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Saint Basil's Cathedral
Saint Basil's Cathedral

Moscow (Russian/Cyrillic: Москва́, pronunciation: Moskva), capital of Russia, located on the river Moskva, and encompassing 1097.12 km2. Its coordinates are . The city's population is rapidly increasing, with 11,273,400 inhabitants counted in 2004.

The city is in the federal district called Central Russia (which is actually in the west of Russia). It was the capital of the former Soviet Union, and of Muscovite Russia, the pre-Imperial Russia. It is the site of the famous Kremlin, which serves as the center of the national government.

Moscow is also well known as the site of the Saint Basil's Cathedral, with its elegant onion domes. The Patriarch of Moscow serves as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.



The first reference to Moscow dates from 1147 when it was an obscure town in a small province, with a mostly Finno-Ugric population, the Merya. In 1156, Prince Yury Dolgoruky built a wooden wall and a moat around the city. The defenses were hardly successful, as in 1177 the city was burned to the ground and its population was killed. After the sacking of 1237-1238, when the Mongols burned the city to the ground and killed its inhabitants, Moscow recovered and became the capital of an independent principality.

In 1300 Moscow was ruled by Daniil Aleksandrovich, the son of Alexander Nevsky and a member of the Rurik Dynasty. Its favorable position on the headwaters of the Volga river contributed to steady expansion. Moscow was also stable and prosperous for many years and attracted a large numbers of refugees from across Russia. By 1304 Yury of Moscow contested with Mikhail of Tver for the throne of the principality of Vladimir. Ivan I eventually defeated Tver to become the capitol of Vladimir, and the sole collector of taxes for the Mongol rulers. By paying high tribute, Ivan won an important concession from the Khan. Unlike other principalities, Moscow was not divided among his sons, but was passed intact to his eldest.

While Khan of the Golden Horde initially attempted to limit Moscow's influence, when the growth of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania began to threaten all of Russia, the Khan strengthened Moscow to counterbalance Lithuania, allowing it to become one of the most powerful cities in Russia. In 1480, Ivan III is said to have finally broken the Russians free from Tatar control (see Great standing on the Ugra river) and Moscow became the capital of an empire which would eventually encompass all of Russia and Siberia, and parts of many other lands.

The tyranny of later Czars, such as Ivan the Terrible, led to a decay of the state, even as the empire was expanding. In 1571 the Tatars from the Crimean Khanate seized and burned Moscow. From 1610 through 1612 troops of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied Moscow, as its ruler Sigismund III got involved first in an attempt of the Russian gentry to establish a usurper on the throne, then later to form a personal union between the two biggest Slavic states. However, the effort of the Polish-Lithuanian army had only half-hearted support at home, and the intervention was strongly criticized in the Commonwealth Sejm. Thus, in 1612, the people of Moscow staged another uprising that this time was directed against the Polish-Lithuanian forces and succeeded in recapturing the Kremlin from them. In 1613, an assembly of the Empire elected Michael Romanov tsar, establishing the Romanov dynasty.

1888 German map of Moscow
1888 German map of Moscow

Moscow ceased to be Russia's capital when in 1703 Peter the Great constructed St. Petersburg on the Baltic coast. When Napoleon invaded in 1812, the Moscovites evacuated and burned the city on September 14, as Napoleon's forces were approaching. Napoleon's army, plagued by hunger, cold, and poor supply lines, retreated.

In January of 1905, the institution of the City Governor, or Mayor, was officially introduced in Moscow, and Aleksandr Adrianov became Moscow's first official mayor (current mayor is Yuri Luzhkov). Following the success of the Russian revolution in 1917, Lenin, fearing possible foreign invasion, moved capital from St. Petersburg back to Moscow on March 5, 1918.

As a vital junction of USSR railroads and supply lines, Moscow, along with Leningrad and Kiev, was designated one of the three strategic targets of German offensive in 1941. In November 1941, German Army Group Centre was stopped at the outskirts of the city and then driven off in the course of Battle of Moscow.

Historical population

Year Population Year Population Year Population
1400 40 000 1811 270 200 1912 1 617 157
1638 200 000 1813 215 000 1920 1 027 300
1710 160 000 1825 241 500 1926 2 101 200
1725 145 000 1840 349 100 1939 4 609 200
1738 138 400 1856 368 800 1959 6 133 100
1775 161 000 1868 416 400 1970 7 194 300
1785 188 700 1871 601 969 1979 8 142 200
    1888 753 459 1989 8 972 300
    1897 1 038 600 2002 10 383 000

Further reading

Administrative division

Main article: Administrative division of Moscow.


The Red Square and Lenin's Mausoleum (center).
The Red Square and Lenin's Mausoleum (center).

Moscow is the heart of the Russian ballet and the performing arts. Theatres and Ballet studios dot Moscow. The most famous of these are the Bolshoi (Big) and Malyj (Small) theatres. Ticket prices used to be as low as $1 in the Soviet era, but prices have been seriously adjusted since.

Although less than a quarter of Russians live in the countryside, Muscovites, like other urban dwellers, are still attached to the countryside. Many live in country homes (called dachas) over the weekend and over holidays. The dacha also serves as the retirement home of the elderly. Many parks and gardens are present in Moscow; see Sport.

The post war years saw a serious housing crisis, solved by the invention of plattenbau. About 13,000 of these standardised and prefabricated apartment blocks house the majority of Moscow's population. They are built in heights of 9, 12, 17 or 21 stories. Apartments were built and partly furnished in the factory before being raised and stacked into tall columns. The popular soviet-era comic film Irony of Fate parodies this soulless construction method. A groom on his way home from his bachelor party passes out at an airport and wakes up in Leningrad, mistakenly sent there by his friend. He gets a taxi to his address, which also exists in Leningrad, and uses his key to open the door. All the furniture and possessions are so standardised that he doesn't realise that this isn't his home, until the real owner returns. The film struck such a chord with all Russians, watching on their standard TVs in their standard apartments, that the film is now shown every New Year's Eve.


There are numerous large universities in Moscow, including the renowned Moscow State University housed in the 240m high tower on Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills). The university has over 30,000 undergraduates and 7,000 postgraduate students. Bauman Moscow State Technical University offers a wide range of technical degrees.

See Also: List of universities in Russia


Moscow has always been a popular destination for more adventurous tourists. The better known attractions include the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Kremlin, Red Square and the Church of the Ascension at Kolomenskoye, all dating from between the 14th and 17th centuries. Other popular attractions include the Zoo, expanded in the 1990s. Moscow is also the western end of the 9,300 km Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok. The city is best visited in midwinter when the streets are cloaked in powdery snow and the dusky twilight of the continental winter. In winter the locals face the cold with the warm embrace of hospitality. However, as temperatures can often be below -25C, early summer or early autumn can offer a more comfortable, if less romantic, visit.


Some prices are considerably higher for the foreign visitor than for locals. A cost of living survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting puts Moscow in second place after Tokyo, making it the most expensive city in Europe. For natives, small apartments bought or given by the state in the Soviet era, coupled with extremely low utility costs and easily avoidable income tax serve to lower the cost of living greatly. A look at transport prices offers a good illustration. A taxi from Sheremetyevo International Airport will cost the non-Russian speaking traveller upwards of $60; the Russian speaking foreigner will be charged $30-$40. The native Moscow dweller will negotiate the price to $15-20 or will avoid the taxi rank altogether and take a shared taxi to the nearest metro station for about 1 dollar.


In recent times there has been a large and quickly growing range of restaurants with a range of prices to match. The average cost, per person, for a meal in a middle to high class restaurant will be $30 to $200, especially if one orders vintage wines. A quick "canteen" style meal in a "Stolovaya" may cost about three dollars. Chain restaurants, such as "Moo-Moo," offer adequate quality canteen food—with English menus—for around five dollars per person. Although most Moscovites do not eat in even cheap restaurants very often, lately many new "middle-class" restaurants have opened, targeting families on weekends. A number of fast food restaurants has outlets near many metro stations. That includes the omnipresent McDonald's as well as other chains, notably Rostiks, which specializes on serving chicken. Recently, a large number of the coffee shops sprouted around the city.

Moscow tourist attractions


Moscow has four airports, Sheremetyevo International Airport, Domodedovo International Airport, Bykovo Airport, and Vnukovo International Airport

Local transportation includes the Moscow Metro, an excellent metro (subway) system, filled with art, murals, and mosaics. Begun in 1935, it has 11 lines and more than 170 stations. It is not uncommon to see ornate chandeliers lighting the stations. The system is the world's busiest, with 9 million passengers every day and trains every 90 seconds at peak times.

As Metro stations are placed quite far apart in comparison to other cities, up to 4km, an extensive bus network radiates from each station to the surrounding residential zones. The buses are very frequent, often more than one a minute, and very cheap at about $0.35. Every large street in the city is served by at least one bus route and none of the city's 13,000 apartment blocks are more than a few minutes walk from a stop. There are also tram and trolleybus networks. Relatively few people commute via car within the city because it is plagued by traffic jams; however, most middle-class families own a car for use on weekends and holidays. According to some estimates, there are over 2.5 million cars in the city on a daily basis (2004).


Soccer is an extremely popular spectator sport among the young. Clubs such as Dinamo and Spartak are prominent on the European stage. Supporter violence has become a serious problem when international teams play in Moscow. In 2002, dozen of Irish fans in Moscow for a Russia-Ireland game were attacked by neo-nazi groups. One later died of his injuries. That same year, when a Russia-Japan World Cup match, played in Japan but broadcast live to the crowds in Pushkinskaja Square, went badly for the Russians, the crowd turned violent and wrecked havoc in the centre of the city, breaking windows, smashing and burning cars and looting several shops. A Chinese restaurant was incidentally attacked and five Japanese tourists were beaten. One policeman died (other sources say two) and about one hundred people were injured.

Winter sports have a large following. Most Russians own cross-country skis and ice skates and there are many large parks with marked trails for skiers and frozen ponds and canals for skaters. Often parks will have small local businesses offering ski and skate rental. Prices range from $1 to $5 an hour for rental.

Moscow was the host city of the 1980 Summer Olympics, although the yachting events were held at Tallinn. Huge new stadium and other athletic facilities were built especially for the occasion. The main international airport, Sheremetyevo Terminal 2, was also built at this time. Moscow has also made a bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.


Although the population of the Russian Federation declines by about 700,000 (143.8 million * 0.5% decline) every year due to low birth rates, emigration, early deaths, and AIDS, Moscow appears to be immune to these problems in recent years. Moscow has a very high population growth rates, largely due to migration (despite an internal passport system that makes it illegal for non-city residents to stay in the capital for more than 90 days without registration). These new Moscovites are attracted by the local economic growth rate of up to 20%, versus stagnation or even decline in most of Russia, the result of sharp polarization of the country in recent years. Right now, Moscow is the largest city in Europe.

According to a July 22, 2004 article in Forbes, Moscow became the city with the most billionaires. It had 33 billionaires, passing New York City by two.


Terrorism is a recent threat in Moscow. The prolonged war with Chechen separatists has led them to utilisation of terrorism as a means to oppose the federal government. On February 6 2004 the bomb explosion in a subway car near the Avtozavodskaya metro station killed at least 40 and injured many. Other prominent acts of terror include the destruction of two apartment buildings in September 1999 (see Russian Apartment Bombings), an explosion in the pedestrian subway under the Pushkinskaya square in August 2000, and the capture of the theatre at Dubrovka in October 2002 where more than 100 people died during the sleeping gas attack on terrorists.

External links

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