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First Impressions

March 31, 2009 at 10:31 am
By Nikki, Charlie, Ben, Kenny

Tuesday, 31 March

Russian word for the day: "акклиматизация." Acclimatizatsiya. Acclimatization. We're all still getting used to the atmosphere--both the physical surroundings and the culture, but everyone is enjoying the process.

 On Sunday the entire group "poyekhali po moskve na avtobusye"--took a bus tour around Moscow. Then, yesterday, students broke into groups and were assigned Moscow State University students as guides. We'll share with you now a few fun facts about some of the places we saw.

 Pyotr Christopherovich

To begin with, we were introduced to Moscow as a city with an unpredictable past. One of the primary drivers of this unpredictability is the current mayor of Moscow, Luzhkov. Old buildings have been torn down and rebuilt with parking garages beneath, new buildings built in pseudo-classical style, and cupolas added where none have ever been (as with the synagogue in Kitai Gorod). Perhaps the most visible example of this is the monument to Peter the Great, known to locals as "Pyotr Christopherovich" or "Peter Son of Christopher." This name stems from the rumored origin of this monument as a statue of Columbus intended for the city of New York. When New York made it clear that there was no place for such a monument, the artist (Tsereteli - a favorite of the mayor) swapped the head and it became Peter the Great. Few Muscovites think very highly of this memorial to a ruler who built an entire city to avoid situating his capital in Moscow, designed by an unpopular artist.


More of Luzkov's designs for Moscow can be seen in the current use of the "GUM", the large building the makes up the side of the Red Square across from the Kremlin.  Originally built to house the merchants that used to set up shops on the square, the building became the Government Universal Store (GUM) for soviet elites and foreigners to shop.  Now the building is a super expensive shopping mall, in which the only affordable item we found was ice cream.  Nikki wanted to look into one of the boutiques, but felt deterred by the large Russian policeman guarding the entrance. Obviously these stores cater to a specific clientele...

 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

  Perhaps the most permanent aspects of the city's history are the monuments to old military victories. These include St. Basil's Cathedral (Ivan Grozny's victory over the Golden Horde in 1552), many of the monasteries and chapels located around the city (stemming from an old tradition of building churches to commemorate victories, military or commercial), and Aleksandrovsky Garden, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Hero City monuments. As with many nations, the tomb contains a randomly selected soldier, in this case said to be the remains of a woman. The guard that stands watch nearby changes with ceremonious marching, and was formerly located outside Lenin's tomb.

  Children - Victims of Adult Vices

 In addition to remembering past victories and battles, the city has a special monument dedicated to vices of the past and present called, The Children – Victims of Adult Vices. The particular vices include (from left to right): Drug Addiction, Prostitution, Theft, Alcoholism, Ignorance, Pseudoscience, Indifference, Propaganda of Violence, Sadism, For those without Memory, War, Poverty, Child Labor. The vices make a half circle with the other half supposedly other adults that are viewing the monument. In front of the vices, there are two children as the victims. Although there. Interestingly, this monument stands next to the housing of the Soviet élites.

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