Moscow: A sacrifice for greatness.

All those cities of dreams. They are scattered all over the world, in India its Mumbai, in the United States its New York and in Russia it’s Moscow. St.Petersburg has a feel which is far too romantic to warrant that title. To be a city of dreams, there must be inherent hardship, hurdles, insecurities, suffering, pain, and through that veil of darkness one emerges with a constitution unparalleled, a strength of character unknown to one before, happiness, growth, satisfaction and a limitless book of stories that stays relevant only to you. The immense effort of taking the leap, changing one’s life and going far enough, to fight with one’s own demons and all the factors that detract until success is tasted. In a city of dreams, a person learns his trade, one learns the street lingo, one learns the city, the people, the constant rejection, the ultimate learning is of understanding what human nature really is. All previous thoughts, images and teachings burn away in the blink of an eye. Thrown into the gladiator’s rings, the Coliseum looks on, it is where one is tested to the limit, chained by money, hardships and a ruthless environment ready to spit you out at the end of the barrel again and again until you learn to stand and fight. The evils of each of these cities are bare to see, quick money, crime, greed, prostitution, laundering, a life only imagined, never to be real but the possibilities of it all coming clean, seem real. When one plays with fire one never knows that it can burn you to ash, until you are ash. The freewheeling nature of a city built with this incredible dynamic means that all that was impossible can be made possible each day, a life that was a dream is reality and the manner of dealing with that, is what determines whether you will fall in the ring or stand to a rising ovation.

That is Moscow, a city of brilliance, of beauty, of power, of torture, of greatness, incomparable, and without the dedication of hard work, there would be nothing left of you. The brutality of existence in Moscow is clear to see, the need for discipline is higher here than anywhere else in the world and yet after all that I have said, it is the greatest city I lived in. It is beautiful in the centre, ugly on the outside, that is the anthem of any Russian friendship. Once broken into, there is a pact to death to stay true and help another, and when it’s not, you are as good as dead to a person. The unspoken is far more powerful than the spoken, a sacred shot of vodka more relevant than any shower of praise which isn’t consummated by that clear liquid. It all seems so classic of Moscow that it is perceived as an ugly city. It is almost as if it has been built into this image that gives it the magic that it is. Never will people in the western world speak about Moscow being beautiful. Yet it is Moscow that has the Bolshoi Theatre, the Gum at the Red Square, the most stunning metro stations in the world, filled with statues, varying architectural styles, frescos, paintings and incredible efficiency. A person who admires beauty could live a life within Moscow’s metro. I haven’t even started. The gardens around the city, from the more political Park Pobedy to the splendid Tsaritsyno, which is my favourite, the golden domed  Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Novokuznetskaya, MSU, the list goes on and on. Come to think of it, the history of Moscow, from burning itself în the Great Fire of Moscow, 1812 as Napoleon was at its doors, to its resurrection, the hotbed of artistic and literary brilliance, Master and Margarita, for example, the Kremlin, communism, capitalism, dictatorships, the KGB at Lubyanka, winds of change and all the calm that the river of Moskva brings. How can one ever compare this city, how can Moscow be dismissed, it can’t, there is far too much to make it stand alone, right at the top, it epitomizes a city of dreams like no other. It lost itself, hurt itself, killed itself and yet at the end grew out of the ashes like a phoenix, into a surrealistic power compounded by Stalin’s seven sisters now standing as ghostly guards over it. The curses hurled at Moscow are from the blind who are too far away to know anything but its name, or from those who live within and love to hate their existence there, but deep within each of them know Moscow is what made them, they would be nothing without Moscow. That is Moscow for me, the first real lesson in living, living on the edge, danger, power, desires, seduction, pain, joy, success, oh my, to me that was Moscow, money everywhere and I had none of it, it was addictive, poisoned and enlightening dynamic, unrelenting and unending. I hated it and there was nothing as amazing in my entire life to live within and witness. I left, forced, with nothing but sadness and love, the hate was transformed. It is easy to live within an environment and despise it but, for that environment to leave is to have nothing left. As I left I felt I had nothing left.

Top 16 recommendations for travellers.

  1. Red Square/ St.Basil/ GUM
  2. Kremlin
  3. Lenin’s Mausoleum (although many Russians don’t believe he is laid there)
  4. Tsaritsyno Palance & Gardens
  5. Kolomenskaya Park
  6. Tverskaya Boulevard
  7. KGB building at Lubyanka
  8. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
  9. Stalin’s Seven Sisters
  10. Izmailovsky Park and Garden with the Olympic village turned into low-cost ghost hotels
  11. Vorobyeva Gory & Moscow State University
  12. Novy Arbat
  13. Exploring the Moscow Metro, especially the metro stations in the inner ring.
  14. Spartak Moscow vs CSKA Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium
  15. Victory Day Fireworks May 9
  16. The most beautiful sites are all within the inner circle, the parks, MSU are outside.












2 thoughts on “Moscow

  1. The most insightful piece ever!

    Hello Gautam,

    Thanks for your article. It has given me a deep perspective into this city that I have not read or heard from anywhere else. Being a geography enthusiast, I knew this was a great city. However, I never thought that any city in Europe would match the challenge of a daily life that Mumbai presents. Yet in your article, you state that ‘the need for discipline here is higher than anywhere else in the world.’ This fascinated me.

    Russia is one of the best representations of European culture. I believe they have the best ballet schools, philharmonics and operas. The Russian Ball dance is popular throughout the western world. There are yearly events conducted in Rome, Washington DC etc. It is not just St. Petersburg, but even Moscow that that would give me the romantic feel with its gothic buildings and historic architecture. The communist ea buildings they say, have a certain dullness to them, but nevertheless Moscow has enough to be a beautiful city.

    I have heard a far bit of negative portrayal of Moscow from genuine sources. It has a large degree of pollution, mostly as a result of the policies from the communist era and has significant traffic jams (in stark contrast to the declining population of Russia, till recently). In the book ‘Breakout Nations’ by Ruchir Sharma, Russia was referred to as the fastest transformed country economically from the end of the communist era till the last decade.

    There was a statement made about the iconic Broadway in New York city by the author Napoleon Hill. He said ‘Broadway will give any beggar a sandwich and a cup of coffee, but it demands persistence of those who go after the higher stakes.’ It is clear the same is true of Moscow in the Russian and European context.

    As said in the beginning, thank you for a literary journey you have taken me through this city, a piece such as this can not be penned by someone who has not closely observed and studied this city. I will from now follow your blog.

    -Rahul Mudliar


    1. Hi,

      You can never compare Russian culture with European culture. Russia is itself, its another universe, another sphere of reality, another power that never falls. Russia is what you experience of it, it is dynamic and emotional. You will only ever know when you are graced by its presence. Europe is stagnant and shelved into boredom when compared. That fires burn in the east, the slavic blood can never be quelled.


      Liked by 1 person

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