To start this page I should really say that Moscow is Russia, and Russia is Moscow, despite what many people, especially local, will try to have us believe. Moscow is a microcosm of not just Russia but the ex-USSR and former Soviet Bloc. Much as the city changes, it remains very much rooted in a past that nobody really wants to change. As new office blocks dazzle in the sunlight, or shopping malls resonate to the sound of high heels and androids, the city is the same as it has always been. A place to buy and sell, govern and gawp.
A couple of nights ago we went for a drive from home to Barvikha (or through Barvikha), and passing by the elite’s dacha settlements and glowing shopping centres, I was struck by the overpowering number of billboards on either side of the road. Property, holidays, banks, cars – all tailored towards the high end buyers. Yet try as I might, the whole area in both layout, design and presentation, did not appear from the sub-Moscow forest night like an eastern cousin doing well for itself, it looked painful. Aping similar developments in other countries, it just stood out as vulgar, insincere and very, very insecure. What went into the design was wasted insofar as that it poorly represents the country. It misrepresents those who live there and importantly it really appeared a complete waste of money.
Now, if I were living there, minted and with the world at my feet, would I complain? Probably not, at least I will convince myself of this to be balanced, though I know in my heart that I couldn’t exist in such an environment. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy having servants, security and prestige, if I were to go and work in an impoverished country I could get that. No, what’s missing there is inspiration. Inspiration that is so vitally needed in Russia at this crucial moment in time. There is status quo, making sure to remain the same as your neighbour. To hold onto what you have, there is no innovation, no development and this spreads across the country and infects every walk of life. Decisions on the future of the Russian Federation pour forth from these gated enclosures, dispensed like writs from medieval nobility who could survive on the back of indentured peasants. At a time when the country has such potential and possibility, with so much groundwork laid and so much to be done, the short drive along Rublyevo illustrated why Russia is not going to tear up any trees soon, unless it’s to remove more forest for dachas.