Friday, April 17, 2009

Of Moscow: Red Square

It's been 17 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it was still a little odd to stand in Red Square, the heart of the one-time "Evil Empire," well-known from movies and as a backdrop for journalists reporting from the darkest heart of communism.

The square is huge and the cathedral is crazy, as expected. The greatest disappointment of our trip was that Lenin's Tomb was closed because Lenin is in the shop getting his oil changed or something.

The communist spirit lives on there, I guess. In the square, at least one side of which should be lined with cafes where you can sit under an umbrella and have a coffee while taking in the scene, there is not much commerce going on. Cross just outside the square, and it's a different story. One side of the square is now a high-end mall, with a Four Seasons hotel under construction. And just outside the main entrance to the square, any number of tchotchke sellers are at work, along with an array of look-alikes who you can have your picture taken with in front of the square. I guess I see the kitsch value in having your picture taken with a guy who looks kind of like Napoleon outside the walls of the Kremlin. And while I don't see why anyone would want to have their picture taken with a faux mass-murderer like Stalin, but given that the guy next to him was dressed as a bear wearing a t-shirt that says "Russia," I guess you could say it's not necessarily a symbol of great respect.

No comments: