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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Western Media Picked 850th to Rain on Parade

Officially, everyone was happy with the way Moscow celebrated its 850th anniversary. Most Moscow newspapers raved about them. The government news agency Itar-Tass, in its summary of foreign press coverage, cited only positive reports.


Yet some stories in the English-language press -- not mentioned in the Itar-Tass roundup, of course -- allowed themselves plenty of sarcasm when talking of the festivities.


"In a gathering of talent never before seen in Moscow -- in Russia even Samantha Fox and Boney M are a big draw -- Luciano Pavarotti will sing in Red Square and Jean-Michel Jarre will light up Moscow State University," writes Alan Philps of the Daily Telegraph.


"Since the fall of communism the city has been reborn. ... There are even signs of the birth of a Muscovite middle class that does not carry guns. All this is down to Mr. Luzhkov, a bouncing ball of energy who defies the traditional image of the Russian male, sunk in soul-searching lethargy."


Moscow comes off as a grimy, provincial communist town that is too backward for its holiday face-lift.


Perhaps some of the irony is directed not at the 850th anniversary celebrations but at Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who is not well liked by much of the Western press. He rarely speaks to them and he espouses hardline nationalist views on Belarus and Crimea.


But from a Russian point of view, Western coverage of the 850th sometimes appeared to be a little too colored by a dislike of the mayor.


"Neither snow nor rain, neither good taste nor individual freedom, were allowed to intrude Friday on the start of an 850th birthday bash for this dolled-up capital whipped into a festive frenzy for a few thousand high-rolling guests," writes Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times.


"With the major events staged for VIPs only, the toiling masses got the message early and mostly fled to the countryside to escape citywide traffic tie-ups and frequent document checks."


With no disrespect to one of the United States' most influential newspapers, this version does not fit in with the record-breaking and boisterous crowds in the city center and at the Jean-Michel Jarre outdoor show.


I am one of the approximately 10 percent of Muscovites who did not vote for Luzhkov in the mayoral election. I was glad I did not when I learned what he did to the homeless during the holidays. But the 850th was not just about him, and it's been a long time since I saw so many people having such a party in my city. Western reporters were invited, too. I think it is a pity that some of them turned down the invitation.