Take any of the many highways out of the Russian capital and you can dissect the country’s strata like rings on a tree. Sentinel apartment towers replace the bustling illuminated center, then the belt of auto dealerships and box stores drifts by. Gradually, the landscape becomes sparse, with villages and towns sporadically punctuating the stretch of meadows and forests for thousands of miles in every direction.
Russia is the biggest country on Earth and both the state and the people take pride in the size of its territory — “from the southern seas to the polar fringes,” as the current national anthem goes.… Seguir leyendo »
On a crisp afternoon last month, a couple hundred people gathered on the main square of this small town a few hours north of Moscow to witness a historic event: the unearthing of a letter written half a century ago in Soviet Pereslavl to the youth of 2018.
The letter, written by young people in 1968, had been sealed in a metal cylinder shaped like a rocket — no doubt in homage to Yuri Gagarin’s triumphant venture into space, which took a few years before the capsule was buried under a small gray pedestal. Photos from the 1968 ceremony show locals bundled in coats and quilted jackets under the square’s statue of Vladimir Lenin, his disproportionately long arm pointing over their heads toward the undoubtedly bright Communist future in the 21st century.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, a group of Russian aviation students unleashed a firestorm when a decidedly homoerotic video of them dancing to the 2002 electro hit “Satisfaction” found its way onto YouTube. What has happened since has been unexpectedly revealing — so to speak — of the real Russia, the one that exists beyond the conservative anti-Western facade put up by the Kremlin.
The original Benny Benassi video to accompany “Satisfaction” shows models slick with sweat, using power tools while licking their lips — a campy dig at the objectification of the female body for marketing purposes. The Russian students aren’t the first to be inspired to make their own version: In 2013, for instance, British military personnel made a parody in which they, too, wore almost nothing and danced erotically while cleaning their living quarters.… Seguir leyendo »
The year before he retired from the Soviet equivalent of a mayoral post in a small Russian town, my grandfather went to Turkmenistan to visit his old friend Redzhep, a comrade from his Red Army artillery unit during World War II. Redzhep, like my grandfather, had made good of his postwar career, becoming an agronomist. As my grandfather packed for his rail journey back to Russia, Redzhep came to him in a fit of Central Asian generosity: Ivan, he said, I will give you a freight car of melons to take home.
My grandfather immediately said yes, thinking vitamins from a sun-drenched Turkmenistan plantation would be welcomed by the working families in Donskoy, the town in the Tula region, south of Moscow, that he had headed for more than 15 years.… Seguir leyendo »