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Then, and now…



In 1860, the world’s largest Orthodox Church, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, opened its doors near the Moskva River in central Moscow.
Around 1930, the atheist nut-bag Joseph Stalin decided to demo the Cathedral to make way for his grand vision called the Palace of the Soviets. But the outbreak of World War II turned Stalin’s vision into a gigantic hole in the ground.
In the early 60’s, Nikita Khrushchev transformed the cultural blemish into the world’s largest open-air swimming pool, named Moskva Pool.



In 1991, officials of the New Federation drained the hole-turned pool and authorized the building of a new Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, modeled after the original. Some 50 years after the death of atheist-dictator-madman Joseph Stalin, the New Federation’s deeply religious convictions were again proudly on display for citizens and tourists alike.

  The reborn Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and the footbridge over the Moskva River that leads to its entrance.

The reborn Cathedral of Christ the Saviour,
and the footbridge over the Moskva River that leads to its entrance.


Communist Russia has never been classified as a consumer-friendly society. As one resident, who lived through the period said, “for better or worse, everybody was supposed to have something, although those of “privilege” had far more than most of us.” One dreadful attempt at consumer-friendly was the installation of vending machines to conveniently and inexpensively dispense available beverages. As you can see from the pictures below they were “spartan affairs at best.” No functional frills. No advertising hyperbole. No sleek design. No operational consistency.



Today vending machines are a part of everyday urban life in Russia from street corners to airports. Designed to attract, you can make a few rubles by recycling glass, or buy yourself a Coke for a lot more rubles. Who knows in time, the Federation may even vend Cuban Cigars. I’ve included a picture of a recycle machine I took on the sidewalk of a busy eight-lane prospect, and another I took at Domodedovo Airport just before leaving Moscow. Yes, I had a coke. It was about 150 rubles ($5.00, give or take). No, I didn’t recycle anything.



The picture below is Lubiyanka str. near Moscow City Center during the communist era. Note the vintage Russian made cars (no imports), the wide organized prospects (i.e., boulevards), the modest traffic flow, and the complete absence of advertising signs and/or billboards.


Typical government building in the center foreground. To the rear left, what today is part of the financial district.


I took the picture below last fall in Central Moscow. Same wide avenues, but in just two short decades post perestroika, the automobile traffic is bumper-to bumper 24 hours a day, there are billboards and signs on every street corner, and only 34% of the cars on the road are made in Russia. Then again there are pluses: road dividers are lined with colorful flowers to make your traffic wait more pleasant, and Russia is now tied with the United States for percentage of cars imported versus made locally. Ahhh progress, you’ve gotta love it.



As the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” The Federation has its own set of enduring cultural traditions and icons. Perhaps none more familiar to local and tourist alike than Red Square and the Kremlin. It ranks as one of the most photographed sites in the world. So, just to confuse and confound, I posted two pictures of the square, one was taken by me in 2012, the other dates from the communist era. One happens to have the annual reviewing stand, the other does not. Can you tell which picture is THEN, and which is NOW: photo (a) or photo (b)? For the correct answer just email me.


Photo A

Photo B


P.S. A special thanks to Brian Boyer at the Regional Management Information Center, Embassy of the United States, Moscow, for graciously supplying the historical photos that he took many, many years ago, to complement the photos I took during my visits to the Federation during the past five years.

DATE: Dec.09.2013 | CATEGORY: Archived