Mordor, Russia

When a year ago I contemplated starting a blog, I decided to start it with this photo of Moscow.
(More aerial Moscow photos by Kirill Umrikhin) 

Though freshly published, it was widely cited, and many of those who did it recalled Mordor. Here's a good example (Gandalf! Are you sure the shortest way is thru Russia? - Yes, we're almost there).
The joke seemed quite appropriate: the opposition was crashed,  the infamous anti-Magnitsky Act, punishing Russian orphaned children in retaliation to American Magnitsky Act, was just signed into law, and it was clear that Russia is quickly sliding into reaction.
A year has passed, and the comparison looks all the more timely. But let's speak not about politics but about the picture. What makes Moscow look so Mordorish in this particular photo?

May be it's the smoke? It definitely adds to the impression, but it's not the main part of it. Compare with that photo: the smoke is there, the place looks over-industrialized and hardly livable, but doesn't invoke Mordor. May be it's the prevailing black color? No. Look here: black - yes, grim - yes, Mordor - no.
The principal reason we think of Mordor when looking at this photo is the towers. Or rather, the contrast between the towers and the rest of the landscape. You won't see such skyline in any Western city. In New York, London or Frankfurt, highrise distribution is much more even.
The super-compact location of the Moscow business district and it's inflated height represent super-concentration of power, both political and economical. Select few enjoy all of it, the rest have none. That what made Mordor Mordor in the first place - an omnipotent overlord ruling over disenfranchised subjects.

A year ago I planned to write about all things urban. I still do, but it probably won't be the main topic. I'm going to write about institutions, public choice, political economy and moral philosophy. Firstly, because they influence all things urban. Secondly, because after the Russian annexation of Crimea the End of History is over. We're once again living in history and the aforementioned topics feel more important than ever in the past quarter-century.
For the most part, I'm going to write about the wider Europe (including not only EU, but also Russia, Ukraine, etc.), because that's the region where I live and because that's where the main world events will be happening for a while.
Finally, I'm going to write about all these (and some other) things from a classical liberal or libertarian perspective because … Well, because that's my perspective.


Popular Posts