Is Moscow an ideal city? Please, do not scream “No” all at once. The question is of course rhetorical. Why am I asking? Because this month PASSPORT is about all types of idealism – artistic, social and commercial.
In our review of the exhibition Russia-Italy. Italy-Russia at the Pushkin Museum, our reviewer looks in detail at a late-fifteenth century Italian painting, An Ideal City, attributed to Luciano Laurana. Our critic makes the good point that even if Moscow doesn’t everywhere measure up to what the perfect metropolis should be, there are still areas of it, which do.
Yet these old elegant areas could be disappearing very soon. Our Investigation this month looks at the very disturbing demolition of apartment buildings in central Moscow. How apposite given the exhibition at the Pushkin, with its architectural drawings from the eighteenth-century right up to the 1960s, showing how Russian town planners for centuries kept the classical ideal alive in their work.
I think that many of us come here with an ideal of Russia in our minds; perhaps it is an ideal that we have acquired reading too many books, or perhaps we have a family connection. Dinner with the Editor this month is with Elsa Anikinow, the owner of Publika Project. Elsa is a successful businesswoman, and is also of Russian descent. Elsa came to Moscow both to make money and to return to her roots. One might call it commercial idealism.
Still, it is not only foreigners who believe in this ideal. In our interview with Nikita Mikhalkov — for many foreigners he is the ‘face’ of Russian cinema — it is clear that his decision to take the part of Prince Pozharsky in the new film The State Counsellor was determined in part because of the way in which nineteenth-century Russia is portrayed as a strong and influential nation.
In an ideal world there is a place for both the old and the new Russia. I hope that we can make it a real world.