Worth a second look

22 May 2012
Ben Pentreath

It was rather nice to get recommendations, posted both here and on twitter, for the better-looking Moscow. Now I look forward to a next visit and some proper exploration. In doing a bit of reading around, I found this painting of Red Square before the great fire of 1812, and was amused to see the same tourist stalls as we had encountered on Saturday morning (well, I would prefer to scrabble around in these ones).

I wondered if my problems with Moscow started with the Great Fire (I need a historian, or someone with better knowledge than me, to tell me if it was started by Napoleon or the Muscovites?). Look at this map showing the degree of devastation – shaded in dark. Think what streets and buildings were lost.

Needless to say, my researches for a better looking Moscow couldn’t help but lead me to that rather famous photograph of Young Stalin that graced the cover of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s book of the same name.

Which leads us nicely on to this photograph found deep in the blogosphere. Have a happy Tuesday!

5 comments on this post

It is hard to believe that handsome, shining-eye’d young man with the gentle smile would grow up and murder millions. Have you seen Jan Svankmeyer’s claymation piece, “The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia”? Definitely worth a look (as is all JS’s stuff)!

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the battle of Borodino, fought on 7 September 1812! When you go back to Moscow, I highly recommend a visit to Christ the Saviour, re-built to mark the new Millennium at the behest of President Yeltsin, and an amazing re-construction of the cathedral that Stalin had demolished in 1931 to make way for the Palace of the Soviets (which was never built). The project has helped traditional Russian craftsmanship to be re-discovered, especially icon painting…
The original cathedral was in fact erected to mark Napoleon Bonaparte’s retreat from Moscow. Emperor Alexander I signed a manifest, on 25 December 1812, declaring his intention to build a cathedral in honor of Christ the Saviour “to signify Our gratitude to Divine Providence for saving Russia from the doom that overshadowed Her” and as a memorial to the sacrifices of the Russian people.
What goes round…


The Russians torched Moscow rather than let Napoleon have it. I believe the term “scorched earth” originates with that period in history.


What an uncanny resemblance. Someone needs
to let his agent know! Hé could definitely play a
young Stalin.

Love your postings & photographs.


I don’t believe Napoleon made it into Moscow……only the outskirts. If they had made it into Moscow, chances are his army would not have frozen to death en route back to France.
Interesting post and great painting…..thank you!

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