There is surprising a lot to do in Moscow. Friday is the big party night but things are also hopping the rest of the week. Tickets to see world-class orchestras can cost as little as a few dollars. The only problem is that entertainment calendar is less full during the summer holiday season.

For entertainment news, check out the weekly entertainment supplements of English-language newspapers. They often have good listings of events, movies, restaurants, pop music and clubs as well as travel and entertainment features. Many of these can be picked up free at hotels. Also check out Moscow-oriented websites such as moscovery.com and posters set up around town.

Moscow is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost cultural cities. It is home to over 200 theaters and 500 museums, and modern creative spaces such as the Vinzavor, the ARMA factory, and the ArtPlay design center, In addition to the famous Bolshoi Theater, with its large repertoire of Russian and internationally famous opera and ballet, other theaters and concert halls feature popular and classical plays, concerts, recitals, and all of the performing arts. Children’s theaters and puppet theaters and other performances geared especially to younger people are also available. The vibrancy, talent and number of production emerging from Moscow's small opera scene is perhaps equaled only in Berlin. The Russian circuses with their rich history are overwhelmingly popular with children and adults alike. There are a number of local baths. Some have unisex baths for families.

Moscow has many movie theaters and multiplex cinemas like any other big city. Several movie theaters show first-run, Western-made movies in English or dubbed in Russian. More than a dozen Soviet-era movie theaters have been renovated since 1999. Many of them show first-run Hollywood films. There are also Children's entertainment centers, a Dolphinarium, racecourses, amusement parks with rides, skating rinks and water parksObraztov Puppet Theater and the Gypsy Theater.

The number of nightclubs increased from 10 in 1994 to 300 in 1997, with maybe double that number today. There are hundreds of bars. These include jazz clubs, blues bars, rave clubs, techno clubs and gay bars. Exclusive clubs have US$10,000 membership fees and US$1,000 bottles of champagne. Some require you to check your weapons at the door. Moscow's 70 or so casinos are filled with gangsters, models and scantily clad women. Tolmachevsky Pereulok, across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, is one of the most European streets in Moscow. Along it are some classy bars and nightclubs. Moscow' four star hotels all fashionable clubs and bars. The one at the Metropole is said to be most elegant.

Afimoll Vity is a large shopping and entertainment center and is the central nucleus of the largest investment business project in Europe — the International Business Center "Moscow City". This is a unique project in Russia that combines innovative architectural solutions and multifunctional infrastructure. Here you can find not only extensive shopping, but 50 restaurants and cafes and numerous entertainment opportunities such as "Formula Kino", a multiplex cinema with theaters using 4D and 5D technology, and the first IMAX theater in central Moscow.


Restaurants in Moscow

In Moscow you can get Mexican, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Indian, American and Russian food. In the early 2000s, sushi bars became all the rage and they are still quite popular today. The principal hotels and restaurants offer American, European, Russian, and ethnic cuisine from the former Soviet Union. English/Russian menus are available at many. On the whole, dining out in Moscow is more expensive than in the West. Western chains such as McDonald's, TGI Fridays, Sbarro's, KFC, and Pizza Hut have a strong presence. There are several English-language publications for the foreign community that regularly print restaurant reviews and reliable guides to the better restaurants. Moscow also has 24-hour supermarkets.

There are lots if cheap restaurants around Bolshat Dmitrovka (formally Pushkinskaya ulitsa) in the Bolshoi Theater area. There are number of Western-style places around Tverskaya and Pushkin Square. Scattered are town are trucks or kiosk-like set ups that sells hot dogs, baked potatoes, pancakes and doner kebabs. Arbat Street is a lively pedestrian mall, filled with cafés and restaurants. Here can (or could) find Tex-Mex restaurants with jumbo marguerites, the Starlite Diner and TGI Friday's.

Restaurants are worth checking out for entertainment and atmosphere as much as food. Among those that have appeared in recent decades have been: Serena, a seafood restaurants with waiters in tsar-era sailor suits and huge sturgeon swimming in a tank below the diners feet; the Tsars Hall, where waiters dressed in powdered wigs and gold-embroidered coats; Roadside Café, a place with Ukrainian food in a contrived setting with live horses and chickens; and Tsars Hunt, a restaurants where couples spend US$250 for Bonfire-scent Leg of Game served by waiters in serf costumes in a hall filled with walrus skins and bear skin rugs.

Afimoll Vity is a large shopping and entertainment center and is the central nucleus of the largest investment business project in Europe — the International Business Center "Moscow City". This is a unique project in Russia that combines innovative architectural solutions and multifunctional infrastructure. Here you can find not only extensive shopping, but 50 restaurants and cafes and numerous entertainment opportunities such as "Formula Kino", a multiplex cinema with theaters using 4D and 5D technology, and the first IMAX theater in central Moscow.


Arbat (Inner Southwest, Arbatskaya Metro Station) is a lively 1½-kilometer-long, pedestrian-only street filled with cafés, fortunetellers, sushi bars and pubs that sell beer with a shot of vodka thrown in. The are also outdoor displays of works by local artists and craftsmen and shops selling dolls, amber jewelry, lacquer boxes, Soviet coins, flags, and McLenin T-shirts, with Lenin's profile in front of the golden arches.

Arbat has been center of youth culture and a kind of Muscovite version of Greenwich Village since the 1960s. There used to be lots of young people walking around and gathered in groups. It is a good place to check out Russian punks and heavy metal rockers as well as street musicians and performers. Sometimes there are dancing bears and camels, with which tourist can have their photograph taken. Arbat still attracts some young people but now is regarded as more of a tourist haven.

The buildings bristle with loggias, balconies and baroque adornments and touches of red, green and ocher. There are a variety of small attractions, including a wax museum with Soviet leaders, mansions, a home of a famous architect. At one end is the Foreign Affairs Ministry, one of the seven Stalinist buildings in Moscow.

Old Arbat is one of the oldest streets in Moscow. Every house has a unique own story. In the 18th century, nobles, including Golitsyn and Tolstoy families, lived on the Arbat,. In the 20th century, it was the home to poets such as Tsvetaeva, Balmont. Old Arbat runs from the Arbatskie Vorota Square to Smolenskaya Square. Many historical buildings have been restored. Some house shops, restaurants and cafes. There are many benches where you can relax, people watch and absorb the atmosphere. Among the places were checking out are the Praha restaurant, the Literary Mansion (formerly Parisien Cinema), the House of the Society of Russian Doctors, Perfume Museum, Illusion Museum, Museum of Corporal Punishment, the Vakhtangov Theater, the House with Knights (aka the House of the Actor), the Haunted House, the wall in memory of Viktor Tsoi, Bulat Okudzhava’s house, and apartment of the famed pet A.S. Pushkin.

In The Soviet era famous poets, writers, artists and other cultural figures used to gather at the Praha (Prague) restaurant, known before the revolution for it gorgeous kitchen and as a place that sold specialties that couldn’t be found anywhere in Moscow. In house No. 53 Pushkin celebrated his bachelor party before marrying Natalya Goncharova and spent his honeymoon there. The famous poets: Blok, Esenin and Okudzhava spent a lot of time in Arbat and Isadora Duncan did her incomparable dances here. People like to take photos at the monument to Bulat Okudzhava.

Kuznenetsky Most and Chistye Prudy

Kuznenetsky Most replaced Arbat as the hip, trendy place in Moscow in the mid 2000s. On it and the streets off of it are numerous restaurants, cafes, bars, bookstores, boutiques and places with trendy fashions. Many of the buildings are significant historically or architecturally. Among the main attractions rather short Kuznetsky Most Street: Passage Popov Trading house Khomyakov, Kuznetsk passage Solodovnikov Theater, Tretyakov apartment house, Manor Myasoedova, passage of San Galli, Tver town house, apartment house Prince Gagarin. Always former shopping and entertainment, is now Kuznetsky not ceased to be so. But the pedestrian street was relatively recently, in 2012. Now it often hosts various concerts and festivals.

Kuznetsky crosses Rozhdestvenka, too pedestrian, and one end rests on the Big Dmitrovka on which the traffic is also limited. Crossing Dmitrovka, Kuznetskii ceases to be a pedestrian, becoming Chamberlain lane and thus forming a pedestrian route several kilometers long.

Chistye Prudy (Clean Ponds) is a historic place with stores, restaurants and businesses. Long ago ago butchers from Myasnitskaya Street threw their wastes into a large stinking puddles (the source of the name ponds) that poisoned everything around it. According to to one story the Duke Dolgoruky killed a disobedient boyar Kuchka by drowning him in the foul water. In 1703, Menshikov Alexander, a minion of Peter the Great, bought a small house here and insited the area be cleaned up. The pond was cleaned (the source of the name Clean).

Circus in Moscow

Moscow has main two circuses: the "Old" (the Nikulin Moscow Circus) and the "New" (Moscow State Circus) plus a an even newer one launched in 2009. Each occupies its own building and hosts spectacular shows with animals, acrobats and clowns as well as scantily-clad dancers and pop music. The 3,400-seat New Circus (Outer South, Universiete Metro Station) has the better reputation of the two. The Old Circus (Inner North, Tsetnoy Bulvar Metro Station) is more accessible and performs in a 19th century building. Both host daily performances that begin around 7:00pm. Tickets are often only a few dollars.

Nikulin Moscow Circus (Tsvetnoy Boulevard) was launched at the end of the 19th century thanks to contributions a tradesman named Danilov, who believed a great circus should be housed in a single venue rather than travel from place to place. The circus director, Albert Salamonsky, loved the circus with all his soul and made it available for everybody and created a venue with expensive and comfortable boxes for aristocracy and rich merchant class and gallery where poorest people could watch the action. He also came up the idea of holding matinees, morning shows and special performances for children,. Great attention in the matinees was paid to clowns because clowns made children kids laugh. The circus’s traditional children’s Christmas show (later, in the Soviet Union, a New Year show) was a major event. [Source: Russian Tourism Official Website]

According to a special decree by Lenin the circus was nationalized in 1919 and was known at that time Salamonsky’s Circus . The Circus became state-owned but Salamosky’s traditions were saved and continued. A clown school was organized shortly after the end of World War II, in 1946. The famous clown and actor Yury Nikulin performed at the circus for many years and became its director in 1983. Among the other great clowns who performed at the circus were Yengibarov, Karandash (Pencil in English) and perhaps the world;s most famous clown Oleg Popov. The great of magicians Kio are also linked with circus. In August 1985 it was decided to demolish the decayed and even dangerous Circus building. The final performance was given. In September 1989, a new circus building opened. In 1996 the circus was named Nikulin’s Circus after its beloved director Yuri Nikulin, who headed the circus for 14 years. His son Maxim Nikulin took over as director after Yuri died.

Today the Nikulin Circus features clowns, illusionists, acrobats, equilibrists, trapeze artists, and trained animals, such as dogs, cats, monkeys, bears, tigers and elephants. A new programme is designed every six months, each artist performing only once in three years. The circus can seat 2000 people. Performances are held at 2.30pm and 6pm on weekends (sometimes at 11am as well) and at 7pm on weekdays. [Source:Mariya Ulanova, moscovery.com]

Moscow State Circus (Vernadsky Avenue) is based in the largest circus building in Europe with a seating capacity of 3310. Founded in 1971, the circus is headed by the Zapashny brothers, the fourth generation of the Zapashny circus dynasty. An extensive two-year renovation was completed at the circus building at end of 2015. The entertainment includes acrobats, trapeze artists, a sea lion show, and Siberian tigers and lions. Each season started with a new program that lasts until December, when special New Year’s Eve shows are staged. During the New Year holidays, the the Moscow circus also performs at the Luzhniki Stadium. Otherwise usual performances are held at 1:00pm and 5:00pm on weekends and at 7:00pm on weekdays.

Dancing Fountains Circus ( near the Proletarskaya metro station) was launched in 2009. Mariya Ulanova of moscovery.com wrote: “The stage of this circus is astoundingly flexible, sometimes serving as an ice rink and sometimes splashing with multicoloured fountains to provide a background for performers. The latter include traditional clowns, conjurors, acrobats, dancers, equilibrists, tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, and trained animals (dogs, cats, etc.). Children’s entertainers are available half an hour before the performance as well as during the intervals to amuse kids, who can take a ride in a miniature steam locomotive. Each season is started with a different program of performances.”

Puppet Theater and Theaters for Children in Moscow

There are a dozen puppet theaters in Moscow. Obraztsov Puppet Theatre (in the Garden Ring not far from the “Old” Nikulin Circus) is the most well known puppet theater in Moscow. Situated in center of Moscow, it was founded in 1931 by Sergey Vladimirovich Obraztsov and is housed in two buildings on Sadovoye Koltso (Garden Ring). It has two stages, a special library and one of the largest museums of theatrical puppets in the world. Its repertoire includes famous puppet plays first staged by Sergey Obraztsov himself — “An Unusual Concert,” “Wish Upon a Pike,” and “Aladdin’s Magic Lamp” — as well as new productions that amuse adults and children alike — “The Mad Day,” “The Marriage of Figaro”, “Someone Nose”, and “Don Quixote” [Source: Mariya Ulanova, moscovery.com, Russian Tourism Official Website]

Moscow Puppet Theatre (near the Baumanskaya metro station) is a 30-minute drive from the city centre at at the intersection of Bauman and Spartakovskaya streets. Founded at about the same time as the Obraztsov Theatre, it is housed in an old mansion with fantastic figures on the facade. The repertoire includes 20 Russian and foreign fairy, folk and literary tales. Such as “Moydodyr,” “Cipollino” and “The Fur Will Fly”). There are also musical plays, e xperimental theatre and shows involving actors, without puppets. On May Night enjoy a show with their eyes closed, listening, smelling, and even tasting. At the museum of the theater viewers can not only see but also hold and try the your hand puppets they saw in the performances. The artistic director is the honored Russian artist Vyacheslav Kryuchkov.

Volshebnaya Lampa (Magic Lamp) Moscow Puppet Theatre (in the centre of Moscow) is another famous puppet location in Moscow. Established in 1989, the theatre is small, with a seating capacity of 80. Children are seated by the staff of the theater so that everyone can see the action. The repertoire includes a dozen performances for children aged 4 and up, mainly based on children’s books, such as “Woof the Kitten,” “Winnie the Pooh,” and “The Cat’s House” Readings by Children’s book authors are often held in the theatre lobby.

Moscow Children’s Theatre of Puppets (near the Proletarskaya metro station) is famous for its homey atmosphere. Entertainers and actors dressed as costumed characters amuse children before performances. Moscow Children’s Fairy Tale Theatre (near the Taganskaya metro station) was founded in 1989. The repertoire here is mainly fairly tales well-known to to small children such “Cinderella,” “The Frog Princess,” and “The Ugly Duckling”. The theatre has 100 seats with modern transformer chairs.

Theatre of Shadows (a 40-minute drive from the centre) is a unique theater created in 1944. The current repertoire has largely been designed for children aged 4 and older, but there are also performances for toddlers aged one to four. The theater has won nine Golden Mask awards (Russian national theatre award) is the smallest and the most unorthodox puppet theatre in Moscow. It can only accommodates five to seven viewers at a time so tickets are difficult to get. You to wait in line to receive an invitation for available performance dates, which can be a year in advance. Inside the theatre, there is the so-called Big Royal Lilican Theatre, a model of a real theatre where children watch the life of tiny puppets from behind the windows.

Marionette Theater Figaro (in the Mayakovsky State Museum in the Lubyanka) is run by the Moscow Philharmonic Concert-theater group "Figaro" (KTFK "Figaro"). It is a a public cultural institution established in 1989 on the orders of the Main Department of Culture of Moscow. It hosts performances at the theater and offers programs at schools, kindergartens, theaters and boarding schools, hospitals and parks in Moscow and beyond.

There are also some puppet theatres in the Moscow suburbs. These includee: 1) the Albatross Puppet Theatre (in Izmaylovo), established by a former actor of the Obraztsov Theatre; 2) The Zhar-Ptitsa (Firebird) Puppet Theatre (in Sokolniki); 3) the Moscow Children’s Chamber Puppet Theatre (near the Botanicheskiy Sad metro station). A special performance called “The Little Raccoon”, based upon on poem by Boris Zakhoder, a Russian poet and children's writer, is staged her children aged 6–36 months. The repertoires of these theaters include performances based on Russian and foreign fairy tales as well as famous literary works of Soviet writers.

Animal Theatres in Moscow

Durov Animal Theatre (central Moscow) is the only animal theatre in the world where children can see performances with animals playing roles. Many of shows are based on famous fairy tales. The actors include elephants, hippos, sea lions, tigers, bears, and smaller animals. Popular shows including “A Century-Long Road,” launched to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the theatre. and “The Mouse Railway Show.”

The Theater "Durov" was founded in 1912 by Vladimir Leonidovich Durov, whose descendants run the theater today. Vladimir Durov himself was a famous circus performer, clown, trainer and writer. The motto of the theater "Durov" is "By amusing - thou shalt teach!". To train the animals Durov developed a method of training animals without using whips and sticks. At the theater there is an extensive museum of natural history and zoopsychological laboratory where famous scientists have worked., and the "Grandpa Durov Wonderland".

Kuklachev Cats Theatre (Kutuzovsky Avenue, close to the Poklonnaya Hill) is run by Yuri Kuklachev and features cats doing tricks and playing roles. Kuklachev is often on tour so son Dmitry being in charge of cat performances. The show features 120 cats and 6 dogs. The Cats Theater has toured all over the world — including the U.S., Canada, Finland, China, Japan and Germany — and has received numerous international awards, including the Gold Cup and the title of "most original theater in the world" during a tour in Paris. Over the years the theater has formed a close creative alliance with the famous film director, and chief director of GE Theater Jungvald-Khilkevich. The eight unique performances include "The Kidnappers of Cats", "Prince Nutcracker," "Cats, Clowns and Love," "Puss in Boots", "Cats from the Universe" (a philosophical play about life 5000 years ago and a spacecraft), "My Favorite Cats" (staged with 70 cats), "Swan Lake" and "School of Kindness". In 2005, the "Cat Theater Kuklacheva" was named a State Institution of Culture of Moscow.

Sports in Moscow

Spectator sports in Moscow include hockey, football (soccer), and basketball. A large number of international tournaments and championships, including games from the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2013 World Track and Field Championships. Moscow is home to five soccer clubs and five hockey clubs. Some sports events are held in the Lenin Stadium complex. The tickets are cheap and stadiums and arenas are rarely full. Watch out for hooligans. There is also harness racing, and troika racing in the winter.

Moscow Swimming Pools should be checked if you visit the city during the winter time. The outdoor heated pools are open even during the sub-zero days when the hair on the heads of swimmers freezes solid. To avoid the shock of being out in the open air swimmers enter the water through submerged opening in the dressing rooms. The Olympic Aquatics Center Moscow is where swimming and diving events were held for the 1980 Olympic. It is a modern complex of indoor and outdoor pools. The Pool SC Olympic is another large swimming pool sports complex.

Spartak Stadium (Spartak metro station) is the home ground of Spartak Moscow Football Club and is now called the Otkrytie stadium after its sponsor, the Otkrytie bank. Opened in 2014, the stadium covers 53,758 square meters and is 53 meters tall, and has 48 VIP boxes. By the pitch, next to the stands, there is a monument to the great footballers, the Starostin brothers. The area in front of the stadium is decorated with a monument to Spartak's outstanding midfielder Fyodor Cherenkov, and a statue of a gladiator. The stadium host some 2018 World Championship matches. Tours of the stadium are available. Visitors can see the vestibule of the Western Stands, the home changing rooms of the Spartak players, the referee's room, the players” tunnel, the trainers” positions and the substitutes” bench. There is also a Spartak FC club museum and a large fast-food area.

Central Moscow Hippodrome is one of the biggest racecourses in Russia and the oldest in Europe, founded in 1834. Trotter races are held on the weekends, featuring races with Russian, Orlov and American breeds. The main and the most expensive races in Russia are held here. Among them are the the Big All-Russian Prize (Derby), Russian prize "Leopard" prize "Elite" prize "Peony," "large outdoor" prize for mares, and the "Central Moscow imppodroma". Also on the CMR is a raffle sponsored by the French Trotter Association ( "Days of France"), with European and domestic riders, and winter and summer triples competitions. To entertain the audience in between the competitions, there are camel races, greyhound races, a dog sled race, pony competitions, performances by trained horses and ponies, and trick riding performances. The hippodrome is also the site of a riding school and testing ground and research, experimental base for the Research Institute of Horse Breeding.

Other major sports facilities in Moscow include the 1) Sports Complex Olympic, used for many major international sporting events; 2) Stadium Dinamo, the home ground of the football team Dynamo; 3) Locomotive Stadium, opened in 2002, and featuring a roof that rests on rigging stretched between four reinforced concrete pylons; 4) Arena Khimki, a small, cozy and very modern stadium located a few hundred meters from the Moscow Ring Road; and 5) Sports Palace Megasport, a unique facility that meets the requirements for holding many sporting events.

Luzhniki Olympic Complex (Lenin Stadium)

Luzhniki Stadium (Inner Southwest, near a bend in the Moscow River, Sportinaya Metro Station) used be called Lenin Stadium and was once the largest stadium in Europe. Opened for a youth festival in 1956 and used in the 1980 Olympics, it seats more than 100,000 people and was built in a low area filled in by pumping material from the nearby Moscow River.

Luzhniki Stadium is the main building of the Luzhniki Olympic Complex and is also called the Great Sports Arena (GSA). Built in 1956 in record time — in just 450 days, the famous stadium where the most important sporting events take place. The design of stadium is aimed at universality. The stands are oriented in exact accordance with the four cardinal directions — North, West, East and South — and this is supposed to link it with all parts of the world. The central arena has a nearly elliptical shape.

Luzhniki is the largest stadium in Russia. It can accommodates more than 80,000 spectators. The Great Sports Arena is equal in height to an eight-storey building and has four floors. Under the stands is a whole sports city, 15 training halls, a medical and sports center and even a hotel and a cinema. In 1957, the Museum of Sport opened here.

For the 22nd Summer Olympic Games in 1980, the area under the Western Stand was equipped according to international standards with rooms for honorary guests and a large main press center. Under the Eastern platform, there is a rehabilitation functional diagnostic center, service points for athletes and doping control centers.

In 1995 the stadium was given a major overhaul so it was in accordance with UEFA requirements for international football matches. A roof was placed over the stadium that was 63.5 meters wide and weighed 15,000 tons. Matrix displays, better lighting, sound and acoustics and locker rooms for players according to FIFA standards were installed. In late 1998, GSA was included in the list of UEFA's 5-star European football stadiums. In preparation for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Luzhniki stadium once again experienced a large-scale reconstruction.

Ice Rinks in Moscow

Enea Rink is the main ice skating rink in Russia and the largest rink in Europe, with a total area of 57,300 square meters and an area of ice cover of 20,510 square meters. The rink can accommodate up to 4,500 skaters and has a wide ice track, fantastic lighting, a hockey box, playground, lovers alley , extreme sports park, convenient infrastructure with spacious locker rooms and ice skate rentals.

A refrigeration pipe system with plastic pipes and ice-mats, a powerful group of pumps and refrigeration equipment are used too create ice for the complex and make it so the rink can operate in any weather and season. The main attraction of the rink are its lights, which flash on the facades of buildings, fences, pedestrian bridge and even the ice inside. The total area of the ice illumination is about 5,000 square meters. Daily at 5:00pm the ice surface is transformed into one large mediaekran, which broadcasts until midnight different subjects.

Other ice skating facilities in the Moscow area include: 1) Ice Palace Arena Mytishchi. a modern sports and leisure center-class that can accommodate 9,000 people; 2) Sports Palace Dynamo in Krylatskoye, opened in 2006 and used for training and competition; 3) Specialized Ice Palace Dream, designed for those fond of skating with various programs for children; 4) Ice Palace Sokolnik, one of the most popular areas of Moscow for many fans of hockey and figure skating; 5) the GUM-skating rink (open every day from November to March), an outdoor skating rink on Red Square with an area of 3000 square meters, a capacity of 500 people and warm dressing rooms, a café and skate rental and sharpening services; and the 6) Sports Complex Krylatskoye, a huge ice rink with great ice, locker rooms and a café

Casinos in Moscow

Moscow used to have a thriving casino business but not anymore. In 2005, there were 58 casinos, 2,000 gaming rooms and 70,000 slot machines in Moscow and the gambling business was worth US$5 billion annually. The Casino Angara, which opened on Novy Arbat street in 2005, features 32 tables, 69 slot machines. VIP rooms with names like the “The Study” and “The Library,” where the minimum bet was US$200 and cockfights and arm wrestling contests were staged to entertain guests. Low-rollers could play one-ruble slot machines in small arcades that dotted the city. But then in July 2009, Russia banned all gambling and shut down its casinos

Reuters reported: Russia closed down its casinos overnight as gambling was banned nationwide, a move the industry says could throw a third of a million people out of work. The July 1 ban shut gaming halls, from gaudy casinos crowned by extravagant neon structures to dingy dwellings containing a handful of slot machines. “I feel terrible. We just let 1,000 people go,” said Yuri Boyev, general director at Metelitsa, an upmarket casino where billionaires rolled the dice and Russia’s gas giant Gazprom held a lavish Christmas party. [Source: Mikhail Antonov, Vladimir Bomko, Reuters, July 2, 2009]

“Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, came up with the idea in 2006 when he was president after the Interior Ministry linked several gaming operations in Moscow to Georgian organized crime. The Kremlin plans to restrict gambling to Las Vegas-style gaming zones in four rarely visited regions deemed to need investment, including one near the North Korea border, but nothing has been built and critics say the zones will fail.Though gaming establishments knew the shutdown date for at least a year, few thought the government would go through with it, but officials moved in overnight to close them down. The industry says the ban will axe at least 300,000 jobs but officials in Moscow put the national figure at only 11,500.

“Rows of slot machines, usually blinking around the clock in smoky, crowded halls, lay dormant and wrapped in cellophane.Moscow deputy mayor Sergei Baidakov, watching men dismantle poker tables and lay roulette wheels on the floor, said the state was ready to thwart any big to move gambling underground. “We are confident we will control the situation,” he said. He said the ban was to protect the health of society. Many critics in the gambling industry say it has more to do with Russia’s poor ties with Georgia. Georgians are thought to run many Russian gaming halls. City police stood on guard in case of protests by disgruntled former workers in the popular gaming halls that have sprouted since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and now pepper Russia’s cities. A hotline was set up Wednesday to report on those suspected of operating illegal gambling, Itar-Tass reported.

“Moscow had around 550 gambling places, including 30 casinos in prime spots, symbolizing the capital’s love of excess. Midnight on Novy Arbat street, the heart of the gambling scene, was muted as its flashing lights and loud music were turned off for the first time in over a decade. “I’m upset but I guess I’ll have a little rest and re-visit my job situation in August,” said Elena, a slot machine operator who has worked in the gaming business for five years.

“Each year gaming brought in up to US$7 billion and paid US$1 billion in tax, a gap the industry says will cause the state a budget headache. The development replacement zones — in southern Krasnodar, the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, east Siberia’s Altai region and the Far East — require investment of up to US$40 billion and have not been built. “The zones have no roads, water or electricity. We fulfilled the law by shutting, the government did not fulfill it as the zones are not ready yet,” said casino director Boyev. The industry has raised eyebrows at government guarantees of work in restaurants and shopping centers that are to replace casinos when unemployment in Russia has hit an eight-year high. But some addicted gamblers thought the ban might help them. “Maybe this is all a good thing. I’m a family man and I come here every day and lose all my money. I’ll be happy to see them go,” said a 40-year-old Muscovite near the flashy Shangri-La casino in the city center.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in September 2020

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