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It is one of the most alluring sights for any visitor to Moscow: the first glimpse of the spectacularly colourful St Basil's Cathedral across the vast expanse of Red Square. For many foreigners it is the ultimate symbol of everything Russian.
The cathedral's exotic spires and domes are so enchanting that legend has it that Ivan the Terrible gouged out the eyes of its architect, Posnik Yakovlev, so he could never build anything as beautiful again.
He was not the only one denied the chance to have a good look at the 16th-century masterpiece. In early September, Moscow suffered its worst smog in 30 years. With visibility reduced to 50 metres, bewildered tourists stumbling around Red Square with streaming eyes and sore throats almost had to fall on top of St Basil's before they could make it out.