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    HISTORY OF MOSCOW

    Moscow is the capital of Russia. It was first mentioned in the chronicles in 1 147, and its history starts with a legend of Prince Yuri Dolgoruky ("the Long-armed"), who is considered to be the city's founder, inviting his neighbour, another Russian prince, to a council meeting. To honour this event, there was a great feast in Moscow. Back in time the town was built on seven hills to give it the better perspective view It is rather difficult to discern them now.

    Moscow started with The Kremlin (Kremlin means "a steep hill" in Greek), which is basically downtown of the city surrounded by high brick walls. The intricate towers and walls of the Moscow Kremlin were designed and built by Italian architects. Kremlin now is the residence of the Russian Government. Ancient cathedrals, the Armory Chamber, Russia's oldest museum, and the Diamond Fund with its unique collection of precious stones and jewelry, are also located within the Kremlin walls.
    Near the 81-metre (266-foot) high Bell Tower of Ivan the Great, which once used to be the tallest building in Russia, is the world's biggest Tsar-Bell that weighs 202 tons and reaches in height 6.14 meters (20.1 feet). The Tsar-Bell has never rung: a huge piece of it split off during a big fire in 1737, right after the bell was cast; now that piece lies near the bell.
    The 40 ton Tsar-Cannon, a monument of the 16th century foundry art, stands nearby: it has never been fired, either.
    Nowadays Kremlin and the accompanying it Red Square are definitely Moscow's main sights of interest and symbols of all Russia.

    MODERN MOSCOW

    Moscow is a real metropolis: the city spans 40 km (25 miles) from north to south and over 30 km (19 miles) from east to west. Official population is over 10 million (including the vicinities) makes Moscow the world's fifth largest city; also, over a million visitors, mostly tourists, are in the city on any given day.

    There are 5 airports, 9 railway, 3 inter-city bus, and 2 riverside stations in Moscow. The first subway line was opened in 1935. Now the subway network consists of more than 170 stations (and new ones are being built on a regular basis); the Moscow subway's total length exceeds 270 kilometers (168 miles). The palace-like halls of the Moscow subway are some of the most beautiful in the world: Mayakovskaya (1938) and Komsomolskaya (1951) stations are considered the best in terms of their architectural design. The Moscow subway carries about 9 million passengers daily.

    There used to be nearly 500 churches in Moscow. Now about 150 of them are operational and about 100 others are under reconstruction. The most impressive monuments are: the Cathedral of St. Basil (on Red Square), the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and the complex of Novodevichy Monastery with its cemetery, where prominent public and national figures are buried.

    The Bolshoi Theatre is definitely the most famous among the several dozen of Moscow theatres. An introduction to Russian classical ballet is part of every tourist program. The two Moscow circuses are also quite popular.

    Starting from the beginning of the 1990s, Moscow has rapidly become a modern European capital. The city is undergoing a real construction boom: hundreds of buildings are being reconstructed and repaired; new trade, entertainment, and business centres are being erected; bridges and junctions are being built. The giant mechanical mole that was used during the construction of the La Manche tunnel was brought to Moscow, to dig several kilometer long road tunnels here

    THE OUTSKIRTS OF MOSCOW

    Numerous old estates, exquisite samples of landscape architecture inside and outside the city, are worth visiting as well. A typical 18th-19th-century noble estate near Moscow was not only a villa encircled by a nice park but also served as the centre of spiritual life in pre-revolutionary Russia. These estates were home for famous painters, writers, musicians and actors. Ilya Repin, Valentin Serov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Vrubel and others were frequent guests in the Abramtsevo estate owned by the Mamontovs who were patrons of the arts.

    The Yasnaya Polyana estate, situated 240 kilometres to the south of Moscow, has become a pilgrimage site: it is here that Leo Tolstoy, the author of famous War and Peace, Anna Karenina and other novels, wrote for many years.

    Kuskovo is the former country estate belonging to Counts Sheremetev, a powerful noble family that lived during the Russian Empire. The gorgeous palace and "French Park" (symmetrically planned), as well as a museum which has a unique collection of ceramics, are quite notable. In Ostankino, which also belonged to the Sheremetevs, there is a building where the Counts' private theatre used to be (the actors were the Counts); nowadays, classical music performances are given here.

    The former tsar's village of Kolomenskoye is very beautiful: at one time, the wooden palace of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov (1645-1676), father of Peter the Great, used to be here.

    The town of Zvenigorod, situated 40 kilometres to the west of Moscow, is a nice place to visit. The old Friary of Savva stands in a majestic pinery on a steep bank of the Moscow River, near its tributary the Storozhka.

    The New Jerusalem Monastery of the Resurrection complex, which was built in the same manner as the Holy City of Jerusalem, is unique indeed. Even the Istra River (a left tributary of the Moscow River) flowing under its walls is called "the Jordan River" here. The friary is also famous because the disgraced Patriarch Nikon (1605-1681), the greatest reformer of the Russian Orthodox Church, lived in exile and is buried here.

    Moscow is both the beginning and ending point of the Golden Ring, the most interesting of all the tours through the ancient cities and towns of Central Russia.
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