Moscow likes to think of itself as major international centre alongside London, New York and Tokyo - but a new quality of life survey ranks it closer to Caracas, Venezuela and Libreville, Gabon.
And that damning verdict divided residents, with some criticising the criteria which led to the top 10 being dominated by staid, white-collar cities like Vienna, Zurich and Geneva.
Mercer’s study, which ranked 220 cities against the quality of life in New York, looked at 39 criteria, including the level of crime, political stability, personal freedom, transport, and medicine.
Some welcomed Moscow’s lowly standing at 166, hoping it would curb the city’s rapid growth.
Inna Kirylina, a lifelong Muscovite, said she liked such comments because “fewer people will try to move here.” She is quite happy in Moscow and based on her experiences in Europe she’s concluded that’s not for her.
“It’s calm and peaceful like in a very rich cemetery,” she added.
Anna Mikeda, who was born in Moscow but studied in London for several years, said Moscow deserved its low place.
“A city should be ecological, green, with lots of parks. But Moscow is being built over with apartment blocks, construction sites are everywhere,” she said. “It is not the same as it was when I was a kid.”
Sarahjane Bell from Auckland, New Zealand, disagreed with her hometown’s fourth-placed rating.
I was born there, but I would not live there voluntarily,” she said. “It’s dismal, dull and not one bit shiny.”
For her Moscow is more attractive with “the Bolshoi Ballet, the best metro in the world, and, besides, a Kroshka Kartoshka.” However, she also did not agree with Vienna being at the top, and said it gave her “a good five minutes of explosive, cynical laughter.”
No former Soviet Union cities made it in the top 50. The Baltic capitals did best (Vilnius at 79, Tallin at 89 and Riga at 91).
CIS and Georgia cities fared even worse. Kiev is at 161, St. Petersburg at 170, Yerevan at 174, Almaty at 175, Minsk at 185, Baku at 196, Tashkent at 200, Ashgabat at 201, Bishkek at 209 and Tbilisi came at 217, close to Baghdad at the foot of the table.
Despite its low position on the list, Moscow actually progressed from last year’s 169th place.
No one from the Moscow government was available for comment, though in the past officials have complained that similar surveys paint an unfair picture of the city.
The Russian capital has made several negative lists. It was the world’s most expensive city for three years in a row, before being replaced by Tokyo in 2009.
The World Bank placed Moscow last among Russian cities for conducting business. Out of 10 Russian cities surveyed, business was easiest in Kazan and hardest in Moscow. The study cited huge amounts of time-consuming bureaucracy as main obstacles in the way of an entrepreneur.