|Bulat Okudzhava clad in white|
Moscow “Occupy” protests move from one spot to another, sometimes escaping the police, sometimes not. And while the government gives gentle, if persistent, hints that it has the power to deal with the opposition, the critics nurture their own hopes.
I took the photo at the top last week as I was walking down Old Arbat for my own business. Earlier I saw a couple of police vans, and then I came across a group of some 50 people who gathered around and in front of the statue commemorating Bulat Okudzhava, the famous Russian/Georgian poet, singer, and actor who used to live in 41, Old Arbat. I walked past 5 people in civil dress who discussed the sad state of today’s education and culture. (I do wonder if we discuss this a bit too often, perhaps?) Then I noticed a woman planting toys, flowers, and some papers under Okudzhava’s arm. The following was quite natural: I wanted to take a photo of the Bard, but it made sense to take a photo of another snapper, too. There were quite a few people with photo- and video cameras.
Okudzhava died in 1997; 2012 is the 35th anniversary. He is buried in Vagankovo Cemetery, and a large rock marks the grave. Although he joined the Communist Party in 1956, in 1990 he stopped being the member. Here in Arbat he is the only solely standing figure, subject to any sort of demonstrations. I have no doubt that he would be honest with himself, first and foremost, and denounce any crime and theft. The question is: whom would he commend?
Poems and songs by Bulat Okudzhava, translated into English by Alec Vagapov.