MOSCOW — On the windy hill where Napoleon once waited for the keys to Moscow, an army of workers is rushing to finish a park celebrating Russia's victory over another invader from the West: Nazi Germany.
Construction crews yesterday were preparing for perhaps the biggest bash Moscow has seen in a hundred years.
More than 50 world leaders plan to attend the 50th anniversary of Victory Day on May 9, and Moscow has mobilized its forces to turn the capital's moonscape of mud and grime into a gleaming showcase of the new Russia.
Workers are pruning trees, scrubbing statues, and painting anything that stands still. Striped- lane markers have reappeared on a number of Moscow roads, although most drivers pretend they haven't. Even the capital's Soviet hammer-and-sickle monuments are getting the once-over. The only things missing are green grass and leaves on the trees, but spring is rumored to be on the way.
''The last time Moscow saw something like this was in 1896 for the coronation of Nicholas II,'' the daily Izvestia said recently.
Moscow thought it would play host to the world during the 1980 Olympics, but its cleanup campaign meant little after the United States led a boycott to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
This year, the fighting in Chechnya made President Clinton and other leaders reluctant to come to Moscow to honor the Russian military machine. President Boris Yeltsin finally agreed to organize two parades: One, for the foreign guests, will feature veterans on Red Square; the other will send military hardware past the new memorial park being built in Moscow.