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MOSCOW LIFE: Bleak winter of 2001

January-February 2001

    It takes one month to forget that the sun exists - we have just checked it. In theory, such months are not supposed to happen in Russia, and even short winter days now and then should show us low but still shining sun. Not this year! Since the middle of December 2000, we were living in the grayish dusk; overcast and absolutely uniform sky was dark even at noon and often wet.

Making skies even grayer - apartments, warmer...

   There was even no decent frost until February. Mild thaws were replaced by slightly freezing days and vice versa. Icicles were growing from every roof and every architectural decoration like in March. It was not a winter from a Russian folk tale with a sparkling blanket of snow and crisp refreshing air. It was a season from environmentalists' horror story about adverse greenhouse effects.

   Surprisingly, we Muscovites have had a good time.

As always in my stories here, you can zoom in on any picture. Just click on an image and a larger and better quality photo will open. Many of the photos are worth looking at in postcard size.

Lost in deep thoughts about global warming... New towers in the downtown Nothing is better than a cup of good coffee on a chilly and gray winter day Click on the picture to see the snowflakes...

Ice, ice everywhere...
Skating rink at the Red Square

   January, as I have already told many times before, is a funny month in Russia. First two weeks are a long vacations for many, Moscow looks unusually deserted and even traffic jams are fewer and shorter. Business owners and top managers fly to Egypt or tropical islands to warm themselves and their girl/boyfriends or spouses up.

   Less wealthy Muscovites celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7, Old Style New Year on January 13; the school-kids relax on a long winter vacations. Ice, ice was everywhere... Real ice storms are rare in Moscow, but this winter got fed up with them. Fortunately, ice decorated not only the gas pipes, as the top photo on the left shows.

Dolls looking at spectators
Meeting each other

   For the youngest kids (officially, only for those below 12 years) a small skating rink was open in the Red Square, for the first time ever (left, bottom photo). Slowly but surely, the central square of Russia becomes less official, less pompous, and much more merry and human.

   For the whole month, a spectacular show was attracting lots of Muscovites to the Central House of Artists. International Doll Show presented hundreds of these dressed-up beauties of all sizes and styles, creations of artists from France, USA, Germany, Holland, Israel, Russia and other countries.

Come on, brother, let's talk... Come with us, Granny... Happy 2001 from a construction team!

   Just two more photos; they confirm how much we and the dolls are alike. And how they differ one from another.

...In January, Christmas trees are still frequent in the streets and at home. Some are surprising! The one shown in the photo I saw every morning and evening coming to the office and heading home. Construction workers a block down the street made it of some available junk - and made the whole street a bit brighter.

Traditional New Year movie, now on Red Square Christmas time is a busy one at Cathedral of Christ the Savior Large snowflakes, chilly wind, bad weather for street vendors Out of the Metro - and in the snow

The door to GARAGE bar Signs and ads on Pushkin Square

   Twilight is blue even after a very gray day. Moscow winter evenings are beautiful and at that time bright lights of street billboards, glowing signs, and all other colors of modern advertising are welcome. The city dwellers leave the offices, and the nightlife in all its variety begins in movie theaters and bars, restaurants and cafes, concert halls and disco clubs. Even entrances to some of these places look impressive. Casinos are the brightest all over the city, fly traps with all their running and blinking lights. Stylish Garage bar projects its special image even by its door with a huge wrench as a doorknob and a car tail above. And beer places, my favorites, offer smooth music and large mugs of freshly brewed amber liquid... Time to get warm, to relax, to chat lazily with good friends.

Nautilus shopping center at Lubyanka Lights of big casino From a huge McDonalds to small stand with bliny, Russian fast food

   Even romantic light cannot change the mood of some places. Of course, a new sushi bar (photo below on the left) and its stylish sign look nicer in the evening. But the Central Bank of Russia (below, in the middle) looks solid and formal even at night. To mark a new year (and slow but steady inflation), the Bank of Russia issued a new banknote, 1000 Rubles. Before, the largest nominal was 500 RUR (equivalent to less than $20). In a land of cash (that's what Russia is), it is inconvenient, the wallets have to be too thick... But so far I have not seen the new money and cannot show you the picture.

A new susi bar in the basement of a new mall Central Bank of Russia: serious and lacking romance even in the night Cemetery by the Kremlin walls

Gray bridge under gray skies of January thaw
Stoleshnikov after a snowfall
This ice on the windows is not intentional decorations...

   The picture on the right (in the row above) shows the strange place of Moscow, the cemetery in the Kremlin wall. It used to be hidden behind the trees, but recent work on the Red Square made the monuments and plaques visible. The shadows of the past, maniacs and fanatics also known as communist leaders, are know looking at the square where the life is struggling to become sane - despite all the efforts of those buried by the Kremlin.

    Almost rainy January with wet grey cotton above and puddles below gave way to windy and snowy February. This year Moscow Mayor who has now no political ambitions, is not very interested in keeping the city clean - or, for that matter, in caring about the city at all. Once abundant, snow-ploughs and special liquids that prevented black ice on the sidewalks disappeared altogether. In the busy daytime, streets became a nightmare - but at night, they look magical with ice and snow piles everywhere.

Street art market is open in any weather Metro in Izmailovo Park in Izmailovo

Hot goods on a good winter day More snow, more labour

   Winter weekends offer all the usual options. If you are interested in art, not only exhibits, but huge street markets are at your service. Most of the items there are pure junk, but still the places are busy, and quite a few customers, happy. In the parks, the sports rules. Muscovites with no cars (in other words, majority of the city residents) prefer the parks where the Metro can take you right in. All the roads to the parks are packed with small stands offering skiing equipment. Real winter this year is too short to miss a single day...

Sokolniki Park: game tents
A day or two after a snowfall, city workers start to move the snow

   Fortunately, as I have already mentioned, in early February the weather decided to remember what a season should look like. The temperature dropped abruptly to real frost of -5 F (-20 C), the skies cleared up and we again could see real blue color, a bit pale because of the cold.

   Okay, enough for this time. This year is the seventh one for Moscow Life project, and hopefully, there will be again many illustrated stories for those who like Russia and its capital.


Andrey - asebrant@online.ru


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