Posts Tagged ‘Moscow’

May 9th, or Victory Day (День Победы, Den’ Pobedy), is a major Russian holiday at commemorates Soviet victory in World War Two in the European theater of war. The first Victory Parade was held in Moscow at Red Square on June 24, 1945. After that, though, Victory Day was not a holiday, and did not become so until 1965 and the 20th anniversary of the ending of WWII. During the Brezhnev era, the Soviet victory over fascism became a point of stability and self-worth for the Soviet government. It was under Brezhnev that the Cult of WWII became a phenomenon and part of Soviet society. Major parades on Victory Day, though, were reserved for large anniversaries of the date. Only four Victory Parades took place in the Soviet Union, in 1945, 1965, 1985, and 1990. The major military parades were saved for the anniversary of the October Revolution, which was celebrated on November 7th (when the Revolution took place, the Russians still used the Julian calendar; the Soviets switched the nation over to the Gregorian calendar). Under Putin, however, the Victory Day parade has become a staple, and the Cult of WWII has regained a prominent place in Russian society. As a fan of military technology and the stereotypical images of tanks and ICBMs rolling down Red Square, it was a dream come true to be in Moscow for Victory Day.

ICBM in downtown Moscow. No big deal.

Due to the importance of the event, a number of practices are held in the weeks leading up to the parade. One night after Taekwondo, Jean Louis found out about the practice, so we headed off to Red Square around 9:45PM in the cold and rain. We were able to stand near the Okhotnoy Ryad Metro entrance and see all of the tanks parked and ready to roll onto Red Square. As we stood under the rain, we heard the soldiers on Red Square shout “УРА” (Hooray) before the machines started up and rolled past us. It was absolutely unreal to stand meters away from moving tanks, missile launchers, and ICBMs. It’s one thing to see them in museums, but it’s completely different to feel the sidewalk shaking underfoot as the trundle past at speed.

A few days later, I managed to see another practice off of Tverskaya Ulitsa, one of the main roads in downtown Moscow. This practice was held earlier in the evening, or rather, I saw the technology roll by closer to 7:00PM. They would then wait outside of Red Square and would again drive onto Red Square after 10:00PM, once the soldiers had finished their marches. I went with two of my dorm neighbors, Gustav and Linda, and we were again very lucky to get right up to the barricade near the Mayakovskaya Metro stop. This repetition was even better because it was daylight. Because we were at the spot where the tanks turn off of the Garden Ring and onto Tverskaya, there were some gaps in the procession and differences in speed of the vehicles. Trying to catch up to the ones ahead, some of the tanks were clearly driving at full speed when they went past. You could see the damage they were doing to the pavement.

On Sunday morning, I had been having brunch with Jean Louis on the 8th floor. While we were cleaning up, we got the surprise of a lifetime with the practice for the aerial portion of the parade. Our dormitory is right under the flight path towards Red Square, and the planes were just overhead. The view from the kitchen window was perfect. I geeked out as I saw a number of really cool planes fly over, such as an Antonov An-124 Ruslan (the largest military transport plane in the world), and the Tupolev Tu-95 bomber. The Tu-95 is known as the Bear bomber according to NATO, and it is Russia’s equivalent to the B-52. It’s the USSR/Russia’s strategic long-range bomber that can drop nukes and conventional bombs as well as fire cruise missiles. Unlike the B-52, which is jet powered, the Tu-95 features 4 turbo-prop engines with 8 contra-rotating propellers.

A trio of Tu-95s.

It’s one of the fastest propeller driven aircraft and is also one of the loudest military aircraft. The noise of them flying overhead was deafening. You could hear them from really far off, and that must have been somewhat what it was like to live through the Blitz, hearing propeller bombers approaching from far off. The sound meant that nothing good could be coming. There was also a sweet flyover of various fighter jets and bombers, which were in great patterns. The final planes dropped smoke in the color of the Russian flag, which was great.

On Victory Day itself, I woke up at 6:30 so that I could leave the dorm at 7:00 to head off to Tverskaya, one of the main roads in Moscow to try to watch the military vehicles parade down the roads. The major ceremony takes place at Red Square, but only diplomats, veterans, and special guests can go to see the parade in person. It’s an invitation only event. Myself and a few others braved the cold weather and rain to head to the same spot on Tverskaya just past the Mayakovskaya Metro stop to catch the machinery roll by before parking off of Red Square. The official ceremony starts at 10:00AM. We figured we could see the stuff and then wait for the planes to fly over.

When we got there around 7:30, we spoke to a few cops and they said that the stuff had already gone by at around 7:00 if not earlier. While deliberating what to do, Jean Louis was briefly interview for some Russian TV channel. Slightly discouraged by the lack of tanks, we walked by foot in the direction of Red Square to see how close we could get. The closest, near the Teatralnaya Metro stop, didn’t give us views of anything. The others talked about maybe going to one particular spot, and I wasn’t sure what would or wouldn’t be visible from there.

I walked back to the dorm to have a quick chat with the security guards about going on the roof. The guy in the first building said that he didn’t have a key to the roof, and to ask the guys in the main building. He told me to tell him if the other guards had the key, because he also wanted to go on the roof to watch the planes fly over. So I went off to the main building and asked the guard there if he had a key to the roof so that we could watch the planes. He said that he didn’t have it, and that he himself had been searching for it for the same reason. I wished him a happy holiday, and he said he would unlock the main door for me to leave. We then stood there for a solid minute while he tried to unlock the door. Once again, I was reminded at how deadly every exit to the university potentially is.

On the street, I ran into an acquaintance named Anna. She said she was waiting for her friend Dasha, and that they were going to go to Tverskaya together to watch the tanks. I said that I had been told that they had already gone by, and she said that was crazy. By this time it was already nearing 9:00AM. She said that the first vehicles, such as the T-34 tank on a trailer (70+ year old tanks aren’t meant to drive miles down the roads of Moscow), were probably what had gone by.

The T-34 gets special treatment. It was the tank that won WWII, and the first to use sloped armor.

We then set off to the Mayakovskaya station to get a spot and wait for Dasha. When we got to the station, a cop was announcing on a megaphone that the tanks had already gone by, and he listed a few places for us to go to see them, once of which was where the others had gathered.

We hopped on the Metro and rode to the center, to a station where there are four stations together. It turns out that we could only exit from one of them, which means we had to walk through basically three others to get to the street. We exited at Arbatskaya and stood in a fairly thick crowd. By chance, another acquaintance, Dima, was there and saw me. He said hello and told us how to join up with the others, so we quickly walked off and wound up on a hill overlooking the exit of the Kremlin, right were the vehicles would leave the Kremlin and drive up and through the city.

Sadly, from that point it’s impossible to see the foot soldiers. The parade of vehicles was just as cool as when I saw the various repetitions. On one hand, the practices were better because I was closer to the vehicles, but it’s something else to see them rolling with the Kremlin walls in the background.

С Днём Победы! Happy Victory Day!

As soon as the tanks passed, the police made announcements for the crowd to disperse. Due to the poor weather, the planes had been cancelled. Some people were saying that it was the coldest Victory Day ever. While I’m not sure of that, I do know that it was indeed cold. On the 8th, it alternated between raining heavily and snowing. I thought that this was intentional. The Russians do something to the clouds to push them out of the sky and cause them to rain before and after the holiday so that the skies are clear on the holiday itself. They either didn’t do it, or it was too cold and the clouds were too saturated. The temperature on Victory Day ranged from the mid-30s to the mid-40s Fahrenheit, and it rained on and off for most of the day. The weather was evidently bad enough that they decided not to do the fly overs. Slightly dejected, we wandered off to get food. We wound up back by Pushkin Square, which was filled with a parade for various political parties including the Communist Party and one that was for the restoration of the monarchy.

Lenin Lived. Lenin Lives. Lenin Will Live.

I wound up getting a photo with some Communist pilots, who I think used to fly for Aeroflot.

With my new pilot friends.

After getting cut off a few times, we eventually wound up in a good cafeteria where we all chowed down and regained some energy. We then walked to the Hermitage Garden, where there was a smaller collection of Victory Day activities. There were a number of old GAZ Volga cars, and there was a Ural motorcycle that we could sit on. There was a concert of military music, and there was a special ceremony of thanks and recognition for a few veterans of WWII. There are still a few of them around, and they were proudly enjoying the day’s activities. From there, we walked back to RGGU to have tea and rest up for other activities.

To Berlin!

Around 7:15, Jean Louis asked if I wanted to get dinner with him. We walked to the store and got some booze and then grabbed some food from McDonald’s, which we ate in the 9th floor kitchen. Izaro was making herself pasta, and Étienne was sitting and having a cup of noodles. Jean Louis then invited him to the fireworks. Gustav also joined us, and we hopped in the metro to ride off to Park Pobedy, Victory Park. The show was supposed to start at 10:00, so we left before 9:00. When we changed stations at Kievskaya, we all piled into an overcrowded car for the one stop to Victory Park. In the station, we met up with Dima, and then we proceeded out and to the park. To get into the park we had to wait in line to go through metal detectors. The crowd was pretty tight getting through security, but once we were inside it was OK, as the park is huge. We then met up with the Italians and two Germans. At 10:00, the fireworks began and lasted for about ten or fifteen minutes.

This might be slightly better than the 4th of July.

Leaving the park was quite difficult. As soon as the fireworks ended, people rushed the exits. We went towards the exit, but all movement stopped pretty quickly. We stood unmoving for quite some time. We then tried to see if we could go out a different exit, but it had been blocked. We were essentially locked into the park by police barricades. Only after a while did they open the main barricade that was stopping us. We got shuffled and pushed towards the exit with the mob. We unfortunately lost two of our friends in the process. As we approached the entrance to the metro, the mob was bonkers. We were being crushed and pushed from every direction as everyone rushed to get down the stairs. Once a few steps into the metro entrance, however, the crowd dispersed and we were able to have some space to ourselves and make sure everyone was there to head home.

Packed metro. All of these people were exiting the station.

In total, Victory Day was absolutely fantastic. I fulfilled a dream of mine to be in Moscow on Victory Day, which is everything I had hoped it would be and more. I also walked 13 miles over the course of the day, so my body feels like one of the tanks rolled over me. And now I have to leave for the former Party Archive, where I will spend my day reading about POWs. Life is never dull as a WWII historian.

Last night I went to see one of my favorite bands, Trubetskoy. Well, they’re actually the remains of one of my favorite bands, Lyapis Trubetskoy. After the band’s 25th anniversary, they basically dissolved. One of the singers went and formed the band Brutto, while the other singer and a few other members, such as the guitarist, went on to tour as just Trubetskoy. Lyapis Trubetskoy started out as much more of a ska influenced band, and they got progressively more rock and metal over the years. They hail from Minsk, Belarus, and have also become far more political in their messages and lyrics over the years.

К нам приехал Тубецкой!

I’m a pretty huge fan of the band. I listen to their music quite frequently. I saw them play in Ulyanovsk five years ago, when they were still Lyapis Trubetskoy, and my department cubicle and apartment in Pittsburgh are decorated with their posters.

Lyapis Trubetskoy posters from Ulyanovsk and a map of Ulyanovsk are what every home needs.

 

The concert was held in a very small club venue called Club Theatre. I went with Anne-Marie. I got her a ticket for the show as a birthday present. We had celebrated her birthday in the dorm with the full crew, and a good night it was. The pièce de résistance of the night was the surprise made by two of the other French Canadians – poutine. One had produced a packet of gravy for the poutine. The other fried up the french fries from scratch, and some Russian cheeses were used as a passable substitute for cheese curds. It was delicious and wonderful.

Poutine à la russe.

Before we went to the venue, we went to a nearby Georgian restaurant called Chito-Ra. I had found it by chance by looking for restaurants near the concert on Yandex maps. I later found out that a friend considers it to be the best Georgian restaurant in Moscow. When we got there, the place was packed, and we had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes before we could sit. The food was indeed excellent. We got my favorite khacipuri, khachipuri po adjarski, which is a delightfully decadent bread boat filled with melted cheese and a cracked egg on top. We also split an order of khinkali, Georgian dumplings, filled with a mixture of beef and pork and greens.

Georgian for the win.

From the restaurant, we walked over to the club and waited in the hallway for about 30 minutes before being allowed to walk onto the floor. The hall was tiny, which was nice because we were fairly close to the group. At about 8:30PM an opening act took the stage. They were a ska group called Faktory, and they were pretty good. They had some funny songs about social media and another about taking selfies and selfie sticks.

Around 9:00PM, Turbetskoy took the stage and opened up with their anthem and signature starting song “Trubetskoy,” which fans had been chanting the lyrics of while waiting for the group to strat. “К нам приехал Трубецкой; он как Моцарт но живой” (Trubetskoy came to us; he’s like Mozart, but alive). The chorus goes on to list a number of famous musicians in various repetitions such as Lennon, Joplin, Hendrix, and Elvis.

They gave a lively show for about 90 minutes that included a two song encore. They pretty much stuck to playing songs from two of the later Lyapis Trubetskoy albums, Kapital and Manifest, while also mixing in some of their newer songs. They sadly didn’t play my favorite song of theirs, “Kapital,” but they did play some of my other favorites like “Ogon’ki,” the video of which is what led me to discover the band. Even if you don’t understand Russian/Belorussian, I highly implore you to watch the two following videos. “Ogon’ki” or “Lights” has an interesting collage of Soviet nostalgia.

Kapital is a fun play on the modern world versus the era of Communism. I just love the chorus that says, “In my left hand a Snickers; in my right hand a Mars; my PR manager is Karl Marx; Capital.” This video has English subtitles.

 

The crowd at this particular concert was also interesting. There seemed to be more women in the crowd than men. Those attending were dressed in a mixture of regular flannel and jeans casual to full punk vests and plaid pants. There was also one very creepy spectator, who freaked out me and Anne-Marie. He was dressed in a jester’s outfit, and sat in the smoking area and just stared at people. We both had moments of legitimate fear upon seeing him. There was a really intense mosh pit at the show, but thankfully we were insulated by a few rows of people in front of us who intercepted the stray moshers.

Scary jester guy in the background. Zoom in for full effect.

I was slightly worried about getting home after the concert. As of the first of the month, there is a new security firm with the contract for the university. We’ve got all new guards, some of whom dress like nightclub bouncers in cheap suits. In general, they seem friendlier at first than the previous guards. I’m just slightly upset because now I have to forge all new relationships with the guard staff. In addition to getting new guards, we also have a new curfew. Previously the dorm closed at 1:00AM, which was fine with me because that’s when the metro stops running. Now, though, the dorm supposedly closes at 11:00PM. We were not notified of this change by anyone at the university, only through trial and error and word of mouth from people trying to enter or leave between 12:30 and 1:00. Before heading out, I asked the guard when the dorm closes. He said that it is indeed now at 11:00. I said I was going to a concert and wasn’t sure when it would end. He said it was ok, that if there was a problem, there’s a buzzer by the door (it took me a long time to find it when heading out), and to ring that if there was a problem with the door being closed. They’re not very punctual, though, because the door was still open around 11:15 or so when I came back.

In general, the earlier curfew is a problem. In Ulyanovsk, the dorm also closed at 11:00PM, but there the public transit stopped running around 9:00PM. My current options are to lead a very boring life and always return home by 11:00PM; be extra crazy and stay out until 6:00AM, when the doors reopen; sneak through the crack in the vehicle gate, which is under video surveillance; or to climb over an 8 foot wall between some buildings on the periphery of the university campus. I’m not entirely thrilled by any of these options.

I also have succeeded in achieving a massive personal victory in the wake of last week’s somewhat depressing situation with the DDT concert. I complained to the ticket office about how thousands of us were left out on the street in the rain while the concert started. My complaints there got me nowhere, but I also complained to the band’s tour manager, whose email address I found on their website. After a few days, he responded. Apparently my Russian complaining skills are at a very high level. He apologized for the situation and offered me tickets to any other DDT show in 2017. I responded that the offer is nice, but was also useless unless the band had any other planned concert dates in Moscow or America that were not listed on their website. Currently, the site shows only concerts in Siberia in April, one show in London, and a few shows in Israel in June. I said that it was meaningless to offer free tickets if I had to fly to a different city or country and also pay to spend a night or two there. He then answered that the band will be at a festival in Moscow in July, sadly after I already leave, and that the band is in talks to finalize a concert in New York in October. I said I would go for the October tickets, and I’m to email the guy in September to set that all up. My faith in DDT as a a group that cares about its fans has been restored.

We are sorry about the entrance problems, we apologize, and offer you tickets to any DDT concert in 2017.

On late Sunday afternoon I met Erin in the Prospekt Mira metro stop to go to the ДДТ (DDT) concert. DDT is one of the best known late-Soviet, early Russian Federation rock groups. They were mostly based out of Leningrad, today’s St. Petersburg, and have always had fairly political messages in their music.

We went to an Indian restaurant that was in the lobby of a hotel near the stadium before the concert. The food was pretty good. The staff was funny there. When we asked for the food, we said we wanted it to be spicy, and not Russian spicy, which means not spicy at all. She then asked if we wanted Indian spicy, and we responded that we didn’t want it quite that hot. When we finished our meal, the coat check guy asked if we were from America. He then said his friend had invented something for cars and he wants to patent it there. We said we didn’t really know patent law, but we said he should give it a try. He then asked if we knew a program where people design things and get to show them to potential investors. I told him that in English it’s called “Shark Tank” and he asked me to write it down for him.

The concert was both wonderful and miserable at the same time. The tickets said that it started at 7:00. We had just general admission tickets for the floor space. We arrived somewhere around 6:30 and the doors were still shut. There were literally thousands of people standing on the street in the rain. At that point, I suddenly realized why the ОМОН (OMON), aka the Russian SWAT/Riot police were the ones in charge of crowd control. We kept standing and every now and then the line would shuffle a few feet forwards.

The crowd before us to get in at 7:22PM.

Around 7:30 or so, it seemed that the concert began while at least half of the crowd was still outside of the stadium.

The crowd behind us at 7:22.

There were no announcements made about what was going on at all. I took to checking Twitter and Instagram to find a mixture of people in the stadium demanding the group come on stage and angry rants of those stuck in the mob with us. I killed time by engaging with a fellow enraged mob member through Twitter, and posted my angry photo on social media with the caption “Что такая очередь” (what is line), a pun on one of DDT’s most famous songs “Что такое осень” (what is autumn).

Twitter and Instagram were full of these. The caption says “‘Wonderfully’ organized concert – 1.5 hours after the start and thousands of viewers on the street.”

After about two hours of standing in line in the cold and rain, we approached the entrance. As we got closed, we were literally crushed in the crowd. Erin and I both remarked at how dangerous the situation was, and how we’ve rarely felt uncomfortable like that at concerts. You also begin to realize in situations like that, or just generally around in Russia, that most places here are death traps. Emergency exits are often locked or blocked in this country, and like lifeboats on the Titanic, there aren’t nearly enough.

At the door, we showed our tickets and passed through metal detectors and a bag check. We then went around to a different line where we had to get wrist bands before being let onto the floor to see the show. Unfortunately, we didn’t know about the wrist bands, which were off to the side, and had to go around some barriers and back. The organization of this concert was non-existent. It was held at the Олимпийский Стадион, Olympic Stadium, which was built for the 1980 Olympics. There was no indication of when or where people should go, and there are internet rumors that the organization was intentionally botched as a sign/punishment towards Yuri Shevchuk, the openly political and critical leader singer of the band.

Once inside, the concert was fantastic. The band was lively and played a steady stream of music plus two encore songs. They must have finished close to 10:30, so they gave a three hour concert, which is a pretty impressive feat. I got to hear them play a number of their most famous songs, including Последный Осень (Last Autumn, which I jokingly called the lesser Осень), but sadly I didn’t get to see them perform my favorite Что Такое Осень (What is Autumn). I’m not sure if they played it earlier in the show of if they oddly decided not to play one of their biggest hits. One of the encore songs was my second favorite song of theirs, Родинда (Motherland), so I was somewhat placated.

Red for Rodina.

Nonetheless, it felt like a sucker punch to miss half of the show. I was even more disappointed when I checked the news after the show. Yuri Shevchuck and the band knew that there were thousands of fans on the street who couldn’t enter the stadium, yet they decided to start the show anyway. The moral of the story is the DDT is great to see live, but anything at the Olympic Stadium should be avoided.

Other than the concert, there’s not much else to report. Work is progressing as usual in the archives. Watching Russian TV has once again proven itself to be useful for my research. I started watching a series called Мажор (Silver Spoon) on Netflix. It’s overly melodramatic and some of the plot points are over the top, but it has its uses. From a cultural standpoint, it’s a fascinating show because it’s about the son of an oligarch who begins to work for the police after some rather improbable situations. Part of the plot involves shady goings on of gangsters in the 1990s and there’s something about an oligarch connected to crime who is untouchable because he’s a member of the Duma. Only the first season is on Netflix, but the second season is available without subtitles on youtube for those who are fluent in Russian. The language of the show has also paid off. From it, I learned the word for autopsy (вскрытие), which came in handy when I stumbled upon some autopsy reports of German POWs in a collection of files of the Department for Repatriation in GARF. Watching countless hours of television has its uses when it’s in a foreign language.

Life in the dorms is fairly quiet with the exception of continuous problems with new neighbors. The French and Germans smoke in their rooms, the kitchen, and the toilet, which is unpleasant for those of us who don’t smoke. After getting into trouble for doing so, which is forbidden in the dorms, some have begun to burn incense in their rooms to try to hide the smell. As a result, the dorm halls and some of the rooms smell like a terrible mixture of cigarettes and lavender. We also have one neighbor who is about 50 and speaks only Russian and German. Based on a few conversations with her, I’m pretty sure grew up in the former East Germany in a Russian family. She speaks Russian with a slight accent, and one of the Germans said that her German also has an accent. She had some very strange comments about my research and the post-war development of West Germany, which were of a standard Marxist-Leninist perspective. She has decided that we are now friends, which is annoying for me, and also terrible when I went to leave my room at 10:00PM one night and found her standing outside of my door. I’m hoping she had just arrived as was about to knock and that she hadn’t been just standing outside my door for an unknown length of time.

I’ve also had a few good days of food lately. While over at Alla’s one day for blini, she invited me over again to have dinner with the Canadians and to bake with her. The main course for our feast was roast leg of lamb that Alla gets from a specialty market.

Om nom nom.

Alla became interested in my signature baked good for family functions, a key lime pie from my grandmother’s recipe. She was eager to try it, so I converted the ingredients into metric and headed over earlier than the others to bake the pie. I had to slightly modify the ingredients as well. I usually use cream of tartar for the meringue, but I had to try a corn starch one for Russia. The result was pretty decent, but not quite up to my usual pie. I guess this just means I will need to bake more. What a terrible burden.

I’ve been fairly intensively consumed by archival work recently. Normally I don’t like to write too much about what I find or see in the archives, but I’ve come across some interesting stuff lately, and I had a quintessential experience with the head archivist at Socio-Political Historical Archive (RGASPI) this past week.

Photo of a cool sunset by Red Square to distract from a ramble about the archives.

Photo of a cool sunset by Red Square to distract from a ramble about the archives.

In the military archive (RGVA), I’m collecting more supporting evidence but I haven’t found anything particularly new or shocking. The folders entitled “Sentenced War Criminals” in the Stalingrad Oblast were not quite what I had hoped they would be from the title. After 1950, the Soviets insisted that they held no more German POWs; rather, they only had sentenced war criminals. While undoubtedly many of those held had indeed been properly sentenced for actual war crimes, others were likely falsely imprisoned through show trials under a pretext that was internationally acceptable during the burgeoning Cold War. I was hoping to find information about these trials that evaluated POWs and designated them as war criminals. Instead, it was about 600 pages of guys being sentenced to various periods of jail within the camps for refusing to work or obey orders. There was a funny one about a guy who was sentenced to a week in camp jail for wandering around shirtless and in his underwear and cutting in the line to get mail.

In State Archive (GARF), I’ve begun working in some different collections. One has to do with bread rations during the Soviet famine of 1946-1947. As typical Soviet documents, they don’t actually admit that there is a famine. However, it is quite clear from what’s inside the documents that there was a major famine. They talk about how the camps did not have enough bread to feed the POWs. There were also many documents, especially from the republics of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, punishing the POW camp staff for missing food. During the famine, the camp staff clearly stole bread and potatoes. At least in these republics, they were caught and sentenced to a variety of different punishments for this.

As I’m dealing with Russian archives, I also had two “fun” incidents recently. The first involves the electronic catalog for GARF. There is an online catalogue on their website, but it doesn’t work properly. I thought there was way less on my topic in GARF because of this. For example, typing POW in the online catalogue comes up with zero results, but if I search the catalogue on the computers in the reading room at the archive, I get hundreds of results. So now I’ve got a bunch more to read through there.

I also had my first personal experience with the true Misha treatment at RGASPI. He refused to give me volume 2 of opis 2 of the Molotov fond. When I registered he only gave me the third volume, and I found some great stuff with POW repatriation or UN commissions/Cold War related stuff in those files (lots of correspondences between the Western allies and the USSR about German POWs in Soviet hands). However, someone else working in the archive had specifically told me to get a folder from volume 2 as she had ordered it and seen things about the POWs in it. I asked Misha for volume 2 but was told that “foreign affairs are only in volume 3. There is nothing for you in volume 2. There’s nothing else here for you. Go to GARF.” After some arguing back and forth and me showing him a citation for a particular folder a few times, he relented and pulled out volume 2 to look up said folder. Trying to prove a point, he flipped directly to that folder instead of letting me look at the volume myself. When he got to it, he read aloud the description, which included the German POWs. “Well, you never said the word repatriation,” he grumbled as he handed me the whole volume and walked off.

While doing my laundry last week, I was perusing the bookshelves in the lobby of the dorm. I found a copy of an Ian Fleming collection in Russian, which includes “Diamonds are Forever,” “From Russia with Love,” and “Doctor No.” I’m pretty excited to read them in Russian. I was confused by the book at first, though, when I pulled it off of the shelf because it claims to be a collection of detective novels. If you know me, you know my love of James Bond films, video games, and books is pretty extensive, except for the travesties known as the Daniel Craig films. Those suck. End of discussion. Some of the coolest days in the archives for me are when I come across SMERSH documents. SMERSH was a Soviet counter-intelligence agency that stood for “Death to Spies.” SMERSH features prominently in Fleming’s novels and a couple of the James Bond films. Those are the days in which I don’t hate my otherwise fairly dreary existence of reading dusty documents.

Ian Fleming - Detective Novels.

Ian Fleming – Detective Novels.

How do I cope with the boredom or insanity of the archives? I’m glad you asked. Sometimes I have a variety of food adventures around the city or in the dorm. For example, we have become regulars at the Uzbek restaurant Café Anor. We go there often enough that the staff recognizes us and the server knows to bring us two portions of adjika, the hot sauce.

Some nights I just put copious quantities of hot sauce on my eggs. Eggs are somewhat interesting in Russia in that they don’t come in a dozen, but rather in a pack of ten. I feel like there’s some Soviet joke to be made about only decadent capitalist imperialists having eggs coming in a dozen. img_3331

Maybe I spent a little too long reading files from the propaganda department. They love throwing phrases like capitalist imperialist around. I also improved my eggs with Sriracha, which was one of the prized possessions in my suitcase full of odds and ends. If I have to be responsible and trek to an archive in sub-zero temperatures, then I get the liberty to draw on my food with hot sauce. There is also a reason that I study history and not art, which is evidenced by the photo. In some ways I bring nothing but shame to my maternal grandparents, who were talented artists and long-time art teachers in the New York City public school system. Don’t worry, none of this is cold induced brain damage. That all happened years ago when I frequently fell down the stairs in my youth. Gravity and I are still on neutral terms at best.img_3332

Or, I have the wonderful luck of being friends with Anne-Marie, who had gone to cooking school and worked professional in the restaurant industry. On Monday night this past week we made a delightful macaroni and cheese with a béchamel base to which we added three cheeses, one of which was brie. It was superb.

There is no such thing as too much cheese.

There is no such thing as too much cheese.

Then, on Wednesday, we decided to make dinner with the leftover macaroni that was inspired by an internet food post about grilled cheese sandwiches with mac and cheese in them. I decided to step things up a notch by buying bacon at the store, which also happened to be on sale that day.

Om-nom-nom.

Om-nom-nom.

The other news in the dormitory is the turnover of the students. Over the course of the last week I said goodbye to the two remaining students who wouldn’t be back for a second semester. And, after a few quiet days of there only being three people on the floor, the new neighbors have begun to arrive in droves.

Napoleon has managed to somewhat achieve his goals 200+ years later. The three new French Canadian students are living on my floor. All of my Italian neighbors, with the exception of one, have gone back to Italy. Supposedly there are supposed to be eight new Italian students this semester, but if they’re here, they aren’t on my floor. Instead, we have quite a few French students from France on this floor, and there is also another group on the sixth floor. Thus, I am now completely surrounded by the French in the middle of Moscow. I feel like I’ve been transported into the world of “War and Peace.” I’m in some pre-1812 aristocratic Russian settlement as the corridors are filled with French speech and the only Russian uttered is broken. My only solace is that I don’t think there will be any balls held in the dormitory. Perhaps I should mention that I disliked the peace parts of “War and Peace.” There were too many balls, and Natasha’s inability to choose between her love interests was insufferable.

Outside of the comfort of food, I rely on going to Taekwondo to physically beat out my aggression.

Dojang sweet dojang.

Dojang sweet dojang.

This past week, I cut my arm pretty badly while fighting and there was a moderate amount of blood. When walking home from practice I thought about stopping at the pharmacy to buy some sort of antiseptic for the cut on my arm, but then I remembered that there is always vodka in a the freezer in the dorm.

I’ve been back in Moscow for over a week and a half, and things have been fairly busy after the first few days of recovering from jet lag. Before I cover my recent escapades, I have to jump back in time to December. I had an action packed couple of days before leaving and forgot to write about them during the jet lag haze from returning home.

The highlights of those days were the two days before flying out, Saturday and Sunday. I got up early in the morning on the Saturday, so I could ride down to the end of the green line, to Tsaritsino, to watch a local Taekwondo tournament and cheer on my club mates.

Watching Nikita winning his fight.

Watching Nikita winning his fight.

From the meet, I took the metro to Sokolniki Park to meet Tobi and Micah, my dorm neighbors, to go cross country skiing there. We couldn’t have had a better day for it. The weather was sunny and it in the 20s. The ski rental was relatively easy to find from the park map. It cost 150 rubles to rent skis, boots, and poles for two hours. The annoying thing was that it cost 200 rubles to leave my boots in the hut. For $2.50 for two hours, the skis weren’t too bad. They were probably Finnish made and had rat trap style bindings. The boots themselves had a small hole in them, but they were more or less OK.

No extra charge for the hole.

No extra charge for the hole.

The park is itself great. It was the former hunting grounds of Ivan the Terrible, and was the first national park in Russia. Within a few minutes of skiing away from the center of the park, we were essentially in deep woods of birch trees. At one point, off in the depths of the woods, we came across a babushka just out for a walk in her fur coat. One of the nice things about Russia is that the natives don’t let the cold stop them. The park was filled with lots of people just walking through the woods, as well as others skiing or sledding. The center of the park even had a fairly nifty circular ice rink going around a giant New Year’s tree.

Into the woods we go.

Into the woods we go.

The skiing itself was pretty good. Some of the trails had fairly soft snow, and some were groomed with the double track for cross country skiing. There were smaller, wooded trails as well as open trails that were built as race circuits. It was Tobi and Micah’s first time cross country skiing. They picked it up pretty quickly, though Tobi was fairly bold and fell a few times. In the process of falling, he broke one of his skis, which he didn’t notice until just before we went to turn them in. In theory, we should have only paid 75 rubles for the skiing as students, but we didn’t fight for it. We also had to pay a 1,000 ruble deposit to ski, which Tobi didn’t get back for breaking the ski.

Ooops.

Ooops.

After skiing, I headed to Alla’s for pelmeni night. Alla had cooked three kinds of pelmeni: seafood, potato, and meat. Each had its own kind of sauce. The seafood pelmeni were accompanied by red caviar in sour cream, the potato by an almost Caesar dressing, and the meat ones with a garlic sauce. There was also a salad and some mushrooms as sides.

So. Much. Food.

So. Much. Food.

Some of the other highlights included a Christmas/goodbye party with some of the dorm neighbors.

Only two of us are staying this whole year. There are only three of us on the floor at the moment. One goes home in a few days.

Only two of us are staying this whole year. There are only three of us on the floor at the moment. One goes home in a few days.

Jumping back to the more recent past, I’ve been fairly busy with archival work as usual. I had ordered my documents ahead of time at the military archive via the internet, and they were indeed ready as promised. My bribes at the military archive have also paid off. Before leaving for Christmas, I gave the reading room staff some chocolates, which they gladly accepted. Upon returning, I also gave them a small box of chocolates from America. This had paid off. Recently, I ordered a few different documents. I didn’t know, but one was on microfilm while the others were on paper. In some archives, this is a huge no-no. God help you if you want to order different media on one slip of paper. One employee told me she caught it and filled out a different form for me so that I would be sure to get the microfilm one. She claims that there is some sort of indication in the finding aide as to whether or not the files are paper or on microfilm, but I think that’s just a myth.

The military archive was the easy one. I had to re-register at the State Archive (GARF) and the Economic Archive (RGAE). The process was almost like I had never been there before. I had to get a temporary pass by showing a letter of introduction and my passport. Then, upstairs, I had to hand in my letters of introduction, one for each of the archives even though they share a reading room and ID card. At GARF, the archivist vaguely remembered me and told me that I could still log into the system with my ID number in order to fill out the registration form again. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to re-register and order documents at these archives. The archivist at GARF was even nice when I asked which reading room my documents would be in, which turns out to be both of them. Despite being on the same physical campus, they have different hours of operation. Because why not.

After registering at GARF and RGAE, I hopped back on the metro to go to the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI) to register there for the first time. Getting there wasn’t bad because the Frunzenskaya Metro station, the one by GARF, has re-opened after renovations. Now I don’t have to switch from the metro to an overcrowded bus to get to and from GARF, which is a huge plus. I’ve never worked at RGASPI, but I was slightly afraid because friends told horror stories of Misha, the infamous archivist there. Surprisingly, he was very friendly and helpful, and registration was quick and easy. It felt like a trap.

The outside of the building is great. There are giant reliefs of Marx, Engels, and Lenin on the façade.

It's easy to find RGASPI. Just turn left at the trio of Soviet faces.

It’s easy to find RGASPI. Just turn left at the trio of Soviet faces.

The building had a great location to boot. It’s a few blocks from Red Square. The archive is across the street from Louis Vuitton and Nobu. It’s also a few doors down from Krasnodar Bistro, the place that sells the delicious nutria burgers. I might have to escape to there for a lunch break sometime.

Probably why the faces of Marx, Engels, and Lenin look so angry. They have to stare at their enemy. I bet no one could have imagined this would be downtown Moscow 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Probably why the faces of Marx, Engels, and Lenin look so angry. They have to stare at their enemy. I bet no one could have imagined this would be downtown Moscow 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Outside of research, I recently went to two cool museums. The first was the Metro Museum, which is free. I met with Anne-Marie to get there. We got off at the stop where it supposedly is, Sportivnaya, on the Red Line. We got out, couldn’t find it at one exit, walked around to the other exit street side to find that it also wasn’t there. We walked back to the first side and asked the woman selling Metro tickets where the museum was. She told us that it had moved to a completely different station on one of the newer lines. In total, about 45 minutes had elapsed since we met up to get to the museum. Anne-Marie mentioned how she is only this patient in Russia, and it’s true. At home, I would probably be very angry that things had changed without much indication on the internet. In Russia, though, this is just par for the course and I go with the flow.

Eventually, we wound up at the correct stop. The museum is built above the Vystavochnaya Metro station. It had some cool documents and maps from the planning of the metro back to tsarist times. Then there were artifacts from all stages of the construction of the metro from the 1930s to present, largely broken into eras that showed the growth of the system and the evolution of its technology.

Older Metro control station.

Older Metro control station. This one is from Park Kultury.

One really cool part of the exhibit was a simulator of the metro engineer. There were a few screens plus a full driver’s console. You had to press the button for the announcement about the doors closing, then close the doors, then accelerate, maintain speed, and then brake for the station. An announcement also had to be made for arriving at the station, and then the doors had to be opened. It was fun, but my years of playing GTA made me want to do everything wrong for fun such as driving above speed with the doors open. I miraculously resisted the urge to be a hooligan, though.

New job?

New job?

The other really cool museum I went to is the Central Armed Forces Museum, formerly the museum of the Soviet Army. I went with Anton, who I met at the Buzzcocks concert in December. He took me with two of his friends. First, we got off at an earlier metro stop to see some houses that had been constructed by German POWs.

Central Armed Forces Museum.

Central Armed Forces Museum.

Then, we wandered around the impressive army museum for hours. Most of the museum is about WWII, but it had some good stuff on WWI and the Russian Civil War. There were some really cool White Army uniforms and artifacts, such as banners and medals that belong to General Kornilov’s group, the Kornilovtsy, as well as a really cool painting that depicted the end of White Russia. The painting was of White Army officers and their family members as well as priests leaving Russia on a boat. Although my family members were peasants, they likely were on a similar boat to the one depicted in the painting.

The end of White Russia.

The end of White Russia.

The best part was walking through the outdoor pavilion filled with tanks, jets, and missile launchers. It felt fantastically Russian to wander around those implements in the falling snow.

Like Victory Day but better because of the snow.

Like Victory Day but better because of the snow.

The final moment of interest from the last few weeks was watching a man watch Trump’s inauguration on his phone while grabbing dinner at a restaurant with some friends. It was being broadcast on Russian media sites and had subtitles.img_3256

Back in Moscow

Posted: January 16, 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

A few hours ago I landed back in snowy Moscow. I spent roughly a month “home” for Christmas and New Years. I use the term “home” loosely as I wound up in Vermont, Cape Cod, Boston, New York City, Connecticut, Chile, and Argentina over the month. Most of my trips were to see family or friends, but the trip to Latin America was business oriented. I presented a paper at a conference in Chile, and wound up winning a best paper award for the conference.

The host university.

The host university in Chile.

The flight back to Russia was its usual fun routine. I’m currently stuck with a conundrum when it comes to flying abroad. I have Global Entry, which also gives me TSA Pre-Check, which means that I can go through expedited security lines that don’t require me to remove my shoes, laptop, or liquids. I also get to go through a regular metal detector instead of the millimeter wave scanners. However, this only applies to American carriers. Thus, my choice of poor fates is to either fly internationally on an American airline or to go through regular security in exchange for a better flight experience. For Russia, I don’t really have a choice. Delta now only flies seasonally between Moscow and New York, and for some strange reason, the season is not in the middle of the Russian winter. People who have read this blog before will also know that I despise flying on American airlines and love the Russian airline Aeroflot. I’ve had much better service on their New York-Moscow flights than on the same route with Delta.

Breakfast Aeroflot style: blini and herring salad.

Breakfast Aeroflot style: blini and herring salad.

Check-in at JFK this morning (yesterday?) was a breeze. The security line was frustratingly long, as usual, but I managed to avoid having to be patted down. Boarding was delayed by about half an hour because the plane was late to arrive from Moscow, probably due to de-icing. What was new this time was a bevy of security checks at the gate. I’m not sure if there is something about the particular flight and current Russian-American relations or if screening has just been amplified after the Florida airport attack earlier this month. First I had to present my passport for a visa check, which is normal to fly to Russia. Then, my passport was checked by a TSA agent. From there, I was asked to show the contents of my bag to a different TSA agent. Finally, while getting onto the jetway, I was asked to show my passport to an Air Marshall, who left me alone, but they were asking the Russians what they were carrying, specifically quantities of money.

The flight itself was uneventful. I had a window seat, which I strategically booked towards the back of the plane in a row in which the aisle had already been selected. Thankfully, the seat between myself and the man on the aisle remained empty, and I could stretch out during the flight. As usual, the best part of the flight was the people watching. There was a Chinese man in the row in front of me who likely has a gambling addiction as he spent the entire 9 hour flight playing a Texas Hold Em poker game on the in flight entertainment system. The guy who had the aisle seat in my row was also a bit of a character. He got on the plane and moved his bag from bin to bin every few minutes. I also noticed, during some of his luggage rearranging, that he had bought a bottle of Bacardi at Duty Free, which he had consumed about 1/3 of before boarding the plane. Thankfully he wasn’t a drunk mess, nor did he consume more during the flight. In total, we were about 90 minutes late due to the delayed boarding and waiting to taxi and take off. The second we touched the ground in Moscow, the guy in my row and some others stood up and started to remove their bags from the overhead bins. This prompted the flight attendants to get up to tell them to sit down. The men who were standing were angry and responded that they were 90 minutes late, which somehow justifies standing when they weren’t supposed to stand?

Immigration was fine, as usual, and we had to wait a while for our bags due to “technical reasons.” I hopped on the Aeroexpress Train, which boarded exactly a minute after I arrived at the platform and bought the ticket, thankfully. I then grabbed a taxi from the train station to the dorm. Due to the traffic and the crazy intersections and long lights around the station, I probably could have walked to the dorm in the time it took to drive, but I’m lazy after the flight and with my luggage.

Back in the land of snow.

Back in the land of snow.

I caught a break when coming back into the dorm. When I left, they took my electronic key card that gets me through the turnstiles at the security checkpoint in the building with street access. I have a student ID as well as a different paper ID that says that I live in the dormitory, but it’s a hassle to dig them out of my bags and talk to the guards about why I don’t have the electronic pass. Thankfully, the guard on duty when I arrived was Anatoly, who I have previously bribed with cigarettes. He said welcome back and opened the gate for me, and I walked right through and went to my dormitory building. The next fun step was getting my room key and keycard back. There was no one at the desk, and the administrator was not in her office. I just wandered down a corridor of offices near the laundry room and found the administrator in order for her to give me my stuff.

No, seriously, the land of snow. This was shortly after we began to taxi to the gate.

No, seriously, the land of snow. This was shortly after we began to taxi to the gate.

I quickly dropped my things in my room before heading to the main building to hand in my passport and migration card for the registration process and to pick up my letters of introduction to re-register at the archives.

The second I put my big bag down in my room, though, I began to slightly worry. I noticed that the lock was missing, a telltale sign that the TSA had inspected my bag. Whoever searched my bag must have thought I was a complete weirdo. My bag contained two pairs of pants, some sneakers, and a sweater. The rest of the bag was whiskey, chocolates, peanut butter, hot sauce, and a large bag of Splenda. In retrospect, having a bag containing white powders is probably a super sure way to get your bag searched at the airport. Thankfully, noting was removed, and perhaps the most important item remained, the Splenda. The woman who makes the letters of introduction for the archives has a diabetic mother. When I stopped by her officer every few weeks to check the mail for things from home, she mentioned how her relatives in the States send Splenda for her mother. Before leaving, I stopped by the office and asked if she wanted me to bring some Splenda before asking if I could email her the list of archives ahead of time to have the letters ready when I arrived. The promised bribe worked. Irina responded to my email in record time for RGGU and the letters were ready within 24 hours. I popped by her office and got the letters, and she very gladly received a large bag of Splenda from me. She was so happy to get it that she even hugged me.

I hit a new minor snag of sorts with the bureaucracy associated with the registration process. The visa office requires a photocopy of your passport, migration card, visa, and entry stamp to fill out the registration documents at the Federal Migration Service. Previously, I would walk into the office and they would do the copies then and there for me. Now, though, they want you to use a kiosk in the lobby of the building to do the photo copies. The copies themselves cost 7 rubles a sheet, or roughly $0.11. The problem is that the machine produces very low quality copies. I walked back up to the office with the copies, and the woman then just photocopied the necessary passport pages on the copier like she always used to. I don’t know why I was sent to throw money away in a low quality machine if she was going to make the copies again anyway, but this is an aspect of Russian bureaucracy that I’ve learned to ignore.

After taking care of this business, I went and bought food, showered, and napped. I feel human again and am more or less ready for five and a half more months in Russia. Tomorrow I’m off to re-register at some archives. Stay tuned for more adventures in Mother Russia, as well as some ex-Soviet republics. I have plans to travel quite a lot around my research this semester.

Thursday was the first of the month, meaning that the archives I work in are closed for what is known as a “sanitary day,” or cleaning day. Without anywhere to be Thursday morning and afternoon, I thought I would just sleep in a laze around the dorm. Those plans were quickly changed on Wednesday afternoon when I was having tea with the Canadians. I was invited to join them for a 9:00AM showing of a recent Russian war film called “Panfilov’s 28,” which is about a somewhat controversial story about the Battle of Moscow in 1941. According to lore, these 28 men all died heroically, in the process destroying 18 German tanks from an advancing Panzer Division on its advance to Moscow. The story was spread widely through the Red Army newspaper “Krasnaya Zvezda” (Red Star), and the men became Heroes of the Soviet Union.

Subsequent investigations into Panfilov’s 28 Guardsmen immediately after the war resulted in the finding that six of the men were still alive. This information was hidden until the collapse of the Soviet Union, and most recently the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF) published on their website the results of the postwar investigation. The details are a little murky, but the director of GARF might have been fired for this. Despite all of this controversy, it is still a beloved war story in the former Soviet Union.

Getting to the cinema at 9:00AM, I figured the hall would be pretty empty. This was not the case at all. Our small auditorium was somewhere between a third and half full. There were also a lot of people seeing other movies at that particular, 22 screen theatre near the zoo. The attraction may have been that tickets cost 100 rubles, or roughly $1.50. The two men in front of our group were enjoying their experience like they normally would in the evening, complete with bottles of beer. The film itself was a typical, patriotic war film with long battle scenes and heroic speeches.

After the movie, I headed back to the dorms. Crossing the street to the metro, I saw someone driving a Ferrari in the heavy snow. Generally if you have Ferrari money, you should also have enough money to get a winter car. I’m pretty sure Ferraris are not meant to be driven as daily drivers, especially in the punishing Russian winters. Sadly I didn’t have enough time to snap a photo of this crime in action. I then spent a few hours at home typing up some archival notes that I had to take by hand before venturing out to meet Erin to go see the Buzzcocks, who are on a 40th anniversary tour. For those of you unfamiliar with the group, they’re a British punk band and are contemporaries of the Clash and the Sex Pistols.

The concert venue was a smaller bar/club than the place where we saw Garbage a few weeks ago called Stereo Hall. Once again, we were really close to the stage. There were also a ton of cool people seeing the concert. As Erin and I were standing around and speaking in English, another American came up to ask us a question about something regarding the coat check. We found out that he’s teaching English in Moscow. While talking with him, another nearby guy started to talk to us. He’s a Spanish student doing an exchange semester at Moscow State University, and is a concert junky. It turns out he also saw Garbage. He was very friendly and gave us the info about a website where we can find free concerts in Moscow. Then, as the four of us were talking, another guy asked to listen in and join the conversation. He’s a Russian guy who was excited to interact with native speakers.

The opening act - Пасош (Pasosh).

The opening act – Пасош (Pasosh).

The night started with an opening set from a local Moscow punk/rock trio called Pasosh. They played only their own stuff, and had quite a few dedicated fans in the audience who were singing along. They had a particularly cool song that’s entitled “Russia.” The song frequently repeats the phrase “I live in Russia, and I’m not afraid,” which is a fairly accurate description of my current life.

As a bonus, the bass player was rocking a sweet pair of Adidas track pants.img_2887

Around 9:15, the Buzzcocks took the stage to wide applause. I’m not a super fan, but I know and really like a number of their songs, especially “Fast Cars,” which reminds me a lot of one of the songs from the SNES game F-Zero (and I wonder if there is an influence there or not). To my delight, “Fast Cars” was the second song they played. They gave an awesome and essentially non-stop show for about an hour, took a quick break for about five minutes, and then gave a three or four song encore. Every now and then they said a quick word or two in between songs, but unfortunately the acoustics in the hall are notoriously terrible and we couldn’t understand what they were saying. At times it actually sucked, because you couldn’t quite be sure what song they were playing until they were roughly halfway into it. Nonetheless, I had a great time rocking out.

The Buzzcocks

The Buzzcocks

When the Buzzcocks took the stage, we were towards the front and we unintentionally became part of the mosh pit. The crowd towards the front started to mosh and we got pushed back a bit and remained on the front line between the mosh pit and the rest of the crowd. Every once in a while, someone would slam or push into us, and we would push back. It was a nice compromise.

Steve Diggle getting up close and personal with the fans after the show.

Steve Diggle getting up close and personal with the fans after the show.

After the show, the band was super chill and came to the edge of the stage and shook hands with lots of the fans. They and the roadies also were really nice about throwing or handing stuff to the crowd like the set list, drum sticks, and picks. I managed to get a pick from one of the roadies, which was pretty awesome. Unfortunately it was an extra pick, so it wasn’t used at all. I just have to not mix it up with any of the other Fender Medium tortoise shell picks that I have lying around at home.img_2913

After the show finished, we had a struggle to get our coats back. There were only two people working at the coat check, and they were overwhelmed. We stood around for about half an hour before we could get our jackets, which was particularly frustrating because we could see them across the counter. I didn’t hear it firsthand, but Erin said that a frustrated guy who managed to snag a drum stick waved it and said, “wingardium leviosa” while pointing towards his coat. Perhaps it would have worked better had he said, “accio.”

That pretty much sums up my adventures for now. It’s starting to get colder here in Moscow. We had a couple of days of temperatures in the single digits in Fahrenheit with the windchill dropping the feeling to the negatives. I have subsequently switched over to my fur hat.

Decorations for New Year's are popping up all over the city.

Decorations for New Year’s are popping up all over the city.

I’ve also become the person in the military archive that people approach when they have questions, for reasons I do not understand. One day, a man came up and asked if I could read a name written in cursive. I couldn’t, and then he tried asking the reading room staff, who gladly helped him. They also couldn’t be sure about one signature, but it’s nice to know that they may be able to help me with a similar question in the future. Then, the other day as I was walking back to my desk, a man asked me what the date was when filling out his request form. Finally, yesterday, I was working with my headphones in and then I saw a man appear out of the corner of my eye. He then began talking to me, and I had to take out my headphones and ask him to repeat himself. He wanted to know the rules for using a computer in the reading room. There were at least two other people using their computers and without headphones, so why he had to ask me will remain a mystery.