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31 August 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
1. New York Times magazine: Alessandra Stanley, The Power Broker.
Like a latter-day Robert Moses, Moscow's bullying, charming, and
powerful Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, is single-handedly remaking his city,
block by block.
2. AP: Dave Carpenter, Moscow Celebrates 850th Birthday.
3. AP: Dave Carpenter, Moscow Village Illustrates Extremes.
4. AP: Drama always center stage in Moscow.
5. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Alan Philps, Free-spending
Yuri heads for tsardom.
6. Agora Promo West: David Copperfield to Make His Russian Debut
and Headline Moscow's 850th Birthday Party.]
New York Times magazine
31 August 1997
[for personal use only]
The Power Broker
Like a latter-day Robert Moses, Moscow's bullying, charming, and
powerful Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, is single-handedly remaking his city,
block by block.
By Alessandra Stanley
Alessandra Stanley is co-chief of the Times's Moscow bureau. She last
wrote on Gennadi Zyuganov, the Communist defeated by Boris Yeltsin in
last year's presidential race.
The mayor of Moscow was not pleased.
Standing at the base of his city's newest and most widely loathed
momument, Yuri M. Luzhkov was complaining, but not about the grandiose,
$20 million, 150-foot nautical bronze statue of Peter the Great. Created
by his longtime protege, the sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, the structure
unites Soviet monumentalism with some of the kitsch of the Pirates of
the Caribbean ride at Disney World.
The Mayor was frowning at something else: a design sketch for a
pedestrian bridge linking the statue to the riverbank. "Why is this
bridge so wide? What do we need it for, cars, buses?" he grunted at the
city's chief engineer. "It should be lighter and narrower to open the
view of the river." Luzhkov then asked the cost. "What? This piece of
iron costs nearly a million dollars? Are you crazy? Did you hold a
tender?" The engineer bowed his head. "Of course it should be chosen
through open bidding, to make it cheaper and better quality," he replied
miserably, as Luzhkov glared at him. He promised to cancel the contract
and submit the project to competitive bids.
The most powerful man in Moscow repeats this ritualized pageant of
horsewhipping and repentence on all his Saturday inspection tours of
this sprawling metropolis that he essentially owns and operates.
Combining the hauteur of medieval czars with the practices of Soviet
party bosses, Luzhkov uses these construction-site visits to remind
Moscovites just who is in charge of rebuilding their city. They believe
him: he was re-elected in 1996 with 90 percent of the vote.
His commitment to transform the landscape of Moscow is evident in the
construction cranes and scaffolding all around him. Diagonally across
the river from the Peter the Great statue lies the gold-domed Cathedral
of Christ the Savior, destroyed by Stalin in 1931. The Mayor
singlehandedly forced the reconstruction project -- which has already
cost $200 million and is far from complete -- upon a skeptical
population. It stands as a shimmering testament to his power, vision and
Opposite it, the Peter the Great statue is a symbol of something else:
the folly and favoritism that sometimes accompany absolute power.
As he prepares himself and his city to celebrate Moscow's 850th
anniversary in a three-day, $60 million extravaganza that begins Friday,
both sides of Luzhkov's leadership style will be on full display.
Moscow, home to 80 percent of the country's wealth and two-thirds of all
foreign investment, is the cash box of Russia. Its Mayor is one of the
country's most important political figures, and one of the more complex.
Beneath Luzhkov's bracing, authoritarian style lies a cautious,
pragmatic bureaucrat. His jaunty populism and fierce nationalist
rhetoric mask a shrewd, practical head for business. Luzhkov may talk
about the Russian soul, but he thinks in dollars. In Russia, he is the
embodiment of capitalism with a Slavic face.
Luzhkov has whipped the 850th anniversary into a kind of Moscow World's
Fair to prove to foreign tourists, governments and, above all, bankers
and investors that Moscow is in the same league with London, Paris or
New York. To Moscovites, he is trying to suggest that he alone can
create Western affluence -- with a whiff of Soviet-style order and
discipline. Most of all, he is hoping to persuade Russian voters that
the prosperity he is building in Moscow could trickle down to the rest
of the country.
The Mayor, who will turn 61 in September, is a man who would be king --
or kingmaker. He has already laid some of the groundwork for a
presidential run in 2000. The 850th anniversary is both a lavish tribute
to his tenure as Mayor and the unofficial launch of his campaign to
either replace President Boris N. Yeltsin himself or to anoint an ally
to take on the job. And no democratic contender has much hope of winning
without his blessing. "I am, of course, not indifferent to who will be
running for president," he said in an interview. "It's very important,
not for me personally, but for Moscow, so nobody could interfere with
the solution to the city's problems."
A former manager in the Soviet chemical industry, Luzhkov was handpicked
by Yeltsin's reform-minded ally in the Moscow city government, Gavriil
Popov, to serve as his deputy when Popov became Mayor in 1991. "He was a
representative of the Soviet bureaucracy, but the best of it," Popov
says. "And he was never a party bureaucrat." Like all Soviet officials,
Luzhkov was a Communist, but he never joined the top party ranks.
Short, bald and stocky, the Mayor is a jock who obliges his staff to
play soccer with him several mornings a week before work. On weekends,
he plays tennis and goes horseback riding. He grew up poor on the
streets of Moscow-- his father was a carpenter, his mother stoked a
factory boiler. He is proud of what he calls his "hooligan" roots and
dates his fascination with building to his early childhood. "No
Disneyland could compare with the ice caves in the ditch of a deserted
construction site," he wrote in his biography. "We Are Your Children,
Blunt and tough, Luzhkov is what Russians call a real muzhik, a man's
man. But he is a teetotaler who at receptions toasts his guests with
mineral water. When he became Deputy Mayor, Moscow -- and the Yeltsin
regime it supported -- was under siege from Communists and democrats
alike. Popov himself resigned in 1992, leaving Luzhkov to take charge.
Luzhkov provided Yeltsin with vital political support when the Russian
President ordered tanks to quell a violent 1993 insurrection by
Communists and nationalists in Parliament. But the most critical moment
of his tenure was his refusal to go along with Yeltsin's team of
economic reformers on the stormy issue of privatization. In 1992, the
Russian Government began a fire sale of buildings, factories and mining
and oil companies, an ambitious and controversial effort to jump-start
the free market by throwing state-owned property and assets into private
hands. Luzhkov refused to go along, complaining that Anatoly B. Chubais,
who was then the privatization czar, was giving away state property
"like a drunk selling everything in the house." Instead, he demanded
from Yeltsin - and won - the right to craft his own privatization: the
city retained ownership of almost all former state property on its
territory, which it now sells or leases at steep prices.
To this day, he is loyal to Yeltsin, who in turn remains grateful for
his support. But Luzhkov never misses a chance to lash out at Chubais,
now a Deputy Prime Minister, and his new team of economic reformers,
whom he refers to contemptuously as "the youth squad."
Young Boris Nemtsov, another Deputy Prime Minister and anticorruption
crusader, plays Peter Pan to Luzhkov's Captain Hook - a teasing,
incessant source of irritation. When the handsome, confident former
Governor of Nizhni Novgorod - who appears to harbor presidential
ambitions of his own - launched an ambitious, necessary and highly
unpopular plan to reform Russian housing, Luzhkov went on a rampage. He
again went to Yeltsin and demanded that the President exempt Moscow from
Nemtsov's national housing-reform plan. Yeltsin readily agreed. When
examined closely, the city's own plan to raise rents and utilities over
the next five years is almost identical to Nemtsov's.
Luzhkov rules with the steely panache of Chicago's first Richard Daley.
But he is rebuilding the city with the steamroller vision of Robert
Moses, restoring what's left of its 19th-century grandeur while
remolding it into a 21st-century world capital.
Right now, Moscow is enjoying a giddy real estate boom. Reassured by
Yeltsin's victory over a Communist challenger in last summer's elections
and enticed by world-class rents and a tight market, foreign investors
are pouring in billions of dollars every year - $4.6 billion in 1996
alone. In the last two years, developers have added 71 million square
feet of new housing and 32 million square feet of new office and
commercial space. Prime office rents, insanely high in 1993 at about
$110 per square foot per year, have leveled off at nearly $75, which is
still higher than the rents for the most prestigious buildings in New
Moscow is not like a typical Western city. Back in 1993, before the
privatization program got under way, it owned about two-thirds of the
property in the city (the Russian Government owns most of the rest). As
the source of most salable property, the city has kept its finger in
every major real-estate and construction venture: not only must all
projects be approved by City Hall, but the city retains a healthy chunk
of most of them.
This gives Luzhkov veto power over virtually every aspect of every major
development project. He personally inspects design sketches, vetoing
window casings or rooftops that clash with his esthetic. And he
intervenes, like Solomon, in the disputes that arise on every
construction site. In public meetings - a book presentation, an awards
ceremony - Luzhkov can be breathtakingly rude, turning his back to the
speaker and flipping through memos or chatting with the aide or guest
next to him. But he sits raptly through long, often tedious, meetings on
He recently presided over a meeting on the progress - or lack of it - of
Manezh, an ambitious, 82,000-square-yard, underground business and
shopping complex just off Red Square, on which the city has already
spent $110 million. His hands folded tightly over his chest like Yul
Brynner in "The King and I," Luzhkov sat frowning at a high tribunal,
surrounded by his top deputies, as a parade of designers, engineers,
subcontractors and city employees bitterly volleyed blame back and forth
for, among other things, a lighting problem for the gold-mirrored
The Manezh planning session rapidly turned into an ugly free-for-all,
with various companies complaining that no single entity has overall
authority to make decisions. So Luzhkov made one. He told the group he
would sign an order giving ultimate responsibility to the design firm
Mosproyekt 2. Then, glaring at the Mosproyekt representative, who had
been complaining the most bitterly, he made another one. "But this is
your fault, and we will take that into account," he said sternly. "The
city will not choose Mosproyekt 2 as its partner for any future
As the representative flinched, Luzhkov explained his ruling. "I am an
ardent supporter of the idea of a monopoly of responsibility," he said.
"Only then can we talk about business decisions and not losing time." He
stood up and marched out of the rooom.
In the early 90's, the city, still trying to figure out how capitalism
works, was a partner in every deal and obliged foreign investors to form
joint ventures with it. Those usually ended in acrimony, threats and, in
at least one case, the murder of an American businessman. Luzhkov has
since loosened the rules, and a few trusted real-estate developers -
foreigners as well as Russians - can finance and own their new or
renovated buildings. But there still is a catch: the city demands that
developers improve the area around their property - renovating nearby
buildings, repaving the sidewalks, putting in new gas pipes.
Luzhkov also leans on his friends in real estate for help on his pet
projects. Shalva Tchigirinsky, a Georgian-born real-estate mogul who has
been close to Luzhkov for years, renovated the Church of St. George as
part of his multimillion- dollar deal to build a towering office
building on the Moscow River next to the Kempinski hotel. He also
donated $3 million toward the rebuilding of Christ the Savior Cathedral.
Of the city's $7 billion in revenues last year, the bulk - $6 billion -
came from corporate and personal income taxes and a value-added tax.
Real-estate sales and leases, according to the city's department of
finances, brought in more than $300 million in 1996. In 1997, however,
the city expects that its income from real estate will more than triple.
The city's biggest expense is not the construction of new housing but
the $2.3 billion it spends subsidizing the old stock, which is still
mostly run on socialist principles. In fact, it's the city's single
biggest expense and one reason Luzhkov, like his nemesis Nemtsov, is
quietly planning to reduce those subsidies over the next five years.
The outer reaches of Moscow are still crammed with giant, crumbling
high-rises and potholed streets. Children and palsied pensioners beg in
the subways and intersections. But the center of Moscow is one vast
hammering construction site: gleaming new office buildings, restored
19th-century edifices, fancy shops and shopping malls are sprouting up
like mushrooms. "When Luzhkov first told me about his dreams for Moscow,
I told him he was crazy," Tchigirinsky said. "But he was right." He
added, "What he has done is a miracle."
His friends say Luzhkov has grown in office, coaxing and bullying city
bureaucrats to cut the massive red tape and make Moscow enticing to
investors. The rules of the real estate game are still set by the Mayor,
though they are clearer than they were even a year ago. But the city's
renovation rides entirely on the willpower of one man. Luzhkov has yet
to bring new faces to City Hall. To carry out his commands, he relies on
a team of longtime Soviet apparatchiks who have adapted to capitalism
without shedding Communist Party insularity or lock-step management.
These officials are also suddenly sparkling with Communist-era
privileges like housing, foreign trips, fancy cars and unexamined
Following a police crackdown, homicides and thefts have dropped 20
percent since the beginning of the year, according to City Hall. But the
least-reported crime, corruption - rampant throughout Russia - is
particularly blatant in Moscow, and there is little sign that anyone is
doing anything about it. Businessmen, Russian and foreign, are afraid to
complain. Law enforcement looks the other way. So do Russian reporters.
All city papers are subsidized by the Mayor, who confers plums like tax
breaks and subsidized rents and utility bills. Even most national
newspapers, beholden to the city for office space, are reluctant to
provoke the man who can jack up their rents. When asked about corruption
cases, Josef Galpirin, an investigative reporter at the usually
irreverent, muckraking daily, Moskovsky Komsomolets, replies, "This
paper has a good relationship with the Mayor, so we don't look into
those kind of things."
To be fair, Moscow looks like a model of civic probity when compared
with the Russian Government, where the inner workings are veined with
favoritism and blatant abuses. Financial misdeeds occasionally come to
light because the Russian ruling elite is divided into feuding factions.
In Moscow, nobody messes with the Mayor. The few scandals that bubble to
the surface in Moscow have a way of quickly sinking back into the ooze
of collective amnesia. So it was with the sensational murder of Paul
Tatum, an eccentric and somewhat louche American businessman who was
tangled in an ugly, highly public fight with the city and the Radisson
Hotel chain over control of the hotel's business center.
The initial outcry was fierce - American businessmen threatened to
boycott the hotel and demanded a real investigation of the crime. They
also wanted Umar Dzhabrailov, the city-appointed acting manager of the
joint venture and Tatum's principal antagonist, removed from his job.
After a USA Today reporter sought the protection of the United States
Embassy, complaining that Dzhabrailov had threatened his life during an
interview about Tatum's murder, Washington took the unusual step of
revoking Dzhabrailov's visa. Luzhkov not only kept Dzhabrailov in place,
he rewarded him with another of his pet projects, management of the
Manezh. "If the American side has sound evidence of his involvement in
this horrible murder and terrorist act, I am ready to draw the most
radical conclusions - I mean to stop all contact with him, business or
personal," he said gruffly, "If not, we will take the decision on whom
to deal with on our own, without any pressure or instructions from
Russian law enforcement does not exactly have a good track record of
exposing organized crime or arresting contract killers. "It is very hard
to catch anybody," Popov said, adding with a pained smile: "Also, there
is no desire to catch anybody. It means destroying the structure that
works for him."
Luzhkov's privacy is tightly guarded. He has an apartment in the same
elite building complex as Yeltsin, and spends summer nights at his dacha
in an exclusive government neighborhood where many of his longtime
friends and deputies also have houses.The city is building him a huge
dacha in the area. Luzhkov's press secretary denies there is any such
building going on, but a contractor whose firm is working on it said in
an interview that his wife makes occasional trips to the site to check
on its progress.
He has two grown sons from his first marriage. He met his second wife,
Yelena Baturina, in 1987, when he was the head of the Moscow City
Executive Committee and she was an economist on his staff. They have two
small daughters. Baturina is a little-known but intriguing figure. One
of the few female industrialists in Russia, she runs her own
plastics-manufacturing company, Inteko, in Moscow. She rarely attends
public functions, gives no interviews and is carefully sheltered from
the spotlight. But she isn't shy about taking advantage of her husband's
Inteko's offices are located on a floor belonging to the municipal
department in charge of building and construction, which charges
discount rents to favored tenants in one of the most prestigious and
expensive buildings in Moscow. The company makes disposable plastic cups
and dishes for Luzhkov's pet enterprise, Russkoye Bistro - a Slavic
fast-food chain he founded in 1995 to compete with McDonald's. Earlier
this year, Inteko won a million-dollar contract to manufacture plastic
seats for the 82,000-seat Luzhniki stadium, one of the city's biggest
construction projects in the past 20 years.
When it comes to political symbols, Luzhkov is a fierce Russian
chauvinist. He has issued decrees banning English lettering on
storefronts and billboards, and he moves about in a convoy of
Russian-made Volga limousines. "What kind of government official shuns
his own country's automobiles and uses a foreign car," he asks
scornfully. "I think his rating would drop drastically."
But money in Moscow has no nationality. Luzhkov has taken over the
city's ailing and debt-ridden Soviet car-manufacturing companies, Zil
and Moskvich, and vowed to revive them. But he picked Volvo, which
offered the city $1 million in cash and free cars, as a leading
corporate sponsor of the 850th anniversary.
He is a populist showman who wears workingmen's caps and plunges into
icy lakes in winter. He is currently one of Russia's most outspoken
champions for fast and binding reunification of Belarus with Russia.
Most Russians say they favor reunification, but many - including Yeltsin
- have their doubts about Aleksandr Lukashenko, the odd, totalitarian
President of that tiny, impoverished former republic. Luzhkov is one of
the few democratic politicians in Russia who unflinchingly embraces
Lukashenko, who has spoken admiringly of Hitler.
The week Lukashenko expelled the correspondent of the last remaining
major Russian television network in Minsk, Luzhkov paid a visit there to
celebrate the 930th anniversary of the city's founding. Luzhkov's trip
was covered by his own personal TV crew - reporters from Center TV, the
network he created for himself as a media power base last June to
counteract the two major networks, ORT and NTV, that are beholden to the
Kremlin and its favorite bankers. Luzhkov, who was greeted like a
visiting head of state, gave a fiery speech denouncing politicians in
Moscow who want to thwart reunification. He played tennis with
Lukashenko and held several private meetings with the President.
But Luzhkov doesn't like to play second fiddle to anybody - not even
presidents. Moments before a lavish, Soviet-style parade that capped the
ceremonies, Luzhkov proudly presented his birthday present to Minsk: the
Russian pop singer Oleg Gazmanov, whose song "Moskva" has made him a
As Gazmanov launched into his peppy anthem to Luzhkov's city, the
Russian Mayor beamed like a child at his own birthday party, clapping
rhythmically and singing along lustily. The Mayor of Moscow nudged
Lukashenko, and the President of Belarus obligingly joined in, woodenly
chanting the refrain his guest was bellowing at his side: "Moscow, the
bells are ringing/Moscow, golden cupolas/Moscow, your golden icons
chronicle the times/Happy Birthday Moscow."
Moscow Celebrates 850th Birthday
August 30, 1997
By DAVE CARPENTER
MOSCOW (AP) - When a modern-day Rip van Winkle awoke in Russia's
capital this year after a 20-year absence, it didn't take him long
to confirm some of the century's most startling changes.
It wasn't the malls or the molls, the casinos, the
mirrored-glass office towers or the rebuilt churches that riveted
Natan Sharansky's attention.
The former Soviet dissident, exiled by the KGB only to return
triumphantly as Israel's trade minister, could see it in the way
Muscovites carry themselves, in the way they talk.
The eyes-downcast ``Soviet man'' who scurried along spartan
streets of a city whose soul was hidden from view is long gone. In
his place are multicultural masses and a teeming bazaar of a
metropolis whose chaotic changes, warts and all, are on full
A city of extremes, the Moscow that is marking its 850th
anniversary can be maddening, inspiring, outrageous, exhilarating,
bleak, crass, cultured, corrupt, filthy-rich, dirt-poor and dirty -
but hardly boring.
``When you talk to people you see that it's a very different
place,'' Sharansky observed. ``People enjoy life much more deeply
and feel more security and confidence.''
If this city of 9 million people has become a feast for the
haves, it is famine for the have-nots. Strewn in the wake of
Russia's upheaval are legions of beggars, orphans, homeless,
jobless and impoverished elderly, confronting daily deprivation
with scant hope for improvement.
But swept up in the frenzy of a building boom that coincides
with grandiose anniversary celebrations climaxing the weekend of
Sept. 5-7, Muscovites seem to be walking a bit taller these days.
Most will tell you they agree with the red banners stretched
across city streets that gush, ``I Love You, Moscow!'' TV
promotions audaciously proclaim this ``the best city on earth.''
Shortcomings or not, this place derided by foreigners as ``The
Big Potato'' not long ago is a dynamic, thriving city that is
transforming itself in a dramatic comeback from its nadir around
the time of the Soviet collapse in 1991.
``At the start of reforms, this city was dying,'' says
commentator Denis Dragunsky. ``Only about three years ago did we
begin to live OK.
``Rarely will you find a city that changed so - in a snap.
Moscow's new brashness surfaces early every morning when guarded
convoys of Mercedes emerge from blocky brick ``cottages'' that
crowd choice suburbs.
Hurtling along with blue lights flashing, these bankers,
businessmen and government luminaries enter a Moscow whose old
outer shell remains intact. Numbing rows of concrete apartment
towers loom behind a not-so-welcoming ``MOCKBA'' sign from another
era, complete with communist star, and monstrous Stalin Gothic
skyscrapers still lurk on the skyline.
But changes are evident everywhere.
Signs herald new restaurant or store openings daily. Haphazard
kiosks that sprouted like weeds a decade ago are being ripped out
and replaced by more permanent convenience shops and bistros.
Hard-hat workers who face regular grillings by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov
are rushing to finish Europe's largest shopping mall just outside
Key roads are choked. With 2.1 million cars, Moscow's traffic
flow has nearly tripled since 1991.
On busy sidewalks, orange-robed Hare Krishnas, uniformed
Cossacks, tattooed gangsters and leather-clad models share space
with ordinary working people, who seem spiffier every year.
Swank boutiques and clubs are making historic Tverskaya Street
even glitzier. They're mere window-shopping sites for average
Muscovites, who earn only about $225 a month in one of the world's
most expensive cities. But Moscow is a giant street bazaar, and
savvy shoppers get their quota of imported goods elsewhere.
Sitting by an elegant new fountain in front of the Bolshoi
Theater, a woman from Turkmenistan who visits every summer marvels
at the changes.
``Everything was so dirty (in 1991); there was trash in the
streets,'' says the woman, who gives her name only as Lyudmila.
``But now it looks amazing. Everywhere I look there's order and
Moscow has always been the City of Oz for Russians.
Stuck in the dreary boondocks, Chekhov's characters spent entire
plays pining for their beloved capital as a dream city of sun,
flowers and refinement - even if the reality fell short.
Today, more than ever, Moscow isn't Russia. Much of the country
remains locked in centuries-old poverty, and even villages a short
drive away seem scarcely ready for the 20th century, let alone the
For every retractable-roof stadium or glittering business
complex built in Moscow with lavish public financing, hundreds of
factories, schools and hospitals stand decaying across 11 time
The capital's new prosperity is coming increasingly at the
provinces' expense. More than 60 percent of foreign investment is
in Moscow. And Muscovites, comprising 6 percent of the population,
accounted for 23 percent of the country's income last year.
That gap may widen even more based on the frantic building
activity in Moscow, where the drone of jackhammers this summer
became the city's unofficial anthem.
At ground zero of the building boom, the monumental Christ the
Savior Cathedral on the banks of the Moscow River is a magnet of
Passing motorists crane their necks to glimpse the nearly
finished cathedral, where two-plus years of round-the-clock
construction has duplicated what took four decades to build in the
Misty-eyed old women chant fervently inside a small wooden
church erected on a back corner of the site, and knots of onlookers
peer through an iron fence at the swarming army of men and
Luzhkov, the bald, 60-year-old fireball who has led the city's
resurgence, marches through the site periodically to survey his pet
development with dozens of city officials in tow.
``Why hasn't this section been finished?'' he might bark at a
foreman. Or ``Good job on that,'' praising another.
The new zoo, the $340 million Manezh mall, the redone Ring Road
superhighway, the overhaul of 100,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium - no
other mega-project touches the mayor's heart like the cathedral.
But it's not just Luzhkov who draws inspiration from the new
church. Pensioner Arkady Andrushenko, who stops by almost every day
to watch, is among many who see it as graphic proof of Moscow's
``Life is not all right here yet - there's too much poverty,''
says Andrushenko, who was born in 1937, the year Stalin razed the
original church. ``But at least we're starting to rebuild what we
lost in the past.''
Shootouts, hookers and gangsters waving wads of hundred-dollar
bills - it's a colorful stereotype of modern-day Moscow, and
sometimes it's true.
Prostitutes prowl outside the parliament building and inside
posh clubs at night, and crooks strut their gangland ties,
displaying diamond pinkie rings and shaven heads as if they wore
high-school letter sweaters.
Yet, the chances of running into a ``razborka'' (criminal
showdown) are small. Moscow nights are safer than those in many
Western cities, and crime isn't a daily reality for the millions of
Muscovites who don't run a business being dunned for protection
Venture inside the city's pricier nightclubs or casinos after
midnight, though, and you'll find a heavy hint of the criminal
element. Here, where thick-necked men check their guns at the door,
masculinity seems to be measured by the size of a thug's purse.
At the garish Titanik club, housed in the Young Pioneers
Stadium, men in black dance to pulsing techno music all night with
gum-chomping girlfriends in spandex pants.
At Utopia on once-staid Pushkin Square, the well-heeled pay $33
to get in and an extra fee for access to a plush room upstairs,
where dancers do performances that could curl the hair on the
statue of venerated poet Alexander Pushkin outside.
Next door, silver-haired men play roulette alongside young thugs
in the carpeted elegance of one of Moscow's 40-odd casinos till
By sunrise, thousands of vendors and shoppers are on their way
to the vast daily flea market outside Luzhniki Stadium, so
profitable it provides $1 million a day in fees to city coffers.
The market is a graphic illustration of what's succeeding in
Moscow, and what ails it.
In a city of non-producers, a city where doctors moonlight as
office cleaners, at the market, physicists and professors have
joined the hordes of traders, hawking jackets and handbags they
procure in Turkey or Dubai.
Getting the hang of the new world, many are flourishing - with
mixed feelings about their success.
Solya Tursagulova, 29, got a degree in linguistics from Moscow
State University but abandoned any notion of teaching because of
the paltry salaries. Now she makes up to $2,000 running her own
trading business. But like many others, she'd like to return to her
chosen profession someday when Russia's economic crisis eases.
``It's not good; it's not normal,'' she says, sitting in a tent
selling lingerie and skirts. ``But if we live in this country we
have no choice.
``We've learned to get by.''
Moscow Village Illustrates Extremes
August 30, 1997
By DAVE CARPENTER
MOSCOW (AP) - No place better symbolizes Moscow's extremes than
Terekhovo, a collection of dilapidated houses that city officials
have neglected in the stampede to build grandiose monuments and
As the monied whiz to work in pricy cars on a busy highway a
mile away, Vasily Mizgaryov shuffles outside in worn black slippers
every morning and lugs a bucket to a nearby water pump.
As with everyone else in the ``village'' in western Moscow, his
tumbledown house has no indoor plumbing or telephone.
Roosters wander dirt streets framed on every side by a
background of apartment high-rises. The residents say little has
changed for decades.
``Nobody cares about us here,'' says Mizgaryov, 68. ``The city
has no money for us.''
His neighbor, 30-year-old Alexei Yushenko, says: ``Our village
has been neglected by God and Luzhkov,'' a reference to Mayor Yuri
Left behind by progress, Terekhovo - population 400 - may
someday be steamrollered by it.
Thanks to its prime location inside a U-shaped bend of the
Moscow River, 7 miles west of the Kremlin, it is the chosen site
for Wonder Park.
Zurab Tsereteli, Russia's best-known sculptor and architect,
envisions it as a Russian Disneyland. The 925-acre site would be
packed with pavilions, rides, a water park, monorail, sports arena,
zoo and two hotels.
But the plan seems to have been shelved while Tsereteli focuses
on other projects, such as his statue of Peter the Great that now
looms just upriver from the Kremlin.
Asked about the city-financed plan, Moscow officials referred a
reporter to Tsereteli's office. A Tsereteli spokesman referred the
inquiry back to city officials.
In the meantime, residents who have been barred from making any
improvements to their pre-revolutionary wooden houses tend to their
potatoes and cucumbers and cling to their rural ways.
It's a life basically unchanged since Lenin's era, says
90-year-old Lizaveta Fedova, who hopes to die without being forced
to move into an urban high-rise.
``We have our gardens and our fresh air,'' says Mizgaryov.
``That's all we really need.''
Drama always center stage in Moscow
August 30, 1997
Occupied, sacked and burned several times in its 850 years, Moscow has
overcome much strife to become one of the world's most influential cities.
Established sometime in the first half of the 12th century, Moscow
considers its founding year as 1147 - the first time it was mentioned in
written records. Prince Yuri Dolgoruky built walls around the settlement
nine years later, roughly on the site of today's Kremlin.
Sitting astride land and water trade routes, it grew and prospered and
became a frequent target of foreign invaders who approached from both east
and west. The Mongols attacked and destroyed it in 1237, and there were
Lithuanian attacks in 1368-72.
Even worse troubles began during Ivan the Terrible's reign in the 16th
century. After a reign of terror in the city, Crimean Tatars took Moscow in
1571. Following Ivan's death, the city endured a famine in 1601-3 and
occupation by the Poles in 1610-12, before Mikhail Romanov became czar in
1613, beginning the Romanov dynasty.
Peter the Great transferred the capital to St. Petersburg in 1713.
Napoleon's army occupied a virtually abandoned Moscow for five weeks in
1812; fires destroyed most of the city.
Fierce street fighting took place in Moscow during a 1905 uprising
against the czar. Four months after the Bolshevik Revolution of November
1917, the communists reinstated it as capital of their totalitarian state.
Another foreign occupation was narrowly averted when the Nazi army
advanced to the edge of city before being driven back in December 1941.
In 1980, the city was host to a Summer Olympics marred by the U.S.-led
boycott over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union's decline and ultimate collapse was punctuated twice by
the sound of tanks in Moscow's streets - once in the failed August 1991 coup
by communist hard-liners and again when Russian President Boris Yeltsin
ordered the shelling of parliament in October 1993 to quell another
Since then, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has presided over a building boom and a
steady rise in the city's prosperity.
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
31 August 1997
[for personal use only]
Free-spending Yuri heads for tsardom
By Alan Philps
THE city of Moscow, once known as the heart of the "Evil Empire"
synonymous with repression and brutal power, is this week holding a
lavish celebratory party to help shed its severe image and prove that it
is now a vibrant, modern capital.
In months of preparation for the festivities, its bullet-headed mayor,
Yuri Luzhkov, has organised the biggest face-lift of Moscow's history.
The city has been scrubbed, painted and pedestrianised, and hundreds of
millions of pounds have been spent on dozens of prestigious projects.
The most lavish of these is a vast underground shopping centre next to
the Kremlin above which tanks used to roll in communist days.
In a gathering of talent never before seen in Moscow - in Russia even
Samantha Fox and Boney M are a big draw - Luciano Pavarotti will sing in
Red Square and Jean-Michel Jarre will light up Moscow State University,
a Stalin-Gothic behemoth commissioned for the city's 800th anniversary.
Miracles will also be laid on. Mr Luzhkov is paying for military
aircraft to seed any clouds with pellets of silver iodide, causing any
rain, if forecast, to fall outside the capital before the festivities
start. To cap the celebrations, a closing ceremony at the newly roofed
Olympic stadium will feature a laser vision of the Virgin Mary,
projected onto artificial mist, while white swans swim below. The aim is
to show the world that Moscow has shed its dour, grey visage and is now,
in the words of Mr Luzhkov, becoming a "normal, civilised capital".
Since the fall of communism the city has been reborn. Money has flowed
through the city centre, turning tatty shops into fancy boutiques, dusty
buildings into stuccoed gems of pink, ochre and mint green. Tsarist
double-headed eagles gaze down on Red Square.
Next to the Kremlin a small army of construction workers has, as if by
magic, rebuilt the huge Cathedral of Christ the Saviour - razed to the
ground in Stalin's time - in all its monstrous glory.
Dozens of nightclubs attract the rich and beautiful. Bankers and
businessmen still get assassinated almost daily. There are even signs of
the birth of a Muscovite middle class that does not carry guns. All this
is down to Mr Luzhkov, a bouncing ball of energy who defies the
traditional image of the Russian male, sunk in soul-searching lethargy.
He has decreed that Moscow shall be a city of tourism and light like
Paris, a financial centre like London, a mighty car-producing centre
like Detroit, and, of course, a daunting imperial capital. In the best
traditions of Soviet propaganda all this will be on show for the world
For a few dissenting voices, it all smacks of the past. Artemy Troitsky,
editor of the Russian Playboy said: "The only occasion I recall that can
compare to the current orgy of hysterical agitation in the city is the
general exultation over the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lenin in
1970. There are no depths of stagnation to which the current authorities
will not sink."
Few people, however, dare to stand up to Mr Luzhkov, the victor of 20
libel cases. Every shop, from the glitziest boutique in the GUM
department store, to the smelliest beer kiosk, sports a loyal "Moscow
850" sticker. One businessman said: "I have been paying Luzhkov's driver
$1,000 a week to avoid going past my firm because I have not repainted
the facade, as ordered to."
The rest of Russia is far removed from Moscow's extravagances. While
Moscow bankers think nothing of buying £450 bottles of champagne, in
other parts of the country people have gone back to barter because they
have no money. Out in the provinces, Mr Luzhkov is seen as a vampire
sucking the rest of the country dry.
Not so, says the mayor's office: the capital provides up to 40 per cent
of the federal government's tax receipts. Soon the whole country will be
living off Moscow and a handful of oil and diamond-producing regions.
Why, then, is the 61-year-old Mr Luzhkov making so much noise?
To everyone except the mayor himself, the celebrations are clearly the
springboard for his bid for the presidency in 2000. Gen Alexander Lebed,
the soldier-politician, is one who does not believe Mr Luzhkov's
repeated denials of Kremlin ambitions. "Today the capital's mayor is one
of the strongest politicians, with concrete accomplishments behind him,"
Gen Lebed said on Friday. "There is no doubt he will run for the
Muscovites love the feeling that there is a man in charge of their city
(in stark contrast to the enfeebled Boris Yeltsin), and 90 per cent of
them voted to re-elect Mr Luzhkov last year.
He has cultivated a "man of the people" image - he is the son of a
caretaker - and reinforces the message by wearing a leather cap and
playing football. This sporting prowess has enabled him to overcome what
is in Russia a serious handicap: he has been teetotal (for medical
reasons) for the past 20 years. This is generally seen in Russia as a
sign of untrustworthiness. But Mr Luzhkov appears to be intent on
success, and winning over the people of Moscow may only be the
August 26, 1997
Company Press Release
Source: Agora Promo West
David Copperfield to Make His Russian Debut and Headline Moscow's 850th
CLEVELAND and MOSCOW, Aug. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- On September 7, 1997,
David Copperfield, one of the most dynamic and respected theatrical
showman of our time, and one of the top grossing box office draws in the
world, will make his Russian debut and commence a two city Russian tour,
opening with five shows at Moscow's State Kremlin Palace located in the
Kremlin bordering Red Square. Copperfield will be headlining one of the
many festivities at Moscow's historic 850th anniversary celebration.
Copperfield's Moscow shows on September 7, 8, 9 & 10 have already sold
out and a Matinee performance on September 9th at 2pm has been added.
Copperfield's Russian tour will also take him to the city that is world
famous for art and culture, the beautiful St. Petersburg, Russia,
(formerly known as Leningrad) where he will perform at the St.
Petersburg Sport's Arena on September 12 & 13.
All of David Copperfield's Russian performances are being promoted by 31
year concert promotion veteran, Hank LoConti, Sr. of Cleveland based
Agora Promotions along with Russian based partner, World Star
Promotions. Production is in cooperation with Cleveland based Magic
Promotions and Theatricals, Inc. who manages and handles all of David
Copperfield's tours worldwide.
Also, joining this prestigious Cleveland production team in Russia is
LoConti's longtime friend and associate, Chuck Fleming. Fleming has
worked with the Cleveland Stagehands Union for the past 25 years.
These historic David Copperfield shows are the culmination of a year of
preparation by Hank LoConti, Sr. and the Agora Promotions staff. Agora
Promotions along with Agora Promo West in Cleveland headed by Henry
LoConti, Jr. will be responsible for all future bookings in Russia.