As symbols of how Moscow has changed go, they do not come more eye catching than the 100ft-wide Louis Vuitton trunk that landed in Red Square this week.
There it was – a giant, monogrammed temple to luxury luggage, plonked in the middle of the cobbles where tsars were crowned and coups began, where tanks rolled to celebrate Victory Day and crowds thronged to see Yuri Gagarin return from outer space. Even the most dedicated fashionista would have to admit that a charity exhibition about suitcases does not quite measure up.
Now the city authorities have ordered the whole thing be dismantled. Presumably they had to see the branded, two-storey portmanteau in situ before they realised it was not quite in keeping with all the cathedrals and tombs of leaders nearby.
In fact, Red Square is a funny old place these days. It is still magical to walk through those toytown red gates and see it open out – the unreal domes of St Basil’s at one end, the Kremlin majestic to the west, GUM’s gorgeous façade to the east. But more often than not that view is compromised – by a stage for a flashy rock concert, or a car show, or a fashion pop-up, or an ice rink.
GUM now sells Dior and Cartier to the elite, not to mention the most expensive cup of coffee in all Russia at its terrace café. Lenin has been spinning in his mausoleum for some time now: Vuitton’s trunk will just have sent him whirling that bit faster.