Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Moscow and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

Ironiya Sudby ili s Legkim Parom (Irony of Fate) (1975)
After a blowout New Year’s party in Moscow, the protagonist unknowingly wakes up in Leningrad. He finds himself in an apartment that looks exactly like his own, though he is in a different city. Watching the comedy is an annual New Year’s tradition.

Malenkaya Vera (Little Vera) (1988)
A rebellious teenager clashes with her drunken father and over-worked mother in glasnost-era Russia. This groundbreaking film caused a sensation with its cynical view of Soviet family life and its explicit sex scenes.

Moskva Slezam Ne Verit (Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears) (1979)
Three girls come from the provinces to the capital to get an education in life and men. The coming-of-age film follows them through adulthood, demonstrating the trials and triumphs of Soviet womanhood. Winner of the 1980 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Nochnoy Dozor (Night Watch) (2004)
The first in a trilogy directed by Timur Bekmambetov. The glossy, sci-fi fantasy thrillers pit The Light against The Dark in modern-day Moscow. Followed by Day Watch (2006) and Twilight Watch (2009).

Statsky Sovetnik (The State Counsellor) (2005)
Erast Fandorin (played by heart-throb Oleg Menshikov) is a detective in 19th-century Moscow. This blockbuster was based on a thriller by best-selling novelist Boris Akunin. Nikita Mikhalkov directs and co-stars.

Books

The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
The Devil turns up in Moscow to cause all manner of anarchy and make fools of the powers-that-be. This darkly comic novel is the most telling fiction to come out of the Soviet Union.

Moscow To the End of the Line, by Venedikt Erofeev (1970)
Recounts a drunken man’s train trip to visit his lover and child on the outskirts of the capital. As the journey progresses, the tale becomes darker and more hallucinogenic.

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy (1877)
Written by Russia’s most celebrated novelist, Leo Tolstoy, the tome recounts the tragedy of a woman who violates the rigid sexual code of her time. Takes place partly in 19th-century Moscow.

Children of the Arbat, by Anatoli Rybakov (1987)
Anatoli Rybakov is the pseudonym of A.N. Aronov (1911-1998), a Russian intellectual who was sent into exile in the 1930s. This semi-autobiographical novel paints a vivid portrait of Russia on the eve of the Great Purges.

On the Golden Porch, by Tatyana Tolstaya (1990)
Written by a distant descendent of Leo Tolstoy, this collection of short stories focuses on the mundane and tedious lives of ordinary—however eccentric—characters in 1990s Moscow.

Music

Compilations:

200 km/H in the Wrong Lane, t.a.T.u.
The English-language debut of the sexy pseudo-lesbian duo t.a.T.u. earned the Moscow natives the devotion of sugar-sweet pop-lovers around the world.

Best of Alla Pugacheva, Alla Pugacheva
Often compared to Barbara Streisand, this best-selling diva has seduced several generations with her heart-wrenching ballads.

The Best of the Red Army Choir, Red Army Choir
The two-disc album uses classic folk songs and a few Soviet gems to show off the impressive vocals of Russia’s celebrated choral group.

Eto Bylo Tak Davno (That Was So Long Ago), Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine)
This recording by Moscow musicians Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine) made the legendary group the tsars of “russky rock,” a reign that endured throughout the 1990s.

Horowitz in Moscow, Vladimir Horowitz
Both emotionally moving and musically magnificent, this live recording showcases the performance of world-renowned pianist Vladimir Horowitz when he returned to his homeland after many years away.

Le Monument, Vladimir Vissotski
As much poet as musician, Vladimir Vysotsky was the best of the bards who played on the streets of Moscow in the 1960s.

Mergers & Acquisitions, Mumiy Troll
The insightful Ilya Lagutenko leads Moscow band Mumiy Troll in this 2005 album, providing sharp commentary and social criticism.

Moscow, Valery Kipelov
The live album of heavy metal rocker Valery Kipelov, who once fronted the group Aria, known as the “Russian Iron Maiden.”

Peter & the Wolf, Sergei Prokofiev
Each character in this children’s classic is represented by a particular instrument and musical theme. Sergei Prokofiev wrote the masterpiece in 1936, after he returned to Moscow to live out his final years.

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Tchaikovsky’s most celebrated ballet premiered at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre in 1877, starring ballerina Pelagia Karpakova. This interpretation by the Philadelphia Orchestra is considered one the best audio versions of the classic.

Classic Songs

From classical composers to russky rockers, Moscow has long been a source of inspiration for music-makers:

1. “Back in the USSR” by The Beatles
2. “Moskau” by Genghis Khan
3. “Stranger in Moscow” by Michael Jackson
4. “Moscow Nights” by Red Army Choir
5. “All-Night Vigil” by Sergei Rachmaninoff
6. “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
7. “Moskow Diskow” by Telex
8. “1812 Overture” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
9. “Kremlin Dusk” by Utada
10. “Moscow” by Wonderland

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