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If St. Petersburg is Russia's imperial crown, Moscow is its familial heart. It is a city in which one comes face to face with all that is finest and all that is most frustrating in Russia. The gregarious geniality of its people is as evident as the extreme tensions of a city coming to terms with the confusions of rapid social change. More than anywhere else in the country, it is in Moscow where the Soviet past collides with the capitalist future.

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Moscow

Lenin's Mausoleum remains intact, but today it faces the newly chic GUM (pronounced goom), which is becoming ever more akin to Macy's or Harrod's. Yet, as the new Moscow emerges, it is becoming increasingly clear that any move into the future will be marked by a strong appreciation of the city's rich and varied heritage--a heritage that vastly predates the era of Soviet rule. Indeed, the most striking aspect of the city today is not Moscow's much-publicized embrace of Western culture but its self-assured revival of its own traditions. Ancient cathedrals are being restored and opened for religious services, innovative theaters are reclaiming leadership in the arts, and traditional markets are coming back to life. Moscow is once more assuming its position as the capital and mother city of the ancient state of Russia.

Now the world's most expensive city for expatriates, Moscow is home to 30-odd resident billionaires, the greatest concentration anywhere outside of New York City. And while a walk along Tverskaya Street, Moscow's Cyrillic-lined Broadway, reveals plenty of people and places untouched by the city's new fortunes — low-paid police officers in green uniforms, stubbly cabbies driving beat-up Brezhnev-era Ladas, stooped babushkas, ashen concrete apartment blocks — 21st-century Moscow is nonetheless a much more diverse, energetic and multidimensional place than ever before.

“Moscow is one of the fastest-growing cities in terms of opening restaurants, cafes, bars and so on,” said Konstantin Chernozatonsky, former editor of the Russian editions of Playboy and Premiere magazines, as he sipped a mojito in a lounge whose name translates as the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. “And it's the same with luxury, the same with cars, the same with real estate. Everything is booming.”

As a summer sun arcs slowly over Red Square, a hum of activity echoes throughout the city's heart. Behind a high scaffolding hung with a massive Rolex billboard, grinding power tools herald the construction of a Four Seasons hotel.

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