We are docked in St. Petersburg and I have some time before we head out to our tour of the Hermitage. Decent internet connection, too.
Before the Kremlin, I would like to clear up a couple of misconceptions people seem to have about Russia. First, someone was telling me how it is still a socialistic country with prohibitively high tax rates. Nothing could be further from the truth, those days are long gone. The tax rate on most individual income is 13% and the corporate tax rate is 20%, lower than the corporate tax rate in the United States. The tax on dividend income is 9%.
People can own their own homes and land or apartments, farms, businesses, whatever, just like in the United States. Most children go to school within walking distance of where they live unless their parents want to send them to a school with a specialized subject matter. There is eleven years of basic education, but children don't start school until they are six or seven years old so there is no kindergarten or pre-school. Children are expected to be able to read by the time they start school and it is the parents responsibility to teach them. After your basic education there are competitive exams and those who do well get full tuition at government Universities. Those who don't do as well can attend private colleges if they can afford the tuition.
People in the medical profession are required to work half of the time in government hospitals and medical facilities but are free to work the rest of the time at private hospitals. Generally the government hospitals have the more state-of-the-art equipment and are similar to our research hospitals. This is also where doctors and nurses earn advanced professional designations. Medical care is free at the government facilities but you can chose to pay more to go to a private facility where the care is more personalized. They don't have emergency rooms, as such. If you are in need of medical attention a doctor will come to your house and, based upon the situation, either treat you there or arrange for an ambulance to take you to a hospital. These visits are free.
I just wanted to clear up a few misconceptions that we seem to have about Russia. It might not be where you would want to live, but it is not nearly as bad as people seem to make it out to be. Their worst times seem to be behind them, although life during the time of Gorbachev and Yeltsen was no bed of roses with debilitating inflation, people losing most of their savings and struggling to survive. Interestingly, when Gorbachev ran for re-election he received less than 1% of the vote and is generally reviled these days. He now spends most of his time abroad giving lectures.
Okay, on to the Kremlin. As I mentioned, the word "kremlin" means castle (or fortress) and there are many of them in Russia. The one in Moscow started out as a walled fortress and was the city of Moscow. The first written records go back to 1147 and it was a Prince Yuri who is considered to be the city's founder.
Entering The Moscow Kremlin
In addition to the old buildings there are some newer ones. The one that is the most jarringly out of place looking one is this concert hall.
This Is The Kremlin?
This hall was built during the time of Nikita Khrushchev and, for a time, cost the Kremlin it UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. I think they got it back, though. Artists from all over the world have performed here. I see that Twisted Sister is going to be performing in Moscow, but not here, because the hall is being renovated. But what a juxtaposition that would be, Twisted Sister playing the Kremlin.
Kind Of Like A Potemkin Village
Potemkin, you may remember, wrote a story about a municipality in Russia that constructed just the facades of villages so that when some Czar or another rode through he would think that he was riding through a prosperous ares. Or something like that. Anyway, that picture above is just a painting on covering over scaffolding surrounding a building that is undergoing restoration. The building does look like a smaller version of the painting, however.
And, because this was a walled city, there were many churches inside the walls.
Either Many Churches Or Many Pictures Of One Church
Where has the time gone? This will have to be a two parter because I need to leave for my tour, but first a picture of a cannon that was never fired.
Just For Show
I will tell you more about it as well as about a bell that was never rung when I post again, either later today or, more probably, tomorrow.