Tsaritsino? or Tsaritsi-yes?
New Year greetings from our snowy winter quarters in southern Moscow. We are holed up here until the weather affords us sunnier possibilities.
We walked through the park at Tsaritsino last night – it was wonderful to be able to wander around after dark in a well-lit, unthreatening environment. In the current difficult economic period, Russia can look back on the achievements of the last decade and a half and be proud that at least some of the money made actually stayed in the country and was used for the good of the people.
When Rudi Giuliani became Mayor of New York in 1994 he instigated the ‘broken windows‘ policy to tackle the city’s crime problem. It meant dealing with the visible results of crime, accident and neglect. It meant cleaning up graffiti as soon as it appeared, making sure underground subways were well-lit and clean, repairing broken windows straight away and yes – ensuring the parks and open spaces were free of litter, regularly mown, and accessible for all citizens at all times of day.
Those measures led to the local people living in surroundings which showed that the authorities – local or federal – did care about the issues that trouble normal citizens – violent crime, robbery, drug-dealing and alcoholism. They engendered feelings of civic pride and commonality of ownership of public areas.
In the same way, the park and palace at Tsaritsino are a symbol of the resurgence of a safer and better Moscow. The re-building of the palace and the re-generation of its gardens and great park started in 2005 after more than 200 years of neglect.
Those who criticise the restoration work from an architectural point of view fail to understand the wider social context which demanded the work be completed to fit the needs of the majority of the local people, not to fulfil the demands of some narrow-minded and doubtfully worthwhile aesthetes. The renewal of Tsaritsino in Moscow is not an isolated case.
Moscow might be in for a fairly rough 2015, but the city and the country are more than strong and safe enough to avoid both major political and social problems. If we look at most of the QED collection from the 1920s and 1930s, things were immeasurably worse. However, Russia pulled through.
It always does – even with oil at $50 / barrel.