views updated May 17 2018



Formerly the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, 1922–1991), and in the early twenty-first century the capital of the Russian Federation, Moscow is Russia's principal megalopolis—an industrial, banking, scientific, and cultural center.

Between 1914 and 2004 the sociopolitical paradigm of Moscow's development changed twice: in 1917, when the Communist regime was established, and in 1991, when it collapsed. Accordingly, the forms of property ownership changed (from market to planned regulation, and then back to market), as well as the patterns of social life, local government, cultural development, and everyday life. From 1914 to 2004 the city's area grew fivefold, thanks to the incorporation of bordering settlements. In 1960 the oval Moscow Ring Road (MRR), 109 kilometers in length and encompassing an area of 886.5 square kilometers, became the city's border. In 1985, after a number of large tracts of land under housing construction beyond the MRR had been incorporated into the city, its area grew to 998 square kilometers.


With more than 1.6 million inhabitants, Moscow in 1914 ranked ninth among the world's largest cities (after London, New York City, Paris, Berlin, Chicago, Vienna, Philadelphia, and St. Petersburg). By 2002 it had grown to more than 10.3 million inhabitants. Throughout the twentieth century, population growth resulted mostly from in-migration. Twice the population fell dramatically as hundreds of thousands fled to safer regions: during the civil war (in 1918–1919 by 434 thousand) and World War II (in 1941 by 2.2 million). During the Soviet era, migration into Moscow was artificially restricted. On 27 December 1932, after the introduction of domestic passports and the propiska (residence registration) system in the USSR, settlement in Moscow was prohibited except in the event of marriage, enrollment in Moscow higher-educational institutions, or employment in certain specific jobs.

Stalinist policies imposed strict supervision over population movement. In 1934, for example, sixty thousand people left Moscow, fearing checks by the police and subsequent repression. The propiska was abolished only in 1993, replaced by a system of registration and permission to live and work in all regions. This change in legal norms resulted in a dramatic rise in migration into Moscow from the early 1990s onward (especially after the USSR's disintegration in 1991). By the mid-2000s, Moscow housed more than 7 percent of Russia's total population.

In the mid-2000s, Russian was the native language of 95 percent of Moscow residents. Despite a gradual rise in multiethnicity throughout the century, the majority of the population remained Russian: 87.8 percent in 1926, 89.2 percent in 1970, and 84.8 percent in 2002. Other major population groups included Ukrainians (2.2, 2.8, and 2.45 percent in 1939, 1989, and 2002, respectively) and Tatars (1.4, 2.1, and 1.6 percent in 1939, 1989, and 2002, respectively). After 1991 a decline in the number of Jews (0.76 percent in 2002) was caused by mass emigration to Israel, Germany, and the United States, and by the ethnic assimilation of new generations born in mixed marriages. By contrast, the proportion of Caucasians (Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Chechens, and so forth) rose from 0.35 percent in 1939 to 0.95 percent in 1959 and to 4.5 percent in 2002.

The worst outbreaks of xenophobia occurred in 1915 (anti-German pogroms during World War 1, when Germany was Russia's major foe); in 1948–1953, during the campaigns against so-called cosmopolitanism, which targeted the Jewish intelligentsia; and in the late 1990s and early 2000s during anti-Caucasian pogroms at the markets, when traders from the Caucasus were targeted.


The twentieth-century history of Moscow, like that of other world megalopolises, was complicated and often dramatic. In 1914 Moscow was a picturesque city full of new, multistoried apartment blocks and old, prestigious detached houses. Twenty kilometers of central streets were illuminated by electricity. Thanks to efficient municipal authorities, the city had modern water-supply and sewage systems and a wide network of streetcar lines. Free medical service for the population was provided by eighteen hospitals with beds for seven thousand patients, eleven maternity homes, and thirty-two outpatient clinics. In 1915 all children had access to free primary education at 333 primary schools for seventy-five thousand pupils. The city had 15 higher-educational institutions and 160 libraries (including 76 public ones). In 1910 a telephone station for sixty thousand subscribers was built. Radio broadcasting started in 1914. Industry was represented by more than twelve hundred enterprises, of which twenty-five had a labor force ranging from one to six thousand workers. The dominant branches were the textile industry (43 percent of the general volume of production and 40 percent of the labor force) and the food industry.

This dynamic period of growth was interrupted by World War I, during which Moscow was inundated with refugees from the war-ravaged western provinces of the Russian Empire. More than 1,075 hospitals with 100,000 beds were established to treat wounded soldiers. The situation steadily deteriorated: wages could not keep up with inflation, and the supply of food and goods markedly declined. By 1916 there was a shortage of bread, the trams stopped, and the gas supply was repeatedly interrupted. The decline in the standard of living resulted in a rising wave of strikes, from 27 in 1914 to 235 in 1916. In January–March 1917 a fuel and food crisis erupted, followed by the onset of starvation.

Moscow was shaken by mass political demonstrations during the revolutionary year 1917. After the tsar abdicated in March, power passed into the hands of the provisional government. In June 650,000 persons (56 percent of all registered voters) took part in elections to the City Duma (municipal council) in which the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SR) won the overwhelming majority of votes. At the same time the Moscow Soviet (Mossovet), a rival political body of workers, steadily increased its influence on the population. After September the SR's chief rival, the Bolsheviks, dominated the Mossovet. By October the Soviet and the Duma were governing in parallel. On 25–26 October 1917 Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd. During the next eight days Moscow was the scene of political confrontation between Reds (supporting the Bolshevik Soviet) and Whites (supporting the bourgeois Duma), which degenerated into armed clashes. Barricades were erected, fires started, and gradually, Red militias from the suburbs infiltrated the city center and started to gain the upper hand over the Whites. For four days Bolshevik detachments bombarded the Kremlin with artillery shells, until the Whites defending it capitulated. In November 1917 the City Duma was abolished, and power passed into the hands of the Mossovet.

During the civil war of 1918–1920 that followed the revolution, businesses were nationalized, and the Mossovet began to manage them in a centralized manner. Trying to solve the problem of insufficient housing, the Mossovet in April 1918 decided to pack more people into apartments (no more than one room per adult), and to settle the poor in the apartments of well-off residents. By the end of the civil war, the economy was in shambles. In 1920 industrial output in various enterprises was between 2 and 15 percent of the prewar level. Moscow streetcars stood idle, and water and electricity supplies were erratic. Bread rations were minimal even for children and hospital patients (133 grams per capita per diem, 400 grams per worker at major enterprises). In 1919–1921 a crime wave followed the release of criminals from prisons.


After the introduction of the New Economic Policy (1921), which restored free trade and denationalized some small businesses, the economy revived. By the end of 1926 industrial production had risen to 93 percent of its 1913 level. But as early as 1926 the authorities already began to restrict the free market. In 1927 they introduced the centralized distribution of goods and the rationing of food and clothing. Two problems were especially acute: constantly rising unemployment due to the influx of newcomers from other regions (numbering about 270,000 new arrivals in 1927, for example), and thousands of homeless children who came to the city during the famine years right after the end of the civil war.

An authoritarian, one-party regime under the control of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks (later renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) now controlled the country. In Moscow the Mossovet, despite its formally democratic principles, functioned under the vigilant supervision of the Moscow Committee of the Bolshevik Party.

The new regime had some indisputable achievements, such as the introduction of free medical care: between 1925 and 1929, for example, annual health screening for workers in state-owned enterprises and medical assistance to pregnant women were introduced. These measures led to a twofold decline in the rate of mortality. Another positive phenomenon was the increase in the literacy rate from 55 percent in 1914 to 85–87 percent in 1929. Relative political stability during the 1920s created favorable conditions for reviving the city's infrastructure. The years 1921–1925 saw the restoration and development of streetcar transport (eleven new lines connected the center with the suburbs); bus service, a public water supply, and road maintenance were all reintroduced; and electricity once again lit the streets. The shortage of housing was catastrophic, however. In 1928, for example, the average living space per person was just 5.5 square meters. Until the 1960s, communal apartments, where several families lodged together sharing one kitchen and one toilet, were the major type of housing.

Despite the primitive living conditions, Moscow in the 1920s had a thriving cultural life, with scores of theater and ballet schools and more than two hundred private and cooperative publishing houses. The quest for new solutions in architecture produced the innovative ideas of constructivism (pioneered by the Vesnin brothers Leonid, Victor, and Alexander, Moisei Ginzburg, and Konstantin Melnikov), which were reflected in the designs of office buildings, workers' clubs, and stadiums.


The campaign of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1879–1953) to develop heavy industry resulted in the restructuring of the whole system of Moscow enterprises.The textile industry ceded its leadership in the Moscow economy to heavy industry (especially the aircraft and automotive industries), whose share in the general volume of production rose to 34.7 percent (1931) and then to 61 percent (1940). The largest Soviet factories, such as the Likhachev Plant and the "Hammer and Sickle" Plant, were located in Moscow. In order to intensify production, workers were trained to operate the newest European and American machinery, and foreign engineers were invited to the USSR.

All existing resources were pumped into the development of heavy industry, which resulted in a sharp decline in the standard of living. In March 1929 the rationing of basic foodstuffs (bread, sugar, meat, butter, and tea) was again introduced in Moscow. For example, skilled workers received 800 grams of bread and 200 grams of meat per diem; and 3 kilograms of cereals, 50 grams of tea, 600 grams of butter, and 10 eggs per month; while the rest of the population received two to three times less. But even these meager rations could not be guaranteed. Free trade was replaced by closed retail establishments and public canteens at factories and offices, where approximately 80 percent of workers received their meals. Rationing was abolished only in 1935–1936, after the rural economy had begun to "overcome the shock of collectivization." The low standard of living gave rise to popular discontent. Social protest, both potential and actual, was crushed by repressions, which turned into the Great Terror of 1936–1938. Moscow prisons were overcrowded, and so-called enemies of the people were brutally tortured.

The 1930s were also years of unprecedented construction that radically changed Moscow's appearance. In 1931–1934, nearly 0.5 million city residents, out of the total of 3.6 million, received new "social" lodgings free-of-charge. In accordance with 1932 construction regulations, ceilings were to be at least 3.2 meters high, and bathrooms were obligatory in new apartments. Because of the acute shortage of housing, however, one family, no matter how large, was entitled to only one room in a new apartment, and thus the old system of communal apartments received a new lease on life. Bolshevik leaders saw great propaganda value in the 1935 General Plan for the Reconstruction of Moscow, a blueprint for converting the city into the "model capital of the Soviet State."

The transformation of Moscow into a model city proceeded at the expense of the most precious monuments of architecture, however. Churches were ruthlessly razed; in 1931 the colossal Cathedral of Christ the Savior was destroyed, along with most of the ecclesiastic valuables stored there. A chapel of white marble, which had somehow avoided destruction, was later purchased by Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), the wife of the U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt; she donated the chapel to the Vatican. In the center of the city, giant administrative and public buildings sprang up: the House of the Council of Labor and Defense (the present-day State Duma), the Hotel Moskva, the Lenin Library, and the Theater of the Red Army. Six radial streets cutting through the city from the center to the suburbs were widened from 16–18 meters to 40–60 meters at the expense of old buildings demolished in the process.

The acute transport crisis of the 1920s was resolved in the 1930s by the rapid development of the city's transportation system. In 1935–1939 the first three subway lines, 40 kilometers long, were put into operation. By 1941 other infrastructure problems had also generally been solved; the water supply network increased twofold, and the sewage system was also expanded.


World War II was a difficult time for Moscow. German forces invaded the USSR on 22 June 1941 and rapidly advanced into the heart of the country. During the first year of the war the city endured the tragic battle for Moscow that raged from 30 September 1941 to 7 January 1942. By November 1941 the Germans were only 35–50 kilometers away from Moscow. On 15 October 1941 the government issued a resolution "On the evacuation of the capital of the USSR, the city of Moscow." Alarmed by rumors that top officials were fleeing the city, the inhabitants succumbed to panic, which raged for three days. Some people grabbed whatever belongings they could carry and left the city, on foot or by car, trying to reach the eastern regions of the country, while the rest decided to stay and resist the enemy. On the fourth day Stalin, who had remained in Moscow, was forced to change his strategy radically and issued a new decree, "On the introduction of a state of emergency in Moscow," thereby, in effect, annulling the previous one. The decree imposed a curfew and around-the-clock street patrols.

After bitter fighting, by early January 1942 the frontlines were pushed westward and stabilized at 150–300 kilometers away from Moscow. Casualties were high on both sides: the Red Army lost 1 million servicemen killed in action, while the German army lost more than 0.5 million. Between July 1941 and June 1943, Moscow was also bombed repeatedly from the air.

The Moscow population conducted itself bravely during the war years. Between 1941 and 1945 more than 850,000 Muscovites went to the front. The remaining residents formed 3,600 voluntary self-defense units (81,600 strong) and about 13,000 fire brigades (205,200 persons). Volunteers built 211 kilometers of antitank barriers and dug 210 kilometers of trenches around Moscow. The Moscow subway functioned both as the most important means of transportation and as an excellent air-raid shelter. Between July and December 1941, 2.2 million Muscovites were evacuated east to Siberia and Central Asia, along with 498 industrial enterprises and numerous higher-educational institutions, museums, theaters, film studios, and so forth.

The remaining 654 enterprises were converted to military production under the slogan "Shells instead of buttons." Throughout the war they produced 126,000 aircraft, 3.5 million submachine guns, and 34 million artillery shells. The working day was eleven or twelve hours long. Sixty percent of workers were women and teenagers. In order to strengthen morale Stalin temporarily reduced the Communist doctrine's intolerance with respect to the Russian Orthodox Church. After Stalin met with church leaders in September 1943, a number of churches were reopened, and thousands of priests were released from the gulag (the abbreviation for Stalinist prison camps).

On 9 May 1945 Moscow joyfully celebrated the victory over Germany. The celebration of Moscow's eight hundredth anniversary (in September 1947) provided another occasion for an ideological demonstration of the regime's achievements: foreign delegations arrived (including from the wartime allies—the United Kingdom, France, and the United States), shows were held in the city's squares and stadiums, and temporary European-style cafés were installed in the streets. To the joy of the half-starved population, "gifts" from collective farmers arrived in the form of trucks loaded with agricultural produce.

New ideas in urban planning were embodied in a 1947 decision to construct eight high-rise buildings, modeled after those in New York City, in order to produce a single urban ensemble. (Seven were actually constructed.) Construction of eight- to ten-story residential buildings for the elite began in 1949 along the city's central avenues, such as Gorky Street and Kutuzov Prospekt. A tendency toward highly decorative classical splendor in building design replaced the ascetic style of worker housing on the city's outskirts.

The postwar decade was full of hardships for the Moscow population, however, with a housing crisis, food shortages, and increased street crime. Government concessions to popular hopes for more liberal policies alternated with "tightening the screws." Monetary reform was carried out in December 1947, accompanied by the abolition of the rationing of food and other basic necessities, and the introduction of a unified state system of retail prices. Factories were moved back to Moscow, and by 1948 industrial production reached prewar levels.

There was no liberalization in the sphere of politics, however. In order to inspire ideological consolidation of the population, in 1948 a campaign was initiated against "cosmopolitanism," mainly directed against the Jewish intelligentsia. It was followed in January 1953 by the fabricated "Doctors' Plot," when a number of physicians were accused of planning to murder some prominent Soviet bureaucrats and military commanders on the orders of foreign espionage services. A series of crowded meetings at factories and other enterprises were organized by the authorities to ignite hatred for the regime's "enemies." Only Stalin's death in March 1953 put a stop to such forms of "consolidating the people."


After six years as head of the Moscow Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) led the All-USSR Communist Party from 1953 to 1964, and simultaneously served as premier of the USSR from 1958 to 1964. The period of his leadership became known as "the Thaw" because of the liberalization of the forms and methods of government. Khrushchev's address to the twentieth Communist Party Congress in 1956, for example, openly criticized the tyranny of Stalin. Khrushchev's policies were not well balanced, however; positive social measures alternated with negative ones, thus producing popular discontent.

On the one hand, 1956 saw the abolition of a 1940 law that had made it illegal for workers to quit their jobs. Between 1955 and 1959 the minimum wage at state enterprises was increased by 35 percent; the retirement age was lowered to 60 years for males and to 55 years for females; the average work week was reduced to 46 hours; and maternity leave was increased from 70 to 112 days. To address the housing crisis in Moscow, new districts were created with the construction of four- to five-story apartment blocks, stores, kindergartens, polyclinics, and schools. Almost one-third of Moscow's population moved into the new apartment blocks, popularly dubbed khrushchebi (a play on trushchobi, the Russian word for slums). With a ceiling height of 2.5 meters, all sanitary arrangements crammed into one small cubicle, and a tiny kitchenette, these dwellings were regarded by many architects as primitive; but the authorities viewed the social benefit of more housing as a higher priority than aesthetics. Simultaneously, in downtown areas, tento fourteen-story blocks of apartments of special design were erected, intended for the political elite who by now had become firmly established as a top stratum of the Moscow population, with privileges and access to closed stores. After Khrushchev's twelve-day visit to the United States in 1959, new features were added to the urban infrastructure, such as self-service stores, automatic laundries, and special machines for selling tickets on buses, streetcars, and subways.

On the other hand, in contrast to some successful social projects, the failure of Khrushchev's agrarian reforms led to shortages and irregular supplies of many foodstuffs in Moscow, especially meat. Housewives often stood in line from daybreak for five to seven hours to buy meat. In 1962 increases in the price of meat (by 30 percent) and butter (by 25 percent) caused discontent among the population. Because of a crop failure, in 1963 more than twelve million tons of grain were imported at a cost of one billion dollars. From 1954 onward, the pendulum in the relations with the Russian Orthodox Church began to swing back in the opposite direction, and many churches and mosques were closed down or even destroyed.

After decades of "mutual suspicion" in private life under Stalin, social relations revived. One example of this is the "Moscow kitchen" phenomenon: frank late-night discussions and singing to the guitar in the tiny kitchens of private apartments. This phenomenon arose not only because restaurants and cafés were inaccessible to the Moscow intelligentsia (always short of money) but also because people feared that any open discussions in public places might be dangerous. Gradually, however, new communication spaces emerged, primarily in the sphere of the youth culture. Poetry recitals at the Polytechnic Museum drew thousands of people; fresh issues of the journal Novy Mir (New World) became the center of discussions; and a number of "jazz cafés" also opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


Leonid Brezhnev (1906–1982), the leader of the USSR between 1964 and 1982, promoted the idea of turning Moscow into "a model communist city." Despite the propagandistic goals of this utopian slogan, the idea nevertheless led to the resolution of some of the most painful urban problems: moving environmentally dangerous industrial enterprises out of Moscow, implementing mass-housing construction projects and building new schools, and improving the public transport system. In the late 1960s and 1970s many inhabitants of downtown basements and 1930s-era barracks in working-class districts moved into more convenient lodgings with amenities in multistory apartment blocks. In twenty years the proportion of families inhabiting their own apartments grew from 35 percent to 85 percent. Thanks to the trend toward separate apartments, social communication changed among native Muscovites. Nuclear families now predominated, neighborhood ties were disrupted, and people lived more and more isolated private lives. The 1970s were also marked by the beginning of borrowing and copying Western lifestyles and behaviors, especially by the younger generation, who idolized the Beatles and other Western pop-culture celebrities.

However, new construction could not satisfy all the housing needs because of the heavy influx of workers from other areas to fill vacant jobs in construction and heavy industry, which were unpopular with Muscovites because they involved hard working conditions and night shifts. The annual influx between 1967 and 1987 of fifty to eighty thousand limitchiki—that is, migrants granted Moscow residence permits in limited quotas for employment in high-demand jobs—changed the composition of Moscow's population and urban culture. In 1976, for example, they constituted 33 percent of the workforce in heavy industry and 75 percent in construction. Lacking even minimal experience of life in a megalopolis, the migrants stayed secluded in their dorms among similar strangers and adapted poorly to the cultural, hygienic, and social norms of Moscow urban life.

During the 1970s and 1980s Moscow's social atmosphere gradually lost some of its former severity and isolation. Muscovites increasingly sought entertainment in shows and movies. Soviet cinema and its film stars became very popular, along with Italian and French films, which managed to avoid the ideological ban on foreign films thanks to the prominence of Communist parties in those two countries. Among sports, figure skating and hockey were immensely popular: the successes of Soviet athletes on the international arena gave rise to the creation of numerous free-of-charge children's centers for winter sports. Simple skating-rinks for individual recreation sprang up in almost every yard. New buildings for entertainment and recreation were erected: a circus, a children's music theater, the Taganka Theater.

The new construction in Moscow downtown areas resulted in the brutal destruction of some unique historic architectural ensembles, however. The construction of Kalinin Prospekt was accomplished by leveling the early-nineteenth-century blocks in Arbat Street. Experts noted that the new projects, despite their technological achievements and professionalism, were planned "with no love for the Old Moscow." The issue of humanizing the urban environment gave rise to serious opposition between society and the authorities. The struggle to save the city's historical legacy took the shape of a mass social movement, formalized as the All-Russian Voluntary Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Art. The demolition of a block of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century buildings near the Kremlin in May 1972, shortly before the visit of U.S. president Richard Nixon (1913–1994) to Moscow, produced an outburst of protest from members of the artistic and scientific elites and from ordinary Muscovites, who wrote appeals to the Communist Party Central Committee and the Mossovet and sought meetings with top bureaucrats. The resulting compromise created nine preservation zones encompassing one-third of the city's central area, including pedestrian zones in the oldest streets (dating back to the fourteenth century), Stoleshniki Lane and the Arbat.

Preparations for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games included radical improvements in the cleanliness and order of Moscow streets and squares and in the availability and quality of restaurants. Regrettably, this event failed to produce the expected effect, because the national teams of the United States, West Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and other countries chose to boycott the games in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.


Mikhail Gorbachev's leadership of the USSR (1985–1991) was characterized by his restructuring policies known as perestroika. Gorbachev sought to preserve the Soviet Union by reforming its economy and culture. However, the collapse of the regime proceeded with unexpected rapidity, its disintegration accelerated by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, when the leaders of the environmental movement started to discuss not only the problems of the environment, but social issues as well.

Moscow became a focal point of open discussion and a free press, one example of which was the newspaper Moskovskie Novosti (Moscow News). Boris Yeltsin, the head of the Moscow Communist Party organization in 1986–1987, called Moscow a breeding ground for political stagnation and a haven for corrupt bureaucrats. He replaced 60 percent of Moscow officials, banned the admittance of new limitchiki, and tried to improve the food supply. Yeltsin's radicalism alienated the central authorities, and he was removed from office. Soon he became the leader of the democratic opposition, which comprised a number of political parties created in 1988–1989. In 1989 and 1990 Moscow streets were the scene of continual political demonstrations, including one with one hundred thousand participants in February 1990. In the spring of 1990 elections to the Mossovet brought the democrats more than 60 percent of votes, and for the first time since 1917 the Communists lost their monopoly on power. In 1991 Yeltsin was elected to the new position of president of the Russian Republic.

These political changes provoked a serious economic crisis, further aggravated by painful denationalization of the economy, inflation, and the 1991 monetary reform (which, in effect, wiped out the population's bank deposits). In Moscow the food supply completely collapsed; sugar, vodka, and tobacco were rationed; and transportation and central heating barely functioned.

In the summer of 1991 Yeltsin, as president of Russia, banned all Communist Party organizations at enterprises and institutions. The conflict between Yeltsin and Moscow democratic forces on the one hand, and the central Communist apparatus on the other, contributed to the revolutionary events of 19–22 August 1991. The radio station Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) reported that on the order of the self-proclaimed State Committee for the State of Emergency in the USSR—a group of high-ranking government officials and Communist Party leaders, which had already removed Gorbachev from power—the military was preparing to seize Yeltsin and the other Russian leaders barricaded inside the government headquarters known as the White House. The attempted coup failed when thousands of people encircled the building, ready to become its "human shield." On 22 August the Moscow police, acting on the orders of Vice-Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, sealed the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. The failed coup led to the final collapse of the Soviet Union, as one by one the Soviet republics declared independence. The political crisis ended when on 25 December 1991 Gorbachev resigned from the post of president and on 26 December the Supreme Soviet voted to end the treaty that formed the USSR. In 1992 Luzhkov became mayor of Moscow and subsequently was twice reelected.


The economic crisis that followed the collapse of the USSR hit Moscow's population hard, causing social polarization; in 1995, for example, 47 percent of Muscovites lived below subsistence level. During the following decade, however, the situation slowly began to improve. In Moscow, trade, gas stations, small and medium-size industrial enterprises, and freight transport began to be privatized. European investors now participated in projects for the creation of new confectioneries, bakeries, breweries, and sausage factories. As a result, the food crisis was overcome, and from the year 2000 Russian foodstuffs replaced imported goods, which had dominated the consumer market in the 1990s. For the first time since 1917 Muscovites were not faced with the problem of where to buy food, and a network of cafés, restaurants, and takeaway outlets also emerged. The municipal government subsidized free transportation for retired and disabled inhabitants and free meals for 40 percent of schoolchildren.

Three trends may be noted in the development of Moscow in the late twentieth century: (1) improvements to major Soviet-era buildings such as office buildings, stores, theaters, and stadiums; (2) the implementation of new unique architectural projects; and (3) the restoration of national historical monuments destroyed on Stalin's orders, such as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the Cathedral of the Kazan Mother of God, and the Iverian Gate. Since 1995, forty thousand to sixty thousand apartments per year have been built, while the tenements known as khrushchebi have been demolished and their inhabitants moved to new municipal housing. Another positive development is the revival of religious life: In 2002 there were approximately nine hundred officially registered religious associations (500 Russian Orthodox, 25 Moslem, 15 Jewish, 12 Catholic) in Moscow, along with 532 Russian Orthodox churches, 7 mosques, 5 synagogues, and 2 Catholic cathedrals.

Serious problems of the 1990s and early 2000s include air pollution and traffic. The number of automobiles grew from 1.2 million in 1993 to 4 million in 2004. Automobile exhaust, according to data of 2000–2004, was responsible for 80–93 percent of pollution. In May 2004 a municipal law concerning environmental control was enacted. The traffic problem was somewhat alleviated after the opening of the Third Ring Road, thirty-five kilometers long, through the city's peripheral districts at the distance of five to seven kilometers from the center. Terrorist attacks were another serious problem in Moscow. Between 1999 and 2004 explosions in residential buildings and trade centers, on the subway and on planes, and the taking of hostages claimed the lives of approximately six hundred people. Finally, the cost of living rose dramatically; as of early 2005 the Economist magazine ranked Moscow with New York City in twelfth place among the world's most expensive cities.

See alsoRussia; Soviet Union.


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Galina Ulianova


views updated May 23 2018


MOSCOW (Rus. Moskva ), capital of the Russian Federation, and, from the Middle Ages, the political, economic, and commercial center of *Russia. Up to the end of the 18th century, Jews were forbidden to reside in Moscow, although many Jewish merchants from Poland and Lithuania visited the city. In 1676 Jews who brought their wares to Moscow were expelled. Apostates and forced converts who maintained varying degrees of connection with Judaism and the Jews were to be found in Moscow during various periods. A few Jews among the prisoners brought to Moscow after the wars against Poland apostatized and settled there. A physician of Jewish origin, Daniel Gordon, was employed by the court in Moscow from 1657 to 1687; Peter Shafirov, one of the most important advisers of Czar Peter the Great, was also of Jewish origin.

With the Russian annexation of Belorussia (1772), the number of Jewish merchants living in Moscow for commercial reasons increased; they came in particular from *Shklov, then an important commercial center in Belorussia. One of these was the contractor and merchant Nathan Note *Notkin. In 1790 Moscow merchants requested that the presence and commercial activities of the Jews in the city be prohibited. A royal decree forbidding Jewish merchants to settle in the inner districts of Russia was issued in 1791. However, they were authorized to stay for temporary periods in Moscow to carry on their trade. Most of the Jews who came to Moscow lodged at the Glebovskoye podvorye, an inn which was situated in the center of the market quarter. Jewish merchants continued to play an important role in the trade between Moscow and the southern and western regions of Russia, as well as in the export of Moscow's goods, and in 1828 the turnover of this trade was estimated at 27,000,000 rubles. As a result, Russian industrialists in Moscow supported the rights of the Jews. In 1828 Jewish merchants who were members of the first and second guilds were authorized to remain in Moscow on business for a period of one month only. They were forbidden to open shops or to engage in trade within the city boundaries. To facilitate the execution of these regulations, the Jews were compelled to lodge solely in the Glebovskoye podvorye. The inn was a charitable trust which had been handed over to the Moscow city council to use its income for the maintenance of a municipal eye clinic. Exorbitant prices were soon extorted from Jewish merchants who had to stay at the inn. After a few years, third-class merchants were also authorized to enter the town under the same conditions and the period of their stay was prolonged to six months. About 250 people made use of this right every year. As a result of these restrictions, Jewish trade decreased to about 12,000,000 rubles annually during subsequent years. When Alexander ii came to the throne (1855), Jewish merchants were permitted to reside temporarily in all the sections of the town.

The first Jews to settle permanently in Moscow, and the founders of the community, were *Cantonists who had finished military service, some of whom had married Jewish women from the *Pale of Settlement. In 1858 there were 340 Jewish men and 104 Jewish women in the whole of the district of Moscow. After Jewish merchants of the first guild, university graduates, and craftsmen were allowed to settle in the interior of Russia, the number of Jews increased rapidly. Some were extremely wealthy, such as Eliezer *Polyakov, one of the most important bankers in Russia and head of the community, and K. Z. *Wissotzki. From 1865 to 1884 Ḥayyim Berlin officiated as rabbi of Moscow, and in 1869 the community invited S.Z. *Minor, one of the outstanding students of the Vilna rabbinical seminary, to serve as the *kazyonny ravvin (government-appointed rabbi). There was an estimated Jewish population of 8,000 in the city in 1871, which had grown to around 12,000 in 1882 and 35,000 (over 3% of the total population) in 1890, just before the expulsion. The governor of Moscow, Prince Dolgorukov, was known for his liberal attitude toward the Jews, and (after receiving bribes and gifts) the local administration overlooked their illegal presence (as in the case of fictive craftsmen). A considerable number of industrialists and merchants recognized the advantages deriving from Jewish presence in the city, and in a memorandum addressed to the minister of finance in 1882 they pointed out their great contribution to the city's prosperity. While anti-Jewish persecutions and decrees were gaining momentum throughout Russia after the accession of Alexander iii, a period of relative ease, the legacy of the previous czar, continued in Moscow. This situation changed completely with the deposition of Prince Dolgorukov and the appointment of Grand Prince Sergei Alexandrovich as governor of the city. During the 14 years (1891–1905) of his term in office, his main aim was "to protect Moscow from Jewry."

The Expulsion

On March 28, 1891 (Passover Eve 5651), a law was issued abolishing the right of Jewish craftsmen to reside in Moscow and prohibiting their entry into the city in the future. The police immediately began to expel thousands of families, some of whom had lived in Moscow for several decades or were even born there. They were granted a period of from three months to a year to dispose of their property, and many were compelled to sell out to their neighbors at derisory prices. The poor and destitute were sent to the Pale of Settlement with criminal transports. On October 15 the right of descendants of the Cantonists to live in the town was abrogated, if they were not registered with the Moscow community. The expulsion reached its climax during the cold winter days of 1892. While the police made a concerted effort to search out the Jews and drive them out of the city, generous rewards were offered for the seizure of any still in hiding. The press was not permitted to report on the details of the expulsion. An appeal to the government made by merchants and industrialists in 1892 and their warning of the economic damage that would result from the expulsion were of no avail. Police sources estimated that about 30,000 persons were expelled. About 5,000 Jews remained – families of some Cantonists, wealthy merchants and their servants, and members of the liberal professions. The Moscow expulsion came as a deep shock to Russian Jewry. A considerable number of those expelled arrived in Warsaw and Lodz and transferred their economic activities there. Decrees regulating residence in Moscow became even more severe. In 1899 the authorities ordered that no more Jewish merchants were to be registered in the first guild unless authorized by the minister of finance. At the height of the expulsion period, the authorities closed down the new synagogue, as well as nine of the 14 prayer houses. Rabbi S.Z. Minor, who requested the reopening of the synagogue, was expelled from the city. The struggle for the use of the synagogue continued for many years and it was not until 1906 that permission was granted for its reopening. In 1897 there were 8,095 Jews and 216 Karaites in Moscow (0.8% of the total population). In 1902 there were 9,339 Jews there, and half of them declared Yiddish as their mother tongue; the overwhelming majority of the others declared it to be Russian. In 1893 J. *Mazeh was elected as rabbi of Moscow, remaining its spiritual leader until his death in 1923. A considerable number of the members of the small community were wealthy merchants and intellectuals. Assimilated Jews (some of whom apostatized) held an important place in the cultural life of the city. In 1911 there were around 700 Jewish students in the higher institutions of learning in Moscow.

After the outbreak of World War i, from 1915, a stream of Jewish refugees began to arrive in Moscow from the German-occupied regions. They took part in the development of war industries in the town and some of them amassed large fortunes. In a short time, Moscow became a Jewish center. Hebrew printing presses were set up, and in the town of Bogorodsk (near Moscow) a large yeshivah was established on the pattern of the Lithuanian yeshivot. The foundations of the Hebrew theater *Habimah were then laid. Among the new rich were Zionists and nationally conscious Jews who were ready to support every cultural activity. Most outstanding of these were H. *Zlatopolsky, his son-in-law Y. Persitz, and A.J. *Stybel. Authorization was given for the publication of a Hebrew weekly, Ha-Am. Cultural activity increased in scope with the outbreak of the February 1917 Revolution. It was symbolical that O. *Minor, the son of S.Z. Minor, a leader of the Social Revolutionary Party, was elected as chairman of the Moscow municipal council. Ha-Am became a daily newspaper and two large publishing houses, Ommanut (founded by Zlatopolsky and Persitz) and that of A.J. Stybel, were set up. The founding conference of the organization for Hebrew education and culture, *Tarbut, was held in Moscow in the spring of 1917. This activity also continued during the first year of the Bolshevik Revolution (three volumes of Ha-Tekufah were published in 1918, as well as others) but the new regime, with the assistance of its Jewish supporters, rapidly liquidated the institutions of Hebrew culture in Moscow. The Habimah theater was more fortunate; it presented An-Ski's Dibbuk (Dybbuk) in Moscow for the first time in January 1922 and continued to exist under the protection of several prominent members of the Russian artistic and literary world who defended it as a first class artistic institution, until it left the Soviet Union in 1926.

When Moscow became the capital of the Soviet Union, its Jewish population rapidly increased. In 1920 there were 28,000 Jews in the city, which had become severely depopulated as a result of the civil war. By 1923 the number had increased to 86,000 and by 1926 to 131,000 (6.5% of the total population). In 1939 the Jews there numbered 250,181 (6.05% of the total population). The headquarters of the *Yevsektsiya was situated in Moscow, and there its central newspaper. Der Emes (1920–38) was published, as well as many other Yiddish newspapers and books. The Jewish State Theater (known in Russian as goset from its initials), directed by S. *Mikhoels, was also situated in Moscow. For a number of years, small circles of organized Zionists continued to exist in the city, which was the central seat of the legal *He-Ḥalutz (which published its own newspaper from 1924 to 1926) and of the groups of the Left *Po'alei Zion. All these were liquidated by 1928. During World War ii, the Jews shared the sufferings of the war with the city's other inhabitants. From 1943 Moscow was the seat of the Jewish *Anti-Fascist Committee which gathered together personalities of Jewish origin who were outstanding in Soviet public affairs. Founded to assist the Soviet Union in its war effort against Nazi Germany and to mobilize world Jewish opinion and aid for this purpose, it published a newspaper, Eynikeyt.

[Yehuda Slutsky]

After World War ii

The Anti-Fascist Committee attempted to continue with its activities even after the war, until it was brutally liquidated in 1948–49, as a first step in the total liquidation of organized Jewish life in the "black years" of Stalin's regime. Most of its leading members were arrested and executed in 1952. Because Moscow is the capital and a "window" of the Soviet Union, it has been possible for world Jewry to follow the destinies of Moscow's Jews more than those in other cities, and the latter were more able to meet with Jews from outside the Soviet Union. When Golda *Meir, the first diplomatic representative of the State of Israel, arrived in Moscow in September 1948, a spontaneous mass demonstration of Jews in her honor took place on the High Holidays near and around the Great Synagogue. The mere presence of an Israeli diplomatic mission with an Israeli flag in the center of Moscow was a constant stimulus to Jewish and pro-Israel sentiments among the Jews of Moscow and Jewish visitors from other parts of the Soviet Union. The Israeli delegation to the Youth Festival, held in Moscow in 1957, was the first occasion of personal contacts between Jewish youth from Israel and the U.S.S.R. It is considered to have been a turning point in the revival of Jewish national feelings and their daring demonstration in public on the part of Soviet Jewish youth. Already in 1958, on *Simḥat Torah eve, more than 10,000 young Jews gathered around the Great Synagogue to dance and sing Yiddish and Hebrew songs. They refused to be intimidated by the militia and to disperse. Thus these mass gatherings of young Jews, which also take place on their Jewish holidays, became a traditional feature of Jewish life in Moscow.

In 1955 some elderly Jews were tried and sentenced to several years of imprisonment in labor camps for possessing and distributing Israeli newspapers and Hebrew literature and gathering in groups to read them. For similar "offenses" several Jews of the Great Synagogue congregation were punished in 1963.

In 1970 three synagogues were functioning in the city of Moscow. Apart from the Great Synagogue on Arkhipova Street, there were two small synagogues – in the suburbs of Maryina Roshcha and Cherkizovo, which were wooden buildings, more of the type of a shtibl than of a full-fledged synagogue. In addition to them, there was a synagogue in the nearby town of Malakhovka, practically also a suburb of Greater Moscow, which has had a sizable Jewish population from prerevolutionary times. The Great Synagogue and its rabbi (first S. *Schliefer and after his death J.L. *Levin) served the authorities often as unofficial representatives of Soviet Jewry to the outside world. In the 1950s and 1960s the Great Synagogue was allowed to issue a Jewish calendar and to send it to other synagogues in the U.S.S.R. In 1956 Rabbi Schliefer was granted permission to print a prayer book, by photostat from old prayer books. He named it Siddur ha-Shalom ("peace prayer book") and deleted from it all references to wars and victories (as, e.g., in the Ḥanukkah benedictions). It was said to have been printed in 3,000 copies, but it was very rarely seen in other synagogues in the Soviet Union. (A second edition of it was printed, ostensibly in 10,000 copies, in 1968 by Rabbi Levin, but it also was not much in use in Soviet synagogues.) In 1957 Rabbi Schliefer received permission from the authorities to open a yeshivah on the premises of the Great Synagogue. He called it "Kol Ya'akov," and for several years a small number of young and middle-aged Jews (about 12 persons a year), mostly from Georgia, were trained there, almost all of them as *shoḥatim (ritual slaughterers), whereas the number of ordained rabbis did not exceed one or two. In 1961 the yeshivah, though officially still in existence, almost ceased to function, mainly because of the refusal of the Soviet authorities to grant permission to yeshivah students, who went for the holiday to their homes outside Moscow, to come back and register again as temporary residents of the city for the purpose of study. By 1963, 37 students had passed through the yeshivah; 25 of them were trained as shoḥatim. In 1965 only one student was there, and in 1966 the number was six. The unrestricted baking of matzah in a rented bakery and its distribution in food stores was discontinued in Moscow, as in most areas of the Soviet Union, in 1962. However, it was partially permitted again in 1964 and definitely in 1965, but under a different system: it was done under the supervision of the synagogue board and was only for "believers" who brought their own flour and registered their names. The ritual slaughtering of poultry was allowed in the precincts of the Great Synagogue, whereas kosher beef was obtainable until 1964 twice a week at a special store on the outskirts of the city. From 1961 a barrier was erected in the Great Synagogue to separate foreign visitors, including Israeli diplomats, from the congregation, and the synagogue officers were responsible to the authorities for strictly enforcing the segregation.

In 1959, on Rosh Ha-Shanah eve, an anti-Jewish riot took place in Malakhovka, a suburb of Moscow. The synagogue was set afire, but quickly extinguished; the shammash of the Jewish cemetery was murdered by unknown persons and on the walls a typewritten antisemitic tract appeared, signed by "the B. Zh. S.R. Committee," the Russian initials of the prerevolutionary antisemitic slogan "Hit the Yids and save Russia." At first Soviet spokesmen denied the facts, but several months later admitted them to foreign visitors, assuring them that the hooligans were apprehended and severely punished. The Soviet press did not mention the incident at all. In 1960 a stir was created among Moscow Jewry when interment at the Jewish cemetery was almost discontinued and Jews were forced to bury their dead in a separate section of a general cemetery. This section was filled up in 1963 and subsequent Jewish burials had to take place alongside non-Jewish ones. Some Jews in various ways obtained the privilege of burying their dead in the remaining space of the old Jewish cemetery, others carried them to the Jewish cemetery of Malakhovka. In the same period several Jews in Moscow were accused, tried, and sentenced to the severest punishment, including execution, for "economic crimes," such as speculation, organizing illicit production and sale of consumer goods in collusion with high officials of the militia, directors of factories, etc. Their trials were accompanied by inflammatory feature articles (called "feuilletons") in the central Moscow press with pronounced antisemitic overtones. However, Moscow was also the center of other developments. In 1959 some Yiddish books, most of them selective works of the classics (*Shalom Aleichem, I.L. *Peretz, D. *Bergelson, etc.), were published there after a prolonged period of the complete obliteration of any printed Yiddish word. Yiddish folklore concerts took place relatively frequently in the city and drew large crowds. Even a semiprofessional theater troupe, headed by the elderly actor Benjamin Schwartzer, was established and mainly performed Shalom Aleichem plays in provincial cities. In 1961 the Yiddish journal *Sovetish Heymland, edited by an officially appointed editor, the poet Aaron *Vergelis, began to appear as an "organ of the Soviet Writers' Union," first as a bimonthly, later as a monthly. It also served as a kind of Soviet-Jewish mouthpiece for foreign Jews, and visiting Jewish intellectuals were invited to its premises to meet members of its editorial staff. In 1963 and 1965 collections of Israeli Hebrew poetry and prose were published in Russian translation, as well as a Hebrew-Russian dictionary in 1965 (in 25,000 copies), which was sold out in a few weeks.

Contacts with Israel took manifold forms. The Israeli embassy invited to its receptions not only the rabbis and board members of the various synagogues, but also Jewish writers, artists, and other intellectuals. In various sport events, international scientific congresses, and international exhibitions Israel was almost always represented, and often not only Moscow Jews but also Jews from other parts of the Soviet Union, even from outlying regions, came especially to the capital "to see the Israelis." From time to time Israeli popular singers (e.g., Nechama Hendel, Geulah Gil, etc.) and other artists performed in Moscow and aroused great enthusiasm, particularly among young Jews.

The Six-Day War and the rupture of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Israel (June 1967) put an end to these contacts. But, on the other hand, many Moscow Jews, especially the young, began more and more openly to demonstrate their pro-Israel feelings – by continuing increasingly their mass gatherings around the Great Synagogue, by signing collective protests against the refusal to grant them exit permits to Israel, by studying Hebrew in small groups, etc. Unlike other cities, like *Riga, *Leningrad, *Kishinev, and some towns in *Georgia, there were hardly any sanctions applied in Moscow in 1970 against pro-Israel Jews.

In the census of 1959, 239,246 Jews (4.7% of the total population) were registered in the municipal area of Moscow. Of these, 132,223 were women and 107,023 were men. 20,331 of them (about 8.5%) declared Yiddish to be their mother tongue. These numbers are thought to be a gross underestimate because many tens of thousands of Jews declared at the census their "nationality" to be Russian (some opinions evaluate the number of Moscow's Jews as high as 500,000).

Developments from the 1970s

The Six-Day War had a major impact on the life of Moscow Jews, as it had on the life of all Soviet Jewry. It also resulted in a considerable increase in the anti-Israel policy of the Soviet regime in international affairs and an increase in antisemitism domestically. The process of national rebirth which had already begun among many thousands of completely assimilated Jews took various forms. Tens of thousands of young Jews began to congregate in and around Moscow's Choral Synagogue during Jewish holidays, especially Simḥat Torah. With the beginning of mass aliyah, the Jews of Moscow played a significant role in the struggle for the right to emigrate. Demonstrations took place in Moscow which attracted Jews from various cities of the Soviet Union. On February 27, 1971, for example, 26 Jewish activists declared a hunger strike in the entrance to the presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., demanding permission to leave for Israel. Similar demonstrations followed.

Despite resistance from the authorities, the period from the 1960s to the early 1980s saw a process of revival in the cultural and religious life of Moscow's Jews. Dozens of teachers taught Hebrew in their apartments, there were seminars and groups studying Judaism and Jewish history and culture, and a Jewish kindergarten and Sunday schools were organized. In the 1970s and early 1980s a number of Jewish samizdat publications appeared in Moscow. These included Evrei v S.S.R.("Jews in the U.S.S.R.," 1972–79, nos. 1–20); Tarbut, 1975–79, 1–13, Nash ivrit ("Our Hebrew," 1978–80, 1–4). Many aliyah activists were arrested during this time. One of the most severe sentences was meted out to Anatoly *Sharansky in 1978, and in 1982 Yosef Begun was imprisoned for the third time.

In 1972 the synagogue in the Cherkizov district was closed. Thereafter, until the early 1990s, only two synagogues were functioning in the city: the Choral Synagogue and the hasidic prayer house in the district of Marina Roshcha. Jacob Fischman served as rabbi of Moscow from 1972 to 1982, when he was succeeded by Adolf Shayevich.

While basically conducting an overtly antisemitic policy, the Soviet authorities occasionally resorted to gestures intended to persuade world public opinion that Jewish culture was flourishing in the country. Thus, in 1978 the so-called Birobidzhan Jewish Musical Chamber Theater was established; from 1981 this theater, despite its name, was based in Moscow. In 1986 the Moscow Jewish Dramatic Ensemble became the Jewish Drama Studio Shalom.

From 1987, during the evolution of glasnost and perestroika, Jewish public life in the Soviet Union flourished. Centers of a number of informal Jewish national organizations were established in Moscow including the Jewish Culture Association (eka, headed by Mikhail Chlenov), the Zionist Federation of Soviet Jews (president Arye (Lev) Gorodetsky), and the Association for Friendship and Cultural Ties with Israel. A number of Moscow bodies began to function as well: the Moscow Jewish Cultural and Educational Association, the Jewish Information Center, and the cultural religious center Maḥanayim. As part of the an effort to maintain some control of this burgeoning cultural revival, the authorities established the Association of Activists and Friends of Soviet Jewish Culture, which, starting in April 1989, published the newspaper Vestnik sovetso-evreiskoi kul'tury ("Bulletin of Soviet Jewish Culture"). A number of Jewish libraries were founded. In late 1988, a yeshivah (headed by the Israeli scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz) was established within the framework of the Academy of World Cultures. Also in 1988–89, branches of the international Jewish organizations Beta, wizo, and B'nai B'rith were set up in Moscow.

After the failure of the August 19–21, 1991, coup in Moscow, the last barriers to free cultural and political activity in the country fell. Numerous Jewish bodies functioned in the city. Some of these had an All-Russian character, e.g., Va'ad Rosii (the Federation of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Russia (president: M. Chlenov), the Zionist Federation of Russia (chairman: A. Gorodetsky); Tkhiya, the International Center for Research and the Spreading of Jewish Culture (chairman: Leonid Roitman); the Orthodox All-Russian Jewish Religious Community (headed by the now chief rabbi of Russia, Adolf Shayevich). In 1991 a synagogue was opened on Malaya Bronnaya Street. Since that time three Orthodox synagogues have been operating (Rabbi Pinhas Goldschmidt now serves as chief rabbi of the city), as well as Reform and Conservative congregations.

Jewish cultural life exhibits new life. There are several Jewish high schools as well as evening and Sunday schools; a Jewish university, a Jewish Historical Society (chairman: Rashid Kaplanov), and a Jewish Scientific Center (chairman: Vladimir Shapiro). There has been a renewal of the publication of scientific works in Jewish studies: from 1992 Vestnik evreskogo universiteta v Moskve ("Bulletin of the Jewish University of Moscow") has appeared regularly, and in 1994 the Moscow based Rossiiskaya evreiskaya entsiklopedia ("The Encyclopedia of Russian Jewry," editor-in-chief: Herman Branover) began publication. Mazhdunarodnaya evreiskaya gazeta ("International Jewish Newspaper," editor-in-chief: Tancred Galinpolsky) appears in Russia, while the Yiddish monthly Idishe gas ("Jewish Street," editor-in-chief: Aaron Vergelis, formerly the editor of the now defunct Yiddish journal Sovetish Heymland) began to appear in January 1993.

With the onset of political freedom, however, various, antisemitic groups also became active. In the late 1980s antisemitic slogans were heard with increasing frequency at public meetings of the "Pamyat" association. Antisemitic articles were printed in the journals Nash sovremennik ("Our Contemporary"), Molodaya Gvardiya ("Young Guard"), and Moscow journals and 27 newspapers regularly publish antisemitic material. In April 1992 proto-fascist punks attacked the ḥasidic synagogue in Moscow with Molotov cocktails. In July 1993 the windows of the Choral Synagogue were broken and swastikas daubed on its walls. However, lacking broad support of the masses, the antisemites did not undertake more violent measures. Although the democratic-oriented public opposed antisemitic actions (articles against antisemitism appear regularly in a number of journals), and the Duma or parliament in November 1992 held hearings on antisemitism, where government and public figures condemned the phenomenon. Still, fear of antisemitism, along with the difficult economic situation and concern about the future of democracy in Russia, encouraged some Moscow Jews to emigrate. However, the rate of emigration for Moscow (and St. Petersburg) is much lower than that for the rest of the former U.S.S.R. The 1970 census recorded 251,000 Jews in the city. Estimates of the "core" (self-defined) Jewish population of Moscow based on subsequent census data give figures of 176,000 for 1989, 135,000 for 1994, and 88,000 for 2002, representing 35% of the Jews in the Russian Federation.

[Leonid Preisman (2nd ed.)]


Ettinger, in: Zion, 18 (1953), 136–68; J. Mazeh, Zikhronot, 2 (1936); Dubnow, Divrei, 10 (1958), 94–97; Dubnow, Hist Russ, index; Marek, in: Voskhod, no. 2–3 (1893), 200–29; no. 6 (1893), 73–91; no. 9 (1895), 22–33; Goldovski, in: Byloye, 9 (1907); Katznelson, in: Yevreyskaya Starina, 1 (1909), 175–88; Hessen (Gessen), in: Perezhitoye, 1 (1908), 51–65; idem, in: Yevreyskaya Starina, 8 (1915), 1–19, 153–72; Eisenberg, ibid., 13 (1930), 81–99. add. bibliography: M. Tolts, "The Post-Soviet Jewish Population in Russia and the World," in: Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe, no. 1 (2004), 37–63.


views updated Jun 11 2018


liberalism and conservatism in moscow
social conditions, politics, and the revolution of 1905
the prewar years: tsarism vs. liberalism in the city

Moscow, traditionally styled the other "capital" of imperial Russia along with St. Petersburg, rose from the ashes of the French invasion of 1812 to become a great cultural center by 1900. Moscow was then home to Russia's most vibrant acting company, the Moscow Art Theater, for which Anton Chekhov (1860–1904) wrote plays such as Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. Many of the country's most important artists, such as Mikhail Vrubel (1856–1910), worked primarily in or near Moscow. The university, founded 1755–1758, and for decades the only one in Russia, continued to be a vital locus of scholarship and social thought.

Nineteenth-century tsars were buried in St. Petersburg but crowned in Moscow, suggesting their recognition of that city as the heart of Russia. National memories of 1812 focused on Moscow because of the widespread destruction it suffered; St. Petersburg was untouched. The immense, ungainly Cathedral of Christ the Savior was erected in Moscow as the country's premier monument to the war.

Intense fighting between troops and Muscovites marked the city in 1905. Major social problems continued to 1914, further undermining support for tsarism.

liberalism and conservatism in moscow

Tension between tsarist officials and liberal Muscovites appeared by the 1790s. Alexander Radishchev, born in 1749 and a resident of the city into the early 1760s, then again in 1775–1776, managed to slip A Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow past the censors and into print in 1790. The book was highly critical of serfdom and its impact on both serf owners and their peasants. Catherine II (r. 1762–1796), whose attitudes toward criticism were hardening in reaction to the French Revolution, exiled Radishchev to Siberia.

The Moscow publisher Nikolai Novikov (1744–1818) was arrested in 1792. He had helped organize learned societies, a secondary school, pharmacies, and libraries as well as a prolific publishing business. But with his arrest, due partly to his association with somewhat liberal Freemasons at the university, all unsold copies of his firm's productions were destroyed.

Ironically, the same group of Freemasons helped shape the highly conservative Nikolai Karamzin (1766–1826), Russia's first major historian. Based for most of his life in Moscow, Karamzin founded the first private literary and political journal in Russia, Vestnik Evropy (The European herald) in the city in 1802. It became the model for the "thick" journals that contributed immensely to the country's intellectual life in the nineteenth century. Karamzin's twelve-volume history of Russia, which glorified the monarchs' role in the country's past, began to appear in 1818. Karamzin's work launched the "statist" school of interpretation but also awakened many Russians to the fact that their nation had a history.

Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), whose ties with Moscow were minimal, simultaneously demonstrated the marvelous creative possibilities of the Russian language. These cultural developments gratified national pride but also deepened the educated stratum's concern about Russian identity. Was the country, clearly behind the "West" technologically and otherwise, merely a poor imitation of cultured "Europe"? Or had Russians achieved anything noteworthy?

One of the most important figures to address these questions was Alexander Herzen, born into an aristocratic Moscow family in 1812. He graduated from the city's university in 1833. Moscow's distance from the political capital fostered a relatively free atmosphere in the early part of Nicholas I's reign (1825–1855), allowing students to debate the latest French and German social and philosophical ideas. From this background, Herzen identified the peasant-run village commune as the base upon which his homeland could be the first country to reach socialism. Russian radicals from the 1840s forward continued to grapple with Herzen's ideas.

If the major center of Russian literary and political life during most of the nineteenth century was St. Petersburg, Moscow remained the site of intense thought about the Russian past. Sergei Soloviev (1820–1879) taught history at the university beginning in 1845. His outlook was also statist, but he emphasized Russia's "organic" if not inevitable development. Soloviev was followed at the university by Vasily Kliuchevsky (1841–1911), who stressed the limited but vibrant political participation of the elite into the seventeenth century; then, he thought, the demands of governing a vast territory engendered the state's growing and eventually absolute domination of society. His lectures became public events that encouraged educated Russians to ponder the country's past and present political structures.

Following Kliuchevsky, Russia's leading historian was Pavel Milyukov (1859–1943), who lectured briefly at the university but taught mainly at the Moscow Pedagogical Institute. In 1895 his public criticisms of tsarism prompted the government to dismiss him and banish him from the city. Milyukov went on to become a leading liberal and to help found the Constitutional Democratic (Kadet) Party, great admirers of British political life. The Kadets' major role in protests against autocracy during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 spread discontent with the regime beyond liberal circles.

social conditions, politics, and the revolution of 1905

Moscow was, and is, laid out in concentric circles around the Kremlin, a generic Russian word for citadel. The "center" was the area between the Kremlin and the boulevards, whose medians were pleasant places to stroll but also favorite sites for prostitution. Between the boulevards and the broad circular road called the Sadovoye (Garden) Ring was the "second belt," and beyond that the outskirts or "third belt." South of the Kremlin

was a section often mentioned separately, Zamoskvoreche ("beyond the Moscow River"). Industrial workers tended to concentrate in the third belt or Zamoskvoreche; artisans, tavern and restaurant workers, and tradespeople were scattered about the city; and the wealthy lived mostly in the second belt. But some newly rich clans, for instance the Ryabushinskys and Morozovs, built luxurious and sometimes astonishing homes in the center and throughout Moscow.

The city's population in 1800 was about 250,000. By 1912 the growth rate was 4.04 percent annually, faster even than New York's, and Moscow counted 1,617,700 residents. The most rapid population increase by far was on the outskirts. Moscow remained a "big village," a sprawling hodgepodge of low structures, punctuated by the occasional mansion or posh apartment building. Immigration from the countryside prompted one observer to write in 1915 that in general Moscow was "a peasant city."

Much of the background to the upheaval of 1905 in Moscow lay in worsening social conditions. Most new arrivals were males. They often maintained ties and even some land in their home villages and returned to them after a debilitating injury or for their final years. There was no social safety net for these "peasant/workers," as the regime saw them. A 1912 census counted 165,000 workers in industry, 37 percent of all who toiled in trade and production.

In 1871 there were only 700 women for every 1,000 men in the city, a picture that encouraged drunkenness and the unfortunate Russian custom of mass fistfights as entertainment. By 1912 the female/male ratio was 839:1,000, far below the Berlin figure of 1,083:1,000, but an indication that

Moscow's population was beginning to settle in town more permanently.

However, this trend did not mean improved conditions. In 1911, 17.6 of every 100,000 Londoners died from tuberculosis, while the rate among Muscovites was 45.6. Housing was desperately overcrowded: Berlin averaged 3.9 residents per apartment in 1899, Moscow 8.7. This picture worsened before 1905.

The average wage in the greater Moscow region in 1908 was 11 rubles 89 kopecks, while in England it was equivalent to 26.64 rubles; in North America, 56.97. But rent was high in Moscow, and in 1911 one writer estimated that the city's workers spent from 55 to 88 percent of their budgets on essentials, while in France the figure was 40 to 45 percent.

Industrial laborers' ties to the countryside and the fact that they were often unskilled textile hands, rather than St. Petersburg's more literate metal workers, retarded the militance of Moscow's workforce. But given the disastrous war with Japan, efforts by liberals to attain civil liberties, and agitation by socialists of various stripes, Moscow workers and lower-level employees became increasingly politically conscious and organized during 1905. Print workers, bakers, and railroad shop workers, for example, joined together by the fall of 1905 to press for better job conditions and political rights. Nicholas II's October Manifesto, which promised civil liberties and a legislative parliament (duma), split the opposition in Moscow but failed to mollify a large part of the working class and the intelligentsia.

A soviet (council) of workers and lower-middle-class employees formed in the city in late November. Now the police and the army, relying in part on reactionary laborers, attacked demonstrators and closed the new postal workers union. Railroad workers voted to strike in sympathy with the postal staff, and in early December the soviet supported the second general strike in three months. But the tsarist government had regrouped; soldiers fired into crowds, cleared Moscow of street barricades, and shot groups of worker-prisoners in factory courtyards. The city council (also duma in Russian), elected on a narrow franchise of well-to-do taxpayers, stayed on the sidelines, appalled by the army's actions but also frightened of social revolution.

the prewar years: tsarism vs. liberalism in the city

During the December Uprising, the soviet and its allies bitterly accused the Moscow city council of betraying the common people. After 1905 the council was dominated by Kadets and especially the more moderate Octobrists, who wished both to avoid further social unrest and to cooperate with the tsarist authorities in making Russia a constitutional monarchy. The Moscow duma adopted various programs, including building public housing and expanding municipal schools, intended to alleviate social tension and increase residents' productive capacity. But the breakdown of cooperation between the national parliament and Nicholas's government was mirrored in disputes between the Moscow and tsarist authorities over issues ranging from school curricula to limits on municipal taxation. Tsarist gradonachalniki (city commanders) in the large towns held far more power to regulate urban conditions than locally elected councils did. By 1912 the Moscow duma and national authorities had reached an impasse; Kadets dominated the city council, but mayors it elected from that party were barred from taking office by the state.

Tsarism remained firmly oriented toward the countryside; major "reforms" for the lower classes after 1905 involved peasants above all. Occasional benign intervention in social problems by centrally appointed officials solved little in Moscow. St. Petersburg (called Petrograd 1914–1924) led the way into the Revolutions of 1917, but Muscovites' resentment over the government's brutality in 1905 and its tepid attention to urban problems thereafter made the second capital's workers and liberals eager to see the end of the Old Regime.

See alsoCities and Towns; Russia; St. Petersburg.


Primary Sources

Herzen, Alexander. My Past and Thoughts: The Memoirs of Alexander Herzen. Translated by Constance Garnett. London, 1968.

Milyukov, Pavel Nikolaevich. Russia and Its Crisis. Chicago, 1905.

Secondary Sources

Bradley, Joseph. Muzhik and Muscovite: Urbanization in Late Imperial Russia. Berkeley, Calif., 1985.

Engelstein, Laura. Moscow 1905: Working-Class Organization and Political Conflict. Stanford, Calif., 1982.

Ruble, Blair A. Second Metropolis: Pragmatic Pluralism in Gilded Age Chicago, Silver Age Moscow, and Meiji Osaka. Washington, D.C., 2001.

Thurston, Robert W. Liberal City, Conservative State: Moscow and Russia's Urban Crisis, 1906–1914. New York, 1987.

Robert W. Thurston


views updated May 11 2018


MOSCOW (Moskva). The etymology of Moskva and the question of whether the name was applied first to the city or to the river on which it is located both remain in dispute. Moscow is located in approximately the center of the East European plain on the Moscow River, a tributary of the Oka River, which flows into the Volga. Among distinguishing reasons for Moscow's rise to power over its neighbors in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries are the following. First, being centrally located among East Slavic principalities, its trade routes stretched far in all directions. Second, due to its central location, Moscow was protected to some extent by distance from hostile neighbors to the west (Poland, Lithuania, Baltic Germans) and to the south and southeast (Tatars). Third, its political system was relatively stable, thanks to long-lived rulers and to the adoption of primogeniture in the royal dynasty, which made princely succession more predictable than in rival principalities where succession was frequently a matter of rivalry among brothers and sons. And, fourth, Moscow princes frequently proved able, shrewd, and adept in acquiring neighboring principalities and in making strategic alliances with or against various Tatar khanates.

As Moscow grew, the original fortified settlement, or gorod, became the central citadel of a city that expanded outward in roughly concentric circles, with radial streets emanating from the citadel. By the sixteenth century, the citadel was being called the Kremlin (from kreml, a word that apparently originally denoted an oaken stockade); its walls, faced with red brick, had been reconstructed by Italian engineers and encompassed the present territory of the Kremlin, some seventy acres. During the course of the sixteenth century, districts of the expanding city were encircled with their own protective walls: first Kitai Posad/Gorod, a commercial district east of the Kremlin and containing Red Square; then the Belyi (White) Gorod, the walls of which are marked by the current Ring Boulevard around the combined Kremlin and Kitai Gorod; and finally, the Zemlianoi Gorod, whose walls made a full circle around the city, crossing the Moscow River. The latter walls defined the official city limits until the eighteenth century and were located along the present Garden Ring Road.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a protective semicircle of six fortified monasteries was built up outside the city walls along the southern perimeter, guarding against the frequent incursions of Tatar forces from that direction. Those monasteries, now well within city limits, are, from west to east: Novodevichii, Donskoi, Daniilovskii, Simonov, Novospasskii, and Andronikov. Something of a city planning and masonry construction office (Prikaz kamennykh del) was founded in 1584, the principal mission of which was to encourage masonry construction instead of wood and to plan firebreak areas where construction was forbidden. Despite such efforts, 72 percent of Moscow buildings were still wooden as of 1811.

Trustworthy population statistics for old Moscow are lacking. Frequently cited estimates number 30,00040,000 residents in the fourteenth century, 100,000 in the sixteenth century, 200,000 in the mid-seventeenth century, although all those estimates may be too high. Moscow's first systematic census, in 1701, counted 16,358 households, from which an estimated population of 200,000 residents has been proposed. The first official census of individuals was in 1784, when the population count was 217,000, a figure reduced by substantial losses during the plague of 1771. The next detailed census was in 1811, when the population of Moscow was measured at 262,000 (another "official" document says 270,000).

With the shift of government to St. Petersburg and the buildup of that city beginning in the early eighteenth century, Moscow was reduced to second place politically. The three-hundred-year rivalry between Moscow, the old capital symbolizing traditional Muscovite Russian culture, versus St. Petersburg, the new capital representing Russia's turn to western European cultural norms, was well underway in the eighteenth century. Under Empresses Elizabeth (ruled 17411762) and Catherine II the Great (ruled 17621796), some western European baroque and classical architecture was introduced in Moscowthe beginnings of a partial "St. Petersburgization" of the former capital. Moscow was still honored ceremonially, in that emperors and empresses, up to and including Nicholas II, continued to travel to Moscow for a formal coronation in the Kremlin Dormition (Assumption) Cathedral. The relative neglect of Moscow, however, is exemplified by two grandiose projects in Moscow that Catherine started but then decided to abandon: a gigantic reconstruction of the Kremlin in Classical style, and a huge neo-Gothic palace at Tsaritsyno, on the outskirts of town.

See also Catherine II (Russia) ; Elizabeth (Russia) ; Orthodoxy, Russian ; Peter I (Russia) ; Russia ; St. Petersburg .


Colton, Timothy J. Moscow: Governing a Socialist Metropolis. Cambridge, Mass., 1995.

Gutkind, Erwin Anton. International History of City Development. Vol. 8, Urban Development in Eastern Europe: Bulgaria, Romania, and the U.S.S.R. New York, 1972.

Institut istorii, Akademiia nauk SSSR. Istoriia Moskvy. 6 vols. Moscow, 19521959.

Tikhomirov, Mikhail Nikolaevich. The Towns of Ancient Rus. Translated by Y. Sdobnikov. Moscow, 1959.

Jack Kollmann


views updated Jun 08 2018


Moscow is the capital city of Russia and the country's economic and cultural center.

Moscow was founded by Prince Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruky in 1147 on the banks of the Moscow River. Its earliest fortifications were raised on the present-day site of the Kremlin. Located in Russia's forest belt, the city was afforded a limited degree of protection from marauders from the south. Its location adjacent several rivers also made it a good trade center. By 1325, following the sacking of Kiev and the imposition of the Mongol Yoke, Moscow's princes obtained the sole right to rule over the Russian territories and collect tribute for the Golden Horde. The head of the Russian Orthodox church relocated to Moscow in recognition of the city's growing authority. A prince of Moscow, Ivan III, ultimately rid Russia of Mongol rule, following which the city became the capital of the expanding Muscovite state, which reunited the Russian lands by diplomacy and military conquest from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

During the period of expansion, the young state was thrown into chaos when Ivan IV passed away without leaving an heir. His unsuccessful efforts to regain access to the Baltic Sea and Black Sea had left the state further exhausted. In the ensuing power struggle, the country was invaded by several foreign armies before the Russian people were able once again to gain control of Moscow and elect a new tsar, marking the beginning of the Romanov dynasty (16131917).

In 1713, Peter the Great moved the Russian capital to St. Petersburg, which he had built on the Baltic Sea as "Russia's window to the West." Moscow, which Peter loathed for its traditional Russian ways, remained a major center of commerce and culture. Further, all Russian tsars were crowned in the city, providing a link with the past. Recognizing the city's historical importance, Napoleon occupied Moscow in 1812. He was forced from the city and defeated by the Russian Army as foreign invaders before him had been.

The Bolsheviks moved the capital of Russia back to Moscow when German forces threatened Petrograd (previously St. Petersburg) in 1918. When the Germans left Russian land later that year, the capital remained in Moscow and has not been moved since.

During the Soviet era, a metro and many new construction projects were undertaken in Moscow as the city grew in population and importance. At the same time, many cultural sites, particularly churches, were destroyed. As a consequence, Moscow lost much of its architectural integrity and ancient charm. In an effort to recover this, the Russian government has engaged in a number of restoration projects in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. One of the most important has been the rebuilding of the Savior Cathedral, which was meant to mark the city's spiritual revival.

With a population of approximately 8.5 million people (swelling to more than 11 million on workdays), Moscow is the largest city in Russia and its capital. The Kremlin houses the Presidential Administration while both chambers of the national legislature are located just off of Red Square. The prime minister and his most important deputies have their offices in the White House, the building on the banks of the Moscow River that formerly was the location of the Russian Federation's legislature. The various ministries of the government, which report to the prime minister, are located throughout the city.

The city's government historically has occupied a high profile in national politics. This is particularly true of the mayor, who is directly elected by the city's residents for a four-year term. The mayor appoints the Moscow city government and is responsible for the administration of the city. Among the city's administrative responsibilities are managing more than half of the housing occupied by Muscovites, managing a primary health-care delivery system, operating a primary and secondary school system, providing social services and utility subsidies, maintaining roads, operating a public transportation system, and policing the city.

Legislative power lies with the Moscow City Duma, but the mayor has the power to submit bills as well as to veto legislation to which he objects. The city's citizens elect the City Duma in direct elections for a four-year term. It comprises thirty-five members elected from Moscow's electoral districts.

Not only is Moscow the country's political capital, it is also the country's major intellectual and cultural center, boasting numerous theaters and playhouses. Its attractions include the world-renowned Bolshoi Theater, Moscow State University, the Academy of Sciences, the Tretyakov Art Gallery, and the Lenin Library. Only St. Petersburg rivals it architecturally.

Not surprisingly, given its political and cultural importance, Moscow is Russia's economic capital as well, attracting a substantial portion of foreign investment. The city is the country's primary business center, accounting for 5.7 percent of industrial production. More importantly, it serves as the home for most of Russia's export-import industry as well as a major hub for international and national trade routes. As a consequence, the standard of living of Muscovites is well above that of the rest of the country. All of this owes in large part to the substantial degree of economic restructuring that has occurred in the city since 1991 in response to the introduction of a market economy. There has been particularly strong growth in finance and wholesale and retail trade.

The growth of Moscow's economy has not come without problems. Muscovites are increasingly concerned about crime as well as the plight of pensioners and the poor. They are also concerned about the strain being placed on the city's transportation system, increasing environmental pollution caused by the increased use of automobiles, and the degradation of the city's infrastructure, including its schools and health care system.

See also: academy of sciences; architecture; bolshoitheater; kremlin; luzhkov, yuri mikhailovich; moscow art theater; muscovy; st. petersburg; yury vladimirovich


Colton, Timothy J. (1995). Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Government of the City of Moscow. (2002). "Information Memorandum: City of Moscow." <>.

Terry D. Clark


views updated May 21 2018

Moscow (Moskva) Capital of Russia and largest city in Europe, on the River Moskva. The site has been inhabited since Neolithic times, but Russian records do not mention it until 1147. It had become a principality by the end of the 13th century, and in 1367 the first stone walls of the Kremlin were constructed. By the end of the 14th century, Moscow emerged as the focus of Russian opposition to the Mongols. Polish troops occupied the city in 1610, but were driven out two years later. Moscow was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Russia from 1547 to 1712, when the capital moved to St Petersburg. In 1812 Napoleon and his army occupied Moscow, but were forced to flee when the city burned to the ground. In 1918, following the Russian Revolution, it became the capital of the Soviet Union. The failure of the German army to seize the city in 1941 was the Nazis' first major setback in World War II. The Kremlin is the centre of the city, and the administrative heart of the country. Adjoining it are Red Square, the Lenin Mausoleum, and the 16th-century cathedral of Basil the Beatified. Industries: metalworking, oil-refining, motor vehicles, film-making, precision instruments, chemicals, publishing, wood and paper products, tourism. Pop. (1999 est.) 8,296,000.

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