When I first arrived in Moscow I knew Gorky Park was famous but didn’t really know why. Turns out, it’s about 100 years old; created in 1923 on 300 acres of wasteland, begun as an exhibition space and then quickly evolved to become an amusement park full of cheap and tacky rides. It was named after Maxim Gorky a Russian writer who was nominated 5 times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
In 2011 the new Mayor of Moscow ordered a revamp and over “100 attractions and illegal objects” were demolished. New paths, lawns and flowerbeds were laid, monuments and ponds cleaned. In the winter a large number of the paths are turned into skating paths leading in and out of a central rink.
Its first claim to fame from a foreign perspective was the book Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith written in 1981 in which “an investigator on the Moscow police force relentlessly pursues the solution to a triple homicide which occurred in Moscow’s Gorky Park. He finds that no one really wants him to solve the crime because it is just the tip of a complex conspiracy which involves the highest levels of the Moscow city government.”
This was later made into a film, filmed in Helsinki because they were denied permission to film in Moscow, starring William Hurt and Lee Marvin. Its second claim to fame is – of course – the song ‘Wind of Change‘ by the Scorpions released in 1991 with the famous lyrics “follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind, of chaaaaange”. (Incidentally the best selling single by a German artist and one of the best selling singles of all time and, allegedly, a CIA plot to bring down the Soviet Union.)
Today, though, as I strolled, there were no police corpses, no “apocalyptic wasteland of post-soviet broken concrete” nor “a wilderness of garish carnival rides, loud pop music, and overpriced kebabs“. Today I saw flowers and fountains, coffee stands and canoodlers, music and Muscovites, ponds and posers, the old and the young, old statues and a modern skate park.
Maybe the future’s in the air after all.