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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

What Next? Santa on the Mausoleum?

Mayor Yury Luzhkov is determined that we all have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. In fact he is so adamant that everyone enjoy the festive season that he has issued a decree to enforce it.


City officials have been ordered to see to it that all shops in the capital are decorated to provide Moscow with a seasonal manifestation of good cheer. Any premises found to be short of the requisite garlands, baubles, tinsel, colored lights and plastic figures of Ded Moroz could face a hefty fine. The patrols have already hit the streets.


And anyone thinking of dieting or staying sober over the holiday had better forget it. Factories have been ordered to step up production of champagne and chocolates. So gorge yourselves: It is your civic duty.


Doubtless Luzhkov means well. It is not unreasonable to call for a little brightening of Moscow's streets, or to take steps to ensure that shops are well stocked. After all, this is the one time of year when almost everyone feels they can afford a little luxury. And with commercial instincts at state enterprises not perhaps quite as well honed as they might be, a nudge from the mayor's office is not really such a bad idea.


But there is nonetheless something discomfiting about introducing coercion into festivities. Maybe it is just that spontaneity is simply not Luzhkov's strong suit. Or perhaps a lifetime of choreographed May Days and Great October Revolution anniversary parades has left a mark too deeply ingrained to be wiped away.


Whatever the reason, someone should explain to the mayor that most people enjoy themselves a great deal more if they are left alone to do it the way they want to. Plenty of shops put up their Christmas and New Year's decorations without any urging from City Hall; they make money that way. And those that prefer may not respond favorably to demands from city bureaucrats that they demonstrate seasonal cheer.


From a Western point of view, there is another issue here. Even those who spent their time griping endlessly about the deprivations of life in Russia were in the past forced to admit that a great plus about the country at this time of year was that it provided an escape from the relentless commercial promotion of Christmas from early November onward.


For weeks on end, the inhabitants of Western Europe and North America are hounded by ruddy-faced Santas, scratched by holly, battered by Christmas trees and deafened by electronic sleigh bells and carols.


Perhaps that is really what Luzhkov is after. In which case, where will it all end? "Jingle Bells" piped over loudspeakers on Tverskaya? Santa's sleigh on the mausoleum?