At the Kremlin Gates
A Historical Portrait of Moscow
Gerald R. Skinner
published 2011 • 6 1/4” x 9” • 288 pages • b&w illus.
ISBN 9781904955818 • paperback • $20.00 •
By tradition, Moscow is the easternmost bastion of western civilization. Moscow has stood against invasion and war, pestilence and fire. It has been rejected by its own rulers, and its destruction has been planned by its dreamers and invaders alike. Yet it has survived.
How this happened is the story of historical accident, the vagaries of geography and economics—and upon occasion, sheer human will and faith. Moscow is also the object of stereotype, from barbaric oriental capital to Holy city on the Hill. In its secular and religious manifestations it has been the goal of pilgrimage and a city of transcendent aspiration. In the twentieth century it was the headquarters of a class-based pogrom of appalling dimensions even as it was proclaimed the capital of global revolution.
If Moscow has endured catastrophes barely imagined, it has also been the scene of creative brilliance. It holds a deep contradiction as being both the pilot-boat to hell, and a celestial city of the future. Moscow has bemused visitors, and even the most perceptive of them have fallen victim to their own preconceptions.
This is a portrait of Moscow through time. It has one constant, the Kremlin, at once the supreme metaphor of state power but also a symbol of Russian national identity. The tension between Moscow as an urban community and the Moscow of empire and belief is fundamental to the city’s narrative. Above it all stands the Kremlin, Moscow’s arbiter of history. This is also a historical case study of the growth, development and near-death experiences of a single city to become a living monument to its own survival. It will be of interest to travellers, Urbanists and historians alike.
Gerald R. Skinner is a Canadian diplomat who has lived and worked in Moscow. In the 1960s he undertook graduate studies at Moscow state university, and was on assignment in Moscow during the August 1991 coup attempt and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. He retired with the rank of Ambassador. He is now a tutor at the University of Oxford.
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