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The Soul of Moscow

Москва не есть обыкновенный большой город, каких тысяча. Москва не безмолвная громада камней, холодных, составленных в геометрическом порядке… нет! У неё есть своя душа, своя жизнь” (Moscow is not an ordinary big city, like thousands of others. Moscow is not a silent, cold mass of stones placed in a geometrical way… no! Moscow has its own soul, its own life), wrote the great Russian poet Михаил Лермонтов (Mikhail Lermontov, 1814-1841).

Writers, journalists, travellers wrote a lot and happily about life’s peculiarities in Moscow, about the differences between Muscovites and all others. Николай Гоголь (Nikolai Gogol, 1809-1852) made this interesting observation about the two Russian capitals:

Москва женского рода, Петербург мужского. В Москве все невесты, в Петербурге все женихи. Петербург наблюдает большое приличие в своей одежде, не любит пёстрых цветов и дерзких отступлений от моды; зато Москва требует, если уж пошло на моду, то чтоб по всей форме была мода. Петербург – аккуратный человек, совершенный немец, на всё глядит с расчётом и прежде, нежели задумает дать вечеринку, посмотрит в карман; Москва – русский дворянин, и если уж веселится, то веселится до упаду и не заботится о том, хватает ли того, что находится в кармане: она не любит середины.” “Moscow is feminine and St. Petersburg masculine. Moscow is all brides, St. Petersburg is all bridegrooms. St. Petersburg observes a certain decency about its clothing, doesn’t like bright colours and the impudent digression of the mode; But Moscow needs, as if it already went out of fashion, that everything follows the mode.Petersburg is a tidy man, very German, calculating everything and before he thinks about throwing a party, he’ll look in his pockets first; Moscow, is the Russian nobility, and if they decide to have a party, then it will be until they collapse, no matter what’s left in their pockets: Moscow doesn’t like to do anything halfway.”

Михаил Ломоносов (M. Lomonosov, 1711-1765), while analysing the phenomenon in Moscow, wrote: “Moscow stands on many hills and valleys, where high and low walls of the buildings represent many cities, which merged into one.”

The originality of Moscow has been observed by many Russian poets, like Mikhail Dmitriev, a famous poet, contemporary with Pushkin wrote:

Знаете ль вы, что Москва? – То не город, как прочие грады, Разве что семь городов, да с десятками сёл и посадов.

Do you know what is Moscow? – It’s not a city, like other cities, Except maybe the seven cities, but with dozens of villages and suburbs.”
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There is also a special relationship towards Moscow from all Russia, as towards one’s own family. No wonder, we say: “Москваатушка” (Moscow, little mother). Therefore, people get used very easily to Moscow, and soon become real Muscovites. This is why Pushkin wrote:

Москва… как много в этом звуке для сердца русского слилось! Как много в нём отозвалось!

Moscow… what depths of fascination live in that name, what echoes start, and sound in every Russian heart!” (from Eugene Onegin)

Елена Коновалова