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RIVER CRUISING


Anna Selby discovers a historic voyage along the Volga from Moscow to St Petersburg


Russian Evolution T


here are only a few buildings in the world that are truly iconic. Everyone knows their names and what they represent. One of these is surely the Kremlin.


For decades, the powerhouse of a communist regime that suppressed, among other things, religion, it comes as something of a surprise to discover it is not just one building but many. And most of them are churches. It is a fitting introduction to the enigma that is Russia. In fact, most Russian cities have a Kremlin – the fortress that was generally the earliest stage of a town. In Moscow’s case it covers 70 acres and, besides the churches, there are parks, museums and palaces that are now government buildings. Its walls form the backdrop to Red Square with St


Basil’s Cathedral (more accurately, the Cathedral of the Intercession) on the other side, a confection that is simultaneously magnificent and childlike, a kind of baroque gilded gingerbread. Russian Orthodox churches are enjoying a renaissance, many being restored to their former glory – replete with icons, gilt and murals that cover


walls and ceilings. At the other end of Red Square, in the tiny Church of Kazan, I found worshippers fervently kissing icons and a father teaching his young son how to genuflect. Eighty years of outlawing religion have seemingly vanished overnight. As have the rigours and drabness of the Soviet


era – at least for the privileged few. The great emporium GUM (pronounced ‘goom’) also stands in Red Square, an extravagant mall filled with the likes of De Beers, Cartier, YSL and Dior. Plus ca change – conspicuous consumerism nowadays bring practised by the new oligarchs rather than the Tsars. Russia has left its Soviet period far behind and what might be called the “real Russia,” dormant for 80 years, is staging a re-appearance. But, after three hectic days in Moscow,


Uniworld’s River Victoria left the capital and headed  Winter 2011-12 I WORLD OF CRUISING 63


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