This first Youtube shows Moscow where we landed. It spans our first nine actual hours on ground, during which over two hours of video was shot––and the footage has been reduced to this 13-minute impression of Russia’s largest city. Mel Van Dusen, our pro bono videographer, was seeing Russia for the first time. He is the editor and voiceover for the series (with a little assistance from me). In addition he spent two months (pro bono) sifting through 60 hours of footage to provide a glimpse into today’s Russia.
In the video Mel’s refers to our “bus” and our “guides,” but they aren’t official buses with guides. A Moscow friend of many years, Olga Gorbik, hired a private bus to get us and our luggage from the airport into the city. Olga is not a guide but did share knowledge of her home city on the way to the hotel. Upon arrival, another Russian friend of 30 years, Galina Nicolopolis (married a Greek years ago), met us and assisted me to get the group to simultaneous meetings across Moscow thereafter. She too has never been a guide but was a terrific helper. Then I knew of students who also assisted us while in Moscow. Our group traveled “off the grid” so to speak, with Russian friends and CCI alums helping us experience their cities and meet local people.
There is no voice-over for Red Square so I will give you a few pointers.
After landing and going through Moscow on metro, we are seen walking up toward Red Square where a “look alike” for President Putin tried to entice us to take a photo, then into the massive Square. In past decades, there were ominous parades of gigantic missiles, tanks, military forces and armaments of all types which we saw on American TV. When I first visited Red Square in 1983 it was formidable. There were narrow designated areas where we could walk, we needed permission to take a photo––the area seemed immense and somber. Times have changed! Paul McCartney and numerous rock groups have since held concerts in this very spot. Today it’s Moscow’s central square, clowns show up, elderly protesters wave signs and banners, bicyclists carefully maneuver the cobblestones. There were no policemen or security to be seen. I noted that there were very few foreigners compared to previous years––this footage shows ordinary Russian youth and parents milling around with their children.
Entering the Square note on the left, the lovely Russian Orthodox Church, the Kazan Cathedral. Stalin ordered this church destroyed in 1936––a communist building was put in its place. In the 1990s shortly after the fall of communism, the Cathedral was precisely rebuilt using its original architectural plans and the same hues of a pale pinkish/orange and green.
On the left still and next to Kazan Cathedral, is the huge GUM shopping center. In 1983 it was a massive run-down structure which sold women’s corsets, galoshes, sink stoppers, etc. Today GUM has captured high-end trade from over the world and sells costly fur coats, designer clothing, jewels and watches. Oligarchs and business magnates who come and go through the capital city stop here for their luxuries.
Mel’s camera swings to the right to capture the thousand-year-old Kremlin Wall––the first walls and guard towers were built in 1156. With time, it has become this perfectly kept huge circular wall with numerous entrances, clocks and bell towers. Behind the red brick, one sees the yellow official buildings of the Russian government, the seat of power. There are two major churches within the walls, the Assumption and the Annunciation Cathedrals. Fabulous art work can be seen therein.
Next Mel catches St Basil’s Cathedral in the far end of Red Square, then moves to the right to Lenin’s Tomb ( some construction going on in front of it). This low, squat building was erected by Stalin and is quite different from the architecture of other buildings––and yes, Lenin’s body is still in residence. They keep debating what to do with it, but so far it remains.
Then we see the majestic St. Basils up close showing the remarkable design and craftsmanship of this world famous church which holds services only once a year––but it stands daily as a reminder of the elegance of Russian artistry and the role of orthodoxy across Russia.
Lastly, outside Red Square, a spacious white pavilion area has been recently built with eateries tucked away in various corners — we enjoyed a great dinner before catching the metro and getting back at our hotel to crash. Three decades ago, I could have never imagined that Moscow and Red Square would have transformed into this casual and fun environment.