Flash Mobbers Mourn Historic Moscow
They appeared and were gone in a flash. On the evening of Thursday, May 27, more than 100 Russians and foreigners descended on the New Arbat to lay flowers and light candles at the site of the recently demolished landmark Voyentorg building. The flash mob was there to make a point: Moscow’s historical center is disappearing fast as architecturally significant buildings like Voyentorg are being bulldozed to make way for lucrative new construction projects.
Some of the flash mobbers had been at a press conference earlier in the day to announce the formation of a new activist group called the Moscow Architectural Preservation Society, or MAPS. The group says that over the last decade, more than 400 historical buildings from the sixteenth century onwards have been destroyed. The current construction boom has caused the city to lose more historical buildings than at any other time since the 1930s, when Joseph Stalin razed much of pre-Revolutionary Moscow, MAPS reported.
The press conference focused on the fate of the Manezh exhibition center, which went up in flames this winter and is now slated for total demolition. MAPS, founded by Moscow residents Guy Archer, Kevin O’Flynn, and Clem Cecil, hopes to raise international awareness of the destruction of many of Moscow’s most precious architectural artifacts. The group can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Billionaires, Cosmo, and Pizza - Russia goes Numero Uno
If Forbes’ ranking of the world’s wealthiest people is to be believed, Moscow surpassed New York last month in number of resident billionaires, launching it into the No. 1 spot. But that’s not the only No. 1 ranking held by the Russians. The Russian-language edition of Cosmopolitan recently entered the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest circulation among European glossy magazines. The magazine printed over 600,000 copies, nearly half of which were in the new convenient pocket-sized format. The record-setting circulation comes on the eve of Cosmo’s 10-year anniversary this year.
Meanwhile, the new Papa John’s pizza chain near southwest Moscow metro station Prospekt Vernadskogo is setting top records as well. The restaurant recently served the most people in a day in any Papa John’s worldwide.
Amber Room Hoax Reavealed!
A new book called The Amber Room: The Untold Story of the Greatest Hoax of the Twentieth Century, claims to have solved the riddle that surrounds the fate of one of Russia’s greatest art treasures. The Amber Room - the fabulous tsarist chamber that the Nazis looted from St. Petersburg during the Second World War - was accidentally destroyed by the Red Army’s own troops, the book reveals.
Previously unseen documents, suppressed for decades by Moscow, show that Soviet soldiers burned down the hall where the treasure was stored in a Teutonic castle in Germany, in 1945. Historians earlier thought the "eighth wonder of the world" - an entire room paneled and decorated in amber - had escaped damage and was hidden somewhere, yet to be found. But in The Amber Room: The Untold Story of the Greatest Hoax of the Twentieth Century (published in the U.K. on June 3 by Atlantic Books), authors Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark reveal that Moscow deliberately concealed a report on its tragic fate. The reason was that Stalin’s henchmen were anxious to avoid the ignominy of admitting that Soviet soldiers had destroyed one of the Motherland’s finest treasures.
To this day, the Kremlin has maintained the pretence that the Amber Room could still be discovered, all the while knowing that it was turned to ashes by its own troops, the authors claim.
Travel writer Tolstoy to make 2,700-mile trek on horseback
British travel writer Alexandra Tolstoy and her husband, Russian show jumper Shamil Galimzyanov, are riding horseback from Ashgabad, Turkmenistan to Moscow. The intrepid couple is retracing the hoof-prints of a group of Turkmens who completed the 2,700-mile trek in a fantastically fast 84 days back in 1935. The goal in those days was to prove the strength and stamina of the Akhal Teke breed of horses. Tolstoy and Galimzyanov are using the same tough Turkmen horses, but their goal is a little different - to beat the record set in 1935.
Their adventure started in April when they left Ashgabad and passed through the Kara Kum Desert, crossed the Turkmen/Uzbek border, rode through the Ustyurt Plateau, passing west of the Aral Sea and into Kazakhstan. At press time the couple was about to enter Russia, but was having some difficulties on the border. It was not clear whether the Russian bureaucracy would hold them back from breaking the 1935 record.
Tolstoy’s first book, The Last Secrets of the Silk Road, was published last year and she has a contract to write an account of this journey. Tolstoy and Galimzyanov are also using the ride as an opportunity to raise money for the St. Gregory’s Foundation, a group that provides aid for disadvantaged people across Russia and Eastern Europe. You can follow this incredible duo’s progress on their regularly-updated website, www.alexandratolstoy.com.