Dynamic Paralysis

Letter From Moscow

Appearances, as we all know (or should know), are often deceptive, just as one’s memory is often fallible and by no means a sure guide as to what one has really and truly observed.  It may be that I was not sufficiently observant when I first visited Moscow in the summer of 2003.  I must confess, however, that what most amazed me when I returned to the Russian capital two years later was to find its most famous avenue, the Tverskaya Ulitsa, visually transformed by dozens of advertising streamers strung high above the broad sidewalks and the teeming car-crammed thoroughfare below.

The Tverskaya Ulitsa—so named centuries ago because it was the broad “street” that led in a northwesterly direction from the redbrick walls of the Kremlin up a gradual incline and onward across the plains and rolling hills to the town of Tver, some 70 kilometers distant—has long enjoyed a reputation comparable to that of the Champs-Elysées in Paris or of New York’s Fifth Avenue.  It resembles neither, being fronted for the most part by huge stone buildings resting on massive dark-gray granite foundations, many of which to this day are adorned by metal plaques reminding pedestrians that, in this or that imposing edifice, there once lived (and often died) a duly rewarded “hero of socialistic labor.”  But truly to appreciate the outlandishly capitalistic transformation that the Tverskaya...

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