Guardian has done an amazing Guardian Moscow project this week! The well-respected media outlet decided to research all aspects of being a Muscovite. Being one, I do support and want to join the project with my opinions on the topic. Let’s dive in.
Let’s just make it clear. I am a Muscovite. I was born in Moscow and my parents were born in Moscow. So, I am a true Muscovite or “Moskvichka” as we say in Russian. No doubt here. But there are 12 (14? 16?) Mln of people living in Moscow. How many of them could be called Muscovites and what are the criteria?
I was happy to see that Guardian started with that definition. And I liked their approach. They asked people to define, who could be called Muscovites. Does one have to be born here to hold that title? Or does one have to live in Moscow for a certain number of years to be called a Muscovite?
Most people think they become Muscovites the minute they move here. But do they really? Do you become a New Yorker as soon as you move to the Big Apple? My wonderful friend Jennifer Eremeeva, who is living in Moscow for 20+ years, has a Russian family and who knows more about Russia, than I do, since she studied Russian history in Columbia and wrote two books on the subject – about her experience here and about the Russian history still does not think she is a Muscovite. Jennifer, you are more a Muscovite, than 90% of people, who live here! You even speak perfect Russian!
Btw – do you know how to distinguish a Muscovite from a person from the other city? It is pretty easy. Ask me to pronounce Milk – Moloko in Russian. I will say Malako. I will reduce “O” to “A” in many other words too. If you speak Russian fluently – ask me how I call the living room at my apartment. I will tell you – it is “Bolshaya komnata” (a Big Room). It will never be a “Zala or Zal”. Ask me whether I ever spent a New Year’s Eve at the Red Square – my answer will be NO. The same way New Yorkers do not go to the Times Square on the New Year’s Eve. Ask me if I have a dacha – a true Muscovite will have one.
I love and hate Moscow at the same time. If you ask me now, in the sunny month of June – I do love the city. What is there not to be loved – great weather, gorgeous parks, hottest night life, lots of dining options, dozens of competing cultural events every day! But ask me the same question again in November – the answer might be different.
Most foreigners think that it is really cold in Moscow. It does get cold, but all the buildings and cars and public transport are well heated, so cold is not the issue for us. And not because “we are used to cold” as most foreigners think, but because it is not the cold weather, it is the lack of sun in winter months, that makes us unhappy.
However, the biggest problem of Moscow as we, Muscovites think, is that Moscow has become a city, where everybody living in the country wants to move. As was said in one famous Russian movie – “Moscow is not made of rubber”. Too many people create chaos for the transport system, that leads traffic jams, air and water pollution and also deprives a city of its identity. Moscow has become a Big Village instead of an intellectual capital. As a Muscovite I wish other cities develop too, so that we have several hub cities in the country, instead of having one or two (the second one would be St’Petersburg of course).
Moscow used to be the center of intellectual life of the country. And it probably still is – the Moscow State University is still located here, a lot of Muscovites still like to read. And we are proud to have so many theaters and museums in our city. But living in Moscow is stressful and commuting takes so much time daily, that most people only wish they went to theaters and art exhibitions at least once in a quarter. In reality, most people spend their life working and even if they have some free time, they often do not have energy to attend cultural events.
Moscow is also an expensive city to live in. For several years it was among top most expensive cities in the world. Now, after the collapse of our currency last year, living in Moscow became cheaper comparing to living in London, Paris and other cities. But it only became cheaper if your salary is in hard currency, which is not the case for 99% of local people. Moscow did become cheaper to visit, but more expensive for locals.
As Guardian Moscow mentioned – 85% of Muscovites are now living in the city suburbs, which are called “the sleeping districts”, and most of the historic center is demolished either during WWII or in the last 20 years. So, the majority of Muscovites are surrounded by a really boring visual landscape.
I read and watched all the materials that Guardian posted – it is a truly 360 view of my city. And an unbiased view I would say. Guardian talked to people of different social status and occupation and really tried to understand what it means to live in Moscow for different social, ethnic and income groups and how the city performs for them.
It was very interesting to see that the overall feedback was quite positive from all the groups. As Chris Michael said in his interview – “Russia’s capital has begun a “liveable city transformation”. Let’s explore, what are the most notable changes, both positive and negative.
From all the topics – it was a conversation about a role of a woman in Moscow and the expectations for a woman in Moscow.I found quite amazing that Guardian has picked on that topic. For me that means that they did a really thorough research.
It is not easy to be a male Muscovite – you are expected to be intellectual, educated, successful at work and affluent. Guess what?! If you are a female Muscovite – you have to be all the above AND also be pretty. And I do not mean to be pretty smart or pretty funny, I mean pretty gorgeous. I agree with Guardian Moscow – that is the first thing you are expected to be if you are “Moskvichka”. Be beautiful, well groomed, wear heels and make up all the time. In your spare time you can start successful businesses, but if you fail to be pretty – you will not be considered a success. I personally find that ridiculous and really hope that will be the next change in Moscow. And then on the 8th of March, the International Women’s Day, women will hear compliments about their professional achievements and not about “how they beautify the city offices by their presence”.
I did enjoy Guardian project a lot. Great coverage! As I write in my disclaimer statement – I write about Russia, but since I live in Moscow – it is mostly a blog about day-to-day life in Moscow! I will continue doing that. What else would you like to know about Moscow, that both I and Guardian have not wrote about yet? Tell me in comments please!
© 2016 Tatiana Golubeva. All rights reserved.