It was like that, until the pandemic spread to Russia.
Anyone returning to the surface at one of the Manege Square subway stations would soon be surprised by the excitement and eccentricity around them. For the first time in our lives, we saw mobile bathrooms decorated with flowery patterns from Russian folklore.
We pass the base of the equestrian statue of Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov, whose planning for the defense of the Soviet Union against the Nazi Invasion made a multi-decorated hero.
Through the arches of the Porta and Capela Ibérica, we can glimpse, in the distance, the arabesque domes of the Cathedral of Saint Basil.
We immerse ourselves in the crowd that flows there. Unexpectedly, a large teddy bear, animated by some resident, blocks us from the sign of the imminent Red Square.
Moments later, a retinue of orthodox priests opens the way and the doors of the tiny temple to a retinue of the faithful. The chapel is full of believers. So that, while the ceremony that brought them together takes place inside, two priests, dressed in black cassocks, follow her from outside.
We crossed the arches to dominate the square. On the other side, positioned at the door of the art store and remembrances Nasledie, two guards in historic uniforms who look like Cossacks to us, pose for the photograph, swords crossed above a visiting family, all members with almond-shaped eyes typical of the eastern reaches of the nation.
Nearby, the extras multiply.
A makes of Tsar Nicholas II. Another one from Lenin. A third of Stalin.
In one of the hiatuses of their business with tourists, Nicholas II and Lenine indulge in a chatter that betrays history.
We pass in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, from which we admire the successive corbel arches, crowned by a solitary golden dome from which an Orthodox cross emerges.
Monumental and elegant as we see it, it stuns us to discover that it is a reconstruction.
Even more unbelievable, the original was ordered to be destroyed in 1936, by express order of the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Josef Stalin, birthplace georgian, not Russian, we must stress it.
We crossed Nikolskaya Street.
Moscow's Monumental Red Square
On the other side, we finally enter the sacred space of Red Square, the vast expanse of striped cobblestones between the base of the Moscow Kremlin walls and the large GUM building and shopping mall.
Confirmed the collapse of the USSR, after the years of chaos and economic and social hardship of Mother Russia, the overthrow of Communism by inexorable capitalism dictated that the square ceased to be used only for parades, rallies and similar political-military celebrations.
When we walk through it, a good part of its area is occupied by a horticultural exhibition, with plants and flowers kept in small vases, arranged by colors and shapes.
As soon as the window ends, the organizers offer them to visitors. We are thus faced with a frenzy of gardening lovers vying for bromeliads, bougainvillea, orchids and others.
This authorized loot assists in dismantling the nursery for the nightly show that follows, a pop-rock concert followed by fireworks.
The opposite shore, the one adjacent to the Kremlin, remains immune to such confusions and popular upheavals.
Lenin's Mausoleum, Sepulcher of the Early USSR
It is there that, since 1930, has been embalmed at the request of the people, a neighbor of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the founder of the USSR Vladimir Lenin.
Built in black and red marble, shades of mourning and blood, the mausoleum keeps an armed guard almost immobile and keeping an eye on everything.
In particular, in the queue of visitors waiting to enter, depending on their affiliation or sympathy, pay their respects or just observe the body preserved by the tricks of science, the refrigerated sarcophagus and the dismal interior of the building.
Lenin's historical and political importance justifies that the front of the mausoleum often hosts platforms where Russian leaders address the people. In his more than two decades of leadership, Vladimir Putin has spoken there several times.
But if Lenin, Putin and the successive Soviet and Russian leaders in between are present in the mausoleum and in Red Square, the real lair, the seat of their power, is hidden behind the crenellated walls that delimit it.
The images we are used to seeing of President Putin sitting with other world leaders, face to face, at an inflated table, have contributed to a diffuse imagery of the other White House, that of the East.
The Great Kremlin of Russia, Seat of Power of the Nation
Well, the hall in which Putin welcomes, with a distance comparable to that of his Russia from the world, is just one – the fulcrum – of dozens of the five palaces and four Orthodox cathedrals that make up the immense political and religious center (275.000 m2) of Moscow.
the Russian term kremlin defines a stronghold within a city. There are hundreds of Kremlins scattered across the vastness of Russia, as we have seen, Rostov's, one of the most sumptuous.
The one in Moscow, as we now see it, began to be delimited in its triangulated form, by Italian Freemasons, between 1485 and 1495. In the more than half a millennium that it has, it has not always proved impregnable.
At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, it was taken over by Polish and Lithuanian warlords.
In 1812, in the midst of the Russian Campaign, and as a means of asserting French military power, Napoleon Bonaparte razed six of the fortress's various towers.
After the Mad Emperor was expelled, in just seven years the Russians restored the integrity of the kremlin and, apart from the mere home of the tsars, its function of impressing, controlling and oppressing, at one level, Russia and the Russians, at another, as much of the world as possible.
That same afternoon, we went around Red Square and entered its domain. Contrary to what one might think, in times of pre-pandemic and Russian political-military normality, the kremlin it remained, for the most part, visitable and touristy.
Outsiders roamed it.
They prayed in the aisles of their churches.
The Dominating Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church
Including those of the grandiose Cathedrals of the Annunciation and the Dormition with which the orthodox church sought to perpetuate its alliance with power and presence in the fortress. They are both surmounted by golden domes, sorts of missiles of alleged faith aimed at the sky.
During the entire Bolshevik and Soviet period (1918-1991), unscrupulous atheist Communism, established by the Bolsheviks, hijacked the Orthodox Church. He kept it aside.
Especially from 1991 onwards, with the consent of post-Soviet leaders, the priests quickly regained the influence they had with the tsars.
We see visitors admire the Kolokol III bell, which was broken during the great fire of 1737, and other architectural and historical elements and corners of the Kremlin.
The vast, unvisitable slice of the fortress reflects the stronghold in which Russian foreign policy is engendered, in which Putin and his subjects in the nation's government, including the Federal Security Service, devise the necessary measures, often Machiavellian, to perpetuate power. of the pseudo-elected leader.
Arrogance and Paranoia, Long-Time Residents of the Moscow Kremlin
In the Red Keep, paranoia, a longtime ally of despotism, has long kept company with Russian and Soviet leaders.
One of its first residents, Tsar Ivan Valievich, Ivan IV, saw in anyone who appeared before him a conspirator of his end.
Among members of the government, family and “friends”, he ordered the elimination of hundreds of Russians. He even put to death his own son, heir to the throne, whom he beat with an iron cane. Unsurprisingly, Ivan IV earned the nickname “the Terrible”.
In times of previous pandemics, including the no less terrible Spanish Flu, Lenine took refuge in the airtightness of the Kremlin where he equipped his rooms with a private disinfection chamber.
Stalin, his successor, took refuge in the Kremlin from countless assassination attempts, most of them imaginary. He began by forbidding his communist comrades from accessing the fortress.
From the Kremlin, he ended up exiling hundreds of them and thousands of Soviet citizens to the prisons and concentration camps of the growing “GULAG Archipelago”, as you called him Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The Continuation of Soviet-Russian History in the Hands of Vladimir Putin
All-powerful heir to the Kremlin, Putin also inherited the despotic methods and procedures of the Soviet tsars and dictators.
He unceremoniously dictated numerous imprisonments (for example of Alexei Navalny), the convictions of opponents to death, whether by shooting or through the famous chemical poisoned teas.
And the recent bloody invasion of Ukraine, from which even more catastrophic developments are to be expected.
From this despotic and despicable Soviet and Russian legacy and present, the centuries-old structures of the great Moscow fortress and Red Square continue to emerge, elegant and imposing.
At the opposite end of the Iberian Door and Chapel through which we are used to entering, the Cathedral of Saint Basil seems to hover.
It is, without question, one of the most stunning religious buildings in the world, with its domes in spirals of different colors, drawn like flames from a growing bonfire of faith.
About dusk, we crossed to the far bank of Moscow.
The distance reveals a panoramic kremlin, with its grand palace and cathedrals gilded by artificial light, reflected in the smooth waters of the river that a ferry full of amazed foreigners crosses.
These days, Putin's Russia has lost the charm that, despite everything, it still retained.