Remnants of Russia’s past
Ilya’s words find an unwitting echo just a few hundred yards away. Tamara Dzalaeva is sitting on the riverside balcony of Bar Strelka, wearing Dior glasses and drinking a cocktail with a slice of pineapple. ‘We didn’t come from nowhere,’ she explains to me. ‘We were too impressed by America. Now we understand that we have a different history. We are different even in our subconscious.’
Bar Strelka is part of the huge brick-built structure that, until four years ago, housed Red October – the Soviet Union’s iconic confectionery factory whose winged design still appears on sweets and chocolate boxes. In 2007, its production shifted elsewhere and the buildings were taken over by a media institute as well as small businesses, bars and restaurants. Some lamented the closure, but its redevelopment now seems inspired.
On a warm Friday evening, the factory’s bars, where sweets were once made for the Red Army, are open for play, and its visitors span the whole range of young Russia: low-key professionals at Strelka, the arty and urbane at Art Akademiya, the louche and bohemian at Gypsy and the super-rich at Rai (meaning ‘heaven’) – which, with its ridiculous gold sequinned entrance, already looks a bit passé.
Young Muscovites such as Vika, Ilya and Tamara are too young for nostalgia, but they are curious and smart enough to know that the past shapes the present. The USSR continues, like a dead star, to exert an influence – its wealth, people and ideas still a force in the world. And in Moscow, its architectural legacy is the stage where young citizens are making their lives.