Monday, 16 June 2008

‘Miserable’ Moscow Ranks Low

Reproduced below a June 11 article from St Petersburg Times.

‘Miserable’ Moscow Ranks Low

By Nikolaus von Twickel

Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Moscow’s quality of life for expatriates is one of Europe’s most miserable, while personal safety is the worst on the continent, according to a study released Tuesday.

The 2008 Quality of Living Survey, published by consulting firm Mercer to help big companies and governments with international assignments, ranks Moscow a low No. 166 out of 215 cities worldwide in terms of overall quality of life.

Using New York as a benchmark with an index of 100, Moscow gets just 55.5 points and is sandwiched between Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, and the Libyan port of Tripoli.

Moscow fares worse than St. Petersburg, which won the country’s best spot at No. 162, and Kiev, which ranked 161st.

The rankings are based on 39 determinants, including the political and social environment, health care, schooling, public services, consumer goods and housing.

Top of the list is Swiss financial hub Zurich, which scores 108, followed by Vienna and Geneva, which tied for second.

The cities with the lowest quality of life are mainly in Africa, with Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, at 212, Congo’s Brazzaville at 213 and the Central African Republic’s Bangui at 214. At rock bottom, though, is Baghdad.

Moscow’s performance was particularly poor in terms of personal safety for expatriates, published as a separate ranking based on a mix of internal stability, crime, effectiveness of law enforcement and relationships with other countries.

Here, the capital scored only 37.7 out of New York’s 100, giving it the rank of 196, the lowest in Europe. Luxembourg came out top, followed by Bern and Geneva.

To improve, Moscow would have to address both internal stability issues and environmental factors like air pollution, said Slagin Parakatil, a senior researcher at Mercer who is responsible for the study.

Mercer lists Moscow as the world’s 14th-dirtiest city, worse than New Delhi but slightly better than what it called the ecological disaster zones of Mexico City and Baku.

“Sending an expat to Moscow would require to add quite a hardship allowance to compensate for that,” Parakatil said by telephone from Geneva.

The report says overall quality of life is worse than Moscow in two other Russian cities, Novosibirsk and Kazan, and two cities elsewhere in Europe, Minsk and Albania’s capital, Tirana.

Moscow’s comparative advantages, Parakatil said, were its size and international outlook.

“Moscow definitely scores very highly when it comes to entertainment, including opera and theater,” he said.

“It is also fairly cosmopolitan and offers a large variety of food [in restaurants].”

Parakatil said costs were not included in the quality of life survey. “We are looking at the availability [of goods and services] and at their quality, not at their cost,” he said.

Mercer has for the past two years ranked Moscow as the world’s most expensive city for expatriates. The firm’s annual cost-of-living survey will probably be published at the end of this month, Parakatil said.

He would not comment on the likelihood of Moscow retaining its top position.

He said cultural issues like language skills did not enter the report’s equation because otherwise the findings would become subjective.

As an example, he explained that it might be just as difficult to find English speakers in Tokyo as for a Japanese person to find a Japanese speaker in Spain.

A Moscow City Hall official said that while he could not comment on the report before he had studied it, there had been instances of bias and errors in past reports.

“We carefully monitor such ratings because we want Moscow to be an attractive city in every sense … and because we believe that it is a modern civilized city,” said Alexander Pogorelov of the city’s international relations department.

As an example, he cited a tourism survey published by a London newspaper that gave Moscow a low ranking because it apparently lacked a single United Nations World Heritage site. “But the Kremlin, Red Square and the Novodevichy Convent are listed,” he said.

Earlier this week, Moscow came 61st in an environmental survey of Russia’s 89 regions.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Appointments with Movers

Stuart Hill of Allied Pickford (Tel: 020 8219 8118)
Wednesday, 6 June, at 10 a.m.

Billy Saunders of Crown Relocations (Tel: 020 8839 8060)
Tuesday, 12 June, at 12-12.30 p.m.

Michael Jacks of Four Winds International
Wednesday, 13 June, at 10 a.m.
Movers coming 9 July Monday

Friday, 25 May 2007

Places to live?

Pokrovskoye-Glyebovo (apartment opposite Pokrovsky Hills)
Pokrovsky Hills (very near school, year-long waitlist)
Rosinka (gated houses, huge expat community, far from school and centre)
Tverskaya (apartments, city centre)
Alya Perusa (apartments 10 min to AAS)
Syetun (gated townhouses, West)
Kurkino (gated townhouses, near school, not too far from city)

South-west, west, and part of the north-west areas of Moscow (near the orange and red Metro line)

Friday, 18 May 2007

Visa Application

Documents required:
1. 4 coloured passport-sized photos of each applicant.
2. Scanned marriage cert.
3. Scanned passport pages.
4. Scanned birth certificates of children.
5. Scanned HR posting letter.

Date Applied: ?
Date Approved: ?

More info on Visa.

School Search...ugh

International Schools in Moscow

Anglo-American School of Moscow
Tel: 7(495)2314486
Fax: 7(495)52314476
-Oversubscribed, long wait list :(, offers IB programme.
Documents required:
Application forms, US$500.
Application not completed without submission of Teacher Questionnaire, all transcripts (every term, every year).
Immunisation records.
International School of Moscow Tel: 7(495)1494434
-Very new school, opening Aug 2007, actually a British school. Goes up to Year 6 only.
British International School
-Serves rich Russian kids
English International School
-Expat forumers find this set-up a bit dodgy, located in the East, while expats generally live in the West.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

The life and times of the Russians

A Definitive Guide to Russian Culture: Past and Present

Russia has a rich culture and an awesome heritage; unique and vibrant, they developed from a complicated interplay of Slavic, European, and Asian cultural traditions. In many respects, Russia itself developed like the culture, from a blend of Slavic and foreign elements. A strong thread of politics and socio-economic perspectives is also symptomatic of the similarities between the nation and the national culture of Russia. These are all elements to be conscious of when considering Russian culture and what it is to be Russian.

In Russian literature, art, and music, three distinct periods exist in the estimation of modern scholars: the Kievan period (c. 10th to 13th century), the Muscovite period (c. 14th to 17th century), and the modern period (from the 18th century onwards).

The Kievan Period

Kievan Rus is an ancient name for the Christian state of Russia, founded in 988, which kept the city as Kiev as the seat of the grand princes. The Kievan period in art and literature paralleled the violent times of Russia's conquest by the Tatars in the 13th century.

During this period, running the course of three centuries, Russia was particularly isolated from western Europe and the developments taking place there. The isolation was political as well as religious, as Russia received its Christianity from Byzantium rather than from Rome.

Kievan Rus drew from the heritage of many different peoples, including the Byzantium Christians and the Greeks, through the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Russian nation at the time upheld a conscious rejection of Western European elements, so the forming culture was modeled on Eastern, as opposed to Western traditions.

The Muscovite Period

In the early 13th century, the Mongols invaded Kievan Rus. By the time the fledgling political and cultural organs had recovered, Moscow had emerged as the new focal point.

Kiev remained the center for the Russian Orthodox Church and provided a continuity that largely undermined any connection to western European culture. In the 14th century, western Europe would experience the secularization of society and the rediscovery or rebirth, in French, the Renaissance, of the classical cultural heritage. The separation of church and state, the distinction between religion and culture, was not facilitated in Russia.

Russian culture took on a life of its own during the Muscovite period; the work produced was like nothing before it. Although some remarkable works of literature emerged, most notably letters written between Tsar Ivan IV "The Terrible" and Prince Andrey Kurbsky during the 1560s and the 1570s, and the first full-length autobiography in Russian literature, The Life of the Archpriest Avvakum, by Himself (1672-1675), the most significant achievements were in the visual arts and architecture. Icons such as Andrey Rublyov's Old Testament Trinity and churches, such as the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed in Moscow's Red Square. Indeed, many maintain that St. Basil's is the embodiment of the Byzantine and Asiatic cultural streams that together characterized the early Muscovite culture.

During the reign of Peter I "the Great", from 1694 to 1725, a total reorientation of Russian interests occurred, thus beginning the later half of the Muscovite period and the influx of western ideas. A cultural renaissance took place, and writers and artists carried out reforms of sorts to bring Russian culture to the standard of the western Europeans. Notable poets of the 1730s were Mikhail Lomonosov and Vasily Trediakovsky. A decade later came the playwright, Alesandr Sumarokov, who wrote Russia's first stage tragedies.

Although much of the work produced during the later Muscovite period, leading into the beginning of the 19th century, was adapted from western European traditions and forms, by the turn of the century (1900), Russia had developed its own secure cultural identity, embodied both in the visual arts and, more significantly, in literature.

The Modern Culture of Russia: 19th Century to the Present

Like the cultures of most western European countries, the Russian culture enjoyed a vibrant and dynamic period of creativity and discovery during the 19th century. The first quarter of the century was dominated by romantic poetry, including Vasily Zhukovsky's 1802 translation of Thomas Gray's An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard, and, more famously, the work of the young Aleksandr Pushkin.

The Russian equivalent to Shakespeare, in the opinion of many critics, Pushkin developed into one of the country's most celebrated writers. Amongst his most noted poetic works are The Prisoner of Caucasus (1820-21), The Gypsies (1824), Yevgeny Onegin (1833), and Boris Godunov (1825).

The second quarter of the 19th century began with a shift from poetry to prose in Russian literary circles. Pushkin, still one of the leading writers, published several prose works, including The Tales of the Late Ivan Petrovich Belkin (1831), The Queen of Spades (1834), and The Captain's Daughter (1836).

Following in the steps of Pushkin, come the likes of Nikolay Gogol, whose most famous work is the epic novel, Dead Souls (1842); Ivan Turgenev, with Fathers and Sons (1862) at the peak of his distinguished career; Fyodor Dostoyevsky with Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868-69), The Possessed (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80); Leo Tolstoy with the classics War and Peace (1865-69) and Anna Karenina (1875-77); Anton Chekov, with his vast collection of plays, such as Uncle Vanya (1897) and The Cherry Orchard (1903); Boris Pasternak with Doctor Zhivago; and, in the wake of Socialism, the likes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, with the likes of One day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), The First Circle (1968), and Cancer Ward (1968).

In music, 19th century Russia celebrated the work of Peter Illich Tchaikovsky, with a wealth of symphonies, overtures, ballets, and operas; on to Igor Stravinsky, whose work included the ballets Petruschka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913).

In the visual arts, Russia also excelled. Russian painters frequently met with their European counterparts and thus extended their influence to Western Europe. Amongst the most major pre-Revolutionary artists were Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Natalya Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, Kazimir Malevich, and Vladmir Tatlin. Emerging slowly after the Revolution, from the Stalinist years and beyond, came Ernest Neizvestny, Illya Kabakov, Mikhail Shemyakin, and Erik Bulatov, experimenting with a range of techniques, such as primitivism, hyperrealism, grotesque, and abstraction to communicate their sentiments about Socialist Realism.

Russian Culture in the 21st Century

Even today, a dilemma surrounds Russia's cultural identity. Her cultural heritage, however, is somewhat more clearly defined and connected to the modern Russian society. The impact of the Soviet period remains to be seen. The recovery of the traditional Russian culture is not yet fully realized; the tradition relied upon the institutions attacked and removed by the Soviets, such as the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian class system.

Whilst confusion may still surround the cultural identity of the Russians, the richness of their organic culture, including contributions from some of the finest artists of all time, is vibrant and appreciated. Russia has one of the most dedicated societies to the arts, with numerous theatres, concert halls, and galleries celebrating work both modern and classic. Most Russians are also well-read, familiar with the works of their most famous, and even their less famous writers.

City Guide: Moscow

Discover Moscow and how to uncover this jewel-of-a-city!

Fast Facts

Moscow is the political and economic capital of the Russian Federation. It is home to about 7% of Russia's population, about 10.4 million inhabitants, and ranked, in 2006, as the most expensive city in the world. The city sits beside the Moskva River, the presence of which reinforced the city's position as a center of transportation and commerce throughout its long history. Yet, Moscow is also the religious and cultural capital of a vast country: the Patriarch of Moscow, residing at the Danilov Monastery, is the head of the Roman Orthodox Church, and Moscow is also home to such landmarks as the Kremlin, Red Square, and St Basil's Cathedral.

An Eye for History

Moscow is one of the oldest and most impressive cities in Europe. It dates back to around 1147, when it is first mentioned in historical records. It became the center of Russia's political power around 1480, when Czar Ivan III ended the control of the Tartars. At the beginning of the 20th century, Moscow was also the center of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which eventually saw the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II, the dissolution of Russia's parliament, the Duma; the creation and the destruction of the Soviet state.

Out and About

One of the most compelling activities in any city like Moscow is to wander the streets and soak up the atmosphere. Of course, there are also plenty of places on the 'to see list', that you cannot easily pass up either.
The must-sees are:

1. The Kremlin

Perhaps the centerpiece of Moscow, the Kremlin has sat at the heart of some of the most famous events in Moscow's history. A fortress, it has been the target of enemy guns; a palace, it has hosted many a royal and elaborated celebration; a center of government, it has been the focus of revolts and revolutions. The magnificent building is also a museum, housing the greatest treasures of the Russian Czars in its many chambers and cathedrals. Easily reached by public transport from most of the main areas of the city, no trip to Moscow is complete without a look in here.

2. Red Square

Like its neighbor, the Red Square of Moscow is one of the most recognizable sites in Russia; a signature view presented in the media. Also like the Kremlin, Red Square has witnessed more than its share of history over the years. Separating the Kremlin from the historic merchant's quarter of Moscow known as Kitai-gorod, Red Square emerged some time during the 15th century as an open space or "burnt-out space", designed to protect the wooden buildings of Moscow from fires. Eventually, the square emerged as a marketplace, the principle marketplace of Russia, and the center of the country, as transport network established around it, going out in every direction. To brush up on your Russian, note this little known fact about Red Square. Its name has noting to do with either its red squares or Communism. The name, Red Square, in Russia is Krasnaya ploshchad. Krasnaya can either mean 'red' or 'beautiful'. The square was originally named Krasnaya ploshchad in around the 17th century to translate as "Beautiful Square".

Other highlights include:

1. St Basil's Cathedral

A 16th century stone church, St Basil's Cathedral was built on the orders of Ivan the Terrible. To commemorate a military victory, Ivan the Terrible ordered the construction of seven wooden temples on Moscow's Red Square. Between 1555 and 1561 the stone structure of St Basil's was constructed to commemorate the same Russian victory. Another of Moscow's best known landmarks, both the interior and exterior of St Basil's are interesting and worth a look in.

2. The Bolshoi Theatre

In the aptly named Theater's Square is the classically-styled Bolshoi, the second largest theater in the world. Performances here are spectacular as standard. Not to be missed. For performances, seating, prices, etc, please visit:

3. Mausoleum

The Mausoleum, as the name indicates, is a monument-tomb, housing the body of Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The current stone mausoleum was constructed in 1930, to replace the original temporary tomb, constructed in January, 1924.

4. State Tretyakov Gallery

The State Tretyakov Gallery is the national museum of Russian fine arts. The collection includes works from the 10th to the 20th century, bearing the name of its founder, Pavel Tretyakov. An amazing collection, you need time to enjoy this national collection so take a day if you can.

Crash Course: Russian History

A Colorful Past: What You Need To Know About Russian History

Russia has existed as three definite and separate nations: as the Russian Empire to 1917, and as part of the Union of Soviet Social Republics from 1917 to 1991, and as the Russian Federation from 1991 to the present. As a people, the Russians have a long, diverse, and, above all, fascinating history.

Before There Was Russia

Archeologists agree that Russia was inhabited in the Paleolithic period. From the 7th century B.C. the north shore of the Black Sea and the Crimea were occupied by various different tribes as powers fluctuated and interests, political, social, and economic, changed. In the 3rd century A.D. the Germanic Goths invaded mainland of Russia; the Asian Huns followed in the 4th century and the Turkic Avars followed in the 6th century. By the 9th century, the Turkic Khazars, the Easer Bulgars, and the Eastern Slavs had settled in the Russia.

The arrival of the Varagians of Scandinavia marked the founding of the Russian state. In 862, Varangian traders and warriors established the first dynastic order in Novgorod. Their leader, Rurik, became the first ruler of the Russ, a term that was eventually used to refer to the country in general. Rurik's successor, Oleg (879-912), established Kiev as the nation's capital, which it remained until 1169. In 988, the foundations of the Russian Orthodox Church were established also, when Vladmir I (980-1015) made Christianity the state religion and adopted the Greek Orthodox rite. Kievan Rus, as the fledgling state was known, emerged as the first political, social, religious, and cultural form of modern Russia.

Chaos and a New Order

In 1169, political disruption would begin the destabilization of Kievan Rus. Invasion by the Mongols in 1237 threatened the destruction of the state, but by the 14th century, the Russ leaders had begun to recover and consolidate their power.

Ivan I (1328-41) established Moscow as the state capital, turning the north-eastern territories into the main center of economic and political life. The rulers of Russ would be known as the grand dukes of Moscow from 1380 onwards.

The emergency of a new order, the Muscovite state, took place during the reigns of Ivan III (1462-1505) and Vasily III (1505-33). These rulers expanded the Muscovite state and their own powers.

In 1547, one of Russia's most notorious rulers, Ivan IV, more commonly known as Ivan the Terrible, was crowned Czar of all Russia. He conquered the Tatar Khanates of Kazan in 1552 and the Astrakhan in 1556, ending the subservience of the Russ people. Russian rule was established over the middle and lower Volga territories, establishing the basis for the colonization of Siberia, which began in 1581.

After the throne passed through the hands of Ivan's sickly successor, Feodor I (1584-98), a national council intervened to pass state power to Boris Godunov (1598-1605). His early death preceded the "Time of Troubles", a full-blown political crisis, that featured pretenders to the throne and the intervention of foreign powers in Russian affairs. In 1609, Russia was invaded by Poland, with Polish troops entering Moscow the following year and assuming control.

After three years of occupation, Russian forces seized Moscow and a national council unanimously chose Michael Romanov as the next Czar of Russia. With Michael (1613-45) the Romanov dynasty was founded; the family would continue to rule Russia until the Revolution in 1917.

Backwards in comparison to Western Europe, Russia was medieval in outlook well into the 17th century. Not until the reign of Peter I the Great, did Russian politics, administration, and culture modify to integrate elements of secularization, which had impacted Western Europe so dramatically. Peter I not only assumed the title of "Emperor", he established a conscript army and navy; and subordinated the Russian Orthodox Church to his growing power and influence.
He established the first modern industries and attempted to introduce Western thought into the education and cultural systems. He also reformed the central and local government offices, and the fiscal system.

Peter the Great also founded the city of St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland in 1703. He transferred the capital to St. Petersburg in 1712, thus marking a new phase in Russian history.

Power and Politics

After the triumph of the reign of Peter I there came a series of mediocre rulers, leading up to perhaps the third most famous Russia ruler, Catherine II or Catherine the Great (1762-96). Seizing the throne from her incompetent husband in 1762, Catherine II continued the reforms of Peter I, promoting a western or European outlook in political and social policies as well as in culture.

Expansion, Collapse, and the Soviet State

Catherine the Great spurned Russia's cultural brilliance of the 19th and 20th century. Her successors, most notably Nicholas I (1825-55), Alexander II (1855-81), and Alexander III (1881-94), continued her trend of pursuing reactionary policies and reform policies to increase the country's influence and prestige.

The rapid expansion of the Russian Empire, leading into the 20th century, had many long-term consequences. By the time that Nicholas II ascended the throne, in 1894, the vastness of the Empire had put considerable pressure on the infrastructure of Russia. Nicholas II proved incompetent and weak; unable to address the growing problems of industrial backwardness and poverty amongst his people. Failed foreign policy ventures, including the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, proved destructive to the Czar's position and by 1917, in the wake of defeat in the First World War (1914-18), the Russian Revolution took place.

Inflation, food shortages, and poor morale amongst the troops ultimately fueled the outbreak of the February Revolution of 1917. Nicholas abdicated in March and a provincial government was established. On November 7th, 1917, Lenin seized control of the provincial government with the support of the Bolsheviks. Russia withdrew from the First World War and began a long process of recover and change.

For three-quarters of a century, Russia existed as the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and lead the world opposition to capitalism. Under Stalin, a reign of terror and repressive political controls would define Russia's direction and identity; fundamental administrative areas, such as the economy and the parliament of the country were state-controlled. The press and industry were also state-run, allowing the individual to exercise few fundamental rights.

The Russian Federation

The succession of President Gorbachev marked the end of the Soviet rule. In 1990, Boris Yeltsin and other reformer-types were elected to the Russian parliament. Yeltsin became the president shortly thereafter, in 1991, marking the first popular election for president in the history of the Russian Republic. Gorbachev, who had worked with Yeltsin to a degree, finally resigned in December of 1991.

After some initial struggles, Yeltsin succeeded in building security in Russia, passing on the torch, in 1999, toVladmir Putin, whose involvement in the Russian war with Cechnya was much celebrated. Putin was reelected in March 2004, in a landslide victory.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Monday, 14 May 2007

Wheee...we're going to Moscow!

The news is just beginning to sink in. We're leaving London for Moscow in a few months. Scary? Of course! Exciting? Definitely! I'm up for an adventure. Never in my life did I ever think I'd live in Moscow. How Now Moscow? I've named my blog this cos the other non-nonsensical names were taken. My first choice was fromrussiawithlove...I knew it'd have been taken.

Loads of things to do!