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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Capital Celebrates in Cyberspace

Publicity for Moscow's imminent 850th birthday celebration seems to have permeated every nook and cranny of this city and our collective consciousness, from shop windows and city buses to mass media outlets.


Ironically, despite the hype, nobody really knows how long Moscow has been around. The year 1147 simply emerged as the date of the first written mention of Moscow, the place where Yury Dolgoruky, that ubiquitous knight on horseback, held a riverside celebration feast in honor of his ally Svyatoslav Olgovich.


Just as written records offer proof of existence for historians of our time, perhaps several centuries from now future scholars will cite presence in cyberspace as a key benchmark. I have a web site, therefore I am. Will anybody bother to recall unplugged history? Moscow, taking no chances that its pre-digital era will fade from memory, is staking ground for its birthday on the Internet at http://www.moscow-850.ru.


By understanding its lofty mission for posterity, you can more easily forgive the site's rather dry and official content. I found it difficult to stay awake through the status updates from committees responsible for various aspects of preparation for the big week, although the reported total contributions to the fund to restore Christ the Savior Cathedral fascinated me: 1,003,249,345,673 rubles.


A display of official birthday logos warrants somewhat greater interest, while the schedule of events (Russian-language only) should prove the most useful element. An award for randomness goes to a short article praising Detsky Panadol (the drug, not the rock band), which a number of Moscow children's clinics received in large quantities in some way tied to the upcoming festivities.


You can find an even more detailed festival program in Russian at http://www.moscow-media.ru/calend/ ind_aug.htm and a somewhat abridged English-language schedule of events at several other locations including http://www.moscow-media.ru/progr/eindex.htm and http://www.russiatravel.com/moscow_850.htm. GlasNet has even mounted a grassroots alternative to the official site, at http://www.moscow850.ru, which features an interesting Moscow historical chronology and an open invitation to contribute additional material and links related to the city.


You might want to check the weather before you venture outside to any of the events at http://meteo.infospace.ru. On the other hand, if you believe the news reports about Russia's military cloud-seeding technology, it's unlikely that we should expect anything other than blue skies.


Quite aside from the anniversary events themselves, Moscow information abounds on the Internet. The popular Internet search engine Yahoo! lists 317 web sites related to Moscow, which is behind 4,215 references to New York and 1,963 for Paris, but well ahead of Kiev (80 references) to say nothing of Tirana, Albania (3) or Tashkent, Uzbekistan (1).


Breaking the mold of boring government web sites in Russia, the Moscow Mayor's Office at http://www.mos.ru deserves a close look by Moscowphiles and Yury Luzhkov partisans. Always in the vanguard, the Mayor's Office is already looking beyond the city anniversary events to a big, important gathering Sept. 11 to 14: the Fourth International Festival of Hairdressing Arts. Statistics-mongers will love the extensive "Moscow in Numbers" section, where I learned that Moscow owns 5,533 buses, produces 5,000 tons of garbage per day, and transports 3.2 billion people per year on the metro.


The mayor's own home page, on the same site, sports some classy portraits as well as a collection of his pithiest pronouncements, such as "Free cheese is only found in mousetraps."


Moscow visitors and residents alike can find something useful in the city's official tourism guide at http://www.moscow-guide.ru. If you ignore the error messages induced by multimedia effects that won't work unless your browser is equipped with numerous plug-in modules, you will find a wealth of information on hotels, visa rules and a surprisingly extensive and complete list of restaurants.


Two of the best sources for Moscow entertainment and nightlife are http://www.observer.ru and http://www.weekend.ru, while the Russian Museum Server (http://www.museum.ru) has emerged from remont with even better-organized encyclopedic information about various expositions and venues around the city.


As a web genre, "city guides" have become hot properties in the biggest U.S. markets. Since people spend most of their lives within 20 minutes of home, investors are betting that local information on the Internet will provide some of the best returns for online advertising dollars.


National companies such as CitySearch (http://www.citysearch.com) and Microsoft's Sidewalk venture (http://www.sidewalk.com) are creating guides to multiple metropolitan areas and competing head-to-head with local newspapers' online services, such as the Boston Globe's (http://www.boston.com).


Here in Russia, particularly outside Moscow, the race to "sell" cities online is only beginning, but it is gaining velocity from European Russia to Siberia and the Far East, as you can see in "Welcome to Petersburg" (http://www.spb.ru), "Ekaterinburg On-Line" (http://www.ekaterinburg.com) and the "Khabarovsk Home Page" (http://www.khv.ru).





Bill Fick welcomes any tips on interesting web sites or questions concerning the Internet for response in future editions of this column. Fick is co-founder of Samovar Internet Consulting, LLC. Web: http://www.samovar.ru e-mail: bill@samovar.ru fax: 233-2261Bill Fick