After a couple of weeks at Moscow State University (MGU in Russian), I still find it crazy that I live in a skyscraper. Our dorm rooms are in the massive 31-story “Glavnoye Zdanye” (GZ), or Main Building, of the university. I was convinced for the whole first week I was here that the path between my room and my classes took me through the main entrance of the building.
Why wouldn’t I think that? The entrance and exit are both manned by guards and protected by a fence. An ornate gold-touched clock and barometer hang from the exterior. But I discovered, as soon as I wandered around to the back of the building, that the façade I’d been so wowed and intimidated by was actually just the back door.
On the other side is a fabulous viewing platform offering a view of Moscow. (Spot the golden onion dome in the picture below!)
This brick and stone platform at this real entrance is flanked by bronze statues of serious students, two victory columns with hammer-and-sickle medallions, and two paths curving down to street level. With all this, the impression that the GZ gives is one of grandeur. More than anything else, it looks like a center of government. It definitely doesn’t fit the usual image of a university dorm.
The interior is similarly surprising. Many of the hallways are so cavernous that they are almost like streets in themselves. There are several dining halls and snack stands, the bookstore, and even a shop that fixes broken objects. There is also a geological museum on the uppermost floors, and of course, a lot of living space. I haven’t been able to find a figure on how many people live in the GZ, but I can assure you it’s enough to fill a small town in Minnesota. I’ve even seen couples with dogs coming out of certain sectors of the building more than once. I don’t know who they are—maybe graduate students—but there must be a variety of living quarters within the GZ, not only doubles for undergraduates like me.
It’s been a little intimidating coming from a small college like Carleton to study at the university of a world capital, but I feel like I’m learning my way around. As with the city of Moscow itself, I’ve been learning my own accustomed routes and favorite places. Things like which dining hall is better for what, how to find the laundry service, even which door handle is loose and has to be turned differently. I appreciate the chance to get used to this cosmopolitan environment, because the longer I inhabit it, the more I feel at home here.