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Frozen, Not Stirred

Since Tuesday it’s been abnormally cold in Moscow. Last time the temperature was so low in 2016 when it fell down to -33. This year it hasn’t gone below -30 at night, but -27 in the day isn’t something we’re used to in early January. Such frosts are typical around Epiphany (January 19th) but not Nativity (January 7th).

In spite of this I went out yesterday and today, and I’ll still have to go out tomorrow. It hasn’t snowed since Monday, and the frost seems more bitter when it isn’t snowing.

The streets are unusually empty; those who dare to leave their abode hurry to finish their business and get back home. There is a special atmosphere of a still life where you are but an element of the composition.

Below are some photos to illustrate the point. In the final photo you can see me and my frosty scarf. Even my eyebrows and eyelashes were frosty, too! When I saw it, I vividly recalled the stories about the Arctic explorers who performed their heroic deed in the abnormally cold conditions. Going out for some shopping was not a big deal, after all!

More posts in Holidays.

Labour Day Opens the Month of May

Labour Day (its history) is not celebrated in all countries. Back in 2007, when I worked at my first Advertising agency, I had to research into national holidays in different countries. For example, the International Women’s Day is a day-off in Russia but not in many other countries.

As for Labour Day, it has been celebrated with a day-off in Russia and some other countries worldwide but not in the UK. And so my management was kinda upset that the month of May was so sloppy in terms of signups.

In Russia this year we have two spells of May holidays: one, to celebrate Labour Day (which is about to finish), and two, to celebrate Victory Day. On both occasions the holidays encompass the weekend and one or two weekdays.

This year there was no demonstration in Red Square; instead people roamed the parks and the city centre. As for me, I spent the most fantastic Saturday listening to classical music (Beethoven, Mozart, and Schumann) at the Moscow Conservatory. Then I had a mastermind session on Sunday and two classes on Monday. Labour makes a man, indeed, so it is only proper that we mark this day with a holiday.

A traditional May Day postcard

Most posts on History.

January-2023: Excursions and Coffeehouses

In these 3 weeks I taught a lot, visited a museum, had numerous meetings with friends and colleagues, and did three excursions in my favourite part of Moscow.

I visited several temples, including a synagogue and a Lutheran cathedral, and discovered several new cafés and restaurants. I walked through GUM twice and had a meal and a coffee at BURO.TsUM.

And now I’m working on launching my community for studying languages and humanities. 2023 promises to become a tremendous year.

Neighbourhood Cam: January Sky

The abnormally low temperatures in Moscow have brought spectacularly bright sunsets. The red glow against the frozen sky amazes and terrifies the viewer.

Sunset, Jan 8th, 16:11

Like I wrote a few years ago, the terror that industrial architecture can instill in its observer fades in contrast to the elements. The sunset remains beautiful no matter the environment. And this may force one to consider the power the Nature has over the mundane world. It can make the most horrible circumstances bearable, and the rest will depend on the person, whether he or she finds inspiration to change the circumstances – or finds consolation and changes nothing.

Sunset, Jan 8th, 16:36

Incidentally, these two photos were taken with a 25-minute difference, and just see how different they are.

Christmas Tree Challenge: Day 28

I spent today at the ArtPlay creative quarter in Moscow. I had a fantastic photo session in a studio with a photographer. ArtPlay itself is a fantastic place and I hope to have more time to explore it. A brief acquaintance has shown that it’s located in the premises of a former factory and is packed with all sorts of shops, studios, boutiques, and cafés.

This part of town is virtually unknown to me. I followed the YouTube video showing the way to the studio, and on my way I passed the 19th century buildings that could previously house residences but are now usually home to civil service offices. Alas, it was also quite slippery, so I had to take extra care going there and back.

Going to ArtPlay was like visiting Manchester to me. Made of red brick and located close to the railway station, with its plethora of various studios and outlets, it was like an open-air Affleck’s Palace, and all murals and witty inscriptions reminded me of the Northern Quarter. Throw all the Christmassy lights in – and the déjà-vu feeling was almost palpable. More still, the folk who worked there were like the good old Mancunians, complete with green or pink coloured hair, tattoos and piercings, odd clothes and accessories, and the obvious struggle to make ends meet.

I watched it all from both sides: as a person who once belonged to this kind of place and life (except hair dyes, tattoos and piercing) and who now felt transported back into this old experience; and as a person who no longer belonged there, and probably never did, but who had once made an honest effort to live there.

Suddenly ArtPlay came to mean much more than just a clever name…

Neighbourhood Cam: Hues and Reflections

Autumn is hesitantly descending onto Moscow. Some trees have lost all their leaves, while others – of the same kind – are only just beginning to yellow. The fall beautifully covers the streets and park lanes. It is still quite warm in the day and at night, and the sky’s blue is as clean as in early March.

It’s been a few years now that I’ve noticed how seasons miraculously blend into one another. Winter sends its reminiscences in summer when poplar covers the town with its white foam. And now, above the greens and still rare yellows and reds, the blue unashamedly spills across the sky.

A man cannot constantly focus on things at hand. If he persists, things gradually lose their significance and become mundane. So we have to look up to the sky now and again. The reflection is what we notice when we return “home”.

Neighbourhood Cam: The New World Awaits

Following the referenda in four parts of the now former Ukraine, we are waiting for the ratification of historic documents tomorrow. The sunset tonight signifies the glimpse of hope that always shines amidst the most terrible circumstances. The war in Donbass isn’t over yet, but its end is imminent because the territory has rejoined Russia.

The war with the West is imminent, too, and no, “we didn’t start the fire” but we are going to end it.

Currently a couple of hundred thousands of Russian citizens are peacefully “invading” Georgia and Kazakhstan under the name of the “great escape”. This exodus marks the moment when Russia is only full of people who want it to exist and who want to exist with it – or not.

The readiness to die is what sets Russia apart from the rest of the world. And this is precisely what has allowed my country to survive the ordeals many other nations could not withstand. The more you are prepared to die, the more you fight for your life – metaphysically, first and foremost.

The single mistake of the Western world, Europe in particular, has been the desire to live in peace. And so it was eager to sustain any status quo that made it possible. Now it has all but lost its own status as a political subject. Britain has left the EU to remain the one.

On the contrary, by starting the special military operation, Russia has shown that the country will no longer tolerate the status quo that includes, among other unacceptable things, the resurrection of Fascism. And we are ready to undertake every measure that Europe ignored or was unable to undertake.

And it explains why Russia is taking time to “respond” to a teract on Nord Stream. There is no hurry, and Europe is now a continent in distress, it will need help, obviously, but it will have to cope by itself.

The only thing I would tell all Europeans is this: don’t go to the US. Why would you go to work and pay your taxes to the country that bombed Japan and Vietnam and is now pumping money and weapons into Ukraine? It’s OK if you plan to stay in your home country, but if you’re thinking of moving, then go to Russia. People here speak different European languages, women are beautiful, and you will always be able to return to your home country…

The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy was built between 1688 and 1701. It can be accessed from Pokrovka St, close to the Kremlin.

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy was built between 1688 and 1701. However, a church used to exist here as early as the 15th century. It belonged to Andronikov monastery until the tsar Ivan III granted it the lands beyond the Yauza River in exchange of this church. It can be accessed from Pokrovka St and is therefore located fairly close to Red Square and the Kremlin.

Barashy was a special area, a sloboda, where lived the tsar’s servants who accompanied him on his journeys and campaigns. They carried the so called “soft stuff”, or tents, which they put up and took down. The Russian word “barakhlo” is evidently related.

The church that we can presently see was built and decorated in the style of the Moscow Baroque. Its splendid architecture includes corniches, entablements and archivolts, columns and “kokoshniks”. The bell-tower was added during a restoration of 1741. Another round of restorative works took place between 1815 and 1837 when the church was slightly enlarged and a new iconostasis was consecrated.

The church’s two chapels are dedicated to Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion and St Elijah the Prophet. As a matter of fact, close to the church there was lyinskaya sloboda (the sloboda of Elijah) that belonged to Russian tsars.

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy stands in the Bely Gorod, or the White City, a historical part of Moscow where resided the aristocracy and the tsar’s (later – the emperor’s) servants.

In the Soviet times the church was to be demolished, and so several icons were saved by the Tretyakov Gallery. Miraculously, it was not destroyed although it first housed a hostel for workers and then – an electric plant. The restoration works began in 1976, and the sermons resumed in 1993. Between 2015 and 2021 here resided the Metropolis of Chișinău and All Moldova.

Wikipedia: Russian, French.

The church’s official website.

More photos.

More posts in Moscow churches.

Neighbourhood Cam: International Children’s Day Blossoms

June 1st is celebrated as the International Children’s Day. In Russia, we traditionally pay much attention to this festival, as children are believed to be the future.

June 1st is celebrated as the International Children’s Day. In Russia, we traditionally pay much attention to this festival, as children are believed to be the future.

Volunteers in my district today handed out small chocolates to kids and organised an event for all children who were outside at around 4pm. I was sitting in the park reading some Art History books and listening to happy cries and music. On my way back I took some photos of the lavishly blossoming trees.

As for me, in 2016 I organised a special drawing competition among the children in my district. We asked them to illustrate the poems by the famous Soviet poet, Agniya Barto. See the gallery below; it is always touching to see how children see the characters of their favourite poems. Back in 2016, this competition marked both Barto’s 110th anniversary and the International Children’s Day.

Today I look at these images (and I’ve got many more) from a different angle. We must ensure that children, wherever they live, have the right to their basic freedoms. At its heart, the world is not as multifaceted as today’s political agenda proclaims. All children still need two parents of different genders, they need a family, they need access to education and medicine. Above all, they need security and peace to grow and later discover their potential.

More on Russia.

Other posts in Neighbourhood Cam.

Neighbourhood Cam: May Evening

May evening is cold this year. We haven’t had enough rain, so the leaves are taking time to appear. But sakura is about to blossom.

may evening
May in my district in Moscow

May is blossoming slowly this year, and May evening is cold and dry. We haven’t had enough rain, so the leaves are taking time to appear.

I’m going to resurrect my Neighbourhood Cam and Moscow Cam rubrics to get you acquainted with my native places. I will also update some posts where the text was previously lacking, to make them more informative and enjoyable.

The place in the photo (which was actually taken in 2018) is within a 10-minute walk from my house, right opposite the place where I taught English and French for four years. In the vicinity are a few shops, many blocks of flats, a church, and two railway stations.

On May evenings like that in the picture one always wants to slow down. The sunset is about to begin, and, as the evening is cold, the sky is going to turn purple-red. The wind is getting chillier, the cars are few, and so are people. I usually take in this cool air and gaze on the horizon as if it were my personal Waterloo Sunset. I know I am in Paradise here, although it was only recently that my district has become resplendent and posh in some aspects. But I like it this way.

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