WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2014
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T h i s s p e c i a l a d v e r t i s i n g s u p p l e m e n t i s p r o d u c e d a n d s p o n s o r e d b y R o s s i y s k a y a G a z e t a ( R u s s i a ) a n d d i d n o t i n v o l v e t h e r e p o r t i n g o r e d i t i n g s t a f f o f t h e I n t e r n a t i o n a l N e w Yo r k T i m e s .
Moscow conjures up an array of images for foreign visitors. From the colorful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the red-brick walls of the Kremlin to the bleak paths of Gorky Park, as pictured in the Cold War-era film. Yet recently, the Russian capital has undergone a massive transformation. Glass-and-steel skyscrapers compete for space with centuries-old Orthodox churches, while trendy restaurants and galleries inhabit factory buildings once filled with assembly lines and printing presses. Take a new look at this nearly 900-year-old city in this edition of RBTH.
THE CHANGING FACE OF MOSCOW Among long-time visitors to Russia, there are those who recall when a custom’s declaration at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport meant a bottle of whiskey for you, and one for the border cop. Not anymore. Today, such bottles are stored safely away in the gleaming international duty free shops. Saunter past those, and there’s the shiny new Aeroexpress train to whisk travelers to the city center. While political pundits debate the start of a new Cold War, Moscow seems farther from Washington or Brussels politically than it has been in decades. But the renewed political drama underscores a distinct irony: At street level, Moscow today looks more like a European metropolis than perhaps any time in its 900-year history. As the world remembered the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this November, perhaps no other major city has transformed more dramatically since then than Moscow. During the original Cold War, Russia was cut off from international trends like fast food, Hollywood movies and credit cards, and many Russians lived radically different lives from their Western counterparts. Today, the city is in the throes of a massive face-lift as the new mayor, Ser-
Russia and the West may be growing farther apart politically, but at street level Moscow looks closer to Western Europe than ever. gei Sobyanin, works to undo the worst remnants of Soviet urban planning. “Moscow is reborn in terms of architecture, green spaces and lighting,” says Justin Lifflander, an American who has spent 27 years in Moscow as an embassy driver, businessman and business editor for the English-language daily newspaper, The Moscow Times. “When I moved here 27 years ago, the roads were ragged and devoid of vehicles,”he says.“The city was gray, and so were the people. Now the roads are first rate, and so are the traffic jams.” The change reflects a key difference between Cold War I and Cold War II: Russia is far more integrated into global markets and international trends today than its Soviet predecessor was. Another way to look at it, perhaps, is today, Moscow has Starbucks.
Modern, refreshed image When it was the capital of the socialist world, Russia’s most important city presented Western visitors with something of an alien landscape. For many,
the first impression after leaving the airport was of wide streets with few cars and no advertising. Today, the city is struggling to clear mammoth traffic jams, while officials consider measures to reduce the clutter of billboards. More recently, a campaign by Mayor Sobyanin to refresh Moscow’s image included placing carefully manicured pedestrian walkways throughout the center, and completely refurbishing large public spaces such as Gorky Park. The changes have rendered the city center cleaner, more convenient, and — thanks to new restrictions on the sale of alcohol in public — more sober. In one marker of the change, a survey by the British-based multinational bank HSBC recently named Russia the 17th-best country to live in among expats. Five years earlier, Russia ranked 24th out of 26 countries. Throughout the city, landmarks to the Soviet past have been torn down and replaced with modern elements. In the heart of Moscow, opposite the Kremlin and directly in front of the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral, once stood
the colossal Rossiya Hotel. Built in 1967 at a scale meant to showcase rising Soviet power, the hotel boasted 3,200 rooms and was the largest in the world for decades. The Rossiya had its own post office, night club, movie theater, 2,500-seat concert hall, and even its own police station with jail cells behind unmarked doors. The Rossiya has now been torn down. The location is being redesigned as an open public space by a group of companies led by Diller Cofidio + Renfro, the New York architecture company that designed Manhattan’s celebrated High Line. Meanwhile, a small island in the center of Moscow that was once the home of the Red October chocolate factory has been gutted and revamped. Today, according to the New York Times, the region is “being called Moscow’s answer to New York’s Tribeca or London’s Docklands…. Moscow’s first fullfledged culture and dining district.” The island that older Russians associate with Soviet chocolates now teems with hipsters scuttling between
bars, cafes, photo galleries and media offices. A few miles away lies the 300-acre (121 hectare) Gorky Park. Once the socialist “people’s park” mentioned in the Scorpions’ 1990 power ballad Wind of Change, the park fell into disrepair after the Soviet collapse and became infamous for drug use. Now, the space has been transfigured by the design company Wowhaus, which filled the park with public art and free Wi-Fi. Every weekend, from summer to winter, the park’s sprawling grounds teem with Muscovites playing table tennis, taking yoga classes or playing bocce. The renewed green space has proved so popular that it attracts 14 million guests annually — a figure higher than the entire population of Moscow.
The wild east In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse in the early 1990s, the city transformed from a gray socialist netherworld into a wheeling-dealing metropolis full of entrepreneurs reinventing capitalism by their own rules.
“After the fake life of the Soviet system — big stores empty of goods, people lining up for lemons — this seemed like real life, real commerce,”says Michele Berdy, an American translator who moved to Moscow in the late 1980s. The commercial life of the city changed dramatically again after PresidentVladimir Putin took over in 2000. Rising global prices for oil and gas turned Moscow into a city of“massive amounts of money, massive market growth, all accompanied by international interest in opening up stores, businesses and hotels,” says Nikolai Petrov, professor of political science at the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics. In 2012 alcohol sales were banned after 11 p.m. and the ubiquitous beerselling kiosks were cleared off the streets. Smoking in restaurants was banned this year. As Berdy says, Moscow is neither the grim Soviet capital nor the gangland paradise many Westerns think it to be. “No matter how many times I tell people, ‘really, it’s a modern European city’ nobody believes me,”she says.“And then they come here.” ■SAM SKOVE JOURNALIST
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A DIFFICULT YEAR, BUT STILL MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR IVAN TSVETKOV EXPERT
he political harvest in 2014 was rich, but the fruit was probably not to the liking of most peaceful citizens worldwide. International crises, wars and catastrophes seemed to follow each other relentlessly; one of Europe’s largest countries, Ukraine, was engulfed in political fire, and relations between Russia and the
West sank almost to Cold War levels. So what is there to give thanks for this year against the background of such political turbulence? The world of great power politics is a world unto itself. What plunges ordinary people into a state of horror often only whets the appetite of those with the power to decide the fates of
nations. International crises arouse passion in the hearts of the powerful, and provide a glorious opportunity to show all what they are capable of. A politician who uses an international crisis to outdo his competitors is often later described as “talented.” The epithet “outstanding” is reserved for those able to resolve that crisis. All
too often, the great politicians whose names figure prominently in the pages of history books are those who provoked an international crisis, used it to eliminate competitors and, only then, if they had the time and effort, sought to resolve it and usher in global peace. The Ukrainian crisis, which has led to a humanitarian disaster in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and untold human suffering, has changed a great deal in international relations. Paradoxically, it has opened a window
of opportunity for many world leaders — and not necessarily the most obvious ones. Perhaps the main beneficiary of the unfolding crisis in Ukraine has been the Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Chinese diplomats could not have handpicked a more favorable environment than the one in which China found itself after the quarrel between Russia and the West. CONTINUED ON PAGE 3
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A $62 BILLION PLAN TO UNSNARL TRAFFIC So traffic can flow smoothly again, Moscow is making a serious effort to reduce gridlock.
Easing bottlenecks At the top of the mayor’s action plan: Getting Muscovites to park in approved spaces, instead of simply pulling their cars up on the sidewalk or double parking in the road. The latter creates an acute problem for traffic by disrupt-
Roadblocks may lie ahead
Moscow has launched an ambitious, multibillion dollar campaign to unsnarl its notorious traffic jams, a gargantuan task in a city ranked as the world’s most-gridlocked. The city aims to transform itself by 2020 by spending 2.9 trillion rubles ($83 billion) and doubling down on public transportation in a series of projects initiated by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Meanwhile, a paid parking system and expanded toll roads will raise the cost of car ownership. Amid signs of progress, skeptics say success can only come in degrees. “Even if you spent the entire budget of the Pentagon [on improving Moscow’s roads], you couldn’t solve the problem,”says Mikhail Blinkin, director of the Institute for Transport, Economics and Transport Policy Studies. The city’s twisted streets and centuries-old layout mean that “Moscow can’t be a city for cars,” Blinkin says. The plan, which includes suburban rail development, road construction and even creating 300 kilometers (186 miles) of bike lanes, aims to save drivers 88 hours a year, according to Deputy Mayor Maxim Liksutov, the man many credit for the heightened focus on Moscow’s traffic problem.
grandparents had never even dreamed of owning a car, enthusiastically embraced the new symbol of wealth. In 2014, Moscow’s official population of 11.5 million was driving at least 4 million cars, according to the Interior Ministry’s count. Some experts argue that Moscow was simply never designed for this many cars. Unlike the orderly grids of New York or Chicago, Moscow converges all transport options into the business-heavy city center. “Just look at [the roads] on Google maps — it’s like an asterisk,”notes the Institute for Transport’s Blinkin.
The Russian capital’s traffic was rated the worst in the world by the road navigation company TomTom in its 2014 yearly traffic report.
ing the city’s circulation with random bottlenecks. To fix the parking malaise, city officials dispatched a fleet of small green tow trucks, which quickly became notorious for removing inappropriately parked cars. In 2013, paid parking, regulated by the towing fleet, began in the center of the city, then spread outward. Sobyanin announced that as of late October, the average speed of traffic in the paid parking zones has “risen by an average of 12 percent.” Toll roads and limits on commercial
When the Soviet system collapsed in the early 1990s, decades of pent-up demand for automobiles was unleashed. As incomes grew, so did car ownership, and Russia emerged as one of Europe’s top-five auto markets.
SUBWAY NAVIGATION SYSTEM AIMS TO MAKE TRANSPORT MORE USER-FRIENDLY Moscow authorities have recently launched several new initiatives to help travelers find their way. should be easy to follow: The color solutions, font, layout and icons are consistent with international standards. The stands, however, do have some shortcomings. “Many questions are raised about the fact that the developers of these maps did not apply orientation to the north, and have provided layouts of the surrounding areas with respect to the exits,” says Novichkov. “A system like that is used for road navigators, but most of the paper guides and maps are oriented strictly to north. The subway map is also oriented to north, so people may become confused.” Muscovites and foreign visitors are
Signs are appearing on Moscow metro station floors, with large lettering indicating the direction to go in order to change lines.
Travelers stream past navigation signs on the floor of the Pushkinskaya metro station in central Moscow.
© EVGENY BIYATOV RIA NOVOSTI
This fall, riders on the Moscow metro noticed a series of small changes. In many metro stations, signs have appeared on the floor with large lettering in Russian and English indicating the direction to go in order to change lines. The moves are aimed at making the city’s much-heralded subway more accommodating for visitors. Previously, foreign visitors using the subway had to rely solely upon deciphering the Russian-language signs hanging from the ceilings. There are still no English translations of the names of subway stations in the station vestibules and on platforms, but Latin transliterations of station names can already be found in the subway cars themselves. At five of the central stations near Red Square — Okhotny Ryad, Teatralnaya, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, Lubyanka and Kuznetsky Most — city authorities have installed colorful stands at the exits with schematic diagrams of the station’s concourse and surrounding area. These provide information about the main attractions and facilities. The diagrams are the work of British specialists from City ID collaborating with Billings Jackson Design, who have already implemented successful projects in NewYork and London. According to Alexei Novichkov, expert at the Design Laboratory at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, the design of these information booths
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transport were also out in place. The plan also foresees an expansion of the Moscow metro system, boosting the number of stations by 78 to 250. Such an expansion would place 93 percent of Moscow’s residents within walking distance of a metro station.
Worst traffic in world Moscow is ranked as the world’s mostgridlocked metropolis, ahead of Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, according to road navigation company TomTom’s 2014 yearly report on traffic. It wasn’t always so.
generally positive about these navigational elements, with most of them citing the numbered exits from the subway as the most useful feature. Many Moscow stations have several exits. One of the busiest central stations, Kitay-Gorod, has more than a dozen. Previously, these exits were differentiated from each other with signs only in Russian referring to street names and places of interest to which they led, making it easy to get confused. “I’ve lived in Moscow for seven years,” says Angelika, a designer from the southern Russian city of Voronezh, “but I still don’t always know where to go to find the place I need, so the new schematic diagrams will be very useful. Previously, some subway stations had maps, but not with so much detail.” Foreigners, meanwhile, focus on other elements. “It is good that the new information boards have QR-codes, which can be ‘read’ by smartphones,” said Florentina, a writer from Vienna. But there are also shortcomings.“The English font of the information on posters and in the captions to theaters and museums is too small — you have to come very close to see it well,”she says. Florentina was also unhappy that such posters are not provided at all subway stations, particularly those further from the center: “When I was trying to find Tsaritsyno Park [a museum and reserve in the south of Moscow] at a subway station with the same name, it turned out to be quite difficult,” she says. Officials say that the navigation system is gradually being redeveloped and improved. According to Darya Chuvasheva, a press representative for the Department of Transport of Moscow, the introduction of a unified navigation system will take place in stages. “By the end of 2014, the system will first appear on the first subway stations on the Circle Line. By the end of 2015, we plan to install the system at all major stopping points, subway stations and transport interchange hubs,” she says. ■YELENA DOLZHENKO SPECIAL TO RBTH
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The roots of the problem stretch back to the Cold War. Under the Soviet Union, deficiencies in the socialist economy made cars a luxury. That left Moscow’s centuries-old byways largely congestion-free, and city planners had no need to worry. When the Soviet system collapsed in the early 1990s, decades of pent-up demand for automobiles was unleashed. As Russian incomes grew, so did car ownership and Russia emerged as one of the Europe’s top-five auto markets. Young Russians, whose parents and
Yet even as Moscow grapples with its existing traffic snarls, population growth may only make the challenge more difficult. The city estimates Moscow may grow to 15 million by 2025, and illegal immigration from Central Asia could make the real population much higher. Blinken notes that progress will depend in part on the city’s commitment to spending in the face of Russia’s economic uncertainties. Russia’s ruble lost more than a quarter of its value from January to November, hit by the one-two punch of sinking oil prices and Western sanctions over Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis. The World Bank said in October that Russia’s economy was near stagnation for 2014, and predicted 0.3 percent growth for 2015 and 0.4 percent for 2016. All that poses deep challenges for the city’s budget. In the meantime, notes Alisher Budtobaev, a Moscow taxi driver with three years’ experience, the construction connected with the upgrade has actually made traffic worse in many places. “As soon as the construction ends, I expect it’ll become gradually better,” he says. Millions of Russian commuters — along with city officials — hope that he’s right. ■SAM SKOVE JOURNALIST
A GROWING TASTE FOR DINING OUT According to a survey by Rasmussen Reports, the average American adult goes to a restaurant about five times per week. In Russia, however, dining out has never been much of a tradition. In fact, just a few years before the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, there were only 87 registered restaurants in Moscow, a city of millions. An Associated Press article from 1981 noted that the Socialist capital had no Italian or French restaurants, and observed drily that the city’s lone pizzeria — located down a narrow side street a few blocks from the Kremlin —“falls well short of world pizza standards.” In order to cater to local tastes, Chinese restaurants served dishes accompanied by big helpings of traditional Russian black bread. But over the past few years, the city has been transformed by a revolution in dining culture. Official city statistics now list 11,000 restaurants, a number that has expanded 15 percent to 20 percent per year since 2000, according to Andrei Petrakov, executive director of the RestCon consulting company. Meanwhile, another American tradition, coffee, is also taking hold, as a trip to the local coffee shop starts to replace Russia’s traditional mid-afternoon custom of enjoying a cup of tea in the office. Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks opened its first outlet in Moscow in 2007 and has expanded rapidly, with 70 branches in Moscow today. “We believe people will develop an even stronger coffee culture,”says Hannah West, a U.S.-based representative of Starbucks’ PR firm, Edelman. “The increasingly dynamic lifestyle in the city makes us optimistic about the potential of the market,” she says. “We believe that there’s plenty of room
in the market where independent stores and small chains can continue to grow along with Starbucks.” Moscow residents still have a way to go before they catch up with American dining habits. According to the Moscow Department of Trade and Services, Muscovites spent 7.4 percent of their 2013 food expenses on eating out. For Americans living in big cities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the equivalent figure is 76 percent.Yet as recently as 2007, an application for one Moscow restaurant chain’s frequent diner card asked potential diners if they ate out once a month, once every six months or once a year. Despite the rapid expansion in recent years, local restaurateurs face challenges. Customer numbers have recently dropped because of the weakening ruble, the impact of sanctions on the variety in menus and the ban on smoking in restaurants, which came into effect this summer. Economic sanctions and the falling ruble have restricted Russians’ purchasing power. The average bill in a Moscow restaurant ranges between $30 and $50, while the average monthly salary is about $1,200. Additionally, restaurants have been forced to change menus and suppliers because of Russia’s ban on food imports from the U.S. and the E.U. In October, the Department of Trade forecast that by the end of 2014, the city’s restaurant market may suffer a drop of as much as 15 percent. A spokesperson for the Federation of Restaurant and Hotel Owners told the Russian daily newspaper Izvestiya that chains have stopped opening new outlets and have begun reviewing existing ones. ■KIRA EGOROVA RBTH
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INFRASTRUCTURE IS KEY TO IMPROVING CITY TRAFFIC FLOW MAX KATZ EXPERT
ccording to navigation systems producer TomTom, Moscow has some of the worst traffic jams in the world. The Moscow authorities have been trying to address road congestion for at least 15 years, but the situation is not improving. Why? Unlike many foreign cities, Moscow began facing the problems caused by mass motorization only in the 2000s. And those problems were dramatic. Cars were considered a luxury in the Soviet Union. In 1982, only 5 percent of Muscovites were able to afford one. That number rose to 18 percent in 1997 and to 30 percent by 2000. Such rapid growth led to serious problems with infrastructure. In the Soviet era, Moscow’s infrastructure was designed with an eye toward maximizing the effectiveness of public transportation. Relatively few large roads were constructed, while many bus, trolley bus and tram routes were built along with a very high quality subway system. Additionally, there was no culture of driving or of pedestrians and drivers living together. Because of this situation, when cars began to flood the city, they took over every available free space. Cars were parked (and sometimes driven) on sidewalks and in playgrounds and yards. Congestion and traffic jams increased each year. It would have made sense for the Moscow authorities to learn from the experience of American and European cities in developing proper infrastructure for cars before the problems with traffic became acute. But they did not. The key mistake transportation authorities generally make when trying to address traffic problems in cities is to pour money into constructing more and bigger roads in an attempt to clear traffic jams. This is what happened in the United States, which confronted the problem of large numbers of private cars earlier than most countries, starting in the 1930s. Experience and the subsequent development of transport-related science have shown that this plan leads to a dead end. More roads only create more places for cars to get into traffic jams. Even if municipal authorities could build roads and parking lots capable of holding all the cars that could possibly be driven in a particular city, they would create other problems. Investment in road construction would be enormous; the roads would take up too much space; and drivers would be no closer to where they needed to go. Additionally, the problem with such cities — and one that many Ameri-
MOSCOW PEDESTRIANS TIPTOE THROUGH TULIPS VADIM YERSHOV JOURNALIST
his fall, after a long phase of reconstruction, Pyatnitskaya Street in the center of Moscow reopened to the public — but not to their cars. Pyatnitskaya is just the latest in a series of Moscow streets that have been closed to traffic. Creating pedestrian streets is not a new trend for European capitals. The most famous European pedestrian street, Stroget in Copenhagen, was closed to cars in 1962. In fewer than two years, the number of pedestrians on the road doubled — much to the delight of shop and cafe owners. Half a century later, this street is one of the main attractions of the city for both tourists and residents. Each day, up to 100,000 people walk along Stroget. In comparison, only 40,000 people pass daily through Moscow’s best-known pedestrian street, the Arbat. Whether the new pedestrian zones in Moscow will become as popular as the Danish street is an open-ended question. It will surely be pleasant to walk along such streets, but they should attract people with more than the opportunity they offer for walking or reading outside on a pleasant day. “In itself, the creation of pedestrian zones and streets is a great breakthrough in Moscow’s urban policy,”says Ilya Mochalov, vice president of the Association of Russian Landscape Architects. “It transforms the city’s car
CO N V E RT I N G M O N O LO G U E I N TO D I A LO G U E Russia Direct is a forum for experts and senior decision-makers from Russia and abroad to discuss, debate and understand the issues in geopolitical relations from a sophisticated vantage point.
December Quarterly Report: Year in Review
This new report will analyze the main events in Russia-U.S. relations over the past year and offer a look ahead to 2015. Today, bilateral contacts in most areas and at all levels are either frozen, suspended or stagnant at best. This memo reviews how that happened, and asks what choices lie ahead. As we enter a new year, what lessons should be learned and what steps can be taken to avoid further confrontation? Get the view from Moscow.
chaos into a comfortable atmosphere. There have been excellent decisions: for example, paving the streets with durable materials such as granite slabs or sett. But there are also weak points. The quality of construction is not always good, and planning and designing new pedestrian space is a reference to past architectural styles without any innovation.” The main shortcoming of Moscow’s pedestrian zones is the lack of trees. The mayor’s office says there is just no place to plant them: the land under the sidewalks is not even earth, but just mounds of pipes and cables. Even if one planted a tree in such conditions, it would die. That is why the au-
What can be done to attract people to the pedestrian zones, besides having a pleasant, secure place to promenade? thorities have made the decision to plant seasonal flower beds in the zones. The other question is what can attract people to the pedestrian zones, besides a pleasant, secure place to promenade. Most of the popular pedestrian streets in Europe and the U.S. have evolved in accordance with a certain urban concept. Times Square in New York is a concentration of theaters, cabarets and concert halls. The Viennese Mariahilferstrasse is the largest shopping street in the city. The atmosphere of many pedestrian streets is also created by musicians and street artists. In Moscow, however, only the
Arbat, which has long been known as a place to buy souvenirs and have a portrait drawn; and Stoleshikov Lane, one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, are not contrived spaces. Stores that cater to the average consumer are not anxious to set up business on pedestrian streets. Rents are higher there and there is no guarantee that foot traffic will be good — at least not yet. So far, the most interested businesses are restaurants that can have open-air cafes in the spring and summer. The only pedestrian zone that has a truly innovative concept in the Russian capital is Romanov Lane, which is located betweenVozdvizhenka Street and Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street just steps from the Kremlin. In 2009, investors from Luxembourg received a contract to reconstruct six buildings behind the Moscow State University Journalism Faculty, across the road from the main visitor’s entrance to the Kremlin. But instead of a high-end business center or an elite apartment complex, they decided to create a street with cafes, restaurants, culinary boutiques and a heated sidewalk paved with sett. For the moment, only the first row of Romanov Lane is rented out and only two out of the six buildings have been restored. But a French bakery and a cozy Armenian restaurant are already operating inside. The construction is scheduled for completion by 2016. Other pedestrian streets still do not have such clear visions for their development. Occasionally they host concerts or photo exhibitions, but they cannot compare with the public parks
that the mayor’s office has developed, which have really transformed the look and feel of the Russian capital. In just three-and-a-half years, Gorky Park was transformed from practically a wasteland to the largest public space in Eastern Europe, attracting millions of locals and tourists. The number of visitors has grown to almost 14 million annually — more than the population of the city — and the revenue brought into the local administration’s coffers from the park’s commercial activities has more than doubled. Most likely there are still no planned concepts for Moscow’s pedestrian zones because the priority of the mayor’s office at the moment is simply to increase the number of public pedestrian areas. His office has already announced plans to create a new six-kilometer (3.7 mile) pedestrian walkway. It also revealed plans for modifying Tverskaya Street, the main artery from Red Square north. Here, a lane for cars will be removed from both directions in favor of expanding sidewalks. The city is changing. And the direction is a good one. The success of the initiatives will depend on creating concepts to bring people to these areas, the creativity of the architects and designers, and the continued support of the mayor’s office for the construction and upkeep of such zones. Moscow’s parks are the best example that successful public spaces are possible in the city, and they must be used as a model for developing other public areas. VadimYershov is a journalist who has lived in and written about Moscow for nearly 20 years.
AFTER A DIFFICULT YEAR, THERE IS STILL MUCH TO BE THANKFUL FOR CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
And the resolution of the years-long wrangle over the price of Russian gas was the least of it. Moscow described Beijing as its most important strategic partner, and conferred China with what amounts to most-favored-nation status in the implementation of numerous joint projects. As a result of two separate agreements, Russian energy resources will begin flowing to China through two new pipeline systems. Eventually, Russia could supply China with as much as 138 billion cubic meters of gas in the coming decades. In the end, the development of economic ties with Russia is not what will determine China’s economic future. Of far greater significance is that with Russia as a de facto junior partner and ally, China will acquire a strategic advantage over its key foreign competitor, the United States. Russia’s resource base, strategic nuclear potential and voice on the United Nations Security Council are all, to varying degrees, under Beijing’s command, and President Xi Jinping may just feel a bit more confident than a year ago. So some do have reason to give thanks this year end. U.S. President Barak Obama seems to be faring much worse: the midterm elections were a wipeout, the American economy is still in second gear, Is-
lamists are on the rampage in the Middle East, and his ratings are falling. Yet despite his few political victories in 2014, Obama could not let the Ukrainian crisis slip by. He seized the opportunity to demonstrate who’s still in charge and to frame a common agenda uniting the countries of the Western world for the first time in many years. Despite the obvious economic losses, Europe, steered by the United States, managed to present a united front against Russia. The system of common values that took shape in the second half of last century proved quite lively and efficient. The United States and Europe were joined by Australia, Japan and many other international players, who, after weighing up the pros and cons, chose not to show open solidarity with Russia. Rather, they opted to continue reliable partner relations with the United States. The year 2014 presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a few gray hairs, but also an opportunity to act as a key negotiator on Ukraine and to further shore up Germany’s already solid position in European politics. In the strained circumstances of the past year, Merkel gave both British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande a master class in how to be a consistent and realistically minded politician.
Other European leaders paled in comparison. If all the world leaders could sit down together at a summit where their comments were guaranteed to be off limits to prying eyes and ears and discuss what they and their countries have gained from this year’s events in Ukraine, the meeting would probably drag on for some time. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would impart to his colleagues that without Maidan and the overthrow of ViktorYanukovych, he would not be president (which may be more of a curse than a blessing in today’s Ukraine). The leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, would say that he not only acquired the status of major facilitator and confidant of the warring parties, but also had an opportunity to strengthen the Belarusian economy through selling foreign goods into Russia as a way of getting around the food ban. Additionally, he would note that Minsk has become the go-to destination for international conferences in the last few months. As Russia’s reputation has worsened in the West, that of Belarus has begun to look better. Even North Korea’s Kim Jong-un might weigh in with a boast that the Pyongyang regime had found a new influential backer in the form of Russia, shielding North Korea from international censure.
But what might Russian President Vladimir Putin, the most powerful man in the world according to Forbes magazine, say about his fortunes? Can an international crisis such as that going on in Ukraine ever bring political dividends to all parties involved, even irreconcilable enemies? Experience shows that, yes, it can. For Vladimir Putin, 2014 has been the most triumphant year of his career. His approval ratings in Russia have never attained such lofty heights, and despite the highly ambivalent attitudes to him, no one is indifferent to the figure of Putin. What more could a successful politician ask for? In the spirit of optimism, however, we can all hope that neither Obama, nor Putin, nor Poroshenko, nor indeed Kim Jong-un, would in fact wish for the crises in Ukraine, Syria, North Korea and elsewhere to continue plaguing international relations, and that instead they would wish for peace in 2015. However, as the 19th-century German general Carl von Clausewitz once famously noted, war is just the continuation of politics by other means. Ivan Tsvetkov is an associate professor at the School of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University. He is an expert in U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific Region, U.S. history and contemporary U.S. society.
cans cities struggle with today is that the only convenient way to get around them is by car. The distance to the center is too far on foot, and population density is too low for public transport. Buses must either stop at every corner and move too slowly, or the distance between stops is too far. The more the city authorities try to build roads, the more complicated it becomes to live in the city without a car and the more compelled residents feel to buy one, What results is a vicious circle. People who live in cities take four factors into consideration when deciding how to get around: comfort, cost, convenience and speed. Most Muscovites can afford a car, even if it is an inexpensive or used one, at the current average monthly income level. The percentage of people who choose to buy a car, therefore, depends on the convenience of traveling in one as opposed to on public transport. If the Moscow authorities want to combat traffic jams they must make public transport faster, cheaper and as comfortable as a private car. Unfortunately, Moscow has not invested in improving public transportation in these ways. Instead, the city has spent money to build roads and interchanges. That has only exacerbated the road congestion problem with each passing year. In addition, car use has not been restricted at all. Until 2013, parking was free everywhere, even in the city center. People were able to park their cars virtually along the Kremlin walls. At the same time, tram routes have been eliminated and metro construction has been stalled. The situation became so bad that in 2010, when Moscow got a new mayor, then-President Dmitry Medvedev said: “Moscow is a model situation. It is not just the task of Sergei Sobyanin, who is the mayor, to solve this problem [traffic jams], but of the entire country. This is a sort of test of the authorities’ abilities.” The situation did begin to improve with Mayor Sobyanin’s arrival. Metro construction began again, paid parking was introduced, lanes were delineated, new trams and subway cars were purchased and several tram lines were revived. Unfortunately, there is still a very strong lobby of construction companies in the city. In many cases, instead of focusing on projects that would serve the city in a positive way, these companies advocate for the construction of unnecessary roads and interchanges and the widening of streets in densely populated areas. The moves to improve public transportation in Moscow pale in comparison with these initiatives, so, the number of traffic jams continues to rise, albeit at a much slower rate. Max Katz is the director of the City Project foundation, which works on creating livable cities.
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December Brief: Relations with India
On Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin made an official visit to India for the 15th Annual India-Russia Summit. Could this event open the door to a new era in this long bilateral relationship, which has been relatively low-key for the last couple of years? in this brief, Russia Direct examines the current state of relations between Moscow and Delhi and points out the obstacles that stand in the way of a stronger partnership.
RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES A global media project sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta www.rbth.com
EXPAT FINDS HIS COMFORT ZONE
When Stephen Ansell, his wife and two there to teach, we also learned a lot. I now, despite the ongoing geopolitical children landed back in Moscow in think that’s a useful life experience. tensions between Russia and the West. September 2010, Ansell’s young son No matter where we go, we learn,” “For one thing, traveling here is looked around Domodedovo Airport That statement may best express An- cheaper,”Ansell says with a smile, beand announced to his mother,“Mommy, sell’s worldview.“Stephen travels well,” fore adding, “what we would like to we are home.”After two years in Wash- says Neil Hardwick, a media invest- see is an increase in the number of ington, D.C., Ansell and his family were ment company executive who met An- tourists and visitors, obviously because happy to return to the part of the world sell four years ago. “By that I mean of our industry, but also because there’s where the hotel executive has spent that he can adapt and join in with the so much to show here. the bulk of his career. Ansell is the environment around him. When you “St. Petersburg has been on the radar general manager of the Ararat Park do that, you get to see so much more for a long time. But with all the imHyatt Moscow, which was named the and participate so much more in to provements we’ve made, we’ve turned best hotel in Russia at the Interna- things, events and the people around Moscow into a very attractive destitional Hotel Awards in January. He is you.” nation and I think it’s an experience also Hyatt’s area director, which makes Unlike many other high-level expa- everyone that should have,” says the him responsible for all the Hyatt prop- triates, Ansell is happy to experience hotelier. erties in the region. Before assuming Moscow as the locals do. “Stephen “The significance of Russia historihis current position, Ansell managed simply adores Moscow and Russia, and cally, at least for us in Europe, is withhotels in Bishkek, Kyrgystan and transmits his passion for this destina- out question. It’s been on the world Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. Earlier in his tion to the clients and employees,”says stage for many, many years, and will career, he worked at hotels in Germa- Julia Usoeva, a former colleague of An- continue to be so. And as it’s a destiny, Hong Kong, Saudia Arabia and Tur- sell’s at the Ararat Park Hyatt who nation that has not often been visited, key. now lives in France.“Many foreigners I think now is the time to come and Few people are more positive about living in Moscow are scared to use pub- see Russia. And people are working expat life — and life in Moscow in lic transportation and try to avoid it, very, very hard to make Russia tourgeneral — than Ansell, a U.K. native. Stephen, on the contrary, was even en- ist-friendly. I think that if politics gets “I feel more out of place if I go home joying it, using this experience as an in the way of people traveling, the sometimes, because if you are out for opportunity to mix with the local peo- world would be a very boring place,” a long time, you become very interna- ple, local culture and local language.” he says. tionally minded, very multiculturally Ansell, who is 45, believes that RusIn fact, Ansell takes the metro every minded. Your perspective on things is day. “It’s crowded sometimes, but I sia has a particular appeal for traveldifferent when you’ve lived in a lot of think it’s less crowded than many of ers his age and older, who remember different countries. That changes your the undergrounds that I’m used to; it’s the Cold War. outlook,” he says. “I grew up in that era. 25 years ago affordable and I highly recommend it.” And Ansell’s outlook on Moscow is Ansell is also in favor of the move when the Berlin Wall came down, I very positive. “I think Moscow is in by the Moscow City government to in- could never imagine that I would be many ways Europe’s best-kept secret,” troduce paid parking in the center of sitting and eating and living my life he says. “Moscow, especially over the the city, although he acknowledges his in Moscow. It would be unthinkable past couple of years, has seen an im- may be a controversial position.“I think at that point. But I really view that as mense number of changes. There has it has changed the whole visual, the part of history. I believe that people of been a serious effort, particularly over whole way you perceive the center of my generation should start to leave the past five years, to make our city town,” he says. “It has made things a that behind, because I believe that the more livable, more tourist-friendly for lot easier, it has reduced traffic and, global issues the world faces are much sure, and the overall experience has aesthetically, it’s just much more pleas- more critical and that we are so more become a lot more positive, To live here ant. From a tourist perspective, visu- mobile,” Ansell says. He notes that his really is a pleasure.” hotel works with some tour operators als, aesthetics are very important.” Ansell should know. He’s lived in 11 His favorite place in Moscow is the who target travelers with an older procountries during his career and spent famous Gorky Park, although this was file, and that the programs are full of his childhood in Southeast Asia and not always the case. “When I first ar- American, British and French travelEurope as his family followed the ca- rived here, [it] was really not on the ers who are slightly older, and they are reer of his father, a BP (British Petro- list of places to see and places to visit,” all amazed by what they discover here. leum) employee. But he never had a he says.“We went there once or twice “In many ways, they appreciate Ruschance to live in Eastern Europe until because of the historical value — of sia anyway, because they understand after the fall of the Berlin Wall. course, we’ve all read the book — but the historical significance of what they The week the wall fell, Ansell, who now it’s a real pleasure to go there. I are looking at when they see Red was working in West Germany at the would say it’s a gem. In fact, I send ev- Square, and for them that has a lot of time, went to Berlin with his girlfriend, eryone there, if it’s in the winter — for meaning. Frankly every time I stand who later became his wife. “We have the ice-skating rink — and in the sum- on the hotel terrace [which overlooks very strong memories,” he says, “and mer of course it offers some activities, Red Square], I think ‘Wow, how the if you reflect on that, it’s amazing how the cultural events that are taking place world has changed.’” the world has changed in 25 years…. there. It’s amazing.” ■LARA MCCOY ROSLOF the perceptions we had about this part As far as Ansell is concerned, there’s RBTH of the world at that time. That falling no better to time to visit Moscow, than of the wall was rather symbolic in many ways, but for me, it was that the ability to communicate with this part of the world suddenly changed and it’s become better and better ever since.” After the reunification of Germany, Ansell took a position in East Germany at a hotel his employer had just taken over. The experience prepared him for his future working in the former Soviet Union. “My exposure to working there was to [understand] the mindset of the people, and to see how they had been trained. They were very professional, but used to working in a slightly different environment. That may be a slight understatement actually,” he says, laughing. But, Ansell is quick to add, he learned as much from his local colleagues as they learned from him. “It taught me to realize that you didn’t always know best, and it was a real first experience of something different to what I was used to, at least work-wise,”says Ansell.”The way people worked, we learned a lot from them and, if anything, it taught me that despite people’s perception that we were Join other Instagrammers this winter at the ice rink in Gorky Park.
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Hotel executive calls Moscow “Europe’s best-kept secret,” adding that the time to visit Russia is now — and not just because of the exchange rate.
Stephen Ansell, general manager of Moscow’s Ararat Park Hyatt, in front of the Bolshoi Theater, near the hotel.
A Moscow Must-see: Iconic, Rejuvenated Gorky Park Hyatt hotelier Stephen Ansell, who calls Gorky Park a gem and considers a visit there obligatory when in Moscow, isn’t the only one who finds the 300-acre (121-hectare) green space the best place in the city to spend a free afternoon. The iconic park placed fifth in a ranking of the world’s top-10 most popular geotagged destinations on Instagram in 2014, according to the Australian website Traveller.com.au. Red Square came in seventh. This is the first time Russian sites have made it onto Instagram’s top 10 list. Gorky Park, which is easily accessible from two metro stations and several bus routes, became known around
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the world through pop culture, primarily through Martin Cruz Smith’s eponymous 1981 novel and the 1983 film of the same name. During the Soviet era the space was mainly filled with cheap amusement park rides. Later it became the home of the Buran, a Soviet-designed space shuttle. Those who remember the park from their Soviet childhoods would hardly recognize it today. After a slick redesign, the park is full of visitors checking out a pop-up market or taking yoga classes. From spring to fall, bicycles, skates, scooters and pedal cars are available for hourly rental, and Nike sponsors a running club on the expan-
sive grounds along the Moscow River. Several organizations hold classes for children in an open-air pavilion and films are shown under the stars on a giant screen. Gorky Park is also the site of a giant ice-skating rink from mid-November to early March. The rink was the largest in Europe for several years, before being overtaken this year by a rink at VDNKh in northern Moscow. For those more interested in indoor activities, several popular local restaurants have branches in the park, and socialite Dasha Zhukova opened her contemporary art center, Garazh, in a pavilion there in 2008.
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Published on Dec 17, 2014