Four frames of Moscow
Moscow is a complicated, unique city, where the heritage of communism still coexists with authentic temples of excess. We traveled the capital of Russia looking at it from a viewfinder.
It has more than 1,000 km2 and 12 million inhabitants and is the city with the most millionaires in the world. Here everything is big. Put on as you get from Buenos Aires there is also the widest avenue on the planet (La Stalingrad, with 16 lanes and 160 m) and the most luxurious metro. Louis Vuitton stores are counted by handfuls, in postín restaurants they prefer national diners than foreigners (needless to say the Spaniards), because they leave much more tips, and many pay the apartments in cash, because they do not trust of the banks.
In four frames we tell you four stories that maybe you didn't know.
1) A CUSTOM SCENE
"So they are of the traitors Russians, who change Lenin for a hamburger". It is one of the first pearls that Sergey, our guide, gives us when we reach the Red Square and pinch ourselves before the colored domes like appetizing meringues of the church of San Basilio, which we have seen so many times in the news. For decades, more than 3,000 people a day visit Lenin's mausoleum in the center of the esplanade (it was recently closed to the public for renovation for three months).
When he died, in 1924, the queues of admirers eager to pay respect to their leader for entire weeks. "Things are no longer what they were," our guide tells us. The Russians are still queuing, it's true, but now the objects of veneration have diversified. First was the inauguration of the first Mac Donald's, in 1990, a few steps from here. Only on the day of the premiere, more than 30,000 visitors passed by the box, fascinated, not only for trying the hamburgers of the giant of the golden eme, but also because it seemed most exotic to them to choose between what was written on the board , and that everything was available. Over time the Macdonalfilia has calmed down, among other things because there are already more than 250 subsidiaries in Russia and a Big Mac is not new, but also because much competition has emerged. However, it seems that Muscovites resist losing the tradition of waiting patiently to enjoy their passions.
The last of his great delusions (apart from the shopping compulsive) is religion, banned for decades. They showed it in style in November 2011, when the city received the relic of the Virgin's belt, brought from Mount Athos, and the queues, at least five degrees, were more than 24 hours. They also show it every day in their temples, always full and with many young people. And here vocations are on the rise. If not, tell the Abbess mother of the convent of Novodevichy Monastery, with a brilliant career as a doctor, divorced and with two children, she has changed the white coat for habits already in their maturity. He tells us: “In the rest of Europe, restaurants and discos are made in the old churches, which nobody visits anymore. Here is the other way around, we have to build new ones, because there are not enough ones. ”
A McDonald in Moscow © Corbis
2) A BLACK HUMOR GAG
We continue with Lenin's grave because Sergey has stories to write a novel. And the thing is not for less. To start because here a body is not venerated, but a mummy, which receives the proper care of a medieval princess: the body scrubs scrupulously frequently and every year is submerged in a chemical bath, whose secret and miraculous recipe that prevents its decomposition, only a few know.
This circus has its detractors and defenders. There are some who ask that Lenin be buried with his mother, as was his last will; there are simple ideological followers, or those who pay indecent amounts of rubles for being immortalized in the same way, a fashion that has penetrated deeply among the mafia bosses. A third group goes further and does not settle for seeing the incorrupt body of the character, but they want to check their vital signs. They can do it in the new Museum of the USSR, where a wax doll has been installed with a system that simulates breathing (really creepy).
The gag of black humor does not end with the inflatable doll because also here we have a case of mickaeljacksonization: the one of President of Angola, Agostinho Neto. As with other communist leaders, when in 1979 the president passed away, as a sign of deference, Russian authorities offered the services of his scientific team to embalm him so that it could be exposed in a mausoleum. They did not have a small detail, which was black, and the formula, as the days went by, caused the skin to lose pigmentation, which, as you can imagine, was a real scandal in his country.
The exterior of the Lenin Mausoleum © Corbis
3) THE CROWD
And this time in the most literal sense of the word. Because although one could not imagine it, one of the most successful social phenomena in this country was precisely the broadcast of the Mexican soap opera Rich people cry too, in the 80's. Such was its success that not only was it dubbed into Russian, but Boris Yeltsin himself, when times were more than scrambled, came to ask that it be issued up to three times a day to avoid demonstrations and protests and ensure that people stayed at home (something that had already been done in Spain during Franco's time on May 1, Labor Day, when football and bulls were never lacking on the grill). Verónica Castro, her protagonist, was received in the Kremlin as a superstar when she visited Russia.
4) THE PASSION CRIME
But, for Mexican soap operas, none better than Ramón Mercader, the Spaniard who killed Trotsky. It was in 1940, when the Catalan, with 26 years, won the favors of his maid to be able to access his house in exile in the Mexican neighborhood of Coayacán, and murdered the president with a piolet. Trotsky, an architect with Lenin of the Bolshevik Revolution and creator of the Red Army, turned and bit him, but the thrust had an expected deadly effect, an image that for the rest of his life came to Mercader's head again and again in an obsessive way. After knowing the love deception, the maid committed suicide and Mercader was arrested and spent years imprisoned. He died in Havana in 1978. His ashes rest in the Kuntzevo cemetery in Moscow, reserved for the Heroes of the Soviet Union, very close to the grave of English spy Kim Philby. His story has been immortalized in a movie, Trotsky's murder (1972), by Joseph Losey (with Alain Delon as a murderer and Richard Burton as a victim), and a documentary: Assault the skies (1996), by José Luis López-Linares and Javier Rioyo.