Had the former USSR taken the time to bury Lenin, he would be turning in his grave today. But while he remains held in his mausoleum like some Soviet ‘Frozen Moment’ the country he led into revolution against the excesses of the imperialists in 1917 has reverted to many of its bad old ways.
Over the past few months I have been immersed in a trilogy of novels by the author Tom Rob Smith spanning 50 years of life in the Soviet Union, staring with “Child 44” and culminating with “Agent 6”. The savagery with which the population was beaten into submission, physically and mentally, particularly under the rule of the dictator, Stalin, shocked me to the core, so much so that I had to refrain from reading these books at bedtime as it was affecting my sleep.
I was surprised to see how much Perestroika has altered the very fabric of this once staunchly Socialist nation.
Today the opulent palaces and churches have been restored to their former glory for the entertainment of the plane loads of tourist who flock here each day and for the locals who are returning to their opiate; religion, with renewed fervor.
In the shadow of the Finlandsky Railway Station, where Lenin first step off a train in 1917, returning from exile to the adulation of the masses, today his statue stands watching over the square.
While elsewhere in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, the icons of western capitalism overshadow the very symbols of the socialist revolution. Apple, MacDonalds, Prado, Gucci, vast malls and skyscrapers jostle for prominence while the stone effigies of hammer and sickle embedded on the facades of drab, utilitarian, soviet buildings look on.
Supermarket selves bulge with every imaginable commodity. Shopping malls are full of trendy young people in designer jeans talking on the latest smart phones.
There are no more bread line, though the Russian who’s ability to queue rivals even the British, still line up in an orderly fashion just to cross at the traffic lights and Jay-walking is virtually unheard of. Old habits die hard.
The traffic in Moscow was appalling. We spend hours stuck in traffic jambs. To amuse myself during these delays I learnt to decipher the Cyrillic signs. It is really quite simple, in Cryllic;
C = S
B = V
H = N
P = R
3 = Z
Y = U
W = SH
И = I
Д = D
Ч = CH
Я = Ya
П = P
Г = G
6 = B
Л = L
So supermarket looks like cynepmapket, Suzy looks like CY3И and for the American tourist; Macdonalds looks like MAKДOHAЛДC….just in case they don’t recognise the golden arches.
On this very educational trip to Russia I also learned the quickest way to pass through customs and passport control; in a wheelchair.
On the last day of our guided tour, several of our group felt unwell. Hubby, not feeling 100%, abstained from lunch and dinner. I was feeling fine until about 6 pm when I suddenly felt faint and started to sweat like a horse. By the time we reached the airport at 10 pm I had regained my composure but by the time we arrived at the check in counter I almost passed out again and a doctor was summonsed. While I was being attended to my elder brother-in-law also became faint and another wheelchair was requisitioned. We both had to sign waivers stating that we did not want to be hospitalised. The time left on my visa was rapidly evaporating so the last thing I wanted was to be detained any longer. Together with our entourage we were wheeled through the former Leningrad airport, the only thing that has not kept pace with the modernisation program. The only lift was accessed through a locked door, to summons it one of our attendants had to run up the stairs, get in the lift there and bring it to the ground floor.
We arrived safely back in Israel and having been ill during most of the flight I was wheel to an awaiting golf buggy and whizzed through passport control and the green “nothing to declare” lane without a hitch…wish I’d have known that I would be arriving in this fashion, I could have smuggled in all manner of illicit contraband undetected…drats.
all my photos are here https://picasaweb.google.com/109192522417224619393