Magazine article World Literature Today

CITY PROFILE: Moscow

Magazine article World Literature Today

CITY PROFILE: Moscow

Article excerpt

and by a stanza / a city is blown to bits

- Vladimir Mayakovsky

MASSIVE STALINIST SKYSCRAPERS frame the skyline of Moscow, the overlooked cultural capital of Russia. Although the city is usually associated with politics and business, this vibrant metropolis has an international literary culture all its own.

Established in the twelfth century, Moscow has been the backdrop for power struggles from Mongol invasions to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The city's literature, just like the monuments that dot its streets, reflects this turbulent history. The Central House of Writers inspired aristocratic mansions in War and Peace as well as scathing satire from Mikhail Bulgakov after it was made the headquarters of the Union of Soviet Writers. The building still houses a famous literary restaurant that is open to the public, as is Café Pushkin, located next to a square named after Russia's most beloved poet.

Squares, statues, and metro stations dedicated to other writers crowd the city. Fyodor Dostoevsky sits in his distinctive hunched pose in front of the Russian State Library, whose collections include documents in 247 languages and are open to residents and visitors alike. An imposing statue of Vladimir Mayakovsky looms over a square where radical poets met in the 1960s for public readings. The nearby metro station is also named after the futurist poet, who was buried in Novodevichy Cemetery after his 1930 suicide. Joseph Stalin wrote after his death that "indifference to his memory and works is a crime. …

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