in the slop. This I can only attribute to the fact that either mama (it is unlikely that many in the crowd would be doing their own washing for a couple of years) would not be amused if she were handed a muddied outfit, or that D&G have yet to produce a pair of wipe down jeans. Either way, it was noticeable that the de rigeur item of the Moscow club scene - the oversized sunglasses – are to be worn, not only in the dark, but also in the driving rain. With that and the fact that many of the revellers appeared to have been attending secret dance classes with my Dad, if the aliens had landed here that afternoon, it would have taken some serious explaining to save us.
But if anyone was going to win over a conquering army with nothing but a box of discs and a sound system, it is Pete Tong. The Lord Protector of British house music and hero of the closet beat junkie, Tong rarely fails to deliver, and this was to be no exception. With many in the crowd giving off as much enthusiasm as a drowned rat, the 9 o clock wake up call provided by Tong’s accessible, lively set was just what the doctor ordered. Loaded with tantalising crescendos and explosive piano breakdowns this was not innovative stuff, but it ignited a House Arena that had for so long been a virtual graveyard.
At the same time John Digweed was attempting a similar resuscitation job on the Bedrock Arena. Billed as the “progressive” stage, there was more here for the trained ear to nibble on, including some tasty morsels from the Continent where Digweed plies his trade more frequently these days. This said, the trees surrounding this, the most exposed stage, made for woefully poor acoustics that took the edge off the sharp set being pumped out. In the circumstances my attention could not help but fall on the slapstick dance moves of the teenage partygoers. Their desperate attempts to avoid a tumble into the mud through an alcohol induced haze and enormous sunnies provided entertainment that was almost worth the entrance money alone.
Moving to the relative comfort of the covered Main Arena there was time to sample something completely different in the form of the Audio Bullies. This group have achieved notable chart success in the UK, but I’m still to be convinced by their live act that has done the rounds on the festival circuit this summer. Though they were not helped by the fact that they followed a powerful and popular set from Australian outfit Infusion, for me they jump around the samples too frequently without adding enough of their own nouse. On one particularly grating occasion they moved as smoothly as a three-wheeled trolley-bus from a Prodigy baseline to the Human League with their hapless MC trying manfully to paper over the cracks. That he wasn’t even afforded a spotlight was presumably to spare his embarrassment for lines like “We is in Moscow/But I isn’t seeing no snow”. You could almost hear Pushkin turning in his grave.
That the Creamfields brand has made it to Russia is a measure of the increasing popularity of house music here and the organisers are to be applauded for making the day happen at a good price for the punter. Nevertheless, the inability to get big names until later in the season meant a gamble on the weather that on this occasion they lost. For those who love the glorious mess of a wet and grassy festival dance floor this would all be seen as part of the fun. Moscow’s young and trendys will, however, be looking for a stronger support line-up and a bit more divine intervention in order to generate that festival vibe same time next year.
Slovenian experimental-industrial band Laibach has recently shown that they can be contemplative as well as strident. In their Saturday, September 22 appearance at Ikra, the first half of their concert was devoted to the performance of cuts off their new album “Volk,” which uses the national anthems of several countries as points of departure for ruminations on the place of each respective country in history and the world. In a recent interview, band spokesman Ivan Nowak referred to “Volk” as “the soil of the earth.”
The band accompanied the anticipation for their emergence onstage with some marches that sounded like German military marches except for the lyrics being sung in what sounded like Slovenian. Before, during and after the marches, some of the younger, more demanding fans intermittently chanted “Laibach, Laibach.” There were about four marches, with the lights being flashed and the obligatory chubby roadie appearing onstage during the last march to check something to the cheers of the audience before the band emerged form the darkness and coconut smoke right after a Laibach intro medley and the Russian national anthem.
The tall and lanky frame of Milan Fras, the band’s bass-voiced frontman, was nowhere to be seen at first. Instead, the obviously younger, shaven-headed Boris Benko took the stage, coming into position behind some keyboards. Benko is one of the two members of Silence, a Slovenian electronic band that collaborated with Laibach on “Volk.” He immediately caught the audience’s attention with his sonorous dulcet voice, which sang the solemn strains of “Germania,” the first in the series of national-anthem inspired numbers. Fras then took the stage and for the first time I took note of the band’s attire – it was mostly plain black clothes. No fascist-inspired uniforms or vaguely futuristic bondage wear, just black shirts with epaulets and Fras in a dark pale green suitcoat but with his characteristic and vaguely religious black headdress with the shoulder-length drapes, which he never seems to take off. The get-ups were as subdued as most of the performance. The gig had a mostly mellow, meditative flavour that stood in stark contrast to other more forceful appearances I had seen, prompting me to think of the title of this review.
Behind the band there were two video projection screens which featured graphics that matched the musical numbers. For “Zhōnghuá” and “Nippon,” songs respectively about China and Japan, they featured Asian characters floating around the screen. For “Italia,” they featured a juxtaposition of the opening credits to Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.” When “Rossiya” came on, the cheering got noticeably louder as Fras extolled the virtues of Russia from the stage and the canned chorus from the Russian national anthem could be heard every now and then as images of tsarist ornaments and gilded churches flashed on the screen. The band proceeded to play almost the entire “Volk” album, with the songs in the order that they appear on the record. They left out one track, “Vaticanae,” which presumably is the one track off the album on which Silence did not work.
After a short offstage break, the band came back on and played German-language numbers from their album “WAT” for the rest of the show, with the exception of “Alle Gegen Alle,” which is from their record “NATO.” This part of the performance was a bit more vigorous and resembled appearances on their previous tour, the “Anthems” tour. The crowd was mixed with bespectacled intellectuals raising their fists along with camouflage-capped salt-of-the-earth types. Thankfully, there was no unfurling of the Nazi flag by some naïve kids like there was at Laibach’s previous appearance in Moscow on September 11, 2005 at the Tochka club.
Laibach cemented the whole “cinematic” aspect of the appearance by including detailed rolling credits at the end of the show, including full personnel credits to the show and the set list. According to Ikra’s press attaché, Nikolai Oleinikov, Laibach later commented that Ikra’s stage was the smallest on which the band had ever performed.
Set list:
Tanz Mit Laibach
Alle Gegen Alle
Du Bist Unser
Hell Symmetry
Das Spiel Ist Aus
247.Futureshorts Russia II Film Festival  
Futureshorts Russia II Film Festival
As an infrequent moviegoer whose diet is primarily high budget, low quality Hollywood cinema, it is sometimes easy to lose the sense of film as art. Mainstream productions of true artistic merit are rare as powerful commercial forces pull directors towards the mass market. Any function of filmmaking, beyond simply the generation of cash, can be forgotten, firewalling innovative productions from the part-timer’s consciousness.
Two encounters with the big screen last week highlighted the point beautifully. I don’t know what possessed me to buy and then even more inexplicably watch “The Terminal”, a 90 minute attempt to patronise and irritate anyone unfortunate enough to be watching it. Perhaps it was the tempting familiarity of seeing Tom Hanks opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones or maybe it was a blind faith in the ability of Steven Spielberg. Whatever my excuse, it was a mistake, and as the timely credits rescued me from the early onset of dementia, I was left to ponder how my faith in cinema could possibly get off the canvas after this weighty blow.
The resuscitation job was carried out on Saturday as I traded in my night on Moscow’s tiles for an hour in the wind tunnel of fresh air created by “FutureShorts” at 35mm. In 60 minutes of quick-fire quality, this selection of short films had taught me more about originality and imagination in world cinema than a year’s free entry to any Odeon you could mention. Varying from a 10 minute animated aircraft safety announcement to 2 minute black comedy on the lunar landing and including almost every genre in between there was a dish for every palate in the packed auditorium to enjoy. Personally I found an agreeable flavour in almost everything on offer, a tribute to the quality control job done by the curator.
Opening with a comical French sketch entitled “I am a horse”, I was slightly concerned that the collection might have placed the emphasis on cheap laughs. Happily this proved not to be the case. This Gallic farce was followed immediately by an animation from Germany that took us on a runaway train through a valley of death to a star wars shoot out using a series of evocative old movie clips and imaginative sketching. Whilst with this, and a couple of other more abstract offerings, the themes were difficult to fathom, you could not fail to be impressed by the imagination and workmanship of the finished product. In general, however, there was a lighthearted feel to the selection. The English study of a boy who sends his deceased 80 year old best friend on a final journey on his scooter to cause havoc at the ballroom dancing before heading off into the blue yonder was certainly intended to warm the heart. If the groans of approval from the audience were anything to go by, it achieved just that.
If I had to choose a favourite, then the Japanese piece featuring a girl named Yuki would be my selection. Another triumph of imagination and novelty, the piece follows our heroine through a very short series of insignificant events. The innovation of the creators brings in a new, almost identical actress to take the girl’s character for every new movement she makes, each actress remaining on set, standing motionless in a continuous line. As the camera gradually pans with a silky smooth movement of the lens across the short slice of Yuki’s day that we have been invited into, I found myself hopelessly drawn into the scene, looking eagerly for the next move and wandering where this train was going to lead. One of the most captivating elements of the work is the chirpy Japanese pop song, perfectly selected to match the rhythm of the piece and adding to its irresistibility. With such a short time to hold the audience’s attention, music can be a powerful tool of the short filmmaker and other than a rather tedious study of an orchestral drummer it was used with great skill throughout.
As the selection above illustrates, the curator’s choices cut across not only disciplines, but also geographical boundaries. Films from Europe, Asia and America made the grade with those that included dialogue being subtitled in English since the festival had not simply been put together for a Russian audience. The collection is midway through a tour of London, Paris and St Petersburg amongst others, something that appears to have been made possible by the highly visible sponsorship provided by a mobile phone manufacturer. Happily translation devices were provided leaving the predominately Russian audience reaching for their earpieces like a visiting UN delegation when the dialogue kicked in.
Having the good fortune to find entertainment and enjoyment in a place you least expect it is a rare and satisfying experience. Neither too long nor too abstract, this introduction to film shorts was just such an event, made all the more gratifying by the contrast with my recent less successful dabbles with cinema. I have no idea how they survive, but that there are studios all over the world producing material of this sort of quality is a cause for celebration. Therefore my advice would be - when Hollywood dross leaves you feeling bitter, try a little something short and sweet.
248.Three characters in search of a decent venue   
Three characters in search of a decent venue
The man who mistook his wife for a hat -Michael Nyman's Opera ReviewArtPlay Gallery, May 23
Congratulations to Malenky Mirovoy Teatr, who gave Michael Nyman’s chamber opera The man who mistook his wife for a hat its first professional performance in Russia. (MMT also sponsored a public play-through of the work in February in Moscow). The composer himself attended both of the performances this week, given as part of the Chekhov Theatre Festival in Moscow.
The theme of the opera is the first of the cases of abnormal psychiatric phenomena related in Dr Oliver Sachs’ mid-80’s book “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”. It relates the story of a distinguished musician, “Professor P”, who encounters increasing difficulties in associating the physical shape of objects which he sees with the concepts those objects (his wife, his hat) ought to have for him. He sees them perfectly – but he does not know what they are. At the instigation of his wife “Mrs P”, he attends the clinic of “Dr S” – whom we know as Dr Sachs. As the investigations continue, Sachs finds to his initial incredulity that P is somehow using musical associations in his head as an aide-memoire to recognising the objects which surround him in his daily life. Unable to solve the case, Dr S at least consoles himself that the patient has contrived his own very unique way of navigating his world. The ending is left open with the same words that end Sachs’ real-life account of the case - “But I began to worry – what would happen for him when the music ended?”
British conductor Damian Iorio – more regularly to be found conducting the Murmansk Philharmonic – masterminded the musical aspects of the production, carefully and authentically reproducing a score first heard in 1985. Like much of Nyman’s music, “The man” employs a rigorous “minimalist” technique throughout – the same minimalism which brought Nyman back into composing that he’d originally abandoned in the 1970’s. The instrumental ensemble – a string quartet with an additional cello, harp and piano – repeat slowly metamorphosing ostinato patterns of different shapes and textures, whist the vocal soloists sing longer sustained lines which float over this amorphous and mercurial texture. As a background to a story of intractable psychological disorder, this makes a very effective combination – the apparent certainties in the mind of Professor P overlaying the shifting sands of constantly changing patterns.
The ArtPlay Gallery is a worthy and exciting venue for presenting new experiments in art and furniture design – but unfortunately it is a deeply unfortunate location for presenting live music. The acoustic is like a public swimming bath, and the sightlines are abysmal for anyone sitting further back than Row 3’s $120 seats. The instrumental ensemble were moved – logically, as there was no better place to locate them – under an overhanging gallery, which unfortunately made them sound as though they were in another room, and the sound was coming through the wall. It would have been worthwhile miking both the singers and instrumentalists, and putting the whole thing through a professional mixing-desk. The free champagne and hors-d’oeuvres afterwards – and party music??? – more than hinted that the promoter’s priorities here were aimed more at a musical fashion-show, and less at an opera production. So fatal was the choice of venue that it served to entirely undermine the entire creative effort – apparently considerable – lavished on the work. This isn’t overstatement – if you can’t see it and you can barely hear it, how the hell can you review it? The production – what could be seen of it, at least – was an inventive piece of work from Natalya Anastasieva, and designed by Anna Koleichuk. The neurological tests were illustrated with computer-generated back-projections, including abstract shapes and designs, and a morphing image of the Mona Lisa which changed shape in ghastly proportions illustrating the severity of Professor P’s visual problems.
A bright team of singers, all from Helikon Opera, performed the three vocal roles. Mikhail Davydov made a sympathetic patient – not wanting a fuss made of him, and trying to downplay the acute nature of his condition. Julia Korpacheva sang lyrical lines of concern and anxiety, delicately exploring the extreme upper soprano register effortlessly, whilst pride of place went to Dmitry Kuzmin’s splendidly-sung Dr S, acted with conviction and splendid diction. The fragments of “Ich grolle nicht” which P sings prompted the producer to include on-stage appearances of both Robert Schumann (Piotr Apollonov) and Clara Schumann (Ekaterine Pospelova) – well, probably the people in Rows 1-3 may have seen them, anyhow?
“Deficit. Deficit of vision.” the piece begins. As someone who paid $60 of his own money and couldn’t see anything more than three bobbing heads, I certainly sympathised with the problem of deficit of vision. And there were people sitting up to ten rows behind me. Idiotic TV screens in the audience area flashing rotating adverts for the sponsors throughout the performance merely heightened the deficit. When the sponsor’s name obscures and obliterates the art itself, you know you have a serious problem.
249.Basement Jaxx  
Basement Jaxx
Fittingly, in a city of jaw-dropping juxtapositions and cultural collisions, the last night of Basement Jaxx’s summer tour brought a hybridity and experimentalism to B1 Maximum that the Muscovite audience responded to in kind. Be it cheesy house, mental mosh-ups or Jamaican Gabba Street parties replete with skipping ropes, Moscow lapped it up and asked for more.
The set, percussion, DJ, drums and 3 horns provide a backdrop for 3 super-talented vocalists, an MC and guitarist and Basement Jaxx founder Felix Buxton, to run amok, and reflected the street party vibe at the roots of the Basement Jaxx route to popularity. The group draws upon the music of Brixton and London SW9, from the street sound of Jamaican ragga or The Clash to Saturday night house music and Sunday morning atonement with a church gospel choir to constantly surprise and uplift the audience by bringing a new vibe, a new twist, and countless costume changes.
Opening on an up and keeping it there, they brought the street vibe to Moscow, Jump’n’Shout had them high-kicking for starters before they stitched together three pieces from 2001’s Rooty and 2003’s Kish Kash that endeared singers Linda Lewis and Vula Melinga to all and sundry. The dancing was Jamaican, the singing was soulful, the horns were Latin and the beats were massive, yet it sounded like ska, or maybe hip-hop, or was that disco? It was loud though, very loud.
Four tracks in and it was time for “Take Me Back to Your House”, the video to which is saturated in Russian and soviet iconography and as such has received saturation rotation on MTV Russia. It was rather like seeing Prince in 1989, and standing agog as he played “Purple Rain” four songs in. Like, what were they going to do next? What about the encore?! Like Prince, Basement Jaxx had faith. They even chilled out for a bit – giving the white jump-suited horn section a Memphis moment before kicking into “Do Your Thing” from 2001’s “Rooty”, an Aretha meets Blues Brothers belter replete with manic Charleston dancing.
They did it again too, giving a big-up to label mates White Stripes by bashing out “Run for Cover”, before dropping the pace with a soulful “When the light is over now”, beautifully sung by Linda Lewis, whose extraordinary vocal prowess proved too much for the sound system, which frankly, should have been switched off altogether and must have been handled by a deaf 16 year old on speed, but more of that later.
The energy kept coming from stage centre, while video screens relaying the on-stage shenanigans to the gathered masses, filling Club B1 to about 3/4s capacity. Rooty’s “Get me off” was performed like Salt’n’Peppa (remember "Push it"?) were actually there. Ten times cheekier than Gwen Stefani, the girls loved it, both on stage and off. “Just Look Around”, (Yo Yo Yummy Yummy!) brought a dominatrix and a lime green track-suited belly dancer to make us smile, before things got totally out of hand. “Where’s Your Head At” was utterly lost in the sound – which was by now dangerously stupid – only matched by the on-stage cavorting of the Jaxx-ers, and the brilliant Horn Section costumed up as Klingon-Silverback-Ninja-Warriors in Tubeway Army’s castaways. Looked great, sounded terrible (it actually sounded like this at several points).
With that it was goodnight time, though a 20 minute African-Mambo multi-party singalong (It’s Basement Jaxx!) encore stretched the evening to 10.30, and brought the groups summer tour well and truly to an end. Right up to the end they were tight, together, having fun, and working hard, an infectious cocktail.
Groups come and go but a venue and its management remain. B1 Maximum has lead Moscow’s foray into quality musical nights out over the summer, offering a series of concerts appealing to a European/Western musical palette. For me, Air’s kaleidoscopic 2 ? hour set stands out in this respect though others would argue that Sonic Youth or Gogol Bordello are more worthy of mention, though perhaps I’m just showing my age. In short, Club B1 is a quality venue offering quality events with quality artists at Moscow prices. Basement Jaxx’s visit represents the latest efforts of Moscow’s more savvy music promoters to bring us a quality night out… as opposed to the Scorpions, again.
But, there is room for improvement. The sound was truly awful. The system regularly peaked at dangerous levels, prompting apologies on the band’s myspace site. If Club B1 wants to stay ahead of the posse of promoters and venues offering nights-out to Moscow’s revelers it will have to pay more attention to fundamentals such as this, and let the gloss take care of itself.
250.Kaiser Chiefs  
Kaiser Chiefs
As gigs go, this one was in danger of winding down to a conclusion as disappointing as Russia’s Euro 2012 football campaign: a highly promising start gave every hope of a triumph in the making, but things were starting to sag a little as the latter stages came into view. And then, out of nothing, came the moment of magic that the fans had been waiting for. Spotting an unguarded passage down the right wing of the arena, Ricky Wilson timed his run to perfection to launch an audacious surge, which took him clear of the stage and planted him directly on top of the bar. Calling on the startled staff for vodka, he was perfectly placed to deliver a couple of songs for an audience which, abruptly, found it had been yanked out of an arena gig and returned to the intimacy of a club venue. With the security team left flat-footed by an unprecedented counter-attack, the singer had broken free and was back in touching distance of his fans (or at least those fortunate enough, or alcoholic enough, to be loitering at the bar rather than piling into the mosh pit). And, unlike Alexander Kerzhakov, his performance hit the target nicely.
It was a curious echo of the quasi-mythical 2005 gig that the band gave in the cramped confines of Kitaisky Lyotchik – a bizarre event which saw the UK critical success of debut release “Employment” lead to the Kaiser Chiefs’ first ever foreign show in one of Moscow’s least glamorous venues (OK, yes, the band also played a festival on Bolotnaya on the same visit, but when the legend is more colorful than the facts, stick with the legend!). It also highlighted, as much of any gurning for the cameras on-stage at Afisha Picnic last summer, how much more effective Wilson is when he has an audience he can communicate with face-to-face, or as close to face-to-face as possible. In a few moments he elevated the entire show from ‘competent’ to ‘memorable’ – a skill other acts would do well to consider.
The rest of the set ranged from the earliest days of the band’s career to tracks specially penned for the “Souvenir” greatest hits compilation that was notionally underpinning this tour. From the golden oldies, there was a rare outing for “Cover of your Magazine”, a three-minute spurt of sharp and spiky post-punk, which managed to cram in plenty of pre-echoes of the anthemic hits, which were to follow it. New tracks included “On the Run”, which carried another one of those trademark epic choruses, but veered close to soft-rock territory with a whisper of “St. Elmo’s Fire” hovering around the edges. More interesting was the darker “Listen to your Head”, with hints of a power ballad amid reverb-heavy vocals and heavy, sonorous piano. Even though they hail from the same part of West Yorkshire as half of Britain’s 1980s goth scene, Kaiser Chiefs don’t really do doom-laden. If they did, though, their Sisters of Mercy phase would probably end up sounding a lot like this.
Instead, however, the band serves up big choruses, easy to shout along to in any language, and it serves up plenty of them. From the opener, “Never miss a beat”, their music has chantable climaxes studded through them like the Kasier Chiefs logo on the stick of candy rock used to give a quintessentially English seaside vibe to the promo material for “Souvenir”. But if this music is, on one level, as definitively English as the earlier calls to rocking arms submitted by the likes of The Clash or The Jam, we’re already at one remove from the visceral anger of “A Town like Malice” or the rallying cry of “London Calling”. Even the likes of “I Predict a Riot” and “The Angry Mob” lack the edginess of their punk-era predecessors. This is musical revolution for the MP3 generation, where audiences are more likely to assault the world with a polyphonic ringtone than a well-aimed Doc Martens boot. As such, therefore, it’s appropriate that the engagingly witless “Ruby” is the song which ultimately becomes the night’s calling card. Punk may not be dead, but it’s closing in on retirement age by now.
If there was a serious disappointment, it was that the crowd seemed relatively small. Given how well the band had played at last year’s festival date, and given the huge numbers who flocked to both of The Prodigy’s shows at Stadium Live – and left seemingly content despite an ear-splitting sound mix which left much of the music buried in an impenetrable sonic soup – the promoters could have hoped for more here. After all, by Moscow standards, a cover of 1500 rubles wasn’t too extortionate for a touring act. Meanwhile, there is evidence that the sound crew at Stadium Live is beginning to hit its stride as well – the mix for this show was far better than other recent performances at the same venue, with pretty much everything coming off the stage clearly and the vocals never overwhelmed by the rest of the band. It was only that impromptu trip to the bar which caught the sound boys out, as Wilson retreated towards the back of the hall while the music blazed away from the onstage speaker sets. With the singer hamming it up and belting it out at the opposite end of the venue, it left a slightly disconcerting dislocation between sound and sight. But without a Rammstein-sized budget to fund two stages and a collapsible bridge between them, no tech crew can overcome that kind of spur of the moment gesture.
251.Lolita /By R.Schedrin/  
Lolita /By R.Schedrin/
One inevitably wonders about the reasoning behind turning one of the C20th’s most infamous novellas into an opera? Would it be for the baffling interplay between the supposed narrator, Humbert Humbert, and his self-created persona in his own story? Would it be to explore the interpersonal relationships in a bizarre love-triangle involving a man, plus a mother and daughter? Or would it, more unfortunately, be a rather cynically prurient ploy to sell seats to a modern opera if the music alone won’t drag them in? The jury may be out, but I strongly feel the last has validity – the real issues in this “Lolita” go unexplored.
Nabokov’s narrator warns us, at the very opening of the novel, that he is a liar, and that nothing he says can be trusted. He instances his abilities in lying and deception before the story starts, so that we are in doubt of capabilities he boasts from his childhood onwards. This, of course, should inform any half-intelligent reader that the narrator is capable not only of lying to the other characters – he may also be lying to us? In fact, we only have his word for it that any of the events occur. Perhaps he’s a paedophile fantasist? There’s a potent theory that the whole book is a game of cat-and-mouse between narrator and reader, not a whodunnit so much as a did-he-do-any-of-it-at-all? The omission of this ambiguity in Schedrin’s operatic version – which takes every word of the novella as unambiguous truth – is the fatal flaw in this ambitious and lengthy work. For example, when the mother finds Humbert’s love-letters to her own daughter, she flies into a rage – a difficulty for Humbert’s seductions which is conveniently solved, in the novella, when she “accidentally” falls under a car when crossing the road at his side. Humbert, of course, never specifically tells us that he pushed her? But he has told us that he is a liar, and that we must never trust what we says. Yet in the opera she is run-down whilst Humbert is at home indoors, and a flunkey (Humbert has a flunkey? How?) arrives with the bad news – at which Humbert weeps with emotion undisplayed in the book. To state so categorically that he’s not guilty of a murder he very likely committed, and to change the scene to not only remove his opportunity for the killing but also provide him with an alibi (the flunkey who can testify to his whereabouts) sabotages the storyline entirely.
Schedrin finds the defendant definitively “not guilty”. Whereas Act II should properly have the frenetic road-movie pace of a post-killing spree of booze and under-age sex, the musical pace doesn’t change – Act II seems monotonously long, and the audience was obviously restive. There’s one volume, one texture, one instrumentation from start to end, and there is only so long this can hold interest. Even an audience almost entirely composed from Musical Moscow’s literati were obviously fed-up, and most were busy fleeing the theatre as soon as the final beat fell. The sex, of course, is only barely hinted-at – it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the novel to imagine it is full of sex. There’s far more sex in Lady Macbeth Of Mtensk or Le Grand Macabre. Although Lolita is not really a Russian story at all (it was written in English, when Nabokov had already moved to America, and is entirely set in the USA) this is a peculiarly Russian view of it. This one-soundworld-fits-all approach is a pity, since the atonal murk of Act One sits well as a background for the emotional exploitation and psychological machinations of the action. Sadly, it is entirely inappropriate for the adrenalin buzz of Act Two, and rather than finding any forward pace, tails off into self-indulgent and eminently cuttable perorations that serve the action poorly.
In the title role, Tatiana Kuinji excels. Nominated for a Golden Mask (she already took one for Lulu in 2002) this is a titanic performance on every level. The acting is so perfect as the early-teens Lolita that you hardly notice her effortless stunning singing – she hops, and bounces barefoot, squeals and pouts with frightening accuracy. But this is also singing to die for, as is the careful and superbly-achieved performance of Alexander Agapov as Humbert. “Quilty” is set for a high tenorino, and Sergey Vlasov coped admirably with the punishing tessitura. Tatiana Kaminskaya made a three-dimensional character out of the underparted role of Lolita’s mother.
Valery Platonov directed in the pit, working tenaciously to wring interest from a largely featureless score of dull harmonic clusters. To throw so much energy into such unrewarding material seems a terrible waste. Nevertheless, the musical preparation of the score was magnificent, even if it largely went unappreciated (except, perhaps, by the composer, who was present for the performance - along with his more famous wife, the legendary ballerina Maya Plesetskaya).
The production is entirely new for the Perm Opera – a troupe which acquired the nickname The Opera Laboratory of the Country in the Soviet era. Lolita was first heard in a production for the Swedish National Opera, who staged it in 1992 with Liv Gustafson in the title role. This elegant and striking production has been devised by Perm Opera’s artistic director, Georgi Isaakian, and designed by Elena Solovyeva. Isaakian directs the action well, and nobly follows the composer’s intentions as best he can. Sadly, the flaws in the piece are in-built, and in the unlikely event that this piece stays in the repertoire, it will need some extensive musical cuts in Act II, optimally some reorchestration to relieve the desperate textural tedium, and a stage-director willing and able to reintroduce essential plotline details of the original story. As it is, Schedrin should thank his lucky stars that his interests were served by a richly talented cast, a superb leading lady, and a production which distracted the audience from a score that’s more worthy than worthwhile.
Lolita is nominated for the Golden Mask Awards (Russia’s national awards for Music and Theatre achievement) – the results will be announced on April 12.
252.Antony & The Johnsons  
Antony & The Johnsons
Antony Hegarty, the flamboyant frontman of Antony & the Johnsons, is not the first foreigner to admit to finding Moscow a bit of a mystery. But during his headline slot at the recent Ahmad Tea festival in Hermitage Garden he inadvertently stumbled on one of the quirks which makes life in Russia’s capital so captivating – if also so challenging at times. After all, as he mused from the stage, it’s a fast-paced, rough and ready city where ‘crazy things are happening behind every door’. And yet, in this apparently unpromising soil, something is nurturing the ‘angels’ who turn up to concerts like this – a rather camp, uncompromisingly highbrow brand of baroque pop, performed in dismal weather with the accompaniment of a full symphony orchestra. Compared with the brain dead output of mainstream Russian music, this is another world. On the face of it, there really shouldn’t be an audience for this at all in a country which seems to be in thrall to banshee-wailing balladeers and perky girl bands, or at best, which thrills to the visits of international touring acts who are already some way past their sell-by dates.
And yet, clearly, just as a country where a monolithic, self-perpetuating state apparatus cannot stifle the willingness of tens of thousands of nay-sayers to take to the streets in freezing winter temperatures to raise an objection which even many of those participating regard as somewhat futile, the dead hand of corporately approved pap – deftly steered by the deus ex machine figures responsible for Channel 1’s so-called “entertainment” schedules – cannot stifle public enthusiasm for music that goes a bit deeper than the obvious inane crowd-pleasers and ring-tone fodder churned out by Europa +.
Antony & The Johnsons perform a curious brand of music, one which in some respects contains as much duality as Moscow’s stratified cultural life. Drawing on Hegarty’s birthplace in Chichester, England, it sometimes seems to draw into the narrative ballad tradition – now half forgotten – of English folk music (or perhaps more accurately, the music of England’s urban communities, rather than the quirky morris-dancing gubbins). But if that seems to place the band alongside the likes of Billy Bragg and the socially-motivated music-making of the industrial underclasses, think again. It doesn’t even quite inherit the fragile world of Nick Drake, gently musing on a world which is despairingly far from reach before slipping into its own ethereal void. Instead, the second profound influence is Hegarty’s second life in New York, where he lives and where his musical, cultural journey led him to creative adulthood. In that melting pot of high art and low culture, where the spirit of Tin Pan Alley tries to turn every song into a show, that narrative tradition takes on a distinct new turn – stagier, more dramatic, yet somehow without slumping into casual showiness. It’s a kind of pop chamber music in its native state – but it comes with a voice straight off the Broadway stage.
Meanwhile, the show which came to Moscow took that chamber music and orchestrated it, transformed it from lieder to opera by ramping up the scale and hiring the stage band from Novaya Opera to accompany the show. All too often this kind of thing means gimmicks: lazy arrangers rely on kitsch, the strings take on a Hollywood vibrato and everything is lost in a vast vat of musical treacle. But not here. This time the arrangements are astute; woodwinds serve as more than mere piquant seasoning to the slush, brass adds texture rather than brute force. The intro to “The Cripple and the Starfish” might have a cinematic feel, but it’s the score to a film you’d want to watch more than one rather than the parping rumble of a brain-in-neutral blockbuster. But this ties in with the ethos observed by other musicians: in Hegarty’s music the commitment is always to the integrity of the song. As Adrian McNally, whose folk band The Unthanks peformed a set built around these songs a couple of years ago, observes: “There is never a spare not played or one struck to impress. They appear entirely consumed with the search for beauty and truth.”
It’s high praise, and helps build that high-brow wall around Hegarty and his colleagues. But, as always, it’s only part of the story. The performance, battling against unhelpful weather for an outdoor festival, was no Symphony Hall recital. The setting may appear stuffily operatic, but the singer himself remains rooted in Broadway rather than the Met. It’s a rendition of big-hearted torch songs typified by the likes of “You are my sister” and “For today I am a boy” rather than shallow, calculating show stoppers. Some questions remained – it was a surprise to hear him stumble on more than one occasion over the lyrics, relying on a measure of charm to get out of a hole without trying the fans’ patience. But on the whole, it was a triumphant performance.
Sadly, the rest of the festival struggled to keep up. A bizarre scheduling decision saw the intriguing I am Kloot appear first. As a result the inventive pop orchestra was all but finished as the venue was still filling up. And that disappointment was compounded by the unimpressive contribution of Farfallo, an aging English singer-songwriter with limited appeal which left the crowd getting increasingly damp despite the hasty distribution of complementary raincoats for all. That sudden uniform – shapeless white robes and pointy hoods – gave proceedings a somewhat surreal feeling. Depending on your point of view it might call to mind either the notorious ‘sperm’ scene from Woody Allen’s “All you ever wanted to know about sex”, or a bizarre parody of a Ku Klux Klan gathering. For Hegarty, however, a sea of soggy white plastic was “like singing to a cloud” comprised of the “angels of Moscow”.
253.Saint Etienne  
Saint Etienne
“It felt like we were on a polar expedition,” Brit-Popper Pete Wiggs joked about his band’s pre-gig-snow-beset trek to Red Square. “It took us more than an hour to walk there from our hotel,” front woman Sarah Cracknell lamented. But Thursday’s blizzard was exactly the reception which the trio had hoped for from Moscow: “We expected [Moscow] to be colder than we’ve been in our lives,” added Bob Stanley. Stanley, Wiggs and Cracknell are Saint Etienne, veterans of British pop, who after stripping off sweaters and long underwear, rather effortlessly heated up Moscow’ B2 on Thursday night. The group brought their feel-good mix of electronic dance music, driving vocals and rock and roll to a packed house of fans. It was the band’s first trip to Moscow, likely scouting the scene in preparation for an album-release tour this summer: “People tell us we’re popular [in Russia],” Wiggs said in an interview on Thursday, “we’re waiting to find out.”
Founded in 1990 by sonophilic-nerds Stanley and Wiggs, the London based Saint Etienne early became a fixture of the mod dance-pop scene. After adding vocalist Sarah Cracknell in 1991, the group released a number of charting single (including the concert features “Only love can break your heart” and “Nothing can stop us”) and a string of albums. Fifteen years into it the group exudes a relaxed charm: “We don’t see each other every day like some bands,” Stanley explained – “I suppose we come from similar backgrounds, we like the same things – the same stupid jokes,” added Cracknell, explaining the group’s congenial dynamic. The band’s market success initially came from Stanley and Wiggs’ insider-knowledge (Stanley began his career in music as a critic) but it is doubtless their easy to digest pop sound that draws in new listeners single after single and keeps cult fans coming back: The 90s saw a number of fans-only releases and the group is once again gaining exposure with a recently released compilation.
Before the start of the show, a B2 DJ adorned the air as Thursday night socialites filed into the venue, on the fourth floor of the club and took up a position on the dance floor or one of the raised VIP sections on either side of it. The stage, set for a full band, featured the line of Korg, Yamaha and Roland keyboards and synthesizers familiar to the indy-pop scene. Another prominent element, the film screen at the back of the stage – sandwiched between two colorful Chesterfield cigarette lights – featured an Alain Delon film (at the band’s request, according to their tour manager). As fans mulled about, ordered drinks from the bar and met up with friends, many were very obviously excited about such a popular group making their Russian debut. As one Anglophone expat said: “I wasn’t going to come out tonight, but I can’t miss out on a great band like this one.”
The great band, if asked, might ironically describe itself as “unstoppable” (Cracknell) or comment that “they’ve done it again” (Wiggs). The continuity of their pop-savvy style, indeed, is exactly what keeps them on the successful edge of fame. Not claiming to have “invented something new,” and though feeling “disconnected from the new-music scene,” Stanley does recommend a few up and coming acts (The Magic Numbers, The Concretes, The Streets) with whom the band has played. While contemporary groups influence the band’s sound, Saint Etienne’s particular brand of backwards-looking-forwards-motion gives their pop an endearing appeal. With the sixties as their decade of choice – “We like the look of the sixties – it looks great to have been our age in the sixties” (Cracknell) – the group shares a love of the “innovative pop of the sixties and seventies” that forms the basis of their style. With their predilection for the image-conscious mainstream of yesteryear, the band mixes their love for black and white cinema of the sixties and the Supremes with their talent at synthesized remixes of those decades. Their ‘unstoppable’ success at reinterpreting, releasing and re-releasing old material (both their own and others’) is part of a self described process of “deconstructing and recreating” that is made to produce their high-gloss-low-budget retro-mod image. Says Stanley, “we’re sexy.” Sexy is exactly the kind of catchword that sticks to a group like Saint Etienne. And where, pray-tell, does the sex stop and the music begin? As Cracknell says with a smile, “When the lights go out.”
A little after midnight, Saint Etienne took the stage, announced in black and white on the screen at their backs. They started their performance with “Action” and continued through “Shower Scene,” before taking a moment to thank the crowd, with Cracknell mustering a timid “spa-sea-bow.” The sartorial Cracknell, sporting a pink sequined top and tight red pants, led the group with the throaty vocals of a fifteen-year veteran of the music industry, her seductive dance moves prompting arms of fans to be thrown into the air with pleasure. The less image savvy (read: more indy) remainder (harmonist, drums, three keyboards, and bass and rhythm guitars) melted into the background while the simple verse-chorus vocals-driven songs and bright spotlights brought Cracknell out into the house. “Side Streets,” the first new song in their set (to be featured in their upcoming album-release), pleased the crowd with its gimmicky chorus and bubblegum-pop sound. The remainder of their set, 15 songs in all, neither challenged nor bored. The songs ranged from the classic “Only love can break your heart,” complete with must-have indy-pop vibraphone, to the new and funky “You can count on me,” a cutesy juvenile dance song with Cracknell counting in English, French and Spanish over a driving bass beat. Their upbeat set continued through “Nothing can stop us now” with the chorus “I’ve never felt so good/I’ve never felt so strong” and “Good thing” (soon to be another single) with the chorus “You know it was a good thing/it was the best thing” sung in front of a sixties-era black and white of rather frantic dancers. These easily delivered lyrics, to a background of ironically retro film clips showed just what kind of pop-innovation Saint Etienne envisioned. The trio seem to prefer reconstruction to deconstruction, sixties pop that would rather be 1955 than 1968.
Concertgoers ranged in style from business casual to would-be hipsters and were mostly young (Wiggs complains that the club scene is “going snotty”). Most present, however, were die-hard fans, who sang along with Cracknell’s vocals, gave flowers, danced and waved their arms in ecstasy. The band liked the venue, with Wiggs commenting that the club offered, “good sound – [and adding that] people look good.” Certainly, then, the show was a success. Saint Etienne offered an up-tempo set of sunshine-filled indy-pop to a crowd of Moscow’s finest. All present were eager for the fun of a throbbing synthesized retro remix that promised unstoppable black and white optimism. Nothing and no one stood in the way of the trio delivering their unique variety of sugar-coated sexy fun to the very warm reception offered by B2’s patrons. Said Wiggs, “we try and give people the holy shiver.” Blizzard or no, for 700 rubles, Saint Etienne did just that.
254.Front 242 (Version 2007)  
Front 242 (Version 2007)
Before reading this I suggest you watch this.There is a certain inevitability to most things in life – things tend to happen with a delightful, comforting, mind boggling or infuriating, consistency, depending on your point of view. One man's Lebowski is another man's Dude. For example, a stockbroker might argue that Darwin's theory of evolution emphasizes competition over co-operation, the whole survival of the fittest thing. While a biologist or botanist might stress natural selection as less about survival and more an expression of the interdependence of beings and their environment. One way or the other all would probably agree that as environments change, animals change. Anthropologically there's consensus that as things change, people change and whichever came first is not important. Fair enough, good and bad stuff happens, things change, we get by as best we can, adapt, innovate, move on.Then there's the cockroach theory – you know, the one that says the most cunningly and perfectly devised military machines on the planet haven't changed for over a million years and are in fact the ultimate expression of a primordial militarism deemed somehow terribly impressive by people who believe human history is all about war, rather than em… not. Accordingly, life as we know it is a battle against your "enemies", real or imagined, who ultimately become one's reason to live."Fascists? No Lonnie, worse… they're Nihilists."This permanent state of readiness for war not only explains the philosophy of neo-conservatism (hardly in itself liberating) but it also tells us why cockroaches are so cool: because their survival demonstrates how we can best encapsulate the history of humanity. It's the philosophy that finishes with the ultimate in self-justification, saying "…for I'm the meanest mother f#cker in the valley". Fightin' talk thus.Front 242 (that's zwei vier zwei to you), it seems, are the cockroaches of electronic music. There were four of them in Apelsin on Saturday – to whom respect should be given as the sound was great, the staff helpful and it never took longer than two minutes to get a drink. Comprising two frontmen, a keyboard-player/programmer and a drummer who worked off the powerful programmed beats yet really didn't add any extra depth to the sound coming through the circuits, Front 242 are quite old. They started life nestled into the (mainly German) techno scene in the early 1980's and while they are experienced performers, for sure, perhaps they've just got the wrong ideas about themselves.Richard 23 (Richard Jonckheere) opened the show bopping around in sleeveless military fatigue with fingerless gloves, ubiquitous wraparounds, slightly be-muscled though fleshy nonetheless. In his day clothes he seems a very approachable chap, and there was no faulting his energy. In fact there was no faulting anyone's energy… loads of effort, lots of pumping fists, finger pointing and that funny industrious bopping you'd see the lads from the gym do when they're off their heads on E. Remember that kind of non-stop ergonomically efficient hammer-bopping with the odd move from Madonna's vogue video thrown in to add some sense of mystique? This was it, here in 2007, in Moscow. I hadn't seen it for years.. not since MC Hammer..Vocals were divided into two categories: American football coach delivery from our abovementioned friend, or a Rammstein-esque graveltone delivered utterly without irony by another shaded booted and gloved techno-muppet (Singer jean Luc De Meyer – here he is singing Baudelaire's poems with his group Modern Cubism. Seriously, I'm not joking). Having heard of them as "pioneers" of electronic music, I expected at least an iota of intelligence strewn amongst the zwei vier zwei fingerless glove and sleeveless we-mean-business-brigade, but alas in 2007 there was none. They may have been clever, they cited Wagner, Shostakovich, the Italian futurists, Rossolo and Graphsim to beard-scratchers favorite journalist Simon Reynolds in Melody Maker in 1991, but it seems they've managed to avoid any other influences since about 1983, when they released their first album Geography.Even my mate sleepy Dennis the boxer who'd seen them before was nonplussed by the sheer, well, stupidity of it all. Dennis is off the sauce though, so may not be as compos mentis as we gave him credit for. He could've seen someone else entirely a couple of years back.Still, the sound never distorted (this is where Apelsin have one up on B1) despite the mountains of whumping bass on offer. The show opened with impressive graphics running on the video walls either side of the stage, with most of us eventually preferring to watch the screens rather than the gym/stage.Programmer Daniel B. kicked us off with a thumping intro to Welcome to Paradise, the dramatic effect of which was somewhat undermined by Richard23's appearance in military garb bopping like Michael Flatley on speed. But as the drummer and second vocalist were added to the line-up things got a little mushy. Football coach and uber-soldier swapped lead-singer roles throughout but never looked like anything was choreographed – that they'd put some work into the stage show. This is rather surprising considering they're supposed to have been playing music together since before most of you were born. Instead we got cheesy arms round shoulders, and my favorite: kneeling and pointing through the roof towards some distant greater purpose or good which they allude to in their music, in the depth of their lyrics, the profundity of their philosophy. Bollocks.At this stage I would like to briefly, and not altogether tangentially mention the wearing of sunglasses on stage in dark rooms. There are a few performers who could and can wear sunglasses on stage (and here I'm speaking about Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles or The Blind Boys of Alabama). I've got a feeling that on Saturday our posers with delusions of grandeur wore sunglasses not to fool us into thinking they're cooler than they really are, but to fool themselves into thinking it. They could have taken off their shades, said hello to the 300 odd devoted fans, but they didn't. They could have looked 300 people in the eye and said to them "yes, as our music asks you to believe in ideas, we show you the whites of our eyes and yes, we believe it!". But they didn't. Anyone who wears shades throughout a gig has something to hide and is either Prince or shouldn't be onstage. This was cabaret.To be honest, the best bits were when they played pieces from their early albums, and that was an encore. Here the key changes, song structures, and beats were more sophisticated, subtle and yes, intelligent. One song reminded me of Depeche Mode's "New Life", for example. But the unhappy evidence on the basis of Saturday's set-list is that while Underworld, Orbital, Aphex Twin, Prodigy, and even Scooter explored technology's potential as a medium for music during the 90's and up to now, Front 242 explored music's possibilities as a medium for technology. Their adherence to the ideas of the twentieth century started out as a form of modernism (constructivism was a guiding principle in their latter years), but is now frankly embarrassing to the point that their cringe-inducing fear-mongering would not be out of place at a Nashi convention.Jack-hammer bass drums and de-ne-ne-ne keyboards were cool in 1982 (remember the start of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America?"), but that was 25 years ago. Grunge reminded us that in order to be heavy, in order to rock, you had have to have guitars. Like, even the Prodigy had a guitarist when were at their most pompous, but the Fronters just had their keyboards… and when you're trying to be heavy, to be hard, to rock, but dance and do justice to your fingerless gloves, then keyboards are about as out of place as an expat in Petrovich when the school disco's on. Things are out of whack, the centre cannot hold. Guitars go well with muscles such as Richard23's but muscles and keyboards just look wrong, morally wrong. No matter how bulgy your biceps, if you stand behind a keyboard you look like a puff – it's the legacy of the 1980's, just ask any heavy metal band.Anyhow – turning music into technology was clever in the 70s, all the Germans did it (Einsteunde Neubaten, Can, Kraftwerk, Nina Hagen even). In der shule von industrielle uber music Front 242 may have been innovators in 1983, who sadly now they represent the no-necks, the jocks. In my part of the world they'd be strapping 11-toed fuckers lured down from the mountains with raw meat who can kick and catch a ball while in Russia they'd be Duma deputies. Not the brightest, but a force to be reckoned with.They are nihilist soldiers at the gates of oblivion striving for something to strive against, and as such, Saturday's performance was an honest no-frills expression of a mentality which defiantly stands up to its enemies and shouts "no surrender!". This is fine if you believed Star Wars, of you see the world as a battle between good and evil, black and white, Christian and Muslim, Democrat and Republican, anarchist and fascist.Front 242, it seems, will just keep doing what they're doing, regardless of their (ir)relevance (Apelsin was less than half full), regardless of how things have changed, ignorant of the damage they do to minds and to music: they are soldiers, they are Donald Rumsfeld, they are OMON: a stripped down, empty, single purpose unintelligent military machine – the cockroach - leaving the geneticist or botanist, the true holders of Darwin's heritage, wondering where have all the flowers gone.I'll leave the last word to Dennis "It wasn't supposed to be like this".
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Native German and Russian speaker with excellent English skills.
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