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Moscow: Opulent, Overwhelming, and Pulsing With Power

Moscow Opulent Overwhelming and Pulsing With Power


In a land where many acquired their apartments from the state, cars billboard social rank like nothing else. There is nothing subtle about this. Rich Muscovites shove their opulent rolling stock in your face. Drivers lord it over lesser beings plodding about on foot. For a long time, cars would honk as they approached intersections, rarely slowing down, and scattering pedestrians like chickens—or even, to bypass bottlenecks, swerving up onto the pavement. (In recent years, with stricter laws and higher fines, the roads and sidewalks have become safer, but barreling down streets the wrong way is still distressingly common.)

Drivers suffer, too: With all the traffic jams, getting from one end of the city to the other by car can take hours.

I’ve called Moscow home for the past 22 years. Even with the crisis in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin’s ever more authoritarian rule, I haven’t seriously thought of leaving. I came of age here, started writing here, met my wife here, wrote three books about Russia here (and four others as well), witnessed armed conflict here, was robbed here (twice), and have been terrified here and mesmerized here.

In short, I found my life here and have few regrets. I visited first as a tourist in 1985 but settled for good in July 1993, fresh from the peripatetic adventure I’d undertaken for Siberian Dawn (my first book)—an 8,325-mile (13,398-kilometer) trek by truck, train, boat, and taxi from Magadan, on the frozen Sea of Okhotsk, across Siberia, southern Russia, and Ukraine to Poland.

Stashed in: Russia and Friends, National Geographic

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I don't understand Moscow at all. It actually seems like a very wealthy city.

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