Rather than professing sentiment of political, social or even economic discontent, the concrete sidewalks of Moscow reflect the city’s post-1991 lean toward hyper-consumerism.
Following the abolishment of state socialism in the Post-Soviet realm, the city of Moscow developed a thriving private industry. The efforts of this rising, Muscovite business class deem Russia a current world-leader in resident millionaires. Money – and its connection to power – seems more tangible in Moscow than in most other Eastern European urban centres.
Thus it seems reasonable that the city’s streets are slathered with graffitied advertisements for women’s clothing stores, car insurance providers, home improvement shops, and gymnasiums. A walk from Red Square to the old Arbat becomes a convoluted moment in time when the grandeur of the Soviet era is juxtaposed with the suffocating ever-presence of post-Soviet capitalism.
It seems interesting that an internationally recognized art form traditionally reserved for dissident sentiment, rowdy obscurities, attestations of gang membership, or professions of undying affection is used in a former communist state to promote private enterprise.
Aside from these ideological incongruencies are those logistical – the anonymous aspect of graffiti is erased when it leads the viewer to a specific street address or web-site. It must also be noted that this type of graffiti in Moscow is a recent addition to the Russian capital. I visited the city twice in the summer of 2009 and saw nothing remotely similar to this – an observation agreed upon by a British teacher living in Moscow who I met on a sunny afternoon at Chokoladnitza (an upscale Russian cafe chain) while anxiously awaiting a processed Belarusian visa.