Days 7 and 8: Moscow’s 872nd Birthday Party

If you’re following my Instagram account (phileasfiona) you’ll know that, so far, I update it daily with what I’ve been up to.

There has been so much to see and do so far that I haven’t been able to keep this blog accurately up to date. I also get distracted and enthused by writing about different topics.

It does mean that this gets the posts out of chronological order, but then again, this isn’t a calendar.

The day after I arrived in Moscow, I discovered that I had stumbled into a festival celebrating the 872nd anniversary of the founding of Moscow.

Red Square was full of scaffolding for stadium seating for Saturday night performances – ruining once in a lifetime iconic shots of the centre of Moscow for everyone. How thoughtless.

Part of the assembly crew or part of the performance?

The city centre ring road and several of the main arterial routes were closed to traffic, pedestrianised and filled with stages and activity areas for people to enjoy. How selfish.

The road and square by the Bolshoi Theatre closed for dancing.

The major parks and monument sites – VDNKh, Gorky Park, Victory Park, Zaryadye Park and Christ the Saviour Cathedral to name but a few – were all hosting free concerts (rock, pop, classical, hip hop, opera, etc). How terrible.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture/William Tell Overture performed in front of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

And these were all free to attend.

There were thousands, if not a couple of million people enjoying these events.

Each year, there is a different theme for the celebration and for 2019 the event focused on the VDNKh, Moscow’s exposition site. This year is its 80th anniversary, so Moscow’s City Day celebrations kicked off there.

The massive entrance to VDNKh

Finding this out, after the weekend, explained why the streets were filled with smaller versions of the VDNKh monuments.

Does this look familiar?

The VDNKh park has had a long history as one of Moscow’s main exhibition spaces. It opened in 1939 and was first known as the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition before it was renamed in 1959 as the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy, or Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva. 

VDNKh is home to a number of Russian treasures such as the Space Pavilion, the Nuclear Power Pavilion, fountains, aquariums, the biggest skating rink in Russia and more. To mark its 80th birthday this year, the massive complex was revamped and renovated. 

The Space Pavilion

The pavilions, or temples, as I found myself describing them, surround the park’s central fountains and gardens. Originally, each one was dedicated to a different republic in the Soviet Union.

What is now called the Armenian pavilion was originally a celebration of Siberia.

Over time, the displays were changed to focus on more industrial and scientific exhibits.

When I visited in 2011, the site was looking a little tired and run down. It has been restored in preparation for this year’s celebration and it looks amazing.

The Kazakh pavilion has been restored to its former glory.

I felt a little overwhelmed to see it all looking as it should.

The festival had a happy, laid back atmosphere and there was so much for kids to do. They were clearly having a great time on the rock climbing, the play area, the gymnasium, the scooter stunt court and dancing with the performers.

Cosmonauts and kids.
Mini Sealife Centre

Superb weekend though I can only wonder, if thinks what happens when the city turns 872… what does Moscow do for a big birthday?

*Featured photo – the central fountain at VDNKh.

Categories: Festivals, Russia, TravelTags: , , , , , ,
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