|2004-07-17 - Mosquitos, noise and pollution
No!” yelled our guide terrified,”I am not going with you into the Devils Nest!”
The guide was referring to the Mausoleum of the Bolshevik leader Lenin, one of the initiators of the Soviet Empire. It was on top of this concrete building, that the hard eyed, coldly staring and arrogant Soviet leaders overlooked their massive troops and nuclear weapons passing below them on the Red Square, a concentration of power that terrified the West. It is this image of Russia that we, like most westerners, have carried around since we first heard the word Russia.
”A lot of us”, continued our guide hotly,”believe that Lenin is the main reason for the chaos we live in at the present. And who believe that we will stay in this chaos until that day someone drags that devil out of the mausoleum and bury him half a meter underground!”
Gee, this is an exciting time to be in Russia!
On one side there’s a great feeling of pioneering, where many people can’t hide their joy over this newfound freedom to basically do whatever comes to their mind. They can travel if they have the funds, they can have opinions without having to worry, they can be religious without being persecuted and they can write and read whatever they like. They’re proud to be Russian! On the other side, there seems to be at least as many Russians who doesn’t like the chaos which have erupted since the perestroika. They don’t like the westernization with young people lightly dressed, drinking and kissing openly, they experience lots of insecurity, they note that the gaps between the rich and poor are enormous, crime is rising fast, as are prices on most things which they even during the Soviet time took for granted, for example traveling cheaply on the subway or always being able to buy bread, and they feel ashamed over the inaptitude of their country. They seem to lack a sense of belonging. These two opposites can be experienced everywhere when meeting Russians in Moscow.
If you talk to two different Russians, apparently good friends, they seem to have two totally opposite opinions. One of them is terrified for everything new and they miss the Soviet stability when everybody knew exactly what would happen or what could be done. The other one he sees possibilities in everything insecure and loves the new commercialism, even though all gigantic commercial signs dotting every street corner in Moscow are littered with really rough looking beggars. Moscow is a place of all opposites it seems like. It is difficult not liking it, even though poverty and the clear gaps between people’s fortunes is a misery to see. If you on top of this consider the way we three have decided to live, you’ll understand if we definitely like this feeling of pioneering, where there’s a will to try whatever turns up and realizing that nothing is impossible. We have never experienced this pioneering feeling as clear as here in Russia.
Russia is, so far, a tremendous experience!