MOSCOW – The Moscow authorities had spent millions on Christmas trees, bright lights and other Christmas decorations, but the festive atmosphere was still missing something: the winter weather.
As the warmest recorded December came to an end, little snow had fallen, so the city made artificial snow and transported it to parts of the city center, and much of it melted rapidly. The images of trucks unloading snow quickly spread on social networks, while observers ridiculed the government for spending money on something that usually only falls from the sky.
"With the Moscow budget, you can buy anything, even in winter," wrote one user on Twitter, noting the great disparity of wealth between the capital and the rest of Russia. "Let's install freezing machines along Tverskaya," wrote another, referring to the city's main road, where authorities said the snow would be used to build a hill for snowboarders.
Many Muscovites in the streets seemed less derogatory. They said they had lost the snow and welcomed the decision to advance it to New Year's Eve, the main family holiday in Russia, when the country stops for a week to celebrate. At a time of the year when temperatures generally remain well below zero, Moscow has had some highs in the mid-40 degrees Fahrenheit in the last two weeks.
As if to mock the artificial scene, a snowstorm engulfed Moscow on Monday night, leaving a layer of natural snow on the streets of the city, but forecasts say that will also melt before the New Year.
"Yes, they brought the snow and, of course, when they did, a snowfall also began," said Larisa B. Artamonova, a 70-year-old retired engineer. "Everything will create a festive atmosphere, I'm sure."
Muscovites have a difficult relationship with snow. While many like it as a sign of the holidays, others complain that the snow produces jams, the salt that spreads on the roads ruins the shoes and the mixture becomes dirty and gray dirt.
Last week, Moscow City Hall blocked many central streets around the Kremlin for the holiday season, which will last until next week. In addition to the snowboard hill in Tverskaya, there was also a snow stash on the Red Square, surrounded by a fence, as to prevent people from stealing, and another appeared in the new nearby Zaradye Park.
Artificial snow was produced by cutting ice on the skating rinks around the city, authorities said.
"The machines there cut ice and produce ice crumbs, so we brought it," said Aleksei Nemeryuk, a city official. He told Govorit Moskva, a local radio station.
As the weather has warmed in recent years, Russia, like much of the world, has experienced record heat, with 2019 being the warmest year since observations began, according to meteorologists.
Many communities in northern Russia are built on permafrost that It no longer deserves the label, it melts constantly and forces people to relocate. Hunters and fishermen have had to change their routines as animals change their migration routes.
The ice that polar bears go through to hunt in the sea has receded so much that hungry animals are rummaging on the ground; In February, dozens of them roamed a settlement in the far north in search of food. There have been reports of brown bears, too hot to hibernate, looking for food too.
The ski resorts in Sochi, a city on the Black Sea, said Sunday that they would limit the amount of ski passes sold during the holiday season because the snow shortage meant that only 20 percent of the trails could be opened.
"The winters have become much warmer in the last 30 years," said Yelena Morenko, 55, walking with her husband, Aleksandr, on Petrovka, one of the most elegant streets in Moscow. "The season has changed for at least a month."
Russia could also get benefits from global warming. Gas and oil companies are expected to benefit from easier access to raw materials in the Arctic and eastern Siberia. Russia is currently building an icebreaker fleet to take advantage of the warming route of the North Sea.
Keeping Muscovites in a festive atmosphere has been among the main priorities of the ambitious mayor of the city, Sergei S. Sobyanin, who presides over the richest and opposite city in the country.
The government has invested heavily in improving the city's infrastructure and has held several festivals that sometimes keep Moscow's main squares and streets occupied with more than Protests against the Kremlin.
"I don't think there's much to see here, we came to Moscow to celebrate," said Angelina Amelina, 25, who arrived in the capital from St. Petersburg, Russia's second largest city.
Walking with her boyfriend, Pavel, along the red walls of the Kremlin, Mrs. Amelina said: “With or without snow, it is difficult to create a Christmas atmosphere here; there are too many people and people are very stressed. "