Archive for October, 2016

On Sunday, I finally accomplished something that I’ve been trying to do in Russia for five years, which was to find a place where I could fire a Kalashnikov machine gun. It turns out that this was much easier to do than I anticipated. After a quick google search of “shoot Kalashnikov Moscow” I was rewarded with a shooting club, where it’s possible to fire a number of famous Russian guns. I went to the range with two of the French Canadians, another American, and a Russian.

Getting to the range was its own ordeal. It was about a fifteen minute walk from the metro station. Then, we had to find a specific building on the street, which was nondescript and had no signs on it. Inside that building, there was a security guard and a turn style. I had to give the security guard a password, which was given to me over the phone by the shooting club when I called to make the reservation. After giving the password, we proceeded into a large courtyard, which we had to cross. In a slightly frightening moment, I noticed that the building we had to enter had burned down, or rather some of the upper floors had. The shooting club was in the basement, along with a gym for training for hockey.img_2033

We entered the club, handed over our passports, and then filled out some paperwork before choosing which guns we wanted to fire and how many bullets we wanted to shoot. This process was a little complicated, as there were some strange minimums for the bullets. I selected 50 bullets, which could be divided across a number of guns, but the minimum number for each gun was 15 bullets. I wanted to shoot 30 from a Kalashnikov, 10 from a Makarov pistol, and 10 from a PPSh, but instead I had to do 20 from the Kalashnikov, 15 from the Makarov, and 15 from the PPSh. I also got 10 bullets for a Dragunov and 10 for a Mosin Nagant.

After paying, we waited in a hallway for a while before being led into a shooting range. There were two men who set up the range and organized all of the bullets. One guy was our instructor. He asked if we spoke Russian, and we said that we did more or less, so he gave the instructions in Russian and the Russian guy and I ended up translating what he said for the others.

First, we all fired some bullets from the Makarov pistol. I did not get the clip all the way in at first, so it took a second before I realized why my gun would not fire. I was 15/15 with the Makarov, though I was consistently low on the target.

The Makarov pistol, the standard side arm of the Soviet and Russian military and police from the 1950s to present.

The Makarov pistol, the standard side arm of the Soviet and Russian military and police from the 1950s to present.

After the pistol shooting was done, we moved further back in the range to fire the rifles. The first rifle I shot was a Kalashnikov. Sadly, it wasn’t actually an AK-47. It was probably an AK-74 or even a newer version of the basic Kalashnikov design, as the gun was stamped “Made in Russia.” The recoil from the Kalashnikov was not as bad as I thought it might be, though I only fired single rounds. I did not hold down the trigger or try it on auto, which I probably should have done, though I’m also not entirely sure if the gun was set up to fire fully on auto or not. I was 20/20 with the Kalashnikov.

The Kalashnikov, probably the most famous gun ever.

The Kalashnikov, probably the most famous gun ever.

The next gun I fired was the PPSh, or the main machine gun of the Soviet Red Army during World War Two. This gun is fairly simple and fires pistol ammunition. Again, I fired only single rounds and didn’t try to use it on automatic. It seems that I only missed one bullet on the target.

One of the guns that won World War II.

One of the guns that won World War II.

After I fired the machine guns, I fired two different rifles, the Dragunov and the Mosin-Nagant. The Dragunov is a Soviet designed, semi-automatic sniper rifle. I was 7/8 with the Dragunov, and was horrendously afraid to fire it. My friend in Ulyanovsk has one, and his wife told me that their elder son is not allowed to fire the Dragunov due to the bad recoil on it. She told me that if it’s not held right, you can break your jaw from the recoil. This fear was only increased by the instructor who warned us about the scope. Because of the recoil, if the scope is too close to your face, the scope can hit your face or eye. I was terrified at first, but then shot it without too much trouble. I did have some issues using the scope and looking through it while also trying to keep my face away from it. I then let Slava fire two bullets from the Dragunov, because he had always wanted to try one, but he had elected only to fire a Mosin.14591675_1154702487949185_4955745673888114101_n

The final gun I fired was a sniper version of the Mosin-Nagant rifle. The Mosin was designed for the Tsarist forces and served dutifully in World War One, the Russian Civil War, and the Second World War. It was the rifle of Soviet snipers during World War II, such as Vasili Zaitsev from the Battle of Stalingrad as well as numerous Soviet female snipers, some of whom had over 300 confirmed kills. Like the Dragunov, the Mosin had quite a bit of kick, and I was again warned not to have the scope too close to my face. I was 6/6 with the Mosin and then allowed Jean-Louis and Jacob to each take two shots with it.

You can see the cartridge ejecting in the photo.

You can see the cartridge ejecting in the photo.

 

After the excursion to the shooting range, this week has been shaping up pretty well. On Monday I worked through more of my Ulyanovsk files in the military archive. It was business as usual there, but it was confirmed that one of the employees at the reading room window speaks decent English. There were two German women who came to register at the archive. One clearly spoke little to no Russian, and the reading room window woman explained how to order files to her in English. I felt a mixture of being smug for having handled all of my business there in Russian, but also a little peeved that I could have had some frustration relieved at other times because at least someone in theory could explain stuff to me in English.

On Tuesday I worked from my room and then went to Taekwondo as usual. I found out that the boxing coach that I get the locker room key from is Sofya Ochigava, who won a silver medal in boxing at the London 2012 Olympics. She speaks fluent English and is super kind. I hope that one day she might give me a few boxing tips.

Today I worked out of GARF. I worked through my microfilm reels and then went to order a few more documents. Nina Ivanovna again gave me one microfiche folder immediately from the back room. She told me to keep the paper request form in my notebook and to just show it to her when I want to see the file. Per Wendy’s instructions, I also passed on greetings from Wendy and Nina Ivanovna was very happy to hear them. She also seemed to smile when I said that I was Wendy’s student. Hopefully this means I will stay on her good side. I also spent an hour in the side reading room, which has its own, different hours of operation. The same woman works there, Irina, and this time she was also nice to me. Perhaps the staff is just meaner in the summer, but I’ve had only good experiences with the staff this time.

This evening I was invited to Jacob’s host mother’s apartment for blini night. His host mother cooked us a fabulous dinner of chicken cutlets, crab salad, smoked salmon, and blini with butter, sour cream, and red caviar. She also baked us a heart shaped cake with apples in it. Dinner was fantastic, and we had a good conversation for about three hours. She told some good jokes about Russian history, and told me that I have to go to Tyumen to find a good Russian husband. She also remarked that Jacob and I look similar. Evidently Alla liked me, because we are now Facebook friends and she told me to come over again, and frequently.

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The last few days have been pretty excellent. On Friday I looked at files from Ulyanovsk Camp 215 in the military archive. Then, Friday evening, I met ASEEES crew for a great meal at a Cuban restaurant called Aruba Bar. The food was fairly authentic. There were also pretty decent $5 mojitos, so I was quite happy with that. The place got pretty packed later in the evening, seemingly with lots of Cuban or Latin ex-pats. It seemed the owner of the café was also Cuban. There was even live music. img_1803

Saturday was an awesome day. I woke up at went to the giant souvenir/flea market at the Partizanskaya metro stop, out by the hotels built for the 1980 Olympics, with some Canadian neighbors and a Russian friend. It was a fun moment for me, as our Russian friend had never been there, so I was showing something new to a born and bred Muscovite. The market was its usual collection of funny and cool stuff. There were the obligatory souvenirs like matryoshki (nesting dolls), ushanki (fur hats), and Putin themed coffee mugs. The back half of the market is more of a real flea market filled with tons of Soviet things like banners, military uniforms, and samovars (the traditional Russian tea making vessel). I saw quite a few paintings of Lenin for sale, as well as a couple of Stalins and Brezhnevs. Sadly, there didn’t seem to be any portraits of Khrushchev, Andropov, Chernenko, or Gorbachev for sale. So much for any attempt to collect paintings of all of the Soviet leaders.

If only I had the money and space for these kinds of things.

If only I had the money and space for these kinds of things.

The market also had some cool stuff like entire bear and wolf skins, complete with the heads.

Who doesn't want a whole bear skin?

Who doesn’t want a whole bear skin?

The market has two strange trends involving military paraphernalia. The first is that it seems it was possible to buy actual guns such as Kalashnikovs (AK-47s), MP-40s (the famous Wehrmacht gun from WWII), and Moisin Nagants (the Russian rifle that saw service in both World Wars and the Civil War). I’m not sure if they were deactivated show pieces or if they were firing weapons. The other somewhat troubling thing for sale was Second World War items such as helmets, bullets, ammo lines, and mess kits. Many of the items were damaged and badly rusted, which implies that they were dug from former battle sites. This is an increasingly popular activity in the battle fields of the Eastern Front. There are some legitimate groups that do this in order to find, attempt to identify, and properly bury German and Soviet soldiers. However, there are also a series of scavengers, known as black diggers, who plunder what are essentially grave sites and sell the memorabilia.

Looted military goods and guns. What could go wrong?

Looted military goods and guns. What could go wrong?

While heading out of the market and towards the metro, I got excited because I saw a Chaika limousine off in the distance. The Chaika was an ultra-elite Soviet limo that was made from 1959 to 1981. In order to catch a photo of it, I sprinted a bit of a distance. To my surprise, there wasn’t just one Chaika but three Chaiki! I got a few good photos, and a video of one driving off into the distance. This particular limo was so well known and exclusive, that the elite lanes of travel on some major Moscow roads were called Chaika lanes. These lanes existed on some of the major thoroughfares, and only official vehicles with occupants of high status were allowed to travel in them. This basically set the precedent for the modern Russian practice of official cars with blue lights on them, megalki, driving however they please through the cities of Russia. By the time I was done taking the photos, the others had caught up and were laughing at me running after the cars and my glee at photographing them. It’s occasions such as these when I’m really crushed that I’m not doing Soviet automobiles for my dissertation.

Chaika limos were made from 1959 to 1981.

Chaika limos were made from 1959 to 1981.

After wandering around the market for a few hours, we headed off to a great and cheap Uzbek restaurant for a filling and much needed lunch before we headed back to the dormitory. Saturday was a special day for us, or rather me. Technically my birthday was on Sunday, but Sunday is not a good night to party. Thus, my wonderful dorm neighbors decided to help me celebrate starting around 9:00 PM on Saturday and into Sunday. I had to make a brief escape during the festivities for about an hour to have plov with Ali, the security guard from Uzbekistan. He promised to make some in honor of my birthday, and indeed he did. It was probably the best plov I have ever had. We had a nice conversation and had a few toasts in the hallway of the guard’s corridor.

Yummy Uzbek plov goodness.

Yummy Uzbek plov goodness.

I was pleasantly surprised on Monday when I was able to get my passport back a few days early. I now have a multi-entry visa that’s good until the end of July. Armed with my passport, I went to the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) yesterday and got my ID without any problems. I went up to the reading room and spoke with Nina Ivanovna, the archivist who can be very intimidating at times. I said that I had ordered documents over a month ago, but that they had probably been returned while I was waiting to get my passport back from the migration service. She said that was probably the case but checked quickly for me. She said that they had indeed been returned, but that I could order them again. I went to the computer and ordered a series of files electronically and then headed back to the reading room window to sign that request and ask for a paper form for the few folders that don’t appear in the electronic catalog. Upon returning with the paper form, Nina Ivanovna told me wait. She said she would check to see if she had some of the folders on microfilm or microfiche in her backroom. A few minutes later, she came out with one folder on microfiche. I thanked her profusely before heading off to find a microfiche reader along the back wall of the reading room. Then, right after I sat down and began to get settled with my computer, Nina Ivanovna appeared with two more folders on microfiche for me. I don’t know what miracle has transpired, but somehow Nina Ivanovna no longer hates me and I managed to get three folders instantly in a Russian archive. I feel a gift of chocolate will be soon due for Nina Ivanovna.

GARF was also good because it has a nice cafeteria in it with good food, cheap prices, and the nicest lady ever working behind the counter. I managed to get a large bowl of shchi (Russian cabbage soup), a pork chop in an apple and cream sauce, a side of potatoes, and a cup of tea all for under $4.00. Armed with caffeine and lunch, I was able to head back to my folders and microfiche reader without feeling the wish to die. Now that I can work in three archives (the State Archive of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Economic Archive share a reading room and ID), I’ll be spending pretty much every week day at the archives for the near future.

Cowards Don’t Play Hockey

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

On Sunday evening I went to a CSKA hockey game with two French Canadians, an American, and a Russian. It was the first hockey game that I’ve ever been to in Russia, and I was super excited to see the notorious Red Army team, historically one of the best in the country. CSKA is a transliteration of sorts for Центральный Спортивный Клуб Армии (Central Sports Club of the Army), or ЦСКА (TsSKA). It is no longer a team of the Russian Army, but it still has military affiliations.

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The teams take the ice for the national anthem.

For those of you who are in Pittsburgh and are Penguins fans, CSKA had an affiliation with the Penguins in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Pittsburgh Penguins owned a interest in the team for a while, and they were unofficially known as the Russian Penguins. That’s why there are a few CSKA jerseys with Penguins on them. Years ago my parents had given me one as a Christmas present from a mail order catalog that specialized in Russian and Soviet themed items. I didn’t know about this connection, but I’ve worn the jersey to the two Penguins games that I’ve gone to in Pittsburgh. Sadly, my CSKA jersey with a penguin on it is in my storage locker in Pittsburgh.

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I wear this to Penguins games because of the penguin. I didn’t know that the teams were actually related. Also, please note the different in proximity to the ice. To sit that far away in Pittsburgh, I had to pay $35.

Unlike a game at the Consol Center, the tickets for the CSKA game were a super steal, 1,000 rubles or roughly $15, for seats that were in the center of the stadium and not too many rows back from the ice. It was actually funny, because there was a jumbotron that was useless. The players on it appeared smaller that the players on the ice.

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The players didn’t look like ants.

To get to the stadium, we took the metro a few stops out on the green line and then walked for about five or ten minutes. We had to use an above group crossing to cross sixteen lanes of traffic. There were two sets of four lane highways for a total of eight lanes of traffic in each direction. The stadium is an older one that’s part of a giant complex for CSKA sports, including a pool. The ice area was also pleasantly located right next to a Mercedes dealership. The Canadians commented how I basically lost my mind at the intersection of the Soviet sports complex and my beloved Mercedes. I was also happy because a nearby building had one of those revolving Mercedes stars on its roof.

My priority will always be Mercedes.

My priority will always be Mercedes.

We waited in line to pass through security for our sector at the stadium. Upon entering we were all pleasantly surprised by the presence of a military band playing patriotic songs.

Military pep band.

Military pep band.

With a few minutes to kill before the start of the game, we wandered into the ground floor of the stadium to find the concession booths. There were some standard food choices like popcorn and hotdogs, but special for Russia was the availability of corn on the cob as well as bowls of steamed corn.

Sports are the same across the globe. Game snacks, however, are not.

Sports are the same across the globe. Game snacks, however, are not.

The stadium was older, but not terrible. We walked up to our seats and watched the opening festivities for the game, which included ice skating cheerleaders and the horse mascot on skates. After the players took the ice, the military band came out to a stage of sorts that ran along the wall above one of the goals to play the national anthem, the lyrics of which were displayed on the jumbotron.

"For the Motherland, For Victory"

“For the Motherland, For Victory”

The match was against a team from Omsk in Siberia called Avangard. Level of play wise, the game was lower than the NHL. There were lots of missed shots and dropped sticks. The ambiance, however, was fantastic. There was a cheer section complete with giant flags and a drummer that never stopped for the course of each 20 minute period. There were also moments of organ music of Russian patriotic tunes such as Katyusha or Kalinka and general pump up music mostly of the pop/techno variety and not so much rock. The title of this post comes from a Soviet hockey song that played during one of the intermissions that translates to “The Coward Does Not Play Hockey.”

Some of our extra in game entertainment was watching the cheerleaders spaced out around the stairs. There was a set directly across the stadium in our line of sight. The blonde cheerleader basically pulled a left-shark the entire time. She knew but didn’t know what she was doing and was out of sync with the other cheerleaders. The inter-period entertainment featured young Russian figure skaters doing routines, there was 70th anniversary of WWII victory blimp that was flown around.

Figure skating is still huge in Russia.

Figure skating is still huge in Russia.

Sadly CSKA lost to Avangard 2-1 a few minutes into the first overtime period.  It was an exciting game nonetheless, and we have plans to see games of the other Moscow teams.

The faces of super happy North Americans. Canada and the United States getting along in Russia.

The faces of super happy North Americans. Canada and the United States getting along in Russia.

It’s been a super busy week and a half for me in terms of research and fun stuff. So here are some of the highlights in a massive, tome of a post.

Last Sunday, I met up with my fellow ASEEES grant recipients at the Muzeon Statue Park across from Gorky Park. This park is adjacent to the modern art wing of the Tretryakov Gallery, which had a monstrous line heading out of it for the Aivazovsky exhibition that recently opened. To our astonishment and amusement, there was a guy scalping tickets for the art exhibit. “See Aivazovsky without standing in line. I have tickets.”

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You can buy scalped tickets to art exhibits in Russia. Such a fascinating cultural difference, which an emphasis on culture.

The statue park is its usual fun. There are a whole bunch statues for Lenin, some for Stalin, and even a few for Brezhnev as well as other pieces of socialist-realist fun. One of the main attractions, so to speak, is the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who was the establisher and director of the Soviet secret police, the Cheka, which later evolved into the NKVD/KGB. The particular statue to “Iron Felix” used to be in a square in front of the Lubyanka building, the secret police headquarters. This building is infamous, and many who entered did not return. They were either interrogated and shipped off to the Gulag, for example, or shot right in the basement. In the place of the Dzerzhinsky statue, there is now a memorial to the victims of Soviet Repression. To our amazement, there were a lot of flowers placed at the base of this statue. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if many other statues had flowers at them. For comparison and shock factor, there was only one flower at a statue for Gandhi. Additionally, there were people gladly posing for pictures with Iron Felix.

"Iron" Felix Dzerzhinsky

“Iron Felix”

After seeing the statue park, we ambled around the banks of the river to the House on the Embankment, another noteworthy literary and historical site in Moscow. The building was built as an apartment building for Soviet elite and houses a theatre and movie theatre. The theatre in the building was advertising some showing of something called “любовь – не картошка,” which translates roughly as “Love, not potatoes.” I am very curious about this topic and more research needs to be done. After wandering around the House on the Embankment, we crossed the river and headed to the Arbat, where we got a late lunch/early dinner of khachipuri, delicious, delicious Georgian bread and cheese boats. We also got a pitcher of tarkhun, or tarragon soda, which is best when fresh made.

On Monday morning, I had a meeting with Stefan Karner, a major scholar for my research topic.  He cleared up some organizational questions I had about the sub-division of the NKVD that controlled the POWs. He was very friendly and helpful, and invited me to work with his research institute in Austria. After my meeting with Stefan, I got a surprise text from my friend Katya from Ulyanovsk, saying that she was in Moscow for a few days. She had some free time in the afternoon, so I met up with her in the center. I had no real set plans, so we met at Lubyanka and went to Biblioglobus. The bookstore didn’t really have much that I was really trying to find, but we had a good time browsing all of the books. I managed to get a copy of Superman Red Son translated into Russian. I’m not really a fan of comics, but I really like this particular one because it’s a limited series that asked what would it be like if Superman had landed in the Soviet Union and fought for Marxism-Leninism instead of “truth, justice, and the American way.” Now, in addition to having a nifty discussion topic for cultural history, I have a way to practice my Russian with documents that are not NKVD reports.

Superman Red Son

Superman Red Son

Speaking of NKVD reports, I’ve had some successful but somewhat uncomfortable days in the military archive recently. I was handling reports that had been signed by Stalin and Beria themselves. It is a little weird to handle papers that they wrote, which concerned the fates of thousands of human lives. There weren’t execution orders or anything like that, instead they were labor assignments to various economic projects, but touching documents like that still make me feel a little uneasy.

On Tuesday morning I got up and headed out to Krasnogorsk to the Memorial Museum of German Anti-Fascists, aka the POW Museum. Krasnogorsk was once its own settlement 27km outside of Moscow, but as Moscow has grown, it has been more or less incorporated into the city. After the Battle of Moscow, in which the German forces were stopped roughly ten miles outside of the city, the Soviets build POW Camp No. 27 in Krasnogorsk, upon retaking the land. Camp No. 27 was a special camp for officers, and it also served as the base for the anti-fascist, or Anti-Fa, training program in the Soviet Union.

The Memorial Museum of German Anti-Fascists in Krasnogorsk

The Memorial Museum of German Anti-Fascists in Krasnogorsk

The museum requires a bit of a jaunt to get to. I have to take the purple line to its third to last stop in the northwest of the city. From there, I have to take a bus for about thirty minutes, and then it’s about a five minute walk to the museum. I entered the museum and was able to pay the student rate to enter. I asked the nice woman at the desk if I had to show her my ID, and she said that she trusted me. She also told me that a tour had just started, and that I should hurry up and just follow the tour around the museum. I hung up my coat and dropped off my backpacks and complied with her directive. I managed to follow along a group of Russian high school students. They knew I was not with them, but the museum staff did not notice or understand that I was not part of the group. At one point on the second floor of the museum, the students were asked to sit down in a mock-up of an anti-fascist school classroom. The museum minder sat down on a different bench away from that and told me to sit down with the students, but then I told her that I wasn’t with them. She said it didn’t matter and told me to sit with her. Then, after that section of the tour was done, the teacher asked to take a photo of all of her students in the “classroom” and the tour guide moved out of the photo. She asked why I didn’t want to be in the photo with the others, and I again said that I wasn’t with the group.

Uncles Lenin and Stalin will motivate us through proper Anti-Fa training.

Uncles Lenin and Stalin will motivate us through proper Anti-Fa training.

The tour then moved to a different section, which explained the treatment of Soviet POWs in Nazi hands. As the group moved from one part of that section to the other, I lingered a little to take photos of some specific worker IDs. Another member of the museum staff noticed me doing that and pulled me off to the side to tell me about a different, special work assignment of one POW. I then rejoined the group for a film about WWII in Russia, mostly about German atrocities towards the regular Soviet population. The tour then finished and the students all left. I then thanked the two tour guides, said I was not with the group, and asked if I could remain around the exhibits longer. They said that I could, and the male guide asked if I am German. I explained who I am and what my topic is, and then said that I was very interested in the history of the museum itself. I asked if there is any documentation on it, and the woman tour guide managed to get me a book about the museum, which she said would be ready for me at the museum cashier. I went down to that office to get the book, and the woman working there gave me two other books about WWII in Germany and topics related to the museum for free. I also asked about working in the museum archive again, and if there were any documents in it about the formation of the museum. The woman there said that the archive is in the process of moving and that it should be done in a month. I was told that it would be a good idea to wait about a month and a half before calling again to see if there was something of use for me in the archive. I said that I would probably check back in two months, and I was told that was an even better idea.

I had a nice surprise while walking back to the dorm when getting back from the POW museum. I was right near RGGU when I heard someone say my name. I turned to the nearest group of people and saw some university aged students. One girl in the group had recognized me and tried calling my name to see if it was me. She was from Ulyanovsk and was surprised to see me here. She wanted to know why I wasn’t at the Politech (that makes two of us). I said that I stopped teaching English there four years ago. She then asked why I was here, and it turns out we are both students, so to speak, at RGGU. Four years ago, she used to be a student of my good friend Iriny at the private language school in Ulyanovsk where I used to volunteer. It was a very pleasant surprise, and we will hopefully hang out in the future.

I have no photos to illustrate the large chunks of text, so instead here are some delicious noodles that I ate from the Vietnamese place next to my dorm.

I have no photos to illustrate the large chunks of text, so instead here are some delicious noodles that I ate from the Vietnamese place next to my dorm.

On Thursday I headed off to my first Taekwondo practice in Moscow. The trainer, Mikhail Georgievich, is originally from Georgia (the country, not the state), and gives lessons out of a special sport school in Moscow that also trains children and young adults in boxing, gymnastics, and swimming. The school wasn’t too hard to find from the metro, and when I came in and spoke with security, a nice woman immediately allowed me in and took me to Mikhail Georgievich. Some other woman who works for the school wrote a letter for me that will allow me to get past security when I come in the future and then showed me the location of the locker room.

Practice was a super intense two hours in a well equipped but small room. The heat was turned up extra high for training, and none of the windows were opened. The room itself is covered with puzzle mats, and there is a great collection of gear including wall mounted targets, three bob targets, and enough hogus, arm, and shin guards for everyone. Mikhail Georgievich is very kind, and his students all accepted me very quickly and warmly. He told them to practice their English with me, and he would ask how to say certain things in English. I asked when it was ok for me to come to practice, and he said that it’s five days a week from 6-8. I said that I could come twice a week due to my research schedule. There was also another coach who came in towards the end of practice. She works at the school just for stretching. At one point, she folded me into a pretzel and then sat on my back to “correct the curve in my spine” when I do a butterfly stretch. It was super painful. She then also took glee in torturing some of the guys at practice, and  excitedly said, “look, I’ve made a man cry.” So this should be a fun year of practice.

Parents are forbidden to enter the gym while practice is in session.

Parents are forbidden to enter the gym while practice is in session.

On Friday I had the most pleasant research experience of my life in Russia. I went out to the second branch of the Russian State Library, or the Leninka, which is located in a suburb of Moscow called Khimki. To get there, I have to go to the last metro stop on either the green or grey line and then take a thirty or so minute bus ride. Khimki houses the periodicals division as well as the dissertation collection of the Leninka. When I arrived, I showed my ID to the guard for the dissertation wing and said that it was my first time there. I asked what I needed to do, and he politely directed me into the reading room, where I met one lady and gave the same statement. The reading room on the first floor is for paper dissertations, which she told me were for any written before 1996 or so. To look through those, I need to use a card catalog. She told me that what I probably wanted were newer dissertations, which required I go to the reading room on the second floor. Up I went, where I was immediately greeted by a nice librarian. I told her that I was new to the Leninka and asked what I needed to do to use the system. She took me to a computer, helped me log in, and showed me how to open the electronically held dissertations. In this reading room, I’m allowed to take photos of whatever I want for free. If I want to print, it’s a 5 ruble charge. I was then told not to put a flash drive in the computer and not to download the dissertations due to the intellectual property rights of the writers.

Yesterday I went to another amazing and newish museum in Moscow, the Museum of the History of the Gulag, which is conveniently located in walking distance from RGGU. I met one of my fellow ASEEES recipients and we spent three or so hours walking through the exhibits, which ranged from personal effects of prisoners to doors from notorious prisons such as Vladimir Central and Butyrka. I thought the museum was incredibly well done, and really gave a human and tangible aspect to a topic that I’ve spent over three years researching. I saw a number of things there to inspire some other avenues of research or mapping, but I also was slightly frustrated from a historian’s perspective because I saw that many of the exhibits were created around archival sources, such as a plan for a typical camp layout, but there were no direct references. Thus, one of the activities for the upcoming week is to email some of the people at the museum to see if I can work in their archive or at least figure out how to also consult some of the sources that they used to create their exhibitions.

The size of a prison cell in St. Petersburg's infamous Kresty Prison. During the Terror, there could be up to 12 people contained in this space.

The size of a prison cell in St. Petersburg’s infamous Kresty Prison. During the Terror, there could be up to 12 people contained in this space.

And with this, I’m about to read some of the books I got at the Museum of German Anti-Fascists before heading off to see a TsSKA or CSKA hockey game tonight. Stay tuned for a full report of that later.