My father, whom I suspect I’ve inherited much of my wanderlust from, took this photo for me during his last visit to Moscow. This is the Russian equivalent of the Kilometer Zero mark in Madrid, which I wrote about here, and – as such, serves the same purpose: to mark the starting point from which distances in the country are measured.
The bronze plaque, located in a short passage connecting the Red Square with the Manege Square, reads: “Zero Kilometer of the Highways of the Russian Federation.”
These zero-kilometre markings, which I hadn’t even heard about until about two months ago and had even seen, apparently, without knowing what they were (in what is perhaps another case of the Baader-Meinhof syndrome?), seem to be relatively common, and stand as the center point from which to measure distances in quite a few countries’ capitals around the world: from Cuba and Argentina through Switzerland, Romania and Slovakia (although I was unaware of it when I hovered over it in Bratislava), and all the way to Sri Lanka, Thailand and Japan.
One of the oldest surviving markers of this kind is the Milliarium Aureum, which was erected in the central Forum of Ancient Rome in the 20th century BC and from which all roads in the Roman Empire were considered to begin and all distances were measured. It apparently gave the literal origin of the expression “all roads lead to Rome,” to which I unwittingly (thought rather predictably) referred in my post about the Zero Kilometer marking in Madrid.