Holy Moscow, New Rome, Center of Russia – these names reflect some of the different facets of the City’s ever-changing identity throughout centuries. Since its founding nearly 900 years ago, Moskva grew from a small settlement on the banks of the river Moscow to the capital of centralized Russia and later to the site of the Third International. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow, under the leadership of its former mayor, Yurii Luzhkov, has entered a new phase as dynamic, capitalist megalopolis. Over the past 20 years, the city’s face has been transformed by massive restoration, renovation and a vast program of new construction. Moscow has seen the emergence of a new, energetic middle class and has lived through both boom and bust. Recently her uneven, breakneck growth and glittering prosperity has earned Moscow the dubious distinction as the world’s most expensive city, choking in traffic jams spawned by economic success. But for all the changes, much of old Moscow remains and she can still take pride in her splendid traditional architecture, fascinating museums like the Tretiakov Gallery, and cultural wonders like the Bolshoi Theater ballet.