Moscow (Russian: Москва, tr. Moskva,) is the capital city and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural and scientific center in Russia and in Eurasia. According to Forbes 2013, Moscow has the largest community of billionaires in the world. Moscow is the northernmost megacity on Earth, the second most populous city in Europe after Istanbul and the 5th largest city proper in the world. It is the largest city in Russia, with a population, according to the 2010 Census, of 11,503,501. By its territorial expansion on July 1, 2012 southwest into the Moscow Oblast, the capital increased its area 2.5 times; from about 1,000 square kilometers (390 sq mi) up to 2,511 square kilometers (970 sq mi), and gained an additional population of 233,000 people.
Moscow is situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia making it the world’s most populated inland city. It also has the largest forest area within its borders – more than any other major city – even before its expansion in 2012. In the course of its history the city has served as the capital of a progression of states, from the medieval Grand Duchy of Moscow and the subsequent Tsardom of Russia to the Soviet Union. Moscow is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, a medieval city-fortress that is today the residence of the Russian president. The Moscow Kremlin is also one of several World Heritage Sites in the city. Both chambers of the Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) also sit in Moscow.
The city is served by an extensive transit network, which includes four international airports, nine railway terminals, and one of the deepest underground metro systems in the world, the Moscow Metro, third to Tokyo and Seoul in terms of passenger numbers. It is recognized as one of the city’s landmarks due to the rich and varied architecture of its 188 stations.
Over time, Moscow has acquired a number of epithets, most referring to its size and preeminent status within the nation: The Third Rome (Третий Рим), The Whitestone One (Белокаменная), The First Throne (Первопрестольная), The Forty Forties (Сорок Сороков), and The Hero City (город-герой). In old Russian the word “Сорок” (forty) also meant a church administrative district, which consisted of about forty churches. The demonym for a Moscow resident is “москвич” (moskvich), rendered in English as Muscovite.
There are 96 parks and 18 gardens in Moscow, including 4 botanical gardens. There are also 450 square kilometres (170 sq mi) of green zones besides 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) of forests. Moscow is a very green city, if compared to other cities of comparable size in Western Europe and North America; this is partly due to a history of having green “yards” with trees and grass, between residential buildings. There are on average 27 square meters (290 sq ft) of parks per person in Moscow compared with 6 for Paris, 7.5 in London and 8.6 in New York.
Gorky Park (officially the Central Park of Culture and Rest named after Maxim Gorky), was founded in 1928. The main part (689,000 square meters / 170 acres) along the Moskva river contains estrades, children’s attractions (including the Observation Wheel water ponds with boats and water bicycles), dancing, tennis courts and other sports facilities. It borders the Neskuchny Garden (408,000 square meters / 101 acres), the oldest park in Moscow and a former imperial residence, created as a result of the integration of three estates in the 18th century. The Garden features the Green Theater, one of the largest open amphitheaters in Europe, able to hold up to 15 thousand people.
Several parks include a section known as a “Park of Culture and Rest”, sometimes alongside a much wilder area (this includes parks such as Izmaylovsky, Fili and Sokolniki. Some parks are designated as Forest Parks (lesopark).
Izmaylovsky Park, created in 1931, is one of the largest urban parks in the world along with Richmond Park in London. Its area of 15.34 square kilometres (5.92 sq mi) is six times greater than that of Central Park in New York.
Sokolniki Park, named after the falcon hunting that occurred there in the past, is one of the oldest parks in Moscow and has an area of 6 square kilometres (2.3 sq mi). A central circle with a large fountain is surrounded by birch, maple and elm tree alleys. A labyrinth composed of green paths lies beyond the park’s ponds.
Losiny Ostrov National Park (“Elk Island” National Park), with a total area of more than 116 square kilometres (45 sq mi), borders Sokolniki Park and was Russia’s first national park. It is quite wild, and is also known as the “city taiga” – elk can be seen there.
Tsytsin Main Botanical Garden of Academy of Sciences, founded in 1945 is the largest in Europe. It covers territory of 3.61 square kilometres (1.39 sq mi) bordering the All-Russia Exhibition Center and contains a live exhibition of more than 20 thousand different species of plants from different parts of the world, as well as a lab for scientific research. It also contains a rosarium with 20 thousand rose bushes, a dendrarium, and an oak forest, with the average age of trees exceeding 100 years. There is also a greenhouse taking up more than 5000 square meters of land.
The All-Russian Exhibition Center (Всероссийский выставочный центр), formerly known as the All-Union Agricultural Exhibition (VSKhV) and later Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy (VDNKh), though officially named a “permanent trade show”, is in fact one of the most prominent examples of Stalinist-era monumental architecture. Among the large spans of recreational park areas are scores of elaborate pavilions, each representing either a branch of Soviet industry and science or one of USSR’s republics. Even though, during the 1990s, it was, and for some part still is, misused as a gigantic shopping center (most of the pavilions are rented out for small businesses), it still retains the bulk of its architectural landmarks, including two monumental fountains (Stone Flower and Friendship of Nations) and a 360 degrees panoramic cinema.
Lilac Park, founded in 1958, is known for its permanent sculpture display and a large rosarium.
Moscow has always been a popular destination for tourists. Some of the more famous attractions include the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, which was built between the 14th and 17th centuries. The Church of the Ascension at Kolomenskoye, which dates from 1532, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and another popular attraction.
Near the new Tretyakov Gallery there is a sculpture garden, Museon, often called “the graveyard of fallen monuments” that displays statues of the former Soviet Union that were removed from their place after its dissolution.
Other popular attractions include the Moscow Zoo, a zoological garden in two sections (the valleys of two streams) linked by a bridge, with nearly a thousand species and more than 6,500 specimens. Each year, the zoo attracts more than 1.2 million visitors. Many of Moscow’s parks and landscaped gardens are protected natural environments.