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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayor Sheds Light on Architecture and Crime

Now there are only six hours of daylight in Moscow. The other 18 hours are dark. Many courtyards look so scary that it is better not to enter them. If you don't break your leg, you risk getting robbed, or worse. Who in such circumstances wouldn't curse the Moscow authorities.

But they are in fact trying to break out from the kingdom of darkness.

Kings and queens don't often come to Moscow, but they do appear here at times. The English Queen Elizabeth, who first came to Moscow at the end of 1994, could not resist the pleasure of looking around at the beautiful sights of Russian antiquity. And as soon as the prominent guest, accompanied by the mayor and his retinue, set out for a walk to get acquainted with the city, the streetlights in the central downtown area went out. Mosgorsvet, the Moscow City Lighting Authority, was working according to its regular schedule. No international scandals ensued. The queen even gave the mayor some consoling words. But the mayor did not forget his embarrassment.

From that day on, Yury Luzhkov paid particular attention to the Svetservis company -- Mosgorsvet's only competitor. In 1994, Svetservis was called on to set up a system of artistic lighting of buildings and architectural monuments. Spotlights soon began to highlight many beautiful elements of buildings in such a way that they were no longer recognizable.

Today, there are many such buildings in Moscow. Structures such as the Triumphal Arch, the main monasteries, most churches, the memorial complex at Poklonnaya Gora, nine bridges and all the train stations, the tall buildings and Ostankino tower all look new at night.

On Svetservis' initiative, special lamps were put in courtyards, entryways and on streets of 22 houses in the southern district of Moscow. The results were astonishing. Neither the police, nor Interior Ministry raids were able to rid this part of Moscow of its criminal element. But the simple abundance of light has bloodlessly and silently practically solved the problem.

It seems that more light could be the solution to four problems at once: accidents, crime, the psychological climate of Moscow, and embellishing the city.

Izvestia, Jan. 9.

Prison Discipline

Of Jacques Rossi's 87 years, 13 were spent in the Soviet gulag and in exile. In 1937, this French Comintern official was imprisoned in Butyrka. Then he was transferred to Norilsk. After 11 years he was sent to Alexandrovsk and then to Vladimirsk. In the fall of 1956, they came to him and said, "You're free. Where would you like to live?" "In Paris," he answered. They pointed their fingers to their foreheads and made a twirling motion. Then they proposed other cities he had never heard of. Jacques recalled the city of Samarkand with difficulty. ("Oh, Samarkand! The excellent knight Tamerlane was there.") That's where he was sent. In 1966, he managed to leave for Poland, where he taught the history of French civilization in Warsaw. In 1980, Jacques moved to America. And only in 1985, after almost 50 years, did Jacques Rossi return to his native Paris. [Here are some of his reflections on his experience in prison:]

Do you know what prison is? Prison is a very big democracy. All differences disappear, everyone is equal. The difference is only between those who sit on one side and those who sit on the other. Therefore, prison was an ideal model for the Soviet system. I was glad when they arrested me in Moscow in 1937. I thought, now everything will be explained. I spent almost two years in Butyrka. It was hard. The rooms were former sleeping quarters for Catherine's troops. These were small rooms -- about 11 by 5 1/2 meters -- that were intended for 25 hussars and we were sometimes 120 men.

They didn't succeed in destroying me. You know, I was rather disciplined. Discipline is very important when you're in a difficult position. There is a very wise saying by Dante which roughly translated means: Don't torture yourself over memories of happiness. This is very popular among Russian people. They muster up all their internal strength to bring back memories: "Oh how good it was when my wife made pirozhki on that day." Of course it was easier for me than others, since I had no family. I was put away right before my wedding. But I knew how to sit it out. In general, you know, it's necessary to learn how to sit it out if you live in Russia.

Argumenty i Fakty, Jan 1997, No. 1-2.

Hazardous Road

The French daily Le Monde is well known for its respectability. And journalists who work in the Moscow bureau of Le Monde are by tradition experienced and are not bad at understanding Russia's intricate problems.

Therefore our attention was drawn to an article on the Moscow gaishniki, traffic police. Le Monde correspondent Marie J?go tells about the extortion of owners of foreign cars. The numbers on their license plates are distinguished from ours by their visible, yellow color.

The author argues that one out of every three such automobiles that the protectors of order on the road see are automatically stopped. The pretext is simple: They are taken in for "expert advice" at the nearest police department.

Then the explanations begin. The passengers become nervous, say they're in a hurry, that they're on their way home and can't be late for their plane. The police then take mercy on them and propose a deal: For $200 they can go.

We called Le Monde to confirm the story. J?go was still on vacation in her homeland, but her colleague, Jean-Baptiste Mode told us how he swallowed the same bait at the end of last year when he was returning to Moscow from France with his child and 150 kilos of luggage. Monsieur Mode had to pay the very same sum of $200.

The deputy director of the Sheremetyevo GAI office, Anatoly Gorovtsov, told us: "Nothing of the kind happened." This is natural. So we asked that our call be taken as a signal. To be honest, icy conditions are not the only danger on the road. Those who drive will understand.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Jan. 9.

Christmas Chimes

For the first time since 1917, the famous Kremlin chimes at the Spasskaya Tower rang out on Christmas eve. This became possible thanks to the recently restored musical mechanism of Russia's main clock. (The first time the chimes played melodies was on the day of the inauguration of the Russian president.)

The Kremlin told us that three sets of bells were used to play the Christmas melody. The quality of the sound of the musical mechanism, as befits such a grand clock, was exceptional.

Top specialists took part in its restoration, including bell-ringers from the Danilov monastery. The bells themselves were cast by the most experienced Muscovite masters, who used old sketches and descriptions of the original bells. (The Kremlin turned down a donation from a West European country of a set of bells: The quality of the foreign bells was low and would not withstand the strict demands that would be made on them.)

From now on, the chimes of Spasskaya Tower will ring out with the sounds of Christmas every year.

Moskovsky Komsomolets, Jan. 9.