Monday, May. 11, 2009

Red Square

For this feature on the Russian capital, TIME asked photographer Yuri Kozyrev, a Moscow native, how to see beyond the city's mysterious veil. He found these two young women goofing around on the historic parade ground in the center of Moscow. He initially took them to be tourists, but they turned out to be a pair of locals out for a good time. Red Square is a never-ending source of great photography. It is centrally located, offers spectacular backdrops in every direction and acts as a magnet for all manner of people.

Novodevichy Monastery

The massive influx of cash and people into Moscow in recent years, Kozyrev says, makes it a hard place to find peace and quiet. Tourists can, however, get a feel for what the city felt like 100 years ago at this ancient cloister, which stands today much as it did in the 17th century. In order to let in enough light to get detail in the faces of these tourists strolling on the grounds outside the monastery walls, Kozyrev had to open his aperture all the way, sacrificing some detail in the sky.

Manezh Square, Hotel Moskva

For a negotiated price (Kozyrev recommends 300 rubles, about $12), a tourist can have his photo taken with a living replica of Stalin in front of the iconic hotel adjacent to the Kremlin. Kozyrev feasted on the parade of people who posed with Old Joe and his heir, Leonid Brezhnev.

Manezh Square, Historical Museum

Brezhnev and Stalin are not the only characters available for posing on the square. Look-alikes of Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Lenin are also prowling about, looking for customers. But Kozyrev says that of all the leaders, Stalin does the best business. Here, a Lenin imitator stands in front of a building that houses a rich collection of Russian art and artifacts.

Sparrow Hills

For a spectacular view of the city at any time of day, Kozyrev recommends a visit to this bluff, which overlooks the Moscow River, gigantic Luzhniki Stadium and the rest of the patchwork Moscow skyline. On the day of his assignment, the sky was gray, but Kozyrev found a splash of color in this line of nesting dolls for sale on the promenade.

Bridge of Kisses

It is a Russian tradition that newly married couples kiss on a bridge on their wedding day. Because Moscow's day-to-day bridges are clogged with traffic and garbage, the city built this romantic pedestrian crossing over the Moscow River (the access point is at the Prechistinskaya Embankment) so couples could smooch in peace. A tree of locks has been "planted" here so that newlyweds may fasten a lock inscribed with their vows.

Lenin's Tomb

Absolutely free, the mausoleum housing the body of the founder of the Soviet state is one of the best bargains in all of travel. It is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Be prepared to wait in line. Though it no longer holds the great symbolic value it once did, the tomb is still treated with a high degree of respect. Photography in the vicinity is fine if you're using amateur equipment, but if you have a lens longer than 77 mm mounted on your camera (absurd as it may sound, this exact size is specified in the letter of the law), you will be subject to fees and perhaps even harassment by uniformed or, in Kozyrev's case, plainclothes officials.

Square of the Revolution Subway Station

The Moscow subway system is one of the most efficient transit systems in the world. It is also one of the most beautiful. Many of the stations in the heart of the city are decorated with mosaics, crystal chandeliers, stained glass and bronze statues, including this commemorative piece (part of a set of more than a dozen) of a dog and its heroic communist handler. Kozyrev says many passengers have rubbed the dog's nose for good luck, giving the snout an unusual coloration. Kozyrev set his camera to 1/25th of a second and hand-held it, giving the train just enough blur to create a sense of locomotion, without losing the detail of the passengers inside.


The State Department Store, known famously by its Russian acronym GUM (pronounced "goom"), houses some of Moscow's most prestigious businesses, like Moschino, Hugo Boss and Kenzo. Tycoon Mikhail Kusnirovich added Gastronom No. 1, a gourmet store with a twist. In addition to caviar, pâté and exclusive vodkas, the store offers classic Soviet "comfort food" like condensed milk, blini and sukhariki, a slightly sweet, doughnut-shaped cookie.

Novy Arbat

The explosion of economic growth in Russia has given rise to a vast advertising industry. At night, many of the city's commercial thoroughfares are awash in neon, in displays that sometimes rival what one finds in Las Vegas. Korona, the casino pictured here, is part of the complex that lines the New Arbat, which was once regarded as a paradigm of Soviet urban planning but is now a gaudy strip of restaurants, casinos and department stores.