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The golden-topped Uspensky Cathedral

Moscow is the barometer and nucleus of the changes sweeping through Russia. Nowhere are Russia's contrasts more apparent than here - ancient monasteries and ultra-modern monoliths stand side by side, and New Russian millionaires and poverty-stricken pensioners walk the same streets.

The populace now prefer impromptu street markets to monothilic department stores, and the beautiful churches vandalised or abandoned during the Soviet era of hardline atheism are being lovingly restored. But the real flavour of this city is in its small nooks and crannies, each of them unique.

Moscow's origins as a symbol of Russian spiritual and political power go back 850 years. It reflects Russia's state of flux in its day-to-day life, and when the winds of change start blowing, they blow through Moscow first.

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