An American's Initial Impressions of Moscow


I arrived in Moscow on a direct flight from JFK International. Just a few hours before the flight I was notified that Moscow State University had somehow forgotten to reserve our rooms for us American students… something they haven’t done in over fifteen years. I arrived at Sheremetyevo airport a little nervous. I knew nothing about what lay ahead. After a few moments I met up with other American students and we were told to get into a car heading to our apartment in Shablovka. Luckily, I grabbed a car with a student from New York who spoke fluent Russian. As we crept slowly toward Moscow, and I say crept only because traffic is insane and ever-present here, I was shocked by the beauty of Moscow’s architecture.

I had, for some reason, imagined Moscow’s architecture as being austere before coming here. I pictured easy-to-build, mass-produced, government-planned concrete buildings everywhere like I had seen in many Soviet history films. Instead, I found myself in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. Moscow, to me, is the “crossroads of the world” because the buildings here are so eclectic. It sits at the intersection of Europe, Siberia, and Central Asia. Its buildings have hints of Middle Eastern, European and Central/South Asian influences coupled with uniquely Russian elements.

Central Moscow has a predominantly European baroque style with exotic cathedrals sprinkled throughout. To the west, Moscow is catching up to other modern countries by building a central business district with contemporary high-rise buildings. Moscow sits wonderfully on the Moscow River. The city has many rivers but most are now underground due to urban planning.

Some of Moscow’s most breathtaking views are located along Moscow River including Christ the Saviour Church, St. Basil’s Cathedral and the intimidating giant red walls of the Kremlin. Recently, I have had the pleasure to go into some of Moscow’s most impressive churches. These churches are intensely ornate. One can see why millions of Russian peasants quickly found God when they entered these impressive buildings.

The city has too many parks to count. The parks seem larger than many urban American parks. More often than not, impressive sculptures, fountains and various other art pieces form a wonderful focal point in these retreats from urban life. Museums, music halls, bars, night clubs, libraries and small food stores line the streets.

As an American, I find myself completely intrigued by the history of this foreign land. My current university, Moscow State, is eleven years older than our country. The original wooden walls of the Kremlin were built in 1156. Russia’s history is both vast and captivating. Current indicators are showing that Russia’s future is going to be just as fascinating.

Construction in the city is taking place around-the-clock everywhere, from roadways to new metro stations to new high-rise apartments. Russia is becoming a global economic leader at an extremely fast pace. This gorgeous city is alive, its pulse is racing with excitement and I am delighted to be a part of it.