sábado, 12 de dezembro de 2015


Один из отцов церкви скакал, что мы чувствуем себя лучше в обществе знакомой собаки, чем с человеком, язык которого нам не знаком: Так что чужеземец для человека иного племени не является человеком -- Монтьень
"I've been counting how many terrorism warnings I will hear today", we were in this fancy german-like train in Moscow leaving for Vladimir. Looked anything but Russian. Not anything like the Rus', the Soviet Union, the Russian from the 90s being democracy-curious, instead it looked like the Russia trying to go a way it shouldn't go, the West.
Cathedral in Vladimir, outside view. A чужеземец and an anthropology enthusiast.
The country is so singular in so many cultural, historical and political aspects that the world has failed to understand it throughout all human history. Now there's a big terorrism awareness campaign going on, because it seems like it they scratch Russia or Russians in any way, then a war might really unleash. "If they touch this country, it will rape and destroy everything they love and have", a colleague of mine once said. You can't touch this. Napoleon and Hitler went home running with their tales between their legs. When I did think about it, I actually started counting how many times we would be warned about terrorists in public places that day. It was only 10 am and it was already 2 or 3 times. Fighting a war against ghost ideas. Ideas without a face, out of which we label a group as the doer and start planting prejudice. I had seen that before in the US, and it got so old with time, that hate agaisnt muslins just started sounding like one of those terror stories you tell children so they go to bed earlier. 
A panorama in Vladimir. Old wooden houses and Alex.
Streets of Vladimir, next to the touristic center of the city. 
This guy called Vladimir had drastically changed the course of history of Russia by choosing between judaism, christianity and islam the new, official religion of the former Empire (former, is it?). He chose christianity, the orthodox branch of it, because of their tight relations with the Byzantine Empire. It's easier to govern a monotheist nation, so Russia became officially orthodox. Cathedrals were built. The orthodox doctrine adapted to the Russian character, soul. Until the Soviets came and decided to abolish religion and make it illegal. Our anthropology enthusiast came up with the perfect term for it: sovietesque. It's a mix of soviet and grotesque, or just that feeling of completely lack of reaction whenever facing a typical Russian paradox of ideas, culture, etc. A reaction of both surprise, motionlessness, and impotence towards the course that history has already taken and the turns this country has taken that can't be untaken. It's sovietesque.
Hopefully have fully adapted to life in Russia to be able to write this article-ish. This is me wearing a платок Russian style. Behind me a famous Russian fresco painter, Andrey Rublyev.
It's this time of the year, December, that I'm awaiting by reflex for Christmas sales and decorations around the street, and still in 2016 you will see none of it. Christmas is not celebrated, in fact, it's just a working day. All its holiday-ish influence was thrown at New Year's. If you're a catholic/been raised as one, it might seem like the Grinch movie from time to time. Growing up around catholics, and exclusively around them, the notion that this was the only religion people ever followed was so embedded in my brain that I was completely deprived of the thought of knowing Jews, Muslins, Buddhists, anyone outside the Roman Catholic circle. 
Surprisingly enough we found a catholic church in Vladimir. Against all historic odds. The difference between catholics and orthodox churches jumps before your eyes. Very interesting to see the both of them in one day, from one said you have a branch of christianity that is nurturing suffering and very specific doctrines on behaviour, on the other side, the Pope's picture with a thumbs up and an organ rehearsal that takes you away even if you're the least religious person in the world.

I only had that chance when moving to Russia, I was both fascinated and intrigued, as to how do people make this work. Everything in this country is mixed. Races, religion, etc. People live in a relative state of peace, and what's more important and fascinating, there are absolutely no official religious holidays. The Soviets made their point. And that stayed around, for good or not. The city of Vladimir had reminiscences of all of the Russian history. It gives you the feeling that opening history books was a complete mistake, when it was all there to see. And if you bring this country down, you will go down together, therefore I have been completely ignoring all terrorist threats agaisnt it -- no one's crazy enough. There is no country on this Earth that has reinvented itself so many times in such short periods of time. You go ahead and destroy it, blow it up if you must, but they're remaking, reinventing it before you've turned your back. 
Western Alarm. Barber shops have reached Vladimir streets.

I have been nurturing a relation of love-hate with Russia, I've lived with them, learned their language, basically infiltrated every aspect there was to infiltrate, at least at my reach, and slowly changed into simply a relationship of respect. There's nothing monotonic, boring or uninteresting about it. The latter opinion is reserved and available only for those who have lived here. Close your history book, it's lying to you, a bit more than a 100 km from Moscow you get in contact with enough historical truths about this country that are simply not out there. I might be leaving Russia soon, and even after so many years I cannot quite figure out what's their deal, and there's an obvious answer to that: it's because it's always changing.

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