The Changing Face of Moscow


The monstrous Hotel Rossiya — Europe’s largest hotel with 3,200 rooms — was demolished in 2006. My Muscovite friends tell me that when it was taken down, every building within a half-mile was immediately overrun with cockroaches. Gross.
Two years earlier, the Moskva was taken down to make room for a new Four Seasons. The Moskva was famously designed in four architectural styles because no architect had the courage to ask Stalin which of the four he preferred after he simply marked all of their alternative proposals “approved.”

Now we learn that Detsky Mir is going to be completely gutted in a $200M renovation. Detsky Mir (Children’s World) is not only the largest children’s store in Europe, it’s also an important piece of Soviet History. It sits in Lubyanka Square, right across from the Lubyanka building and prison, the current headquarters of the FSB and the HQ for the KGB, NKVD, Cheka and other names for the Soviet political police.
Why was it placed there? Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, had two passions: one was defending the revolution through murder and persecution; the other was children. In addition to leading the political police, Dzerzhinsky also founded the Soviet orphans’ bureau. The joke about Dzerzhinsky was that he would kill the parents and adopt the children. I do love morbid Soviet humor.
In case you don’t recognize Dzerzhinsky’s name, it was his statue that was taken down by the Moscow mob that stood up to the coup in 1991, at the time the most bold act of resistance by Soviet citizens.
In any case, the children’s store placed on Lubyanka Square in Dzerzhinsky’s honor in 1961. History buffs: if you’re planning to go to Moscow, go soon. Before long, there won’t be much more to see in the way of old Soviet landmarks — only Four Seasons hotels and Sbarros. And if you do go, be sure to visit the sculpture and monument graveyard near Gorky Park — it’s one of the most eerie and generally cool places I’ve ever been to.
— Scott Paul


7 comments on “The Changing Face of Moscow

  1. WigWag says:

    On the general topic of Russia, it is interesting to note that within the past few days, Serbia has formed a pro-Western, pro EU government. In light of recent events in Kosovo this is actually quite remarkable.
    The Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic (ardently in favor of having Serbia join the EU) has formed a coalition government with the Socialist Party (which until recently was fiercely nationalistic). The socialist party was the party led by Slobodan Milosevic. At least from the Western perspective that is a hopeful outcome and may vindicate the position of commentators like Charles Kupchan who have argued that the West had no choice but to recognize Kosovo despite the risks associated with doing this.
    All of this puts Russia in an interesting position. They have vigorously opposed recognition of Kosovo, siting the failure of the UN Security Council to provide a mandate. But of course, one can not help but wonder whether they actually welcomed the situation there because of the cover it provided them for their role in the Georgia/South Ossetia conflict as well as other conflicts in the former Soviet republics.
    If Serbia of all places can come to terms with losing Kosovo, it robs the Russians of one excuse for their adventurism in the former Soviet Republics.
    If all of this works out (still a big if)it is a feather in the cap of the Bush Administration, Gordon Brown and others in Europe who argued vigorously for recongnizing Kosovo.
    On the policy front in the United States, it will mean that Charles Kupchan (Foreign Affairs, March 8, 2008) was right and Peter Rodman, John Bolton and Lawrence Eagleburger (Brookings Institution, July 10, 2008) were wrong.
    It will also be a hopeful sign that territorial compromise is possible. Make no mistake that the Serbs were truly emotionally attached to their ancestral homeland. Just like the Israelis and Palestinians are emotionally attached to land that each side is convinced belongs to them. If the Serbs can compromise, the Israelis and Palestinians should be able to also. It is true that while Northern Kosovo is technically part of Kosovo, it is de facto a part of Serbia. Even this reality might suggest a potential solution to some of the territorial issues in Israel/Palestine.
    Is it possible that at least in Europe, there may actually be a success story in the making. Wouldn’t that be nice for a change?


  2. PissedOIffAmerican says:

    Well, you had me convinced not to like these people until you got to the part about the labels proclaiming our President is an idiot.
    Might hafta buy me one of them bags.


  3. leo says:

    30 year olds don’t even know about the Soviet Union! I’ll admit that I sort of miss those old Cold War dichotomies (nothing like a doomed opponent eh?).


  4. WigWag says:

    In 2006 the price of oil averaged out at about $79 per barrel, now its at about $143 per barrel. Between February 2006 and February 2008 the Russians increased oil output by about 400 thousand barrels a day. Russia is now the second largest oil producer in the world (Saudi Arabia is the largest and the United States is the third largest)
    If they experience the same roach infestation when the Detsky Mir comes down as they did when the Hotel Rossiya came down, not to worry. All those extra Rubles will pay for an awful lot of Roach Motels!


  5. Scott Paul says:

    Oy, word choice issues happen when you’re (still) recovering from jet lag. Thanks for the heads up, Ben.


  6. Ben Rosengart says:

    “Brazen” indeed.


  7. Wataru Tenga says:

    We often see large cockroaches after an
    earthquake here in Tokyo. Maybe, rather than
    fleeing the hotel as people assume, the
    cockroaches were coming out of the wordwork in
    surrounding buildings due to the shaking from
    the demolition.


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