Inside the Kremlin walls

Moscow: Monday 20 May

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We spent the morning walking around the Kremlin, and going inside the Dormition cathedral and the Archangel cathedral. I have been there several times before, but always enjoy the experience.

This time it struck me how comparatively uncrowded it was there. In the 1980s there used to be enormous queues to get into the cathedrals.  Sometimes foreigners were encouraged by generous Soviet citizens to go to the front of the queue, but this made others very cross – not unreasonably, in my view. This also happened in the queue for entering Lenin’s mausoleum, when the line would stretch through Red Square and down the side of the History Museum.

What’s happened to the crowds? There are still plenty of foreign tourists, so perhaps it is Russians who are not choosing to queue up to explore their heritage in the same numbers as in the old days of the Soviet Union. I remember thinking then that many of those taking photographs of each other around Red Square and the Kremlin were probably from other Soviet republics, such as those in central Asia – Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan etc. Perhaps they’d earned a trip to the capital paid for by the Party, as a result of high productivity at work or equivalent good Communist behaviour. Now those republics are independent states and bear no allegiance to Moscow. Perhaps their older generations maintain a nostalgic interest in the former Motherland, but from afar. You see young men from some of the former Soviet republics hanging about in groups along the highways heading out of Moscow, hoping to be picked up for casual work on building sites. But I doubt there are many tourists coming to Russia from those places now.

And as for Russians – there are so many more things for them to do now than to go sightseeing in Moscow, such as drink coffee in Starbucks, go window-shopping (or shopping) for Prada or Louis Vuitton in GUM, or indeed travel abroad and go sightseeing somewhere more exotic.

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Facade of the Dormition Cathedral

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