Moscow Factsheet

Province of Moscow, West Russian Federation.
Country dialling code: 7.
Population: 10,415,400 (city).
Time zone: GMT + 3 (GMT + 4 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz; round two-pin plugs are standard.
Average January temp: - 13°C ( - 9°F).
Average July temp: 18°C (64°F).
Annual rainfall: 624mm (24.3 inches).
Annual snowfall: 132mm (5.2 inches).

Formerly the centre of one of the world’s two superpowers, Moscow (Moskva) is still reeling from the rapid pace of change that the past decade has wrought. Located in the centre of the East-European plain, with its major part occupying the valley of the Moskva River, it is a brash city with pockets of ostentatious new-found (and often ill-gotten) wealth surrounded by the vast majority struggling to live on their meagre salaries or pensions. The spiritual, political and economic capital of the world’s largest country, Moscow is quite different from the rest of the Russian Federation and the worst ravages of industrial decline have bypassed the city, as it is more focused on the administrative and service sectors. It is a magnet, not only for the entrepreneurs of the new Russia but also for some of the most destitute from the far reaches of the country.

For most of eight centuries, the Kremlin, at the very heart of Moscow, has been the seat of power for the grand princes, tsars and, most recently, presidents, as well as an important religious site. For Westerners, the adjacent Red Square, especially the bulbous, multicoloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, have been an image synonymous with the Soviet Union and Russian state since the advent of television. Surrounding this centre, Stalin’s so-called Seven Sisters (Gothic-looking Socialist Realist skyscrapers) humble the individual as they loom large from the outskirts of central Moscow. On the approach to the Kremlin, along Novy Arbat, high-rises are lined up like giant dominoes waiting to tumble. However, tucked away are the remnants of the older city – beautiful neo-classical houses and impressive structures, such as the Bolshoi Theatre. Most surprisingly of all, there are the underground palaces of the Metro system, the largest and probably the most efficient in the world.

Nowadays, the posturing Soviet military driving their tanks through Red Square for the October Revolution Parades have been replaced by the posing of wealthy Muscovites with their shiny new Mercedes Benz. The impressive Stalinist buildings along Tverskaya ulitsa, the main drag leading up to Red Square, now house glitzy Western franchises, while providing the incongruous backdrop for the babushkas who sell anything from dishcloths to kittens, in order to make ends meet. The well-heeled New Muscovites may have greeted capitalism with open arms but after 74 years of Communist-imposed atheism, many in the Russian capital have enthusiastically embraced their once-banned Orthodox faith. This is reflected in the restoration of old churches, the rapid construction of new ones and the decision to give the remains of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, a Christian burial. As the second democratically elected President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a second term as Russian President in March 2004, is the youngest and perhaps the most vigorous leader the Kremlin has seen. His party, United Russia, won a landslide victory in Parliamentary elections in December 2003, with Putin promising to continue to reform the economy. Internationally, Putin has astutely used the ‘war on terrorism’ as an ideal opportunity to thaw the last ice of the Cold War once and for all. Closer economic ties and political sympathy in conflict areas such as Chechnya are likely to result from Russia’s loyalty to the USA and its pivotal role in Afghanistan.

One aspect of the city remains constant and that is the harshness of the Moscow winter. Despite the bitter cold, there is nothing so beautiful as seeing St Basil’s Cathedral in the falling snow. In contrast, summer temperatures over 30°C (86°F) are not unusual.

The Russian currency is the Ruble (RUB), made up of 100 kopeks.

Banknotes come in denominations of RUB 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 10, while coins come in denominations of RUB 10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 10, 5 and 1 kopeks.

As at May 2006, 10 Russian Rubles were equivalent to US$0.37, €0.29 and GB₤0.20.

The cost of living is high in Russia, and a number of surveys have identified Moscow as being Europe’s most expensive city. Even in remote cities such as Vladivostok, the cost of living is among the highest in Russia.

However, it is possible to live cheaply in Russia depending on your lifestyle – many local people survive on salaries below US$300 per month in Moscow. Housing is expensive, but local groceries, public transport costs, petrol, books and some other items are relatively cheap.

Typical costs (in US$) include:

Meal in high quality restaurant up to $100 per person
Loaf of bread $0.35
Litre of milk $0.80
10 eggs $0.65
Kilo of potatoes $0.50
1 fresh chicken $2.50
Bottle of vodka $2.80
Metro pass - $0.35
Cinema ticket $10.00

Personal income tax in Russia is currently payable at a flat rate of 13% for residents, defined as anyone living in Russia for at least 183 days in any calendar tax year, and 30% for non-residents. All employees and self-employed people are liable for tax.

Permanent residents are required to pay tax on their earnings in Russia and overseas, while non-residents working in Russia only have to pay tax on their income earned in Russia.

Russian companies are required by law to deduct employee tax direct from salaries, but foreign companies are exempt from this requirement, and their employees may have to file their own tax returns and make payments. The self-employed have to make advance tax payments several times each year, which are adjusted on the basis of their tax returns.

Work Permits and Work Visas

The majority of expatriates who wish to work in Russia must obtain a work permit via the employer offering them a post there, although it is possible to apply as an individual for an entry visa in order to seek employment in Russia. Certain small categories of foreign workers including diplomatic personnel and people employed by international organizations are not required to obtain work permits. The procedure for obtaining visas and work permits can be difficult and time-consuming, typically taking up several months from start to finish.

In order to recruit a foreign worker, Russian employers must be registered with the Ministry of Ethnic and Migration Policy, and are required to apply direct to the regional office of this Department for the work permit, including copies of the employee’s passport and visa; HIV test certificate; employment contract; and the employer’s tax registration certificate and statutory incorporation documents.

Foreign companies based in Russia must obtain accredited status to recruit a specific number of foreign employees. These employees are not required to obtain a personal work permit from the Ministry of Ethnic and Migration Policy for the duration of their employment with the accredited company, but are still required to obtain a business visa to enter Russia. The regulations also allow for personal accreditation of the immediate family members of the foreign employees.

Important official documents such as birth, marriage and qualification certificates which are submitted in support of visa and work permit applications must be the originals, which should be notarized by a licensed notary, and contain an Apostille (an international recognized notary seal). All documents will have to be translated into Russian and notarized by a Russian notary once submitted.

Russians are world-renowned for their sporting ability, and the country has produced many champions in the Olympics and other international sporting events. Sports which are especially popular in Russia include football, ice hockey and tennis.

There are many good sports and recreation facilities in Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities and towns. Within the expatriate communities there are a wide range of organized sports and leisure pursuits – in Moscow for example these include softball, rugby, running, hiking, hockey, cross-country skiing and ice-skating. Moscow and St Petersburg also have a wide range of expatriate clubs and associations covering non-sporting leisure pursuits and interests.

Moscow has an abundance of virtually all forms of culture and entertainment, including opera, theatre, museums, exhibitions, concerts, cinemas, bowling alleys, casinos, discos, nightclubs and bars. It is home to the world-famous Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Company, the Moscow Circus and a number of philharmonics, with regular evening performances. There are a wide choice of dining options in the city, including many American restaurants and fast-food eateries. A free entertainment guide ‘’Element’’, is published in English and is widely available in stores and restaurants throughout the city.

Entertainment can also be found in the form of the many traditional festivals celebrated in Russia, usually characterized by much drinking of vodka. Easter and Christmas are celebrated with religious services and candlelight processions, and New Year with gift-giving. The main other traditional festivals in various parts of the country include St Petersburg’s spring classical music festival, and White Nights festival at the end of June, and the Russian Winter Festival in Moscow, St Petersburg and Novgorod in late December/early January, marked by many traditional performances.

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