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A Tale of Two Cities

It has often been said that one of the more disquieting features of Moscow is the disparity between the rich and the poor.  This divide, a facet of modern Russian society evidenced throughout the country, is perhaps crystallized most clearly in the capital’s sky scraping totems to finance, which loom in sharp contradistinction to the sprawling marketplaces and decrepit housing stock populated by the less privileged Muscovites. 

The story which broke today of twin and entirely unrelated conflagrations in the capital has proved a sobering reminder of this dichotomy.  This morning it was reported that a fire had engulfed the top floor of the 67-storey Federation Tower, which is destined to be the gleaming centerpiece of Moscow’s International Business district, Europe’s tallest skyscraper.  As of yet unfinished and uninhabited, no one was injured, and helicopters doused out the blaze.  Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the city, a fire broke out in a market warehouse, where a number of migrant workers, mainly from Tajikistan, were sleeping.  17 of them died in conditions subsequently described as ‘unfit for habitation’.  A tragic symbol of the fact that behind Moscow’s fiercely-protected and sparkling facade lies a pauperized population, willing to risk their lives for a small piece of the city’s riches.