Buildings of Moscow

Привет все!

I’m sorry for the lateness of this post! I will try to be more consistent in the future.

The Radisson Hotel — one of the 7 Sisters, skyscrapers built under Stalin

Many people are interested in the architecture of Moscow and Russia in general, picture St. Basil’s soaring spires on one hand, and bleak Soviet cinder blocks on the other. Instead of monuments like those found in other European cities, for centuries Russian czars built churches to commemorate victories and other events. Even though many were destroyed during the USSR, Moscow still has over 600 Orthodox churches. The survivors rode out the Soviet period as museums, libraries, and even office buildings.


Destroyed under the USSR, Christ the Savior Cathedral was rebuilt in the 1990s.
A church built by the Romanov family that survived the Soviet era

Last weekend I saw the cathedrals inside the Kremlin complex, where Russian czars were crowned, even while the capital was St. Petersburg. Photos were not permitted inside, but I cheated once 😉

A covert picture inside the Kremlin – Love your favorite Russian spy 😉

In Moscow you will find juxtapositions like no other, with incredible and varied architecture next to just plain ugly Soviet buildings. There is a distinctive style of building from the 1960s called Khrushchyovkas, 5 story panel buildings of tiny apartments. They were Nikita Khruschev’s response to Russia’s housing crisis. At the time, they significantly improved the everyday lives of many Russians by allowing them to move out of communal apartments into their own family homes. Cheaply constructed, most are now falling apart and there have been several proposals in the last decade to tear them down and resettle residents.

A residential building from the 70s or 80s.
A khrushchevka. I stole this from the Internet because I forgot to take a picture, but many of the buildings around me look just like this.

Because it is so expensive to live in the center of the city, there has been a building boom in the “suburbs” of Moscow. I tutor two kids in English who live in one of these bedroom communities, about 30 minutes by metro from my apartment near the center. They live in a modern building on the 25th floor, next to two identical buildings. The complex also has a movie theater, American fast food restaurants, retail shops and more. As someone who grew up in a traditional suburb of single family homes outside Detroit, seeing such a huge building in the middle of nowhere seems just plain… weird. However, the advantage is that everyone has access to a much larger outside area, rather than each home having a small yard to themselves.

A view of the Moscow suburbs from the 26th floor.

Russian word: квартира (kvar-tee-ruh) apartment

Crash Course or Crash Landing?

Privyet from Moscow!

Don’t worry, that title is not literal. I landed safely in Moscow early Friday morning.

First steps in Russia

Stepping off that plane, I couldn’t be more excited. I was breathing Russian air! Hearing Russian words! Seeing Russian people! I was a bit surprised then, at how “normal” everything seemed. Where was that culture shock? I figured, well, maybe an airport is just an airport, and a city just a city, even in Cyrillic. So far everything does seem pretty comfortable, but every once in a while I crash into something that makes me feel, well, shocked!

A brand new playground in Novoslobodskaya Park

The first time I really felt that I was in Russia was when I was walking around a park near my apartment on my first day and I heard little kids speaking in Russian. For some reason knowing that these kids knew more of the language than I did really humbled me!

Breakfast that Alla made my first day, including traditional Russian kasha

Sometimes I feel like I crash and burn a thousand little times a day, as I try to communicate with my lovely host mother, Alla, in my broken Russian. She patiently listens and helps me spell out words I don’t know into Google translate, but I feel terrible for all the things I know she is trying to say to me that I don’t understand!

This church popped out from behind a steel skyscraper as I navigated through Moscow

However, I’m already amazed by how concepts I struggled with in the classroom make sense in real life. For example, the direction/navigation unit was one of my worst in class last year, but after Alla gave me directions and I consulted Yandex (Russia’s Google), I had an epiphany and I have found everything I needed so far! (I’m no expert though… I got lost and was late for my first class!).

The crash course is going well so far, minus a couple bumps and bruises. There is so much I can’t share in a short blog post, but some topics coming up are: the Cyrillic alphabet, food, architecture, the tourist spots, money, getting to know Alla, and much more!

Увидимся! Oo-vee-deem-sya! See ya!