Moscow was the capital of the former Soviet Union and signs of its previous life are very visible even now. Yet, there’s more to Russia and its capital than just memories of the USSR. Architectural gems from the time of the Russian Empire are still dotted throughout Moscow, whilst signs of modern Tsars (or at least people with similar levels of wealth) abound.
Moscow is the financial and political centre of Russia and the countries formerly comprising the Soviet Union. It has a population of around 13 million and an area of 2,511km² after an expansion in 2012. One-tenth of all Russian citizens live in the Moscow metropolitan area. Moscow is the second most populous city in Europe, after Istanbul. Moscow is in the UTC+3 time zone; there is no daylight saving time.
The Moskva River bends its way through the city with most of the sites of tourist interest on the northern bank of the river. The other major waterway is the Yauza River, which flows into the Moskva east of the Kremlin.
Much of Moscow’s geography is defined by the numerous ‘Ring Roads’ that circle the city at various distances from the centre, roughly following the outline of the walls that used to surround Moscow. With Red Square and the Kremlin forming the very centre, the innermost ring road is the Boulevard Ring (Bulvarnoye Koltso), built in the 1820s where the 16th century walls used to be. It runs from the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in south-west central Moscow, to the mouth of the Yauza in south-east central Moscow.
The next ring road, the Garden Ring (Sadovoe Koltso), derives its name from the fact that landowners near the road in Tsarist times were obligated to maintain gardens to make the road attractive. In Soviet times, the road was widened, and currently you will find no gardens there.
The Third Ring Road, completed in 2004, is not much use for tourists but is a heavily used motorway which absorbs a bit of Moscow’s traffic. It roughly follows the outline of Kamer-Kollezhsky val, the customs and passport boundary of Moscow between 1742 and 1852. The outer edge of Moscow is largely defined by the Moscow Ring Road (widely known by its abbreviation: MKAD-Moskovskaya koltsevaya avtomobilnaya doroga), a motorway which is 108km long and encircles the entire city (similar to London’s M25 and Paris’ Périphérique).