Moscow (Moskva to its resident – the Muscovite or Moskvich) is the capital of Russia, and, with an estimated population of 12 million, not only the largest metropolitan area in Europe, but the 7th-largest city in the world.
The city is named after the river Moskva, on which it was built. The earliest historical reference to the city of Moscow dates to 1147 AD. A principality long under Mongol-Tartar rule, Moscow claimed independence and control over Russian territory in 1480 under the rule of Ivan III. Numerous wars and the deathly plague of the mid-15th century took its toll on the city, and it was demoted from its status as Russia’s capital in 1712 when czar Peter I moved his court to the newly founded Saint Petersburg on the Baltic coastline. Nevertheless, the city remained a major trade capital. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Muscovites burned it almost to the ground to prevent it from falling into Napolean’s hands. Starved and freezing, with no supplies, the army was forced to retreat in the bitter Russian winter.
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the overthrowing of Russia’s final czar Nicholas III, Moscow was reinstated to its place as capital city of the new Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic; and eventually, the Soviet Union. From here on out, the Kremlin became synonymous with Soviet power – a reputation that lingers to this day. While under siege during World War II – known here as the Great Patriotic War – Moscow was protected by more than 160,000 volunteer soldiers, in whose honor special medals were dedicated. The Soviet defeat of the German invaders is celebrated in Moscow to this day, with a spectacular parade on May 9th. And Moscow retained its status as capital even with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Boris Yeltsin became president of the re-discovered Russia – now one of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Now a vibrant metropolis (and one of the most expensive cities in the world), the city has filled with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and a restaurant scene that embraces everything from café culture to haute cuisine from around the world. Culture and an appreciation for the arts run deep, with world-class theatre, opera, and ballet productions, and famous museums and art galleries, including the renowned Tretyakov Gallery.
Moscow is most famous for iconic landmarks such as the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral with its classic onion domes, and the magnificent Bolshoi Ballet. It has now also become a significant power in the finance and business world, and plays an important role in world politics and economics.
There are many expatriates living in Moscow. Although foreigners may at first be startled by the stern outward attitude of the Russian people, they soon learn that to the Russian, a foreigner is someone to be taken care of and looked after – and that once you establish a friendship with a Muscovite, he or she will be among the most sincerely caring urbanites you will meet anywhere in the world.
Although Moscow is a unique place with a culture all its own, most western luxuries are easily accessible. And while you may find you need to reassess your perception of how much space is really needed to live in comfortably, and what constitutes a warm winter coat and sturdy winter footwear, there is a lot to look forward to about living in Moscow.
Moscow is laid out through a series of concentric ring roads and radial highways heading off through the suburbs into the towns to which they ultimately connect. This planning is emulated underground by the still-expanding metro system. The city is built on the banks of the Moscow River.
The innermost ring road, known as the Boulevard Ring passes through Pushkin Square crossing the main North-South thoroughfare, Tverskaya Street, which runs from Red Square to its final destination, St Petersburg. The second ring road, the Garden Ring is concentric and less than one kilometer separates the two in many places. Both are popular locations for theatres, restaurants, clubs and retail stores.
Some three kilometers further from the centre, the relatively newly constructed Third Ring is purely a motor highway with much of it constructed on raised fly-overs to relieve chronic traffic congestion in the city. A fourth ring road is under consideration but for the moment the main orbital highway is the multi-lane Moscow Automobile Ring Road, called the MKAD which forms the approximate boundary of the city.