Moscow 25 Years On: Do I Still Recognise The City?
Wi-Fi on the metro. Startups in the suburbs. Glass towers in the business parks and rollerbladers on the embankment. What happened to Moscow? It used to be so gloriously haggard, like it was nursing the mother of all hangovers from 200 years of heavy history.
Not any more. Now lovers canoodle by fountains that dance to Tchaikovsky. Middle classes murmur in al fresco restaurants to a bossa nova soundtrack. There are marble malls and 24-hour supermarkets and lots of children’s playgrounds. Grass and pedestrian walkways and public conveniences. And still the facelift goes on.
It is 25 years since this correspondent first set foot in Europe’s largest city. In those days, the air was thick with cheap gasoline, cars were all Zhigulis (Ladas) and ZiLs – or else dodgy, paperless German saloons driven by men with thick necks and leather jackets. A chic lunch was a kebab at the Baku restaurant on Gorky street; a trip to Pizza Hut was a big day out. The colours people wore really were 50 shades of grey, only not so much EL James as LI Brezhnev. And no one smiled.