Moscow is famous for numerous sights, Red Square, the Kremlin, and the wonderful Metro to name a few of them, but I think this shot is for better or for worse more indicative of the real deal. Most people of course don't live in an apartment with a bay window looking out on the famous red star topped towers of the Kremlin, rather they live in the Moscow that expanded massively following the end of WWII. What was at one point a fairly compact city sprawled seemingly endlessly outwards throughout the Soviet period up to and now beyond the last major ring road, called the MKAD. Thus many Moscovites wake up in a unique fixture of Soviet urban planning, called the Microrayon, or micro district.
The development of these regions began in the 1920s following the revolution, and took off during the period of Industrialization, when huge numbers of people, former peasants mostly, were prodded or forced to move to the cities to feed the USSR's need for urban labour. The idea was to put nearly everything one needed in pre-planned areas, including towering apartment blocks, schools, shops, green spaces, and entertainment options. Roads and natural obstacles served as boundaries for these areas, as planners sought to encourage public transportation and reduce the need to leave the area for basic requirements. This was felt to help encourage a new more collective society and with it found a new way of life. While the concepts were cutting edge in the 20s and 30s, by the 1950s the move to pre-fab panelled housing developments simplified and standardized the construction process, but changed the nature of the micro-districts. These construction methods allowed for fast, cheap, and low quality construction, leading to the massive rows of grey rectangular buildings that marked the later Soviet years and dot the skyline of nearly every major Eastern European city. Gone were the cutting edge design features and social theories, replaced by views like you see here.
That said, perhaps I'm not the only one that feels that there is something very unique and in some ways appealing about a view like this (Click on it to see a larger size). Regardless of one's taste in architecture, this view says a lot about Soviet and now Russian history, in particular a lot about the perennial housing problems that caused people to marry just to get on apartment waiting lists, and remains something that sets it apart from urban planning in the West. I don't know if it's for everyone, but there is just something about the landscape that I find fascinating....In any case, this is the view from my tutor's apartment block, on the 26th floor in Chertanovo, Southern Moscow. If like me you find urban planning and Soviet urban planning in particular interesting (pretty dorky I admit...) the definitive work on the subject in English can be found here:
Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis by Timothy Colton