Russia's imperial ambitions cannot camouflage its desire to be seen as a flower power.
It will be recalled that some months ago I undertook, with my usual vanity, to expound the views of Moscow's top guy on the market economy. I'm referring, of course, to Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's War against the Kiosk - every bit just as blithe and selective as the Kremlin's application of law.
I realize now that I was a fool: no human of woman born can unmask that man. But wait till I tell you.
Walking (yes, the other day) out of the Shabolovskaya metro station I noticed with a start that the little square in front of it was flanked by five (FIVE!) flower stalls. Now, Sobyanin being a pretty cool customer full of tricks and stratagems, the idea was to cart the kiosks off somewhere dark and damp and dodgy, in the side streets, under the bridges, away from where the Big Brother could see them and see red.
But if you think the street vendors would go without a blush, you can think again. Slow, the way you sample bathwater with your big toe, they're crawling back up the gutters - only now in the guise of flower people.
No problem at all, of course, but consider the lily. Why would you want five flower stalls within an area the size of a tennis court? It is no lie to say that potted plants and flowers are probably the single most common treat to give your Russian dame, but come on! Five?!
I didn't want to appear stupid but nonetheless inquired of an Azerbaijani hippie in bloom whether it was perhaps a temporary arrangement and some of the stalls were going back to Baku come spring, but he only flashed his golden teeth at me.
On the street opposite the stalls, I ask passers-by what they think of the situation.
"They're ugly," Yana, 23, tells me. "What, the flowers!?" "No, the kiosks! They shouldn't be there at all."
"They're awful," says Volodya, 46. "Those Azerbaijani flowerpots."
Please don't ask me to explain. They're there, that's all. And God knows what new kiosk makeover is in stall. Come spring. Come spring.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti, Alexei Korolyov)