Correspondence

Gigantic in Everything

Letter From Moscow

When you visit a foreign capital for the first time, sooner or later you are likely to be asked the question: “What do you think of our country?” or “What is your impression of this city?”  In St. Petersburg, which I had visited in May, I had a ready answer: Everything there (the worst as well as the best) struck me as being monumental.  But when, a few weeks later, I reached Moscow, I had to find something even more superlative to describe my sense of awe, admiration, and surprise.  I summed up my mixed feelings in a standard reply, to the effect that I was “sovsyem srazhyon gromadnym razmahom”—“utterly overwhelmed by the massive dimensions” of  Russia’s capital city.

I have traveled enough around the continent of Europe to be able to say, I think with reasonable accuracy, that there is nothing quite like it and that, in terms of size and urban sprawl, Moscow dwarfs every other European capital.  Berlin, with its ten-kilometer-long extension of Unter den Linden, which stretches from the Brandenburg Gate past the Tiergarten all the way to the suburb of Charlottenburg and beyond, has exactly one long thoroughfare wide enough to accommodate eight lanes of traffic.  Moscow has more than half a dozen, which radiate out like giant arteries in all directions from the vicinity of the Kremlin: like the prestigious Tverskaya Ulitsa, which extends...

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